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Hello, I am new to this forum and the main reason I came here is to get help with my first Betta Sorority. I have 5 girls in a 10 gal tank with a bio-wheel filter and heater. Lots of plants and hiding places. I've had my girls in about a week now and I'm not sure how its working out.

I had two that started fighting instantly (tearing fins none stop) when I put them in the tank. I separated them for a few hours then released them and they seemed "ok". The one that I thought would be alpha (Ella) got SBD after the first day. I don't know if she got it from fighting???? She didn't have it before and none of the other girls have had it. Ella spent 2-3 days hiding in the cave and chasing off the other girls if they entered. I fed her a pea and she was fine the next day. While she was hiding the caves, the other 4 girls got along as good as you can get. Little flare and chasing, which I hear is normal, the most maybe a peck or two in a days time. No major aggression at all which I thought was weird that the pecking order may have only lasted a day or so. Only got major fin damage was done the first few hours the first day from the 2 aggressive girls.

Now that Ella is feeling better, she's out of her cave trying to claim her title. I sense the other girls are on edge. They've been pecking and fighting each other constantly - not so much Ella. Is it possible that Ella could be making them aggressive towards each other? Or the fact that's it's only been 1 week and they are still doing a pecking order? They acted fine when she hid all the time now they some are more aggressive. Does the pecking order last til every girl knows their place?? I could understand the flaring and peck, but they are starting to really nip and tear fins. How long should I let the pecking order go on? How do I know that too much is too much and remove them if needed. I want to do what's best for my girls and I know not all female bettas are sorority material. Any info/experience on this topic would help me so much! Thank You!
 

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Regarding the fish getting sick - one of the ways bettas fight is to slap their opponent with their caudal peduncle - a reinforced spot at the base of the tail. It happens fast as can damage internal organs, so it would stand to reason that a fish might begin declining in health after the fight. Generally speaking, when a fish is injured and can't recover in peace, it does not bode well for recovery.
 
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When I first started my sorority I had a lot of fin damage, tails torn apart, but it all settled down in maybe 2 weeks. If any of them are being overly aggressive you can place them in a breeder net as a "time out" I never had to that though, all my girls sorted things out.
 

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I have a girl in my sorority that I believe might be the alpha, but she snagged up so much fish food compared to the other girls that she got a severe bloat, and SBD because of it. I'm not sure if that's your case, but it is possible to get SBD this way as well. The girl I have recovered greatly after she got separated (to prevent nipping while she's floating helplessly) and pooped.

I think everytime you reintroduce a girl, the entire pecking order is sent out of whack and it restarts itself. Therefore if you do remove a girl, make sure you do not remove the alpha even if she's slightly more aggressive, because it might cause a new fight for the alpha position to start.
 

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That's insightful about the dynamics - so you find there to be less turmoil swapping out lower ranking fish.
 
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