If ever there was a fish to be crowned as the most beautiful, it would be the Siamese Fighting Fish. Renowned for their vivid colours and ethereal fins (that can resemble everything from a flowing veil to an elephant ear), these delicate fish are stunningly beautiful to own and watch. But while gorgeous, there are a lot of myths surrounding the Siamese Fighting Fish. So today, we are going to discuss how to properly care for your fish so you can enjoy its beauty for years to come.
What is a Siamese Fighting Fish (Betta Fish)?
Better known as betta fish or betta splenden, the Siamese fighting fish originates from Thailand, formerly known as Siam, hence the name of these stunning fish. They are freshwater fish native to Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and, as mentioned, Thailand. Generally, they make their home in warm water rice paddies, slow-moving streams, and swamps.
The term “fighting fish” comes from the old practice of breeding these fish for aggression. Male fighting fish are particularly aggressive toward one another and will fight when placed together, with betting made on the outcome. Originally males were bred specifically for aggression to ensure better fights. Thankfully, this practice is being outlawed. Betta fish are seen as the jewel of many fish tanks. Some rare subspecies even sell for thousands of dollars.
Betta fish are known as “top of tank” fish. This is due to the fact they tend to hang out or rest in one area at the top of the tank for a while. This is completely normal behaviour for fighting fish, and most will spend their time in the top to mid-levels of the tank, rarely at the bottom. If you want to house your betta with other fish, it is best to choose fish that prefer lower levels of the tank (as well as ones that won’t nip at your betta’s fins) to help prevent aggression. Some betta fish will also be more active than others, but all healthy fish will be responsive, moderately active, and inquisitive. If a fish is constantly hiding or appears lethargic, then it could be stressed out or sick, and you should ensure your fish isn’t unwell or that your water temperature or quality is appropriate.
Male fish will also sometimes construct bubble nests as a sign they’re ready to breed. These will appear as a cluster of small bubbles of various sizes on the surface of the tank in a corner or area where there is some cover. This is normal behaviour.
Placing two male Siamese fighting fish in a tank is devastating. If you place male fish together, they will fight to protect their territory. Female betta are generally more peaceful together and with other peaceful fish species, but they can also be aggressive on occasion. It is important to have a backup tank ready just in case you need to separate your fish. Do not keep male fish with other fish that have a similar body type and long fins, as they may mistake them as rivals, causing an aggressive response.
Males and Females and Breeding
Male and female betta fish are fairly easy to tell apart. Similar to peacocks, the male betta fish tends to be the brighter, flashier coloured fish, while the females are often a little less brilliant. Males have longer, flowing fins and a more distinct “beard” that grows under the gill coverings. They are also larger than female betta. Female fighting fish have shorter fins and will display vertical stripes, as well as an egg spot, when ready to mate.
You shouldn’t keep male and female betta fish together unless you intend to breed them. This is due to the fact they are likely to become aggressive toward each other before or after breeding. Siamese Fighting Fish require a great deal of experience, time, and resources to breed as the baby fish need several tanks, otherwise, they will eventually start fighting each other.
Breeding Siamese Fighting Fish
Betta fish have a fairly short lifespan in comparison with other fish, so most successfully breed when they are under a year old. Most betta fish you find for sale in pet shops will be at least six months old. Breeders generally find that a bare-bottom, 10-gallon tank works well for breeding. The fish should be well conditioned prior to breeding, with a suitable diet of live foods. Breeding tanks require a pH of around 7.0 and a water temperature of 26°C or slightly above.
As mentioned earlier, when the male is ready to breed, he will blow an elaborate nest of bubbles. The female should be provided with a hiding place in the tank as male fighting fish can become quite aggressive during their courtship. When ready to breed, the pair of fish will display intense colouration and will circle each other under the bubble nest. The male betta fish will wrap himself around the female. As she expels the eggs, they are fertilised, and the male will scoop them up and spit them into the nest. From this point on, it is the male who will look after the eggs. Most breeders will remove the female from the tank as the male will become aggressive toward her, again, at this point.
Eggs hatch after 1-2 days and will feed off their yolk sack for around 36 hours. Breeders remove the male within two days of the fry hatching as he might begin eating the young fish as they start free-swimming. The fry are then fed a few feedings a day of baby brine shrimp or other fine baby fish food. Many specialty aquarium stores, like The Aquarium Factory, will carry appropriate food for egglaying fish and baby fish.
Common Misconceptions and Myths About Betta Fish
One of the most prevalent myths is that fighting fish originate from, and prefer, to live in small puddles of water and that they will become stressed in a tank larger than a few litres. This is a lie and has allowed many unethical pet stores to get away with selling betta fish in the tiny, cup-like tanks we all know too well.
The actual natural habitat of the Siamese fighting fish is large, heavily vegetated marshes, rice paddies, and slow-moving streams. These obviously provide a far more varied environment than the majority of fish tanks, especially the cup tanks too many betta fish are sold in. Remember, all fish, including fighting fish, require plenty of space to swim and exercise freely.
Different Colours and Patterns
It is the brilliant range of colours, patterns, and long flowing fins that make male betta fish one of the most well-known and popular aquarium fish. Below we will discuss the different types of Siamese fighting fish patterns and colours.
Betta Fish Colours
Fighting fish come in a wide range of colours. But it is not just as simple as red, gold, and blue when it comes to betta fish. These fish come in some main, common colours, as well as some more exotic colours popular with collectors and breeders.
What is the Rarest Siamese Fighting Fish Colour?
The rarest betta fish colour is the albino betta. This is not actually a colour but a “lack of colour”. Albinism is a rare genetic condition caused by mutations of certain genes that affects the amount of melanin the body of a person or animal produces. It causes the body to produce little to no melanin, leading to a lack of colour in the hair – or, in the case of – a lack of colour in the body, fins and scales.
These fish often have a lot of health problems and complications. They are hard to breed for, and purposely for albinism is considered irresponsible and immoral.
Other rare types of betta include purple, true chocolates, and orange.
Let’s look at colours in more detail:
1: Black Betta
Black betta fish come in different types:
- Black lace
- Melano (these fish are plain black and are infertile)
- Metallic (or copper) black with iridescent scales
Melano black fighting fish are generally the most popular and darkest black of the three variations. The colour genes in these fish have mutated to massively increase the amount of black pigment in their skin.
Black lace fighting fish have a nice, deep black, though it isn’t as dark as the melano. These fish aren’t infertile, so they are more easily found than melano betta fish.
2: Blue/Royal Blue/Steel Blue Siamese Fighting Fish
You have probably seen blue fighting fish when you go to a pet store or aquarium. Blue is a common colour, and there are several shades of blue that betta fish can come in. True blue is often considered a “blue wash” type colour however, fighting fish come in steel blue, which is a cold, greyish colour. But the richest, most vibrant colour is the royal blue betta, which has a stunning, iridescent, bright blue colouring.
3: Clear/Cellophane Fighting Fish
Cellophane betta fish have translucent skin with no pigments. They would be considered colourless if it wasn’t for the colours of the inside flesh of the fish shining through the translucent skin. This gives the betta a pink0ish, beige colour. Their fins and tail are also translucent.
People confuse cellophane with albino bettas, but unlike the albino who have red eyes, the cellophane has black eyes.
4: Chocolate Betta
While the term “chocolate betta” isn’t an officially recognised type of fish, it is still a term used and accepted by many hobbyists. It generally refers to fighting fish with brown bodies and either yellow or orange fins. This technically makes them a type of bicolour.
However, the term is often used for fish that are almost black, dark green, or even dark-blue bodies, which is why “chocolate” isn’t an officially recognised colour.
5: Copper Siamese Fighting Fish
A copper fighting fish is an extremely iridescent fish. It is almost a light gold colour or deep copper with some red, blue, and purple metallic shine to the scales. Under a weak light they might look silver or brown, but under a strong light, the amazing sparkling copper shine can be seen.
6: Green Betta
A true green is rarely seen in betta. What most fish owners think of as green actually ends up being turquoise. Green is hard to see in most betta fish and tends to look like other dark-coloured fish unless examined under a torchlight. This is when the iridescent green will shine out.
However, some true greens can be seen with the naked eye, dark green being especially sought after and highly prized.
7: Mustard Gas Siamese Fighting Fish
These fish are another form of bi-coloured betta fish worthy of their own name. it refers to Siamese fighting fish that have a dark-coloured body that is blue, green, or steel blue, and yellow or orange fins. They are sometimes incorrectly called chocolate betta fish.
8: Opaque/Pastel Fighting Fish
Opaque isn’t actually technically a colour. It is caused by a gene that overlays a milky white colour over another colour. As a result, there are opaque versions of all the main betta fish colours. And, with some colours, this milky white overlayed colour gives the fish a pastel hue. These fish are, fittingly, called pastels and are considered a type on their own.
9: Orange Betta
Orange fighting fish are actually quite rare and come in a gorgeous, rich tangerine colour. However, in bad lighting, they can be mistaken for a red colour. To bring out their best, bright orange, you will want a decent, full-spectrum light on your aquarium. Orange betta also comes in an “orange dalmatian” variant which is also known as “apricot spots” or “orange-spotted”. These fish are pale orange on their body and fins, with brighter and deeper orange spots or streaks over their fins.
10: Purple/Violet Siamese Fighting Fish
True purple fighting fish are incredibly rare, however, rich violets and purple blues with copper iridescence are more common and incredibly beautiful. Some betta fish come in solid, all purple colours. There are also fish that have solid purple bodies with fins in a secondary colour.
11: Red Fighting Fish
Red is one of the most dominant and common colours in betta fish. But even though it is the most common colour, it is still a beautiful and striking addition to your aquarium – or as a singular fish. While red betta fish are generally solid red all over, other colours can be present. This is known as a “red wash” and is generally considered undesirable.
12: Turquoise Betta
Turquoise betta fish is a hard colour to define. It generally refers to a blue-green colour that is somewhere between blue and green but will generally look either plain blue or green in certain lights. The best way to know if your fish is turquoise is to see if it looks “too green” to be blue. Then, shine a light on the fish. There shouldn’t be any yellow shades at all if it is a turquoise fish. If there are any yellow tones, then your betta fish is actually green, not turquoise.
13: Yellow/Pineapple Siamese Fighting Fish
Also known as “non-red”, yellow betta fish can be anywhere from an extremely light yellow to a rich yellow, to pretty buttery hues. Yellow fish also come in a separate variant called “pineapple”. This is defined as having a darker definition around the scales, giving the fish the look of having scales like a pineapple.
Betta Fish Patterns
Fighting fish come in a wide range of patterns. While some betta fish look relatively plain, others look outstandingly beautiful. Some patterns are rarer than others, making them more sought after and, as a result, more desirable.
1: Bi-Coloured Betta Fish
Bi-coloured betta fish generally have a body that is one colour and fins in another colour. These are one of the most common patterns and you will have likely seen these in-store or in aquariums. Bi-coloured patterns tend to work in 1 of 2 ways:
Light Bi-Coloured – the betta fish will have a light-coloured body with fins that are either significantly lighter or darker than the body. Generally darker fins are preferred.
Dark Bi-Coloured – the betta fish will have a solidly coloured body in one of the 6 accepted solid colours. The fins are either translucent or in brightly, contrasting colours.
With both bi-coloured varieties, the fighting fish should only have two colours and no other markings.
2: Butterfly Siamese Fighting Fish
Betta fish with the butterfly-type pattern has a single, solid body colour that extends all the way into the base of their fins, the colour then stops in a distinct line and the rest of their fins are pale or translucent. Essentially the fins are two-toned and breeders aim for a 50/50 split in colour.
3: Cambodian Fighting Fish
Cambodian patterned fish a similar to bi-coloured betta but they always have a pale body. Their body colours are beige, light pink, or white paired with bright, solid coloured fins that are generally red. Other fin colours do occur, but they will always be vivid, solid colours.
4: Dragon Betta
This is a relatively new pattern but it is incredibly popular due to the striking, almost metallic appearance of the pattern. The base of this pattern is rich and bright, and generally red. The scales are thicker than normal with a metallic look, opaque and iridescent. This makes this fish look like they are covered in armoured scales – like a dragon.
True dragon-fighting fish don’t just have thick scales, they must have opaque, white, metallic scales and varied fins. If the fish doesn’t have all these traits, then it is not a dragon, only a “metallic” betta.
5: Marble Siamese Fighting Fish
Just like marble stone, fighting fish have irregular, blotchy, splash-like patterns all over the body. The base colour of the fish is generally pale while the patterns are in a bold, solid colour like a blue or a red. All marble betta must have marbling on their body but not necessarily on the fins. Some of these fish have translucent fins, while others also have marbling. These particular fish are particularly strange and exciting as their patterns can change throughout their lives!
6: Mask Fighting Fish
All betta fish have darker faces than the rest of their body. However, the mask variety of fighting fish has a face that is the exact same colour and shade as the rest of their bodies. This makes the head to the base of the tail a single, uniform colour. These fish are usually a turquoise, blue or copper colour, though other colours occur as well.
7: Multicoloured Betta
The multicoloured betta fish pattern is a fish that has three or more colours on its body that don’t fit into any other pattern type. There are an incredible number of variations, far too many to list here and they are the most popular and common variations of betta.
8: Piebald Siamese Fighting Fish
The piebald Siamese fighting fish has a white, pink, or beige-coloured face with a body in a completely different colour. The body is generally a solid, dark colour and may have some butterfly patterning on the fins, or even some marbling patterning.
9: Solid Coloured Fighting Fish
A solid-coloured betta fish is exactly as it sounds. These fish are one, single colour all over their bodies. This also includes their fins. This is most often, but not exclusively, seen in red fighting fish and is another common pattern for fighting fish.
10: Wild Type Betta
The wild-type pattern betta fish is, as the name suggests, is the most common pattern related to wild betta splendens. The main body colour of these fish is a dull red or brown though some will have blue and/or green iridescent scales. Males might also have some blue or red to their fins. You won’t generally see these fish in a pet shop as their colours are not the brilliant, bright tones popular among aquarium owners and breeders.
Tank Set-Up and Size
As we’ve mentioned above, far too many betta fish are sold and taken home in tiny, cup-like “tanks” that are far too small for the fish. This causes stress to the fish as they don’t have the space, water temperature, filtering, and water quality required. Fighting fish are intelligent and curious, so these small bowls don’t meet your fish’s behavioural or physiological needs. As a result, they are likely to die very easily.
Tanks for a Siamese fighting fish MUST be at least 15 litres in volume. The optimal size, however, is 20 litres or greater. Betta fish are excellent jumpers, so their tank should be fitted with a lid to prevent escape. Further, these fish occasionally need surface air so, even if water oxygen is plentiful, there must be space between the water and the tank lid so they can take in air.
If you are keeping other fish in the tank with your betta fish, then your tank should exceed 40 litres, so that individual territories can be established. It also reduced the chances of aggression and stress between the species. And, of course, you should only have one male fighting fish in each tank.
Your fighting fish requires a filter the appropriate size for the tank, with adjustable flow. They prefer a low-flow filter that mimics their natural habitat. Filters are crucial to caring for your fish as they provide aeration, filtration, and circulation of the water in the tank. Further, a filter assists by removing large waste particles and breaking down toxic waste. When tank water passes over the filter media, the beneficial aquarium bacteria convert the toxic ammonia (this comes from fish waste) into less harmful nitrates.
A biological filter is essential to the health of all aquariums and can the bacteria can that weeks to establish in a new aquarium. This is why we tell customers to set up and run their tanks well in advance of adding their fish, to ensure the perfect environment for your fish.
Tank Heater and Thermometer
Betta fish come from a tropical climate so it is essential you heat your tank properly. Normal room temperature is not suitable as it is too cold and can fluctuate, which is stressful on your fish. Your tank should be heated using a submersible aquarium heater, keeping the temperature around 24°C. if your heater doesn’t come with a thermometer, invest with one that attaches to your tank so you can ensure the temperature is maintained.
Small fish bowls and cups are too small to fit a suitable heater and cannot properly regulate or keep the water at the constant, ideal temperature. Some stores will sell tanks with small lamps above them, suggesting that this will provide proper heating for the tank. But these lamps are usually turned off at night and the heat they provide while on might be either too little or too much, depending on the environment the tank is kept in. This is why a submersible aquarium heater is the only way to ensure your betta fish is living in water at the appropriate temperature.
Tank Water Quality
Water quality is essential for all aquariums. You should use a good-quality liquid water conditioner to remove chlorine and chloramine from tap water before adding it to your tank. Aquarium owners should use General Hardness (GH) and Carbonate Hardness (KH) supplements, as these levels will vary depending on your local water supply.
Siamese fighting fish will require a pH around 7.0, a GH of 7-9°, and a KH of 5-8°. You should regularly test your water for pH, GH, KH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. This ensures your fish are not stressed out due to poor water quality.
Betta Fish Tank Maintenance
You should perform partial water changes – approximately 10% – once a week. Use a gravel vacuum to remove waste and uneaten food from your substrate. Wipe the sides of the tank with an aquarium-safe sponge. Wash your filter media and decorations in old tank water to prevent contamination from tap water.
Keep your tank out of direct sunlight to help prevent algae growth and excessive heat. Aquarium lights should be kept on for no more than 12 hours, so your betta fish is allowed time to rest. This also helps reduce the chance of algae forming.
Basic Fighting Fish Care
Betta fish are extremely intelligent fish, so they require an interesting and varied tank environment. Because they originate from densely vegetated areas, like rice paddies, fighting fish love tanks with several plants – real or artificial. They also like other forms of cover to explore, rest, or hide in if they are feeling threatened. By providing a stimulating environment for your fish to explore, you will reduce stress, allowing your fish to become more active, interesting, and inquisitive to watch.
Decorations and Plant Life
Fighting fish love tanks that have plenty of plant life and decorations to explore. Living aquarium plants can be difficult for beginner aquarium owners, as they require their own special care, including the right type of substrate, light, and food. Thankfully, there are plenty of fake plants available that are perfect for your betta fish. As we said above, betta fish come from heavily vegetated areas so they like plenty of plant life, as well as other things to explore. You can add other items to the tank to allow your fish to explore and hide, not only to stimulate their curiosity but also to give them a place to hide if needed.
However, betta fish fins are extremely delicate, so it is important to choose the right decorations for your tank. When it comes to fake plants, avoid the stiff, sharp plastic ones as these can potentially tear at your fish’s fins. Instead, opt for silk and soft plastic plants with n rough edges that are close replicas to real plants. These tend to be softer and safer for your fish.
Choose a variety of short and tall plants as your betta fish requires surface air supplementation to survive, so being close to the surface is beneficial. By providing tall plants with large leaves, you give your fish something to rest on at night.
If using a gravel substrate, ensure it is smooth, so it doesn’t rip at the fins if your betta decides to explore the bottom of its tank. Avoid rocks with rough, porous surfaces and, if using driftwood, sand it down gently so there are no sharp points or splinters.
Finally, mirrors should never be left near the tank as constant “flaring” of the fins by males can cause stress and exhaustion.
Siamese Fighting Fish Food and Feeding
Betta fish love a varied diet and feeding them one will maximise their health. You should offer them a high-quality, specialised fighting fish pellets or granules, as well as black worms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and frozen tubifex worms.
You should feed your betta fish 1-2 times a day in small amounts. This equates to around 2-3 pellets or other pieces of food. You should also ensure all food, aside from pellets, are broken into pieces before feeding.
In their natural environment, fighting fish exist exclusively on insects and insect larvae. This is why they have an upturned mouth that is suited to snatching up insects that fall into the water. As a result, their digestive system is designed for meat, meaning live foods are the ideal diet for fighting fish, though they will adapt to eating flake foods, and freeze-dried or frozen foods.
What Sicknesses Can Betta Fish Get?
Like any animal, betta fish can suffer from a number of health conditions. However, the good news is that most of these conditions can be prevented and treated. Most infections that occur in your aquarium can be easily identified and treated.
1: Fin and Tail Rot
This condition affects the tails and fins of the fighting fish. It is caused by either bacteria or fungi. The fins and tail can melt away or discolour as a result of rotting. This condition can be prevented by keeping your tank clean. If fin or tail rot occurs, you can treat it with medications containing antibiotics. If treated effectively, fatality is unlikely.
Columnaris is a bacterial illness that causes the fins to fray and rag. It also causes lesions or skin ulcers, white spots or marks around the mouth, cotton-like growths on the mouth, scales and fins, and discolouration of the gills. The fighting fish can have breathing difficulties due to the gill infection and damage. This illness can be prevented by treating open wounds and fungal infections. But the main preventative measure is ensuring your tank has plenty of oxygen, and by avoiding water hardening and tank overcrowding. If your infected fish is not treated, it will die in less than 72 hours.
More commonly known as “redmouth”, haemorrhagic causes serious bleeding inside the mouth and eyes of the Siamese fighting fish. This disease can be prevented by disinfecting the aquarium to kill the bacteria causing the illness. The illness is treated with antibiotics and, if treated, fatality is low.
All aquarium owners dread dropsy. It is a deadly ailment that affects the kidneys of the betta fish. The infected fish will have a swollen belly or abdomen due to an accumulation of internal fluid. Other symptoms include outwards sticking white scales and sunken eyes. This bacterial infection can be prevented by keeping the aquarium clean and by feeding your fish vitamin-rich foods. There is no known cure for dropsy and most fish do not survive.
5: Pop Eye
This condition causes the betta fish to have swelling in one or both eyes. The swelling can be caused by a tumour or a viral infection. It is generally a symptom of a disease and can be avoided by preventing infections in the aquarium. Antibiotics will generally cure the ailment and most fish that suffer from pop eye survive.
Also known as the cloudy cornea, this condition causes a white film to form over the eyes. It can be prevented by improving the quality of water in your aquarium. You will need to use a water conditioner to ensure the water is safer. While not fatal, it can impair the vision of your fighting fish. The condition can be treated by antibiotics.
7: Mouth Fungus
This bacterial disease causes white lines or fungus-like clumps to form around the lips and mouth of the fish. You can avoid this by regularly changing and conditioning your tank water to keep it clean. Antibiotics or medications that can cure fungus can help with the infection. If not treated, the betta fish will die.
Furunculosis causes skin ulcers and open red sores that can also grow on the fins and tail. You can prevent this condition by ensuring good water quality in your tank by regularly changing and conditioning it. Antibiotics can treat this condition and fish will die without treatment.
9: Fish Fungus
This is a fungal disease betta fish can get from previous infections. The affected fighting fish develop cotton-like growths, white fuzz films, slime, or white lumps and bumps on the skin. You can prevent fish fungus by avoiding primary infections and injuries, and by keeping your aquarium clean. You can use antibiotics to cure the fungus, but it can become fatal if you don’t treat it early enough.
Fighting fish with velvet will appear to have rusty skin and scaly heads including the gills and belly. They can also have black spots or marks all over the skin, causing colour loss. You can prevent velvet by improving the quality of the tank water and ensuring living conditions are stress-free. Using a water conditioner is the best way to improve living conditions.
Velvet is highly contagious and if not treated early enough it can kill all infected fish in a matter of days.
Also known as white spot or ick, ich is a parasitic disease that causes white dots, rings, marks, or spots on the fins, tail, gills, and belly of the Siamese fighting fish. Prevent ich by changing and conditioning the water regularly, as well as optimising the water parameters including ammonia, pH, dissolved solids, and nitrites.
You can treat this condition by separating the infected fish and treating it with ich specific medications. It is easy to treat this condition if addressed early.
12: Swim Bladder Disorder
Also known as flipover, this condition forces the fish to float to the surface of the water. It can also end up swimming sideways, upside down, or end up lying at the bottom of the tank. This condition is caused by constipation, poor water conditions, bacterial infections, parasites, and enlarged organs. Control it by maintaining a high-quality water condition, avoiding overcrowding your tank, and feeding your fish the right about of fresh, fibre-rich food. You can treat the condition by raising the water temperature slightly, letting the fish fast for someday, and feeding them cooked peas.
As you can see, betta fish are gorgeous, rewarding fish to own. If you are looking to own your first betta fish, or add one to your collection, explore the range at the Aquarium Factory. Not only do we stock a wide range of stunning betta fish, but we also have an incredible collection of aquariums perfect for your fish as well as your home décor needs. And we have everything else you need to set up the perfect tank for your new fish.
Need some help or looking for a custom tank? Contact our team today for help and advice!