I remember my first betta fish. I was about four and I had no idea how to care for any living being, including myself. My parents hadn’t done a lot of study on them yet, so they fell into the myth that these stunners only required a small bowl. I went through a lot of betta fish in that first couple of years of fishkeeping until my folks studied and realized they needed full-size freshwater aquariums to thrive.
Bettas remain one of my favorite freshwater fish, despite not having kept them in a while at this point. They’re actually reasonably easy to care for – as long as they have enough room! – and they are absolutely stunning. I know at one point we had a Dumbo betta – I was absolutely fascinated with the flowing, rippling fins as the otherwise tiny fish bumped its way around the tank. He got me hooked on watching them at work, even if just at the pet store or someone else’s aquarium.
If you’re interested in keeping bettas yourself, I’d highly recommend checking out my list below to see the many betta variations to see which type(s) might be a good fit for you. Most have similar care needs, but some are more aggressive than others. In many cases, though, folks choose the betta not on the care needs or aggression levels, but on the looks of the breed. Which makes total sense. They come in a huge range of types!
Check them out and see which one(s) might best fit your ideal aquarium.
About Betta Fish
Sometimes called Siamese Fighting Fish, bettas are popular among beginner aquarists and long-time pros alike. They’re small, colorful, have unique patterns, shapes, and colors, and unusually active and exciting personalities in the fishkeeping world.
Over the years, they’ve been crossbred extensively to create the many stunning hybrid varieties we have today, making them even more popular than in the beginning of their captivity back in the 1800s when they looked like rather dull-colored, pale fish with less flashy fins and tails.
The fish don’t require hefty maintenance like many other species, which is a huge part of why they’re so popular among newbies.
Bettas actually learn to recognize their owners, as well, and because they’re labyrinth fish, they often rise to the surface to breath in oxygen from the air to get in more oxygen.
Bettas are also bubble nesters, come in a huge range of variations, and probably are available in the most wide spread range of colors and patterns than any other fish in the fishkeeping hobby.
Historical and Modern Bettas
Around 150 years ago, bettas were brought from the wild into the home as pets. They were first noticed in the rice paddies of then Thailand (then known as Siam, thus the “Siamese fighting fish” name also given to these splendid fish). They are also naturally occurring in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.
Typically, these fish are aggressive and aren’t stocked together, as was discovered a long time ago when folks discovered the duels between fish and it became a betting sport in the country. Legends tell that the fish fight to the death, but that’s not the case. They’re intelligent fish who just happen to be a bit territorial and aggressive. They’re not out for blood.
In 1840, the King of Siam offered a betta splenden (the scientific name for the fish) to a Danish scientist named Dr. Theodore Cantor. He accidentally mistook it for the macropodus pugnax and a Dr. Tate Regan later discovered the mistake. He renamed the fish by their current name, which translates as beautiful warrior. And he couldn’t have chosen a more fitting mantle for this gorgeous fish.
In 1910, bettas first appeared in the USA, thanks to Frank Locke. The name was mistaken for the Greek letter Beta and for a time, the correct spelling was lost. Eventually, the double t was re-added and now they’re properly spelled betta.
Selective breeding for the fish became the thing as fishkeepers sought specific tail shapes, patterns, and colors – and now, we have a huge range of types of bettas to choose from as we keep fish in our home aquariums.
How Many Types of Betta Are There?
In the fish keeping world, there’s a lot of debate on what makes a true “type” of betta. Some argue that there are 73 recognized types while others think there are less – and others more.
Bettas have been selectively breed over the past 150 years, creating a wide range of subsets, categories and more, based on color, tail type, or pattern type.
Betta Fish Variety By Color
Bettas come in a wide array of colors and often are a mix of these colors – but that’s pattern talk, so we’ll leave that for later.
The colors you’ll find in bettas range the entire color spectrum from red and oranges to black and white. There are purples and blues, turquoises and coppers, greens, and yellows, and everything in between. There are even albinos and translucent shades.
There are three types of the Black Betta species, each having unique characteristics that make them stand apart from one another.
Of the three species, the Melano is easily the most popular. Melano is plain black in color and is infertile. This breed has an unusually dark pigment due to a genetic mutation. As this species is infertile, the only way for it to be bred is by using a female of another variety that has the Melano gene.
BLACK LACE BETTA
Black lace is a type of Betta that is fertile which also is known for having a darker color pigment than other fish, but not quite as dark as the Melano.
METALLIC BLACK BETTA
The Metallic (sometimes called copper) black is a Betta that is known for having beautiful iridescent scales.
Blue/Steel Blue/Royal Blue Betta
They are a few types of Betta Fish that have colorings that are a range of blue colors. The most common of these is a “blue wash” coloring. This fish species can also be found in a cold and grayish steel blue color. The variation which is the brightest is a royal blue tone.
Cellophane Bettas are known to have translucent skin that has no pigmentation. The translucent nature of their skin is where the name cellophane comes from. Technically, if it wasn’t for the inside of the fish the fish would have no color whatsoever. This translucence even extends to their fins and tails.
A common mistake people make is thinking that the cellophane and albino betta is the same. An easy way to tell these two species apart is that cellophane has black eyes while albinos have pink eyes.
The chocolate betta is a variation that lacks official recognition. The name is used as more of a common nickname. Usually, this name is used for talking about and describing bettas who have brown bodies and fins that can be orange or yellow.
Another problem with this unofficial betta fish name is that there are a wide variety of bettas that people will refer to as chocolate. Due to lacking an official designation, there are bettas colored dark green, dark blue, and even black and are called chocolates.
The copper betta fish is a well-known variant of betta that is prized by fish keepers for how incredibly iridescent this fish is. Their skin pigments can be copper, a light cold, all with having some blue, red, and purples mixed in.
If you see these fish under a weak light their colors may even appear to be brown or silver. It takes a bright light to bring out their iridescent colors.
Perhaps one of the rarest betta fish is those who have a green color to their skin pigmentation. The most common “greenish” color seen by people is betas who have turquoise coloring. Finding a true green betta can be difficult.
To further complicate things, if the beta is not in clear and bright light their colorings might appear to be brown due to the green being dark. The only way to verify the color of the fish is to shine a bright light on the fish.
Mustard Gas Betta
Mustard Gas Bettas are a species of bi-colored variety Betta Fish. The color of this Betta is a mix of a body that is green, blue, or steel blue, along with fins that are yellow or orange.
Mustard Gat Bettas are often mistakenly called Chocolate Bettas. The difference is that the Chocolate species of Betta only applies to those that have brown bodies.
Opaque is technically not a color but this occurs due to a gene that causes an overlap of a milky white color on top of a second color. The opaque condition can occur with any other color that a Betta fish can be found in.
Additionally, certain Beta fish skin tones affected by the opaque coloring will become a more pastel color.
While there are Orange Betta Fish, they are a difficult variant to find. They are typically a rich tangerine color that requires good tank lightning to bring out their coloring. Dull lighting may cause the fish to look red.
While true purple-colored Bettas are an exceptionally rare fish to find, it is fairly common to see violent and bluish-purple-colored Bettas.
Of this variation of Betta Fish, it is not unusual to see bettas whose entire body is colored purple. Other variations of this Betta will have purple bodies and fins that are a second color.
Red is a very common color among Betta Fish. However, common does not mean that it lacking in beauty.
The typical red Betta Fish is bright and solid red that covers both body and fin. There are variations of this coloring, including a “red wash”.
Turquoise Betta fish can be a difficult color to define. It is a color somewhere between blue and green. In the wrong kind of light, the turquoise color can end up looking either plain blue or plain green.
When trying to determine if the betta is a true turquoise color, it is important to use enough light. If the fish appears to be too green or has shades of yellow, then it is not a Turquoise Betta.
Wild-Type is used for describing both the patterning and color of some Betta fish. Wild type Betta is known for having an iridescent green or blue body along with red or blue on the fins. They resemble the original wild betta from which all these other varieties came.
Yellow & Pineapple Betta
Yellow Betta Fish can be found in a variety of shades. The colors range from being a very light yellow to a rich and buttery hue of yellow.
The pineapple color is a type of yellow that has a dark definition around the scales that gives the fish an appearance similar to that of a pineapple.
Of all the colors of Betta, the albino Betta is the rarest to find. Albino is not a color, rather it is a genetic mutation that results in a lack of pigmentation.
Like any other species, albinism is the same for Betta Fish.
AlbinoBetta Fish are solid white and do not have any pigmentation. Their eyes are either red or pink. It is important to note that if the fish has white skin and black eyes that the fish is only white and not an albino.
Part of what makes Albino Bettas so rare is that they go blind at a very early age which makes breeding them incredibly difficult.
Betta Fish Variety By Tail Types
One of the best-known characteristics of Betta Fish is its tails. Their tails come in such a wide variety of shapes and sizes that It is common for Betta Fish to be classified by their tails.
There is a lot of variety to be found with their tails with some being short and spiky and other tails being large and majestic. It is common for Betta Fish to be named after the type of tail they have, such as the Crowntail, Halfmoon, and the Veiltail.
Veil Tail Betta
Veiltail Betta fish have the most common tail that this species of fish has. Most home aquariums and stores will be stocked with this type of Betta because of its flowing and beautiful tails.
Despite being known to be such a beautiful and elegant fish, this species has become so common that it is no longer a fixture on the fish show circuit.
Veils are known to have an asymmetrical tail, the result is the upper and lower parts of their tail are not the same length. The tail is known to droop and hang, even when it is flaring. Some people consider the tail droop to be unattractive and count it against the fish.
Crown Tail Betta
The crown tail betta has a very clear history – it was created in 1997 in West Jakarta, Indonesia. The crown tail (or CT betta) is probably the easiest tail type to recognize. Why? Because of the distinct “crowning” of the tail. The spikes (rays) of the tail extend well past the webbing, giving the fish a distinct crown-like appearance of the tail. Think King Triton of Disney’s The Little Mermaid for the visual on that one.
Crown bettas may have double, triple, quadruple, or crossed ray extensions. They may also have a full 180 degree spread of the tail and is more common than not.
Delta bettas have tails that are shaped like the Greek letter d (Delta), thus earning it its name. The shape, though, is a bit more rounded on the end and sides, though, so it’s not a true delta shape. The delta has a decently spread tail, with no combing or crowning of the tail (no extended “spikes” past the flowy part of the tail).
What distinguishes Delta tails from other tail shapes, though, is that the tail is evenly spread, meaning if you draw a line down the middle of the fish, the tail would exactly match on both sides. Deltas are often referred to as D bettas.
Super Delta Betta
Similar to the Delta betta is the Super Delta betta. They have the same tail shape, though they have a nearly 180 degree tail (almost, but not quite half moon tail). The Super Delta has the same body shape as the Delta and that same even split of tail. They also have no crowning or combing of rays.
Super Delta bettas are referred to as SD bettas in the fishkeeping world.
Double Tail Betta
The double tail betta – sometimes called the DT betta – has a double caudal fin. It’s not a split caudal fin but actually two different caudal peduncles (stemlike fin parts that separately have the “fin” on them). The double tails may evenly or unevenly sized caudal fins, though an even split is considered the desirable form.
Double tails also tend to have broader dorsal and anal fins which mostly mirror each other and shorter bodies. They come in solid, butterfly, dragon, grizzle, bi-color, piebald patterns and occasionally marble or koi. They’re available in all color forms.
The Dumbo betta, elephant ear or EE betta, has large pectoral fins that are, well, massive, compared to the average betta’s fins. These have ruffled edges and a soft, flowy look, which is why the betta is called the Dumbo.
Other bettas swim using their pectoral fins for most of their swimming, so when these beauties are gliding through the water, their ruffly giant fins look a bit like a dancer rippling through the water with an elegant full gown or even a giant feathered fan.
The fish are extremely desired, though not terribly easy to get ahold of because they’re hard to breed.
If you do manage to get one, they need a gentle current to help them move along, since those giant pectoral fins make swimming around a bit tougher.
Comb Tail Betta
The comb tail betta has fins with rays that extend past the webbing, giving a bit of a poky feeling – thus the name of “comb tail.” The extensions aren’t terribly dramatic, but enough to make them distinct from others. The tail typically droops on these guys as well.
And though the comb tail isn’t technically a distinct shape – more of a trait, really – the distinction is stil made. Comb tails may be seen on a number of tail shapes, too, though most are going to be on tails with a full 180 degree spread.
Half Moon Betta
With tail and fins at 180 degrees, overlapping dorsal and anal fins, the halfmoon betta is a gorgeous, highly coveted betta variety. They have huge, rounded tails with the trailing edges of said tail being round. The silhouette looks like a semi-circle (half moon), thus earning its name for it.
The half moon betta comes in all color forms and many patterns, including the butterfly (in fact, most butterfly pattern bettas are half moons), dragon, solid, piebald, grizzle, full mask, and bi-color. Occasionally, you’ll find these beauties in the koi pattern.
The anal fins of the half moon betta actually gorm a large curtain until the fish’s body and all three fins overlap each other. Though the tail shape is half moon, the whole betta looks like a lovely explosion of flower petals.
Half moon bettas are more aggressive than veil tails, though, of course, this depends on the given fish.
Over Half Moon Betta
The over half moon betta has a tail and fins like the half moon betta and a caudal fin spread of more than 180 degrees. The fish comes in all color forms and in many patterns, including: solid, piebald, butterfly, dragon, bi-color, full mask, grizzle, and the occasional marble or koi.
They tend to be rather aggressive, as well, so need to be stocked carefully to avoid them attacking or getting stressed out too easily.
Half Sun Betta
The half sun betta is created by selectively breeding half moon bettas and crown tail bettas together. This particular variety winds up with a full 180-degree spread of the tail like the half moon, but has webbing and extended rays like that of the crown tail. The rays are only slightly extended, though, so they’re unlikely to be confused with crown tails which have far more extended rays.
Feathertail bettas are similar to the rosetail, only with “more.” They rather look like a cross between a crowntail and rosetail, they have extra rays which branch like rosetails but they also have fingers of webbing and rays that make their fins appear featherlike (thus the name). They’re an incredibly beautiful variety of betta and come in all colors.
Feathertails may bear any of these patterns as well: solid, butterfly, dragon, full mask, grizzle, piebald, bi-color, marble, or rarely koi.
It should be noted that feathertail are more of the more aggressive breeds of betta.
Round Tail Betta
Similar to the delta, the round tail betta simply has a fully rounded tail, no straight edges near the body. This variety of betta is extremely popular and comes in many color variations.
Spade Tail Betta
Spade tails are a variation of the veiltail. The tail form is similar that of a round tail and typically seen on females and juvenile veiltails before their fin height has reached full growth.
The spade tail has a single point on the caudal fin, a bit like the spade on playing cards – thus the name. The spread of the tail should be even on both sides of the tail to be recognized.
The plakat betta is s short-tailed variety of betta fish, closely related to betta splendens found in the wild. Sometimes, the any fish of this variety may be mistaken as females of other species who tend to have shorter tails. However, the males of the variety have longer ventral fins, sharp anal fins, and rounded caudal fins.
The plakat has a short rounded or slightly pointed, short tail.
Half Moon Plakat
So, the half moon plakat betta has slightly larger fins and tail than the plakat betta. They come in all colors and typically come in solid, butterfly, dragon, piebald, full mask, grizzle, marble, and bi-color patterns. On rare occasions, you’ll find a koi patterned half moon plakat betta.
Half moons tend to be very aggressive and jump a lot, so they absolutely must be kept in fish tanks with tightly sealing lids. Otherwise, they bare nearly all the same characteristics of the standard plakat. They’ve just been bred to have a bigger tail – which spreads a full 180 degrees and is shaped like a capital D. They’re incredibly active, aggressive fish, so they’re amazingly fun to watch but they don’t make good tank mates.
The rosetail betta is a unique, beautiful variety of betta that somewhat resembles the halfmoon betta (not plakat) in the tail region. The difference is, they have extra rays and lovely, flowing ruffled edges.
These bettas come in all color forms, and a variety of patterns including solid, piebald, dragon, bi-color, marble, butterfly, grizzle and full mask. Occasionally, you’ll spot one with the koi pattern, though they’re quite rare.
These stunning fish are bred from halfmoon bettas, with that same spread of 180 degrees, but the extra rays and branching make the tails distinctly ruffled. Their extra rays also make the tail fold back and forth on itself as well. Ultimately, this breeding has created a fish that looks like its wearing a long, frilly dress.
Rosetails tend to be more aggressive than veiltails, though they themselves are frequently prone to infections because of others bent on tail nipping. They tend to be slower swimmers, thanks to the tail heft, and they easily snag on objects around the tank. If you’re bringing some of these home, it’s important to make sure you don’t have any décor or other items in the fish tank that have hard, flat corners or jagged edges – your fish is almost guaranteed to be injured if you do.
Because of the immensity of their tails, they tend to be a bit shyer than other varieties of betta. Tail biting has become a behavior in this breed, some think, due to the enormity of their tails. Tail biting is what it sounds like – but in this case, it’s the fish biting at its own tail, damaging it and causing infections that can be fatal if untreated.
Because of these infection rates being high among them, rosetails are likely to have a shorter lifespan than others. Some do think, however, that it’s primarily due to poor breeding, which could easily be the case and would explain why some do very well and others not so much.
Betta Fish Variety By Pattern
The final way that bettas are subdivided is the pattern of their scales and coloration. When you look at a tank full of mixed varieties of bettas, you’ll see a host of different looks and styles, colors and patterns. Specifically, patterns may be arranged in different ways around their bodies, distinguishing one type from another.
Some of these patterns have been carefully chosen and selectively bred into the fish to maintain those specific “designs.” Some of these patterns are relatively plain – such as the solid betta – while others are extremely unique – like the marble betta or the orange dalmatian betta.
Patterns may be determined by unique features like spots or streaks or they may be determined by colors and shadings on the body versus the fin versus the head.
When two or three colors bleed together on a betta fish, this makes him a grizzle betta. The appearance of the pattern kind of looks like the colors that blend in watercolors or blend at the edges of a paintbrush.
As the name of this variety implies, koi betta have similar patterns to koi fish. This means they have marbled patterns, spots, and blotches of several colors in one fish with the same colors of koi: orange, red, white, black, and golden yellow.
As the name implies, dalmatian bettas have spots. In standard dalmatians, these spots will be on white fish with black or red spots or speckles.
Orange Dalmatian Betta
Orange dalmatians are similar to the standard dalmatian. These spots, however, are orange or apricot spots rather than black spots on a white body like you’d see in canines. The fish have pale orange bodies and fins with brighter orange spots – and occasionally streaks – over the fins.
Wild Type Betta
The wild type betta pattern is closely related to the betta splendens in the wild, as the name suggests. Their coloring typically is dull red or brown over most of their bodies. There will be some blue, green or both colored scales that are iridescent and some blue and red in the fins of the male.
Multicolored bettas can be described as any betta fish with three or more colors on their bodies – and doesn’t fit one of the other pattern types. This means multicolored bettas come in a huge number of variations – far too many to list.
Bi-colored bettas have a body with one color and find of another color. Generally, you’ll wind up with either a light bi-colored betta with a body that’s lightly colored. Ideally, dark colored, contrasting fins will pair with this, though you may find light fins colors as well. Secondly, you may have a solid colored body in one of the accepted colors with either brightly colored contrasting fins or nearly translucent fins.
Bi-colored bettas should only have two colors to qualify, if being judges. The only exception to this is darker shading on the head, which is seen in a large number of bi-colored bettas.
The Cambodian betta is a variation on the bi-colored pattern. It’s distinct, though, with a pale body – preferably a peach or pale pink or white – paired with bright, solid colored fins. Typically, their fins will be red, though other colors may occur. In order to be a Cambodian betta, though, the same pale body with only one shade and the differently colored fins must occur.
The butterfly betta has the pattern of single solid body color, extending to the base of the fins. There’s a distinct line here cutting the colors. The fins and tail are pale, possibly translucent, resulting in essence in the betta being a two-tone finned betta.
The ideal split of color for the fins occurs halfway, resulting in a 50/50 variation, but that’s rare and a 20 percent split is acceptable.
The dragon pattern is a newer pattern seen in bettas. It’s become extremely popular, thanks to its striking looks and almost metallic appearance. The base color for dragon bettas is often red, but always rich and bright. The scales on the body are thick and metallic, opaque white and iridescent, making them look as though they’re covered in dragon scales – thus the name.
Note: dragon has often been misused within the betta fishkeeping community to refer to any fish with thick scaling over the face and body. True dragons, though, have that opaque, white, metallic scale pattern. If they don’t have all the traits, they’re not true dragons.
The faces of bettas a naturally darker than the rest of their bodies in most cases. Thus, the mask pattern is unique and identifiable because their faces are actually the same shade and color as the rest of their bodies – making them a uniform, single color. Typically, this pattern is found in blue, copper, and turquoise bettas.
Full Mask BETTA
Full mask bettas are similar in the style of pattern to a mask betta. The difference is full mask bettas have a completely black face and colorful body.
Marble bettas have unique, irregular “blotches” or “splashes” of mixed colors across their bodies. The base color for the fish is typically pale, while the blotches are in bolder, solid shades like blue or red.
The marbling is usually across their bodies and may spill into the color on their fins, but not always. Often, marble bettas have translucent fins instead.
Interesting fact about these guys is that the marbling patterns may change throughout their lives.
Piebald bettas come with white or pinkish or pale peachy colored faces with a body of an entirely different color. The body is usually a solid, dark color, but occasionally they’ll have butterfly-like patterns on the fins or slight marbling throughout.
Exactly what it sounds like, the solid betta has one, single, solid color over its entire body. Typically, this is seen in red bettas rather than others, but occasionally other colored bettas may be solid in color as well.
The Right Betta For You
Hopefully you’ve gotten a pretty good idea by now on what bettas look like, how to tell them apart (so you can easily determine which type you’re looking at online or at the pet shop!) and which types and varieties appeal to you.
As mentioned above, ultimately, there are probably 73 varieties, minimum, but this list carries the most commonly available options that you’re more likely to find anywhere. But, do pay attention over the next years. More breeds are being created all the time and you might just find a new one soon that fits your tastes and setup even better.