Why Is My Female Betta Making A Bubble Nest?

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As I saw my female betta fish making a bubble nest, I quickly researched for an answer. That was because I knew this behavior is more typical for male betta fish. I also wondered whether I got all this wrong, and I actually have a male betta in my tank. After extensive research, I finally found the answer.

In the absence of a male, female betta fish may create bubble nests to create a conductive, oxygen-riched environment for their eggs and fry. However, bubble nests are usually made by a male betta fish. In many cases, the seemingly female betta is actually a male Plakat.

As we move forward, I will share an excellent video to ensure that your betta is indeed a female and not a male. Then, I will teach you what to do when your betta creates bubble nests and what would happen if you accidentally remove them.

Why Is My Female Betta Making A Bubble Nest?

Bettas belong to a class of fish called aphrophilus that creates bubble nests.[1] Because they live in shallow, dirty water in the wild, bettas use bubble nests to create a conducive environment for their young ones that is not only oxygen-rich but safe from predators.

However, it normally falls on the shoulders of the male bettas to create bubble nests. They do this when they want to mate. They can also create bubble nests to assert their dominance in the presence of other male bettas.

However, female bettas are different. Unlike male bettas, female bettas can live together in the same tank. They are less aggressive. Additionally, they do not need to create bubble nests to attract the attention of male fish.

More importantly, when the females lay eggs, the male betta looks after them. Not only is the female betta unlikely to parent young fish, but she may go so far as to eat them. 

Therefore, a female betta has no reason to create bubble nests. As such, you can probably understand why a female betta that has started making a bubble nest would confuse an experienced aquarist. You can blame this behavior on two major factors:

1. Your Betta Is Actually A Male

Before you overreact to your female betta’s decision to create a bubble nest, you should take a moment to confirm the creature’s gender. Is your betta actually female? What if the fish shop gave you two male bettas?

This sounds ridiculous, but it can happen. Male bettas tend to stand out because their fins are larger, and their colors are more dramatic.[2] Female bettas, on the other hand, have shorter fins and duller colors. They are also smaller.

If you asked the fish store for a male and female betta, and they sent you two fish, one of them boasting larger fins and elaborate colors, the other one smaller and less colorful, you might have concluded that you had two different genders when that wasn’t the case.

The plakat is a type of betta fish that has short fins even when it’s male.[3] What you might think is a female betta could be a male plakat. Some people think that plakats are strange. But in truth, male bettas in the wild look a lot like plakats. 

The large fins that people see in aquarium bettas were created through selective breeding.  The easiest way to determine whether or not the fish in question is truly female is to look for the ovipositor, a white dot behind the ventral fins that dispels the eggs. Female bettas have this tube. Male bettas do not.

If you struggle to identify the gender of your betta fish, here is an excellent Youtube video that demonstrates the differences between the two:

2. The Bubbles Are Merely A Breathing Byproduct

Bettas use the labyrinth organ to make bubbles. The labyrinth organ allows them to breathe outside the water. Male bettas will use the air they have taken in via the labyrinth organ to blow bubbles. The bubbles maintain their form because the betta coats them with saliva.[4]

Ordinary fish, such as the goldfish, do not have a labyrinth organ. And yet, those ordinary fish can produce bubbles whenever they breathe. If you look at any fish in your aquarium, you will see bubbles intermittently escaping from its mouth before rising to the surface. 

In some cases, they will accumulate at the surface, mimicking a male betta’s nest in the process. Though, they won’t last because the fish in question did not coat them with saliva.

Female bettas have a labyrinth organ, just like male bettas. But they also breathe underwater, just like ordinary fish. Don’t assume that a female betta is making a nest simply because some bubbles escaped the creature’s mouth and then collected at the top. 

Those bubbles could be merely a byproduct of breathing. Don’t be so quick to conclude that the female betta is intentionally creating bubble nests.

Do Female Bettas Create Bubble Nests?

Yes and no. This is what you need to understand about female bettas and their ability to make bubble nests:

1. Ability

Like male bettas, female bettas have a labyrinth organ. They are more than capable of making bubble nests. Male bettas are not taught to make bubble nests. They learn the skill instinctually. 

Female bettas are the same. They don’t have to watch the male bettas in order to learn to create bubble nests. They can start displaying this skill in a tank that doesn’t have any male bettas.

2. Reputation

Even though female bettas can do so, it is very rare for the creatures to make bubble nests. In fact, many professional aquarists will definitively tell you that they have never seen a female betta make a bubble nest. They tend to dismiss every female betta that has reportedly created a bubble nest as a plakat.

3. Reason

Male bettas do all the work when it comes to parenting. They create the bubble nests so that the eggs will shelter underneath. They are also responsible for collecting the eggs the female betta has laid and carrying them to the bubble nest. 

When the eggs hatch, the male betta will keep an eye on the fry, making sure they are safe. It will do this until the young bettas are strong enough to survive on their own. 

While the male betta is expected to carry all this responsibility, the mother will often stick around long enough to help the male betta, providing assistance at various stages.[5] 

Sometimes, the female will go so far as to help the male betta create the bubble nest. Again, this is rare, but it can happen.

4. Mating

Some aquarists are convinced that a female betta can create a bubble nest to let the males in the vicinity know that she is ready to mate. But other aquarists have disputed this claim.

They also don’t know what to make of stories narrated by people who say that they saw their female bettas lay eggs (in a tank without male bettas) and then create a bubble nest to protect them. 

Female bettas can lay eggs in the absence of a male fish. But even if those stories are true, without the male fish, those eggs would eventually rot because a female betta needs a male betta to fertilize its eggs. 

Like many aquarium mysteries, the best way to determine whether or not female bettas can create bubble nests is to experiment. Place the creatures in a tank with no male bettas and watch them. After a few weeks, you will get your answer.

Should I Remove Betta Bubble Nests?

Aquarists shouldn’t remove betta fish bubble nests if eggs or fry are growing beneath them. However, if the bubble nest is standing on its own, there is no harm in removing it. The betta won’t respond negatively and will quickly generate a new one.

Bubble nests are not as big of a deal as some people think. Yes, you need to encourage a betta to build bubble nests if you want it to breed successfully. However, if you accidentally destroy a bubble nest, it isn’t a big deal.

First of all, the betta isn’t going to respond negatively. Secondly, it will just create another bubble nest. Some people clean their tanks poorly because they don’t want to destroy the bubble nests in the aquarium. But such concern for a betta’s bubble nest isn’t necessary.

Feel free to destroy all the bubble nests if it means keeping the aquarium clean.[6] Removing a bubble nest is only problematic if the bubble nest has eggs or fry beneath. The fry might not survive without the bubble nest.

What Should I Do If My Betta Creates A Bubble Nest?

It depends on what you want from the betta. Technically speaking, you don’t have to do anything. But if you want the betta to breed successfully, you can take steps to promote the male betta’s activities, for instance:

  • Keep the tank clean – Change the water routinely and remove pollutants like dead organisms and decaying plants. Do not allow leftovers to decompose in the water. You should also siphon the substrate.
  • Keep the bettas in a large tank – Give them a minimum of ten gallons of water. They are less likely to create bubble nests in small, stressful tanks. Give them as much room as you can afford.
  • Use a heater – Some people think that the ambient temperature can maintain their tank. But a heater is essential. It is more accurate. If you want your bettas to breed, you have to maintain the right temperature (76-85 degrees F).[7]

A heater will help you do that. The water shouldn’t be too hot. Otherwise, the stress will interfere with their mating habits, including their ability to make bubble nests. I personally use the Orlushy Submersible Aquarium Heater (link to Amazon) in my tank.

  • Keep a healthy number of females in the tank – Male bettas shouldn’t live with other male bettas. Otherwise, they will be too busy fighting to build bubble nests.[8]

Male bettas can make bubble nests in the absence of a female. But if you want to encourage them to make even more bubble nests, add a female betta. The desire to mate will push them to create bubble nests.

That is where I usually recommend checking this article, where I discussed how many bettas should be kept together. In there, I listed all the possible tank sizes and briefly wrote how many females and males can be kept in each one.

  • Add some floating items to the tank – Floating objects will create a platform upon which the bettas can secure their bubble nests. You can use tall plants as well.
  • Keep an eye on the filter – Bettas do not appreciate strong currents. They need a filter that produces a gentle flow. A strong current will wear them out. A strong filter can also suck their eggs and fry.

If you found this article helpful, these may also interest you:

Conclusions

Female bettas usually don’t create bubble nests. However, anecdotal reports suggest that female bettas can create bubble nests in the absence of male fish. If these reports are accurate, the female bettas in question were likely in large tanks with suitable water conditions.

So if you want your betta to make bubble nests, you need to give it enough time, space, and food. The tank should be clean too. It should be large enough to accommodate both the female and male bettas.

References

  1. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/betta-bubble-nest/
  2. https://home.adelphi.edu/~ve21375/Female%20Betta%20Fish.html
  3. https://nippyfish.net/2009/03/18/female-betta-blowing-bubble-nest/
  4. https://www.aquariumnexus.com/betta-fish-bubble-nest/
  5. https://bettasource.com/betta-bubble-nest/
  6. https://www.bettacarefishguide.com/betta-fish-bubble-nests/
  7. https://www.aqueon.com/information/care-sheets/betta
  8. https://www.vivofish.com/betta/

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