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If you walk into the fish department of a pet store these days, you’ll often find a display of many small containers each featuring a vibrant betta inside. These are most often male Veil Tail bettas, with long flowing fins who may be busy flaring at their neighbors or blowing a small bubble nest in their cup. Every now and then females will pop up in pet stores, but it is much less common as they do not fall into the typical stereotype that many consumers consider as the beloved “betta.”

If you look online at breeder sites or visit a betta breeder locally you will see amazing bettas of both sexes, with interesting coloration and tail types, much more than what you’ll stumble across in your local pet store. Purchasing directly from a breeder who focuses on genetics is a great way to obtain a quality betta, whether you know what you’re looking for ahead of time or spot a beauty that you just can’t pass up.

So how do you tell the difference between male and female bettas?

Male Bettas

An example of a male betta.

A male betta is generally characterized by his long flowing fins which over centuries have been breed to be quite spectacular and great in length. The male will often flare with his gills as an aggressive act towards other fish or activity outside of his tank. His body is often longer and bigger than a female.

Male bettas are aggressive towards each other and many other fish. It is best to keep them secluded from other fish on a regular basis and stick with tank mates such as snails. Male bettas often do not do well in community tanks because their long fins become the victim of nipping from other fish, as well as prevent bettas from being able to swim fast enough for a quick getaway. Also due to their fins, it’s important to monitor the current in any tank to make sure it does not cause them too much effort or discomfort to maneuver through their environment.

Female Bettas

An example of a female betta. Notice the ovipositer on the underside of her body, between the fins.

A female betta is usually smaller than a male both in body and with shorter finnage. Females will be just as bright and vibrant in coloration as males. An ovipositor is the main indicator that a betta is a female. The ovipositor is a small white egg tube that protrudes from the underside of her body. In some cases, it has been reported that young males have ovipositors although this is much less common.

Although often overlooked by some when purchasing bettas, females can be a real delight. They are often spunky and have even more personality than males. With their shorter fins, females will zip around their tank and are not as bothered by the water current. Female bettas can be just as aggressive as the males at times though, so it’s still important to monitor them if they are placed with other fish. They can be housed alone or with other female bettas in groups of three (3) or more. They will naturally form a pecking order and that is why keeping just two female bettas together usually does not have great results. Some people have had success keeping female bettas in community tanks of non-aggressive fish with plenty of room and hiding places.


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