Bettas are known for their gorgeous tails. The longer and more flowy the tail, the more that you can appreciate the grace and beauty of these fish. However, you might notice that your Betta’s tail looks ragged one day, and you might be alarmed to discover that your Betta is actually biting his own tail. What is going on here?
Let’s look at the physical signs that point to tail biting, so you know for certain that this is the problem. Sometimes, tail rot can be mistaken for tail biting, and you’ll need to treat that differently.
We also look at the causes of Betta tail biting and the best methods for treating and preventing it from occurring again.
Table of contents
- Signs of Tail Biting
- What Causes Tail Biting?
- Preventing Betta Tail Biting
Signs of Tail Biting
You’ll know for sure that your Betta is tail biting if you actually see him doing it. But otherwise, the following are the signs that tail biting might be occurring.
When pieces of your Betta’s tail start to go missing, you’ll notice that it will occur quickly and over a short period of time. The damage to his tail will seem to appear overnight or over just a few hours.
The actual damage to the Betta’s tail will look “cleaner” than what you would typically see with fin rot. The edges of the damage are usually less ragged looking and have no discoloration.
The pieces missing from your Betta’s tail are usually in round-looking chunks. There will be quite a few chunks missing and in areas that your Betta can reach. If the missing pieces seem to be in spots that your Betta can’t reach, it’s probably a different issue.
Not evenly spread
When the problem is tail biting, the damage will appear to be in random spots, rather than spreading out evenly along the edges of the fins and tail.
Once you’ve determined that your Betta is indeed tail biting, you need to treat it immediately before more damage is done. Knowing the cause will help with both treatment and prevention.
What Causes Tail Biting?
There are several different possible causes for tail biting, but there’s still a certain amount of mystery behind this phenomenon.
Stress is probably the number-one reason that Bettas start biting their tails.
Boredom can overlap with stress. If your aquarium is too small or you don’t have enough decorations or items to entertain your Betta, he could be bored.
As a Betta keeper, you know that Bettas are aggressive fish by nature. If your Betta can’t take his aggression out on anything, he might start doing so to himself.
It’s thought that some Bettas are more likely to bite their fins than others, as it’s essentially in their genes. Some Bettas are just more prone to it.
Some Bettas have large, long fins than others, and they might just start biting them out of frustration. The long fins might feel like they are slowing the Betta down, so he’s essentially trying to fix the problem.
Treating Damaged Fins
In most cases, the damage occurs so quickly that your Betta’s fins will already be mutilated before you have a chance to prevent or treat the problem. However, you can make changes that should hopefully improve your Betta’s chances of regrowing his fins.
You’ll want to change the water in your Betta’s tank much more frequently than usual. You need to keep the bacteria down to a lower level while he’s growing his fins back, to prevent infection. Water changes should be carried about at least once a week or even more frequently if your Betta is in a small aquarium.
Aquarium salt can kill off harmful bacteria and reduce the stress for your Betta. The measurements work out to 1 tablespoon for every 5 gallons of water. Be sure to dilute the salt in some of your aquarium water in a separate container before pouring it into the tank.
You can add in this salt solution once a day for 4 days before you change the aquarium’s water. You need to do a water change at this time, however, and never go longer than 8 days without a water change.
Preventing Betta Tail Biting
If you’re in the process of treating the tail biting or you have managed to fix the issues, and your Betta has started to grow his fins back, you’ll want to take steps to ensure that it won’t happen again.
Indian Almond Leaves
Indian almond leaves work in several ways to help your Betta. They release antioxidants in the tank water, which work as stress relievers. The leaves also naturally darken the water, turning your tank into a blackwater aquarium, which mimics the Betta’s natural environment, which also helps reduce stress levels.
Lower Lighting Levels
This can work in conjunction with or instead of the Indian almond leaves. If you lower the lighting levels of the tank, it will reduce the stress of your Betta. A darker aquarium makes your Betta feel safer and that he has more places to hide. It also mimics his natural environment.
If bottled-up aggression is the problem, then showing your Betta his reflection will give him the opportunity to flare and release some of that aggression. You should only do this for no more than 20 seconds at a time and give him ample rest periods in between. Too much flaring can end up causing him stress.
If you believe that your Betta might be bored, consider adding a few tank mates to the aquarium. You can add bottom feeders, such as Corydoras and Plecos, and schooling fish, such as Mollies and Rasboras. Just be sure your tank is large enough for the new guests.
If you add a water conditioner, like the API Stress Coat Aquarium Water Conditioner, to your tank, it will condition the water and help relieve your Betta’s stress.
Ensure that you have enough decorations in your Betta’s tank to help relieve any boredom. You can move around a few of the current decorations and make sure you have enough tall plants, which will enable your Betta to rest and give him enough hiding places.
Double-check the water parameters of your tank. Ensure that the nitrate levels are low and that there’s no ammonia or nitrites.
It takes time for the Betta’s fins to regrow. You should notice new growth occurring after a short time, but it can take over a year before they have grown back fully. The fins might not ever look the same again, but as long as you change the water and keep it clean, your Betta won’t contract an infection, and he’ll have a full tail again in due time.
To avoid a tail-biting situation, make sure your Betta isn’t stressed or bored and follow these suggestions to ensure that you have a happy and healthy Betta.
Featured Image Credit: panpilai paipa, Shutterstock