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Guide about bettas with their main characteristics

We have developed in this article a summary of the characteristics of this magnificent ornamental fish.

If you are starting the hobby with a petshop betta – the path usually followed by beginners in the hobby – know that there is a lot of information to know about this fish. Congratulations on acquiring more information on the subject. Indeed, domesticated fish sometimes suffer from lack of information on the part of the hobbyist.

We bring in this article, with simple language and practical focus, of easy understanding, the origin of the betta, its history, natural habitat, domestication, the color formation process, distribution of these colors, formats (the characteristics of the shape of this animal), how to breed bettas, tank sizes to keep bettas, water characteristics, lighting, their genetics, betta exhibits around the world, and much more.

We hope this article is helpful to you! Good reading.



Different betta species and the mix of them

Bettas classification

Buying bettas

Common multicolored bettas and bloodline bettas

Bettas diseases

Aquarium types for bettas

Genetic improvement: the application of selective breeding in bettas

Bettas exhibitions

Overview of the world of bettas: our vision


The bettas origin

Bettas originate from Thailand and nearby regions of Southeast Asia. But, nowadays they exist all over the world!

People raise bettas for fun or profit, and often lakes and streams are filled with these fish as people dispose of their surplus animals there. There are places, however, where they survive their predators, thus altering the local fauna.

Breeders keep them for their decorative beauty, select the best specimens for breeding. And here is a parenthesis: if you want replicability of the parents, it is important that you study the betta genetics for practical application, because without it, you will throw yourself to luck in the crossings.

There are breeders who keep them by the degree of aggressiveness, for fighting purposes (fights between specimens) and betting. It is not our focus here, moreover it is a very old practice in its country of origin and surroundings. In Brazil it is understood as a crime of mistreatment against animals. Currently, species of reindeer are Betta splendens, Betta smaragdina, Betta imbellis, Betta prima and Betta pi.

According to Goldstein (2004), there are reports that bettas were imported from Thailand to France in 1874, and 19 years later their reproduction procedure was described. From there, it was quickly disseminated and distributed throughout Europe. Erroneously, it was called Betta pugnax, as it was the only betta cataloged at the time. And so it was successively distributed throughout the world, each region at its time by its interested aquarist residents.

The Betta splendens has become one of the most popular among aquarists. They are especially decorative, as we will see in this article.

Still, according to Goldstein (2004), the first bettas imported from Asia were already long fin. See our article on the origin of the betta long fin which, according to research by Mr. Precha Jintasaerewonge, has its origin unknown, since the wild Betta splendens has short fins. See the photo below. It shows a specimen of wild Betta splendens. Note its caudal and anal fins are short compared to the ones we will present later.

Betta splendens (wild)

Natural habitat

Originally found in Thai rice paddies, the betta has a preference for eating insects in the wild. At some point, the capture of specimens began and, from that, the domestication of the betta took shape, up to the point we have today.

Different betta species and the mix of them

Crossbreeding and the origin of the hybrid Betta Fish

With the exception of places where betta fighting is still practiced, we are of the opinion that all other crossings aim to maintain or increase the aesthetic beauty of bettas.

Given the mixture between different species that we see today, the betta we know is, as a rule, a viable and fertile hybrid fish.

However, the betta we have in an aquarium, purchased from breeders or aquarium stores, is a hybrid fish, with exceptions, when the origin of the animal is specified by the breeder. Naturally, there are those who still keep wild bettas for different purposes.

We won't go into more detail on this subject here, however you can consult the web for more information on wild bettas, hybrid fish, viability and fertility.

Today's Betta splendens, named in this article as betta, is a magnificent fish. It has infinite colors, shades, formats and arrangement of these colors that make each copy unique. Even within lineages, there are those that differ from one another, especially (but not exclusively) in shape, inheriting the colors and color arrangement of their parents. We will see later on what this is. Below are images of some bettas with captions according to their classification.

Common multicolored long fin betta (elongated caudal and anal fins)

Cherry Red Betta

Betta Chocolate

There are others – many! – which we will see later.

Bettas classification

Our proposal for classifying bettas by color and color arrangement

Bettas come in several categories. Know that these categories are controversial around the world. There is still no universally accepted, unanimous standard among breeders and, mainly, exhibitors.

As a result, we at the Betta Project have a proposal for classifying the colors and color arrangements for the bettas. See the mind map below:

Let's look at some practical examples.

Solid bettas: they have the same color on the body and fins. See examples:

Royal Blue Betta

Milky (or White) Betta

Yellow Betta

Orange Betta

Cherry Red Betta

[to be developed]

Blood Betta

It would be a solid red betta (same red from red dragons)

Want to know more about the classification of bettas? Bicolor, multicolored, special multicolored bettas, and so on..

We wrote an ebook totally free that takes care of this. It indicates the technical characteristics of each classification (solids, bicolors, common multicolored, unstable multicolored, special multicolored, and so on). It is a very rich and precise material, with know-how of more than 50 years dealing with bettas, based on international standards. Enjoy and download by clicking on the banner below.

Colors, color distribution and their interrelationship

The color formation process in bettas has its logic. Those who don't know their origin think that the color formation process is the result of chance when bettas are crossed and generate offspring.

In our article about the color formation process, we tried, in an introductory and playful way, to explain how the color formation process works.

Detailed, practical and technical information you can learn in our Course on Betta Genetics. With it, you'll learn how to develop already established lineages and new lineages, you'll know what genetic traits are involved in the current betta and much of what is thought to be known about betta genetics, in a practical, direct and current way.

The main elements that make up the shape of bettas

The shape of the animal, as well as in dogs, defines its physical characteristics. In dogs, you'll see countless! For example: length of paws, length of tail, size of ears, alignment of ears, height of animal on back and head, and so on. Each animal has its own.

In the case of bettas, shape resides in the fins, fin branching characteristics, number of branches, fin size, body size, body mass, back geometry, and so on. Let's look at some examples:

a) The caudal fin structure: is defined by the number of branches that the caudal fin has. It concerns the formation of the caudal tissue. Ex: 2R, 4R, 8R, 16R. See representation below.

b) Aesthetic balance: there must be proportionality between the betta's body and fins. Fins proportional to body size are preferable, that is, if they have an exacerbated size, they make it difficult for the fish to swim, as they demand a lot of effort for their movement.

See in the image above the disproportion of the fins of this betta.

c) Format of the caudal fin: there are three groups. They are:

Veil tail;

Round tail;

Delta: the external caudal rays are more open, from 75º to 180º, where:

i. Super Delta: less than 180º

ii. HM (Half Moon): 180º

iii. OHM (Over Half Moon): > 180º

Black Dragon Over Half Moon (OHM)

And so on.

There are also features such as fin edges, types of caudal-fin surface, pectoral-fin size, caudal and anal fin size.

See below for a representation of the body parts of the betta in terms of shape:

Acquiring bettas

If you want to acquire healthy bettas, we have an article that guides the breeder or enthusiast on what characteristics to look for when buying or trading bettas.

Naturally, you can acquire bettas with health problems, especially those that are weakened or mistreated by the breeder or retailer. This is part of the context, and must be considered. Many times we create a feeling for the condition of that animal for sale, we buy it, treat it and give it a healthy condition for its life, even selecting it as a matrice (to reproduce). This is quite common.

Common bettas and bloodline bettas

As with the classification of bettas, there are breeders who disagree with what a bloodline is, attributing this quality to non-bloodline bettas. Of course, it's a concept that isn't just restricted to bettas. Pedigree and lineage are globally accepted concepts, however, in the world of bettas, there is still controversy among betta lovers as to what bloodlines are.

We are of the opinion that this will mature over the years; it's just a matter of misinformation, since the variety of bettas is significant, where each specimen is unique in colors, color distribution and formats.

Bettas have infinite color combinations, unlike other fish species. Perhaps there lies this mismatch of information.

The pattern (or classification) matches those we saw earlier. Want to know more? Click on the image below to download the ebook.

Breeding bettas

Betta reproduction (reproductive management) has a planning phase preceding the placement of matrices for reproduction.

The selection of the size of the aquarium, heating, location, lighting condition, checking the health of the animal, selection of matrices and some other requirements.

After you have placed the pair to breed in the properly selected aquarium or container, care will be taken to ensure that there is no death or excessive fighting between the pair.

Even more rewarding is when you were able to predict which phenotypes (visual traits) will be possible in the litter. You've set a goal and find that you're on the right (or wrong!) path. At this stage, a new horizon opens up based on the knowledge of betta genetics.

Bettas diseases

Currently, especially with the advent of the Internet, several publications exist on the analysis and treatment of the health conditions of bettas and other ornamental fish. Breeders, in general, use salt (preferably without iodine) or with iodine previously removed with products suitable for this (water conditioners), as a prophylactic agent. We will not go into detail on this, however remember that the first requirement for the animal's health is clean water, without (or much less) nitrogenous compounds (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate) dissolved in the water and minerals, as well as other chemical elements.

Tank for bettas

We understand that there are different sizes of tanks that bettas are kept in at different times in their lives.


  • Community tanks: there are those who keep bettas in community aquariums. In general, males are shy and unable to nest due to water movement (aerators or filters). Breeders generally keep them (male bettas) in individual tanks. In addition, you must be careful, in these cases, with the mixture of fish you make: be careful with their fins, as there are species that really are no longer compatible because they nibble on their fins, which leads the fish to levels of stress high and can lead to death.

Betta in community tank

  • Individual tanks: bettas are territorial fishes. Generally, males do not live in the same aquarium. If placed in large aquariums, they can coexist, each in its own corner – just like in nature. But this is relative. We cannot here suggest a minimum surface area per betta because we have not tested this. It should be remembered, however, that fry and juveniles grow, even with the opposite sex, in the same environment. That is, the offspring (or part of it) is in an aquarium larger than that of reproduction (generally this is small). Juveniles grow together. And from a given moment the breeder must separate them to minimize and avoid fights and even death.

Aquarium with filtration, plants and exclusive for a betta

  • Small tanks and other containers: bettas survive - pay attention to this verb - also in very small volumes of water, such as 500 ml. There are breeders who keep them in containers or small bowls in order to have them isolated from each other.

Small aquariums, food bowls and containers, such as ice cream pots and glass canning jars, are also in common use.

You, the betta enthusiast, should make your choice on how to keep your pet or parent, if you are a breeder. We will not issue an opinion here on the ideal or minimum aquarium size. But remember that in nature (rice fields, puddles and small lakes) they are free and can swim in all their splendor, maintaining good health thanks to exercise (swimming freely).

It is also important to point out that clean water, a good surface area with the possibility for the betta to exercise, promotes a long life for the animal. Ex: turbulent water, with submerged pumps, tend to stress the betta, because by nature it is a fish that moves little in relation to other species.

Genetic improvement: the application of selective breeding with bettas

This is the beginning of a theme we are very fond of: selective breeding, genetic improvement and improvement of the betta squad.

We have already developed materials about this. Click on each link for more information.

Strategy for development of bettas with superior genetics

What is selective breeding

The bettas genetic knowledge as source for selective breeding

Online platform for bettas search

Bettas exhibitions

Did you know that bettas are also exposed in places for public visitation and/or breeders? Worldwide, associations and other organizations, if not groups of breeder aquarists, organize their local exhibitions. With the advent of the Internet, virtual exhibitions can now be held. They are quite interesting, they involve prizes, and better methods are being sought for judging bettas.

We at the Betta Project are very fond of betta shows. We have internally developed proposals for judging bettas, as there are gaps and controversial points around the world. It is, therefore, a source of learning, development and discussion of new approaches. This encourages the hobby, the people and increasingly improves betta shows – and other animals!

Betta Project – A DNA Experience

Our intention is to encourage the hobby, awakening the interest of breeders in the selective breeding of bettas. Only through it will we have increasingly beautiful matrices with a stable phenotype, which guarantees the perpetuation of the genetic traits that this quality confers.

See the About us page of our website. We have been working with this vision of the future for some years now.

Overview of the world of bettas: our vision

The domestication of the betta and its free trade, with few exceptions, around the world, together with the dissemination on the Internet, makes it very easy to choose the betta for its aesthetic beauty. The breeder does not need to exchange letters with another, gathering photos and historical records of the litters; a simple email can solve everything, if not the query on sites selling bettas, such as sites for individuals and groups and pages on social networks.

Really, nowadays it's very easy compared to 30 years ago, before the Internet. Consider that the Internet has become popular since the end of the 1990s, but even today there are places that do not have access due to economic development or other reasons.

Currently, in parallel with the Betta Project – A DNA Experience, we are developing a platform designed by us to register and research bettas.

In the same way as our materials, we believe that it can help breeders to improve the betta squad.

Meet our Course on Betta Genetics and review the videos already mentioned in this article.

We are passionate about helping breeders improve their betta breeding stock, and we work to provide tools and information to help promote this.


· Betta Project internal archive.

· Goldstein, Robert J. “The Betta Handbook.” (2004).

· Images from the Internet.


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