Male Betta Fish

Male Betta Fish – How to Identify and Care for Them

Male Betta fish are more popular and common than females, especially due to their long fins and vibrant coloration. As a result, most Betta fish owners who do not intend on breeding bettas often choose males. Moreover, a male Betta fish adapt better to a community tank, so long it is alone and there are no aggressive fish put together with it.

To easily identify a male betta fish, always look out for bettas with long fins and vibrant colors. It is very important to consider sex before choosing a betta fish. Of course, male and female bettas have different care requirements due to their different traits. For example, a male betta will never be egg bound, as they do not produce eggs, but male bettas are more likely to suffer from fin rot.

Most people choose a male betta because of its flamboyant display of colors. But there is more to taking care of a male betta in an aquarium setting. Therefore, choosing a male betta starts from knowing the difference between male and female, setting up a suitable tank, and knowing the best care requirements for your male betta.

Male Bettas vs Female Bettas

Just like every other species, different sexes have different characteristics. Some of the more noticeable attributes that male betta has are more vibrant colors, significantly longer fins, and a beard. The beard is a flap of skin, often black, that you can see protruding from the gill plate.

These characteristics are useful to the males as they have to impress a female in order to win her over as well as fight off other males. Most of the time the fights are not true fights, but simply consist of the males “flaring” at one another.

When a betta flares, they extend their fins out fully and lift their gill plate covers, showing their beards off and making themselves look as large as possible. The larger looking and more vibrantly colored male (with red and other bright colors being preferred) often wins the fight with looks alone.

Once the fight has ended, the less impressive male will simply swim off to some other area that they will establish as their territory. Male betta needs to be in tip-top shape in order to keep their territory, so actual fights are detrimental.

Female bettas often do not establish territories, but instead, swim through various territories belonging to different males and pick the most impressive males to spawn with. This increases the chances of the young being able to survive and spawn in the next generation.

The females also have smaller fins, as this reduces the drag and allows them to swim faster. They are plumper in shape, as healthy female betta will always be carrying eggs. While some female bettas may display a small beard, this beard will not be visible unless the female flares.

Tail Types

While there are over 70 different species of bettas, with each one requiring different care, here we will simply discuss different tail types along with associated risks. The tail type often does not play a role in the health of a female betta and exclusively affects the health of male bettas.

While there are many variants on different tail types, betta tail types can be separated into two main categories; long tails and short tails. The long tail types are much more common and often regarded as more beautiful and vibrant.

Not only are the long fins more striking and beautiful, but they also have more varieties than the shorter finned bettas. For example, the halfmoon, feather tail, rose tail, delta, super delta, crown tail, comb tail, and many more are all considered long finned tail types.

On the other hand, the shorter tail type often called a Plakat, generally has two tail types; rounded and spade. While they vary in size and shape a bit, such as a 180 extended round tail fin being a halfmoon, or occasionally seeing a combtail short tailed betta, they are normally limited to simply being round or spade-shaped.

While the smaller fins most closely resemble the natural state of a betta and can be found in wild betta populations, longer finned bettas are not found naturally. These fins can weight down a betta and make it difficult for them to swim, meaning they would not survive in the wild. In addition, circulation to the edges of the fins is often poor and may even cause the ends to begin to rot.

Scale Types

While the scale type may also have an impact on the health of betta and are found in both males and females, it is more common to find male bettas with alternative scale types. There are two main scale type variants; metallic scales and dragon scales.

Metallic scales do not have a large impact on the overall health of a fish. The only issue you may encounter is that it may be difficult to spot velvet if your fish is ill. Velvet is a parasite often identified as a metallic gold sheen on a fish.

If you have a metallic betta, they will already have a metallic sheen, and it may be gold. This could mask the presence of velvet or lead to the treatment of a perfectly healthy fish. The medication used for velvet is rather strong and can have a negative effect on healthy fish.

Dragon scale bettas are quite striking, as they have very thick and strongly colored scales. While they may look amazing, there is one major issue associated with this scale type.

Dragon eye, also known as a diamond eye or snake eye, occurs when the scales of a fish begin to grow over its eyes. This leads to blindness, which does not necessarily kill the fish, but it does make life difficult. While it is not entirely known why this happens, in my experience, it tends to occur after an infection of the eye.

This means that it is most likely an abnormal immune response. By keeping your fish’s water clean and clear of bacteria, fungi, and parasites, you can limit the risk of your betta developing dragon eye. Blindness does not necessarily kill a fish, and there are ways to circumvent this issue.

Necessary Equipment

Now that we have discussed some basic differences between males and females, as well as different tail and scale types, we will go over what equipment you need. This equipment will be the same for all types of bettas.

The three most important aspects of the tank are the filter, heater, and decorations. The filter will keep your nitrogen cycle going and keep your fish from being poisoned, which will be discussed in detail under the “Cycling your Tank” section.

Betta fish are cold blooded animals, so the external environment determines what their internal body temperature will be. Bettas function best at temperatures between 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit, so a heater will keep them healthy and happy.

Since betta fish are small fish, they may become prey in the wild. This has led to them feeling uncomfortable and stressed unless they have multiple hiding areas. Provide your fish with different hides, decorations, or even live plants.

Of course, water is a necessity, but normal tap water has too much chlorine for your betta. You should buy a water conditioner/ water dechlorinator, as this will bind the chlorine and remove it from the water, making it safe for your fish.

In addition, you can always add substrate, as it adds to the overall aesthetic view of your tank. Bettas do not require substrate nor are they picky about it, so feel free to choose whichever type looks best to you. Sand and gravel are the two most common choices, but they must be washed before you add them.

Finally, you should have a light for your aquarium. There are many different styles and types, so the choice is up to you. However, bettas do have sensitive eyes, so be sure to turn on ambient light in the room 30-60 minutes before turning on your aquarium light, so that their eyes have time to adjust.

And of course, you will need a tank! A 5 gallon is a great size, but feel free to pick a larger tank.

Setting up a Tank for Your Male Betta

Once you have gathered all the proper equipment, now you just have to set it up. Start by rinsing the substrate, whichever one you picked. Gravel can be rinsed in a colander under tap water, and sand should be rinsed in a bucket and swirled around until the water is no longer cloudy.

Add the substrate to the empty aquarium. It is best to make a layer between 1-2 inches thick, as this will promote the growth of good bacteria. Begin to fill up the aquarium with a few inches of water.

You can now add and set some of the decorations, but first, check to make sure they will not damage your male betta’s long and flowing fins. If you feel a sharp spot, run over it with a tissue. If the tissue tears, it will also tear your betta, so either remove the decoration or sand it down.

Fill up the tank entirely and add the heater, filter, and light. You may now plug in the filter and heater and add water conditioner. The flow of the filter will make sure it is dispersed throughout the aquarium.

The filter should be either a Hang on Back or sponge filter. The Hang on Back filters have a stronger flow, but the flow is adjustable, so you can get it just right for your betta. Sponge filters need to be hooked up to an air pump and airline tubing.

They work by forcing air into the column of the filter, displacing water as the bubbles travel upwards, drawing water in through the sponges. This creates a gentle vacuum and slow flow which will filter your water but is perfect for bettas. Be sure to get a very gentle, or adjustable, filter if you have a long finned betta.

Setting up a Planted Tank

The set up of a planted tank is normally similar to setting up a non-planted tank, depending on the plants you use. It is best for a beginner to start with stem plants, water column feeders, and low light plants. These will need the least amount of maintenance, and some do not require fertilizers.

The best plants to start with are Java Ferns, Anubias, Brazilian pennywort, Anacharis, and Banana plants. All these plants, except the banana plants, will pull most of their nutrients from the water column and should be able to subsist purely on fish waste.

Banana plants are also root feeders and may require root tabs, a type of fertilizer, but most will be fine without extra care. You can super glue java ferns and Anubias to other decorations but be careful not to impact or bury the rhizome, as this will kill the plant.

Brazilian pennywort and Anacharis are floating stem plants, but they will survive with part of the stems planted if you want a more orderly tank. Banana plants can simply be placed at the bottom of the aquarium.

The best time to add plants is when you add other decorations; having just a few inches water keeps the plants from drying out and allows you to plant them without having to reach a foot (or more) down to the bottom of a full aquarium.

Cycling Your Tank

Cycling a tank is an often overlooked, but extremely necessary, aspect of setting up your tank. The aquarium nitrogen cycle consists of three main compounds; ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.

Fish waste, uneaten food, and other organic material break down into ammonia. Bacteria convert ammonia into nitrite, then nitrite into nitrate. The problem is that it takes around a month for the bacteria to be able to convert ammonia into nitrate within a few hours.

This is an issue because ammonia and nitrite are extremely toxic, and often lethal, to fish. Ammonia often results in lethal chemical burns on fish, burning off scales and fins, and often causing severe gill damage.

The black burns from this poisoning are not seen until the healing process begins, so fish often die from ammonia poisoning without showing many symptoms. Betta fish may have unusually red gills or stay near the top more often than usual, but these may be the only symptoms.

Nitrite poisoning causes similar symptoms but is significantly worse than ammonia poisoning. Nitrite binds to hemoglobin in the blood and prevents it from carrying oxygen, suffocating the fish. In order to reverse this poisoning, use a methylene blue bath in a separate container for several days.

Any level of ammonia or nitrite is toxic, even as little as 0.25 parts per million. On the other hand, nitrate is not toxic until it reaches above 20 ppm, and often only causes long term damage, generally to the immune system.

To cycle your tank, you need to add an ammonia source. This can be anything from pure ammonia to fish food to an actual living fish. You can also add a bacterial booster to speed up the cycle, but it is best to cycle the tank before adding fish.

Where to Get Male Betta Fish

Bettas from LPS’s

An LPS is a local pet store or a store where you can buy many different types and species of pets. Most chain stores fall under this category and sell cats, dogs, birds, reptiles and fish. These stores are notorious for keeping bettas in small, unclean, unheated cups and for having sick fish.

Bettas do not survive long in these cups and often develop severe and permanent damage from them. This is normally due to high amounts of ammonia and nitrite in the cups; I have personally tested up to 8ppm of ammonia in one of these cups, which is lethal to anything in just a few hours.

These cups often shorten the lifespan of bettas by several years. Bettas normally live for around four years, but bettas bought from cups often only live for a few months to a year, with two years being rare.

In addition to this, since the bettas are stressed by the toxins, once you bring them home and acclimate them to safer water, they will brighten up their colors significantly. While this applies to both males and females, you may notice another change with males.

Since ammonia can burn off fins, you may see significant growth in finnage from male bettas once you bring them home. One cup betta I had seemed to be a plakat with barely any fins, but a few weeks after being moved to safe water, his fins ended up growing longer than the length of his body.

Bettas from LFS’s

An LFS is a local fish store, or a store that specializes in the sale of fish. Employees are more knowledgeable, their selection is larger, and the fish are much healthier. Bettas from these stores are often bought from local breeders, which means they are both less likely to be sick and are used to the water in your area.

These bettas often live for 3-5 years, with 7 years of age being rare but not unheard of. Their fins and coloration will not significantly change when you bring them home, unless they have the marble gene. The marble gene is a gene that randomly changes a betta’s coloration throughout its life and may do so more than once.

You can find higher quality bettas these stores, and you will be able to get proper advice from the employees. The main downfall of an LPS is that because they sell so many types of animals, the employees are not specialized in the care of any animal, and often cannot answer specific questions. Luckily, this is not the case in an LFS.

Online Bettas

An alternative to the two previously mentioned options for buying bettas is to buy them online. While you may be able to find some sold domestically, most bettas sold online will be coming from Asian countries. These countries breed them outdoors and make extremely high quality, up to show quality, betta fish.

While the price for these fish range from $20 to $400, you also have to factor in shipping costs. The fish will be shipped out of the country, to
transhipper in your country. The transhipper holds all proper documents and permits that allow the fish to be shipped, meaning you will not have to pay for permit costs.

After arriving at the transhipper, they will check on the health of the betta(s) and ship them to you. Be sure to pick up your fish within an hour of their arrival, otherwise, the elements may kill them.

Male bettas are normally the only ones you will find for sale online, with females being a possible add on, but you will rarely find any lone females for sale. This is because if you are putting all the money into shipping and purchase of the fish, you are likely looking for either high-quality show betta, or high quality breeder, which is why females are sometimes a free add on, but not sold alone.

How to Acclimate Your Fish

Whether you get your fish from a transhipper, LPS, or LFS, you will have to acclimate your fish to its new environment. The water pH, temperature, hardness, and many other factors will be different, and it is best to slowly acclimate your fish to the new environment.

First, float your fish in a bag for 15-20 minutes to equalize the temperature. Next, get some airline tubing or a small cup for the water acclimation. Add a small amount of water to the bag every minute, letting it double after 3-4 minutes. Once doubled, remove half the water and repeat.

After the water has doubled twice, scoop out your new fish in a net and add them to the tank. Be sure not to let the old water into the tank. The whole acclimation process should only take 20-30 minutes.

Housing Male Bettas with Others

While most believe that only female bettas can be housed with other fish, bettas, and invertebrates, this is not entirely true. Many mellow male bettas will do wonderfully in a community tank, if the tank is at least 10-20 gallons. Small fish, normally rasboras, tend to do very well in this setup.

In addition, you may house multiple male bettas together, if you provide at least 55 gallons for two. The average male betta needs 3 feet of space for his territory, though most can make do with less space as long as there are many decorations and dither fish. A dither fish is any fish that draws some of the aggression of another fish, such as a rasbora or danio.

While a larger tank, such as a 75 gallon, would have more success, you can house two males in a 55 gallon if you wish. In addition, you may also add a group of female bettas, at least 5, as long as you are prepared to deal with possible aggression from all bettas.

While adding other fish, even other bettas, can be done if you provide enough space, there is one type of addition that may not work, no matter the amount of space; invertebrates. If your betta has a natural instinct to eat snails and shrimp, unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to get rid of this instinct.

In conclusion

Male bettas have distinct differences from female bettas. They suffer more health issues related to their fins but tend to have more beautiful coloration and gorgeous fins. The longer finned males also need a lower flow than females, and while they can be housed with other bettas of the same sex, they need much more room than females do.

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