Both male and female Betta Splendens (more commonly referred to as Siamese fighting fish) are known for their naturally aggressive behavior - they are called Siamese Fighting Fish for a reason. The male variety must be housed alone, or with suitable Betta fish tank mates in a properly sized and cycled tank. Housing male Siamese fighters in groups or pairs will result in at least one fatality and many injuries to the surviving fish. However, that rule does not apply to female Betta fish.
Female Betta Care
While the dietary and temperature requirements of female and male Siamese fighters are one and the same, that seems to be where the similarities end. Female Betta fish are quite content being housed in groups and they do very well that way. They do, however, adhere to a hierarchy and it is therefore highly recommended that you keep these fish in odd number groups. Groups of three and five tend to do the best, as they establish a pecking order, so to speak, with one female establishing herself as the dominant one and the rest falling in behind. Experts agree that housing even numbers of these fish (specifically two) will lead to one being severely bullied. And a bullied fish is an unhappy fish.
A good rule of thumb when choosing a tank that best suits your female school is about three gallons per fish. For example, a school of three would do well in a ten gallon tank while a school of six would do better in a twenty gallon. Remember that these beautiful fish need plenty of hiding places, as they are still prone to showing slight signs of aggression. Multiple places of refuge are an important aspect of creating a good habitat.
Java fern plants are a very hardy, live plant, and do very well in Betta tanks. They provide maximum amounts of shelter, they are very hard to kill, and they help keep the water in the tank Betta-friendly. Other good hiding spots include broken terracotta pots, silk plants and cave formations you can buy at your local pet store. I personally would not recommend using plastic plants in either male or female Betta fish tanks, as their scales are very sensitive and can be easily scratched when brushed up against a sharp object, such as a plastic plant.
There are many different ways in which to tell whether your newly purchased fish is a female or a male. Hopefully you were told pre-purchase, but if you are still unsure check out his (or her) tail fins and colors. Female Betta fish don't possess the bright colors as are boasted by the males, and their fins are substantially shorter. Females are also shorter bodied (from nose to tip), and they are wider.
Female Bettas will display vertical stripes when they are ready to mate (do not confuse this with horizontal "Stress Stripes", which can appear on both sexes), while males do not. In addition, mature females will display an “egg spot” (located between the anal and ventral fins). Males will rarely, if ever, show an egg spot.
Overall, these beautiful fish are more difficult to care for than advertised. Taking proper care of them requires you to invest time (researching) and money (creating an ideal home). However, putting in the effort ensures you will have happy, stable fish that live for many years; Betta fish can bring hours of enjoyment.
- Better Betta Care
- Animal forums (Bettafish.com and Paw-Talk.net)