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Old 04-11-2012, 08:47 PM   #1 
True Indigo
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Betta Tail-Biting -- A Bad Habit?

Hello all,

Just to get this out of the way, all water levels are normal and safe, his temperature is currently at a steady 78-82 degrees throughout the day. He has plenty of hiding spots, live plants, and has a quiet filter that barely disturbs the surface of the water.

He first started to bite his tail after the first two weeks I had him while he was in a one gallon tank (He's been in a 5 gallon tank for over two weeks now). I thought he had scraped himself up against a plant that had exposed wire-like roots that were pretty sharp that he usually ran around.

However, it seems that on a weekly basis, he'll take one day to trim his tail at the same length each time. Like after a week he'll be mostly healed and then he'll tear them up again.

He recently made a bubble nest (it was huge!) so I know he's doing well and is healthy but later that day after I discovered the nest, I caught him biting his tail all over again.

He's grown since I first had him and his colors have really blossomed since then, but as he's grown, I've seen how big his fins are compared to the rest of his body and how much they drag when he swims. I'm wondering, could this be a habit for him? Like the person who trims their nails so they don't grow to scratch people?

He seems happy and he heals quickly. Water has never been an issue, and he has plenty of plants and decorations without being crowded.

I do speculate on one thing though, recently I got him a new light that's brighter and I used to leave it on inconsistently. Since they generally go off a human-like time span in terms of when they sleep, I'm wondering if I should really push for a time schedule in terms of when his light should be shut off to reduce over-exposure.

Today I also added some ghost shrimp which he loves following around in an attempts to distract him from the habit. Currently I have a small dosage of Bettafix in his tank which has shown very effective since last time I used it.

So if anyone can help me with tips or anything, please let me know. I know it's generally unknown why Bettas bite their own tail fins, but I'd like to stop worrying about it if I have some peace of mind that it's most likely just a habit for him instead of something stressing him out.

Any and all feedback is welcome. Thanks all.
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Old 04-11-2012, 10:14 PM   #2 
Lordsameth
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Tail biting can become a problem.... Make sure there are lots of things to distract him, the shrimp will help. Lots of places to explore and hide keep him looking, and rearrange his tank often. Unfortunately some fish don't like their long pretty tails and nibble them off, just make sure his water stays clean so the bites don't get infected!
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Old 04-11-2012, 10:30 PM   #3 
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I have a fish that was a tail biter. I had him in my bedroom by his self and with my work recently hadn't been getting much interaction other than fed and a few passing glances. So he chewed off his tail to the point only a third of it was left. I talked my mom into letting me put his tank in the living room where he will get a lot more traffic and distractions. He has now stopped biting his tail and is finally letting it grow to its full length. I do agree the shrimp may help to distract him. As I have another Betta with even longer fins than my tail biter in a community tank and he plays with his tank mates rather than biting his tail. I think tail biting is largely a symptom of boredom.
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Old 04-12-2012, 12:04 AM   #4 
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Hmm. The last few weeks have been rather busy on my side where I haven't been in my room. Are there any easy ways to keep him distracted? I live in a dorm room so I can't really move him anywhere that has more traffic. Would I even be able to put in another fish if he simply lives in a 5 gallon tank (Can't really afford anything bigger at the moment).

I appreciate all these comments by the way. I added a new plant to his area too that he's taken a liking to so far. Just trying to figure out ways to make his life a bit better.
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Old 04-12-2012, 12:17 AM   #5 
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If he is in a 5 gallon tank I would recommend 1 or 2 amano shrimp. 5 gallons simply isn't enough to house two fish. They are bigger than a ghost shrimp and not likely to wind up as food rather than a tank mate. They also clean a lot better as far as tank algae goes. Just make sure to keep the water changes up because they are sensitive to nitrates. You could always feed it some sinking pellets every few days. It should be enough to keep your Betta company as long as he isn't too aggressive. That's another thing about the fish that got migrated to the living room he attacks anything that moves in the tank even the gravel siphon lol. I think he may be slightly unstable in the head lol.

Last edited by freemike; 04-12-2012 at 12:20 AM.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:14 AM   #6 
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I feel your pain... one of my boys is a tailbiter...am currently upgrading them to a divided 10 gallon. Filter will arrive tomorrow, tank, hood, more gravel and divider materials will be purchased today....hopefully, each payday I'll be able to add more stuff...also, I'm going to be rearranging the aquarium once every week...if you, by chance, find any good ideas, Please let me know. And I will do the same.
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Old 04-13-2012, 07:32 AM   #7 
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Thanks for the tips, guys. And they don't have ammano shrimp at my local pet store so I'll have to see if I can find a few places. The ghost shrimp appear to be doing okay (except for one which continued to pester my Betta and eventually got bit and died but the others didn't mind the free cannibalistic meal).

And so far the shrimp are serving to be a decent distraction. I also added a Tiger Snail which adds some slight changes to the scenery (and my fish is always heavily curious about changes in his tank).

I'll keep updated on what goes on. I just want to see him have a full tail once more. Hahaha.
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Old 04-14-2012, 06:36 PM   #8 
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I have a very large old male that will bite at his fins when he doesn't see another fish (all of mine get rotated around often so I can interact with each one for a bit while at my computer, etc... most are on a bar that runs alongside of my desk so I just have to turn my head to see at least 3 of them at any given time). But my old man Xander is very aggressive so he needs to be blocked from others every so often- that is when he will bite large chunks out of his fins. Sometimes we can help them stop, and sometimes we can't. Halfmoons are notorious for fin biting, especially if they have a filter (even baffled) in a smaller tank with them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by True Indigo View Post
Hello all,

Just to get this out of the way, all water levels are normal and safe, his temperature is currently at a steady 78-82 degrees throughout the day. He has plenty of hiding spots, live plants, and has a quiet filter that barely disturbs the surface of the water.
You say throughout the day, but do you have a heater? And if not, are you sure it isn't dropping any at night? A heater isn't necessarily just for the temp, but to make sure the water stays steady- as fluctuations will easily stress them out, or even in some cases cause fatal shock. If he has a heater then I wouldn't worry about it..

He first started to bite his tail after the first two weeks I had him while he was in a one gallon tank (He's been in a 5 gallon tank for over two weeks now). I thought he had scraped himself up against a plant that had exposed wire-like roots that were pretty sharp that he usually ran around.
Most likely it was the stress of a new home, being in a 1 gallon is large for them (last time they were in a large tank was at the breeder's, but only for a limited time and usually with hundreds of others.. so not the same). Also being introduced to water changes can be stressful and cause them to bite their fins. I have a boy who did a number on his fins after water changes for the first few weeks. Some people open up their shipments from buying a betta to only discover that during shipment the betta began finbiting. So stress does play a factor in fin biting in some situations.

However, it seems that on a weekly basis, he'll take one day to trim his tail at the same length each time. Like after a week he'll be mostly healed and then he'll tear them up again.
Have you noticed whether it coincided with your cleaning schedule? On and off again biting indicates that there may be an outside stressor causing it.. habitual fin biting is a constant thing, but biting from stress is something different, whether it is stress from not having the proper muscle build up to stress of not getting enough rest, etc.

He recently made a bubble nest (it was huge!) so I know he's doing well and is healthy but later that day after I discovered the nest, I caught him biting his tail all over again.
Even though we love to think a bubble nest means they are happy- a bubble nest is instinctual in regards to territory, mating and even a weather system going through your area. Some of mine will only build a nest when I provide a floating oak leaf for them- many males love building nests under things such as leafs or even floating styrofoam cups.
But the nest does show that he is viewing the tank as his home and he is wanting to stay there :)


He's grown since I first had him and his colors have really blossomed since then, but as he's grown, I've seen how big his fins are compared to the rest of his body and how much they drag when he swims. I'm wondering, could this be a habit for him? Like the person who trims their nails so they don't grow to scratch people?
Habitual you will see it constantly going down with little to no growth. Seeing a fair amount of growth, imo, points more to a reason he is doing it. Could if be because of the drag? Possibly.. what fin type is he? I definitely would consider that he needs more time to build up his muscles- a lot of the long finned males do not have very strong muscles when we first get them due to lack of swimming space. So a larger tank means more swimming which could lead to stress or, as you mentioned, feeling the drag and tiring.. in which biting his fins would be something they commonly due in that situation.

He seems happy and he heals quickly. Water has never been an issue, and he has plenty of plants and decorations without being crowded.
You say heals quickly.. are there chunks missing, or are you seeing splits?

I do speculate on one thing though, recently I got him a new light that's brighter and I used to leave it on inconsistently. Since they generally go off a human-like time span in terms of when they sleep, I'm wondering if I should really push for a time schedule in terms of when his light should be shut off to reduce over-exposure.
I personally give them natural light first thing in the morning.. that way they adjust to daytime at a slower, more natural pace. I keep the room lights (or curtains open) on for around an hour or so before I turn on their lights. Their lights (mix of desk lamps and led) on for roughly 10-11 hrs, then lights off.. but the room light is on for a couple hours afterwards to give them time to adjust to it being a bit darker. I'm a little extreme (comes from raising/breeding fish for 18 years lol), but you definitely want to give them some down time, night time and light. Having it mixed up can be stressful- lights on til 1am one day, then the next they go off at 10pm, etc. A more routine environment will get him more comfortable and he will know when to expect certain actions.

Today I also added some ghost shrimp which he loves following around in an attempts to distract him from the habit. Currently I have a small dosage of Bettafix in his tank which has shown very effective since last time I used it.
Bettafix will do nothing for him right now other then expose his system and organs to harsh medications, along with a tree oil that has potential to harm their labyrinth organ (it's complicated). Using Bettafix is a controversy among betta keepers/breeders, most refuse to use it due to too many problems, and questionable deaths. Especially when the medication is not used with proper measurement. I would do a 100% water change, or place the carbon back in the filter to remove the medication.. especially since you are not doing the treatment properly. Bettafix is literally a watered down version of Melafix which is very dangerous (and potentially deadly) to betta fish, among a few other species of fish.

So if anyone can help me with tips or anything, please let me know. I know it's generally unknown why Bettas bite their own tail fins, but I'd like to stop worrying about it if I have some peace of mind that it's most likely just a habit for him instead of something stressing him out.
Try to find the root cause of it.. is he bored? Does he do it more after a water change? Did you move around his decorations? Etc. Once you find out why he is doing it, then it can be easier to focus on how to prevent him from doing it.

Any and all feedback is welcome. Thanks all.
Don't be surprised if your betta ends up eating the shrimp, and be careful he doesn't eat the snail's food that you have to feed it! :)

Last edited by Myates; 04-14-2012 at 06:41 PM.
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Old 04-14-2012, 07:59 PM   #9 
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i've got a little tail biter (crown tail) on my hands too he's got plenty of cover, filter is baffled, is in a place where the scenery changes on a regular basis, couldn't care less about toys, and still chomps on his tail. for him it seems to be a maintenance thing. despite his preference for a shorter tail he is other wise a very healthy and happy little fish.
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Old 04-16-2012, 08:10 PM   #10 
True Indigo
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Just to give an update, his old wounds are starting to heal but found that he decided to bite himself yet again. It's starting to occur only on the points where his tail is longer (but whether that's due to his own maintenance or because it's easier to get a hold of when he twists to bite himself, I don't know). So the Shrimp aren't serving as that much of a big distraction from his seemingly habit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Myates View Post
You say throughout the day, but do you have a heater? And if not, are you sure it isn't dropping any at night? A heater isn't necessarily just for the temp, but to make sure the water stays steady- as fluctuations will easily stress them out, or even in some cases cause fatal shock. If he has a heater then I wouldn't worry about it..
I say throughout the day because he has a heater that keeps it at a constants 78 degrees except during mid-day when my room heats up faster than the heater can adjust to, but for the most part, it continues to stay at 78 degrees, even at night.

Quote:
Most likely it was the stress of a new home, being in a 1 gallon is large for them (last time they were in a large tank was at the breeder's, but only for a limited time and usually with hundreds of others.. so not the same). Also being introduced to water changes can be stressful and cause them to bite their fins. I have a boy who did a number on his fins after water changes for the first few weeks. Some people open up their shipments from buying a betta to only discover that during shipment the betta began finbiting. So stress does play a factor in fin biting in some situations.
Well he didn't bite his fins until a week after he was in his new home and he's been in his new home for about a month now. Should I change the frequency I do water changes? I tend to do about 20% water changes once a week since he has a filter. Should I change the frequency of that?

Quote:
Have you noticed whether it coincided with your cleaning schedule? On and off again biting indicates that there may be an outside stressor causing it.. habitual fin biting is a constant thing, but biting from stress is something different, whether it is stress from not having the proper muscle build up to stress of not getting enough rest, etc.


I thought about that but it seems to be completely random. Though the only thing I notice is that he never does it if he sees me. I once caught him in mid-twist trying to bite his tail but as soon as he saw my face near the tank, he stopped and did his little wiggle dance. He has yet to let any of the long ends of his tail finish healing.

Quote:
Even though we love to think a bubble nest means they are happy- a bubble nest is instinctual in regards to territory, mating and even a weather system going through your area. Some of mine will only build a nest when I provide a floating oak leaf for them- many males love building nests under things such as leafs or even floating styrofoam cups.
But the nest does show that he is viewing the tank as his home and he is wanting to stay there :)


Well at least he considers it home! He's made three so far in the past two weeks.

Quote:
Habitual you will see it constantly going down with little to no growth. Seeing a fair amount of growth, imo, points more to a reason he is doing it. Could if be because of the drag? Possibly.. what fin type is he? I definitely would consider that he needs more time to build up his muscles- a lot of the long finned males do not have very strong muscles when we first get them due to lack of swimming space. So a larger tank means more swimming which could lead to stress or, as you mentioned, feeling the drag and tiring.. in which biting his fins would be something they commonly due in that situation.


He's a double-tail, but I've noticed that his fins, when they weren't bitten, were longer than most double tails (and for a while I thought he was a half-moon double tail because of it). He never bit his tail when he was in the cup or when he was in the one-gallon tank (the only time his fins were ripped and shredded in the one-gallon was because he would rub against a plant that had wiry roots). It's only been since he's been in the five gallon.

Quote:
You say heals quickly.. are there chunks missing, or are you seeing splits?


Chunks. It's not even whatsoever.

Quote:
I personally give them natural light first thing in the morning.. that way they adjust to daytime at a slower, more natural pace. I keep the room lights (or curtains open) on for around an hour or so before I turn on their lights. Their lights (mix of desk lamps and led) on for roughly 10-11 hrs, then lights off.. but the room light is on for a couple hours afterwards to give them time to adjust to it being a bit darker. I'm a little extreme (comes from raising/breeding fish for 18 years lol), but you definitely want to give them some down time, night time and light. Having it mixed up can be stressful- lights on til 1am one day, then the next they go off at 10pm, etc. A more routine environment will get him more comfortable and he will know when to expect certain actions.


I will definitely try to make it more consistent. He has a flourescent light in his tank which has done wonders for the plants around it and he doesn't seem to mind. One time I made the mistake of getting up early in the morning and turning on his tank light. He was temporarily blinded and wouldn't even look up for his food. Poor guy--never did that again.

How does this sound for a light schedule?

8 or 9 am, turn background light (it gives a little light but not enough to make a big difference in his tank). 9 or 10 am, turn on his light. Around 7 or 8 pm, turn off his light. 9 or 10 pm, turn off background light. (I say 8 or 9, 7 or 8, et cetera because I start classes on different days). Would this be decently consistent enough for him?

Quote:
Bettafix will do nothing for him right now other then expose his system and organs to harsh medications, along with a tree oil that has potential to harm their labyrinth organ (it's complicated). Using Bettafix is a controversy among betta keepers/breeders, most refuse to use it due to too many problems, and questionable deaths. Especially when the medication is not used with proper measurement. I would do a 100% water change, or place the carbon back in the filter to remove the medication.. especially since you are not doing the treatment properly. Bettafix is literally a watered down version of Melafix which is very dangerous (and potentially deadly) to betta fish, among a few other species of fish.


I'll stop using it right away. I thought it was doing well since he healed pretty quickly but the last thing I want to do is make things harder for him. I'd rather stare at his torn up fins than deal with making him miserable.

Thank you especially for all of your advice. After all of this, I may just have to conclude that he does it for maintenance due to being in a bigger tank, but hopefully it's just the light thing and with a more consistent schedule, it'll do him good.

If you have anything else pop into mind, please feel free to letting me know. I'll come back here periodically.
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