Tips for a Tail-Biting Betta

Tips for a Tail-Biting Betta


If you have a long-finned betta fish, you may have encountered a tail-biter. This is a betta who bites its own tail off.

Signs of Tail-Biting:

The first thought many have when they wake up to find their betta’s tail tattered is fin rot. However, there are some tell-tale signs that differentiate tail-biting from other tail-depleting issues.
  • You see your betta biting its tail. This one is obvious, though bettas can be sneaky and often engage in the behavior in the dark.
  • Your betta’s fins look fine, and then a few hours later, there are large chunks missing or hanging off. The tail will look ragged and uneven.
  • Your betta seems stressed in other ways, such as engaging in excessive flaring, hiding, etc.
Why It Happens:

Unfortunately, our fish cannot explain their self-destructive behaviors to us, so we can only infer the causes of tail-biting. Here are some top theories:
  • Your betta is stressed. Whether it is harsh lighting, a lack of hiding places, bad tankmates, or seeing its own reflection too often, bettas can be very finicky.
  • Your betta is bored. Some people believe tail-biting is a bad habit, such as a human biting their fingernails or pulling their hair, and it occurs out of boredom.
  • Your betta’s tail is too heavy. Because bettas in the wild are naturally short-finned, a betta’s body is not always equipped to carry its tail all the time. A shorter tail means less energy used when swimming.
How to Help:

Tail biting cannot necessarily be stopped. It can be controlled and maintained, however.
  • Keep your betta in a low-stress environment. Bettas are tropical fish from slow-moving waters. Tannin-leeching botanicals (like driftwood, Indian almond leaves, alder cones, etc.) can help to lower the stress level of bettas. Reduce the amount of surface area where reflections can be seen, and remove your betta from potentially stressful tank mates. Additionally, lower light, floating plants, lots of resting places, and a slower filter output are all beneficial for bettas.
  • Create an interesting tank for your betta. Bettas are very smart. They like to explore, can learn tricks, and may even mimic the behaviors of tank mates. An environment with interesting plants, rocks, driftwood, and botanicals allow your betta to entertain themselves in productive ways. Also make sure to interact with your betta. They do recognize your voice and seem to enjoy human interaction.
  • Make sure there are no sharp edges in your tank. Because your betta’s body will always be trying to regrow its tail, it’s important to reduce the chance of other injuries that could cause stress or infection.
  • Be prepared to treat any infections that may arise from tail-biting. Bettas who are stressed are more prone to getting fin rot after tail-biting. Most of the time, clean water and low-stress environments will clear up fin rot. Have aquarium salt handy, too, as it will help to kill the infection (especially if it is an emergency and the rot is approaching the betta’s body). I recommend reading several articles regarding the use of aquarium salt with bettas, though, prior to treating.
The Good News:

Your tail-biting betta will likely still live a happy life, as long as you are providing the proper environment for it. Also, it’s tail will grow back! Within a day or two of a bite, you will notice clear regrowth on its fins. Within a few months, it may be back close to full length.

Closing Thoughts:

Your betta will likely never stop being a tail-biter. The goal is to increase the length of time between biting episodes so your betta has time to heal.

Also, stay realistic. Just because the regrowth is looking great does not mean that your betta is happy with it. The regrowth may get bitten off again, but that is all right. Your betta is beautiful, and you are the perfect owner to give it a happy life.


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