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Do Betta Fish Have Teeth And Can They Bite?

Nicole Cosgrove

June 3, 2021

Betta fish are also known as Siamese Fighting Fish and are reputable for being among the toughest fish in any aquarium. This reputation can make anyone thinking of pairing their Betta fish or buying one ask whether they have teeth.

If you take a close look at your betta fish using a microscope or magnifying lens, you’ll notice that these pet fishes have white teeth, albeit tiny ones. You can also see them if you flash your camera at the fish’s mouth and zoom the picture.

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What Do Betta Fish Use Their Teeth For?

red betta fish_Pixabay
Image Credit: Pixabay

Feeding

The primary function of your betta’s teeth is to break down chunky pieces of food to make them digestible. These fish mainly eat meat, although they also eat veggies because they are gutty.

Insects like mosquitoes, midges, and bloodworms hatch their eggs in water, offering bettas readily available frozen larvae rich in protein and water content. They also thrive on pellets, fresh plants, algae, and live food like flying bugs.

For this reason, the betta needs to attack and grab live prey to prevent it from escaping before it kills it. The teeth make it easier for them.

Bettas don’t just use the teeth to attack but also to chew and chomp up the pellets, insects, and algae for easy digestion.

To Attack

Bettas are known as Siamese Fighting Fish for a good reason. These fish are aggressive and will defend their territory, often to death.

They quickly pick up a fight with anything they meet especially other male fish. The teeth are vital for their defense.

A betta’s teeth are sharp. It uses them to attack and tear up its enemy’s tail, fin, and scales. This is why it’s advisable not to keep two male bettas in the same aquarium.

Don’t pair it up with any other fish, especially if it is brightly colored or has flowing tails and fins. If it’s naturally aggressive, it can attack any type of fish regardless.

Do Betta Fish Bite People?

Betta Green Turquoise Halfmoon Plakat_happymay_shutterstock
Credit: happymay, Shutterstock

Biting tendencies boil down to a fish’s individual temperaments. Some bettas are laid back and timid and won’t bite even if your hand is within the biting range. However, other betta fish will see your hand as a threat and attack, biting it.

Even if the betta goes for your hand and nips at it, human skin is too strong for the teeth, so they won’t break the skin and inflict harm.

Bettas are usually not aggressive towards humans. A betta fish that “bites” you is probably just curious.

Do the Bites Hurt?

A betta’s bite isn’t painful to humans because their mouths and teeth are too small to inflict painful bites. It’s painful for the other bettas, though.

The “love” bite usually feels more like a slight tickle. However, other people say that it feels like a strange pinch.

If you want to get how it feels, you can put some food on clean and grease-free fingers and allow your betta to eat from the finger. If it’s gutty, it’ll bite your finger as well as the food.

It’s not advisable to do this too often, though. The reason is, the betta fish can bite and not let go, not because it’s attacking you, but the jaws are stuck.

You risk harming your fish if the jaws are stuck and it can’t let go.

Why Do Betta Fish Bite People?

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Image Credit: at.rma, Shutterstock
  • Curiosity

Bettas aren’t aggressive towards people. If your pet fish bites your finger, chances are it saw your hand looming into the tank, and it got curious.

These fish don’t have hands to touch and figure out the strange thing in their territory. For this reason, they use their mouths to grab items just to confirm whether they are edible.

  • Self-defense

A betta might bite you sometimes because it views your approaching hand as a potential threat. So it reacts defensively by nipping at you.

It’s also why you shouldn’t stick your hand into the aquarium too often, as it stresses the fish.

  • Accidental

The fish can bite you by accident if your finger has food on it. Although bettas are usually quite precise, they might get a little bit carried away if they are hungry.


Do Betta Fish Bite During Spawning?

Betta_panpilai paipa_Shutterstock
Image Credit: panpilai paipa, Shutterstock

If your male betta fish share an aquarium with the females and the tank conditions are favorable, you may witness spawning behavior.

Signs of aggression during spawning are common, and it’s not unusual for the males and females to bite each other. However, the bite can either be a good sign or a cause for concern, depending on the bite’s intensity.

When Biting is a Good Sign

A betta might bite another (it can be male or female). It’s a good sign if the bitten fish might back away a little bit or not move at all.

This means that it isn’t ready or sure if it wants to mate, but it isn’t opposed to the idea. The bite should be a slight nip, not a full bite. They may not always bite when spawning and still be interested in each other, though.

When Biting is Bad Sign

Double Tail Betta Fish_Buddy BIGPhotographer_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Buddy BIGPhotographer, Shutterstock

The biting can be a sign of aggression sometimes. However, such bites are usually aimed at the fin or tail, and you may want to separate them if you notice them.

Aggressive bites during spawning mean that they don’t want to mate, and they mean it. Both males and females can be aggressive during this process.

You can tell an aggressive bite from the recipient’s reaction. For example, if it darts away and tries to avoid the perpetrator, then there’s no way they will mate.

You’ll have to wait for some time until you try to breed them again.

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Summary

Betta fish have teeth, but they aren’t meant to harm you. They use the fish to defend themselves against enemies, explore surfaces, and eat food.

Always watch out for your pet fish in case you’ve housed more than one in the same aquarium and separate them if they start biting each other.

A betta’s bite will harm the other fish, but it isn’t supposed to hurt you.


Featured Image Credit: panpilai paipa, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.