Female vs Male Betta Fish: Appearance & Behavior Differences

We have probably all seen male Betta fish – you know the ones kept in small individual cups at the pet retailer? However, you may be less likely to see female Bettas. Why? Generally, unless you’re breeding Betta fish, the females may be considered not as beautiful as the males, and therefore, not as popular. 

The good thing about the male and female Betta fish species is they are usually very easy to tell apart, so you won’t accidentally buy one gender over the other. 

In this post, we will take a deeper dive into female vs male betta fish regarding both their appearance and their behavior – you may be surprised at what you learn!

male and female betta


Female vs Male Betta Fish – Appearance

Although we may believe we know the difference in the appearance of the female vs the male Betta fish, let’s take an in-depth look at the two.

Female Betta Fish Appearance

The female Betta is interesting and may be unfamiliar to most aquarists simply because they are not as popular as the males of the species and therefore may be more difficult to come by.

Female Bettas are generally duller in color (tones of brown or grey); however, some breeders are starting to produce this gender in various color patterns that can rival their male counterparts.

The body of the female Betta fish is notably stouter than the males (especially when she is full of eggs). The females also do not reach much longer than 2 to 2.25 inches full grown. 

Of course, the most obvious difference between the two sexes is the fins. Females lack those robust flowing fins that the male Betta has become famous for. 

Did you know female Bettas develop vertical stripes when they are ready to mate?

Another difference with the female Betta fish is that she possesses an “egg spot.” This tiny salt grain-like dot is located in front of the bottom fin and is actually where her eggs come from. The technical name for it is the ‘ovipositor.’

Male Betta Fish Appearance

Male Siamese Fighting Fish are striking and much different when compared to the females of the species. There are also differences among the males depending on their colors, patterns, and tail types (but they are all spectacular in their own rights). 

Did you know the type of food you feed your Betta plays a big role in their colors? Foods rich in carotenoids (shrimp and bloodworms) will help bring out those rich reds and gold hues. 

However, those long flowing fins and bold colors and patterns are not the only differences between males and females. The body of the male Betta is longer and slimmer versus the female’s short, stout body. Males range in size from 2.5 inches to over 3 inches in length. 

Another interesting feature of the Betta species (the male in particular) is the Betta Beard. The ‘opercular membrane’ is located underneath the gill plate cover on the side of the Betta’s head. Although it is always visible. this membrane mostly resembles a beard when the male is flaring. 

Wild Betta’s Appearance

We would be surprised if we were able to see the “wild” Betta fish in its natural habitat. The males and females are difficult to tell apart because they both have duller colors, shorter fins, and heavier bodies. It’s only been through selective breeding over the decades that have produced what we now know as the Siamese Fighting Fish. 

Female vs Male Betta Fish – Behavior

When it comes to the behavior of the Siamese Fighting Fish, both the female and the males share some similar and, not so similar, qualities. Check them out!

Female Betta Fish Behavior

Female Betta fish have inherited the “aggressive” gene; however, in comparison to males, females are considered to be more communal. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any flare-ups in a sorority tank but usually, these spats will be worked out without serious injuries or death occurrences. 

You will know when your female Betta fish is getting ready to be aggressive. She will put her head down in an attempt to frighten her “victim.” After this, she may chase or nip at her target. 

Most female Bettas will get along if kept in a large enough aquarium (at least 10 gallons) and with 3 to 5 females. A single female may also do well in a community tank. But again, she will need adequate space and plenty of plants to call her own. 

Male Betta Fish Behavior

You most likely already know that male Betta fish are highly aggressive toward one another and even other species of fish that possess long fins or are brightly colored. Aggression is displayed by your Betta flaring his gill plates and his fins. Males will continue their aggressiveness by chasing and biting at the fish. Unfortunately, most males will not quit after they reach exhaustion, but rather carry through until one of the fish is seriously injured or dead.

Males will even flare and bite at their own reflection. Although this behavior will show off the male’s brilliant colors and full fins, it can be stressful on him, so encouraging your Betta into this action too much may be detrimental to his health.

Bubble Nest Behavior

Another behavior of the male Betta that is less stressful and more fascinating is the bubble nest. Whether there is a female present in the tank or not, male Bettas will create a bubble nest. These series of small bubbles will be placed along the glass edge or in the corner of your aquarium. If you have floating plants or ones that reach near the surface of the tank, you may notice that he builds the nest among that greenery. 

Once the bubble nest is built, if there is a female in the tank, the male will begin to flare his fins and gill plates to help entice the female. His colors will also deepen to add to the overall effect. 

The female will check out his bubble nest and if she is unimpressed she may just swim away or go as far as to try and destroy it.

The Mating Dance Behavior Female and Male

The male will begin to chase the female around the tank, encouraging her to join him in the “mating dance.”

Once the mating ritual begins, you will notice the Betta couple swimming side-by-side with their fins spread. They will pause every so often to flare at each other. The male will also continue to nip and chase the female.

How the next step of the dance ensues is usually dependent on the female’s personality. A more dominant female may charge the male underneath the bubble nest, flaring and challenging him to spawn, while a more passive one may turn herself upside down with her fins clamped. Once in this position, the male will wrap himself around the female, squeezing her tightly. 

This activity could repeat itself a few times before she begins to drop her eggs. 

Once the eggs are released, the male Betta will pick them up and place them in the bubble nest. Now is a good time to remove the female from the tank as she will not partake in caring of the eggs or fry.

Female vs Male Betta Fish Conclusion

The differences between the female and male Betta fish are obvious with males being more colorful and aggressive in the species. Although females can demonstrate some “angry” tendencies toward other females, they usually won’t fight to the death the way the males do. 

If you are interested in breeding Betta fish or want to embark on the journey of keeping a sorority tank, ask your local pet retailer if they normally stock females (some don’t because they are less popular than the males). Then check out our article on Betta Sorority tanks to help guide you along that path.

Whether you keep a male or female Betta it is helpful to know the differences in both appearance and behavior so you can go into this hobby with your eyes wide open and your head full of knowledge.