Many of us have gone into pet shops and found a betta fish display—sitting front and center. All the fish are swimming in their tiny cups, spreading their graceful fins for all to see. But something might make you wonder if these fish are lonely.
If you have bettas, and want to know if it’s possible to have males and females together as companions—the answer is a bit complicated. In short, we’d recommend keeping male and female bettas apart whenever possible, except during mating. Bettas are notoriously aggressive and fiery little fish that can stir up quite a hissy in shared tanks. So, let’s talk about how to keep your tank mates safe.
Male vs. Female Bettas: What’s the Difference?
Male and female bettas differ in personality and look. This is because they each play a different role in the natural kingdom, so they take on various traits.
Males are highly competitive, territorial, and aggressive with other males. Housing multiple males will result in death every time. However, females can live together and form their own clique. Nevertheless, they might still be aggressive, especially during high hormone periods.
Males tend to have bold, flashy colors, and flowy, waving fins. And, of course, they can come in a vast selection of colors.
Males use their impressive presence to ward off other males and attract females for mating.
Female betta fish are generally duller in color, and have shorter fins.
Females usually live in small communities, so they can peacefully exist alongside other females. However, they can exhibit aggression, especially during pregnancy.
Can Male & Female Bettas Live Together?
Technically, males and females can live together in certain circumstances—but every situation will be different. So, you will have to closely monitor the situation to make sure no one is being bullied, and that there’s no conflict.
Single Male + Sorority (Betta Harems)
If you put a singular male betta in with a group of multiple bonded females, it might work out in your favor. The male will feel complacent in the company of the females, and they are comfortable ruling the roost.
Your sorority should already be established fully before ever adding a male into the mix. You should make sure all females get along without frequent issues of fighting or aggression.
Things to consider: Bullying can still happen no matter what. If aggression starts, it can cause serious injury and even death to a member of your tank.
Single Male + Single Female
If you have a singular male and female betta pair, you may think it would be easier to house them together. This can be true—especially during mating. However, that doesn’t mean the two are guaranteed to get along.
Things to consider: When you place the male and female pair together, fighting can start immediately. So always be ready to separate the two if this begins.
Issues Keeping Male & Female Bettas Together
We all know about how beautiful male bettas can’t live together—as they will literally fight to the death. However, female bettas can live together, even though they still have the potential of being feisty, too.
Bettas can seriously injure one another. It doesn’t just stop at same-sex pairings. They can get agitated and lash out, no matter what the circumstances. When you have multiple bettas living together, it increases the likelihood of potential problems.
You can’t monitor your bettas all the time, as you have other activities to tend to that don’t involve staring at your fish tank all day. So, since you can’t possibly be in so many places at once, it might be best to avoid the potential for disaster entirely.
How to Introduce Them
If you do choose to put your bettas together, you won’t want to simply plop them in the tank and walk away. Instead, you should always introduce the two parties slowly to get a good feel for one another.
Use a Tank Divider
Tank dividers provide an excellent way for your bettas to get acclimated without physically connecting. Females swim more than males to stay healthy, so make sure to favor your female’s space. They may not want a quick introduction, and it’s a method to gauge how they will act.
Plus, it can warm them up to the idea of being tank mates, as they can acclimate well without the worry of fighting or bullying.
Breeding Betta Fish
Breeding bettas can be a rewarding hobby if you take the time. Bettas mate interestingly, but the pairing can be tricky.
Generally, the two will engage in a mating ritual involving lots of extravagant dancing. Then, the male makes a very intricate bubble nest for the babies. Once the male appeals to his potential mate, they finish the deed.
After the female deposits her eggs, the male will hurry to place the babies into the nest. Therefore, it would be best if you separated the female after that.
With dad tending to the eggs, babies should hatch within about three days. After you see the newcomers emerge, it’s time to take dad out of the tank, so the babies can swim alone.
Our Thoughts on Keeping Males & Females Together
Mixing bettas together can be risky business. If you can avoid it, it’s probably for the best that males and females stay apart. Unless you are an experienced aquarist, and choose to breed your bettas, they are typically solo fish who prefer solitude.
If you can help it, it’s best to admire them in separate containers. Of course, you can always opt for a divided aquarium so you can enjoy both beauties, but still keep them separated.
Other Fish to Consider
Bettas might not work for your tank, but you can always look at other compatible tank mates.
Here are a few to check out:
If you feel confident about keeping your male and female bettas together, you must take the proper precautions to ensure everyone stays safe. Typically, unless you’re breeding, it’s always best to keep bettas completely alone, or with a group of bonded females.
If you do decide to mix your male and female bettas, remember to monitor the situation closely, and be prepared to intervene if things go south.
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Featured Image Credit: subin pumsom, Shutterstock