Sunday, March 22, 2009

Solitary bettas

I got this comment from Jes, in response to my post, Getting a fish, part 1:

Actually, male betas are fine in a tank with other fish that don't have big flowing fins like they do. I had friends that had a male beta in their 10 gallon with all their other fish. Until then I had no clue you could put them with other fish. I have seen a few in big social tanks at pet stores. Of course, I'd still be very careful putting the male beta in the tank if it didn't come from a tank with other fish.

I looked into this, and she's right. But, you have to be careful with which fish you pair a male betta with, and to be on the safe side I'd run it by a fish expert at a pet store before doing so. Also, it will depend on how aggressive your particular betta is. For a beginner fish-owner, I'd probably just avoid the situation altogether. :-)

Here are the kinds of fish you'll want to avoid:
  • Fish smaller than one inch (may be eaten)
  • Fish with long, flowing fins (fancy guppies, white cloud mountain minnows, and some long-finned tetra species)
  • Slow-swimming fish (unable to escape bullying)
  • Fish belonging to the same biological family, such as Paradise Fish and gouramis (may attack or be attacked due to their relatively similar appearance and cross species aggression)
  • Mollies (tend to bite the fin or eat bettas)
  • Goldfish (great appetites, preference for cold water, and high excretion-rate)
  • Barbs (nip at slower-moving fish such as bettas)
  • Aggressive cichlids (exception: peaceful cichlids like German rams)

Of course, you should never keep two male bettas together. They are fighters in their natural habitat, and in an enclosed tank there is nowhere for the "loser" to retreat. Some people like to put two males together in a tank with a divider separating the two, so they can't actually hurt each other. I remember doing some research on this when I got Zeke initially, and I'd caution against it. It's stressful for both bettas to see their "opponent" and not be able to defend their territory. A better solution is to hold a mirror up to the tank for a short period of time. That will have the same affect - the betta will puff out his fins and try to look ferocious, but when you take the mirror down the threat goes away and your betta will be able to relax again. Just like Cyber Monday. :-)

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