Female Betta Fish—This is All You Need To Know
By Eddie Waithaka @aquariawise
Betta fish have a reputation for being exceptionally beautiful and colorful, but also feisty and territorial. However, more often than not, male bettas have earned this reputation, they are not only beautiful but also have longer fins and an all-around alpha attitude.
For this reason, some aquarists shun female bettas, which is sad coz they have an equally strong character and are not all grey and dull.
What most fail to appreciate is female bettas are more amiable and will live peacefully in a community tank. They will even coexist with other bettas (male or female); something that’s virtually impossible with male bettas.
So, if you happen to own this lovely and overly underrated betta, this article will help you decipher the puzzle that is your lovely lady betta.
Right from how to tell if yours is indeed a girl, to choosing the ideal tankmates for her, and even how to tell when she is pregnant.
I’ll also answer a few FAQs about female bettas.
How to Determine if Your Betta is a Girl or a Boy
Honestly, there is nothing technical about determining whether your betta is male or female especially if you are familiar with bettas, but sometimes they will look eerily similar, so you may need to identify more distinguishable features than just their general look.
Fortunately, subtle aspects in appearance and behavior will help you easily determine your betta’s sex.
Sexing is particularly important if you intend to breed a pair of bettas, more so when there are traits you desire from a particular fish.
Determining Your Betta’s Sex by Appearance
Although male and female bettas will look very similar when young, once they are fairly grown they will manifest distinguishable physical and behavioral characteristics.
Listed below are the physical attributes you should expect in a female betta fish:
Female bettas tend to have dull or subdued colors compared to male bettas, especially in the body. But although less vivid, they are quite colorful since all classic betta aspects are still present.
Good indicators that yours might be male are bright red, blue or green colorations in the body and fins.
A thing to note though, the color of a betta fish might change due to other reason other than sex. For instance, sick or old bettas will look dull than they normally would, and stressed female bettas will be more colorful when stressed than non-stressed fish.
Therefore don’t use your betta’s color as the only definitive predictor of its sex.
A female betta fish should have considerably shorter fins than males.
If yours has long fins, maybe even two to three times its length, that is very likely a boy.
Also, unlike male bettas whose dorsal, caudal and ventral fins will often be flowy, female betta fins will be more sturdy and well put together. Plus most female betta fins should be about as long as the betta is long or short.
In male bettas, the ventral fins will be the more noticeably longer and thicker fins compared to those of a female betta fish. However, this will vary depending on the type of betta fish you have.
The Egg Spot
Once your female betta fish is sexually mature, you should be able to identify its sex using the egg spot.
Female bettas will develop a small white spot on the underside between the ventral and anal fins. The spot will resemble a grain of salt and be very close to the head of the betta.
This spot is factually the ovipositor which is used to lay eggs and probably the one sure way to distinguish female betta from a male.
The egg spot will generally not be prominent in young bettas and might be hard to identify but as the fish grows old, it will become larger and more noticeable.
A Shorter and Thicker Fish
Female bettas will generally have a bit shorter and wider bodies than males. Boy betta tend to be longer and thinner with elongated bodies that are slightly flat on the sides.
When looking at them side by side, female bettas almost look like stubby males.
However, this is not a clear cut way to identify betta and its precise only to the extent you are experienced with bettas.
A Shorter Beard
An interesting trait of betta fish is the presence of a membrane under the gill plate cover, which is commonly called a beard. Females have a smaller beard while in males it’s large enough to stick out.
The beard can be various colors depending on the betta. Generally, in dark-colored, blue or red bettas the membrane will be dark. In bright colored betta fish like yellow, white or clear types, the beard will be the same color as the body.
The beard is designed to make betta fish, especially males, look bigger, meaner and more threatening to adversaries. Male bettas will particularly display the beard if around other males bettas or territorial fish.
Determining Your Betta’s Sex By Behaviour
The reason bettas are called Siamese fighting fish is that they exhibit aggressive behavior toward one another. Which also make the extent of this behavior, among other traits, distinguish male from female.
Aggression, temperament, and dominance will manifest in each sex differently, just like color and fins. Generally, male bettas are extra in every single aspect, big in charm as they are in character and attitude. On the other hand, females are fairly subtle and considerably laid back.
This is the behavior you are likely to observe in female bettas.
Although all bettas exhibit aggressive behavior, females are less likely to put other fish out. Male bettas, on the other hand, react aggressively and flare at the slightest hint of a threat.
Flaring is a fan out by bettas akin to that of a peacock, only that in bettas it’s more a way to intimidate adversaries than attract mates.
Flaring betta will open his fins and gill plate as large as he can conspicuously displaying his beard.
Both male and female betta fish flare, however, males are typically more likely to fan out plus engage in aggressive behaviors. If you put a mirror beside or inside your aquarium, female betta is less likely to flare at her image. But male betta will try to attack the mirror. He will even become obsessed with the idea that another male might be in his space.
Look for Bubble Nests
While a female betta fish will lay the eggs, she won’t build a nest. Once the male is ready to mate, he will create a bubble nest on the surface of the water where the female will lay the eggs.
In fact, male bettas tend to be prime caregivers for their offsprings.
So if your betta is building bubble nests you can be fairly certain it’s a boy. However, female bettas may occasionally blow a bubble nest, but the instances are fairly rare.
How Do You Know if a Female Betta fish is Pregnant?
Bettas, like most fish, do not give birth to live babies, so the word ‘pregnant’ should not be taken literary to mean heavy with child. Instead, what most people refer to as a pregnant is a chubby-looking female showing signs that she is ready to reproduce.
A more appropriate reference to a betta fish carrying eggs is Gravid because a female betta fish is classed as a spawning fish and will never be truly pregnant.
Female betta produces eggs which when extracted are cared for by the male in a bubble nest of his making.
At an appropriate time and given the right conditions, a female and male betta will engage in a kind of fighty tango which stimulates the female to release her egg.
The male will then release his mint causing the eggs to fertilize and afterward catch the eggs in his mouth and blow them into the bubble nest he prepared.
An important thing to know is the male is the prime caregiver of the offsprings and is ready to defend them with his life. So once your female has laid her eggs, you should move her from the breeding tank.
In case you suspect your female betta is ready to reproduce, these are the signs you should look out for to eliminate any doubts:
- A female betta fish will carry her eggs for a short period of time and appear full and bulging, similar to other species that give birth to live babies. It’s, however, important not to confuse a gravid Betta with a fish that is suffering from constipation or swim bladder disease.
- Inspect your female betta’s stripe patterns, if she has prominent verticle stripes, usually white in color, she is fertile and producing eggs.
- Watch your girl when around male betta, if she is interested in a bubble nest prepared by the male, she is probably ready to reproduce. The male betta will then circle around her and squeeze the eggs out from her egg spot, but if she destroys the nest, she is definitely not interested.
- Look for a white tube or dot on her belly. If your female betta ovipositor or egg spot is clearly visible, this is another sign she is ready to release her eggs.
When you have both a male and female betta notice when he builds a bubble nest, this means he is ready to mate and the female can be placed in a breeding tank with him.
What Fish Can Live Safely With Female Bettas?
Many fishkeepers don’t put male bettas in community tanks, they just raise them in individually in aquariums that are 10 gallons or less. Most also float plants and add gravel.
However, for female bettas, you can keep them in community tanks of several females and one male. They are also not too aggressive and will live with other fishes like guppies and tetras.
With one male betta, you can have 4+ girls but you will need tons of plants and caves for the girls to escape aggression; you will also need a 10+ gallon aquarium. It won’t work in a smaller tank because the ammonia will build up quite fast you’ll be doing daily water changes, filter or no filter.
I would however not put bettas with other flashy fish, neither would I put them with territorial or tail nipping fish like tiger barbs. Because, although female bettas are not feisty, they get territorial especially when in small ‘nano’ tanks.
10 Best Female Betta Tank Mates
In this list are 10 companions that can live with female bettas along with some basic information about the species itself.
Each recommended tankmate requires a similar water pH level as betta of around 6.0-8.0, and tank temperatures in the range of 75°F to 80°F.
Not only do corydoras enjoy the same water as bettas, but they are also fairly easy to care for.
Another reason cory fish are good betta companions is they live at the bottom of the aquarium plus they are not aggressive.
However, if you think your female betta looks a little like cory fish, get a dull color cory like a pygmy.
Neon and Ember Tetras
Although neon tetras are brightly colored, they can live well with female bettas because they very easily outpace the bettas. Plus if you have a heavily planted tank, neons will have more than enough spaces to hide.
On the other hand, ember tetras love to hang out in the middle of the tank, whereas bettas prefer the top which helps with the territory issues. Plus both bettas and tetras love tasty brine shrimp and are surface feeders.
White Cloud Mountain minnow
White cloud fish are generally very peaceful and will never harass or nip betta. Plus they prefer a similar pH and food as bettas. The only issue you would have in a tank with female betta and a white cloud is the temperature.
Minnows thrive in water that’s colder than what bettas love however, you can set your aquarium at 75°F which is quite Ok for both fish.
Harlequin rasboras and bettas are probably the most natural pairing because they coexist in the wild without a problem. Plus rasboras are not known to be aggressive neither are they nippers.
Both harlequins and bettas prefer the same diet and habitat and rasboras have a fairly dull appearance thus betta can’t mistake it for one of its kind.
Fancy guppies are too brightly colored to be kept with female bettas but feeder guppies are a good companion. Their shorter fins and faded color are less likely to attract betta.
Feeder guppies also enjoy the same pH and temperature range as bettas.
Although common pleco can grow up to two feet long, clown pleco is a dwarf member of the species making it a suitable tankmate for female bettas.
Clown pleco is hardy and easy to care for and they have thick skin that is virtually betta nip proof, but even their color is not conspicuous enough to attract betta.
However, clown plecos still grow fairly big so you’ll need a big tank, plus your betta might feel intimidated by the big size and get aggressive.
Kuhli loaches are good tankmates because of their docile temperament. They love to mind their business and just like bettas don’t mind a good serving of brine shrimp.
Some loaches can grow quite big so try to avoid those species especially if you have a small aquarium.
African Dwarf Frog
African dwarf frogs are excellent betta tank mates because of their peaceful personalities and they are very active and like to explore their surroundings.
They are also relatively easy to care for and frogs look very different from fish, so bettas would never mistake them for another betta.
Though you have to be very careful while feeding them since bettas are very quick and eat the frog’s food after eating his own and end up overfeeding.
Snails can be safely kept in the same tank as your betta because of their hard shell protecting them from curious or hungry fish. Another great advantage of keeping snails is they are great scavengers and algae eaters plus they take up very little space.
Nerite snails and mystery snailsare especially suitable as they only grow to about an inch in length and their shells have very interesting patterns.
However, if treating your betta with any copper medicine be cautious as all snails are very sensitive.
Ghost and Amano shrimps have translucent bodies which means they are partially invisible to the betta.
They are also easy to care for, inexpensive and they score the tank looking for excess food substrates, which helps keep your aquarium clean.
FAQs About Female Betta Fish
#1— Should You get my betta a female?
You definitely can get your betta a mate, sometimes even four girls will live with one male betta. However, it’s more popular among breeders, not aquarists, and even breeders will keep them in one tank when the bettas are ready to reproduce.
Most single betta owners will host him in solitary inside a small fishbowl. Others prefer to keep sororities. A sorority is a group of female bettas that live in harmony with each other in a community tank.
A more direct answer if I may: If you intend to breed bettas then introduce a female, but if you are just worried that your pet is getting lonely! Male bettas are territorial and quite Ok living in solitary.
#2 — Can female bettas live together in one tank?
The short answer is YES you can keep female bettas in one tank.
It is easier for female bettas to live with each other because they are less aggressive than male betta fish. Plus some aquarists are fond of sororities where they keep a group of female bettas.
You may or may not put one male together with your female bettas. If you choose to add male betta, make sure your aquarium has enough places for the girls to hide when the male gets aggressive.
If you want to start a sorority on your own, its advisable to try out your skills with one Betta at a time.
Also, do some extra research to make sure that a sorority is a right fit for you as they take a lot of work and need lots of space.
#3 — Are female bettas aggressive?
In some instances, female bettas will fan out their gills to intimidate and show dominance, but not even slightly as bad as a male betta’s attitude.
Female bettas will mostly show aggression if housed in small tanks since although amiable, they still have a betta’s territorial genes.
So, yes female bettas can get aggressive but by and large they are level headed.
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Have fun with your lady betta.