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Dragon Scale Betta Fish: Care Guide, Varieties & Lifespan (With Pictures)

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

betta slendens in aquarium

Bettas are popular fish, and the Dragon Scale variety is likely one of the most popular variants. These adorable fish have translucent-like scales, eye-catching coloration, and flowing tails that set them apart from other Betta fish varieties.

However, there is a great deal of misinformation about this fish out there. Many people believe that you can keep them in small tanks, but this is simply not true. Bettas also can’t thrive on much of the food that is advertised as being specifically for them.

In this article, we’ll help you support your Dragon Scale Betta so they can live for as long as possible.

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Quick Facts About the Dragon Scale Betta

Species Name: Betta splendens
Family: Gourami
Care Level: Moderate
Temperature: 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit
Temperament: Aggressive
Color Form: Many
Lifespan: 2-5 years
Size: 2.25-2.5 inches
Diet: Carnivores
Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
Tank Set-Up: Plenty of plant cover

starfish-divider-ah Dragon Scale Betta Overview

betta splendens
Image Credit: Grigorii Pisotsckii, Shutterstock

Betta fish have been bred in captivity for a long time, which has allowed many different color variations to develop through selective breeding. The Dragon Scale variety is one of these colorations.

Betta fish originate in Thailand, though you won’t find any wild Dragon Scales floating around. These fish only occur in captivity for the most part.

Bettas are widely available at most pet stores. However, Dragon Scales may be a bit more difficult to find. Most pet stores will likely have one or two, but you may need to stalk the shelves to find one in some cases. They tend to be purchased quickly due to their unique coloration. They are also usually a bit more expensive, though most are still priced at under $25.

Often, these fish are marketed as being suitable for beginners. This is true, to an extent. However, many companies also market inappropriate products as being “for Betta fish.” This includes small bowls. But a Betta needs at least a 10-gallon tank. While they don’t need oxygenated water, they do produce waste and need enough water to offset that.

If you set up their tank correctly, these fish can be relatively easy to care for. However, if you don’t, you’ll likely be dealing with ammonia poisoning and similar issues. These fish can live a relatively long time, but many do not. In captivity, they are often subjugated to improper tank environments.

How Much Do Dragon Scale Betta Fish Cost?

betta splendens in aquarium
Image Credit: panpilai paipa, Shutterstock

Dragon Scale Bettas are often a bit more expensive than your typical Betta Fish. Where you purchase them will have a huge effect on their price. In many cases, these fish will cost about $15 to $25 from a chain pet store, assuming that you’re purchasing a male. Females tend to be less expensive, as their fins aren’t nearly as dramatic as a male’s.

If you purchase from a breeder, you may end up paying more. This is mainly because breeders who sell directly to the consumer tend to put a great deal of time and money into their fish. Naturally, these costs are passed on to the consumer.

Typical Behavior and Temperament

Betta fish are naturally territorial and aggressive, especially toward other males of their species. Even mating has one fish nearly always getting hurt.

Betta fish are also aggressive toward other species. They usually cannot be kept with any sort of fish that has bright colors. Some of them do fine with catfish and shrimp, but others will attack these fish as well.

It is often best to keep these fish alone, as they won’t usually get along with any tank mates. This does vary from fish to fish, though. Some Bettas are more laidback than others.


Appearance & Varieties

betta splendens
Image Credit: Rethinktwice, Pixabay

The Dragon Scale Betta is one variety of Betta fish. There is a great deal of variety within this one variant, though. For the most part, they are exactly like the average Betta Fish, they just have shiny scales that set them apart from the rest. Their behavior and needs are exactly the same.

These fish will have their usual coloration, but they will be covered by metallic white scales on much of their body. The exact amount of coverage varies. Even fish with two or three scales may be advertised as a “dragon scale,” though you likely wouldn’t notice unless you were looking for it.

These fish come in many different colors, though their “underneath” color is typically red. Their upper scales will always be white. In some cases, the color of their under-scales may not matter much, as you may not be able to see them. In other cases, the fish may only have a few upper scales, which makes their base coloration more apparent.

This variant was produced by breeding captive-bred Betta splendens with a wild Betta variant called the betta mahachai. For the most part, this crossbreeding doesn’t seem to have affected the Betta’s temperament.

The Dragon Scale Betta is relatively new. For this reason, they tend to be rarer. There simply aren’t as many people breeding them.

How to Take Care of a Dragon Scale Betta

red male betta fish in aquarium
Image Credit: Grigorii Pisotscki, Shutterstock

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

Betta fish need at least a 10-gallon tank. This is substantially different from what many big pet companies tend to suggest. Many of the ¼-gallon “Betta bowls” are far too small for this fish — 10 gallons is the absolute bare minimum. If you go smaller than this, you’re likely looking at your fish dying quickly.

If you truly want to set up a great home for your Betta fish, tank size is going to be your biggest concern. If you don’t have room for a 10-gallon tank, you shouldn’t adopt a Betta fish.

These fish are native to the waters of Thailand, which tend to be warm. Room-temperature water is too cold for these fish. Instead, you will need to invest in a heater and keep the temperature at 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, your fish can easily become lethargic. They can’t digest or swim correctly when cold, which can lead to disease and death.

You should plan on investing in a thermometer too, as this is important for keeping an eye on the tank’s temperature.

You should leave a decent amount of space at the top of the tank so your Betta has access to the air. As labyrinth fish, they will supplement their oxygen intake with fresh air.

You should add a filter to your tank, but you’ll need to be careful about the sort of filter that you invest in. Betta fish cannot swim in water currents, so the filter cannot disturb the water. It is best to choose a sponge filter or some sort of internal filter.

You should also change 25% of the water once a week. Changing too much water at a time can upset your Betta fish, as they are sensitive to changes in water parameters. The replaced water needs to be treated with a water conditioner.

Betta fish do not require any sort of artificial light. They do need a regular day-night cycle, but this can often be done without investing in a set of aquarium lights.

These fish will spend most of their time at the top of the tank, where they can access fresh air. They do enjoy plant coverage, especially if they can rest on the leaves of a plant. However, use silk or live plants only. Plastic plants are too rough and will tear their delicate fins.


Are Dragon Scale Betta Fish Good Tank Mates?

betta splendens on nature background
Image Credit: panpilai paipa, Shutterstock

No, these fish are notoriously aggressive and do not make good tank mates in the least. We do not recommend that you ever attempt to add tank mates in with your Betta. While it can work sometimes, it often ends in disaster. The betta will usually attack the other fish, even if they are peaceful and larger than them.

They are extremely territorial, especially towards their own species. They are quite sensitive to other fish too. Out of all the freshwater fish, these are among the most aggressive.

They are quite solitary, so they enjoy their own room. If you add other fish into your Dragon Scale’s tank, they may simply decide that there isn’t enough room and attempt to chase the other fish away. Of course, because they’re in a tank, there isn’t anywhere for the fish to go. This usually won’t end up well for either fish.

Some bettas are laidback enough to handle tankmates, but only specific ones. Preferably, you want something that is as different from a Betta fish as possible, such as a catfish or snail.

What to Feed Your Dragon Scale Betta Fish

Dragon Scale Betta fish are carnivores. Therefore, they need to eat meat and only meat. Flakes are not appropriate for these fish because they often contain quite a bit of plant material. Even some pellets advertised as being for Betta fish are not appropriate. Be sure to check the ingredient list before you settle on food. Otherwise, you could be feeding your fish an inappropriate diet.

Choose a food that is mostly made of meat products, such as other fish. Of course, there will likely be some sort of ingredient to keep it all together, but it should mostly contain meat. Choose a pellet that floats as well. Bettas may or may not chase their food if it sinks. As top-dwelling fish, they will typically avoid diving.

A Betta’s stomach is about the size of their eye, which is not that big at all. As you might imagine, they don’t need much food. Usually, two to three pellets are plenty. Of course, the size of the pellets does matter. You want to match the amount of food that you feed them to their eyeball. Overfeeding can cause health problems.

Keeping Your Dragon Scale Betta Fish Healthy

betta splendens
Image By: Buddy BIGPhotographer, Shutterstock

The most important part of keeping your Dragon Scale healthy is the water parameters. Like all fish, Bettas will produce waste. This ammonia will stay in the water unless it is filtered out or removed through a water change. This is one reason that it is so important to add an appropriate filter and change out the water once a week.

Betta fish are not as hardy as some other species. They may be able to live in small bowls for a short time due to their labyrinth organs. But many do not live anywhere close to their normal lifespan in captivity.

If the water parameters change quickly, many Bettas may not make it. When you first bring your fish home, it is essential that you properly adjust them to the water. This often means allowing their container to float in the water for a time, which makes it slowly heat up to the correct temperature.

At the same time, you will need to make slight water changes. Remove a small amount of water from your Betta’s container and add some from the tank. This will adjust the water parameters slowly and give the fish time to adjust.

If you simply dump the fish into the new tank, you’ll likely end up with a dead fish.

Dragon Scale Bettas are not particularly prone to health problems, but their scales don’t protect them from any as well.


Betta fish do not breed peacefully. Even if two fish are interested in breeding, there will still likely be injuries. If you aren’t prepared for this, we don’t recommend breeding these fish.

That said, breeding them is straightforward enough. You simply need to introduce the female and male into the same tank. We recommend using a separate tank without any gravel or substrate, as the eggs can get stuck in it.

The male and female will chase each other around for a time before mating. The male should be given time to make a bubble nest, as this is what he’ll use to take care of the eggs. Provide plenty of plant cover, so the two fish can hide from each other as necessary.

After breeding, the male will collect the eggs and take them into the bubble nest. Males are typically good at this, so it is best to simply let him do his job. The eggs will hatch after a time, but the male will continue to care for the babies until they are free-swimming. At this point, he can be removed.

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Are Dragon Scale Bettas Suitable for Your Aquarium?

While these fish are often suggested for beginners, we typically only recommend them for those who have some experience owning pet fish. You need to know about complex subjects for your Betta fish to thrive. For instance, water acclimation and water parameters are both crucial for this species. They are not as hardy as some other fish out there.

However, if you have owned fish before, a Dragon Scale Betta can make a wonderful addition to your collection. Just be sure that you don’t plan on keeping them with any other fish and that you have enough room for a 10-gallon tank.

Featured Image Credit: panpilai paipa, Shutterstock

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