The betta fish (Betta Splendens), also known as the Siamese fighting fish is a member of the gourami family, and it is native to the Mekong basin in Southeast Asia. In the wild, the betta fish natural habitat are ponds, rice paddies, flood plains, and slow-moving streams.
Highly territorial, the betta fish has a reputation for being aggressive. The male betta fish is more aggressive than the female. Two betta fish males will fight, probably till death if they are placed in the same tank.
The betta fish is an aquarist’s delight, it is an excellent aquarium fish and a social creature. The betta fish has a remarkable long term memory and can recognize his owners.
The betta fish adapts easily to confined areas without much fuss, and his beautiful colors and extraordinary flowing fins make it a worthy addition to any aquarium display.
The betta fish bright colors are the result of over 120 years of selective breeding by various hobbyists and commercial breeders with an ambition to create a magnificent fish with overblown flowing fins, whose colors stay forever bright. The betta fish exists in more than 25 colors.
Color variations in Betta Fish
The wild Siamese fighting fish displays bright colors only when he is distressed and over the years, breeders have learned how to make those colors a permanent feature of the betta fish skin.
Betta fish have different layers of pigmentation in their skin, and these layers consist of base primary colors of red, blue, black, and a combination of blue and green (iridescent) colors. If you notice your betta fish changing its colors, this means that the colors in each layer are reacting with each other.
The betta fish may seem to change colors when it’s iridescent hues of blue, turquoise, and green are refracted through a layer of opaque guanine crystals present in the betta fish skin. This condition can create visually appealing color tints when viewed from different angles, or when lighting conditions are changed.
Common betta fish colors, also known as base colors are red, blue, yellow, black, white, and orange. Rare betta fish colors that are different from its base colors are; green, mustard gas, super orange, grizzle, turquoise, lavender, and metallic colors.
Betta fish varieties come in several color patterns, each color pattern is unique to each betta fish variety.
Examples of betta fish color patterns are:
This color pattern is a base color and a mix of blue and green scales.
More than three distinct colors with no apparent connection with any existing color pattern.
Prominent colors of either white, or orange with three base or common colors of blue, red, yellow, or black.
This pattern is distinguished by its distinct color lines with uniform color patterns all over the betta fish body.
This color pattern is unique because the color of the body of the betta is different from the color of its fins.
This is a very remarkable and popular color pattern. Just like marble, this color pattern displays regular colors in an irregular and non-distinct color pattern all over the body and fin of the betta fish.
A unique color pattern, this is a single color without any variations on the betta fish body.
Displayed as pale body-color, with fins having a bright base color on the betta fish body.
Naturally, in a betta fish, the face is darker than the body of the fish. But in the full mask pattern, the face of the fish is the same color pattern as the body.
This common color pattern has two types;
One body color with the fin insides white or transparent.
A base or common body color broadening to the base of the fin and tail, and then abruptly replaced by a pale or a transparent color.
Both color patterns usually end in either white or transparent fins.
How often do the Betta fish change colors
Change of color in a betta fish is either a good or negative response to health or habitat issues. Color shifting is the betta fish’s way of making his owner pay close attention to his needs or an indication that he is happy.
There is no limitation on how many times a betta fish can change his colors, however, this ability declines as the betta fish age.
Reasons why the Betta fish change color
Betta fish can feel stressed out too. Lot’s of betta fish owners have a misconception about the betta fish, and they believe that bettas can withstand lots of abuse than the average aquarium fish.
This misunderstanding is reinforced when they stroll into pet shops and see brightly colored betta fish swimming about in the tiny containers in which they were shipped. Unknown to them, the captivating bright colors displayed by the betta fish they had just purchased may be “stress or racing stripes.”
“Stress or racing stripes”, are bright horizontal stripes displayed along the betta fish’s sides indicating severe stress. Depending on the occurrence of the stress factors, these stripes may appear and disappear at intervals.
It is crucial for the betta fish owner to know that the betta fish stress stripes will disappear when the betta fish is taken home, and placed in a suitable fish tank. Stress stripes can also indicate that a betta fish is being bullied in a community tank.
Several factors can trigger stress in a betta fish, there are:
Unsuitable water conditions: unpleasant water conditions can trigger stress in a betta fish. Dirty water, insufficient water temperature, and unstable water pH levels are not ideal water conditions required for the betta fish to flourish.
Irregular changing of the tank water creates high ammonia and nitrate levels which can also cause stress.
It is advised to clean the betta fish tank about twice a week. Also, about 20% of the water in bigger tanks with filters should be changed once a week.
The ideal water conditions for the Betta fish are as follows;
- Water temperature – 24.5–26.5°C
- pH level – 7.0
The betta fish may be tiny, but they need space to roam and swim around. Betta fish living in small containers easily become bored and dispirited and will display stress stripes indicating unhappiness.
The betta fish is highly social, and will often recognize and can welcome their owners as they approach the tank by swimming to the glass. The recommended minimum tank size for Betta fish is 5 gallons.
Selecting inappropriate tank mates for your betta fish can result in tank bullying, thus creating an unsafe environment for the betta fish. The betta fish will indicate this problem by displaying “fear stripes” along his body. Bigger fish who occupy the same tank as your betta fish will constantly harass and nip at the bettas fish fins.
The betta fish is a solitary fish, and if it’s owner plans to have a multi fish tank setup, it is vital to select peaceful, bottom-dwelling fish to live in the same tank with the betta fish.
Tanks with poor aquascaping: betta fish need good places to hide. Tanks that do include caves for the betta fish to hide, and plants providing lots of shade are suitable for the betta fish.
Being a tiny fish with lots of natural predators, the betta fish prefers to live in environments that provide lots of hiding spaces. If there are insufficient hiding places in the betta fish tank, the betta fish will feel unsafe and will get stressed.
Color change in a betta fish can indicate illness. Diseases such as Columnaris causes discoloration of the betta’s fins and scales.
Bacterial septicemia: this is an infection of the bloodstream. The betta fish can be infected through open sores on his body, or when he eats food contaminated with the bacteria.
The disease is accompanied by red streaks across the betta fish body and fins.
Velvet disease: velvet disease is a parasitic infection in betta fish. The betta finish can be infected when a fish with the parasite is introduced into the fish tank.
Betta fish afflicted with the velvet disease have yellow or copper-like color on their bodies and looks like it is covered in gold dust.
Breeding stripes are bright vertical stripes displayed along both sides of female betta fish. Breeding stripes are not as bright as stress stripes, and should not be mistaken for stress stripes.
The female betta fish displays breeding stripes across her body to indicate she is ready to mate.
This color change is caused by a “jumping gene” which can make the betta fish change color multiple times in his lifetime and may even change his colors completely. Betta fish breeders have inserted a jumping gene, also called transposons into the gene of a normal betta fish to create the marble Betta fish variety.
The “jumping gene” enables the Marble betta fish to change color unusually. A Marble betta can change from plain color to display large irregular patterns on its body.
The color change can either be momentary or permanent, as the “jumping gene” is constantly moving around the Marble betta fish body. When the “jumping gene” leaves a particular location, the skin pigmentation will revert to its original color. The color change can be displayed as spots all over the Marble betta fish body, or it can start from a location and spread uniformly around the betta’s body.
Feeding your betta fish a diet of mostly dried fish pellets will make the betta fish change his color. A natural carnivore, the wild betta fish feeds on insects and insect larvae.
Betta fish needs natural foods that contain Carotenoids to maintain its bright colors. Brine shrimp have lots of Carotenoids which help betta fish maintain its bright colors.
Like all living creatures, the betta fish gets old and grey. Betta fish have an average lifespan of up to 3-5 years. As the betta fish ages, its color turns to grey, this is perfectly natural as there is nothing to worry about.
Betta fish fries are almost transparent when they hatch. And as they grow older, their color deepens until their third year when it gradually fades into shades of brown and grey.
Exposure to light
Sometimes, when the betta fish is left in a dark room for a long period, it loses its color. However, when the Betta fish is exposed to light, it regains its original color within a few hours.
The betta fish can change colors for different reasons, some betta fish color changes are a sign that the betta fish is enjoying a good and suitable environment. However, when the Betta fish color starts to fade or becomes pale, betta fish owners are encouraged to keep an eye out for what may be causing the color change and address those issues promptly.