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Female Betta Fish – Appearance, Behavior and Care Guide

When it comes to bettas, male fish tend to get most of the attention. Their bright colors and pugnacious attitudes make them a favorite choice for novice aquarists. But female betta fish are nearly as pretty as the boys and in many ways are easier to care for.

Don’t overlook these fascinating ladies! Did you know that female bettas can be kept in groups and easily maintained in a community aquarium? This guide to female betta fish care will cover everything you need to know to set up the ideal habitat for your pet and keep her healthy and vibrant.

Guide to Female Bettas

Let’s tackle the most important question first. Is caring for a female betta or community of ladies any different than maintaining a male fish? The answer is slightly complicated because it’s both yes and no.

Multi-color or colorful female betta fish, Siamese fighting fish was isolated and swim on black background.

While females have the same habitat and feeding requirements as males, their behavior is markedly different. This impacts the way you’ll set-up your tank and the types of tank mates you might add to your community. Plus, you may opt to get several females and start a sorority tank!

Natural History of Bettas

Betta’s (Betta splendens) are a colorful, territorial fish native to Southeast Asia. There are more than 70 species of bettas in the region and most have never been domesticated. In the wild, bettas typically live in shallow rice paddies, streams, and slow-moving rivers, where they feed on insect eggs and small bugs in the water.

Wild betta fish lack the vibrant colors of the fancies, although many have interesting scale patterns and spots of bright color. But most significantly, wild male bettas don’t have fancy long tails, which would impede their movement. Domesticated female bettas closely resemble their wild ancestors in their overall appearance.

Betta Fish Can Breathe Air

Betta In the Dark

One fun fact about bettas is that they are a type of labyrinth fish and have an organ that allows them to breathe air on the surface of the water. Unlike many community fish, bettas don’t require high oxygen levels in their water. They enjoy hanging out at the top part of their tank and taking sips of the air there.

Appearance of Female vs Male Bettas

How big do female bettas get? Both male and female fancy bettas typically average about 2.5-inches in body length when fully grown. Where they differ is in their fins. Male fish are known for their elaborate, decorative 1 to 2-inch long tail fins.

Unlike male bettas, there are not many types of female betta fish. You might search for a crowntail or double tail male, or pick a male based on their color. When buying fish, the male’s unique variety will be identified while the ladies are often simply listed as “female bettas.”

Betta Gender Appearance Average Adult Body Length Average Adult Total Length
Female Lean, slender body

Color is paler and not as vibrant

The ovipositor tube (a white spot) is noticeable at the base of ventral fins

Beard is tucked under the gill cover and almost invisible

2.5 inches 3 inches
Male Thicker, heavier body

Colors are vivid, deep and vibrant

Extended fancy tail, anal and dorsal fins. Ventral fins may be elongated in some varieties

Noticeable beard peeking out from under the gill cover

2.5 inches 3.5 to 5.5 inches

Are Female Bettas Aggressive?

Where else do female bettas differ from their larger and more colorful mates? Female Siamese Fighting fish are not as aggressive and won’t immediately try to scrap with every fish they see. But they don’t like it when others invade their space. They will chase fish from their territories and they don’t always play nicely with others.

Female bettas are not as territorial as the males, however, which is why they can share a tank with the right set-up. As long as they are not under stress, female fish usually get along well in a sorority or community fish tank if they have enough personal space.

Female Bettas in Your Community Tank

Female of Siamese fighting fish (Betta) aquarium fish

The key to creating a community tank with a female betta or sorority is:

  • Give each lady plenty of room by allowing at least 5-gallons of capacity per betta, plus whatever space your other community fish require.
  • Use plants, rocks and other decorations to create hiding places and unique territories within your tank.
  • Choose peaceful tank mates that prefer to hang out in the lower parts of your tank, so your female(s) can have the upper part to themselves.
  • Avoid tank mates with long, flowing fins or species known to be semi-aggressive or nippy, such as Tiger Barbs.
  • Consider using longer styles of aquariums over those that are tall and narrow. Since bettas prefer to hang out at the surface, a long tank should provide plenty of room at the top for multiple female bettas to each have their own territory.

Caring for Your Female Betta

Best Betta Food - Guide For The Optimal Diet - Beautiful betta fish on aquarium.

Now that you’ve got all the details on female bettas, let’s talk about their requirements and how to set-up and maintain their tank.

Caring for a single female betta is really no different than taking care of a male fish. They have the same needs when it comes to diet, temperature, and water circulation. But keeping a group of females in a sorority does introduce some unique challenges which we’ll cover below.

Diet and Feeding

Bettas are carnivores and in the wild feed primarily on live insects and their eggs floating in the water. While you have the option of feeding your betta a commercial diet, many fish greatly prefer live or fresh-frozen foods over flakes. They will be more likely to eat foods that float rather than those that sink.

It’s best to vary the foods you offer your fish rather than sticking to a single product. Your female betta will have a more vibrant color and will likely stay healthier if offered a variety of foods and treats. You’ll also reduce your betta’s stress and potential aggression by feeding them on a regular schedule.

What to Feed Your Female Betta

Frozen bloodworm for feeding aquarium fish and crabs.

If you are going to stick with an easy manufactured betta diet, pick a high-quality product that’s high in protein and made for betta fish specifically. General-purpose fish foods are not suitable for bettas. Betta fish can not live off plant materials or algae; they must have sufficient protein in their diet or they’ll starve.

You may supplement a commercial diet with treats or feed your betta fresh, freeze-dried, or frozen foods such as:

  • Brine shrimp
  • Eggs from Daphnia
  • Larvae from mosquitoes or other insects
  • Tubifex and bloodworms

How Much, and How Often to Feed?

It’s easy to feed a single betta but can be more challenging to feed a sorority. I usually feed my fish every other day, as this pattern of feast and famine more closely mimics their natural way of eating than daily feedings would. Bettas don’t have very big stomachs so a little food goes a long way.

Woman feeding beta fish in aquarium at home.

I’d offer a single betta a couple of bites or flakes of commercial foods or a few rehydrated freeze-dried treats. If they gobble it up quickly, I’d offer a little bit more. Basically, my fish get what they can eat in about 1 to 2 minutes and then any excess food is removed.

Feeding a Betta Sorority or Female in a Community Tank

For community set-ups, I make sure to offer a variety of foods so each type of fish can pick what they prefer. I’ll use a sinking food and algae disks for my bottom feeders, and then tempt the other fish and bettas with floating or live diets, or rehydrated frozen or freeze-dried treats.

I scatter these across the top of the tank, so each betta can feed in peace and not feel like they need to fight for space. Just as with a single fish, I usually only feed my community tanks every other day and just what they can consume within a couple of minutes.

Betta Tank Requirements

I’m sure you’ve seen those cute, tiny little betta bowls for sale in a store or online. As attractive as they may be, they are a very bad idea for bettas and are completely unsuitable for betta sororities. While a betta can survive in a small amount of water for a while, they get very stressed in tight conditions.

Female of Siamese fighting fish (Betta) aquarium fish

While you may be able to maintain a single female in a small 1-gallon set-up short term, this is much less room than is ideal. Keeping a betta in a tiny tank will lead to stress and can cause health problems. If you try to pack multiple females in a small tank they may fight and injure each other.

I recommend getting at least a 5-gallon tank for a single female betta, and more room is even better. If you want to have other community fish with your female, upgrade to at least a 10-gallon set-up.

Tanks for Betta Sororities

How big of a tank do you need to keep a group of female bettas? Since each female needs some space to establish her territory, I recommend going with a 20-gallon long or 29-gallon tank for 3 to 5 female bettas. You may even have enough space to add some bottom-dwelling or schooling community fish if you want.

I don’t recommend trying to keep fewer than 3 females together, as they may single each other out to fight. While technically you could keep two females alone in a 10-gallon set-up, this is likely going to be stressful for them. You’re better off going with a bigger tank and larger group of females.

Tank Size (Style) Maximum Number of Female Betta Room for Other Community Species? Comments
5 to 10-Gallons (Varies) 1 Yes Best for single bettas of either gender, with room for a tank mate or two
15-Gallons (Tall) 1 to 3 (not ideal) Possibly, if the tank only has a single betta Tall tank is not ideal for multiple female bettas
20-Gallons (Tall)

20-Gallons (Long)

3

3 to 5

Yes

Yes

Longer style can accommodate more females due to extra room on the surface of the tank
29-Gallons 3 to 7 Yes Idea size for a betta sorority or betta community tank

Other Equipment for Your Betta Tank

Once you’ve picked out your tank, there’s still some equipment you’ll need to keep your betta happy and healthy. Of course you’ll need a water conditioner to remove chlorine and chloramine and a fish net to catch your bettas. What else should you look for?

Filtration Systems

Beautiful planted tropical freshwater aquarium with fishes. Aquascape.

Bettas don’t need a high level of oxygen in their water, but they do prefer very clean water. One of the most common reasons for a stressed or sick betta fish is poor water quality.

If you have a single female in a small tank you may be able to get by without a filter, but you’ll probably have to change the water a few times a week to keep your fish healthy. Bettas don’t like a lot of water current, however. You’ll want to opt for a low flow filter or adjust it to create a gentle flow in your tank.

For betta sororities and community tanks, I highly recommend getting a good multi-stage filter and regularly changing the water, filter pad and media to keep your water sparkling clean. With a good filtration system, you may only need to do a water change once or twice a month, depending on the size of your tank.

Water Heater

Bettas are tropical fish and require warm water that’s between 75 to 86°F in temperature. They don’t do well when their tank is out of this range and they get stressed and sick if their water fluctuates more than a degree or two over 24-hours. While you can often get by without a filter, you need a heater for a betta tank.

aquarium heating system in front of white background

Low water temperatures can stress your betta and lead to health problems. At the same time, you don’t want your tank to overheat either. It’s best to place your betta tank out of direct sunlight so it doesn’t get too hot in the summer months.

Hoods and Lighting

You’ll definitely want a tank with a lid or hood. Bettas are puddle-jumping champions and can leap several feet out of the water! You don’t want them to jump to their death, so keep your tank covered for their safety. Be sure to leave an inch of room at the top of your tank so your females can breath, too.

You don’t have to have a light set-up for your tank unless you plan on growing live plants. Most community and betta sorority tanks benefit from a light fixture, however.

If plants are a priority, then I would invest in a high-quality light set-up to maximize their potential growth.

Plants, Decorations and Substrate

Betta Fish inside the tank

Bettas get bored if they live in an empty tank without any plants or decorations to play with. You should add live or plastic plants, rocks, sticks and other decorations to your tank to give your fish places to hide and explore. This is especially important in betta community tanks and sororities.

Bettas are not picky about their substrate, so feel free to pick the product you prefer. I would recommend choosing a plant-specific substrate if live plants are a priority in your tank, however. Plants do better when planted in tanks with gravel or special substrates like Flourite than in sandy-bottomed set-ups.

Tips for a Healthy Betta Sorority

How do you keep your female fish or sorority healthy? Since bettas are sensitive to their water quality, keeping your tank clean and your filtration system well maintained will go a long way towards the health of your community. Avoid stressing your fish and they should thrive in your tank!

How to Maintain Good Water Quality

The primary way to maintain good water quality for your sorority is to do regular water changes. This is the single most important thing you can do to keep your female betta looking her best! Poor water quality and cool water temperatures are the leading cause of stress and sickness in betta fish.

Applying salt treatment to aquarium water.

Your choice of equipment and set-up can also make it easier to maintain your water quality. A multi-stage filter will help by removing physical debris and toxins. Good aquarium bacteria living in your substrate can break down and detoxify ammonia and nitrites before they can harm your fish.

How often do you need to change your aquarium water? It depends on the size of your tank, your set-up and how many fish you have in the community.

  • For small tanks under 10-gallons without a filter, you’ll need to change 10% to 50% of the water at least once a week, and likely two to three times a week for smaller aquariums.
  • For small tanks with a filter, you’ll need to change between 10% and 30% of the water once a week to twice a month.
  • For bigger tanks with a filter, you’ll often only need to change 10% to 30% of the water once to twice a month.

How to Recognize Stress in Your Female Fish

A stressed betta is likely to become sick if the problem is not quickly identified and fixed. While poor water quality is the leading reason for stress in a betta, there are other things that can make your fish unhappy too.

Things that may stress your female betta include:

Fish tank decoration, detail of a room to rest

  • Dirty water, or water that is too cold or hot or fluctuates a lot in temperature
  • Crowded tank or too many other female bettas in the tank
  • No hiding places or things to play within the tank
  • No room at the top of the tank to breathe
  • Too much water current in the tank
  • Erratic feeding schedule or significant fasting period (multiple days)
  • Overfeeding

When your female betta is under stress:

  • Their color may be paler than normal
  • They may stop eating or have a decrease in their appetite
  • They may pick at their own fins and tail or rub their scales on your aquarium decor, causing injury
  • They may pick on other female bettas or community fish

Common Health Problems in Female Bettas

Female of Siamese fighting fish (Betta) aquarium fish

Female bettas are usually healthier than colorful male fish. This is because those elaborate fins predispose males to many health problems, such as fin and tail rot and swim bladder disorders. With their shorter fins, female bettas rarely suffer the same problems.

Female bettas and those kept in sororities are more likely to pick up a parasite or disease from your other community fish. As long as you maintain your tank and do routine water changes, it’s unlikely your female will develop fin and tail rot. It’s a good idea to have a hospital tank at hand in case you need to quarantine a sick fish.

Symptom Likely Problem(s) Possible Diagnosis Usually Treatable? Common in Female Bettas?
Cotton-like patches or spots on the fins or body Stress, infection from tank mate, poor quality water Columnaris, Ich/Ick Yes Yes
Bulging eyes Tuberculosis or illness related to poor water quality Popeye Yes No
Inflamed body and scales; swelling makes fish look like a pine cone Infection from a fungus, virus or bacteria Dropsy Yes No
Specks or rusty spots of color on body or fins; fish may rub against aquarium decorations Water temperatures out of ideal range, poor quality water and stress Velvet Disease Yes Yes
Fish floats on its side and can’t dive or swim normally Genetic predisposition, overfeeding leading to obesity, infections Swim Bladder Disorder Yes, but it’s better to prevent than treat and some fish never recover No
Lump or bump that rapidly grows in size Depends on the diagnosis Abscess or Tumor Tumors may be fatal and there is no treatment for cancer in fish No
Black or red edged fins or ragged fins with holes in them; fins melting or receding towards the body; open sores on the body Water temperature too low, poor quality or dirty tank water Fin and Tail Rot Very treatable in the early stages but may be fatal once it’s spread to the body No

Breeding Your Female Betta

To breed your female fish, you’ll need to set up a few extra aquariums. You’ll need a breeding tank for your male fish to build his bubble nest and at least one other tank to raise their offspring. You’ll need to use a gentle sponge filter in your breeding and fry tanks to prevent injury to the babies, and a heater and lid to keep them safe.

Once your male fish is acclimated to the breeding tank and gets busy building the nest, you can add the female to the tank. They’ll swim around for a few hours until the female is ready to lay her eggs. Once she’s done, you’ll need to return her to her original tank so the male doesn’t attack her.

Common Name (species) Female Betta, Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens)
Family Belontiidae
Origin Southeast Asia; mainly in Thailand and Cambodia
Diet Carnivore; Prefers live food like brine shrimp but will eat flake and frozen foods
Care Level Easy to Intermediate
Activity Mellow and Curious
Temperament Peaceful Community
Tank Level All, but prefers Top and Middle
Minimum Tank Size Single female per 5 gallons (20-gallons for a sorority of 3 to 5)
Temperature Range Tropical 75-86°F
Water Hardness KH 0-25
pH Range 6.0 to 8.0
Filtration/Flow Rate Prefers well-filtered water with a low flow rate
Breeding Egglayer; Females provide no care to eggs or offspring
Compatibility with Tank Mates Females may be kept in a group (called a sorority) and with other community fish. Avoid housing with semi-aggressive or nippy species or fish with long fins.
OK for Planted Tanks? Yes, ideal for planted tanks

Setting Up a Tank for Your Betta Sorority

If you’re interested in keeping female bettas together you’ll need to set up a sorority tank. While single male fish makes a dramatic impression in a small tank, female fish really stand out as a group in a larger tank. They may not be as bright as the boys, but female betta fish colors are no less beautiful in a community set-up.

Sorority Tank Product Recommendations

One option is to get an aquarium kit, which should include your tank and some of the basic equipment you’ll need to set up your sorority. This saves you the hassle of having to buy everything individually.

The Aqueon 29-gallon Tank with LED Light is a good option, but you’ll still need to buy a filter, heater, substrate and decorations for your tank. If you want a set-up that includes almost everything, this 20-gallon GloFish tank with LED light is very pretty and colorful. But since it’s a tall tank it’s not ideal for more than 3 female bettas.

To set up your own tank for a female betta community with 3 to 5 fish you’ll need to buy:

Siamese fighting fish haft moon female on black background

  1. Aquarium with 20 to 29-Gallon Capacity: Aqueon 20-Gallon Long Glass Aquarium
  2. Aquarium Hood and Lighting Fixture: Perfecto Aquarium Fluorescent Light and Hood
  3. Multi-Stage Filtration System: Marineland Bio-Wheel Multi-Stage Filter
  4. Aquarium Heater: Marina Submersible Aquarium Heater
  5. Aquarium Thermometer: Zacro Digital LCD Aquarium Thermometer
  6. Substrate for the Bottom on the Tank: CaribSea Planted Aquarium Substrate
  7. Plants and Decorations: Zoo Med Floating Betta Log, CousDUoBe Floating Leaf
  8. Betta Food and Treats: Tetra BettaMin Pellets, Tetra Freeze Dried Bloodworms, Fluval Bug Bites for Bettas
  9. Water Conditioner: Seachem Prime Fresh and Saltwater Conditioner
  10. Fish Net: Penn Plax 4-Inch Fish Net

Compatible tank mates for betta sororities include: the Yoyo Loach, the Blackline Rasbora and the Glowlight Tetra among many options. The best choice for you will depend on the size of your tank and the number of bettas in your sorority.

Setting Up Your Betta Sorority—Step-by-Step Instructions

It’s not hard to set up an aquarium for your pretty female betta fish!

Asian women set the fish tank

  1. First, unwrap or unbox your equipment and remove any stickers, and then rinse everything off in a sink and dry it with a towel.
  2. Next, set your aquarium in its permanent location, near an electrical outlet but away from windows and any direct light. If you’re using an under gravel filter, set that up first. Rinse your substrate and place it at the bottom of your tank.
  3. Fill your tank with water and add your filter, heater, thermometer and any decorations or plants you’ve chosen. Turn your heater on and set the temperature, and allow your filter to cycle. Cover the tank with the hood/lights and allow everything to settle for 24 hours.
  4. The next day, if the water is foggy do a water change. You can do as much as is necessary to get the water clean. Check your aquarium temperature before you change the water and adjust the heater if necessary. Once your water is clear, add the appropriate amount of water conditioner. Now you can shop for your fish!
  5. Add a few fish at a time, gradually bringing your tank to its capacity over the period of a month. I’d add a few bottom dwellers or territorial community fish first, and then add your female bettas after they’ve settled down. You can top your tank off with some schooling tetras, rasboras or minnows.

Conclusion

Female of Siamese fighting fish (Betta) aquarium fish

It’s not hard to establish a sorority tank and female betta fish care is easy compared to the flamboyant boy bettas. I hope this guide to female bettas and sororities has given you some good tips and advice for your tank. I’d love to hear about your sorority tank in the comments, or join us on social media!

The key to a healthy sorority tank is to maintain really good water quality and give each female plenty of room for their personal territory. If you want a vibrant community tank, opt for a 29-gallon set up with three to five female bettas and a variety of compatible tank mates to complete the picture.

Female Betta Fish—Complete Guide to Sorority Tanks - Infographic

Jen has more than 30 years experience as a biologist, aquarist, and fishkeeper. She is an expert in setting up new tanks and maintaining naturally-planted freshwater habitats, and has experience raising a wide variety of aquatic species.

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