You purchase your new Betta and bring him home from the store. You set up his new home and stand back completely proud of yourself. Once the conditions are right, you add him and come back a few hours later to find his long, lovely tail with bits missing. What happened? What can you do to prevent that in the future?
If your Betta’s tail was perfectly fine one minute, and the next pieces were missing, more than likely you are dealing with a tail biter. To be sure of this, watch his tail for a few days and observe any signs of blackness around the tail edge and for fins that begin to shred and fray. If that occurs, you are dealing with fin rot and will have to read one of my other articles for help. If shredding and fraying does not occur, you can be sure you have a tail biter.
First we’re going to discuss its causes. No one is really sure what causes a Betta to turn on its on tail as if it were lunch. Some suggest boredom. Betta’s are smart fish and without adequate attention from you, or things that they can play with and hide in, many Betta’s will become bored and this leads to them taking their aggression out on themselves.
Other Betta’s seem to use tail biting when they’re nervous or scared. Seeing another Betta nearby might cause a Betta that’s never resorted to tail biting before launch a full out attack on his tail, and his long beautiful fins are gone before you know. It’s important to watch your Betta and understand his habits and personality before you can decide what treatment is best for your finned friend.
Once your Betta has bitten his tail, it’s important to keep optimal conditions so their fins do not become infected which can later lead to fin rot. Clean water is always the first line of defense against infections. Take your Betta from his tank and clean the tank thoroughly with hot water, remembering never to use soap, bleach or other detergents. Hot water is good enough. Once the tank is at the right condition, replace your Betta in his tank. If you’d like extra protection against possible infections, adding a bit of aquarium salt to the water is ok. Just remember not to over do it. A third line of defense is adding a product called Melafix to the water. Melafix is made from natural products and contains tea tree oil; it helps with rapid regeneration of fins. It helps heal cuts and other wounds as well. In a sense, it’s Neosporin for fish. Purchase an eye dropper for this as the bottles do not have a dosage cup.
Once you start to see some fin regrowth, you want to take steps to make sure he doesn’t go postal and start tail biting again. If your Betta doesn’t get to see you often, and seems to tail bite because of excess aggression, a small mirror can be placed in front of their tank for 10-15 minutes a day so they can flare and help work off any steam they may have built up during the day. If you have other Betta’s near by, let him see them and flare at them for awhile. Careful not to let it last too long as too much mirror or other flare time can lead to tail biting in some Betta’s. Watch him carefully and if things seem to be getting to him, remove the mirror and allow him time to calm down.
If your Betta turns to tail biting because of anxiety, make sure to arrange his tank so he has plenty of hiding places. Plants (live or artificial) as well as caves and other hiding holes will make him feel more secure. Arrange this so he has plenty of places to retreat if startled, but yet in a way that allows him to peak out and watch what is going on outside his tank. If there is another Betta nearby that seems to be causing him distress, limit all possibilities of the two seeing each other. Move a tank or both, place paper or another object in their line of views, or add decorations to each tank to limit their view of each other. If you opt to move a tank, remember that the tank should not be placed in direct sunlight, near heating/air vents, or in high traffic areas, especially if your Betta is a nervous fish.
Observing your fish’s behavior is rather important to prevent tail biting and other health issues. Owners who keep a close eye on pets can usually spot when something is not right. If you know your pet, you can spot tail biting before it begins and can limit the instances of it occurring again. If you catch a biter before he bites, you’ll ensure he keeps his long beautiful tail, and that infections will never occur which are definitely harder to combat than a biter.