Few aquarium species are as majestic as betta fish. Today, there are more than 70 recognised varieties of this colourful freshwater fish. Because of their unique colouring and intricate silhouettes, they are among the most popular choices of fish for keeping in home aquariums. Despite their appearance, betta fish are surprisingly easy to care for and maintain, requiring no special diets or complicated water maintenance.
However, betta fish are a fairly aggressive species. This is why they’re alternatively known as ‘Siamese Fighting Fish’. You can avoid a chaotic aquarium by limiting the number of male fish in your tank to one. Females are far less disruptive, so you can introduce a larger population of them to your aquariums. Although female betta fish tend to be less vibrant in colour than their male counterparts, there is no shortage of dramatic varieties to consider. Below, we shine the spotlight on some of the very best betta breeds out there.
Although not as dramatic in appearance as other betta fish, combtails are still a very eye-catching breed that will add some character to your aquariums. Although the tail size and silhouette of this species is fairly standard, they do stand out from the crowd with intricate rays and webbing. These elements extend directly into the tail fin, with the rays in particular proving quite prominent. This gives combtails a distinctive texture not found in many other betta varieties, with the rays and webbing giving a somewhat spiked appearance. Combtails also come in many variations, with a broad colour palette to choose from.
Elephant Ear Betta
Unlike other betta fish, those of the elephant ear variety are named for their unique pectoral fins situated on the side of their body. Elephant ears tend to be fairly limited when it comes to colour variation and patterning, but their pectoral fins make them a unique addition to any aquarium. Like other types of betta fish, those of the elephant ear variety are fairly easy to care for.
However, their pectoral fins present some specific issues you will need to keep on top of. Because of the placement of the pectoral fins, swimming behaviour can become disrupted if the fish is exposed to significant water currents. If you have installed a high-powered filter or are generating a water current in your tank, consider reducing the levels to allow your elephant ears to get about more easily.
The plakat betta is a fairly simple looking variety, although the appearance of the breed is more typical of what you would encounter in the wild. Although the tails and fins are fairly stripped-back, there’s no compromise when it comes to colour. The rounded tails of the plakat betta are fairly rounded and shorter than many other varieties, even in males of the species. This can make it difficult to properly sex a betta fish before introducing it into aquarium, which can lead to disruptive behaviour between rival males.
Although small, plakats are incredibly agile and fast swimmers. This makes them easy to place with larger tank mates, although their agility also provides them with impressive jumping ability. When removing the lid of your aquarium to feed your fish or carry out maintenance, you’ll definitely want to keep an eye out for leaping plakats.
Spade Tail Betta
The spade tail beta gets its name from its distinctive tail shape. The unique tail silhouette not only makes this breed of betta an eye-catching addition to your aquarium, it also provides the fish with some distinct advantages over other breeds. Unlike other betta varieties, spade tails are much more agile and can dart around tanks at considerable speeds. This not only makes them more able to escape the attentions of potential predators, it also means they will not fall short of the competition when it comes to feeding time.
The Cambodian betta is the result of many years of selective breeding. This variety of betta is known for its dramatic colourisations, with lighter, two-tone hues the standard. The majority of Cambodian betta fish have light pink bodies, while their fins usually sport vibrant red accents. In some cases, the body of a Cambodian betta can almost white in colour. That being said, other colour variations do indeed exist. However, be careful you’re not paying over the odds for a so-called unique Cambodian colour variant. For a betta to be recognised as a Cambodian, it needs to exhibit the signature of a pale body.
Butterfly bettas are one of the more graceful varieties of fish out there. Most butterfly bettas come in a single colour, with darker hues at the body that fade into more muted tones in the fins. The outer edges of the fin will almost always be white, although some butterfly bettas will also exhibit an additional colour along the extremes of their fins. Some breeders argue that a butterfly betta needs to exhibit a split shade in order to be classified as such. However, the most important requirement for this breed is a delicate fade and change of hue.
Many people have trouble discerning the difference between combtail bettas and crowntail bettas. This confusion is understandable. After all, both varieties sport similar rounded tails, pronounced webbing and rays. An easy way to determine whether or not you’re dealing with a crowntail or combtail is to assess the length of the webbing between the rays. The webbing of a crowntail should only run around two-thirds of the way along the ray of the fish. This webbing length gives the crowntail betta is signature spiky look.
A half-moon betta is a brilliant way to liven up your aquarium. This breed gets its name from its spectacular tail which, unlike other varieties of betta, has particularly elongated crescent. The majority of half-moon bettas also tend to exhibit longer anal and dorsal fins than other varieties. These longer fins are a direct result of the selective breeding programs responsible for the majestic tail shapes of the half-moon fish.
Although beautiful, half-moon bettas have some specific care requirements. The longer tails can easily tear, so you should avoid keeping half-moon bettas in tanks with a lot of sharp edges and jagged material. Torn tails are not always lethal, but they can lead to infection that can cause disease in fish. Half-moons also tend to be more aggressive than other betta varieties, so avoid pairing them with particularly delicate tank mates.
When it comes to aquarium aesthetics, betta fish are hard to beat when it comes to selecting new additions to your fish tank. However, picking the most eye-catching breed is not always a good idea. If you have a large tank with a considerable about of driftwood, jagged substrate and other sharp edges, there’s a chance that the delicate tails and fins of your bettas will become damaged. Even minor tearing injuries can lead to infection which can dramatically shorten the lifespan of your betta fish.
Generally speaking, betta fish are fairly hardy creatures. You won’t need to worry too much about excessive water care or maintaining awkward temperature levels. However, you will need to ensure your fish are properly cared for and are provided with a nutritious diet. Some varieties have specific dietary needs, but frozen food sources tend to be the best option for bettas as they retain a high degree of essential nutrients.
Arguably the most important thing to consider when selecting bettas to add to your aquarium is their aggressive behaviour. You should never add more than one male betta fish to a tank at any one time. When two or more males encounter each other, conflict will inevitably ensue. In the wild, the least aggressive male would ordinarily retreat, but this isn’t possible in the closed environment of an aquarium.
In an aquarium, the fight will simply continue until one of the males has been killed by the other. Even the victor may sustain life-threatening injuries in these scenarios. Some aquarium owners may incorporate dividers within their tanks to keep males away from each other, but the majority of aquarists tend to opt for female populations. While female betta fish still exhibit some aggressive behaviour, they are generally far more tolerant of tank mates.