Betta Fish (Siamese Fighting Fish): Types, Lifespan, Behavior And More

The name Betta is used to describe a large genus of freshwater fish that belong to the family Osphronemidae or gourami. There are about 65 different species within this genus and the type species is Betta Picta or spotted betta. The most popular species belonging to this genus, however, is Betta Splendens.

Betta fish is also known by the nickname of Siamese fighting fish. In the United States, Betta Splendens is the most common type, but all members of the Betta genus are known as betta fish, regardless of their species.

In the wild, the various species that belong to the genus Betta fish show a wide range of colors, but these colors are very muted compared to the domesticated versions that are generally sold in pet stores.

Wild specimens of Betta Splendens are typically short-finned and opaque in color. Another popular species, Betta Imbellis, or the Pacific betta, are also quite simple: they typically exhibit a green, gray or black coloration, sometimes with pale red or blue spots.

Through selective breeding and genetic mutations, breeders have been able to drastically improve the appearance of these fish. Today, betta fish are known for their bright coloration, as well as for the variety of types of fins they can possess. Many aquarium hobbyists do not realize that the betta fish they see in the pet store is a domesticated and genetically enhanced version of the species.

Where Do Betta Fish Come From?

The betta fish is a species of freshwater native to Thailand (formerly Siam), Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

Several species belonging to the genus Betta have also been found in other parts of Asia, such as Malaysia and the island of Singapore and Sumatra.

These fish have even been introduced in countries as far away from their native habitat as Brazil and Columbia. These fish tend to inhabit still or slow-moving waters, such as those found in rice paddies, swamps, and ditches, as well as in small streams and ponds.

Although water conditions may vary by location, most of these places have a mud or sand substrate and the water is shaded by marginal or submerged vegetation.

Betta fish can be very territorial and in their natural habitat, it is estimated that their territories measure approximately one square meter.

Throughout the year, however, it may be necessary for these fish to move their territory. During the dry season, ditches and rice paddies throw these fish Inhabiting can typically dry up, leaving fish with limited space and resources.

Some betta fish will try to jump out of the puddle in which their territory has been reduced in search of a more suitable environment, but not all betta fish make these attempts.

To survive in an increasingly small territory where toxins accumulate as water evaporates, betta fish are equipped with a special organ called a labyrinth. This organ helps betta fish to breathe in water that has a low dissolved oxygen content by allowing them to breathe air directly from the surface.

This organ also makes it possible for betta fish to survive for short periods of time out of the water while jumping from puddle to puddle in search of a larger body of water.

Types Of Betta Fish

In the United States, Betta Splendens is often known simply as a betta. Although Betta Splendens is the most popular species in the aquarium hobby industry, there are actually more than 60 species that belong to the Betta genus. These species can be divided into several different ways.

Some aquarists prefer to divide the species of this genus by their spawning behavior: some species, such as Betta Splendens, build bubble nests to protect their fry, while others, such as Betta Picta, are mouthbrooders.

Another method to classify the many species of betta fish is to divide them into groups called “complexes.” There are currently 13 complexes, each of which is called a particular species of betta.

In addition to the numerous species of betta, there is also a wide variety of color shapes and types of fins within the various species.

Betta Fish Species

Betta akarensis group:

  • Betta akarensis
  • Betta aurigans
  • Betta balunga
  • Betta chini
  • Betta pinguis
  • Betta ibanorum
  • Betta obscura
  • Betta antoni

Betta albimarginata group:

  • Betta albimarginata
  • Betta channoides

Betta anabatoides group:

  • Betta anabatoides

Betta bellica group:

  • Betta bellica
  • Betta simorum

Betta coccina group:

  • Betta coccina
  • Betta tussyae
  • Betta persephone
  • Betta rutilans
  • Betta brownorum
  • Betta livida
  • Betta miniopinna
  • Betta burdigala
  • Betta uberis

Betta dimidiata group:

  • Betta dimidiate
  • Betta krataios

Betta edithae group:

  • Betta edithae

Betta foerschi group:

  • Betta foerschi
  • Betta strohi
  • Betta rubra
  • Betta mandor

Betta picta group:

  • Betta picta
  • Betta taeniata
  • Betta simplex
  • Betta pallida
  • Betta falx

Betta pugnax group:

  • Betta pugnax
  • Betta fusca
  • Betta schalleri
  • Betta prima Betta enisae
  • Betta pulchra
  • Betta breviobesus
  • Betta lehi
  • Betta stigmosus
  • Betta cracens
  • Betta raja
  • Betta apollon
  • Betta ferox

Betta splendens group: 

  • Betta splendens
  • Betta smaragdina
  • Betta imbellis
  • Betta stiktos

Betta unimaculata group:

  • Betta unimaculata
  • Betta macrostoma
  • Betta patoti
  • Betta ocellata
  • Betta gladiator
  • Betta ideii
  • Betta pallifina
  • Betta compuncta

Betta waseri group:

  • Betta waseri
  • Betta hipposideros
  • Betta spilotegena
  • Betta chloropharynx
  • Betta renata
  • Betta pi
  • Betta tomi

Fin Types In Betta Fish

Veil Tail 

The veil tail betta is one of the most common long-finned forms. These fish have a caudal fin that arches and then leans down, forming a wedding veil.

Spade Tail

This tail variant was more popular during the 1990s, but today it is less common. The spade tail bettas have a caudal fin that is wide at the base and narrows to a point, forming a spade.

Double Tail

The double tail betta is bred to have two caudal lobes along with a dorsal fin that is the same length as the anal fin. The two caudal lobes give the appearance of a double fin.

Round Tail

Also a popular variant, round tail bettas are often confused with delta tail bettas. These fish have a unique tail with rounded edges.


Crowntail bettas have shortened the straps between the rays of the fin, which gives the tail the appearance of having spikes or prongs. This type of fin can have a single or double coloration depending on the breeding.

Delta Tail

Delta tail bettas have straight caudal edges that extend outward from the back of the fish instead of arching upwards. These tails are typically symmetrical and almost triangular in shape.

Super Delta Tail

These fish are also known as Super Delta Bettas and are very similar in appearance, if slightly improved, to the standard Delta Tail Betta. The span of the Super Delta tail is between that of the standard Delta tail and the Halfmoon betta, usually around 170 degrees.

Halfmoon Tail

Once a rarity, Halfmoon tail bettas are now quite common. The tails of these bettas have a crescent shape, with a 180-degree tail section. The caudal edges of a Halfmoon tail should be straight or curved outward rather than bent inward.

Rose Tail

The variation of the rose tail was discovered during attempts to reproduce the perfect Halfmoon tail. This type of tail is characterized by excessive branching in the caudal, anal and dorsal fins that combine to create a pink appearance.

Plakat tail

This type of tail is essentially the shortfin version of Betta Splendens. The shorter fins of these fish allow betta to be more active and also make them more resistant to diseases such as fin rot.

Comb Tail

Also called half-sun bettas, the comb tail bettas are of a type with fringes achieved by crossing a betta of a tail and without fringes with a crown tail betta. Like crown tail bettas, comb tails exhibit a reduction in the straps, but they are so minimal that they only result in a slightly pointed appearance.

Facts Of Betta Fish

Although betta fish come in a variety of colors and types of fins, most species and color variants exhibit several similar qualities. All betta fish has an elongated and conical body complete with a dorsal, anal and caudal fin along with a pectoral fin on each side of the body and two ventral fins under the head.

Depending on the species and variant, all these fins may vary in length, shape, and color. Male betta fish use their fins to attract partners and to ward off predators or potential challengers.

Bettas can keep their fins upright, increasing their size so that the fish looks bigger than it really is and shows its coloration.

However wild betta fish are likely to only show striking colors during mating or when they feel threatened, contemporary breeders have discovered how to improve these colors and make them permanent.

Therefore, it is likely that the betta fish that you find in the pet store has a much more vibrant color than the bettas that you can find in the wild. Some of the colors now available in betta fish include red, turquoise, blue, orange, green, yellow, cream and even white.

Some colors are iridescent, have the appearance of changing colors with some light, while others are opaque. Breeders have even achieved several metallic tones such as gold, copper, and platinum.

The type of betta fish that you probably find at your local pet store may vary by location. However, it is almost certain that you will find more male than female betta fish available for sale. This is because males of the species are naturally more colorful than females and, therefore, are the most sought after by aquarium hobbyists.

Female betta fish are still sold in pet stores, but unless the hobbyist intends to breed them, they are often overlooked in favor of the most striking males of the species.

Features Of Betta Fish 

Betta fish are anabantoids, which are a group of fish that have a lung-like organ called a labyrinth. This organ allows the betta fish to breathe air, which allows it to live out of the water for a short period of time, as long as the body remains moist.

Once the air has been inhaled, the labyrinth organ helps facilitate the absorption of oxygen in the bloodstream. Although mature betta fish breathe heavily through the use of the labyrinthine organ, they are not born with a functional maze. As a fry, betta fish breathe through their gills and the labyrinth organ develops over time.

Depending on the species, betta fish vary in length from one inch to five inches. The bodies of betta fish are well equipped for their carnivorous lifestyle. In addition to having an excellent view, betta fish also have powerful jaws and sharp teeth.

The jaws of the betta fish are lined with perfectly suitable teeth to tear shrimp, worms and other prey.

The betta fish’s eyes are large and bulging, a situation on each side of the head. Another unique feature of betta fish is its “beard”, the membrane under the cover of the lower gill plate that protrudes when the gills are closed.

The purpose of this membrane is to make the fish look bigger than it really is to scare away predators.

The fins of betta fish are the most distinctive and often the most attractive parts of their bodies. In some species, the fins are short and rounded, while other species exhibit fan-shaped fins or even long and fluid.

The growth of fins in betta fish usually begins around eight weeks of age. The anal fins develop first, followed by the caudal and dorsal fins.

In females of the species, the development of the fins usually stops while the fins are still small, but the fins of the male betta fish often continue to grow throughout the life of the fish.

The Lifespan Of Betta Fish

Under the right conditions, betta fish can live between 2 and 3 years. To maximize the lifespan of your betta fish, it is imperative that you provide adequate space in the tank and maintain high water quality.

While betta fish are often sold in small bowls or plastic containers, these are not the ideal conditions for a betta fish to thrive.

Like all fish, bettas require space to move and grow; Unless these requirements are met, Betta fish are likely to get stressed and experience a shorter lifespan.

To keep the water quality in your betta tank high, make regular water changes and make sure the tank is equipped with a quality filter.

Behavior And Aggression

Because Betta splendens is also known by its nickname “Siamese fighting fish”, it should not surprise the aquarium hobbyists that these fish can be quite aggressive and territorial.

These tendencies are more pronounced in males of the species, of course, but even females of the species can become antagonistic.

If placed in a tank with another male of the same species, male betta fish are likely to become extremely aggressive. Male bettas will actively attack any other male that enters its territory, antagonizing the other fish until they kill it or remove it from the tank.

It is also likely that males of this species become aggressive during mating, so it is recommended to remove the female from the breeding tank immediately after the mating process.

Although they can be extremely aggressive with others of their own species, betta fish can sometimes be kept in large tanks with other fish species.

Bottom feeders, such as corydoras and otocinclus catfish are unlikely to incite hostility in male or female betta fish. Livebearers such as platies, as well as small tetras and minnows, can also be good tank mates.

It is better to avoid any species that has particularly colorful or long fins because male bettas can confuse these fish with a rival male. Bettas can also nip the fins of long-finned tank mates and could even have their own fins cut by larger and more aggressive species.

Some species of the genus Betta are more peaceful than Betta splendens and, therefore, are more likely to accept tank mates. Betta imbellis is known as Betta Pacific and can be maintained with small and peaceful species such as corydoras catfish and small cyprinids.

Betta smaragdina, the Emerald Betta, is very similar in temperament to the Pacific Betta and can also be kept with small and peaceful species of freshwater fish.

Female betta fish of any species can sometimes get along in groups with 3 to 6 of their own species. However, since some specimens will be naturally more aggressive than others, it is advisable to provide many hiding places in the tank for less aggressive females.