Image Credit: Eleverse (CC License)
Many moons ago, when I was a 9-year-old, I asked my parents for a couple of betta splendens for Christmas. They were delighted to get away with such a bargain for a gift. Me? I was head over heels.
Cutting to the chase, one betta died in a duel while the other was gravely injured. It took me the death of one of my first-ever pets to know that bettas aren’t supposed to be raised together – especially the males.
But I couldn’t understand why.
Bright colors, iridescent scales, and brilliant fins that flow around like underwater ball gowns – bettas give marine fish a run for their money.
Even more, they come cheap.
Today, these fish are sold for as little as $2 each in a pet store or a flea market.
It’s super tempting to buy a bunch of these little gems to grace our little tanks as moving, breathing decorations, isn’t it?
Keeping multiple male bettas together is not recommended. I learned that the hard way. But what about betta fish male and female in the same tank? Is it dangerous too?
Yes, it is.
But if they can’t be kept together, how do they procreate? How come there are so many bettas everywhere?
There’s more to these answers than a simple yes or no. Keep reading to know.
Can You Keep Betta Fish Male And Female In The Same Tank?
It is possible to keep male and female betta fish together, but it’s like walking on thin ice. You can keep 1 male and 1 female or 1 male and a sorority of females. In either case, this should only be attempted by a professional. If you’re new to the hobby, I recommend against it.
Male bettas make relentless bullies. They’re not just mean to each other but also frequently lash out at demure females. Therefore, the general practice is to keep male and female bettas together for a short term only so they can breed.
Once the eggs are laid, the females are swiftly transferred back to their old tank.
Besides being experienced, you should also make provision for a backup tank just in case it doesn’t work out between the two parties.
I came across a few YouTube videos that teach nifty tricks to keep multiple bettas together. And while it’s true that there’s an ounce of possibility it would work out, these fish would be happier when kept in separate tanks.
Why Can’t You Keep Male And Female Bettas In The Same Tank?
Bettas were domesticated at least 1,000 years ago to have a dramatic appearance and a fierce temperament. They’re also known as Siamese fighting fish and were put in battles like cockfighting. Unfortunately, centuries of selective breeding mean the bettas have evolved to be highly aggressive. Therefore, they cannot cohabitate with one another.
Wild betta specimens are native to the Mekong basin in Southeast Asia. There, they live in rice paddies and canals. Since these paddies and canals are large, often encircling miles of space, each fish gets plenty of room to establish territory.
These fish would naturally flare up if kept in a small and confined environment. So, the bettas bred today have an inherent angry disposition, to begin with.
It’s been well documented that the male bettas bully the females. They pick a fight with female fish for no particular reason. During the fight, the male will fan out its fins and puff out the gills to appear big. He’ll then nip at the females until they retreat.
If you notice torn fins and missing scales in the females, in addition to a heightened hiding behavior, your fish is most likely being bullied.
Get a big tank if you still plan to raise male and female bettas together. The tank should have ample length. I’d suggest nothing less than 40 gallons. A big tank means lesser confrontation.
Also, you need to add a lot of plants and caves to create hideouts for the tyrannized females. The rule of thumb is that 30% of the decors should be caves, rocks, and driftwood, and the rest of the 70% should comprise plant matter. You can add plants like java fern, betta bulbs, amazon sword, and anubias.
If you want to spare no effort, if you’re bent over backward to house male and female bettas together, you can try a couple of methods at your own risk.
How To Keep Male And Female Bettas In The Same Tank?
Keeping male and female bettas together is a risky business, but it’s not an impossible feat. Establishing condos, getting a big tank, and creating numerous hideouts are some ways people successfully keep male and female bettas together.
Having said that, each solution comes with its unique set of challenges. For example, the betta condo is quite controversial.
Why Are Betta Condos So Controversial?
When you can’t keep two bettas together in the same tank, creating little condos with designated (and inaccessible for others) areas for each seems like such a great idea. As a matter of fact, I applied this hack a lot of times too.
It only dawned on me years later that this method isn’t as nifty as it seems.
First, the condos are created by dividing the tank into different sections using dividers. The walls are vented so water can circulate with no problem. It sounds all good till now.
The problem lies in the fact that the fish can still see each other through the clear walls. And naturally, this close visual proximity will trigger the bettas to get into a sparring match.
Of course, the bettas won’t be able to harm each other since there’s a wall between them, but seeing one another will keep them stressed the whole time. And you know how stress can affect their health.
Now that it’s clear that betta condos aren’t as helpful as they appear to be, is there any other way you can keep the pair together? If you insist, there are a few tricks. But proceed at your own risk!
How To Keep A Single Male And Female Betta Fish Together?
If you want tiny betta fry that are cute as buttons, you will have to keep the male and female betta together in the same tank at some point. Make sure the tank is big and long enough to prevent frequent confrontations between the two parties.
Ideally, the tank should at least have a 40-gallon capacity. I know 40 gallons is a giant leap from nano tanks bettas are subjected to, but remember, the bigger, the better.
You also need to add numerous rocks and plants to create caves and hideouts for the female to retreat if the harassment goes out of hand. Be mindful while using driftwood, as it can change the water’s pH level.
Once the eggs are laid, you need to immediately remove the female from the tank no matter how great her equation with the male was, to begin with.
That’s because females have a reputation for consuming their own eggs (although it’s not very common), and males see a female as a threat to the eggs and begin to relentlessly attack her.
How To Keep A Single Male And Multiple Female Bettas Together?
It’s a relatively more common practice to keep a male and a sorority of females in the same tank. The idea behind this is that the aggression the male lashes out at the females will be distributed – only one female won’t have to bear the brunt of the male’s bullying.
While this seems like a clever idea, I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re new to the hobby. Even if you’re experienced and confident, having a spare tank is still essential just in case things don’t go right.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.
You will need a big tank.
Bettas are mostly associated with small tanks. They’re the poster child of species suitable for nano tanks. However, if you plan to raise a male and a group of females together, any tank wouldn’t do. 75 gallons is a good start.
A spacious tank is essential to accommodate all the decorations that will help to break the line of sight.
You should add a male betta to a sorority.
You should always introduce a betta male to a well-established sorority. If you do it the other way around, the chances of aggression and brawl will skyrocket.
Also, if you add the male first and a group of girls second, there will be a drastic ammonia spike in the tank, with chances of at least one fish succumbing to poisoning.
Once a sorority is formed and established, remove all the females from the tank. Next, change the tank’s layout so nobody can go back to claiming territory.
Finally, add them back along with the male. When they’re back into the tank, there won’t be any set territories since you changed the layout.
The fish will be too busy finding and claiming new territories instead of fighting among themselves.
Don’t skimp on hiding places.
The key to successfully raising male and female bettas is strategically creating numerous hideouts to break the line of sight. For this, you’ll need to make clever use of the numerous plants, rocks, and caves present in the tank.
These hideouts will serve as retreats where the bullied females can catch a breath and rest. If you add driftwood, keep in mind that it changes the water’s pH level.
Females can get mean too.
My apologies if I portrayed females as damsels in distress up until now. These dainty little fish can get just as wicked and fiery as their male counterparts, if not more.
A sorority always has a preset pecking order. The females will stick to it unless you introduce a new male. When the male is added to the equation, the females will fight for the male’s attention.
This could lead to severe bullying and harassment, resulting in injuries and death.
How To Introduce Male And Female Bettas For The First Time?
Whether introducing a male to a single female or a harem, things can go south quickly. There’s no guarantee your fish will be on their best behavior. As soon as they see one another, they may attempt to attack to establish dominance.
Therefore, what you should do is allow them to see each other but prevent them from getting too close. This is usually best done by keeping the betta in the bag for some time before letting it out.
Ideally, both parties should be able to see each other without contact for a couple of days. For this, you can use a breeding box or a tank divider first.
Initially, flaring, chasing, and nipping are normal and expected behaviors. But it’s not a good sign if they don’t calm down even after some time has passed.