If you notice your betta tail biting then you may begin to panic. It’s not unheard of for a betta to destroy half his tail in a day through tail biting. So keep reading to find out why tail biting occurs and what you can do to treat and prevent it!
What Is Tail Biting?
Pretty self-explanatory, tail biting is when your betta begins ripping off parts off his own tail. It often happens in bettas with tails that are longer. However, any type of betta can tail bite. Unless you see your betta tail biting you shouldn’t diagnose it as such straight away. As you could be looking at fin rot or fin damage from decorations in your tank.
Why Does Tail Biting Occur?
Unfortunately, there aren’t any concrete reasons behind why tail biting occurs. No one knows for certain, however, there are a few reasons people think it occurs. Here are a few of them.
Some people think stress can cause your betta to begin biting his tail. Things like changing your tank around, poor water conditions, a new home, and aggressive tank mates could all be causing your betta to become stressed.
You should also be aware that stress in bettas won’t just end with tail biting. If you think your betta is stressed then you should start changing things in the tank to make him happier. If your betta continues to be stressed or tail bite, then his immune system will weaken, making him more susceptible to diseases. (Here’s everything you need to know about stress in bettas.)
Pent Up Aggression
Another reason could be that your betta has a lot of pent up aggression and no one to take it out on. Obviously, bettas are aggressive by nature but some of them are more aggressive than others. If they don’t have a chance to flex their muscles or remove some of their pent up aggression then they could end up taking it out on themselves.
If you don’t have much going on in your tank or your tanks too small then your betta might begin to get bored. And if he stays bored for long enough he might start harming himself through frustration. If your tank is looking barren or it’s smaller than 5 gallons (Find out the best tank size for bettas) then boredom may be causing him to hurt himself.
If you have a betta with longer fins then he may not like how much they’re slowing him down. Having long fins is going to cause drag when your betta is swimming and this may frustrate him, especially if he doesn’t think he’s moving fast enough. Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done about this one.
And lastly, sometimes tail biting could just be hereditary. It’s a common belief that some bettas are just naturally more inclined to biting their own fins than others. Once again if this is the case there isn’t much you can do to stop it.
What Are The Symptoms Of Tail Biting?
The only symptom that you’ll notice in tail biting is your betta’s tail getting more torn up. However, if you look closely you’ll be able to distinguish tail biting from other causes. Here is what tail biting is going to look like.
Rapid Tail Loss
When your betta starts tail biting it’s not uncommon for you to notice he’s losing large amounts of his tail in a small amount of time. Fin rot, for example, may take weeks and damage caused by decorations will only happen occasionally. But when your betta is biting his tail, you may notice most of his tail disappearing overnight.
If it’s tail biting then it will be chunks of tail missing instead of a more uniform deterioration. The chunks are more likely to be round and if you look closely they should look more like bites. Don’t just look for one or two chunks either as this could be decoration damage. Instead, there should be quite a few chunks missing from your bettas tail.
The chunks are also going to be in places where your betta can reach. If you notice the chunks missing in places your betta can’t get too, then it could be something else.
The Edges Will Look A Lot Cleaner
When your betta is suffering from fin rot, the edges will look tatty and like his tail is slowly dripping off. However, when he’s biting his own tail they’re going to look clean. If you notice more clean looking deterioration then it could be tail biting.
You See Him Doing It
Of course, this is the biggest sign. If you actually see your betta biting his fins and ripping parts of them off then you should begin trying to prevent and treat his tail biting ASAP.
How To Prevent Betta Tail Biting
Prevention is the best thing you can do for tail biting. The moment you know your betta is tail biting then there are a few things you should try which may help.
Add Indian Almond Leaves
Indian almond leaves are known to reduce stress in fish and your betta will love them as well. And they do two things that will help reduce stress which could be causing tail biting.
First of all, they release antioxidants into the water which are a natural stress reliever. And secondly, they also turn the water into blackwater. Blackwater resembles the natural environment your betta would live in, so this will also help to relieve his stress levels.
After all, a murkier tank is going to make your betta feel a lot safer. It gives him more cover from any imagined predator and he’ll feel like he has more places to hide.
Decrease The Lighting
Once again if stress is causing your betta to tail bite then it’s worth decreasing the lighting in his tank. When you decrease the lighting he’s going to feel like he has more places to hide. In fact, that’s why people recommend leaving the tank lights off when you first introduce any fish to a new home.
If you still want to look at your betta then you could try turning the light to a dark blue if it’s possible.
Add A Tank Mate
Only do this if you think it’s boredom causing your betta to tail bite and not aggression. Believe it or not, there are a lot of great tank mates you can add to a tank with your betta. And if his temperament is peaceful then he’ll get along with them fine!
To start off with you could add shrimp and snails. If he’s fine with them then bottom dwellers like corydoras, plecos, and otocinclus catfish are all great choices! And if your tank is big enough you could even add tetras, mollies, rasboras or platies to the tank as well. All of them are great tank mates for your betta. Here’s a full list of tank mates your betta can live with.
Show Him His Reflection
If you think pent up aggression is causing your betta to tail bite then you can show him his own reflection. This will allow him to flare and work himself up releasing some of the aggression. However, make sure you don’t do this for prolonged amounts of time. Only do it for 20 seconds and give him a good amount of rest in between. After all, it’s going to tire him out, and if you do it for too long cause him stress.
Add API Stress Coat
I absolutely love API stress coat. Not only is it a water conditioner but it also contains Aloe Vera which is going to help reduce your bettas stress. If you notice your betta is biting his tail then adding 5 ml per 10 gallons is a great way to help relieve his stress.
You can pick it up cheap off Amazon and it’s also much better than standard water conditioner!
How To Treat Damaged Fins
Unfortunately, sometimes tail biting can happen so rapidly that your bettas fins are going to be completely damaged. If this is the case then you can only do your best to help the fins grow back. While there’s nothing that is going to make them magically come back you can improve the growth rate by improving the conditions in your tank.
Perform Frequent Water Changes
If your betta is tail biting then he’s going to be a lot more susceptible to fin rot and tail rot. That’s why it’s so vital that you perform water changes to reduce the chance of bacteria infecting him. You should be performing a water change at least once a week and even more, if your betta is in a small tank.
Add Aquarium Salt
Aquarium salt is going to do two things. Kill unhealthy bacteria in your tank and help relieve your bettas stress. If you want to add aquarium salt to your tank then stick to 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons of water. Make sure you’re diluting the salt beforehand in a small container of aquarium water.
You can keep adding aquarium salt every day for 4 days before performing a water change. But don’t add it for any more than 8 days at a time without having a break if it’s for tail biting. Here’s everything you need to know about aquarium salt.
Can Bettas Recover From Tail Biting?
If your betta stops tail biting then he’ll definitely recover. However, it can take over a year for his tail to grow back fully, depending on the severity of the tail biting. And if you intervene early enough you can reduce how much damage is done.
Don’t let this discourage you though. Once your betta stops biting his tail you’ll begin to notice new growth quite quickly.
And if your worried about tail biting don’t be. It’s rarely fatal and as long as you’re paying extra attention to keeping your water clean your betta shouldn’t become infected by anything.
Want to know how to take care of betta fish but don’t know where to start? Click here to read a comprehensive article on betta fish care!
Now you should have a good understanding of why tail biting occurs and what you can do to prevent it. Here are some of the main points you need to remember which are going to help keep your betta healthy and happy!
- While there’s no concrete reason that tail biting occurs most people think it’s caused by stress, pent up aggression, boredom, or because it’s hereditary. It’s also thought to be more common in bettas with large fins.
- Symptoms of tail biting are rapid tail loss, chunks of tail missing, and a clean finish on the chunks missing. And of course, the biggest sign is that you witness him doing it
- To prevent tail biting you can add Indian almond leaves to the tank, decrease the lighting, add a tank mate, show him his reflection and use API stress coat.
- If his fins are already damaged the best way to treat them is by performing frequent water changes and adding aquarium salt.
- If your betta has caused a lot of damage to himself, don’t worry. When the right conditions are met his tail should begin to grow back. And as long as you keep the tank clean nothing worse should happen to him.
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