The Betta species sparks interest in many people. And even the most novice of aquarists knows that male Bettas cannot live together in the same space.
But what about female Bettas? Can they co-habitat?
The answer to this is not a simple one. While technically, female Bettas can be kept in the same tank (Betta sorority) but to do so, you will have to know what you’re doing to prevent stress and disease.
In this post, we will cover the ins and outs of keeping a Betta sorority tank with some important tips you will want to follow to help ensure its success.
Appearance of the Female Betta Fish
Before you invest in Bettas, you will first want to know exactly what female Bettas look like.
When determining a female Betta, take note of the body shape. Females tend to be shorter and wider than the long, sleek male. Female Betta will also have duller colors and shorter fins than her male counterpart.
Female Betta fish possess a white “egg spot” (ovipositor) between the anal and ventral fins. This is where the eggs come from when she is of breeding age.
Both sexes have beards (the opercular membrane). This will present itself when the fish is flaring its gill plates; however, the females are much smaller.
Another physical feature unique to the female Betta is the vertical stripes on her body. These become visible when the female is ready to mate.
The Downfalls of the Betta Sorority
A Betta sorority is a group of female Betta fish kept together in the same aquarium. And just like those real-life university sororities, the female Betta species can get downright nasty with one another (kind of like initiation).
The following is a list of the main downfalls of keeping a Betta sorority:
It may not be as well known, but female Bettas can be very aggressive toward one another (and other fish).
Dominant female Bettas will bully the other females in an attempt to become the head of the hierarchy. This is extremely stressful, not only for the “meek” fish but also for the one initiating the aggression.
When a fish is constantly under stress, it tends to weaken their immune system which can lead to illness. Injuries have also been known to happen when the fish attacks or bites at the fins and scales of the lesser female.
Unfortunately, deaths may occur in your sorority tank if you cannot stop and prevent the females from fighting. Some illnesses and injuries can also lead to the untimely demise of your female Betta fish.
It is not cheap to set up a sorority tank (more on that to come). Plus, you have to take into consideration the expense of medications, maintenance, and possibly, having to remove one or more fish to their own tank to keep them safe.
Requirements of the Betta Sorority Tank
If you are an experienced aquarist and want to start a Betta sorority, here are the requirements you will have to meet;
Bigger is better when it comes to the Betta sorority tank. We recommend at least 20-gallons to house 4 to 7 female Bettas. This may sound excessive; however, for a species with aggressive tendencies to co-habitat peacefully, this is your best option.
Bettas are tropical fish and therefore need a heater that can keep their environment between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Submersible heaters are sufficient and do a fairly good job of keeping the set temperature.
Be sure to add a thermometer (especially in the initial setup) so you can keep an eye on it. Large dips or spikes in temp can be detrimental to your sorority.
These slow-swimming fish can be stressed out by a powerful filter, so stick to the low-flow, sponge type. Never disregard the addition of a filtration system to your tank. These systems keep floating debris down to a minimum and will help establish the good bacteria your habitat needs to be healthy and safe for Bettas.
Plants & Decorations
With aggressive fish comes the need for plenty of live plants and places to hide in the form of Betta caves and other decorations. Like male Betta, females of this species will stake out territories, providing plants and decorations will help give all fish in the aquarium a place to call their own.
Some excellent plants to choose from include anubias, java fern, java moss, and betta bulbs.
Lid & Lighting
Bettas are known for jumping out of the tank, so make sure you have a well-fitting lid on the aquarium. If the aquarium came with a lit lid (as most kits do) then check to see if it is LED. This is the preferred choice as they are not too bright and provide your fish and plants with enough light for health and well-being.
Never place your aquarium in direct sunlight. Although this may sound like the most natural way to give your Betta light, direct sunshine on the tank will hike up the temperature and encourage algae growth.
Before you add Betta to your tank it’s a good idea to cycle the tank with a water conditioner. This is crucial for brand new tanks to help supply a kick of good bacteria.
For weekly water changes, you will want to use a water conditioner that removes chlorine and other harmful chemicals that are found in tap water.
Tips on Adding Fish to the Betta Sorority Tank
Putting together a Betta sorority is not as simple as just plopping these females together and waiting for them to get along. Here are some useful tips for creating a Betta sorority tank.
Tip #1 – Choose at Least Four
We do not recommend anything less than 4 female Betta in the same tank. As we mentioned before, female Betta can be aggressive and will pick on the weakest fish. It stands to reason that the more fish you have the less likely that just one will be the target.
On the same note, we also do not recommend overfilling your tank. Too many fish in one tank will be stressful on the occupants, so stick to the recommended 4 to 7 in a 20-gallon tank.
Tip #2 – Make Sure She’s Female
Since both sexes of juvenile Betta can appear similar, be sure you are getting all females. Study them closely for body shape, fin size, and the ovipositor to ensure you are indeed getting a female.
Tip #3 – Make Sure They Are Familiar With Each Other
If possible, choose female Bettas that are in close proximity to each other. It has been suggested that female Bettas kept in cups that can see each other may be less aggressive toward one another and therefore more likely to get along when placed in an aquarium.
Tip #4 – Younger is Better
As with any species, young ones are less likely to be aggressive. Female Bettas that are placed in a sorority when they are still considered babies or youngish have the chance to grow up together before those aggressive tendencies can take hold.
Tip #5 – Choose Different Looks
Another way to help reduce aggression in the female Betta species is to choose fish that look different from each other. Whether this is a different species of the Betta or even those that are slightly different in color and appearance, it may be enough to keep them happily cohabitating.
Tip #6 – Add to Tank at Same Time
When setting up your Betta sorority, add ALL the females at the same time. This puts them in the same position and helps reduce one or two setting up territories, then feeling as though they have to defend it against interlopers.
Betta Sorority Aggression – What is Normal?
We have talked a lot about the aggressiveness of the female Betta fish. But what is normal and what is the reason for alarm?
In nature, female Bettas can be aggressive when competing for food or when staking out their territory. This can present itself as biting, flaring, body slapping, and chasing. This may occur for a few days inside the tank as they “get to know” each other, stake out territory, and create a hierarchy within the habitat.
However, if after a few days things have not worked themselves out, or you notice an injured fish or one that is constantly being picked on, you will have to intervene. This can be done by either removing the weak fish or by removing the bully.
Note that if the bully just targets the next weaker fish, removing the aggressor to her own tank is the best move.
Caring for the Betta Sorority Tank
Once you have the Betta sorority tank setup, you will need to care for them as you would any other aquatic pal or pet.
New tanks will rise and fall in their nitrate and ammonia levels. Use your test kits to keep an eye on these potentially dangerous levels and treat the tank accordingly.
After the process has settled and your tank has established a biological zone, you can reduce the number of times you test to about once every two weeks or if you notice your fish seem unwell or stressed.
Feeding the Sorority
Do not overfeed your sorority. Betta bellies are only about the size of their eyeball, so keep that in mind when feeding your Betta fish.
This species is a carnivore, so a diet high in protein is a must. Good choices are flake or pellet foods that use high-quality ingredients, along with frozen brine shrimp or even live foods as an occasional treat.
Always remove any uneaten food as this will only pollute the environment.
It is also perfectly normal for newly established fish to go off of their food for a couple of days. Watch carefully, in the beginning, to see who is eating and who is not, then remove the uneaten leftovers.
Weekly water changes of 10 to 20 percent are part of your regular maintenance. Perform this task with a gravel vacuum to remove any excess debris, then replace it with dechlorinated, treated water for optimal safety.
Final Thoughts on Betta Sorority Tanks
Starting a Betta sorority tank may not be for the faint of heart. This type of community will take patience, experience, and a watchful eye.
To help further the success of your sorority choose young fish that are different in appearance and have at least four members in a minimum 20-gallon tank. You will also want to provide plenty of plants and decorations to alleviate stress and aggression toward the occupants.
Never add female Betta fish one at a time, but rather as a group. This will also help reduce aggressive behavior. If you do have a dominant female that constantly bullies the other fish, remove her to her own tank.
Creating the perfect Betta sorority can be tasking, but if you manage to have a peaceful group, then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.