Due to their popularity, betta fish, (also commonly known as Siamese fighting fish) have been selectively bred over many years to create a wide variety of different-looking types of betta fish. Although technically they all belong to the same species, there’s an astounding amount of variety in their appearance.
There are so many wildly different fin types, patterns, and colors that can occur, that to an outsider, two different bettas may not even look like they’re the same species at all! Even to experienced betta fish keepers, the sheer scale of the number of variations can get confusing.
To help clarify, we’re going to describe in this guide all the different betta types out there, first by fin type, then by pattern, and finally by color. That said, new types of bettas crop up from time to time so you might encounter the occasional oddball that doesn’t truly fit in with any of the ‘standard’ types in this guide. But we will cover the vast majority, along with images for illustration.
How Many Types of Betta Fish are There?
This is not a simple question to answer, as there is a lot of disagreement on what is a true type, and what is not, with more and more being selectively bred and “created” every year.
Aqueon.com states there are 73 recognized types. However, by the time you read this, there will probably be a handful of breeders pushing to get a new type recognized.
Types of Betta Fish By Tail Type
One of the most startling differences between the many betta fish types is down to tail and fin types. From amazingly long and flowing fins to short but striking, neat fan-like tails, there is a lot of variety to be seen.
Let’s take a look at the main betta fish tail types you’ll find on commonly available varieties.
1. VeilTail (VT) Betta Fish
The veiltail betta, or VT for short, is the most common kind of tail that you’ll find in any aquarium and is what you’ll see on most pet store varieties. In fact, due to its popularity and overbreeding, veil-tailed bettas are no longer seen as desirable or accepted on the show circuit.
That said, this is still a nice-looking fish with a beautiful tail that is long and flowing, and tends to droop from the caudal peduncle. The anal and dorsal fins are also long and flowing. Veil tails have an asymmetrical tail, so if you split the tail horizontally in half, the upper and lower parts would not be the same.
In almost all specimens, the tail droops or constantly hangs, even when flaring, which likely adds to them being seen as inferior when compared to many other tail types.
2. Combtail Betta
The comb tail isn’t really a distinct shape of its own, it’s more a trait that can be seen on many other tail shapes. It commonly consists of a fan-like caudal fin with a sizable spread, though normally at less than 180 degrees where it would be considered more of a ‘half sun’ (as detailed later.)
A combtail betta’s fins will have rays that extend beyond the fin webbing, giving it a slightly spiky appearance, said to look like a comb, but nothing too dramatic such as seen in the crown tail below.
The tail can have the droop typically seen with the veil tail, though it’s not preferred.
3. Crown Tail (CT) Betta Fish
In the words of “bettySpelendens.com” (link to source removed as the site has, sadly, recently gone offline):
“The Crowntail betta was founded in 1997 in West Jakarta, Slipi, Indonesia. The webbing between the fin rays is reduced, producing the appearance of spikes or prongs, hence the name “Crown Tail”.
The crown tail betta (abbreviated to CT) is perhaps one of the easiest tail types to recognize as the reduced webbing and very extended rays give them a highly distinctive spiky appearance. There can be double, triple, crossed, and even quadruple-ray extensions. Crowntail betta can have a full 180-degree spread, but less is also acceptable and indeed most commonly seen.
The term “crowntail” is often abbreviated to “CT” when describing such fish.
4. Delta (D) & Super Delta (SD)
Delta tail betta fish are so called because it’s shaped somewhat like the Greek letter D, but on their side and more rounded at the end.
The main difference between a super delta betta fish and a standard delta is that a super delta tail is approaching—but not quite—a 180-degree spread (180-degree would be a half moon), whereas the spread of a plain delta tail is much smaller.
What differentiates both delta and super delta from some similar tail types is that it should be evenly spread. If you drew a horizontal line through the middle of the body of a delta or super delta, it would be symmetrical and there would be an equal amount of tail above and below the line.
Finally, there should be no “combing” or “crowning” of the rays, the tail edge should have the webbing right to the ends so the tail does not appear “spiky”.
Delta’s are abbreviated to “D” and Super Delta’s are abbreviated to “SD” during discussions.
5. Double Tail (DT) Betta Fish
The double-tail betta, also known as the DT, is just as it sounds: It has a double caudal fin. It’s worth noting that this isn’t just a single caudal fin split in half, but a true double tail with two caudal peduncles.
Double tails don’t necessarily have caudal fins even in size, but an even split is extremely desirable. They also tend to have shorter bodies and broader dorsal and anal fins, which usually mirror each other more or less exactly.
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6. Half Moon (HM) / Over Half Moon (OHM)
The caudal fin of a half-moon betta fish has a characteristic full 180-degree spread, like a capital D or, fittingly, a half-moon. Both the dorsal and anal fins are also larger than average in half-moon betta.
Although they are striking and sought after, it’s worth noting that this unnaturally large tail can lead to issues of tearing and tail damage, often referred to as “blowing a tail.” Half moons are abbreviated to HM in descriptions.
The over-half-moon is basically an extreme version of the half-moon. It is the same tail in all ways except one: the spread, when flared, is more than 180 degrees.
7. Half Sun Betta
The half-sun tail type has come about by selectively breeding the half-moon and the crown tail varieties together. This type has the full 180-degree spread of the half moon, but has rays extending beyond the webbing of the caudal fin, as you would see with the crown tail.
That said, the rays are only slightly extended, not nearly enough to be confused with a crown tail.
8. Plakat (PK)
The plakat betta, or PK for short, is a short-tailed variety, which is more closely related to the betta splendens found in the wild than other varieties. They are sometimes mistaken for females (who all have shorter tails), but the difference is the males have longer ventral fins, more rounded caudal fins, and sharply pointed anal fins.
The traditional plakat simply has a short rounded or slightly pointed tail. However, there are now two other types of plakat thanks to selective breeding: the half-moon plakat and the crown tail plakat.
The half-moon variety has a short tail but with a 180-degree spread like a traditional half-moon. The crown tail type has extended rays and reduced webbing, like a regular crown tail, but again this is with a short tail characteristic of a plakat, rather than a long one.
9. Rosetail & Feathertail
The rosetail is similar to an HM or extreme half-moon, so the spread of the caudal fin is 180 degrees or more. The difference being that the rays have excessive branching, which gives a more ruffled look to the end of the tail, said to look like the ruffled petals of a rose.
If there is a larger than usual amount of branching (even for a rosetail) giving an even more pronounced, or perhaps “extreme ruffled effect”, with a slight zig-zag look, then this is referred to as a feather tail.
10. Round Tail
The round tail is similar to a delta, but is fully rounded, without straight edges near the body that makes most tails the shape of a D. It’s also similar to a basic plakat, but is significantly longer and fuller than the plakat’s characteristically short tail.
11. Spade Tail
The spade tail betta is quite similar to a round tail, but rather than the tip of the caudal fin being rounded, it comes to a single point, like the spade in a deck of playing cards (though on its side.) The spread of a spade tail should be even on both sides of the tail.
BettySplendens.com speculate, (again, link to source removed as the site has sadly gone offline):
…it can be safely said that most “spade tails” are simply a variation of the Veiltail, and pretty commonly seen on females and juvenile VTs whose finnage hasn’t reached full weight and length.
An interesting observation for sure!
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- Betta fish care – A complete, detailed, easy-to-follow guide.
Types of Betta Fish By Pattern
Another important factor when it comes to distinguishing betta types is the patterning type of the colors and scales on their body and fins. Some types look relatively “plain”, while some look outstandingly beautiful, and some patterns are rarer than others, and thus more sought after and desirable.
So, enough with the chat, let’s take a look at how the commonly accepted known patterns are described.
A bi-colored betta fish will have a body of one color and fins of another color.
This generally works in one of two ways:
- A “light bicolored betta” should have a light-colored body, and although light-colored fins are acceptable, dark contrasting colors to the body are far more preferred.
- A “dark bicolored betta” must have a solidly colored body in one of the 6 accepted solid colors. The fins are either translucent or brightly colored, with contrasting colors to the body preferred.
With both the light and dark bicolor varieties, the fish should only have two colors and any other marking would be a disqualification if being judged (with the exception of darker shading on the head which is seen in the vast majority of specimens.)
The butterfly pattern type is when they have a single solid body color that extends into the base of the fins. The color then stops in a strong distinct line and the rest of the fins are pale or translucent. So in essence, the fins are two-tone, kind of like a second color band on the outer half of the fins circling the rest of the solid-colored betta.
The ideal split of color in the fins would occur halfway, so they are a 50/50 split, half and half between the two colors. However, this is rarely achieved and some leeway of 20% or so either way is accepted if being shown.
A Cambodian is actually a variation on the bi-colored pattern but is distinct enough to have been named in its own right.
This pattern consists of a pale body, preferably flesh-colored white or light pink, paired with bright solid-colored fins that are generally red, though other color fins can and do occur (but still with the solid flesh-colored body.)
The dragon pattern is relatively new and is proving very popular due to its very striking, almost metallic-like appearance. The base color is rich and bright, often red, but the scales on the body of the fish are thick, metallic, opaque white, and iridescent, which are said to make the body look as though they’re covered in the armored scales of a dragon.
According to bettablogging.com:
The term “dragon” is often misused in the betta community to refer to any fish that has thick scaling that covers the body and face. However, true dragons are not just thick-scaled fish but fish with opaque, white, metallic scales and varied finnage. If he does not have all of these traits, he may be classified as a “metallic” betta.
So not all metallic-looking betta are in fact “dragon” and the name is often wrongly given to fish that are outside of the true description.
Marble betta fish have irregular blotchy or splash-like patterning all over the body. Generally, the base color of the fish is pale and the patterns are in a bold, solid color, such as red or blue.
All marble types must have marbling on their body, but not necessarily on the fins. Some have translucent fins, others have fins showing marbling. Both variations are acceptable.
What’s strange about marble bettas is their patterns can change throughout their lives.
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To understand the significance of the mask pattern, you need to know that the faces of betta fish are naturally darker than the main part of their body. However, with the mask variety, their faces are the exact same color and shade as the rest of their bodies, making head to the base of tail a uniform single color.
This is usually seen in turquoise, blue, and copper varieties, though is found in many other colors too.
The multicolored pattern type can be used to describe any betta that has three or more colors on their body and doesn’t fit into any other pattern type. Of course, this applies to an incredible number of variations, too many to list here, but I’m sure you get the general idea from the description.
A piebald betta is one with a white or pinkish, flesh-colored face, and a body of another color altogether. The body of a piebald fish is usually a solid dark color, but can have some butterfly-like patterning on the fins, or maybe even have slight marbling.
A solid betta fish is exactly as it sounds. It is a fish with one, single, solid color all over its body. This pattern is most often, but not exclusively, seen in red individuals.
21. Wild Type
The wild-type pattern type, as the name suggests, is the most closely related to betta splendens in the wild. They consist of a mostly dull red or brown as the main color for most of the body.
However, there will be some blue and/or green iridescent scales on the fish, and some blue and red in the fins of a male.
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Types of Betta Fish By Color
You might think you know enough about colors already to skip this section on the variety of colors, but it’s not as simple as just “red,” “yellow” or “blue” when it comes to betta coloration.
Read on to learn about the main common colors, as well as some of the more exotic ones in existence that you might not have come across or thought about.
What is the Rarest Betta Color?
The rarest color to find is not really a color, but more a “lack of color,” and that is the albino betta.
Because the albino betta often has a lot of health problems and complications, they are very hard to breed for, and indeed breeding for them purposely is considered irresponsible, as you should never breed for a type that’s known to have health issues, it’s somewhat immoral.
Other rare types are the purple betta, while true chocolates and orange specimens can be hard to find.
Let’s look at all the different available colors in more detail.
There are actually three types of black betta:
- Melano (plain black and infertile)
- Black lace (which is fertile)
- Metallic (or copper) black where the fish also has some iridescent scales.
Melano is the most popular and deepest black of the three, where a gene has mutated to massively increase the amount of black pigment in the skin. Melano females being infertile means they can only be bred by melano gene-carrying females of other varieties.
The black lace betta is also a nice deep color, though not quite as deep as the melano. However, this variety isn’t infertile unlike the melano females so is more easily bred and therefore more readily achieved and available.
23. Blue / Steel Blue / Royal Blue
There are several shades of blue that can be present in betta fish.
True blue is often seen as a “blue wash” type color, but you can also find steel blue types, which are cold and grayish. However, arguably the richest and most vibrant is the ‘Royal Blue Betta’ that has iridescent bright blue coloring.
24. Clear / Cellophane
The cellophane betta has a translucent skin (hence “cellophane”) with no pigments, that would be colorless if it wasn’t for the inside flesh of the fish shining through the translucent skin to give a pink-ish, fleshy color appearance. They also have translucent fins and tail.
This type is often confused with an albino betta, but can be told apart by the cellophane’s black eyes, whereas an albino has pink eyes like almost all true albino animals.
The “chocolate betta” isn’t an officially recognized type, but it is a term commonly used and accepted by many. The chocolate naming is commonly accepted to refer to a brown-bodied betta, with either yellow or orange fins, a particular variety of a bicolor basically.
To confuse things, there is a wide variety of types that people call chocolate, those with almost black, dark green, or dark blue bodies, where the proper term for these would, in fact, be “mustard gas” (seen further below.)
The copper betta fish is extremely iridescent, coming in an almost light gold, or deep copper color with some red, blue, and purple metallic shines to them.
Under weak light, they might appear silver or brown but under stronger light, an amazing sparkling copper shine can be seen.
True green is rarely seen in betta, so what people think of as green is more likely to be a turquoise. In fact, green is hard to see in most bettas and will look like other dark-colored fish unless held up to a torchlight where the iridescent green will then shine out.
However, you do see some true greens visible with the naked eye, dark green being especially sought after and highly prized varieties.
28. Mustard Gas
Mustard gas bettas are another form of bi-colored varieties considered to be worthy of being given their own name. This color refers to any specimen with a dark-colored body of blue, steel blue, or green, along with yellow or orange fins.
The mustard gas is often incorrectly called a “chocolate” when this should only apply to those with brown bodies.
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29. Opaque / Pastels
Opaque isn’t technically one color but is caused by a gene that overlays a milky white color on top of another color. Therefore, there are opaque versions of all the main colors.
With some colors, this gives them a pastel hue, and these opaque bettas are fittingly called “pastels” and considered a type of their own.
Orange bettas are quite rare, but when you find them they are usually a rich tangerine-type shade.
However, in bad lighting, they often look red. To bring out their best color, you want decent strength, full spectrum illumination.
31. Orange Dalmatian
This color is sometimes also called ‘apricot spots’ or even ‘Orange spotted betta.’
Orange dalmatian betta fish are pale orange on both the body and fins, but there are brighter, deeper-colored orange spots and/or streaks all over the fins.
32. Purple / Violet
It’s almost unheard of to have a true purple betta fish, but you do more often find rich violets or purplish blues with some copper iridescence. There are some solid, all-purple individuals, and also some purple-bodied specimens with fins of a secondary color that have surfaced under various creative names.
Red is a dominant color in betta fish, very commonly seen but nonetheless still very striking and beautiful. Generally, you’ll get a bright, solid all-over red, but it can find its way into other colors as a “red wash” which is mostly undesirable.
This is a somewhat hard color to define.
It is a blue-green color, somewhere between blue and green in fact, which can end up looking kind of plain blue or plain green in certain light.
The best way to determine if it’s a turquoise is to first see that’s it too “green looking” to be a blue, then shine a light on it and there shouldn’t be any yellow shades at all if it’s a turquoise fish. If there are, it’s more likely to be green.
Although used to describe the patterning of some betta, the term wild-type is also used to describe a color. Wild type betta have an iridescent green or blue body with some red and/or blue on the fins.
36. Yellow & Pineapple
Yellow betta fish are commonly known as “non-red” and can be anywhere from an extremely light yellow to rich and buttery hues.
Pineapple is a form of yellow where there is a darker definition around the scales, which gives a look to the fish somewhat like that of the scales on a pineapple.
You probably know about albinism in other species, and the same goes for bettas, really. Albino betta fish will be solid white with no pigmentation at all, with eyes that appear pink or red. If you have a white fish with black eyes, this is simply a white type and not an albino.
Albinos are extremely rare, and they go blind at a very early age. They are therefore extremely hard to breed, necessarily continuing their scarcity.
Having read through this article, you’ll probably have realized there is more variation in betta fish than most people would ever know. Due to the popularity of these fish, they have been bred over countless years to create a smorgasbord of new and exciting varieties.
Any serious betta fish keeper hoping to keep up to date will need to keep their ear to the ground to find out about new patterns or fin types that may emerge, as it’s an ever-changing and growing area.
Happy fish keeping!
Featured Image Credit: Mr.Soonthorn Thonglor, Shutterstock