Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Betta fish > 11 Vet-Reviewed Facts About Betta Fish: Appearance, Diet & Behavior

11 Vet-Reviewed Facts About Betta Fish: Appearance, Diet & Behavior

mask Betta fish_Sirinutbettafarm_shutterstock

Vet approved

Dr. Luqman Javed Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Luqman Javed

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

The betta fish (also sometimes referred to as the Siamese fighting fish) is a popular freshwater fish that is considered ideal for beginners. Bettas come in an assortment of colors and fin types, with both male and female bettas being sold commercially as aquatic pets.

These tropical fish are known for their beauty and territorial aggression, which has earned them the name of a fighter fish. These beautiful small fish have many fascinating facts that we will cover in this article, and some of them might even surprise you!

pets 6

The 11 Facts About Betta Fish

1. Male Bettas Are Usually More Colorful Than Females

The male betta fish has always been more popular than female betta fish, mostly because they typically have more color, and more fin types to choose from. Female bettas usually aren’t as “flashy” as males.

The rather interesting fins of a male betta are why pet stores mainly stock male betta fish on their displays. Female betta fish are usually not as colorful as their male counterparts, though exceptions certainly do exist.

male and female betta
Image Credit: finchfocus, Shutterstock

2. Male Betta Fish Are Solitary

Betta fish (especially males) are highly territorial and should not be housed with other fish that they may perceive as territorial rivals. This includes other male bettas, female bettas not interested in mating, other top dwellers (such as gouramis), or any other fish with long, flowing fins (such as fancy variants of guppies).

Bettas kept as pets are generally more territorial than their wild counterparts, as they were selectively bred for aggression in the past.


3. Betta Fish Are Carnivores

The betta fish is indeed a carnivore that hunts for worms and invertebrates in the wild. They will rarely eat plant materials in nature, and they live off protein-rich foods. In captivity, you should replicate a betta fish’s diet as best as you can.

These carnivorous fish do well on a staple pellet diet that is high in animal-based protein, and they will benefit from live or freeze-dried worms or shrimp fed alongside their pellet diet. Betta fish can consume some plant matter. However, it should not be something that they’re regularly fed.

Pink Betta Fish
Image Credit: gogorilla, Shutterstock

4. Betta Fish Make Bubble Nests

If you have ever observed your betta fish leaving foamy bubbles on the surface of the water, your betta is making a bubble nest. This behavior is seen in males. Bubble nests are usually made by mature male bettas who are ready to reproduce.

Making a bubble nest is an instinct when males are trying to attract a female betta, but not all betta fish will make one. Sometimes the water surfaces’ agitation from filters or bubblers can be too strong that your betta cannot find a good place to construct their nest.


5. Betta Fish Can Breathe Air From The Surface

Betta fish have a respiratory organ that many other fish do not have, known as a labyrinth organ. Fish that live in warm stagnant water have developed this adaptation to directly breathe atmospheric air whenever needed. Examples of other fish that include this organ are Gouramis. Some other species of fish have the ability to breathe atmospheric air via other means.

Bettas will swim to the surface to gulp air via their labyrinth organ, however, some fish may do so even in waters that have plenty of aeration. It seems this behavior can be habitual in some individuals. Likewise, some bettas may choose to surface very rarely.

Half Moon Betta Fish
Image Credit: at.rma, Shutterstock

6. Betta Fish Have Teeth

Almost all fish have teeth, and bettas are no exception. They have very small teeth located towards the back of their jaws. Though they are carnivores, their teeth don’t play a major role in catching prey; however, their teeth do help them grind whatever they catch.


7. Betta Fish Change Color When Stressed

When betta fish are stressed, they will lose their coloration and typically look paler. They may also develop lines across their body, known as stress lines.

You may notice that a betta that has been placed in a new aquarium looks slightly duller in color than they should, but their color should soon return, and the stress stripes will disappear again once they have settled in. It is also common for bettas to change their coloration when they are ill, likely because their body is under stress.

closeup shot of sick betta fish in an aquarium
Image Credit: Wirestock Creators, Shutterstock

8. Betta Fish Fins Have Taste Buds

Interestingly, bettas have taste buds. Like most other fish, they have taste buds not just in their mouths, but also on the rest of their body. The taste buds on their bodies pick up chemical information about their environment, allowing a fish to find food in murky water.


9. Betta Fish Can Regrow Damaged Fins

If a betta fish has sustained an injury to their fins that has caused fin loss or tearing, these damaged fins will start to grow back, provided the base of the fin is still intact. However, they might not look as good as they did before. Betta fish have long fins, and this is seen in male bettas who come in a variety of different fin types.

They can easily damage their fins by snagging them on a decoration, getting into a fight with another fish, losing it to a disease like fin rot, or evening by chewing on their tail.

These damaged spots will begin to regrow over the next couple of weeks and you will notice that the regrowth looks like a white piece of fin over the part where the fins have been damaged. If however, the base of a fin is lost, then it won’t regrow.

Betta_panpilai paipa_Shutterstock
Image Credit: panpilai paipa, Shutterstock

10. Betta Fish Were Used In Fighting Games

Betta fish flare or puff up their gills to look more intimidating. They will usually do this when they feel stressed or to defend their territory. Bettas will flare at each other to look as big as possible when they feel threatened, and some bettas will even flare at their reflection in the glass aquarium. Aside from flaring their gills, bettas will also extend their fins to look intimidating to any fish they feel threatened by.

Both female and male bettas can flare, and it is their way of showing dominance and territorialism in the aquarium towards other fish, usually their species.


11. Betta Fish Flare When They Are Threatened

Betta fish have a pair of gills underneath their head that they will flare or puff up to look more intimidating. They will usually do this when they feel stressed or to defend their territory. Bettas will flare at each other to look as big as possible when they feel threatened, and some bettas will even flare at their reflection in the glass aquarium. Aside from flaring their gills, bettas will also extend their fins to look intimidating to any fish they feel threatened by.

Both female and male bettas can flare, and it is their way of showing dominance and territorialism in the aquarium towards other fish, usually their species.

siamese fighting fish
Image Credit: I Putu Krisna Wiranata, Shutterstock

pets 6

Conclusion

Betta fish are quite fascinating fish, and their small colorful bodies and interesting personalities have made them a favorite in the fish-keeping hobby. You will find betta fish are kept as pets all over the world and are a special favorite for beginners who want a small fish that can be housed alone and doesn’t need a very large aquarium.

See also:


Featured Image Credit: Sirinutbettafarm, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets

Before you go - Don't miss out!