The common fancy betta fish (Betta splendens) has been kept by humans for centuries. As a result of their captivity, they have been bred over generations to have certain desirable traits. The long, flowy fins that have become synonymous with bettas are a result of this selective breeding. However, they now can be found in hundreds of varieties, some with short fins, some with jagged fins or fins that overlap. Some have bright pastel colors while others are bred to be as dark as possible. Some are iridescent, some are giant, and some are deliberate hybridizations between similar species.
New varieties are being developed and marketed constantly. If you are new to keeping bettas, this may be overwhelming. This guide will help break down some of the more established varieties and explain some of the accompanying terminology. This will also explain what some of the descriptors are when you’re shopping for bettas at Josh’s frogs.
One major way different types of bettas are identified is by tail type. The fish in the wild have only short, rounded fins. Fancy bettas, of course, vary tremendously. These are the most common tail types you’ll encounter in the trade today:
- Veiltail The most common fancy betta is the veiltail variety. Veiltails are distinguished by their long, flowy fins. The tail fin is shaped akin to a veil, hence the name.
- Plakat Plakat denotes any fish with short fins. These are very close in shape to the bettas found in the wild. They tend to come from stock originally selected for fighting, so plakats tend to be very robust. The short fins are more advantageous in fights as they allow the fish to move more quickly and are also less of a target. Of course, the colorful plakats in the hobby today are bred more for ornamental purposes. They are also sometimes “halfmoon” in shape, called HMPK (halfmoon plakat).
- Halfmoon A halfmoon betta is a betta whose fin caudal or tail fin spans a full 180 degrees when flared. Halfmoons can be long or short-finned. This resembles half a circle, or a half moon, hence the name. Typically, when a fish is simply sold as a “halfmoon” it has long finnage.
- Crowntail Crowntail bettas are named for their crown-shaped caudal fins and general extensions on their dorsal and anal fins. These can come in short fin and long fin varieties, with the long-finned crowntails being especially impressive and flowy. If the webbing between the fin ray extensions are not as reduced or the fin extensions are not as long, they are known as “combtails.”
- Delta Delta refers to a triangular shaped tail fin on typically a long-finned betta. It starts out narrow and widens. It is different from the halfmoon in that it doesn’t reach a full 180 degrees when flared. There is also a “super delta” strain that has a slightly wider tail spread than the regular delta, but still falls short of 180 degrees.
- Twintail The twintail or double tail is a variety of betta that has two distinct tail lobes, creating a split tail effect. These fish also tend to have larger dorsal fins. They can come in halfmoon varieties, with a 180 degree spread when both tails are flared.
- Rosetail Rosetails are a variety of halfmoon betta that have extra branching on the ends of their fins that overlap. They are named for their rosepetal-like appearance.
- Dumbo The dumbo variety can come in delta, super delta, plakat and halfmoon tail types. “Dumbo” specifically refers to the large pectoral fins that have the appearance of elephant ears. No other fins are as exaggerated on the body.
Of course, there are a number of basic colors that fancy bettas come in (such as red, blue, orange, etc.), but there are also special terms used for certain patterns/color combos. We will break those down here:
- Dragonscale A dragonscale betta is a betta with metallic scales on most of its body, oftentimes extending to the face. This gives the appearance of having iridescent armor, like the mythical dragons in fairy tales.
- Platinum Platinum bettas are a type of betta that are a bright white or gold coloration with very little pattern. Although, platinum can refer to almost any betta with white/gold/pink coloration dominating the body. They can have an iridescence to them.
- Butterfly This trait refers to the change of color from body to the ends of the fins. Usually there is one dominant body color that transitions to white or see-through at the edge of the fins. They can come in two or three colors, although the bicolor is more desirable.
- Marble Marble bettas can either have a light base color with dark splotches or a darker body color with light patches. They are highly variable and no two fish look alike! It should also be noted that, due to the nature of the marble betta's genetics, they may change color over time. This change can be quite dramatic and its occurrence is completely random.
- Koi Koi betta are a very specific type of marbled betta that have colors specifically reminiscent of koi carp. So, they usually have patches of red and black over a pinkish white body color.
- Koi Nemo When a betta is sold as “Koi Nemo” it is a koi coloration with added patches of orange or blue that can be very vibrant. It’s basically koi, but with bonus colors.
- Galaxy Typically, galaxy is a trait in koi bettas that causes iridescent blue/white flecks on the fish’s body. This is reminiscent of shiny stars in the sky.
- Mustard Gas Mustard gas bettas are a type of betta with a dark blue/black body with bright yellow fins edged in dark blue/black. They are a very striking and sought after form of bicolor betta.
- Samurai Samurai bettas are a type of betta with iridescent scales on the top half of their body and face and darker coloration on the bottom half. The black samurai is the version most often seen, but it commands a higher price tag due to its rarity in the hobby.
- Black Orchid Black orchid bettas are a very dark coloration of the crowntail betta. They are mostly black with some slight blue iridescence in the body and fins.
- Cellophane A betta lacking color in the fins and body (often just having a pink “naked” appearance) is known as a cellophane. The fins are see-through. Some may possess hints of other colors, but it is very subtle.
- Multicolor A multicolor betta is any betta that displays three colors or more on their body and fins.
- Bicolor A bicolor betta displays two colors, usually the body being one color and the fins another.
- Hellboy Hellboy bettas are a very rich red coloration typically with white or black marbling.
- Copper Copper bettas have a metallic coloration of greenish purple. Their whole body and fins are this same color.
- Cambodian True cambodians are a pink flesh tone coloration with bright red fins. These fish, however, have fallen out of style in recent years. Cambodian can also refer to any fish with a light pink body and dark fins (blue/purple/red).
Although it is believed that most fancy bettas on the market today are hybrids of a few different “splendens” complex species, there is one variety that is a deliberate and known hybrid:
- Alien The alien betta is a betta produced by hybridization of different wild type bettas. They are typically a dark base color with metallic blue or green color throughout the body and fins. These are a relatively new variety and are in high demand in the hobby due to their beautiful, otherworldly appearance.
One more thing…
There are some bettas bred for size, namely large size. Though the elusive “King” variety sold at big box stores is of unknown origin (potentially a hybrid), there is one variety that we do know the origin of:
- Giant Giant bettas are bettas selectively bred for large size. It is said the bettas on the market today can get up to 7”, although 5” is more common. They come in a variety of colors, but they are generally all one fin type- Plakat.
No matter which type of betta strikes your fancy, you cannot go wrong with this durable, enduring pet. Almost all varieties will live long, happy lives in an aquarium of five gallons or more and will readily take pellets, flakes, and other easy foods. With all that endless spunk and all those endless color and fin options, why not have two or twelve tanks of bettas in your home? You can get started by browsing some of your options here:
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