How many types of Betta fish are there? From tail patterns to fin style, you’re bound to find one you like in our new roundup of the types of Betta fish.
In this guide you’ll learn:
- Why are there so many types and colors?
- What’s the rarest type of Betta?
- How to tell the difference between males and females
Easily the most popular and recognizable ornamental fish, the Betta or Siamese fighting fish, scientifically known as Betta splendens, has held aquarists in awe of its beautiful hues and silk-like fins for hundreds of years.
The Betta’s characteristic colors and long, flowing fins result from years of careful selective breeding. 1000 years’ worth of domestication has led to almost a hundred types to date, including one that resembles the flag of Thailand, the native homeland of these fishes.
A recent genetic study on wild and domestic Betta fish by Kwon et al. revealed a long history of domestication and why so many different types were easily bred over the years.
It turns out, “Many of the traits that breeders are selecting are regulated by very few genes that have a major effect,” Ms. Kwon said in an interview with the New York Times. “This means it doesn’t take that extensive several crosses to get the trait or traits that you want for your fish.”
How Are Betta Fish Classified into Different Types?
The main classification for the different types or breeds of Bettas is their fins or tails since this is their most distinguishing characteristic. There are at least 10 tail types. Next is color and pattern.
Color is quite varied as well since many different colors are available. Pattern refers to how the color is expressed (bi-color, solid color, marble). Different tail, color, and pattern types are present in all combinations, giving rise to numerous Betta fish types or breeds.
Males vs. Females
The Bettas you will see on display are most likely males. Male Bettas are the ones with elegant tails and bright colors. The female counterparts of the different Betta types have shorter and less elaborate tails along with more muted colors.
Males of different animal species are often more brightly colored than females to aid in their mating displays during reproduction or a standoff with another male. Peacocks are a common example.
The long flowing and silk-like tails are a Betta’s crowning glory. The variation in tail types is usually due to its shape, size, and webbing.
A betta’s tail affects its swimming speed and how prone it is to certain health issues such as tail rot. Tail-biting can be a problem for Rosetail Bettas as they mistake their own tails for another fish and attack it. Injuries on the tails can lead to tail rot.
Fun Fact 📚
Because of the Betta’s elaborate tails, they cannot swim as fast and require gentle water flow in their tanks.
Wild types, or the original types of Bettas, have shorter and less elaborate tails similar to how ornamental females look like. Bettas found in the wild look quite distinct from ornamental Betta fish.
The myriad of colors Betta fishes have is actually caused by just THREE kinds of pigments in combination with light scattering through special cells. These pigment cells are lutein or xanthin (yellow), melanin (black), and erythropterin/ erythrin (red). Red colors are the most prominent in all Bettas and even non-red Bettas can have a “red wash” because of the dominance of the red coloration.
These pigments are found in cells called chromatophores and iridophores. Iridophores have small hexagonal crystals in them that scatter light in different ways and produce the steel blue, blue, and green colors we see.
The amount of these pigments in these cells and how “deep” they are in the cells affect the expression of color (how rich or dark the color is, what color we see, how light the color is).
Fun Fact 📚
Some fish cannot produce these pigments and must obtain them through their diet. In a study looking at the effect of feeding mosquito larvae on the coloration of Siamese fighting fish, it was seen that mosquito larvae kept on a diet of microalgae used as live feed resulted in more brightly colored adult Betta fish. The Betta fish kept on a commercial food diet had more muted colors upon growth.
Bettas can differ in their patterns as well. This is how the color of their scales and fins look like. Bettas can have solid coloration or marble-like patterns. The tail can be a different color from the body.
Metallic sheen or how prominent the scales of a Betta look falls under this category and is called a “dragon scale” Betta. Patterns are also affected by the chromatophores and iridophores present in a Betta’s skin/scales.
How Many Types of Betta Fish Are There?
This question is hard to answer as numerous combinations produce different types or breeds of Betta splendens. They have been dubbed as the fish equivalent of domesticated dogs, with nearly 190 known breeds, according to AKC.
Note: It should be clarified that there are 73 species under the genus Betta with Betta splendens the most widely distributed species due to their popularity in the aquarium trade. However, species are not equivalent to breed. Almost all the different types or breeds of Bettas seen in aquariums are under just one species, Betta splendens.
The genetics behind the variations of Betta Fish that make them several genes regulate favorite ornamental fishes. It only takes a few generations or crosses to get a specific trait. On top of that, Betta fishes are relatively easy to breed, resulting in many different variants or types.
Unlike in other animals, for example, many favorable or rare characteristics are recessive traits and require numerous generations and breeding efforts to get the desired trait.
Betta Tail Types
Veiltail Bettas are the most common type of tail variation because of the dominant gene that expresses this trait. These are the types most often found in pet stores. They have long tails that droop due to the asymmetry of the fin.
As with all Betta types, Veiltails are available in many different colors and patterns. The females of these type have shorter, more rounded fins and more muted colors. These Betta types are the easiest to breed.
Combtails Bettas have tails with the typical round and fanned-out shape except for the webbing and rays that extend on the tail fin. Combtails have a spiky appearance with prominent rays or spikes on their tails.
The webbing in between these rays or spikes extends to two-thirds of the length of the tail which differentiates these from Crowntail Bettas. Crowntails have webbing that is less than two-thirds of the tail length.
The name is said to have come from the coxcomb on a rooster’s head, similar to what the Combtail Betta tail looks like.
Crowntail Bettas have a more spiky appearance on their tails because of the shorter webbing in between the rays. The rays or spikes look longer when compared with a Combtail. The overall tail shape is rounded but with a crown-like appearance because of the shorter webbing.
Double Tail Bettas have two distinct tails or caudal fins extending from the base of their body. There are two caudal peduncles where each tail is attached, so they can move freely from each other. Double Tail Bettas are more prone to swim bladder disorder.
Ideal Double Tail Bettas have tails similar in size to each other. The gene responsible for double tails is present in all Betta types which means that in single tail Bettas, the dorsal fins may have more rays.
Elephant Ear Betta or Dumbo Betta
Elephant Ear Bettas have bigger pectoral fins on either side of their bodies resembling the ears of an elephant. For this, they are also fondly called Dumbo Betta from Disney’s Dumbo.
They fall under the “tail” category for simplicity’s sake. Dumbo Bettas need an even gentler water flow because their elaborate pectoral fins make it a bit challenging for them to swim efficiently. These Betta types have been seen in the wild but with duller colors (green, brown) compared to their ornamental counterparts.
Halfmoon Bettas have large tails that fan out to 180 degrees in a half-moon shape. Due to selective breeding, these Bettas also have longer dorsal and ventral fins. Their massive fin size makes them prone to fin tears or “blowing a tail” which can become a site for infections to spread to the body.
Halfmoons are a bit more difficult to breed and are found to be more aggressive than other Bettas.
Over-Halfmoon are Halfmoon Bettas that have tails fanning out to more than 180˚ giving a more fancy looking tail.
Half-Sun Bettas are Halfmoons that have crowning at the edges of their tails. These were created by breeding Half Moons and Crowntails.
Derived from the Thai word “pla kat” meaning biting fish, the Plakat Betta closely resembles those found in the wild with short, rounded tails and a close resemblance to females.
Plakats are relatively faster swimmers because they are not hindered by flowing tails. They do have a tendency to jump so keep a lid on your Plakat’s tank or make sure the water level is not too high.
The Rosetail Betta is similar to the Halfmoon wherein the tail extends to more than 180 degrees but with more branching or rays resulting in an extensively ruffled tail resembling the petals of a rose.
A derivative of the Rosetail Betta is the Feathertail and is distinguished by more extensive ruffles and branching.
Rosetails are prone to tail-biting so they should be carefully monitored. The Betta probably mistakes its own tail for another fish and attacks it.
Spade Tail Betta
Spade Tail Bettas get their names from the spade from a deck of cards. These Bettas have tails that are rounded but tapers at the tip resembling a spade. The taper differentiates these from Roundtail Bettas.
Delta Tail Betta
Delta Tails are named after the Greek letter, delta (Δ) because they have tails that are wide at the tips and narrow towards the base. The edges of their tails are uniform (no combing or crowning). A variety called Super Delta has a wider spread at the tail extension (up to 180˚).
Round Tail Betta
Round Tail Bettas are like Deltas without the taper at the tip of the tail. Their tails have a rounded, uniform edge.
Red is the most dominant Betta Color that can express as a full, bright, solid red color. Other Betta colors can also have red streaks or highlights. This is the most prominent Betta color type and can be seen in most pet stores.
Red Bettas can sometimes appear washed out. However, if your Betta is normally a solid red color, check your water quality conditions as this can be a sign of poor health.
Blue Wash is the standard blue color for Bettas which is almost a silvery blue because of the washed-out blue color.
Steel Blue is a bit more iridescent or shiny and the blue color is deeper with a mix of grey. Steel Blue variants can almost be greyish at times.
Royal Blue has a bright, iridescent, solid blue color. Royal Blue Bettas tend to be rare.
Black Orchid Betta
Black Orchid Bettas are rich in melanin and have a dark overall coloration with occasional blue or purple highlights.
Black Orchid Bettas come in Melano, Black Lace, and Metallic. Metallic Black Orchids are rich in iridescent scales giving the black colors a metallic or copper-like sheen.
White Bettas though lacking in color look absolutely majestic when combined with the elaborate tail types (Halfmoons or Rosetails) and an aquarium with a bright backdrop of plants. They stand out beautifully against the green color of a well-planted aquarium.
White Bettas are not Albino Bettas which are quite rare and completely lacking in pigmentation. Albino Bettas appear dull rather than bright white but unfortunately, these Bettas tend to be unhealthy and are prone to dying early.
Pink Bettas can range from bright pink to almost translucent but are often in combination with red or purple colors.
Yellow Bettas are also called “non-red” and are quite common. They can be a rich, solid, yellow in color to a more soft buttery hue throughout their bodies.
The Pineapple Betta falls under Yellow Bettas and has yellow highlights on the edges of their scales making them resemble the fruit.
Purple Bettas come in different shades of color from bluish to reddish and rich violets. Often, the face and fins come in a different color other than purple.
Mustard Gas Betta
Mustard Gas Bettas have differently colored bodies and fins. The body is usually darker in color and the fins can be yellow or orange giving rise to their names.
These are sometimes mistaken for Chocolate Bettas but Chocolates have a brown coloration on their bodies.
Green Bettas often appear more turquoise or a darker black color until light hits their scales and an iridescent or green shine appears. Full green or bright, solid green Bettas are quite rare.
Dragon Scale Betta
Dragon Scale is the most recent pattern development in Bettas and is characterized by bigger-sized scales and a metallic overall hue due to the increased amounts of iridophores. Dragon Scales are usually found in dark, deep, colors with noticeably larger scales.
Bicolor Bettas have two different colors on their bodies and fins. Butterfly and Cambodian Bettas are spin-offs of Bicolor Bettas. The qualify as a Bicolor Betta, the fish should present with only two colors. Otherwise, they are classified as multicolored Bettas.
Bicolor Bettas can have light-colored bodies with darker-colored fins or vice-versa.
Butterfly Bettas have a solid color on their bodies that extends up the base of the fins and tails. The color then abruptly stops midway along the fin and is replaced by a different, paler, or more iridescent color (usually white or transparent). This pattern makes these Bettas resemble the wings of a butterfly.
For show standards, the color split should be around halfway of the extension of the tail/fin to meet standards.
Cambodian Bettas have pink bodies and bright red fins and are relatively new to the Betta breeding community. The bodies of Cambodian Bettas may have different colors other than red but they should have pale pink bodies to be considered an official Cambodian Type Betta.
Marble Bettas have irregular patches of dark color against a lighter backdrop. The patches are often red or blues and continue onto the fins. These Bettas can develop or change their colors over time.
Koi Bettas are derivatives of Marble Bettas bred to resemble the multicolored patterns of Koi fishes. Koi Bettas usually have more patches of colors on their bodies and multiple colors compared with Marble Bettas. These Betta types are not found in the wild.
Tips for Buying a Betta Fish
Since color is a primary factor in choosing a Betta Fish, always remember that color varies greatly with lighting (and care). Most pictures available online can also be heavily edited. When buying a rare or special type of Betta Fish, always insist on seeing it so you can check its actual appearance and health. In certain stores, aquariums can also be built with special lighting that makes colors appear brighter, so always be vigilant in choosing your Betta fish.
Quick Care Guide
A big misconception about Bettas is their space requirements. You will often see them in small bowls or vases with very little water or space to move in. While Bettas can survive low oxygen and poor water quality conditions in their natural habitats because of their ability to breathe air (due to the labyrinth organ), this is not an excuse to replicate it in captivity.
Bettas raised in captivity require better water quality conditions to thrive and ward off health issues. Proper water conditions also ensure the beautiful hues of Bettas remain bright and protect their fins from damage due to infections.
|Tank Size||At least 5-gallons|
|Temperature/Heating||75-80°F; ideal at 78°F|
|Water Quality||The pH level should be neutral at 7.00 but acceptable within the range of 6.5-7.5Ammonium and nitrite should be close to 0.0 ppm as possible (or less than 0.5 ppm) while nitrates should be between 10-20 ppm.|
|Filtration||Low flow or adjustable flow rate filterNano filters are recommended|
|Plants||Plants with soft leaves such as Java Fern or Java Moss|
|Substrate||No preferenceSandy to rocky if the tank has plants|
|Food and Feeding Frequency||CarnivorousShould be fed fresh or frozen insect larvae, mosquito larvae, daphnia, bloodworms, and brine shrimpFeed sparingly; 1-2x a day in 2-3 minute incrementsAvoid overfeeding|
|Special considerations||Solitary tank recommended because of aggression and territorial issuesBettas may be placed in community tanks with smaller, less aggressive, less colorful, and more agile tank mates like barbs, tetras, corydoras, rasboras, mollies, endlers, and daniosDon’t house with other fin nippers such as angelfishAvoid guppies since they can be mistaken as another Betta|
Due to the ease of breeding Bettas and their domestication over a thousand years, many different types are available in the market. The classification is usually based on color, tail type, and pattern. Different Bettas types can be any combination of those three factors.
What Are The Different Types Of Betta Fish?
Betta fish are classified according to tail type, color, and pattern. The different types of Betta fish can be any combination of the three. For example, there are Royal Blue Crowntail Bettas or Butterfly Halfmoon Bettas.
What Is The Rarest Betta Color?
Solid Royal Blue Betta, Pink, White, and Albino Betta are hard to come by and are considered rare.
How Many Types Of Betta Fish Are There?
There are many different types of Betta Fish because of the numerous combinations you can make with tail type, color, and pattern. The known or established types range from 20-50 different varieties.
A recent article of Betta Fish Breeding
The 1,000-Year Secret That Made Betta Fish Beautiful
A scientific study on the genetics of the domestication of Bettas
Genomic consequences of domestication of the Siamese fighting fish
An earlier study on the genetics of Betta fishes (explains color cells well)
Genetics of The Siamese Fighting Fish, Betta splendens
Study about diet and coloration
Effect of feeding mosquito larvae on the coloration of Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) during grow-out
Informative article on Betta Fish
Betta Fish: The Beautiful, and Very Popular, Siamese Fighting Fish