Female Betta Fish – A Complete Care Guide

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Female betta fish are one of the most underrated tropical fish in the aquarium hobby. Many of us started out with a single male betta (Siamese fighting fish) as our first fish, but did you know you can keep a group of females in the same tank?

This article covers everything you need to know about keeping one of my favorite fish- the female betta! We’ll discuss keeping them on their own, in a community tank, and in a group known as a betta sorority, so make sure you read each section to get the full picture.

Let’s get started!

Overview

Scientific NameBetta splendens
Common NamesSiamese Fighting Fish, Female Betta
FamilyOsphronemidae
OriginSoutheast Asia
DietOmnivore
Adult Size2-2.25 inches
Care LevelEasy
ActivityModerate
Lifespan2-5 years
TemperamentSemi-aggressive
Tank LevelAll levels
Minimum Tank Size5 gallons
Temperature Range76°F to 82°F
Water Hardness5-20 dGH
pH Range6.5 – 8.0
Filtration/Water FlowLow to moderate
Water TypeFreshwater
BreedingBubble nester, egg layer
Difficulty to BreedModerate
CompatibilitySpecies only, ‘sorority’ tank, or community tank
OK, for Planted Tanks?Yes

Origin and Habitat

Betta fish are native to Thailand in Southeast Asia. They are found in shallow freshwater environments like swamps, marshes, and rice paddies.

The water in these systems stays warm throughout the year thanks to a climate where the air temperature ranges between about 59°F and 104°F. This warm water is usually full of plant life and small creatures that these fish feed on.

Female Betta Fish Appearance

Female betta fish usually don’t have the same long flowing fins as the male fish. The male betta fish have much larger pelvic fins in particular. There are always exceptions, however. Some male bettas have short fins, and some females can have pretty long fins.

Female Betta Fish

Female bettas aren’t quite as colorful as the males either. Make no mistake though, female bettas can still have amazing colors! They come in a huge variety of colors too, from solid colors to patterns with many different shades.

Female vs Male Betta Fish- What’s The Difference?

There are some other differences between male and female bettas aside from their fins and colors. Let’s take a look at some of the most useful clues that you can use to tell the difference:

Male vs Female Betta

Physical differences:

  • Female bettas have vertical bars or stripes on their bodies when they are in breeding condition.
  • The body length of the female betta is shorter and wider across
  • Female betta fish do not have the same ‘beard’ as the males. The beard is the membrane that these fish flare in territorial encounters.
  • Females have an ovipositor tube that is called an egg spot.

Behavioral differences

  • Female betta fish can still be aggressive. They are usually a little less aggressive than their male counterparts, however.
  • You can keep female bettas with other female betta fish. Male bettas should never be kept with other males unless you have a large aquarium.

Female Betta Fish Colors & Breeds

Bettas have been kept and bred for hundreds of years and today there are many types of female betta fish to choose from. Male betta fish might be more colorful, but many female betta fish also have awesome colors and patterns!

Here are a few examples of the most popular types of female bettas in the hobby:

  • Female halfmoon bettas
  • Female veiltail bettas
  • Female koi bettas
  • Female crown tail betta

Average Size

Female bettas are small freshwater fish that reach a length of between 2 and 2.25 inches. The females are typically a little shorter than the males when fully grown. Their bodies are slightly wider across than males, however.

Female Betta Fish Care

Female betta fish can be really easy to care for! In fact, these fish are great for children or newcomers to the fish-keeping hobby. Keeping a single betta female in her own tank is the best bet for beginners, but more experienced fish keepers can even try keeping many females together in the same tank.

Wild Betta Fish

Are you ready to learn more about caring for female betta fish? Let’s dive right in!

Aquarium Setup

The right kind of aquarium is very important for successfully keeping female betta fish. In this section, we’ll take a look at how to set up an awesome female betta tank and discuss how to keep one or more of these beautiful fish.

Tank Size

Your choice of tank size depends on how many female bettas you plan to keep. If you’re just getting started in the aquarium hobby, a single female betta would make an awesome pet! You can keep your betta in a tank as small as 5 gallons, but a ten gallon would be great too, especially if you want to grow some neat plants and add other fish.

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You’ll need a much bigger tank if you plan on setting up a female betta sorority tank. 29 gallons or more would be perfect for this kind of setup.

Water Parameters

Maintaining the correct water parameters is very important for keeping your female betta fish healthy. You’ll need a thermometer and a water test kit to monitor your parameters.

Bettas are tropical fish, so make sure you have a heater to keep your water temperature stable between 76 and 82°F.

Bettas prefer neutral water, although slightly acidic or slightly alkaline water is acceptable. A pH of 6.5-8 is considered ideal. Moderate water hardness of between 5 and 20 dGH is best for these fish.

Filtration and Aeration

Contrary to popular belief, betta fish do need good filtration. A small sponge filter will be perfectly fine for a single specimen, but you’ll need a more powerful filter for a sorority setup.

A canister filter is an ideal choice for a betta sorority because it combines a large volume of filtration media with a low water flow. The fact that it is kept outside of the aquarium also means you’ll have a beautiful display tank.

Betta fish are adapted to live in shallow still water systems where they do not need to fight against any water current. The female fish tend to be stronger swimmers than male fish but they will also struggle in a tank with strong water flow.

Bettas occur in pretty low oxygen, still water environments in nature, so they do not need an air pump with an air stone to stay healthy. Increasing aeration will not harm them, however.

Recommended Filters

  • Sponge filter- This type of filter is great for single fish setups.
  • Cannister filter- These filters are perfect for community aquariums and betta sororities.
  • Hang on back filter– HOB filters are a good all-around choice. Choose a model with an adjustable flow.
  • Internal power filter – These filters tend to create quite a strong current which is not ideal. A small model with an adjustable flow rate and a spray bar to reduce the flow rate can be used, however.

Lighting

Any standard aquarium lighting consisting of either fluorescent or LED lighting would be ideal for your female betta fish. Your fish will be more confident if you keep the lighting fairly dim, but you’ll need good light if you are growing live plants.

Go ahead and set your lighting on a timer to run for 6-8 hours each day. This will provide your fish with a natural daylight period.

Here’s a very important lighting tip for beginners: Make sure your aquarium is not exposed to any direct sunlight near a window. Strong sunlight is like an invitation for algae!

Aquatic Plants & Decorations

Bettas come from shallow water environments that are full of aquatic plants, so these fish thrive in planted tanks. Live aquarium plants provide your female betta fish with several great benefits, but you can also use artificial plants to simplify your setup.

If you do go the plastic route, just make sure your decorations are aquarium-safe and don’t have any sharp edges that could tear your betta’s beautiful fins.

Bettas love hiding places, so they will love exploring and swimming through the leaves of plants. Amazon sword and other species that have large leaves make a great choice because bettas love to sleep on the leaves!

Some floating plants are also a good choice- just remember that bettas need to get to the surface to breathe.

Add some driftwood, rocks, and aquarium decorations to make your female betta fish tank even more natural and attractive. Bettas love cave decorations, but sunken ships and castles will also give your fish a great place to hide.

Tank Maintenance

Regular tank maintenance will keep your tank looking great and your female bettas healthy. An hour of your time every week or so for a water change is really all that you need to set aside to maintain great water quality.

You can start with a 25% water change once a week and adjust your maintenance schedule based on the nitrate levels in your tank. If your nitrate levels are getting much over 20 ppm before each water change, consider changing out a little more water.

You’ll need a few supplies to keep your female betta fish tank clean and healthy. Let’s take a quick look at what you’ll need and how to use them:

  • Gravel vacuum- Use your gravel vacuum to suck dirt and waste from the bottom of your tank. This will keep your substrate clean and looking great.
  • Aquarium water test kit – Use your aquarium test kit to monitor your water parameters regularly.
  • Water conditioner – You should always treat tap water before adding it to your aquarium. Water conditioners neutralize harmful chemicals like chlorine and make the water safe for your fish.
  • Algae scraper – Use your algae scraper to clean your aquarium glass when necessary.

Substrate

Any clean, aquarium-safe substrate can be used in your female betta fish aquarium. Sand or gravel in a color of your choice is ideal, just be sure to rinse the substrate thoroughly before adding it to your tank. Most freshwater fish look and feel their best in tanks with a darker substrate, but you can use your creativity and choose any color you like.

Use good quality aquarium soil if you plan on growing loads of aquarium plants. This is a more expensive option than regular gravel because it supplies all the nutrients that plants need to live and grow.

Female Betta Fish Tank Mates

You’ve probably heard that Siamese fighting fish are super aggressive and can’t be kept with other fish. The truth is that you can set up a betta community tank with other species or even keep more than one betta fish in the same tank as long as they are females.

You should never keep male and female bettas together, but you certainly can keep females with other female bettas in the right kind of tank. Adding a school of dither fish can help to distract your female betta fish and reduce aggression. The best dither fish are active smaller fish like harlequin rasboras that swim in the middle and top levels of the tank.

Here are some good tank mates to keep in a female betta fish community tank:

Incompatible Tank Mates

The following fish are not recommended for a female betta fish community aquarium:

Keeping a Single Betta

The easiest way to keep female betta fish is to keep just a single female betta fish in its own tank. You can set up a great betta aquarium without spending much, so setting up a few different tanks is also a possibility.

Betta sorority

The great thing about female betta fish is that you can actually keep more than one in the same tank. This takes careful planning, however, and you’re going to want to have some backup plans in place in case anything goes wrong.

In a very large tank, a female betta fish sorority could do well if each has enough personal space. Growing Loads of tall aquarium plants and providing plenty of decorations can also help to keep the fish out of sight of one another. You can see a sorority in action from this tank in the video above by kingofhear4711.

Another completely different technique can be used to limit aggressive behavior. Purposefully overstocking the tank will prevent the female betta fish from developing territories and singling out any one fish to bully.

It is best to keep at least 6 female bettas in the same tank and keep a close eye on your fish, especially in the beginning. Any fish that is picking on the others may have to be removed from the tank.

This is where having a backup plan will really come in handy. I would recommend setting up a small tank that can be used as a hospital tank and for quarantining new fish. This little tank will come in handy eventually, even if you don’t have any fighting.

Breeding

Breeding betta fish at home is quite easy and can be great fun too. The most important thing to understand is that male betta fish can become aggressive and even kill the females if you don’t keep a close eye on things.

Let’s run through the basic steps of breeding betta fish.

  • Your male and female bettas should be kept in separate tanks until they are ready to breed.
  • Set up and cycle your breeding tank well before you start breeding your bettas.
  • Condition your fish by feeding them live foods.
  • Introduce your fish to the breeding tank but keep them separated with a divider.
  • After a day or so, the male will have built his bubble nest and the pair can be allowed to spawn.
  • The pair will embrace and the female will drop her eggs. She can be moved back to her own tank once the eggs are laid.
  • The male will collect the eggs and deposit them in the bubble nest.
  • The eggs will hatch after a few days and the male can then be moved back to his tank.
  • Feed the baby bettas a diet of tiny food like infusoria for about 2 months until they are ready to be moved into their own tanks.

Breeding Tank Requirements

Now that you have a better understanding of the betta breeding process, let’s take a look at the recommended breeding tank setup:

A tank that holds ten gallons or so is a good size for breeding betta fish. You’ll need a small heater and a sponge filter that creates a very low flow to maintain good water quality for the baby bettas. You only need 5 inches or so of water in the tank, and you don’t need a light or any gravel or substrate.

Add an Indian almond leaf or a piece of floating foam to the tank to give the male a place to build his bubble nest. Finally, lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the tank to maintain humid air above the water.

Female Betta Fish Food & Diet

Female bettas need a high protein diet consisting of prepared dried foods and live/frozen foods. They can be fed the same diet as their male counterparts.

A high-quality floating micro-pellet or flake food is the best daily food source for female bettas, but you should supplement this a few times a week with some live or frozen foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms. These supplements will bring out the best color and condition in your fish.

How Often Should You feed female bettas?

You can feed your betta fish once or twice per day. Pick one day per week to fast your fish as this can help prevent the chance of bloating. Don’t worry, your fish can survive for many days without food so just one day won’t do any harm.

Overfeeding can be very dangerous for your betta and excess food can cause the water quality in your aquarium to deteriorate. Feed your betta only as much as it can finish in a minute or so and remove the leftovers from the tank.

Common Health Problems and Diseases

Female betta fish are vulnerable to a variety of common fish diseases. Keeping them in a healthy tank with great water quality is the best way to avoid problems.

Follow these steps to prevent illness:

  • Quarantine your fish before adding them to a community or sorority tank.
  • Make sure your pH, water hardness, and water temperature are in the right range.
  • Feed your fish a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Keep up with regular tank maintenance.
  • Separate fighting fish. Stress is the biggest cause of illness in bettas.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the more common problems that affect betta fish:

Ich

This common freshwater fish disease is characterized by white spots on the fish’s body. Ich is caused by a parasite and can be treated with medication like Ich X.

Swim Bladder Disorder

Swim bladder disorders cause fish to struggle to swim properly. They may sink, float or spin in the water. This illness is often caused by overfeeding bettas.

Fin Rot/Tail Rot

Torn and disintegrating fins are a common symptom of stressed betta fish. Fin rot can be treated with antibiotics or aquarium salt.

FAQS

How can you tell if a betta fish is a female?

Female betta fish can look very similar to males. The females are usually less colorful and have smaller fins, however. Female bettas are a little shorter and wider than the males too, and they can have an egg spot and vertical bars on their bodies.

Are female bettas friendly?

Female betta fish can make awesome pets with great personalities. They aren’t always friendly towards other bettas but it is possible to keep them together with some careful planning.

Are female bettas peaceful?

Female bettas can be just as aggressive as their male counterparts. Overstocking a sorority tank or just providing loads of space and plants to reduce line of sight are the best ways to avoid conflict when keeping more than one female betta fish in the same tank.

Are female bettas better than males?

It’s difficult to say whether female or male betta fish are better because they are both great! Females are a little less aggressive than the males but they don’t always have the same bright colors and they tend to have shorter fins.

Can you put 2 female betta fish together?

It is not recommended to put 2 female betta fish together in the same tank. A single female betta or a group of 6 or more in a larger tank would be a safer bet.

Is it normal for female bettas to chase each other?

Female bettas can be aggressive towards each other and they will chase each other and fight if you keep two of them in a small aquarium. Some chasing is normal in a sorority tank, however, because the fish need to establish their dominance. Chasing and fighting can be a problem if you don’t keep enough of them together in the same tank.

Why is my female betta attacking my other female betta?

Competition for the best territory can make female betta fish aggressive. Unfortunately, this is just a part of their natural behavior. You can try adding more plants and hiding places to the aquarium so that the fighting fish can stay apart but it will be safer to separate them if the conflict gets serious.

How do you know if your female betta is fighting?

You should spend some time watching for any fighting fish, especially in the first few days after putting the female fish together. Of course, you can’t watch all the time, however, so keep a lookout for fish with torn fins or other injuries. Female Siamese fighting fish that are stressed or hiding away from their tank mates can be a sign of fighting.

Final Thoughts

Female betta fish deserve more credit than they get in the hobby. These tropical fish make amazing pets for everyone from beginners right up to experts! If you’re new to fish keeping, a single female betta is the perfect first fish for you. If you’re a more experienced aquarist, however, a betta sorority tank could make a great new project.

Do you keep female betta fish? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!

by Mark

Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping - both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Have a female Betta that has Bloated sides and under belly. Have done epsom bath and also have her on Kanaplex. She swims and eats . Also has good color but bloated. Gave her peas several times in case it was bloat but has little pine coning. My question is do I change her water when I add kanaplex every 2 days or just keep adding the kanaplex for a week?

    Reply
    • Hi Toni,

      I would follow what the manufacturer is stating on the medication. Is your fish still eating? If so, consider trying medicated food. You will need pellet, freeze-dried, or frozen food to do it. Use Seachem Metro and Focus. Mix these together with food so your fish can ingest the food. Metro is a know medication for some types of bloat. Use a garlic supplement if your fish need an appetite inducer.

      Reply

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