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When it comes to keeping fish as pets, one of the more favored fish species is the Betta fish. Sadly, the male Betta fish is often favored over the female for its longer tail and dominating personality. However, in this article we will cover everything you ever wanted to know about the female of this Siamese fish species to remind you why women rule. Everything from their history to general appearance, natural habitat and what you need to know about keeping female Bettas in captivity is covered. Are you ready to swim in lots of interesting facts?
What is the Female Betta Fish?
The female Betta fish is a small fish that is native to Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia. Unlike the males of the species however, the females of the species are considerably less ornate. The Betta fish that are commonly sold in pet stores worldwide are only distantly related to the wild Bettas of the rice paddies in Thailand but they still retain physiological similarities. The Betta fish both in captivity and in the wild have a similar shape and the females tend also to have a similar color. Unlike the females however, males that have been bred in captivity have generally been bred for brilliant coloration and long and flowing tails and fins. Now let’s get into more of the technical info about their classification and origin.
Taxonomy of the Female Betta Fish
The female is a member of the Betta genus in the Osphronemidae family in the Perciformes order of the Actinopterygii class.
The Actinopterygii Class
Fish within the Actinopterygii class are recognized as ray-finned fishes and are a subclass of bony fishes. These fish are generally referred to as “ray-finned” because of the presence of rays or bony spines that make up the structured fins of the species. Fish that do not have these bony rays within their fins instead present with fleshy fins and are classified in the Carcopterygii class. The scientific term for the ray fins that can be found on fish within the Actinopterygii class is: lepidotrichia. Actinopterygii is the largest class of vertebrates and is known for making up 96% of the currently recognized 25,000 fish species! Fish within this class can be found in varying waters from deep-sea to freshwater mountain streams. Species within this class of fish can range in size from 0.3 inches long as in the Paedocypris to 36 feet long as in the oarfish. The ocean sunfish is the heaviest of all known Actinopterygii species to date weighing in at 5,100 pounds.
Boston Fishing Buddies Run Into Ocean Sunfish
Ready for a funny video break? These two Boston fishing buddies freak out when they encounter an Ocean Sunfish. Warning: there is adult language in this video.
According to paleontologists, the actinopterygii class of fish has been present since the late Silurian age some about 418 million years ago! The oldest known fossil of an Actinopterygii fish species is a specimen that dates back some 420 million years ago that has been found in Estonia, Russia and Sweden. There are presently two subclasses of Actinopterygii fish; these include the Chondrostei and the Neopterygii. Fish that fall in to the Chondrostei subclass are those that present with cartilage and some degree of ossification. There are 52 species of Chondrostei fish that fall in to two orders: the Acipenseriformes (paddlefishes and sturgeons) and the Polypteriformes (birchirs and reed fishes.) Fish that fall in to the Neopterygii subclass are those that have undergone minimal changes throughout their evolutionary process from early actinopterygian species.
The Perciformes Order
The Perciformes order is otherwise referred to as the Percomorphi or Acanthropteri order and is one of the largest orders of vertebrates with almost 40% of all bony fish composing the order. Perciformes are fish that are perch-like in appearance and make up some 7,000 species of fish found throughout various environments. There are approximately 155 different families within the Perciformes order and with so many different fish the sizes of specimens within this order vary considerably. The smallest of species in the Perciformes order is the .3 inch long Schindleria brevipinguis and the longest is the 16 foot long Makaira species. It is believed that fish in this species began to appear in the late Cretaceous period. Fish in the Perciformes order are characterized by the presence of both soft rayed posterior dorsal and anal fins and spiny anterior dorsal and anal fins.
The Osphronemidae Family
The Osphronemidae family is a family of fish also referred to as Gouramis. Gouramis are all freshwater fish that are native to Asia. There are currently believed to be approximately ninety species of Osphronemidae fish that fall in to four subfamilies in fifteen genera. The four subfamilies of the Osphronemidae family include: Belontiinae, Macropodusinae, Osphroneminae and Luciocephalinae. The subfamily Belontiinae is generally referred to as the combtail gouramis and includes the genus Belontia. The subfamily Macropodusinae are also referred to as paradise fish and include the genus Betta, genus Macropodus, genus Malpulutta, genus Parosphromenus, genus pseudosphromenus, and genus Trichopsis. The subfamily Luciocephalinae is also referred to as Trichogastrinae and includes the genus Colisa, genus Clenops, genus Luciocephalus, genus Parasphaerichthys, genus Sphaerichthys and genus Trichogaster. Lastly is the subfamily Osphroneminae which is also referred to as the giant gouramis and includes the genus Osphronemus.
The Macropodusinae Subfamily
There are currently over fifty-three different species of fish within the subfamily Macropodusinae. Of all of the known species of the Macropodusinae subfamily the most commonly recognized is Betta splendens, the Betta fish that most people recognize from their local pet store.
The Female Betta Splendens
The Betta splendens is a fish that is commonly referred to as the Siamese fighting fish, although this name is more pertinent to the male of the species. The male Betta fish is a particularly territorial fish and uses elaborate displays of its bright and colorful fins and puffing out its gills to challenge and fight other males that encroach upon its territory. The female Betta fish is not known for being as aggressive or territorial however, when placing multiple females in a single tank, female can become aggressive towards one another. When building a community tank with multiple females it is best to select females that show less aggressive tendencies and to place them in large community tanks in smaller numbers. It is not advised to place a male and a female together in a tank unless it is for the short-term breeding process because even a single male and female will attack each other.
The Appearance of the Female Betta Fish
The Betta fish is most commonly recognized for the males of the species with their bright colors and flowing elaborately designed fins. However, the female Betta fish does not generally have either of these characteristics. The female is naturally a duller range of colors. But, over recent years breeders have begun to produce females that possess the same bright range of colors as can be found in males. While female Betta fish have been engineered through captive breeding to be more brilliant in color, they still do not display the incredible flowing fins that the males are recognized for. All Betta fish are no more than two inches long and while it is native to the rice paddies of Asia, these fish thrive in freshwater aquariums as well.
Reproduction and the Female Betta Fish
When a female Betta fish is responsive to a male Betta’s mating efforts she will darken in color and twist her body to respond to the body twisting that the male Betta does to show interest in mating. A female will not only use this body twisting done by the male to become aware of his intent to mate, but she will also see a nest of bubbles that the male creates.
Tank Life and the Female Betta Fish
Most female betta fish that are raised in captivity are raised in large tanks with other females and as such they are used to both living with other fish and living in a large space. Female betta fish can live in solitary tanks as well as in community tanks (sometimes referred to as a “sorority”) but there are some rules to keep in mind when keeping multiple females in one area.
- There is a limit to how many female bettas can fit in one tank. It is generally recommended that a large tank can hold as many as four to six female betas.
- There must be an adequate number of hiding places for them to hide away. Betta fish naturally live in communities where there is plenty of foliage to hide among and it is important even for captive bred fish to have this ability to hide.
The Hierarchy and Dominance in Female Betta Fish
Even for female Betta fish that have been raised in captivity in large tanks with other females there is an issue of dominance and establishing a hierarchy. Like many animal “societies” the female Betta fish need to establish order among themselves and this means that when they are introduced to a large tank together they will begin to bully each other to a degree. The females will rarely cause any significant damage to another during these sessions of “bullying” but it is always important to keep an eye on a new community to ensure that one female is not taking on the brunt of the bullying.
In rare instances a single female Betta can become the target of all of the other females and this can result in severe injury or death. If you notice this type of activity taking place in your female tank it is crucial to remove the bullied fish and put her in her own smaller tank to prevent her from becoming seriously injured. When this type of activity occurs your bullied fish will need to remain in her own tank and should not be placed back in the tank with the other fish.
As the female Bettas naturally create a pecking order and extreme bullying does not occur a hierarchy will soon develop. The females will utilize gill flaring in order to intimidate each other in to submission. After a hierarchy has been established and the alpha female has been established the entire tank community will calm down and life will continue as a peaceful community tank. One thing you can do to help to speed up the process of establishing a hierarchy among your female fish is to ensure that you always have four or more female Bettas in the tank. Any less than four female Bettas can result in two ganging up on the third which will certainly result in severe injury or even death for the third fish.
It is possible to keep a male and female in a tank together but this should not be done unless you are looking to breed your Bettas. Even in this circumstance it is important to remove the female as soon as she has dropped all of her eggs in order to ensure that the eggs survive. Keeping a male and female together in the same tank when not mating them can cause fighting in addition to continued mating behavior which can become troublesome.
Video: Female vs Male Betta Fish
Wondering what some of the physical characteristics are to determine a Betta fish’s gender? Check out this three and a half-minute video which walks you through some of the traits of each gender so you can recognize the differences based on appearance.
Why Should You Consider Keeping a Female Betta Fish?
As time progresses breeders have been able to develop many brightly colored females of the species. Regardless of the color of the female fish, this freshwater fish is enjoyable to watch as she swims around her tank and can provide a significant level of stress relief. If you are educated in the art of breeding Betta fish you know that keeping a female Betta fish is a necessity. Also, breeding your own Betta fish can be a fun and interesting as you seek to create your own color variety and selectively breed for amazing tail shapes as well.
Still not sure if a female Betta fish is the right choice for you? Drop by your local aquarium specialty store or local pet store and find an expert who can address any concerns. Having someone who is knowledgeable about your personal situation and specific pet needs can be very helpful when deciding which animal is right for you, even when that animal is a fish.
Do you have a female Betta fish or are you considering getting one?