If you have ever observed a group of Betta fish in a community tank, you won’t help but ask, ”why do bettas fight?” Or, better still, ”what are these cuties fighting for?” These species are known for aggression. Of course, this satisfies the reason they are tagged “Siamese Fighting Fish”.
So, Why Do Betta Fish Fight in First Place? Bettas fight each other simply because they are exceptionally territorial. Their aggression increases as they try to protect their space. Hence, in captivity where there’s less room to bolt, they resort to fighting unlike in the wild. They will fight each at any slight trespassing of another’s territory, that is how territorial these betta fighters could be.
Betta fish males and females show different levels of aggression, and every betta fish keeper should know about it. Also, while bettas may not fight to the death, severe injuries may occur, hence the need to know about housing two bettas peacefully.
Betta Fish Territory
In the wild, male betta fish establish territories that are about three-square feet. This gives them a wide range of hiding areas, areas where they can build bubble nests and breed, and access to food.
Keeping their territory safe provides betta with food, shelter, and a mate, so it is essential to their lives. Therefore, they will defend it fiercely, because,
Most can reestablish other territories in other places, so in the wild, they do not often fight to the death, but they will try to attack the other betta’s fins. Females view a betta with torn fins as weaker, so they often won’t mate with the loser of a fight.
In aquariums, bettas often do not have everything they need in their territory. They do not have three feet of space and they often do not have enough hiding places. Bettas adore large stem plants and densely planted tanks, but due to their coloration, most people keep them in sparsely decorated tanks so that they can see their pet.
The primary reason that you cannot keep bettas together is simply a territory issue. Bettas prefer a shallow and long tank to a shorter and taller one. It is possible to keep multiple male bettas together but to do so, you would have to have a six-foot-long tank for just two male bettas.
In this type of setup, you would also need dither fish and an extremely dense planted tank. Dither fish are generally schooling fish that would serve to distract the male bettas from one another. Even with the proper territory sizes, they will still fight if there are no other fish in the tank.
Bred for Aggression
The fact that betta fish were bred for aggression still impacts modern-day bettas. Since only the most aggressive and angry bettas survived the fights, only the most angry and aggressive would be able to reproduce. This pattern went on and on until we ended up with highly aggressive fish.
Not all bettas are equal in terms of aggression, but they will still fight one another. It’s not just the males either, the females will still kill one another and will occasionally kill the male during spawning if they get frustrated. I had one pair in which the female was much more aggressive to the male and the male ended up with serious injuries while the female only suffered a single tear in one fin.
While it may be possible to “undo” the aggression bred into them by picking the least aggressive bettas and line breeding those for several generations, it will take a very long time. You would be better off picking some wild bettas, as these are much more peaceful and can live in pairs and small groups.
Wild vs Aquarium
Not only are there differences in terms of decoration and space between the wild and aquariums, but there are also differences in terms of food, seasons, day lengths, and water parameters. All of these differences can have subtle effects on bettas and their behavior.
Normally, betta fish would eat live bugs in their environment. Here, they rarely eat live bugs and are instead fed pellets. In the wild, they have a wet and dry season, which can lead to bettas becoming stranded and drying up. Here, we protect them from that.
In the wild, they have days and nights of equal lengths. Most aquarium owners turn on the aquarium when they remember and turn it off whenever they remember. This can lead to serious issues with a betta’s internal clock and can mess with its hormone production.
Finally, the water parameters in the wild are vastly different from aquarium parameters. Most bodies of water they come from have a pH of less than 6 and no ammonia, nitrite, or nitrates at all. Since they are adaptable fish, this doesn’t usually lead to issues, but it is something to consider.
The first three factors can also influence how willing a betta is to fight or how able it is. A well-fed betta is more willing to fight while a poorly fed betta is more likely to run away. A betta in a tank that is slowly losing water to evaporation may be more desperate to fight than one that is not.
Finally, a betta living in a tank that has variable day and night cycles will be impacted. It can either make them more aggressive or less aggressive, depending on the betta and exact variance.
Housing Two Male Betta Fish
If you put two male bettas together in an empty tank, even if it is six feet long, one of them will be killed. With nothing to divide the territories or provide the weaker one a hiding spot, the stronger one will claim the whole space as his own and kill the “intruder”.
Decorations are essential when keeping more than one male together, and even if you take all possible precautions, they still may kill one another. Dither fish are also essential, and the most commonly used ones are harlequin rasboras, glowlight tetras, and celestial pearl danios.
These schooling fish have some color, which will draw the attention of a betta, but they often do not have enough to draw extreme aggression from a betta. Even if a betta goes after them, in a six-foot tank covered with plants and decorations, they have more than enough room to escape.
Escape is the main reason for so many decorations. After a scrap, there will be a loser, and that loser will have to escape and hide while it recovers. The other will sometimes chase down the loser in order to permanently stop the intruder from intruding, but if you provide enough hiding places, the dominant one will lose interest.
Housing Two Females
Females are a little different, as it is possible to keep a small group of them. That being said, keeping two of them together will result in one of them dying, just like the males. Females do occasionally establish territories, but they are prone to roaming around more than males.
This means that the alpha female will enter the territories of other bettas and can leave unharmed. However, if there is just one other betta in the tank, the dominant female will do its best to kill the other.
For a proper sorority tank, the tank needs to be at least 30 inches long and have at least 5 female bettas, with 7 being the best. With so many bettas, they can spread out the aggression amongst all of them, so the one weakest isn’t picked on all the time by the others.
If you have less than 5 female bettas, they will harass the weakest one until it dies, then move to the next weakest, then the last two will fight. It is incorrect to view the female bettas as less aggressive than the males because they can be even more ruthless.
Breeding and Aggression
Since bettas generally fight once they see another betta, many people wonder how they can breed. Breeding domesticated bettas is a difficult task, and it is not uncommon to lose one or both of your breeders.
The bettas must be bred in an entirely new tank with several decorations and hiding places, but no substrate. There must also be something floating that the male can build a bubble nest around. You should introduce the male into the tank for 1-4 days before the female.
You cannot introduce the female into the tank directly but must be in a vase. The male will display for her, and she cannot be released into the tank until she bows in submission and/or shows breeding stripes.
The vase will protect her until she is ready to breed, because otherwise, the male will get frustrated and kill her. After releasing the female, you must keep a very close eye on her as much as you can.
Betta fish fight because the first breeders bred them to be fighting fish, like pit bulls. In addition, they do not have enough room in aquariums to establish proper territories, and two bettas cannot exist in one territory.