Aquariums at Home may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on this site. See footer.

What Aquarium Fish are Fin Nippers?

If you’re looking to stock a tank with a variety of tropical fish, you need to be aware of fin nipping and which species are prone to this aggressive behavior. Fin nipping can be life-threatening to the fish on the receiving end. The bullied fish often become stressed and much more susceptible to illness. So which types of aquarium fish are indeed fin nippers?

Barbs, bettas, cichlids, loaches, and tetras are notorious fin nippers. The ‘top 10’ fin-nipping aquarium fish include angelfish, ryukin goldfish, shubunkin goldfish, kissing gouramis, parrotfish, red tail sharks, skirt tetras, skunk loaches, Siamese fighting fish, and tiger barbs. Caution should always be taken if considering any of these fish for a community tank environment.

Now that you know the top 10 fish-nipping aquarium fish, let’s dive deeper into this topic. Together we’ll explore the dangers of fish nipping, which species are most susceptible to this behavior, and how to prevent it. We’ll also determine which fish should (and shouldn’t) be kept together in a community aquarium and what to do with aggressive tankmates.

Now if you’re ready to learn more about the fin nipping behaviors of some popular aquarium fish, then let’s begin…

Does Fin Nipping Hurt Fish?

Not only does fin nipping ‘hurt’ by leaving fish more prone to injury and illness, it can ultimately kill them! If left unchecked and untreated, bullied fish become stressed and skittish. The wounds they sustain can become infected over time unless medicated promptly and completely. It’s believed that fish do indeed feel pain, though it’s not known for sure to what extent fish nipping physically hurts them.

Are Barbs Fin Nippers?

Tiger barbs (in particular) are notorious fin nippers! In a community tank environment, this species will try to assert their dominance over other fish. The idea of ‘strength in numbers’ applies here since tiger barbs are more aggressive when kept together in schools. Rosy barbs and black ruby barbs also like to nip the fins of their tankmates. Therefore, it’s best to keep barbs in a species-only tank.

Are Bettas Fin Nippers?

Betta fish not only nip the tails of others, but they’ll also bite their own! Self-inflicted fin nipping among bettas is a telltale sign of stress. This can result from poor water conditions, bullying by other bettas, or unintentional injury from tank décor. Therefore, Siamese fighting fish should never be kept together – or with other fish, for that matter – unless for the purposes of breeding.

Are Cichlids Fin Nippers?

Many cichlids are aggressive in nature and tend to nip fins. The only way to curb this behavior is to keep them in a species-only tank. Angelfish, for example, are a type of South American cichlid and peaceful in nature. However, they’ll nip at the fins of their tankmates when stressed or if housed in too small a tank. Therefore, it’s best to keep them in groups in a large, planted tank with a male-to-female ratio of 1:3.

African cichlids are infamous for their aggressive behavior and should never be kept with smaller, docile fish in a community tank environment.  Malawis and Oscars are extremely hostile and will often attack or bite others if they feel their territory is being invaded or they’re not being fed enough. The obvious sign of nipping is if you notice a ragged fin or tail that appears white or fuzzy along the edge.

Are Gobies Fin Nippers?

While most species of goby fish are peaceful in nature, bumblebee gobies are more territorial and can get fin-nippy if the tank is overcrowded. In most cases, stress will cause this aggressive behavior so if you notice your bumblebees frequently nipping at the fins of their tankmates, you should test the water to ensure the pH, temperature, salinity, etc. are correct or isolate the aggressor in a breeder box.

Are Gouramis Fin Nippers?

Kissing gouramis are fin nippers, especially the males. They can get territorial and aggressive toward their tankmates if they’re stressed or possibly ill. If you’re considering gouramis for a community tank, your best bet would be to purchase dwarf gouramis. They’re slow-moving and peaceful in nature. Just make sure all species of fish you choose for your aquarium are of similar size and temperament.

gourami fish

Are Goldfish Fin Nippers?

While many species of goldfish are gentle and peaceful in nature, some are more aggressive and get fin-nippy on occasion. Ryukin and shubunkin are the two species that immediately come to mind. For this reason, they shouldn’t be kept in the same tank or pond as fancy or fantail goldfish lest they nip at their long, free-flowing tails.

Are Loaches Fin Nippers?

Some loaches are known to be aggressive fin nippers and therefore shouldn’t be kept in a community tank with other smaller, non-active fish. Skunk loaches are one of the worst along with certain types of plecos. If adequately fed however, they should be okay in an aquarium with active fish of like size that prefer to swim in the middle or near the top of the tank.

Are Tetras Fin Nippers?

Skirt tetras are notorious fin nippers along with some neons, serpaes, and emperors. The most common cause of this behavior is a battle for territory. Underfed tetras may also nip fins out of frustration or stress whereas others will simply do it for fun! When considering tetras for a community tank, choose glowlights or lemons instead as they tend to be more docile and less nippy.

What Fish are Susceptible to Fin Nipping?

Certain types of aquarium fish are targets for fin nippers simply based on their appearance. Long-finned species or those with fantails are especially susceptible to this often hostile and dangerous behavior. Slow-moving fish are also at risk if they can’t ‘outrun’ their aggressors as are skittish fish that aren’t able to ‘hold their own.’

How to Stop Fin Nipping?

There are a variety of ways to halt, prevent and treat fin nipping among your aquarium fish. These include the following:

  • Test the water parameters – fish will often nip fins out of frustration. If the water conditions aren’t accurate, then stress and aggression will take over and fish will act out physically. Monitor the temperature, pH level, salinity, etc. regularly and test the ammonia level frequently as well.
  • Remove the aggressor – isolating the nippy fish from others is a good place to start. Simply place the ‘bully’ in a breeder net that hangs onto your tank to see if that lessens its hostility. After a week or so, reintroduce the fish back into the community tank and observe it behavior closely.
  • Rehome the fin-nipper – if isolating the nippy fish in a breeder net and then reintroducing it to the community tank doesn’t help reduce its aggressive behavior, you’ll need to remove it permanently and keep in a separate aquarium.
  • Medicate the victims immediately – if you don’t treat the injured fish as soon as possible, fin rot will likely set in and cause illness and eventually death. Open wounds are havens for bacterial growth so it’s imperative that you remove the suffering fish and administer treatment asap.
  • Avoid overcrowding the tank – stress from overcrowding will cause fish to become aggressive and nippy in their efforts to defend their territory. Making sure your aquarium isn’t too small or overstocked will go a long way to preventing hostile fin nipping behavior among tankmates.

Do Saltwater Fish Nip Fins?

While fin nipping is common among tropical freshwater fish (and even some species of brackish water fish), there are certain species of saltwater fish that demonstrate this hostile behavior as well. For example, clownfish can get territorial and nippy in the absence of an anemone or when kept in an overcrowded tank.

percula clownfish


To conclude, fin nipping is common among certain aquarium fish, namely barbs, bettas, cichlids, loaches, and tetras. The top 10 fin-nipping species include angelfish, ryukin and shubunkin goldfish, kissing gouramis, parrotfish, red tail sharks, skirt tetras, skunk loaches, Siamese fighting fish, and tiger barbs. If considering any of these fish for a community tank, you must do so both cautiously and carefully.

I trust this article has been of help in answering your questions about types of fin nipping aquarium fish. Thanks for reading and good luck with your hobby!

Related Posts

Are Yoyo Loaches Aggressive?

Are Columbian Sharks Aggressive?

Are Silver Dollar Fish Fin Nippers?

Are Silver Dollars Easy to Breed?