Study of male Betta behavior

cheesepuff
  • #1
Once again, I have chosen to do a cautious and tedious experiment to better understand the unique behaviors and habits of fish.

This experiment was closely watched and observed. I understand the risks of this experiment. Preparations were made for this experiment. Both fish were and are healthy.

The experiment was to analyze the interactions between two male Betta fish in close proximity of each other. Both fish were tested prior to this with gold fish in order to make sure they would display docile behavior to other fish. Each passed this test. After this, they were introduced to each other. Both fish displayed no intent to harm the other. The experiment was short and each now live on their own.

The plan here is to discuss the very rare instance in which two male Betta fish can coexist with each other peacefully. I chose the two most docile male Bettas I could find to highlight the concept.

it is well understood that Bettas have a wide spectrum of personalities and emotions. It is also understood that they are inherently territorial. Some Bettas have been bread to fight, while some have been bread for tameness only as of recently. It is not fully understood how and why some Bettas get along so well with others in rare cases. I would like to discuss possible reasons as to why this might be.

for a short time (3 hours or so) each male was very calm and displayed kind behavior. In the end, the red one eventually became aggressive and was removed immediately. However, I feel that his aggressive behavior was triggered by fear rather than anger.


And although the tame behavior did not last for long, I have seen it work in long term with other people and their male Betta's.

What causes aggression? what causes compatibility? What were the two Betta in the video doing, and why?


I'm certainly no expert. I understand that. Help me learn.
 

Advertisement
Anders247
  • #2
I believe that bettas are solitary fish, even if they tolerate their tank mates this does not mean they are happy, and they will never thrive with tankmates, imo.
 

Advertisement
BornThisWayBettas
  • #3
Wow. Thanks so much for joining Fish Lore!!!!
 
smee82
  • #4
Its just instinct the same as most animal behavior.
 
BornThisWayBettas
  • #5
Okay, now that I have time to better detail my thoughts on this, let me make another post!

One thing I noticed about your bettas while they were getting used to each other is that they seemed very tense, did they ever loosen up?

Secondly, long term, I don't encourage keeping bettas together unless you really (and I mean really) know what you're doing, especially not in a tank that size. But, as this was an experiment and not long term.......

Last thing, I've been a little nervous to say this aloud, but, I do believe, that with a huge, well planted tank, it is possible (not necessarily a good idea) to keep a male betta with another one. You need the right bettas, the right owner (years of experience), the right setup, and a ridiculous amount of luck, but..... imo...... it's possible.

Thank you for this post, I think everyone on here can learn from you!

P.S. A thread I started:
 
Anders247
  • #6
Last thing, I've been a little nervous to say this aloud, but, I do believe, that with a huge, well planted tank, it is possible (not necessarily a good idea) to keep a male betta with another one. You need the right bettas, the right owner (years of experience), the right setup, and a ridiculous amount of luck, but..... imo...... it's possible.
Yeah, in the wild they are together, so if you had like a 1000g or something they would have more than enough space to get away from each other.....
 

Advertisement



BornThisWayBettas
  • #7
Like I said, huge tank!!!
 
_Fried_Bettas_
  • #8
I once thought that putting a male betta in a 50 gallon tank with 4 mollies shouldn't cause any problems. Plenty of room, right? After a few days, Ancalagon hunted down and killed the 4 other fish, and they weren't even bettas (although perhaps similar enough).

I have heard of such things, but considering that unless you go with plakats, bettas do not like deep water, so you would have to have a really custom tank that was both shallow and big. And you don't know if one day one of the males might take it into his mind to go hunt down the other guy.
 
cheesepuff
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
I do believe that you can train and teach fish, especially beta's, to behave. like most animals, it takes very much time and dedication to do so.

Its not the same as a dog per say, but fish can be intelligent enough to learn tricks, and can learn that certain behavior is unacceptable.
 
cheesepuff
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
One thing I noticed about your bettas while they were getting used to each other is that they seemed very tense, did they ever loosen up?

In the first hour they were very mellow as they passed by each other. The blue one even somewhat playful.

However, near the end of the experiment the blue one would cower under the plant and the red one was aggressive (from what I believe to be from fear). The reason I say fear is because you need to look at it from the fish's point of view -

His whole live he has never known another fish and had never been in anything larger than a small cup. He was probably never fed well in the store he was in, and a clean tank is something that's also new to him. It appeared to be anti-social anxiety that caused him to lash out at the blue fish. Betta are capable of semI complex emotion. In the red ones life all he had known was a lonely and lethargic life. I believe some Betta are aggressive because they are never given the chance to be social early in life, and then reduced to solitary confinement in a store that never turns its lights off. He may even develop a fear of the dark if its something hes never known.

Betta are known to get depressed. If given the right genealogy and tank mate, coupled with training and space for each Betta, I believe its possible to get two males to be happy with each other. As we speak, there is selective breeding for tameness going on - the exact opposite of what they were bread to be for a very long time - hence the nick name "Japanese fighting fish". It's really a matter of time before we see Bettas that can live happily together. Right now though, its a luck of the draw.
 

Advertisement



EricV
  • #11
There's no reason to believe that he was aggressive out of "fear". Male bettas are naturally territorial and violent towards one another. Put a mirror up to the tank and they'll flare and charge at it rather than attempt to hide or escape. Doesn't sound like fear to me.
 
cheesepuff
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
There's no reason to believe that he was aggressive out of "fear". Male bettas are naturally territorial and violent towards one another. Put a mirror up to the tank and they'll flare and charge at it rather than attempt to hide or escape. Doesn't sound like fear to me.

That's not always true. I have observed a verity of different behavior in this circumstance.

Some back off

Some do nothing

Some flair



Yes, its true they are territorial. But its hard to say why. Until we study them closer and take the time to figure that out, they're attitudes are deeply debatable.

I have also observed what I feel to be genuine fear from a Betta. Aggression is a result of circumstance. Not every circumstance is the same.
 
_Fried_Bettas_
  • #13
Your idea that bettas' lives are entirely solitary is flawed. I breed bettas much like anyone else breeds bettas. And they are born and grow up in a tank with their siblings. They are not removed from this tank until they show the aggression that we are talking about. They develop this male on male aggression when they are still housed with all their siblings. Some, especially plakats can't even be identified as male until this happens. So when you get a betta from a quality breeder, he has probably lived 9 weeks with his siblings and only about 3-4 weeks separated. I have no idea about the life and times of bettas raised in mass production fish farms for the pet store trade.

While just a hypothesis (one I have no interest in testing), I believe that if I did not pull males out as they became aggressive, by about 3 months I would have a tank with one male betta, the surviving winner, alpha male, or whatever you want to call him, with a whole tank of female bettas.

While I do not think that you could train bettas to be docile, perhaps you could breed a stain of docile bettas, but it would take a long time and a lot of work to undo millennia of artificial selection in the opposite direction. This would be complicated by the fact that most male bettas who are not aggressive are actually sick or weak individuals. Sick bettas, or heavily stressed bettas will back off, or pretend to be female, or try other ways to survive, not because they are happy with their tank mate, but instead that they are scared to death of another betta that some instinct, or previous fighting has made them determine that they cannot beat in a fight. In the wild they will flee the field, in a tank, they cannot flee, so the winning male thinks that they are still contesting dominance and will continue to attack.

People have been breeding and observing betta behavior for 1000's of years, you might learn something by studying them closer, but I think it is not in the best interest of the bettas to be subjecting them to these experiments. Try reading some of the articles written by professional breeders, you would probably need to join IBC to get access to much of it.

Edit: Let me add, show quality betta fish are bred to flair (not to fight). Bettas like your two specimens in your experiment wouldn't be bred because for a betta to be "show quality" and even able to compete in a betta show, they have to flare when they see another male. So your bettas would basically be rejects from a normal breeding program and could never be "show quality." They make perfectly good pets though.
 
cheesepuff
  • Thread Starter
  • #14
Your idea that bettas' lives are entirely solitary is flawed. I breed bettas much like anyone else breeds bettas. And they are born and grow up in a tank with their siblings. They are not removed from this tank until they show the aggression that we are talking about. They develop this male on male aggression when they are still housed with all their siblings. Some, especially plakats can't even be identified as male until this happens. So when you get a betta from a quality breeder, he has probably lived 9 weeks with his siblings and only about 3-4 weeks separated. I have no idea about the life and times of bettas raised in mass production fish farms for the pet store trade.

While just a hypothesis (one I have no interest in testing), I believe that if I did not pull males out as they became aggressive, by about 3 months I would have a tank with one male betta, the surviving winner, alpha male, or whatever you want to call him, with a whole tank of female bettas.

While I do not think that you could train bettas to be docile, perhaps you could breed a stain of docile bettas, but it would take a long time and a lot of work to undo millennia of artificial selection in the opposite direction. This would be complicated by the fact that most male bettas who are not aggressive are actually sick or weak individuals. Sick bettas, or heavily stressed bettas will back off, or pretend to be female, or try other ways to survive, not because they are happy with their tank mate, but instead that they are scared to death of another betta that some instinct, or previous fighting has made them determine that they cannot beat in a fight. In the wild they will flee the field, in a tank, they cannot flee, so the winning male thinks that they are still contesting dominance and will continue to attack.

People have been breeding and observing betta behavior for 1000's of years, you might learn something by studying them closer, but I think it is not in the best interest of the bettas to be subjecting them to these experiments. Try reading some of the articles written by professional breeders, you would probably need to join IBC to get access to much of it.

Edit: Let me add, show quality betta fish are bred to flair (not to fight). Bettas like your two specimens in your experiment wouldn't be bred because for a betta to be "show quality" and even able to compete in a betta show, they have to flare when they see another male. So your bettas would basically be rejects from a normal breeding program and could never be "show quality." They make perfectly good pets though.


This is indeed a very good synopsis on your part as a breeder and your insight is duly noted.

That being said, I still have some thoughts.

I do believe you can train a Betta to behave. Allow me to explain.

Much like when a dog growls at another dog, you teach it not to do so by doing something to the dog in response to the growling that it doesn't like. It then does not growl because it knows it will be punished. Its a learned response to their actions that they will from then on avoid. The flair of a Betta is much like the growl of a dog. If you can teach your Betta that its not acceptable by making it learn that there is a consequence for doing so, it will eventually learn to not do it. I did this near the end of the experiment when the red fish became aggressive. A small tap on his side (nothing harmful I assure you) whenever he flared coaxes the fish to avoid that behavior. Using this method for an hour or so, I noticed a reduction in the flaring from the red fish and the aggressive behavior that fallows suit. That being said, a fish does not learn all this over night. If I chose to keep up the training with them, I think the red one would ultimately show less aggression to the other. I chose not to do this because I chose the safety of the fish over anything. So the experiment stopped there.

But to my knowledge I have not seen any documentation of anyone else trying to teach a fish to behave. Seeing as I am not a marine biologist, I decided I did not know enough to continue further.


However! As you said, people like to see a flared Betta. That's when they are the most pretty to look at. This idea of training a fish would result in the opposite of what most people want. Its certainly a trade off.
 

Advertisement



EricV
  • #15
I'm not sure bettas possess the same mental faculties to properly interpret punishments for their behavior.
 
BornThisWayBettas
  • #16
I would think that the ability to learn in that manner is engrained in any species of animal alive today. After all, if an animal couldn't learn by displeasure what not to do, they would be killing themselves. Certain types of animal actually taste really bad (or contain small amounts of poison, can't remember which now), and when they get eaten, the predator will feel sick afterwards and therefore avoid eating it again next time.
 
cheesepuff
  • Thread Starter
  • #17
I'm not sure bettas possess the same mental faculties to properly interpret punishments for their behavior.


This is a fair point. However, they have been proven to be capable of semi-complex emotion, which is something that most fish don't show. This shows that they are a bit more complex mentally than most fish. Its for that reason I think they might be able to learn.

sadly I could not continue this experiment to find out.


If I could work with an experienced breeder, I would feel comfortable dedicating the time to see if its possible.
 
_Fried_Bettas_
  • #18
One thing worth noting that is similar. I read a blog of a guy who breed bettas and left the father with the spawn. These bettas were much less aggressive because they all acknowledged the father as alpha and did not contest it. The father did not attack the other bettas even when they grew up. The father stayed in the tank so long that he eventually mated with one of his daughters, although I believe the males had been removed by this point. So there is perhaps a natural pattern to emulate when you are training them. If they acknowledge you as the alpha much like dogs or even wolves are known to do with humans.
 

Advertisement



cheesepuff
  • Thread Starter
  • #19
One thing worth noting that is similar. I read a blog of a guy who breed bettas and left the father with the spawn. These bettas were much less aggressive because they all acknowledged the father as alpha and did not contest it. The father did not attack the other bettas even when they grew up. The father stayed in the tank so long that he eventually mated with one of his daughters, although I believe the males had been removed by this point. So there is perhaps a natural pattern to emulate when you are training them. If they acknowledge you as the alpha much like dogs or even wolves are known to do with humans.


This is a very interesting concept. That never even crossed my mind.

From what I understand, its the fathers that take care of the young, correct?
 
_Fried_Bettas_
  • #20
This is a very interesting concept. That never even crossed my mind.

From what I understand, its the fathers that take care of the young, correct?

Yes, the care of the young is entirely in the hands of the father. The male builds the bubblenest. The male and female spawn and put the eggs in the nest. At this point the female has to be removed, the male will drive her away. He then picks up any eggs and replaces them in the nest. Once they hatch he keeps the young in the nest for 2 days while they hang from the nest. Once they start swimming on their own, the male is normally removed.
 
cheesepuff
  • Thread Starter
  • #21
thank you for the insight.
 

Similar Aquarium Threads

Replies
8
Views
686
Skittlesttr75
  • Locked
Replies
12
Views
348
Cue
  • Locked
  • Question
Replies
4
Views
404
peachsonas
  • Locked
  • Question
Replies
7
Views
416
Debbie1986
Replies
6
Views
925
david1978
Advertisement







Advertisement



Top Bottom