15 Gallon High – Betta Sorority at its Worst

Every tank has bad days, where plants, scaping, or fish are far from their best. Here is my 15 gallon high betta sorority tank on one of its worst days – after a huge loss of plants and an intense battle between the bettas over hierarchy upon the death of the previous queen.

My watersprite had formed such a dense, thick forest that light was unable to reach the bottom regions of the tank. All of the lower plants began to rot, as did the bottom portions of the watersprite itself. The rotting caused tank parameters to worsen, quickening the decay of all the other plants in the tank. Within a week, this tank when from a thick jungle to a barren landscape. For a betta sorority, the sudden loss of shelter was a dangerous situation, which did not end well.


All four female bettas after the battle for ranking. Now they’re fine together and show no signs of aggression toward each other. That was not the case earlier on this day.

This tank has four bettas, all seen together in the above photo. At the beginning of the week there had been five. The fifth was my first female betta, who I purchased when rather old and full-grown. She was the ruler of the tank, keeping the order among the sorority. When she passed, the remaining four bettas were left to establish a new hierarchy.

In a properly setup betta sorority tank, there would be so many hiding spots and broken lines of sight, that the fighting for dominance would mostly end at a chase. With the sudden loss of dense vegetation to provide cover, this battle for ranking became brutal. During a single workday, the bettas had a brawl that left me horrified upon returning home. Here are the results from that day.

The New Sorority Ranking – Post War of Tank Dominance

First Place – Red Betta

This darling gal is the top dog in the betta tank. She’s finally in charge after years of having to play second fiddle to the previous queen of the sorority: the late but once great betta who passed earlier this week. At first look, she seemed largely unharmed. Then I saw her left side. I’d never seen damage like hers before – it was like she’d been punched in the eye by a betta fin of steel. Getting a photo of it was ridiculously hard, but the swelling can be seen in the photo with the blue arrow pointing to the left side of her face.

Second Place – Blue Crowntail Betta

This little lady was added to the tank when quite small – less than an inch and barely old enough to sex easily. She was originally the most skittish and shy, always hiding BUT willing to fight off or chase away anyone who came near her hiding spot. This week, she decided to play hard in the fight for tank dominance, receiving the most extensive fin damage of any of the bettas. Definitely not the winner, but second best was enough to make her feel confident being out in the open all the time. No more hiding for this gal.

Third Place – Red and Blue Betta

This newcomer to the tank suffered only a gash on the top of her right front side. The scale were stripped, which could have either happened in a fight or while fleeing from one. She largely ignored the battle, but wasn’t willing to let the fighting alter her schedule of searching for food or swimming about in the open, hence the damage. I’m still not sure she knew there was a fight for ranking, but somehow she still managed to keep out of last place.

Last Place – Blue-Eyed Pink (Red and White) Crowntail Betta

This little lady spent the battle out of sight and out of mind. She doesn’t have a scratch on her, and would rather just ignore a flaring female and swim away than start a fight. This makes her my favorite in many ways – that and her beautiful tail and eyes! She’s a darling who will eat from my hand calmly. I’m glad she didn’t get hurt.

Aftermath of the Aftermath

Since the fight, I watched all of the bettas closely for signs of infection or worsening health. Water changes were performed daily to keep the tank as clean and conducive to healing as possible. Any further flaring or signs of aggression resulted in a betta timeout in the clear plastic cage on the left side of the tank photos. No further battles have been had in the two months since this original battle, and everyone has settled into their new spots well.

Betta sororrities can be difficult to maintain and start! You really need to have four or more bettas together to spread out the aggression and keep a healthy hierarchy structure. If I had been home when this was happening, I would have been able to add more decor etc to the give more hiding spots and broken lines of sight, maybe preventing some of the injuries. Had the aggression not already subsided by the time I got home, I would have changed the stocking of this tank. Every betta sorority will have some fighting/chasing when establishing the rank, but keeping it to a minimum and safe level is the job of the tank owner.

My Riccia Fluitans Nightmare


Riccia Fluitans, commonly known as Crystalwort, can be an absolutely gorgeous plant. I first came across it when purchasing red cherry shrimp and water sprite from a craigslist advert. The guy who posted the advert was a local fish enthusiast with many freshwater plants for sale as well. We wound up chatting for a while about plants, shrimp, fish, tips and tricks. He recommended I try giving Crystalwort a chance, saying it could be floated or tied down. I left with a decent golf ball sized portion in addition to everything else I planned to get.

Here was the tank before I added any of the extra plants. The first plant species added was HC Cuba, which did quite well given the lighting, Flourish Excel, and Ferts I began adding. The HC began to quickly spread, and the sword and crypts I later added also took off. Yet, the tank was still rather bare, prompting me to look into some taller plants. This was were I thought water sprite might be a nice addition as it can grow quite tall very quickly, giving the bettas more hiding spots while utilizing more of the tank space.

I tied the riccia down to rocks with green nylon thread (worked okay, but fishing line works much better!), and placed the rocks throughout the tank where desired. Soon, the riccia had begun to grow in beautifully.

The main planted floor

The main planted floor – Riccia and HC Cuba clearly separated

Riccia circled in blue and HC Cuba in yellow

Riccia circled in blue and HC Cuba in yellow


Here are some huge mistakes I made in “maintaining” this tank, which led to crystalwort becoming a huge issue rather than a beautiful plant.

  1. Turn off filters and powerheads while trimming crystalwort! This stops the trimmings from becoming caught in other plants and eventually growing.
  2. Remove small trimmings immediately. Allowing the riccia trimmings to float ended in disaster. I had hoped they would grow more as floaters, then could be turned into more tied down sections. Instead, the trimming continuously got caught in other plants, like my HC.
  3. Pick out stray pieces frequently. Regular checking of the HC Cuba to remove any bits of crystalwort would have saved my HC carpet. Instead, I let the riccia continue growing. Crystalwort can easily choke out HC in good growing conditions, which is what began to happen in my tank.


Here is my tank once the riccia really began to take hold. By this point, the HC Cuba had begun to suffer terribly, being starved out and losing light.

Once it became clear that I needed to intervene, there didn’t seem to be many options to separate the crystalwort from the HC Cuba. I had to pull out the entire mat, separating pieces by hand. The carpet was replanted and the riccia moved to another tank. I had two successive tragedies with faulty CO2 gas regulators and overdosing fertilizers that ultimately destroyed my HC Carpet in this tank. I’m planning new foreground plants, and perhaps giving HC Cuba another try soon though!

15 Gallon High Betta Sorority Tank – Jan 8 2014 Photos

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One of my first planted tank projects was creating this 15 Gallon Tall sorority tank. It has undergone many changes in the last year, but has also had many beautiful iterations. This was the tank mid January, when it last seemed really beautiful to me. Being such a tall tank with a small footprint, I tried to find hardscape and plants that would allow me to access all the vertical regions of the tank. Especially with bettas, I wanted there to be possible resting or perching spots near the water surface.

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This tank features:

  • Tall Plants: Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides), Willow Hygro (Hygrophilia angustifolia), Red Crypts (Cryptocoryne retrospiralis), Ludwigia – Broad (Ludwigia repens)
  • Mid Plants: Amazon Swords (Echinodorus amazonicus), Alternanthera reineckii
  • Short Plants: Crystalwort (Riccia fluitans), Dwarf Baby Tears (Hemianthus callitrichoides)
  • Floating: Duckweed and Salvina sp.

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I used injected gas CO2 off an on with this tank, but at this point had just removed the system. I would occasionally dose with Seachem Flourish or Seachem Excel.

The betta sorority in this tank is so interesting to watch! I began with a single blue-ish purple betta, purchased to keep flatworm and other little critter populations down in a snail tank. Having never owned a betta previously, I had no idea how interesting they could be to watch. Each seems to develop its own personality and small quirk including their own favorite hiding spots, foods, and bullying routines.

Here are some shots of the inhabitants of this tank:

After the last crash – caused by gassing CO2 – most of the wisteria died. I also have a post coming out in a day or two about how I tried to salvage the HC Cuba mat in the front, which had become overrun with Riccia fluitans. Hopefully I’ll be able to remake this tank into another beautiful world soon.

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