Anyone who keeps tropical fish will know of Bettas. They are beautiful fish that will display plenty of personality.
People are often put off by their occasional aggression, but this doesn’t have to be a problem if you know how to handle them.
Most information about Bettas is written about keeping males. However, there are many reasons to get females instead.
There are lots of differences between males and females. This guide is dedicated to helping you look after females.
We will cover everything you need to know, while pointing out the differences between the sexes along the way.
|Lifespan:||Up to 3 years|
|Minimum Tank Size:||10 gallons|
|Tank Set-Up:||Freshwater with plants and caves|
|Compatibility:||Singly, groups, or with peaceful shoaling species|
Bettas (Betta splendens) are undeniably one of the most famous tropical fish. Also known as Siamese Fighting Fish, they are known for both their aggression and their beauty.
This is why many people choose to just keep female Bettas. They are far more peaceful and can even be kept in groups, called a sorority.
Females are a little harder to find in stores because males are more commonly kept. Even so, it shouldn’t be difficult to find some in your local area. Each fish will cost about $5.
They do not live for long. Just like males, females only reach around 3 years old.
The species comes from Asia. It is mostly associated with Thailand, but they are found in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam too.
Unfortunately, Bettas are a vulnerable species in their natural habitat. They are much more successful in captivity because they are bred extensively.
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This breeding has produced lots of varieties with distinctive looks.
As a member of the Osphronemidae family, other closely related species are also kept in fish tanks, such as Gouramis and Paradisefish.
Bettas are characterized by their aggression. In fact, they used to be bred for fighting, which is why they have the second name of Siamese Fighting Fish. Fighting them is now illegal.
Females are less aggressive, but they will still fight. They like to establish a hierarchy and claim their own territory. The battles are less violent than when males fight so injuries are less likely.
Usually the aggression is directed at other Bettas, females tend to tolerate other species well.
They are usually slow swimmers that occupy the middle and upper levels of the tank.
Sometimes you will see them head to the surface to breathe. They can do this because they have a labyrinth organ, which lets them take oxygen from the air.
They have gills too, which they use most of the time. Breathing from the air might indicate that the water conditions are poor.
It is very easy to tell males and females apart. Firstly, females are slightly smaller, reaching 2.25 inches. Males grow up to 2.5-3 inches.
Females generally have smaller fins, particularly the anal and dorsal fins. The tail fin is a bit thinner too.
There’s a type of Betta called Plakat. Both sexes of this variety have short fins, so it is easy to mistake them as normal female Bettas.
To determine the sex of an individual, look for an “egg spot”. This is a small hole where the ovipositor tube can release eggs while mating. It is located on the underside of the body between the fins and tail.
Female Bettas can be found in the same colors as males (blues, purples, reds, Koi etc.), but they are not as bright.
This species come in many varieties (such as Crowntail Bettas), but the differences between them are most evident in males since it is usually the fins that differ. There are some variations that boast colorful males and females though.
Females can change the intensity of their colorations depending on their mood. For example, they get darker during the mating season.
The brightest displays are seen in the wild when the females are trying to assert their dominance over each other to establish a social hierarchy.
The reduced fins and colors are a large contributor to why females are less common, but they are still very attractive fish.
Habitat and Tank Conditions
In the wild, these fish are found throughout Asia, so we must look to their habitats here when trying to design the perfect aquarium.
They tend to live in shallow river basins and rice paddies. The warm waters would move slowly.
Bettas are hardy and can tolerate poor water conditions. This is why they have a labyrinth organ; to get oxygen from the air when there isn’t much in the water.
Both sexes have the same preferences when designing your tank. We will talk through how to recreate their natural conditions, to keep them happy and healthy.
Sand is always a safe option to use as a substrate. It has fine grains which makes it less likely to scratch if your fish started to dig or eat from the bottom of the tank.
Add groups of plants in different areas of the tank, these will each act as separate territories (and help to oxygenate the water). Making caves out of rocks and other decorations can help with this as well.
Hornwort is a good choice of plant because it’s hardy. You also get the option of whether to plant it or float it on the surface.
Make sure not to block too much of the surface with plants. Bettas uses the surface for many things, like breeding, breathing, and feeding.
This species is used to calm water, so you do not need water or air pumps to create a current.
A filter is essential for keeping the water clean. You will need a heater too. Set it somewhere between 75°F and 80°F.
Keep the pH at 6-8. The water’s hardness should be 5-35 dGH.
What Size Aquarium do they need?
A single female Betta needs a tank of at least 10 gallons. Keeping them as part of a community will require a bigger tank.
How Many Can be kept per gallon?
If you plan to keep a sorority of females, each additional fish will need an extra 5 gallons. The more space you can give them, the less likely they will be to fight.
Female Bettas can work well in a peaceful community if you choose the right tank mates.
Small shoaling fish are great options. Since they stick in a group, one individual is unlikely to be picked on repeatedly. They can usually dart away quickly if they need to escape too.
Some examples include Zebra Danios, Neon Tetras, Rosy Barbs, White Cloud Mountain Minnows, Mollies, or Swordtails.
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To fill the lower regions of the tank, you could try Kuhli Loaches, Zebra Loaches, Corydoras Catfish, or Yoyo Loaches.
Avoid territorial species (like Oscars) as they will start fighting with your Bettas for space. Do not pick colorful species that vaguely resemble male Bettas either; they will stress your females.
It should be safe to add some invertebrates. It is very interesting to watch the varied behaviors of Ghost Shrimp or Mystery Snails.
Compatibility can be a problem with this species so be observant for a few days after adding new fish to your tank. If fights keep breaking out, then you may have to separate the culprits.
Keeping Female Betta Fish Together
You can keep females together, unlike males. Males would fight often and violently, which would probably lead to death.
Females can be aggressive too, and will fight, but they tend to be calmer. Fights don’t tend to be as regular or dangerous.
A sorority contains roughly 4-6 individuals. This requires a larger tank, to cater for the extra tank mates.
You will also need to separate different sections of your aquarium with decorations and plants, to form distinct territories for each fish.
These fish are carnivores and need a lot of protein to stay strong and healthy. In the wild their diet would contain a mix of insect larvae, small crustaceans, and plankton. This is the same for both sexes.
Live and frozen foods are an easy way to replicate this at home. Common options are brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms.
These types of food have a higher nutritional content than others. By the time dried foods have been manufactured, they lose most of their nutrients.
This is the problem with flake and pellet foods, which are popular because they’re more convenient to find and store.
Some dried foods have been made specifically for Bettas. They usually contain high levels of protein, making them a more suitable choice.
Always supplement dried food with live/frozen foods, to ensure that your fish receive all the nutrients they need in their diet.
Feeding times should be twice a day. Giving them small amount of food spread out like this will ease the workload for their digestive systems.
Provide an amount of food that they can finish within 2 minutes. They will keep eating until there’s nothing left, so overfeeding is a common problem.
One of the best things about Bettas is how hardy they are. They have adapted to be able to survive poor conditions in their natural habitat.
However, you should still be maintaining your tank effectively, including water changes, wiping algae, and cleaning equipment.
Any fish can pick up a disease, Bettas are no exception. An unclean aquarium will allow pathogens to thrive.
Physical injuries are another way for your females to pick up a disease. These will likely be gained through fighting. Injuries are rarer for females because fighting is less of a problem.
If one of your fish gets ill, move it into a quarantine tank to prevent the spread of disease to the rest of your fish.
One issue you might run into is fin rot. This bacterial infection is frequent in unclean water. It could be introduced with second-hand equipment or new fish from a store.
Symptoms include irritation and inflammation. It should be treated as soon as you notice it. Medications are available from pet stores.
Bloating is seen in lots of different fish. The abdomen swells up, which can be a symptom of many thing. It leads to further problems like breathing difficulties and a loss of appetite.
Overfeeding is the usual cause. Try rationing their diet and watch for if the swelling goes down. If this doesn’t help, then the bloating could be due to a parasite, virus or bacterium. These will require medications.
If you are going to breed your fish, you will need a male to introduce to your female(s). Mating is normally the only time you should mix the two sexes.
They won’t mate unless their environment is perfect. The water should be clean and heated to 80°F. Feed your Bettas small amounts of high-quality live foods 2-4 times a day.
If a pair is interesting in each other, the female will darken, and the male will begin to build a bubble nest. Bubble nests are made at the surface using sticky bubbles covered in saliva.
The female will inspect the nest, if she is impressed then the pair can start courting. This will involve chasing and biting. If it gets too aggressive, you will have to separate them.
The female will be flipped upside down. The male will wrap himself around her, fertilizing her eggs as she releases them. He will then take the eggs to the nest.
Remove the female because sometimes they will eat the eggs.
The fry will hatch after 2-3 days. They will need tiny foods such as infusoria.
Are Female Betta Fish Suitable for your Aquarium?
Female Bettas are definitely easier to care for than males. This makes them more appealing to beginners who want to avoid extreme aggression.
On the other hand, choosing females will mean you lose much of the colors that males possess. Many fishkeepers think it is worth braving a male’s aggression for their large fins and bold colors.
The females are still beautiful fish though, and you can keep a sorority – you are not restricted to just one fish.
They make a great alternative to the common males. You won’t be stressing about behavior as much and if you keep a group, you will love watching them interact.
Do you prefer female Bettas over males? Let us know why in the comments below…