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Why do betta fish fins get ripped?

The betta fish is a popular ornamental fish beloved by aquarium hobbyists and fish pet lovers worldwide. The betta fish has a fascinating history, and it is a fish with a considerable cultural significance.

The betta fish is also known as the Siamese fighting fish, and the betta fish history as an aggressive fighting fish bred to spar in fighting contests is well known. Ancient breeders largely bred the betta fish primarily for tough attributes such as hard scales, short but strong bodies, and tough fins.

Sparring the Siamese fighting fish in fighting contests for commercial gain has long since been prohibited in most countries. And breeders have developed new varieties of betta fish quite different from their unremarkable predecessors.

These new varieties also share the same aggressive traits of the Siamese fighting fish but they are more famous for their beautiful colors, and flamboyant fin shapes.



The evolution of the Betta Fish Fin

Why do betta fish fins get ripped

Through selective breeding by commercial breeders, the betta fish fin has evolved into a wide array of fin types creating new betta fish varieties. The different variations in different betta fish fin shapes and styles widely differ in length, size, and color.

The fins of contemporary betta fish varieties are so unique that to an untrained eye, they often resemble different fish species. In Asia, Siamese fighting fish were captured in the wild and later bred domestically for fighting contests.

Breeding emphasis was placed on enhancing their aggressive genes, while little attention was placed on developing Siamese fighting fish aesthetics.

However, when the betta fish was introduced into the west around 1840, fish experts began to study the Siamese fighting fish, and the Siamese fighting fish was renamed as Betta splendens, meaning “beautiful warrior.”

The modern betta fish share very few physical similarities with the Siamese fighting fish. Modern-day betta fish are bred to be aesthetically pleasing and have had most of their genes altered to create numerous varieties of betta fish named after their colors or fin shapes.

Betta Fish Fin Shapes

The betta fish fin shapes are striking fin variations in different betta fish varieties.

Each fin shape is wildly different, and the variations range from the extended and flowing fin shapes to the hairbrush type short and erect fin shapes.

The various betta fish shapes are highlighted below:

Veil Tail Fin

In this betta fish variety, the tail fin drops from the caudal peduncle which creates a beautiful long and flowing tail. This is completed by long and flowing dorsal and caudal fins.

The veil tail is susceptible to fin rot, and the long caudal fins are an easy target for fin biting by other fish. The fins are likely to get caught on sharp aquarium objects and be ripped.

Double Tail Fin

This fin type as the name implies is a double caudal fin. This fin type is developed as a double caudal peduncle. The double long flowing caudal fins are an easy target for fin biting by other fish. The fins are likely to get caught on sharp aquarium objects and be ripped.

Extremely prone to fin rot, aggressive inbreeding to accomplish this extraordinary fin-type has resulted in a fin more likely to succumb to fin rot than all other bettas.



Half-Moon Fin

The Half-moon fin like the name indicates is a caudal fin with a 180° sweep. Just like a half-moon, and with a bigger than average dorsal and anal fin than other betta fish varieties.

This unnaturally broad fin has a crucial disadvantage; it is prone to ripping, leading to tail damage, also known as “blowing tail.”

Spade tail fin

The Half-moon fin like the name indicates is a caudal fin with a 180° sweep. Just like a half-moon, and with a bigger than average dorsal and anal fin than other betta fish varieties.

This unnaturally broad fin has a crucial disadvantage; it is prone to ripping, leading to tail damage, also known as “blowing tail.”

Round Tail Fin

The caudal fin is fully rounded without straight edges.

Rose Tail Fin

The caudal fin has a 180° spread with excessive branching, the effect is a ruffled outlook. This fin type is prone to fin rot.

Comb Tail Fin

The caudal fin has distinct rays giving it a comb-like appearance due to the odd structure of the webbing.

The tail fin rays are easily damaged, affecting the betta fish maneuverability.

Dumbo Fin

As the name implies, the pectoral fins are large and semi-transparent, resembling large elephant ears.

Crown Tail Fin

Identical to the comb fin, however, the webbing between the caudal fins is not as deep. The fins are easily damaged, resulting in maneuverability issues.



Shortfin Types

This fin type is closely linked to the Siamese fighting fish found in the wild. Known as Plakat betta, the ventral fins are longer, caudal fins are more rounded and the anal fins are sharply pointed.

Reasons for Betta Fish Fins Ripping

Why do betta fish fins get ripped

The betta fish has got a fragile fin. Betta fish fins a lot like tissue paper, and it is the reason why most betta fish has issues with their fins at some point in their lives.

Fin ripping in betta fish is a big issue with a lot of betta fish owners, and it is the reason why some betta fish fanciers avoid the long-finned betta fish varieties and go for the short and stubby finned bettas, e.g. the female betta fish or the Plakat betta fish.

Bullying by other Fish

Betta fish in a community tank can easily get his fins ripped if he is placed with unsuitable tank mates. When selecting tank mates for the betta fish, it is recommended to go for bottom level fish, i.e. fish that swims and feed on the bottom of the tank.

Bullying is a big issue because of the betta fish’s tiny size, and the betta fish is easily picked on by bigger fish in a community tank. When bigger mid-water level, and high-water level fish are selected to live in a community tank with a betta fish, they can attack the betta fish and nip on his attractive fins.

If your betta lives in a community tank and you observe him swimming around with ripped fin, the betta fish must be instantly removed from the tank, and placed in another tank. It is advised that the betta fish owner set up another tank, and place the betta fish inside, alone.

Fin Nipping

Why do betta fish fins get ripped

A betta fish can nip on his tail fin. Betta fish owners can know if a betta fish has been nipping on his tail fin by observing the placement of the rips in the fin.

If the rips on the betta fish tail fin are in line with the head of the betta fish then the betta fish has been nipping on his tail fin, ripping it.

This occurrence is rare among betta fish, but several owners have reported seeing their betta fish engage in this act for no reason. The betta fish does this by turning around when swimming, and bending his tail towards the angle of his head, takes a bite of his tail pulling off bits of his tail fin.

It is suggested that fin nipping in betta fish can be caused by stress. This can be treated by putting the betta fish in a bigger tank equipped with a filter, and a heater. The water flow in the tank should not be set too high, and the tank water parameters e.g. nitrates and ammonia levels should be closely monitored.



Poor Aquarium Design

Betta fish can rip their fins on anything, and care should be taken to select appropriate decoration for the betta fish tank. Betta fish fins can get caught on the sharp edges of plastic tank plants, and decor including ornaments.

The tank should be naturally aquascaped, i.e. making use of natural plants and foliage that mimic the natural environment of the Betta fish. If artificial plants are to be used, then it is advised that the artificial plant should be made of silk.

Natural aquascaping materials such as wood or coconut fiber-based materials are great options. These materials have softer edges when wet, unlike the hard jagged bits sticking out of plastic-based aquarium objects which tend to rip the betta fish’s delicate fins.

Filters

Betta fish damage their fins more on tank filters than any object in their tanks. When the betta fish rests against the intake of the tank filters, the air suction coming from the intake drags on their fins, causing the betta fish fins to rip.

The solution is to install a sponge filter in the tank, the advantage of a sponge filter is that they are designed to operate with minimal water suction.

Age

As the Betta fish ages, its fins will naturally undergo lots of stress, resulting in substantial wear and tear. Fins of aging betta fish will have noticeable tiny holes and shredded edges. This should not be a source of worry, it is a sign that your betta fish is aging along nicely.

High Water Flow

Fin ripping in betta fish can also occur if the pressure of the water flow in the betta fish tank is too high. The betta fish is a slow water fish, and his natural habitats are ponds and slow-moving streams.

The betta fish fins are not adapted to swimming in fast currents. When the water flow in the tank is pushing hard against the betta fish, his fins struggle for maneuverability, thus putting much pressure around the fin edges causing the fin to rip.

Water flow in the betta fish tank should be set up to flow slowly to prevent the water pressure from pushing strongly against the betta fish fins.



Difference between Fin Ripping and Fin rot in Betta Fish

Can Betta Fish Live With Other Fish?

Most betta fish have had issues with their fins, be it fin rot which is caused by bacteria living inside the betta fish tank, or ripped fins which are caused by several physical factors prevailing in the tank with the betta fish.

Betta fish owners need to know the difference between fin ripping and fin rot. Both conditions have different symptoms and must be properly diagnosed otherwise, a perfectly healthy fish will be unnecessarily medicated.

The simplest way to spot fin rot is the visual appearance of black or red edges around the betta fish deteriorating tail and fin tips.

Taking pictures of your betta fish ripped fins and comparing the difference in a few days can help betta owners to differentiate between ripped fins and fin rot in betta fish.

This method is useful in confirming if the fins are getting worse, or regenerating, or simply just in the same condition.



Conclusion

Betta fish fin ripping might be scary for a lot of new fish owners, but it is fully preventable if your betta fish has proper attention and care is taken to select suitable tank mates and decor.

Betta owners need to understand that fin ripping is not caused by a bacteria or fungal infection, rather factors present in the tank e.g powerful filter flow, sharp objects in the tank, and nippy fish are responsible.

To prevent total fin loss in a betta fish with ripped fins, owners should immediately remove objects or fish present in the betta fish tank suspected of causing the fin rip.