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Tail Biting Info

Tail biting is common problem among bettas with heavy fins such as halfmoon, veiltails, crowntails and etc that is 'flowy' in water. Tail biting can be hard to understand because there can be mutiple causes and sometimes its just plain bad genetics that make some fish prone it. Petstore bettas that have been mass breed without considering the age and genetics of their parents are the most prone to tail biting. I would roughly say that 2 out of 3 fish will eventually tail bite at some point in their lives, some will bite once and stop while many will continue to trim their tails throughout their lives. Tail biting can be mild to quite severe, some fish will only take a couple bites while some fish will eat as much as 90% of their tail.

Does your fish's tail look like this?

How do I know its tail biting?

So how do one tell that their fish is tail biting? Tail biting is very often confused with finrot, while they look similar they are 2 completely different things.

The common tail biting appears as either chunks missing from the tail or long trainglar pieces with clean cut edges. The chunks is from your fish taking mutiple bites, literally like a shark eating a fish, bite by bite. The long triangular shapes forms when a fish bites and than pulls, ripping long pieces of fin out of its tail.

Sometimes a betta will exhibit both. A key difference is finrot cannot remove large amounts of a tail overnight, so if your fish is missing fins by chunks overnight, its most likely tail biting and not finrot. Finrot is progessive, so it takes a while before the bacteria can eat away that much fin. Finrot will also be companied by other symptoms of sickness such as lethargy, hiding, loss of appetite while tail biting occurs when the fish appears healthy otherwise.

You will often find white translucent finnage that regrows from where the fish bite, this fin is known as regrowth, it doesn't have color because pigments hasn't appeared yet. This is not to be confused with 'thinning' fins of finrot that are often frayed.


One of my bettas, Isaac, who bites his tail for hunger and stress

Treating Tail Biting

Tail biting does not need any sort of medication, do not keep your fish constantly in medication! It is very unhealthy to be exposed to chemicals like that and can lead to organ failure. You can add 1/2 tsp per gallon of aquarium salt when you notice 'fresh' bites, take the salt out after 2-3 days when the fin have grown over and has slim, usually this is enough to keep an healthy fish from getting infected. If the fin does become infected, you may consider medication.

Before trying to stop tail biting, always ask yourself, do you I change the water enough? Is the tank 78-80F throughout the day? Is the food I'm feeding good for my betta? Optimal living conditions really help curb the frequency and amount of biting!

Stress Biters

Some fish will bite because they are 'stress' biters who bite when agitated, frightened, sick or under stress for whatever reason. Some things you can try:

  • cover the tank with a towel so its dark, this can calm a agitated or frightened fish
  • Increase the water changes, some stress biters are sensistive to impurities like ammonia
  • Increase the amount of leafy live or silk plants, caves and pots to provide more hiding space for shy fish.
  • Keep your fish in a quite area such as a office room vs. the kitchen.
  • Buy some IAL from ebay, it helps tint the water and have been known to calm fish and boost their immunity
  • Decrease current, some fish are stressed by the drag of their tail when swimming.

Boredom Biters

Some fish are 'boredom' biters, they bite because they are under stimulated, they are the opposite of stress biters. Things to try:

  • Play with your betta by showing him a mirror so he can flare up.
  • Add a ping pong ball to the tank
  • Increase light sitmulation by giving a source of light for an hour or 2 everyday.
  • Place your betta by your work desk, kitchen where they can see you for most of the day.
  • Increase silk plants, caves and pots that you fish can patrol and explore.
  • Increase water changes, it servers as an 'interuption' in their lives

Hunger Biters

Some fish are hunger/under-nourished biters, in this case, feed your betta on a fixed schedule and increase food by 1 or 2 pellets or feed more often, so 1 pellet, 6 times a day vs. 3 pellets twice a day. Hunger biters bite in between meals, so if feed in the morning and notice fins missing just before their evening meal, your fish might be a hunger biter. Some betta will bite if their food is does not have high meat content, look at the ingredients, are the first 3 things like wheat, soymeal or some kind of grain instead of things like salmon or some sort of meat? Bettas CANNOT be sustained on grain! They are not designed to eat plants but meaty insects. A betta fed only grain-based pellets are under-nourished which can lead to biting.

Conclusion

Some fish bite in the presence of current, so if you have a bubbler or filter, try baffling it. The tail creates a lot of a drag and the fish has a hard time swimming. They will chomp their tails to reduce this drag.

Some fish bite because their tail is heavy and they do not like dragging it around, there is nothing you can do in this case. Some betta bite because of bad genetics that creates some sort of pychological need to bite their tail. Try a couple of things like water changes and etc, it may be a while before you find out why your fish is biting. Sometimes they will stop, sometimes they don't, if they don't, its not a big deal. I have had biters of every sort from hunger to plain biters who only had 10% of their tail.

Its not a life-threatening disease, it is very ugly and can get infected so keeping the water clean is the most important thing.

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