Betta fish are beautiful, fascinating little creatures, but they can also be quite aggressive at times. If you’re considering a Betta fish for your tank or pond, you may be worried about them biting other fish – or even your own fingers if you get too close.
Betta fish have small teeth, which they use to kill prey, attack other fish, defend themselves and learn about their surroundings. They may bite your finger, but they can’t hurt you because their teeth and mouths are too small and too weak to do any damage to larger animals. With that said, Betta bites can hurt other smaller fish, which is why you need to pick their tank mates carefully.
If you have betta fish or are thinking about getting one, here’s what you need to know about their biting behavior.
Betta Fish Use Their Teeth To Grind, Catch And Kill
We know to be afraid of piranhas and sharks with their big teeth, but you might be surprised to learn that all fish have teeth as well. Even the very unthreatening koi and goldfish have a set of teeth they use to grind their food.
Of course, all fish teeth are not created equally, meaning that the size and shape of fish teeth will depend on the species, and what they use their teeth for.
Betta fish are carnivores, and they use their teeth to help them catch, kill, and chew prey. This typically means they use their teeth to grind up worms, insect larvae and smaller fish. Ultimately, a happy betta is one that will aggressively hunt and eat any available food.
Most betta fish are also generalist feeders, so they will use their teeth to grind up other food sources like pellets and algae.
Betta fish teeth are white, sharp, and small. So small, in fact, that they’re hard to see with the naked eye. It’s unlikely you’ll ever see your betta’s teeth, unless you use a magnifying glass.
Betta Fish Bite To Eat, Protect and Explore
So, Betta fish have mouths full of little teeth. Does that mean they bite? Yes, betta fish do use their teeth to bite.
Betta fish typically bite for three reasons:
- To Eat
Betta fish are hunters, and they use their teeth to catch, kill and chew their food.
- To Protect Themselves and/or Their Eggs
Betta are called ‘fighting fish’ for a reason. These fish are known for their aggression and to defend themselves, their territories, and their eggs, they will fight other fish – often to the death. Teeth are their main weapons for self defense or to attack.
- To Explore
In the same way that human babies naturally put things in their mouths, Betta fish use biting in a similar way. Without hands, Betta are limited in how they can explore their surroundings. Chewing and biting at objects, even other fish, gives Betta fish a way of exploring the world around them. A curious Betta is a healthy Betta, after all, so biting is a normal behavior and a sign that he or she is thriving.
Note: Only male Betta fish protect their nests. They’ll even fight the mother Betta if she gets too close.
Fish & Fingers: Are Betta Bites A Problem?
We’ve established that betta fish have teeth, and that they’ll use those teeth to bite. So the next question is, should you be worried about betta fish bites?
Betta fish bites can present a problem to other fish in their tank, and they may bite you as well. Here’s what you need to know.
Betta Fish Can Bite Other Fish
As you now know, Betta fish will use their teeth aggressively towards other fish, including towards other Betta fish. And pound for pound, a betta fish bite is more powerful than a shark bite, so these little fish can do some real damage – especially to other fish around their size or smaller.
Betta fish can and do use their sharp teeth to bite the tails, fins and scales of what they think of as enemy fish, and they can do some real damage. That’s why it’s best to avoid putting them in a tank with fish that have long, flowing tails or fins. They’re also known to sometimes attack other colorful fish.
That being said, Betta fish also don’t like to be totally alone, either. They need lots of space, but if they don’t have tank or pond mates, they can become stressed out and even ill.
How To Prepare For A Betta Fish
When you are picking tank or pond mates for your Betta fish, choose ones that can live harmoniously together.
You don’t want fish that a Betta can hurt (or even kill), but also remember that even though Betta are naturally aggressive, constantly fighting and biting their tankmates can stress them out and even lead to poor health. The goal should therefore be to create a tank, or other natural aquatic environment, where all the fish can peacefully co-exist.
Keep the following in mind when purchasing tank mates for your Betta fish:
- Don’t pick other colorful fish with flowing tails.
- Don’t pair 2 male Betta fish together, especially in a small tank.
- You should also avoid other aggressive and/or fin nipping fish like tiger barb fish and goldfish.
- If possible, opt for fish that are smaller and less active than betta fish, like Dwarf Suckers or other catfish
- Betta need 5 gallons of water each, so be sure your tank (or pond) is big enough before adding too many fish that will compete with one another (leading to stress and illness).
Remember: Betta fish are frequent biters and no amount of careful planning will entirely eliminate this habit. However, as long as your Betta is not a risk to itself or the other fish in the tank, biting is ultimately a normal behavior and a sign that he or she is happy and healthy.
- Do Koi Fish Have Teeth? Here’s What Happens If One Bites You
- How To Make Betta Fish Happy – It’s Actually Super Easy
- Comforting A Dying Fish – How To Help Your Pet Fish Through Their Final Days
Do Betta Have Teeth?
Yes, betta fish have small, sharp teeth that they use to hunt and protect themselves. Their teeth are too small to do damage to humans.
Do Betta Fish Bites Hurt?
Betta fish do not have enough power to hurt your finger if they manage to bite you, but they can hurt other fish in their tank. This is why you need to pick a Betta’s tank mates carefully.
Do Betta Fish Recognize Their Owners?
Betta fish can recognize human faces, so they can recognize their owners and even bond with them. In fact, they have good memories and will remember their owners, even after a few days or weeks. Betta will often swim to the front of the tank when their owners are close.
Do Betta Fish Have Feelings?
Betta fish have feelings, and they can experience pain. You can tell by their behavior whether they are stressed out, depressed or happy. If you own a betta fish, you have a responsibility to take care of it, which includes keeping it happy.
Can I Touch My Betta Fish?
In general, it’s not a good idea to touch your betta fish, or any fish. Touching them can stress them out, and it can also affect make their skin more vulnerable to disease. You can still interact with your fish, just not by touching them directly.
Do Betta Fish Bite Their Own Tails?
Yes, some betta fish bite their own tails. This is generally not a problem, as long as they are otherwise healthy.
Can I Play With My Betta Fish?
You can and should play with your betta fish, because they are very intelligent and enjoy stimulation. Common games to play with betta are to gently move your finger on the outside of their bowl and let them follow you, or to play with a ping pong ball at the top of the water.
Do Betta Fish Bite?
Yes, betta fish bite other fish, and even their own tails. They will sometimes bite human fingers if given the opportunity, but they are not strong enough to do damage.