Have you ever looked down the aisle of a pet store to watch the fish tanks to pass the time? If you have, maybe this scenario can be more easily pictured in your head.
You walk down the rows of large fish tanks, where a variety of fish are dancing in schools. Some of them are intermingled with other species of fish, and others only share the tank with their own school. Nonetheless, they are watching you as much as you are watching them and are gathered as little huddles of friends while doing so.
Then you see the most colorful fish you have ever seen in your life. It has fins that fan out as it sways back and forth in its small space, almost ignoring everything else surrounding it.
But it is by itself in a small and personalized tank. Did the fish deserve to be alone? Is this just negligence from the pet store owner?
Doesn’t it feel lonely?
Then you see the name of the species of the fish on the price tag below the tank. Siamese Fighting Fish.
There is something more to it isn’t there?
Betta fish, are interesting little fish that come with an array of strange behaviors attached. At least, the behavior seems strange to a social animal like a dog or a human. But when we start to put ourselves into the shoes of a betta fish, we can gather a better understanding of them. This can create a clearer picture as to what they would actually prefer, and why it would be a terrible idea to try and get them to socialize.
The Betta’s Natural Environment
The kind of environments that betta fish are naturally found in include small pools of Southeast Asian freshwater, rice paddies, puddles, and drainage ditches. This is the sort of environment that filled with warm water, lots of plant life and a touch of acidity. If you think about it, places like that would be muddy, dark, and filled with plenty of hiding spots.
It would also be limited to the amount of space and resources that are available. It is still a small puddle of water after all. With this environment, competition would be fierce. There would be too little room or luxury for any species of fish to socialize or share resources. So, it would make sense for multiple generations of betta fish would get used to the idea of living in a near isolated environment away from other fish, let alone their own species.
It also makes sense that out of those multiple generations of ancestors that came before them, the ones that survived long enough to pass on its genetic material are going to be either the toughest fighters or the smartest hiders.
So, when this species of fish is taken out of their natural habitat filled with dark places and steep competition, into a bright and open environment, the betta will panic. Especially when they see another fish they aren’t familiar with.
But surely Betta Fish wouldn’t fight with one of their own species, right? Well…
Bettas are Tough
There are several behaviors that are distinct to the Betta fish as part of their visual language. For instance, when growing Betta males are showing off their long and gorgeous fins, they are not just showing off. Instead, they are flaring, aggressively warn off potential rivals by looking bigger.
When two of them are locked in conflict with one another, the beating of currents and bites are exchanged. If the fight lasts long enough, one or both of them will get killed.
It is also worth noting that this fight can also temporarily take place out of the water because Betta fish are technically Labyrinth fish, a suborder of fish that has an organ that can allow them to temporarily breathe air.
And Female Bettas are not immune to this sort of violence either. When not spawning, male bettas see females as unwelcome intruders. There is even a chance that they might look like a male to the other males by mistake.
So, it is imperative for the safety of other fish that betta fish have their own space, even away from another one of their own kind.
But they are Also Fragile
Betta fish are a hardcore species that adapted well to their natural habitat. Not only are they familiar with an environment of limited space and resources, but over time they can take in some oxygen from the air and jump from puddle to puddle!
They are the masters of their own environment.
But, when you take them out of their environment, they become unequipped to deal with the sudden change.
They can get stressed if the water is too cold, if their enclosure is too small, or if they have no dark places to hide in. This sort of stress is dangerous for the health of the fish. They are a species of natural introverts that detest change.
It is why a betta owner needs to change the water in a betta tank gradually instead of immediately. It doesn’t do well with sudden shock.
Adding another fish into the mix only adds to the extra anxiety to the situation.
And a sick and stressed out fish will exercise poor judgment.
That sickness can put them at a huge disadvantage, especially if they misinterpret a nibble from another species of fish as a challenge in their weakened and stressed out state.
There is also the chance that they will pick a fight with a fish that was bigger and tougher than them out of sheer paranoia and will lose horribly
So, it is not only for the safety of the other fish, it is just as much for the safety of the betta.
Not only do betta fish not get lonely, but they also prefer to stay alone. If you are desperate to make a tank with more than one critter, there are a few that are compatible. Tropical water animals such as Mystery Snails, African Dwarf Frogs, and Ghost Shrimp are some examples of animals that are compatible with a betta tank. Just keep it away from other fish and it should be perfectly fine.