TOPIC: betta injured in a fight

Q:Please help! My daughters male betta has attacked her female. Her fin is gone and her tail is just about gone also. Since she was acting so sluggish the snail started pecking at her also. (Poor baby!)
I have since removed her from the tank. She has an open wound on her back/belly. Please tell me how I can help her heal.

above question submitted by Michelle, Aurora - IL

Hello Michelle :), thank you for wanting to help the little gal recover from her boy heartbreak :)...  I guess boys are trouble regardless of the specie LOL. Well you did not mention how this accident happened: Was your daughter trying to spawn her bettas? Or did you guys think that the male needed company and just added a female to his display? Since I am not sure, I am going to play it safe and lecture you (even though you might not need it, others reading this column might LOL):


Wait. Hold on.  Be quiet for a moment... Let the words sink in... Let the notion soak. Let the words become part of your memory bank. Meditate upon them.... Ommmmmmmm... Ommmmmmmm... Now repeat after me:

"I shall never ever put a male and a female betta together ever never and under ANY circumstances, regardless of how nice the male seems, how much he seems to like the female, how pretty they look together, how large the tank is and how many hiding place the female might have at her disposal to escape his tyranny."

One might ask: well, if you can never put them together, then how do you spawn them? Very promptly, very cautiously and only if you know what you are doing. Want to learn more about spawning bettas? Read my breeding bettas section

Anytime you put two bettas together, you are asking for trouble:

  • two males together: this is absolute madness. Have you EVER wondered why bettas are called Siamese FIGHTING FISH? What part of "fighting fish" did you guys exactly not get? Just today I got a submission for this column from someone who had put two males together. Needless to say one of the two is now in trouble. People are so stubborn they always think that thousands of betta hobbyists are wrong, and  that their specific two males can peaceful coexists. They could, if they were amebas or snails. But NOT of they are Siamese FIGHTING FISH. Get a clue! There is a reason why bettas made it to #2 on the countdown of most fearsome fighters of the animal kingdom (Animal Planet series).
  • a male and a female: This is just as bad, except that the male may take a couple day before he decides to shred his mate to pieces.  So at first there might be a deceitful illusion of "it's working OK". The new comer to the hobby may think: "Ah, they are getting along just fine". Only to return home to find a dead female, or even on occasion, a dead male (girl power heheheheh!!). Even if the two decided to spawn, the male will then viciously attack the female to keep her away from the nest, so same results. So male and females can never be kept together EVER.
  • two females: I wish I could say the damsels are more civilized, but I would be lying LOL. On occasion, female bettas may be kept together (notice I said OCCASION). Usually if they are sisters and were raised together since they were little squirts. Or if the tank is large and the females are gentle. Bettas, like people, are all a bit different (notice I said BIT). While some females are real dragons, shredding everything in sight (including males), others may be more gentle and may accept cohabitation. It will be necessary to always watch the females carefully, even if they seem to get along. As the dominant female in the tank keeps everyone else in line, should she be removed or die, the rest of the harem will promptly proceed to pull their hair out LOL. (probably arguing who gets the mohair sweater LOL). So there you go.

OK, so now let us address your current problem: The harm has already been done and the female is now hurt. I am actually working on an E-Magazine article about betta accidents and how to handle them properly, but it is not done yet (sorry :(  ) so let me try to help you as much as I can:

  • remove female (which you have done) and put her in a clean, bare 1 gal jar. Take some of the tank water with her to avoid stressing her more than she is already is. This way she will not have to acclimate to new water (just yet). Well, you already removed her and I am not sure if you put her in new water, if so disregard this last advice.
  • Treat for infection: the wound will probably not kill her, but the stress and a possible infection might. Now your female's immune system is low, and now is when she needs it most (cause of the open wound). Nasty bacteria of all sorts thrive in water and all they need is an opportunity (like an open wound for example) to flourish. What we want to do is make it hard for them to attack the wound. For superficial wounds, bettamax will do the trick just fine. However, for deeper wounds, we may have to use stronger antibiotic. I would recommend Spectrogram (by Aquatronics). 
  • keep the water clean while the female is in the hospital jar. Every third day, do a full water change (see my water page) and add a new dose of Spectrogram. And so on and so forth until the female is looking much better. Once wound is closed, and fins show signs of regrowth, you can switch her to bettamax. I would recommend doing a full water change, waiting 3 days (no medication added) and then adding bettamax on day 4 (for a smooth switch between two medications). Once the wound is closed you can do water changes every 7 days.

It is possible your female might not make it. However if she is still alive 3 days after the initial attack, she has a good chance of full recovery, providing you proceed as above and prevent an infection. Liquid vitamins (for fish) will also help the recovery. She might stop eating, and if so do not overfeed and make sure to not LEAVE UNEATEN FOOD TO ROT in the jar. This would be the worst thing you could do (cause it makes bacteria bloom and then the bacteria will attack the wound even more aggressively!!). 

Well, I wish you both the best of luck and hope you will get this valuable info in time. :). (PS: Don't hate the male: he is not a bad fish, he just can't help it, it is in his nature to fight).