Male vs Female Betta: Key Differences (Which is Better?)

male vs female betta
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Last Updated: July 28, 2022 by Flora Gibbins

There are good reasons why you may want to know the difference between a male vs female betta fish.

For example:

If you want to keep them together in a sorority or community tank or if your idea is to breed them.

Male betta fish, due to their naturally aggressive nature, cannot be housed together, as they will fight to the death. Females are generally less problematic not being as hostile as the males.

Main Differences Between Male And Female Betta

The main differences between male and female betta are:

  • Male bettas have long fins and tails whereas females are shorter.
  • The Male fish are bright, single jewel colors with no stripes, whereas females are less brightly colored and can have stripes.
  • Males create bubble nests to place eggs for hatching, whereas females don’t (usually) show this behavior. 

The most apparent difference between male and female betta fish is their fin and tail size.

Males have large, extravagant, brightly colored fins and tails, while in females, they are smaller and less dramatic.

Captive-bred Betta Splendens Differences

In the wild, bettas look like different fish to their captive-bred counterparts. They don’t have the same range of vivid colors and large fins. Generally, wild fish are more camouflaged and come in dull shades of brown, gray, and green. 

The striking difference between wild and captive-bred fish has been caused by selective breeding in captivity. It would be far more difficult to tell a male from a female betta fish apart in the wild as they look very similar. 

Captive-bred betta fish look and behave very differently from their wild counterparts. This is because the focus was on producing a wide range of rainbow colors. These include blue, green, red, orange, purple, yellow, turquoise, or copper and combinations of the same.

The size of the large floating fins and tails, particularly in males, is also much exaggerated when compared to wild bettas.

Breeding Cycle

Female betta fish go through a breeding cycle, which causes them to become filled with eggs. When this occurs, she will usually develop and vertical striped pattern on her body, known as “breeding stripes.” This can be confused with another phenomenon in female betta called fear striping, although these stripes are horizontal.

If the eggs are not fertilized, she will usually re-absorb them into her body, although on rare occasions, they can be expelled. 

You can tell if a female is full of eggs by looking at her body which appears more rounded than normal. Her ovispore, the hole on the underside of her body, will appear to be protruding and forming a small, white, tubelike structure, indicating she is carrying eggs. 

Bubble Nests

A male betta will often blow bubble nests in his tank even if no females are present. It is very rare for a female betta fish to blow a bubble ness, and if she does, it can signify that she has a very dominant personality and may be aggressive towards other fish. 

betta fish bubble nest

How Do Male And Female Betta Fish Differ In Appearance?

As we’ve already discovered, the main difference between the male betta fish and female betta fish differ from each other in the size of their fins and tails.

Coloration

Other differences in appearance include the brighter, solid, vibrant body color in the males and their lack of strips. Males can be multi-colored, but the color change only happens in their fins and tails.

Fins and Tails

Another difference between male and female betta fish is female betta have shorter fins. In male betta, the tails are larger, and the ventral fin is thicker and longer than in a female. In some varieties, the caudal fin of the female betta fish is shorter than in the male.

Size

When looked at from above, you will notice that female betta fish are wider and shorter than males, which are longer and more slender. The overall length of a male betta compared to a female betta fish differs too.

The body of males, excluding fins and tail, is usually between 2.5 to 3 inches long, while females are closer to 2 to 2.25 inches.

Egg Spot

Female betta fish have an egg spot. If you look closely at a mature female, you’ll see a small white dot located between her ventral and anal fins. This is her ovipositor, where the eggs are expelled during spawning.

If you’re having difficulty seeing the spot, take a photograph with your cellphone and enlarge the image for a clearer view. 

Beard

The final difference to look out for when comparing male betta vs female betta is their beard. Yep, you read that right; if you look carefully at the underside of the gill cover of a male betta, you can see a beard looking protuberance. This is called an opercular membrane.

Female bettas also have this beard, but it is only visible when they are flaring.

male vs female betta featured image

Are Male or Female Betta Fish More Aggressive?

There’s a good reason why Bettas are also referred to as Siamese Fighting Fish, and it isn’t only because they come from the Mekong River and other tributaries in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. It’s because they are aggressive, and males will fight each other to the death in captivity.

Aggression In The Wild

Interestingly, in the wild, this extreme aggression, as seen in captive male fish, is not so apparent, and although they will spar for territory and over females, they don’t seem hell-bent on the ultimate destruction of their opponent. This is perhaps because they arent’ confined to small areas. 

Sorority Tanks

In contrast, females are often kept in sorority tanks where a collection of female bettas can successfully be kept together. Sometimes even this can result in problems if, for instance, the tank is not large enough for the individuals to get away from one another, or there are insufficient hiding places.

Keeping Pairs Of Beta Fish Together

Sadly the aggressive nature of a male betta means they cannot be kept together in the same tank.

You may think it would be alright to keep just two female fish together, but actually, this is not the case. One fish will be dominant over the other and will often persecute the weaker one, until, over time, it results in its demise. 

Community Tanks

Kept in a community tank, there is rarely a problem with female bettas, and even some of the less aggressive varieties of male betta can successfully be kept among other breeds of fish

Female Vs Male Betta Fish Personality 

Male and female betta have pretty different personalities. Flaring of the gills in males is done when the male is in attack mode as a display of aggression. 

Females will also flare, but rather than aggression, this is to signify dominance over another female. When females flare, they dip their heads down, but males don’t do this.

Interestingly, when kept in a community tank, male bettas can often be picked on by other breeds of fish. The females are more aggressive in this situation and will usually be one of the alpha fish, to the point where she may need to be watched in case she is tail biting the other fish.

Which Are Best To Keep With Other Fish?

neon tetras

Although male bettas cannot be kept together, they can be kept with other species of fish. It’s vital that the different species you choose are non-aggressive and generally have duller colors, as brightly colored fish can provoke an attack due to mistaken identity.

Friends For Your Male Bettas

If you do decide to give your male betta some friends, ensure you have another fish tank ready just in case things don’t go according to plan! Always introduce the betta to the new fish tank and never the other way around. Interactions should be carefully monitored for several days to ensure all is well. 

The best types of fish to keep with male bettas include species such as feeder guppies due to their small fins and less bright coloring. Other options include:

  • Harlequin Rasbora – Very peaceful, small, attractive shoaling fish.
  • Neon Tetras – Another small, peaceful shoaling fish but with bright colors.
  • Ember Tetras – Like neons, these are shoaling and are a pleasant orange color.
  • Corydoras – Bottom feeder fish, can live alone or in schools. Very tranquil.
  • Clown Pleco – Another gentle, bottom-feeding algae eater.
  • Kuhli loaches – Very docile and look like eels. 

Friends For Your Female Bettas

Female bettas can be kept in groups together called sororities, or in aquarium fish tanks with different assorted fish. The types of fish best suited for keeping with your female bettas are a little larger than with the males, although it is still best to avoid any with large fins or floaty tails.

You can keep the same tank mates as shown in the list above, plus:

  • Yoyo loaches 
  • Panda and Pygmy Cories
  • All types of Tetra
  • Rainbow Rasbora

Space

Space is paramount whether you’re keeping males or females with other fish in a community fish tank. They should have a minimum of one gallon per fish. Hiding places such as living plants and ornaments is also essential, as it allows fish to escape each other if necessary. 

tetra fish

 

Keeping A Male And Female Together

A male and female betta should only be kept together if you wish the pair to mate.

The male should be placed in the tank with the female when she is full of eggs. 

Once the pair has mated, the male is removed back into his own tank. This can be after the male has created a bubble nest and placed the eggs there. 

Conclusion

Although male bettas are often condemned as being the most aggressive when compared to female bettas, this isn’t always the case. In community tanks, I have noticed that male bettas can often be picked on by other fish, while a female will regularly become the boss overall. 

Certainly, you cannot keep male bettas together, although females will usually tolerate sorority living.

The main differences between this male and female tropical fish species in appearance include the vivid colors of the males and their extravagant fins. Colors in females are duller and fins and tails smaller. 

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