Journal of Ethology

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 51–59 | Cite as

Male Siamese fighting fish use gill flaring as the first display towards territorial intruders

  • Mohammad Navid Forsatkar
  • Mohammad Ali NematollahiEmail author
  • Culum Brown


The Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) is well known as an aggressive fish with unique spawning and parental care behavior. During reproduction, male fish construct a bubble nest, court females, protect the brood, and defend the territory through aggressive displays. Aggression in male Siamese fighting fish has long been the subject of investigation; however, the kinematics of aggression during contests have been largely overlooked. Here we investigated how nest-holding, male Siamese fighting fish use two different types of displays, gill flaring and fin spreading, towards intruders during various reproductive phases; before (BB) and after bubble nest building, and after spawning (AS), and hatching (AH). Males were more aggressive towards male than female intruders and the level of aggression changed significantly between reproductive phases. Gill flaring, the more energetically costly display, was the dominant initial display towards male and female intruders in BB, AS, AH phases. However, defending males switched to fin spreading after prolonged exposure to intruders. The results suggest that Siamese fighting fish use gill flaring as an acute response in order to defend their territory; this response may be replaced by fin spreading as a chronic response, probably to reduce the energetic costs during the contest.


Acute response Chronic response Aggression Male behavior Parental care Reproduction 



We are grateful to the Aquaculture Department of the University of Tehran for providing us with the laboratory space to perform these experiments. This work was partly funded by the University of Tehran. We thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive and insightful comments.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All of the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Currently there are no laws regarding animal research in Iran; however, protocols were approved by the Scientific Committee of the Department of Fisheries of the University of Tehran (no. 2688508; April 2013). Animal handling and testing techniques were designed using guidance from the Association for the Study of Animal Behavior and the Animal Behavior Society (ASAB/ABS 2012).


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohammad Navid Forsatkar
    • 1
  • Mohammad Ali Nematollahi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Culum Brown
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Fisheries, Faculty of Natural ResourcesUniversity of TehranKarajIran
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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