Betta fish are some of the most interesting, beautiful, and striking specimens to behold. Also called the Siamese Fighting Fish, these are very popular in many aquariums. They often steal the show in any aquascape with their beautiful, long, flowing, and colorful physiques.
But Betta Fish species and variety come in the dozens, with classifications by color, scale pattern, and finnage shape. Centuries of selective breeding make Betta identification overwhelming and confusing. What adds to this is how new ones seem to crop up every five to 10 years, making it difficult to keep up with their unceasing metamorphosis.
A Note about Betta Variations
Since Bettas are the runway models of most freshwater tanks, people have bred them for hundreds of years. This is either to get a more aggressive fish for gambling purposes or to produce more desirable traits, such as color and scale pattern.
Some of the more elaborate-looking Betta are the males. They are the showier of the two genders. But, of course, this is going to vary depending on the type and variety of Betta. Though generally speaking, the gender that’s most appealing is male Bettas. They are also the most aggressive, making it difficult to have them live with other fish breeds.
It’s important to observe that the fancier Bettas are actually genetic mutations. Due human husbandry attempts at getting the “perfect” Betta, these fish have developed serious health issues. These health issues often surround the swim bladder and how some Bettas will nibble at their own fins.
What Type of Betta Fish Is Good to Keep?
The type of Betta to get will be dependent on the purpose of having them. If you mean to enter the competition scene (yes, there is quite the subculture), then you’ll want to ensure your Betta has certain qualities. They should be extraordinary in design, shape, color, temperament, and pattern.
If you’re looking to have a Betta in your community tank, pay particular attention to ones that will be the least aggressive. You not only want the coloring and finnage to complement the aquarium but also have the fish be comfortable throughout its life.
Selecting the right male and female Bettas is a little trickier when it comes to breeding. But this pursuit will mean choosing ones that are healthy and easy to reproduce. Some types are infertile and not good for husbandry, like Albinos and pure Black ones.
If you’re looking for a complete guide on Betta fish care, click here!
What Are The Different Tail & Fin Types?
One of the most notable traits a Betta fish has is the shape and configuration of their tails. Their finnage is the most common fancy feature. Some varieties have elaborate or elongated ventral, dorsal or pectoral fins. Bettas in the wild would struggle among vegetation and predators if they were to have such gorgeous features, so it’s not often seen in their native habitats.
But it’s the flowing, angelic appearance as to why so many people love to have them in their tanks. So, breeding efforts have produced some of the most beautiful looking Betta fish in regards to their tails and fins.
Also known as the Half Sun, the Combtail Betta has a webbed tail and fins appearing just like a wide-toothed comb. There is a dip between each ray about two-thirds down. The defined space between each ray should be striking enough to see it from a distance.
Some develop droopy tails due to a lack of support within the tail’s structure. People interpret this droopiness as being akin to sadness. But they are a healthy, fertile variety and decent for breeding.
Crowntails have webbing similar to that of Combtails. However, they do not reach all the way down each ray hence the name. When turned upside down, their spiky webbing looks just like a crown. The spaces between their rays are so drastic they encompass the entire outer half of the fins.
And, like their Combtail cousins, Crowntails can also incur a droopy or bent tail due to a lack of structural support. The males have expansive caudal fins that can be up to three times the size of their bodies. Although the females are much shorter, they still have that signature spiky appearance.
As the tail fans out, it looks as though it’s connected to the dorsal and anal fins. The anal fin is usually larger than other Bettas of this size, which makes them appear more dramatic.
(Find out everything there is to know about Crowntail Bettas.)
Named after the Greek alphabetic letter, Bettas with a Delta Tail are some of the most interesting. When extended in full, their tails make a near 180° angle that stretches from the base all the way to the edges of the tail. They are triangular with straight edges.
These are very popular among aquarists and come in a rainbow of colors and patterns. If you are trying to identify what kind of Betta you have, note that it’s difficult to tell Deltas and Half Moons apart. There are regular Delta Bettas, and then there are Super Deltas. Although similar in appearance, Super Deltas tail gets closer to a 180° angle, but not entirely.
Bettas with a Twin, or Double, Tail have long and wide fins all over their bodies. The epithet comes from a split tail fin. These are fancy, showy fish that are rather uncommon for most tanks, thus a rare variety. They range in a host of colors and patterns, though.
Unfortunately, their existence is due to a mutation, and they can suffer from poor health. Their swim bladders cause them many issues and contract Fin Rot along with other fin diseases with great ease. This means they don’t live as long as other types of Bettas. But, they are some of the most impressive and gorgeous around.
The genetic mutation of Double Tails makes them unsuitable for breeding. Not many babies survive, and it’s not advisable to breed them with other Bettas. The fry will have it difficult from the beginning. So, it may be somewhat considered “cruel” to try and reproduce them.
Bettas classified as Elephant Ear, or Dumbo, do not have their name due to their huge fins and tail shape. Rather, it’s the pectoral fin. These are broad and long, with the appearance of having enormous elephant-like ears as they swim through the water. The tails are shorter than other Betta but more pronounced in the females than they are the males.
They come in a full spectrum of colors, but the white ones are some of the most regal looking. They look dull green, grey, and muted brown when in their wild native habitat. Their flowing fins can sometimes appear larger than their bodies which make them a gorgeous addition to many home aquariums.
The Feather Tail variety of Bettas has beautifully ruffled fins that are long and wide. Their feathery look comes from the triangular shape along the edges of their fins and tails. Feather Tails come in an array of patterns on their scales and have very branchy rays. But, this variety tends to suffer from health problems with their swim bladder, and they often nip at their own tails.
Rose Tails are similar in appearance to Feather Tails. But these Bettas have the longest and widest tails among all varieties available. Every fin is elaborate and eccentric in size, shape, detail, and countenance. These tend to be so big that the rumpled edges are like wilting flower petals.
The rays from their tails are particularly branchy, giving the caudal fin features like that of a rose. It’s unfortunate that this tail happens only when there’s a genetic mutation. The features of Rose Tail Betta also mean they are prone to contracting a disease, causing them to die prematurely.
Although they have a very special and eclectic appearance, there are a few downsides to Rose Tails. Bred for their flashy fins, Rose Tails are full of genetic mutations as a result. They suffer from a myriad of health problems like tumors, nipping at their own tails, and premature death. Because of this, they are not good for breeding.
Half Moon Tail
When viewing Half Moon Betta from the side, they look just like Delta ones because their tail looks like a D. A true Half Moon will have a full 180° in the expanse of their fins and tail. They can have almost any color and pattern. If you have a Betta with a tail that goes beyond 180°, this is the Over Half Moon variety.
Regardless of which version of Half Moon, these Bettas must live alone or with another peaceful species that won’t bite their fins. Half Moons are readily available at aquarium stores, and why many people have them.
Otherwise very healthy, they can succumb to most health issues common for Betta, such as diseases with the swim bladder. They’re also incredibly difficult to breed because the females have such long tails it’s difficult for the males to wrap around them.
(Find out more about halfmoon bettas.)
Plakat Bettas are a unique variety because they are a more recent phenomenon. They descend directly from the line of Siamese Fighting Fish with their wild, ancestral counterparts. They have long fins and short tail configurations, but they aren’t nearly as fancy as other Bettas.
However, these fish have rounded or elongated spiky-looking rays. But people often mistake males for females because of this feature. One of the best things about Plakats is that they don’t suffer from the usual Betta problems. These are what make them very desirable for breeding, along with the fact that they can produce a wide palette of colors.
What differentiates them from most other species is their behavior profile. These are very aggressive and often cannot cohabitate a tank with fish different from themselves, even with other varieties of Bettas. Plus, they refuse commercial foods and will often only consume things that are fresh.
(Find out more about Plakat Bettas.)
Also referred to as the Fan Tail, this Betta is very popular in many home aquariums. Because of the roundedness of their tails, these Bettas need adequate room to move around and swim about.
Often confused with Delta Bettas, Round Tails have edges that are less straight. In this way, they are actually more akin to Plakats due to the sheer size of their tails. Although prone to typical diseases specific to most Bettas, they are usually quite healthy and fit for breeding.
The name of these Bettas indicates the shape of their spade-like tails, the same you would find in a deck of playing cards. Their caudal fins meet at a point while the bottom fins are straighter and pointier than other varieties. They can come in an assortment of patterns and colors. Spade Tales are somewhat easy to breed and don’t often have many obscure health issues.
Of all Bettas available, the Veil Tail is the most common type people have in their aquariums. These fish have droopy, long tail that looks almost like a sail as they fly through the water. But they are indeed some of the most beautiful Bettas around. Veil Tails are great for community tanks since they are some of the least aggressive as well.
The caudal fin of Veil Tail Bettas is long and asymmetrical, with breeders considering this a most desirable trait. However, they do nip at their own fins when stressed. Other than this, they are generally healthy and fertile. These aren’t acceptable for competitive use because of their frequency in husbandry.
(Find out more about veiltail bettas.)
What Are The Different Patterns?
Next to the shape of their fins and tails, Bettas have scale patterning that helps to distinguish the plethora of species available. This is especially useful when the finnage is difficult to determine. Some have a shimmery, metallic glaze over their scales, and others can have finnage and scales edged with metallic-like gilding.
Selective breeding efforts are what have produced most of these patterns. But the beauty of these Bettas comes from pure genetic mutations and has some of the worst health problems.
Bi-Colored Bettas are just that; they have two colors: one for the body and another for the finnage. Bi-colored Bettas are one of the most common patterns found in these fabulous fish of fantasy. Chocolate and Cambodian Bettas (indicated below) are often Bi-Colored.
With a solid-colored body and finnage revealing a gradation into a cellophane translucence, Butterflies are a higher quality specimen. The shading and fading from the solid color to the cellophane is stark and show-stopping.
Butterfly Bettas single body color extends to the base of the tail and fins. This pigment then suddenly stops but continues into the finnage with a paler, iridescent hue. Alternatively, they can have one color for their bodies while the inside of the fins and tails are white or cellophane around the edges.
The signature characteristic of Butterflies is how they have three colors, with some displaying marbled markings. Although they’re fairly common and distinctive, the competition world of Bettas has determined such a feature undesirable.
A Cambodian Betta will always have a white, flesh-toned, or pale pink body with deep blood-red fins. These classic Cambodians are traditional Bi-Colored fish, but the markings determine the classification. However, more recent breeding efforts reveal other colors in the fins. But, regardless of the fin color, a Cambodian must have a light body hue ranging from pink, flesh, or white.
Bettas with Dragon Scales have very thick, tough scales. This is a trait created through intentional breeding into wild Bettas, revealing a jewel-like presentation that’s similar to scale-mail armor.
The bright metallic coloration of the scales look like that of a dragon or lizard. Although a relatively new feature, this is a very popular pattern that comes in an array of colors and patterns. They usually have a rich base body color, like red with pale iridescent scales amid a copper tone.
Grizzle Bettas look splotchy or blotchy but in an artistic sort of way, as though someone painted them with fine brush strokes. These flecks or spots vary and cover their whole body, including the tail and fins.
Grizzle’s pigmentations often have a metallic finish to them. Their colors split into equal colors, usually between darker and lighter tones. Selective breeding has resulted in a cornucopia of colors, shades, and hues.
Koi Betta are not a natural type of fish and are created specifically through breeding. They look just like mini versions of real Koi pond fish. Koi Bettas are a variation of the Marble type (mentioned below). The colors are not distinct, and they can vary greatly in richness and brightness.
(Find out everything you could want to know about koi bettas.)
Marble Bettas are beautiful and unique fish, but this feature only shows up during their lifetime. You won’t know they’re a Marble until they transition from juveniles into adults. This means you’ll think you have a solid-colored fish on your hands, and then one day, they suddenly change. But this ability slows down as they reach maturity.
Regardless, their color variation is incredible and why they are so popular for many fish keepers to have. Their primary color darkens and becomes splotchy pale, which develops on the fins and body. In some cases, this transformation is drastic.
As mentioned above, there are some Marble Bettas that look just like Koi fish with the same appearance, coloring, and patterning.
Mask Bettas are curious-looking fish. They have the same color throughout their entire heads and bodies. But, the fin tips will often have a different color that appears as an accent or decorative highlight.
They come as Full or Half Mask. Half indicates that their head splits into two colors, but one of these colors is the same as the body.
Multicolored, also called Tricolored, Bettas are a mix of at least three colors in uneven proportions along their fins and bodies. This color mix is random and unpredictable, appearing as stripes, lines, or dots. They are rare but incredibly vivid and alive with color.
The most distinguishing characteristic of a Piebald Betta is their white or flesh-colored face and dark bodies. This is why they get their name pattern from horses. There are no albinos in this variety like there are in other types of Bettas.
Piebalds have two specific colors; one acts as the foundational base, with the other splayed as splotches all over the body. These patches or blotches make the fish look as though it’s balding.
Solid Bettas will have their pigmentation sit deeper and nearer to their muscles. So, this gives a more intense coloring along the fins and body. Regardless of their monotone color, they come in a variety of shades and scale patterns. It’s this trait that makes them very desirable and easy for breeding.
How Do Betta Fishes Produce Their Colors?
A rainbow palette of hues, shades, tones, and colors adorn Betta Fishes. From vibrant yellow and pure white to the darkest black and brown, Bettas usually express more than one color. In fact, it’s far more usual for them to have two different hues, but they can also be solid or have several colors.
Understand, though, Bettas don’t produce their own pigments. Genetics, along with their environment and diet, determine what color they are. Food quality, water cleanliness, and temperature are all factors that play into their chromatic characteristics. So, it’s crucial to understand how pigments come about in Bettas before owning one.
Betta fish have pigment cells, called chromatophores, which is what gives these gorgeous fish a variety of colors and hues. The specific coloring of each Betta relies on two factors: the combination of pigments expressed from the chromatophores and how deep the cells are beneath the scales.
The three main types of chromatophores are Erythin (red), Melanin (black), and Xanthin (yellow). Therefore, brown is a result of combining xanthin and melanin. Lighter shades mean the cells are further away from the muscles than darker and more vivid ones.
These chromatophores contain guanine crystals. These are what hold and release the specific pigments that reflect under various light conditions.
Another aspect of Betta coloring is the inclusion of iridocytes. These are cells that give an iridescent, shiny look. It’s how some Bettas have a metallic sheen, highlight, stripe, or a white appearance.
Sometimes, chromatophores and iridocytes mix together and create a whole new color classification. So, if you have a shimmering gold Betta, it’s due to the chromatophores containing xanthin layered with iridocytes.
Wild Versus Domesticated
In the wild, Bettas have chromatophores that constantly change in shape and size. So, it seems as though wild Bettas are ever-changing in pigmentation. It’s common for them to have a coloring that’s brown and dull. When wild Bettas are breeding or in danger are the only times their brightest colors shine through.
Domesticated Bettas have more stable colors, and it’s not common for them to alter. They are always colorful and vibrant unless they are experiencing illness or stress.
What Are The Different Betta Fish Colors?
Oftentimes a rarity, true Albino Bettas do occur. They lack pigment, revealing a white or clear appearance in the scales and fins with pink or reddish eyes. You’ll also be able to see their muscles and organs since they are translucent and never opaque.
Ones in the wild absorb the sun’s UV light which causes vast damage which can result in cancer and blindness. So, Albino Bettas in their native habitat have a low survival rate due to this genetic disadvantage. These mutations aren’t good for breeding either.
Unfortunately, many people mistake their Pink, White, or Clear Bettas for Albinos. The crowning feature of any Albino is the appearance of red or pink eyes. If the eyes are black, they are not an Albino.
Black Bettas have a high level of Melanin pigmentation in their cells and may sometimes have an accent of blue or purple along the body. These Bettas can come in a variety of subtle appearances and subgroups:
- Black Copper: These Black Bettas have an iridescent quality to their scales which give their rich, dark tone a coppery, metallic sheen.
- Black Lace: Their epithet reflects how Black Lace Bettas look. They can have clear aspects to their fins against the backdrop of a dullish black tone. The fins can be entirely cellophane-like or only have a little clearness.
- Black Melano: For the deepest, purest and most vivid black, Black Melano Bettas win the prize. They have an overabundance of melanin in a similar way, but opposite to, Albinos. So, these Bettas come with many health issues and are not desirable for breeding.
- Black Orchid: Often seen in Crowntail Bettas, Black Orchids have a dark body with the subtlest amount of iridescence. Some can appear as marbled, which highlights their metallic quality or it gives a reddish overtone. There are varieties called Black Devil and Black Ice that are direct derivatives in the crossbreeding of Black Orchids.
Blue Bettas are absolutely beautiful. What makes them stand out from other colors is that the blue isn’t caused by pigments in the cells. The hue comes from the shape of the cells and how the light reflects off of that shape.
These Bettas can come in any shade, tone, or hue of blue. These include a deep but vibrant cerulean shade (Royal Blue), a gray steel tone (Steel Blue), or even a bluish-green cyan (Turquoise). But less common versions will have a shimmering powdered baby blue or even vibrant and brilliant cobalt.
Clear or Cellophane
Bettas with a translucent, whitish color are Clear or Cellophane. They will have black eyes while being able to see their pinkish muscles and organs. The fins can be opaque but also clear. It’s important to note that many people think these are Albinos, but if the eyes are black, they are more than likely a Cellophane.
Often a bi-colored variety of Betta, Chocolate Bettas have a tan or brown body that shades into yellow or orange finnage. These fish will often have a rich shade of brown. However, Chocolate Bettas have a hue of yellow or orange in the finnage.
The pale golden or yellow shaded fins have a brown-colored lining. In this way, they are similar to Pineapple Bettas. This is a recent term for “Brown-Yellow Bicolor,” which was what people called these Bettas for decades. So, the reference to “Chocolate” is actually a marketing ploy than it is the official name.
The sparkling iridescence from light, when shone onto Copper Bettas, is a breathtaking spectacle. This metallic sheen isn’t apparent when the lighting is dim; they simply look tan or brown. But, what’s interesting about Copper Bettas is that they are actually Steel Blues. It’s the iridescent quality of their scales that makes them appear copper.
Green Bettas are interesting because they usually aren’t a straight, visible green. Their bodies have to angle in just the right way under a light. This is because base colors like blue, turquoise, or black often mask the green.
There are bright and dark shades visible to the naked eye. But true Green Bettas are one of the rarest colors and are sparsely available. Almost all Green Bettas have a metal-like wash over their coloring.
Also known as Paradise Bettas, ones with Mustard Gas coloring have a blue or green body with a Bi-Colored or Multicolored scale pattern. This creates a gradient into the fins and tails that are yellow or orange. Sometimes, the edges continue to fade into black. By all accounts, they’re quite remarkable.
Although this color name may seem a little toxic, these are some of the most gorgeous Bettas to observe. The moniker comes from how their color spreads outwards in cloud-like waves. They look like Chocolate Bettas due to the color of the fins, but they are not brown.
Orange Bettas are very scant. The ones that do exist can be a bright tangerine, apricot, or pale orange. In this latter case, they are Orange Dalmatians with red spotting along their fins. Their chromatophores combine Melano, Xanthin, and Erythin.
They’re one of the most difficult colors to breed because they never turn out true to pigmentation. So, even though you may have parents who are both orange, it doesn’t mean the offspring will be. This means the orange coloring will be by the sheer luck of the draw.
The paled primary colors of Pastel Bettas present a whitewash that overlay their body, often with iridescence. They can range or combine shades of blue, green, turquoise, purple, and pink. They have a luxurious look that shimmers from a distance with translucent or opaque coloring.
Bettas that have a pink tone will appear nearly translucent. So, it’s understandable that most people confuse Pink Bettas for Albinos. But, if the fish has black eyes, it’s a Pink Betta. But true Pink Bettas are a real rarity and difficult to come by. However, if your Betta suddenly turns into a shade of pink, it might be sick.
As the most uncommon color seen in a Betta, ones that come as a true solid Purple are extremely difficult to find. Purple Bettas have a coloring that often accompanies blue, black, copper, red, or lavender. They can also come as violet or pale purple.
Red is the most frequently available color seen in Bettas. Many of these often mix pigments and come as Bi-Colored or have scale patterning with red highlights. The red is usually very bright, stunning, and vibrant. But it can appear washed too. This means they can range from a vermilion type of red and terracotta to a crimson or deep rouge.
Solid white scales with no cellophane or translucent appearance are what signifies a White Betta. The fins are more than likely opaque, and there isn’t any visible pinkish color to the muscles and organs. So, although they may seem plain, they are rather majestic looking. This is especially true if their tail and fins are long and flowing.
The neon color quality of Yellow Bettas will cover their bodies, tails, and fins. They can range in various shades of yellow, from extreme lemon to gold or even a soft pastel. They make a stunning addition to any aquarium but aren’t advisable for breeding.
A subtype of this color is the Pineapple Betta. These will have a yellow or orange color with their scales and fins outlined in black.
How Many Different Types Of Betta Are There?
Bettas have a diverse worldwide distribution. There are about 75 officially recognized species. Of those, more than 66 frequent home aquariums. But only around 37 species of Betta are readily available on the market. Human husbandry efforts and tank mating accidents can exponentially increase the available number of varieties.
However, there are only 12 nominal species from their native homeland around Southeast Asia. Every five to 10 years or so, scientists find a new one to add to the official record. Thus, in all honesty, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact number for the different types in existence.
Understanding the Various Species
When looking to have a Betta Fish, regardless of your reasons, it’s important to at least understand the various species available according to their scientific names. B. Splendens is the one most people have in their tanks for breeding and competition. But others to consider are:
- B. Akarensis (Akar Betta): These are a schooling type of Betta. The males have extended dorsal and anal fins with green iridescence on the gills.
- B. Albimarginata: Often kept in pairs due to fierce aggression, the males are more colorful than the females.
- B. Anabatoides (Giant Betta): These Bettas have the same coloring, pattern and finnage as the Splendens. But they are huge in comparison.
- B. Bellica (Slim or Slender Betta): Their species name means “warlike.”
- B. Coccina: A wild type of Betta that appears red with a jeweled torpedo-like shape.
- B. Dimidiata: These are very slender Bettas and their name means “cut in half.”
- B. Edithae: These Bettas are some of the most peaceful within the whole species.
- B. Foerschi (Toba Betta): They have a body with five to seven irregular dark vertical bars.
- B. Ibanorum: The black water conditions from where these Bettas come from contain tannins that leach in from dead plant material and peat moss. This is what produces the orange tinge inherent in the scales.
- B. Midas: The epithet of these Bettas comes from the ancient Greek myth about King Midas, where everything he touched turned to gold.
- B. Picta (Spotted or Borneo Betta): These Bettas are often found in the wild but make a great peaceful tank mate for a community aquarium.
- B. Pugnax (Dusky Betta or Penang Betta): These are good for breeding but they can be aggressive during reproduction.
- B. Unimaculata (Spotfin or Howong Betta): With taupe-colored bodies and snake-like heads, these Bettas are harmless. They also have a striking single darker stripe down the side.
- B. Waseri: Betta Waseri make great additions to home aquariums that want that wild, native appeal. However, they love black water conditions with plenty of peat moss.
It’s easy to see how vast and widespread Bettas can be in variety and species. Although the ones discussed are the most common among aquatic popularity, it doesn’t include every one available in the world. This is because of how diverse the breed is.
So, when identifying your particular Betta, you want to talk about it in terms of its specific profile based on pigmentation, patterning, and finnage. For instance, you might have a Purple Dragon Scale Combtail or a Super Red Platak Delta.
Whether you’re looking to own or are already in possession of a Betta, it’s important to understand the particular variety, so you can cater to its specific needs. It will allow you to know what kind of health conditions to expect, which ones are good for breeding, and the degree of their aggression.