Betta – all information about Betta

The betta is also called Kafi and is a particularly splendid fish for the aquarium. It is often chosen as an ornamental fish by beginners. Nevertheless, there is a lot to consider with the fight fish, especially when it comes to keeping and socializing. Not all Siamese betta are the same. As with humans, each one has its own head.


Planting: herbaceous, well-overgrown
Posture: Individual keeping or in a harem
Life expectancy: approx. 4 years
Temperature: about 24-30°C
Ground: Gravel dark
Nutrition: Carnivores, live food, frozen food, special dry food
Claim: Individual keeping easy
Origin: South East Asia
Group: Labyrinth Fish
Size: 4-16 cm
pH value: 5-8
Water hardness: 10-25° dGH
Perch relatives (Percomorphaceae)
Order: Anabantiformes
Subordination: Labyrinth Fish (Anabantoidei)
Family: Osphronemidae
Subfamily: Large Finn (Macropodusinae)
Genus: betta
Scientific name: Betta


4361694 / Pixabay

The betta originally comes from the Asian region. Here they live in rivers, streams, lakes, canals, ponds and in flooded rice fields. The fish for the aquarium come mainly from Thailand and Cambodia. The fish can be found from the islands of Bali via Indonesia, also on the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and Jave, the Malay islands, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia. It first came to Europe in 1982 and quickly became the favourite of aquarists.

Mostly one gets in the trade here around the Betta Splendens, which does not correspond to the origin, but is a breeding form. It was bred especially for show fights and competitions. Especially the choice of colours made it popular at home.

The scientific name Betta is derived from the Javanese expression wader bettah or ikan bettah. Bleeker first used this term for the Betta picta in 1878.

In Thailand no one will know the fish by this name, here the betta are called Trey Kem or Pla-kad. Unfortunately, it must be said that the original wild form hardly exists anymore, not even in the wild. Many breeding forms of the betta have been abandoned and these have replaced the original form.


4361694 / Pixabay

The original form of the betta has short, flag-like fins that look like a dress. These are coloured reddish, bluish or brown. The tail and dorsal fins are rounded. The scales shine metallic blue in the light reflex. The males of the wild form grow up to 6 cm, the females remain smaller and also have smaller fins. In most cases you can recognize them not only by their size but also by two dark longitudinal bands.

Adult and sexually mature females can be recognized by the white genital papilla. In the modern breeding form the dress, i.e. the fins, is very long and the colour range is also larger. Meanwhile they are available in almost any colour, no matter if you want a fighter fish in red or black – everything is available. The colourfulness is constantly being expanded by breeders. Especially in their wild form the fight fish are relatively small ornamental fish. The largest species Betta unimaculata does not grow larger than 16 cm. The commercially available betta grows to 4-7 cm.

At the congress for the classification of betas “International Betta Congress”, a 160 page document was drawn up to determine how betas are assessed. The main classification is in size, proportion and the symmetry of body, fins and tail shape. But also the constitution of health, aggression and swimming behaviour is judged.

The colour is divided into:

  • Wild form
  • Monochromaticity
  • Bicolor (two-color)
  • Pattern (multicoloured, butterfly – colour stripes)
  • Marble (marbled)
]There are also special forms, such as a sail-shaped dorsal fin and heart- and crescent-shaped caudal fins.

Life expectancy

A betta will be about four years old. However, socialization or stress can shorten the life span considerably. This lifetime can be prolonged considerably by minimising stress, good planting and maintaining the ideal temperature and water values. In nature, betta do not live as long as in an aquarium, because they are exposed to much more stress from territorial fights and predators, are often attacked by parasites and also die of diseases.

betta nutrition

Feeding is a little more difficult than with other ornamental fish. As many fighter fish eat until there is nothing left, you should regularly feed smaller rations several times. This is best for the fish. Too much food leads to death, illness and digestive disorders. Furthermore overfeeding can lead to later sterility.

One day a week without food is considered healthy. In nature, the betta feeds mainly on insects. It is a carnivore and can be fed with live food, frozen food, special flake food and granulate. Live food is not absolutely necessary, but is gladly accepted. Some friends also feed their Kafis with normal flake food. The fish look healthy. If you do not buy special flake food, you should pay attention that the fish need a lot of protein in their food.

As live food is gladly taken:

]If you feed your betta regularly at the same time, you will discover that the fish is already waiting for you. As with all fish, any food that has not been consumed will be removed from the tank to prevent contamination of the water.

betta females and males

The male is even more splendid in his appearance due to especially strong colours. It takes over the care of the brood and is clearly more aggressive than the female.

betta fight

In Thailand, for example, professional fights among the fish are organized - with bets for money. Since you are not torturers of animals, please stop such crap. To fight you choose certain forms of breeding, usually the Betta splendens. But you can also take Betta imbellis, Betta smaragdina and hybrids. The fight between betta males usually ends deadly. But also the surviving specimen does not get very old in most cases, because the stress for the fish is very high.

The perfect aquarium for the betta

In this chapter we will discuss what are the best living conditions for the betta. Many similar posts by other bloggers deal with the basic setup of an aquarium, the water change, the lighting or the aquarium filter. The links above lead to these topics, in this article we save ourselves the need to explain them again.

By the way, the best values of the pH-value and water hardness should not be generalized, because the betta can be found all over Southeast Asia and in standing and flowing waters or freshwater biotopes the water quality and composition is extremely different. Therefore, the data in the profile are recommended values. In a lake or river the ornamental fish has different values than in a rice field.

Pool size and cold

Depending on how the betta is kept, a small nano tank with 30 litres is already sufficient for a single keeping. Here you can get cheap starter sets, which contain everything. In contrast to other ornamental fish, the danger of the betta jumping out of the tank is particularly high. Therefore it is recommended to pay attention to a good cover. In addition, this way you do not risk that the betta cools down.

betta are atmosphere breathers and should not breathe cold air. Because they belong to the labyrinth fishes they have a labyrinth organ and can take up oxygen from the atmosphere, i.e. the air, even in warm tanks with little oxygen. Due to the cover the air between the water and the disc can heat up. This is how the betta likes it.

Most beginners assume that a large tank is automatically more species-appropriate. This cannot be signed so sweepingly. There are several reasons for a small tank. It is important that the stocking is not too high.

In a smaller tank the territory the fish has to defend is also smaller. Therefore it actually benefits him, because the stress is reduced. By the way, this is also the main cause for high stress. Another reason is that the Kafi doesn't like currents or can't handle them well and in large tanks also large filters work, which automatically cause an increased current.

By the way, in nature there are also species of betta in rivers with currents, they are forced to care for the mouth brood during reproduction. But even here you can do without a current, as this reduces stress.

Especially for the breeding form with the big veil, locomotion consumes extremely much energy, sometimes the fish has to expend a lot of energy. With a small tank, and consequently a small territory, the distance is much smaller. Among fightingfish lovers the rule applies that the breeding form needs a tank up to 18 litres, the wild form a tank from 18 litres. A biologist friend of mine sets the required tank size higher. Probably the truth lies somewhere in between.


The betta is sensitive to stress, so you should avoid many people passing by or children knocking at the window. But there can be other causes for stress. If the stress is too strong, some specimens may die. The causes of stress are the following:

  • strong light due to excessive lighting or reflective substrate
  • false society
  • oversized pool
  • too little planting
  • too strong a current


The betta comes from Asia and in its natural environment has rather dark shades on the bottom. I don't think much of coloured coloured bottoms. There may be experts who claim that the fish don't mind that, but I think you should always try to simulate their natural habitat as much as possible. Nature does not choose the appropriate life form without reason.

Furthermore, light-coloured ground reflects the light, which can also lead to stress. There are also great gravel colours in nature in all possible shades of brown or even black gravel. So choose a dark and fine gravel, then you can do nothing wrong. You can read more about the advantages of sand or gravel in our other article.

Plants for the betta

The betta likes it densely overgrown and herbaceous. A freshly installed tank or small marsh plants are not for him. As already noted for the substrate, the fighter fish likes it rather darker. For this purpose you can work with floating plants. You have to find out the perfect balance between "making fish happy" and "still seeing him". But you do not need to exaggerate. Remember also that the betta needs free water surface for surfacing and jumping, which it will do regularly to get oxygen.

If your tank is still very new, then it is important to use plants that grow as fast as possible and that shoot up into the air. A good choice here is for example the Vallisnerie. If the plants are too large, you can simply shorten them. Since the fighter fish comes from Asia, you should also choose Asian plants for a perfect environment simulation.

You can also let other shoots of aquarium plants float on the surface. These shoots and the roots of floating plants are very often used as hiding places.

Again my appeal to you: please do not use artificial aquatic plants! These are in no way easy to care for, extremely harmful to the environment in their production, the fish can injure themselves or swallow parts of them. Real plants actually only have to be cut very rarely and do not require any further work. In addition, they consume the nutrients that would otherwise allow algae to grow.

Matching plants:

  • Vallisnery
  • Water pollution
  • Hornwort

betta attitude in the glass

Especially in Thailand, I keep seeing betta being kept in glass jars. Whether these fish don't get old because of the fights or because of the accommodation, I can't or don't want to say, but this is not a species-appropriate keeping. Often this does not happen because the Thais would not like to work with a filter, but because there is no money for it.

If you have a normal small glass and no filter, then you have to change the water every one or two weeks to at least 75%, otherwise you have a cloudy broth. But in the water and in the filter valuable living beings like microorganisms and bacteria accumulate. These absorb pollutants and keep the fish's habitat healthy. The water change is not only a stress factor for the fish, but also threatens the naturally healthy habitat of the betta.

betta Filter

I know I said I don't want to go into more detail here as we have already written other blog posts on this, but an important detail about the betta is yet to be said. The betta does not like currents. Either get a suitable filter or regulate it in such a way that there is as little current as possible. Current pumps are taboo or to be avoided (depending on the species). You can also put stones and similar equipment in the way of the current.


As far as the temperature is concerned, you could already see from the profile that the ideal temperature is 24-26°C. You can either ensure this with a heating rod or use a filter that has an integrated heater. Of course you can also use other heating systems, but this goes again too much into detail.

If the temperature drops below 24°C, the fish will hardly move at all, as in rigidity. If the temperature rises above 26°C, the fish will age much faster. So pay more attention to the temperature. If you want to breed the betta, you should choose a different temperature.

Socialize the betta

The betta is rather a loner. If you want to socialize it, you have to make specific considerations. Under no circumstances should you keep two males in one tank. If you want to give him company in female form, then you should offer the Betta a harem. Otherwise it can also lead to aggressiveness. By the way, this does not only mean that the male chases the female, it can just as well be the other way around. Ideal here are two to three females and one male. A 60 litre tank is already sufficient for this. You choose a harem to make the stress for the female bearable, otherwise she might die. With only one female you risk that the female is chased by the male without interruption. This stress is shared by several females. Hiding places like caves or sufficient planting can also be an advantage.

Female betta can also be kept outside the breeding season in a group of several females in one tank. They should get along well without any problems.

betta are very careful to defend a territory. No intruder is actually tolerated here, especially no other male betta. A real rival is fought to the death if the inferior fish cannot evade and escape. The whole thing goes so far that the beautiful male fish partly attack their own reflection. If you think that the females are also attacked, you are wrong. What seems a little aggressive is the courtship and mating behavior.

It is better to avoid mating with other fish species. Now there will certainly be protest, as there are some dealers who claim that this is not a problem. But usually it is a problem. Especially other colourful species with big fins are frequent targets for attacks. I have seen apparently harmonious sceneries at friends with very large tanks and enough hiding places and planting. I would only keep the fighter fish among his peers, but theoretically you can try the following other fish:

]However, I would advise against it. The socialization with other animals like snails is usually no problem. Shrimps are eaten, but if you have enough stock, the shrimps will reproduce sufficiently fast and you have a nice and natural food source (depending on the tank size).

There are also young wild males, which are much more aggressive than other conspecifics. If there are problems here, such as the snails being attacked, then you should wait a while and try again later. In most cases it is a typical behaviour in the juvenile phase to mix everything up. By the way, the original form of the betta is much less aggressive.

If you don’t want to be dissuaded from a socialization, you should think about the following:

  1. if the society is small – then it could be seen as prey
  2. society forms territories like perches – then there will be trouble
  3. if the new neighbour has big fins or a veil, like a guppy – then he could be considered an enemy
  4. if the mugwort is particularly lively, like bearblings – then this causes additional stress

So we are looking for a medium sized fish that does not form a territory, has no big fins and is not too lively – that sounds like a catfish.

If you have several tanks and think that now every male has his own, then you have done almost everything right. Now you have to make sure that there is no visual contact between the tanks. Otherwise the stress factor remains the same.

If you try to socialize with other ornamental fish, you should provide the male with at least two females. That way aggression is kept within limits. Furthermore the water temperature should not rise above 25°C, so that the betta are not ready to spawn.

betta breeding and reproduction

When breeding, one often does without a bottom ground in the tank. It is not only easier to find the eggs, but also to keep the tank clean. Otherwise the eggs could get caught and rot. The betta takes care of the brood. Before you start with the breeding process you keep males and females separated from each other for 2-3 weeks. Now you give them food that is especially rich in fat and protein, so that the fish have enough reserves for reproduction. Floating plants in the breeding tank are absolutely necessary, especially for the species that build foam nests, but also so that the female can withdraw. The water temperature is adjusted to 28-30°C. This way the fish are ready to spawn. Now it can start.

With Betta, a distinction is made between two reproductive methods:

  • Maulbrut Care
  • Foam nest Breeding care
]With both methods of brood care, the male is the main
Some females defend the territory and the breeding male. There are also species in which the female is fought and driven away, especially when maintaining in the foam nest.

You can recognize the species that perform foam nest brooding care and brood in the mouth by the head shape and body. But there are exceptions here as well. These species come from the B. Foerschi range. Probably this group of forms used to build foam nests in the past, but in the meantime they have switched to mouth breeding. This is suggested by the anatomy of the fish. Also the behaviour during reproduction and care suggests this, as there are some parallels to be seen.

If the female develops vertical, thick spawning strips on the body, then she is ready for mating. Often there are some sham pairings before the actual reproduction. Apart from hunting, the mating act is very impressive, as males and females entwine and then the fertilised eggs come out.

By the way, the young fish do not need to be fed immediately after hatching, as they feed on the yolk sac first. After that you can start with liquid food and later on you can feed salt crayfish. You can also work with very fine powdered food or pass a hard-boiled egg yolk through a fine sieve.

When almost all the eggs have hatched, take the male out, otherwise he might eat his young.

>> Read more: betta Breeding and Rearing

Foam nest Breeding care

Schaumnest Fadenfisch
© Moni Adler

Here the female is often fought and driven away, so you should move her to another tank. If this does not happen, there is too much stress for both fish and it can happen that the male dissolves or destroys the foam nest.

Breeding in the foam nest is often found with species from stagnant waters. The species that build foam nests are relatively small. Basically the construction of a foam nest is a construction of air bubbles. The male fetches oxygen on the surface and wraps it in a secretion as a ball in his mouth. Now he looks for a suitable plant in most cases and places the bubbles there. In this way they are made into a loose nest. Depending on the species, these are only a few spheres or large nests with a diameter of several centimetres.

Now the spawning process begins. After mating, the male brings the fertilized eggs into the nest. When reproduction, which takes place in close proximity to the nest, is complete, the monitoring and protection of the nest begins. The hatching of many small swimming fish takes place after 3-5 days.

Species that build foam nests are

  • Betta splendens
  • Betta bellica
  • Coccina bed
]An exception is the species of Betta brownorum. Where actually almost all known representatives of this population build foam nests, there is a population in West Kalimantan, which broods in the mouth. Here you can see that nature is adaptable.

Mouth Brood Care

Even though we have already written that it is better to avoid currents, there are fish in nature that live in currents. Since the foam nest would swim away here, these betta rely on the mouth brood care. This takes 10-20 days, which is much longer than the care in the foam nest. There are considerably more species of betta that use this method of care.

After the act of reproduction, the male takes the fertilized eggs into his mouth or the female takes over the spitting, i.e. she collects the eggs and spits them into the male's mouth. In this way, the eggs have optimal protection from the current and predators until they hatch.

Species that brood in the mouth:

  • Betta pugnax
  • Betta dimidiata
  • Betta picta
  • Unimaculata betta

betta species

There are incredibly many types, which are divided into form circles. The different breeds are mainly distinguished by the shape and size of the caudal fin. Basically one distinguishes between the wild form and the breeding form Betta Splendens.

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