A Twist of Fate, originally uploaded by fairydancer1975.

Q: A wrote,

I have a male and female betta in a 10 gal tank. I purchased both of them at the same time and introduced them both to the tank at the same time as well as to not have one dominate over the other. They have cohabited fine for about 5-6 months with no problems. Until last week, I came home to find the male “floating” at the top of the tank on his side looking dead. I went to remove him from the tank to find out he was alive but having trouble swimming and seeming off balance. So I removed him from the tank and put him in a separate container and saw that his top longer fin seems to have been torn mostly off causing him to have difficulty swimming. I then noticed the female seems to have a bulge in her belly. I assumed she was pregnant and that the male must have attempted to mate with her and she attacked him causing the fin issue. I kept the male and female separate for a few days until he was swimming normal again. And then reintroduced the male back to the tank with the female. The male then started a bubble nest and all seemed well. Yet the female never laid any eggs and her tummy is still swollen, yet she seems just fine. Yesterday he was fine when I came home but 3 hours later he was laying in the bottom of the tank not moving. I have since put him into a mesh net box that sits inside his tank but he’s laying on his side in sort of a funny position sort of laying on his face and his body all curved funny. He wont eat and doesn’t move unless I move the mesh box. His fins look bad and I really don’t know what else to do. The water temp is at 80 the conditions from what I can tell are all fine and I keep the tank clean.

A: When breeders put a male and female betta together for spawning they prepare often weeks or months in advance, keeping the water pristine and feeding a variety of the most nutritious foods available so that their fish are strong and in the best possible shape for breeding, which is often violent and dangerous for both fish. During the hours that the male and female betta are in the same aquarium the breeder remains close by so that the fish can be separated if one or both become seriously injured. Even so, it is not unusual to loose one of the fish after breeding from injury or a secondary infection. Know how dangerous it is to keep male and female bettas together, I have to say you are extremely lucky that they did ok for as they did. I once had a male and female together in a 10 gallon separated by a mesh tank divider. I went to work and 8 hours later when I returned my male was dead on the bottom with absolutely no fins what-so-ever aside from his pectorals. The female had jumped the divider and was innocently swimming around his side of the tank.

Keeping him in the mesh box or in a separate hospital tank is the best thing you can do. Your betta may also benefit by putting a plant in the mesh box at or near the surface so he can easily stick his head out to breathe. Remember, while bettas do get some oxygen from the water, they need to breathe from the surface as well. If you don’t already, you may want to run an air stone in your aquarium to help your betta breathe easier while he is healing. You will also need to keep your water as clean as possible. If you have water test kits available, check to make sure there is no ammonia or nitrite and relatively low nitrates (under 20 ppm) While injured, your fish is at risk for infection. You may also want to increase your water changes so to lessen the risk of infection. Changing 10% of the water with clean dechlorinated water each day over the next week or so will help. BettaFix, which contains the natural antiseptic melaleuca, works very well on injured bettas with open wounds. There has been some good evidence that shows the melaleuca will help wounds heal much faster in fish. Some bettas in rare cases have bad reactions to it. So watch your betta closely for additional signs of stress. These claims haven’t been verified in tests, but it is always good to watch your betta closely when he is being medicated.

If your betta pulls through this you will need to set up a separate tank for him or continue to keep him in the mesh box, if it is large enough to act as a comfortable home.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Anonymous says:

    Get a divider with holes beyween the two fish.

  2. Anonymous says:

    just leave them apart if you want to breed first try a more timid female and get them preped with live food and warm water temperatures

  3. Anonymous says:

    No Offence But You Should Have Learned Your Lesson The 1st Time. Leave Breeding Up To The Perfessionals.
    Honestly here We are Forcing These Poor Fish To Do What We Want Them To Do.
    I Have Many Bettas All In Seperate Little Container Tanks, and I Somtimes Put Them Together for Supervised Visits.

  4. How to breed betta fish says:

    Hope you learned well from this betta breeding experience.
    best regards,

  5. Anonymous says:

    nice try but both of ur fish ar screwed now i have breed betta fish before and is starting to breed some other bettas a solid black halpmoon and a solid blue female they are relay prety

  6. Spookie says:

    I recently encountered this problem. I had a male who was happy, blowing a bubble nest, ready to mate. Also had a female showing tiger stripes. After displaying her and watching the reaction I put her in with him. They were civil at first, she wagged her body at him and flared, a good sign. He flared his gills and chased. (I thought this was good from reading info.) Day or two later, same thing, his fins all torn up, her chasing him sometimes even latched on to his tail and catching a wild ride. Removed her, built a sorority (group of females), displayed them he built another nest. Finally let him decide on one and after 3 days they mated. I observed him carefully he would go to her flared but turn about an inch before her and dance then go back to the nest. Only occasionally he would chase and nip. This fish has orange light orange fins and body with no markings, but could clearly see eggs. I let them stay together for about 2 days, she would stay in the corner first letting him display and build. Towards the end she will flare and follow him under the nest and dance with him. After a few times of this they will finally “embrace” and lay eggs. I missed the embrace while I was at work :/ and came home to white specs among the bubble nest(eggs!!) This is coming three years late, but will be helpful to anyone who comes across this in the future. If you have a male and female ready to mate and either constantly chases or constantly runs, its a bad match. Find new mates. I have a minimalist set up:
    5-females (5.5g tank, heater, plants both silk and real) owned 1-3 months
    1-male (2.5g tank, heater) owned 8 months
    Ill post again on fry development.

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