One of the most popular fish among aquarists of all ages and skills levels is the Betta, also known as the Siamese Fighting Fish. Although there are almost 70 recognized species in the genus Betta, the one most often found in shops that sell fish is Betta splendens. Some people are surprised to learn that the long, flowing fins that most people think of when they hear the name “betta” are actually not what are found on bettas in the wild. It is a special variation that breeders have “designed” by using the genetics of the fish to bring out certain qualities – and it is far from the only kind! Here are some of the most common varieties of Betta splendens that you may see at your local pet store:
This is the variety closest to the fish found in the wild. The fins are short and rounded, allowing the fish to be quick – and more aggressive. Plakat Bettas are the ones most often used by unscrupulous owners as “fighting fish”.
Roundtail Bettas are similar to Plakats but with longer tails. The tail is rounded on the edges but is still not as long and “flowing” as the variety many people know and love.
The Spadetail Betta had its hayday but isn’t really seen too often anymore. This betta had a tail that was wide at the base and tapered down to a point at the end similar to the Spade suit in a deck of cards.
Veiltail Bettas are not often known as Veiltail Bettas….this is the kind you’ll most often encounter at most stores. The fins are very long and the tail is long and droopy. When the betta flares, the top half and bottom half are not symmetrical. While VERY popular as pets, this variety isn’t all that treasured by collectors and competition breeders.
At first appearance, Doubletail Bettas look like their tail has a split in the center but it actually has two tails with two separate bases (kind of like two heads, but far less gruesome and unhealthy). Some breeders have even come across Tripletail Bettas.
- The fins on Crowntail Bettas have a distinctive jagged, fringe-like appearance. The webbing between each fin ray is reduced – some sources list 33% as the “ideal” proportion – so each fin ray appears elongated. On the tail, each ray can be forked with two to four “tips”. In another closely related variation, the Combtail Betta, the reduction in the webbing between each ray is very less so the tips extend only slightly past the webbing.
Delta Bettas resemble the Veiltails but have much fuller tails. The tails in this variety are straight-edged and symmetrical when the betta flares. The shape of the tail is triangular, much like the “delta” symbol in the Greek alphabet. In Super Delta Bettas, the width of the flare is much greater but still does not form a straight line (180º) when fully flared open.
Half Moon Bettas are some of the most sought-after and can be stunning. Like in the Delta Betta, the edges of the tail are straight but in Half Moon Bettas, they form a straight line when fully open so the tail forms a half-circle (or half moon). The rest of the fins are full so when the betta is fully flared, the fins may form a circular shape with little or minimal distruptions to the outline.
These varieties are the most commonly bred for tail and fin shape. Sometimes, breeders may cross-breed even these varieties to form fancier combinations. They may also breed for color as well as finnage to achieve some of the stunning show-quality bettas entered in contests worldwide. Keep an eye open for some of these unique and exquisite fish at a store near you!