Keeping Several Fighting Fish Together | A Female Fighting Fish Sorority
Most owners of Siamese Fighting Fish, aka Betta Splendens, keep male fish. Males are brighter, have more impressive finnage and can be picked up in a shamefully small death trap in almost any pet store in America. (If PETA would stop dressing women up in vegetable leaves for five seconds and do something about this, then they might not be an utter waste of time.)
The females are usually overlooked, except in the case of people who want to breed their fish. Female fighting fish are often said to be dull and boring, only worth having around so you can occasionally breed from a prized male.
My experience with female fighting fish is quite different. From what I have observed, whilst the male is busy patrolling his territory, flaring at the occasional speck of dust that looks at him funny and blowing bubble nests for imaginary fry, the females busy themselves in exploring the outer world. In fact, whilst the male couldn't be less interested in what's going on outside his tank, aside from when food is dropped in the top, the females will follow people and animals about the room, swimming about the tank in order to get as close as possible and see what is going on. They are also far from dull and boring. Females come in all the colors that males do, they simply lack the finnage. My own females range from purple, to red to turquoise and bright blue, oftentimes several of these colors at once.
In the sorority tank there are several sisters all from the same spawn. This has kept aggression down considerably. When it comes to the Betta sorority tank, one needs to watch out for aggression as it is not uncommon for females to fight, and it is also not at all uncommon for pet stores to mis-identify plakat (short finned) males for females. Bumping and a bit of chasing is normal, even to be expected, biting fins off is not, and any fish that aggressive should be quarantined.
In order to keep aggression to a minimum, it is pretty much essential to have no fewer than four females together. Having several fish ensures that no one fish is singled out for bullying. Ideally, five or six females in a ten gallon tank, or ten to twelve females in a twenty gallon represents a slight amount of overstocking which will reduce aggression.
Keep in mind, if you do overstock this way then you need to make use of filtration. It's nonsense that bettas don't like filtration, though some males with large fins will find currents hard to deal with, females will generally tolerate some current, as long as there are quiet spots in the tank.
It is also essential that your tank contains plenty of places for fish to hide. Females can be territorial, and having little nooks and crannies gives them something to be territorial about without terrorizing the entire tank. These places will also allow fish to escape when the rough and tumble gets too much.
A fighting fish sorority can be quite charming as long as it is properly managed in terms of filtration and in terms of monitoring aggression. Keep an eye on your girls and if anyone starts serious fights, separate them out. Be aware that this will cause a power vacuum in the tank and that fish will start fighting all over again to establish a new top fish. For this reason, if you have a bossy fish that keeps the others in line but does not seriously harm them or stress them out through constant chasing, it is probably better to simply keep her in the tank.
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