Do Betta Fish Have Teeth?

Betta fish, like all fish, must eat. But not all fish have teeth like you and me. Some have bony plates in their mouths to crush food instead. When you look at your betta, have you ever actually seen its teeth?

Bettas do, in fact, have teeth. They are very small and very sharp due to the carnivorous diet of the betta fish. However, bettas use their teeth for more than just eating food.

We will discuss betta’s teeth and where they are, whether they will bite you, the diet that requires such sharp teeth, the role of biting during spawning, and the impact of teeth on bettas’ aggressive nature.

Teeth

Most fish have some form of teeth, but they’re not always in their mouths. For example, the common goldfish have teeth, but you would never guess that by looking in their mouths. This is because goldfish teeth are located in the back of their throats.

When it comes to bettas, their teeth are very sharp and located in their mouths. Therefore, if you look in your betta’s mouth, you should be able to see tiny, white spikes on their lower jaw. Just like humans, bettas bite up to crush their food.

If you can get a glimpse of your betta’s teeth, you will be able to see just how sharp they are. Unlike other, plant eating fish, bettas have sharp, needle-like teeth. If you are unable to see your betta’s teeth, don’t worry, as they are extremely small and easy to miss.

These instruments help them crush the exoskeletons of their prey and chew their little betta pellets. Part of their natural diet is worms, and their teeth help them tear the worms into small pieces. Chewing is the first stage of digestion because it makes the food easier for the stomach and intestines to process.

Biting

The next question you may have is whether your betta can bite you. The answer is yes, because the teeth are in the mouth, your betta is capable of biting you. They have a strong bite force when compared to their body size, but it is not strong enough to cause you any damage.

If your betta bites you, it won’t really hurt, and your betta is not capable of breaking your skin. Human skin is tough, even tougher than some bug exoskeletons, so you are in no real danger. Most bettas will never bite you, but some are aggressive enough to try.

There are ways to prevent your betta from biting you, and they are simple. In terms of aquarium maintenance, it is best to keep your hands out of the aquarium. Use aquascaping tools, especially aquascaping tweezers, instead of your hands. This prevents any chemicals, soaps, or oils on your hand from getting into your aquarium and harming your fish.

Most importantly, do not put your hands into the aquarium while feeding your fish. Your betta could either mistake your hands for food or a predator trying to take their food from them. Some owners train bettas to jump out of the water and take food off your fingertip, and they are normally very accurate. I know several people who have perfected this trick with their betta and they didn’t even get so much as a nip.

Your chances of being bitten are very slim, but you should do your best to avoid the incident. If a betta bites your finger, they could cause much more harm to themselves than to you.

Diet

As you could probably guess by the small, sharp teeth, betta fish are carnivorous. Carnivorous fish normally eat small crustaceans, other fish, insects, and arachnids. Betta fish are capable of eating all of these, if they are small enough to fit in their mouths.

This does mean that bettas may go after these specific animals in an aquarium due to their instincts. Some are less instinctual than others, so some are fine to keep with tiny cherry shrimp and snails, while others will attack them.

Cherry shrimp and most snails are too large to fit into the mouth of a betta, but this does not prevent bettas from taking bites out of them. Especially when it comes to the antennae of snails, bettas will bite them.

Some people find this very useful in certain cases, particularly in some community tanks. Community tanks that have female livebearers tend to become full of fry. Even if you have no males, the females will be able to produce young for several months. Several months of fry will overstock any aquarium, so most introduce a predator that will take care of the fry.

Bettas are great candidates for this job, since they do eat some fry in the wild. They will be able to chase down and eat fry and will leave the adults alone (in most cases). When a betta finishes its job, they typically don’t have to be removed, unlike other fish introduced to fix a problem.

Another problem that bettas can solve is bug larvae in aquariums. This issue is more common than one may think. You could end up with anything from midge fly larvae (bloodworms) to mosquito or dragonfly larvae, which are harmful, but betta fish can help get rid of your problem larvae.

Biting During Spawning

Biting during spawning can either be a good sign or a terrible sign. Some bettas reject the mate you chose for them and will attack the other fish. This will result in torn fins, scales ripped off, and possibly death.

On the other hand, some bettas bite during spawning if they like their mate but their mate is unresponsive or unsure. This happens to both males and females, though I have seen it more from females. Other breeder friends of mine have seen it more from males, so it likely depends on the specific betta.

Telling these two types of biting apart is essential, especially because the latter can devolve into flat out aggression. From what I have seen, when the fish are biting out of aggression, they typically target the fins. The fins targeted most are the long anal, tail, and dorsal fins.

When they are biting to tell the other fish they want to spawn, they typically bite the side of the fish. Normally this is a gentler bite, which is easy to tell. When they bite the side of the other fish, the fish typically stays where it is, since the bite didn’t hurt. They may swim away slowly for just a short distance but they will allow the other fish to follow. These bites should not cause any visible damage to the fish and the “attacker” should not flare.

When the bites are out of aggression or frustration, the fish under attack will swim away as fast as it can. If one fish is rapidly swimming across the tank, that is not a good sign. If the fish is swimming so fast it is hitting decorations, you need to separate them. Once they get to this point, you should recondition and try again another time.

Aggression

Bettas are called Siamese Fighting Fish! When faced with other members of their genus or species, they react very aggressively. Aquariums do not provide enough room for a single male’s territory, let alone two, so they will attempt to kill the intruder.

During normal betta fights, they attempt to ruin the beautiful looks of the other betta. They do this because the loser will be the weakest, and they don’t want the weakest to spawn. When females pick out a mate, they consider several factors, and the state of the fins is one of those factors. Females are less likely to pick fish with serious damage to their fins and bodies, so bettas that lose are less likely to mate.

Now how exactly do bettas tear each other’s fins? By biting them. They go after the other betta, teeth ready, gills flared, and attack. They will tear off chunks of fins and flesh without hesitation. Their teeth are their primary weapon when fighting, and they are deadly.

In conclusion, betta fish, like most other fish, do have teeth. They use their teeth to eat and chew their prey. However, the teeth also play a vital role in breeding cues and fighting. They are a betta’s main weapon and defense.

Leave a Comment