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January 4, 2011


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Betta Fish Avatar by TheAmazingChair First, here’s a rundown on the biology behind colors. This will help those who have plans to breed bettas and it also helps explain how colors come about. Like humans, fish color depends on the density of pigment in the skin. People with light skin have less pigment and people with dark skin have more. What makes bettas, and other fish, slightly different is that they have 4 different layers that control different colors. They have to have this because fish have so many different colors (humans are just a varying amount of the same color). The most important aspect in fish is that the top layers are dominant to the bottom layers; if the top most layer is a solid color then you won’t see the layers underneath but those layers might still be carrying color.
    1. Iridescent layer (top layer): 
This layer is known as the blue layer and controls the amount of blue pigment. If there is pigment in this layer then you can have green, blue and opaque white bettas. It also controls spread iridescence; the somewhat metallic look.     
      - Iridescent colors 
      - Blue 
      - Green      - Opaque White      - Non-blue
      2. Black layer: 
The layer black layer contains melanophores or black cells which control the amount of black pigment in this layer. They contain the following traits: 
      - Genes in this layer control Cambodian pattern and blond coloring.      - Pigment in this layer controls melano and black orchid coloring.
  3. Red Layer: The red layer contains erythrophores or red cells which control the amount of red pigment in this layer. They contain the following traits: 
      - Extended red 
      - Reduced red 
      - Non-red 
(no red pigment)      -Genes that control Variegated fins 

(butterfly pattern) are found in this layer.
      4. Yellow layer (bottom layer): 
The yellow layer contains xanthophores or yellow cells. So, far no genes have identified that control the yellow layer of pigmentation. 
      - The absence of the red layer, black layer and iridescent/blue layer reveals the yellow layer and gives you a yellow or cellophane fish.

OK a bit confusing right? Well basically, let’s say we have King. His top layer contains the blue iridescence. Simple enough. His second layer carries the melano trait, however, it doesn’t have 100% coverage because you can see red wash. Red wash occurs when a betta has extended or reduced red on their third layer that is not fully covered up by their second layer. This is an undesirable trait. Because we cannot see the fourth layer, we don’t know for sure is he is carrying pigment in that layer. Make sense? Basically, each layer is recessive to the one above it. Another example is that yellow or cellophane bettas have to have absolutely no color in any of the other three layers.
Black Orchid by DarkMoon17

The Iridescent Colors/First Layer:
These are in order of dominance; in other words, the blue/green iridescence that creates turquoise bettas is above all the other colors in this layer. You can see this because even Opaque White bettas can have blue or green iridescence.
These bettas display green and blue iridescence in their top layer. Half Moon Betta by theperfectlestat Steel Blue: 
This is a lighter, grayish kind of blue. They display only blue iridescence. Blue Betta by HymnsieFishie Two by HymnsPhotography Royal Blue: 
Royal blue is the darkest of the three iridescent colors and sometimes almost looks purple.   Betta Blue by MadeYouLook-2008Half Moon Betta by Murphy1210 Opaque: These bettas have a solid layer of white scales that covers all other layers and often covers the eyes as well. If the expression of blue/green iridescence is minimal then you have a Opaque White betta. However, you can also have full expression of blue or green and the result is a very high quality betta. They are simply called "Blue" or "Green" but are of much higher quality than Blue/Green bettas lacking the opaque layer of scales. Archer by DarkMoon17White by DarkMoon17 Opaque White Full-masked turquoise A-HMPK by iwishfoalifeFlare up by Neffiko Blue Betta with Opaque layer below blue irridencence
      Opaque Based Patterns Dragon: This refers to any betta with opaque scales covering most or all of it’s body. Usually the scales are opaque white and are noticeably different from normal scales (they appear thicker) and the fins are a different color such as red, blue or black. Because the dragon trait is due to the opaque factor in the 1st Layer, if there is a solid covering of blue or green above the white, you get a blue or green dragon. You cannot get dragons of colors controlled by the lower 2 layers. Ideally, the entire body is covered, especially the mask.… My Dragon Two by HymnsPhotographyLucky by littlemewhateverPumpkin Jack by NeffikoHelio by ShangyuThis is my serious face by NeffikoRed Dragon HMPK by iwishfoalife The Mask: The mask refers to the scales around the betta's head. Bettas with full coverage of the desired colored scales on the head are sought after because creating strains with Full Masks is difficult to say the least. This is my serious face by Neffiko<--This betta has a near perfect mask. Notice how opaque scales cover his entire head. Full-masked turquoise A-HMPK by iwishfoalife Full mask
    Platinum: These bettas appear to have a silver sheen usually covering white (platinum white) but it can cover any color to give it a shiny appearance. Sometimes called Pearl Bettas when the platinum has a blue or purple hue. Gus- The White Monster. :D by BajiStock Platinum White/Pearl
      Platinum Based Patterns Copper As their name suggests, Copper bettas appear almost metallic. The metallic sheen is due to an even spread of platinum iridescence. Halfmoon Betta Fish by TahimikCopper yellow DT male by RiverOfFirecopper crown tail by iwishfoalifeThe New Betta by cheekytosspot Platinum Red: Platinum white body with red fins, not to be confused with red dragons which have opaque white bodies and red fins. Matrix by DarkMoon17Mirage by DarkMoon17
    Pastels: These have only a light covering of opaque or iridescence that softens the colors in the lower layers. Cyan by DarkMoon17
      Pastel Patterns Sky BettasAnother name for blue pastel bettas. They often have opaque or platinum white bodies. Rasputin by CommanderWildDog… Grizzle: Grizzle is another way to refer to pastels. I've been hearing more often than "pastel" lately. From what I can see, breeders use "grizzle" for bettas that are slightly richer in color than your average pastel but still have noticeable opaque coverage. They are often marbles as well.…

Black Layer
    Melano: When the black layer is solid you get a melano betta. All melano females are infertile, so steel blue females are used to breed melano blacks because they have the least iridescence. The fry from a F1 generation of this pairing must be breed again to obtain true melano bettas. black betta by iwishfoalife Black Orchid: These bettas do not have solid black coloring, instead black is only expressed in certain cells resulting in a lacing pattern. Black Orchid by DarkMoon17green lace by DarkMoon17Cobalt by Dragonsong93 Cambodian Pattern: Cambodians have flesh colored bodies and red or blue fins. The black layer has to be empty but the genetic coding that controls for Cambodian pattering is located in the Black Layer and has to be activated. Therefore, the Black Layer controls the other layers in coding for color in some areas (the fins) and no color in other parts (the body). It is a recessive trait and is extremely rare. Cambodian females are rather common, even in pet stores, but good luck finding a true Cambodian male! To this day I have not seen one in person and there is only one breeder I know of who sells them and they are no longer in business. Many people mistake platinum red bettas for Cambodians, but for a betta to be a traditional Cambodian there can not be any iridescence, the body has to be colorless (flesh colored), and the fins have to be completely red, blue or green. Giovanni by styx-leagon:thumb46764362:…… Blond:Blond bettas have a creaming yellow color. The Black layer contains genes that control the expression of the other layers for this pattern. Blond bettas have a reduced density of the black pigment on the body. A Red Betta showing the Blonde mutation is bright red rather than the usual dark "Cherry" Red. Curly- My Betta Splendens by yashakawaii

The Red Layer
    Extended Red:These bettas have a solid covering of bright red. It is a dominant trait and is extremely difficult to get rid of since it often hides under blue and black bettas. Satan the Beta Fish by DarkMoon17Betta Almighty by Fishybobo Reduced Red: Reduced Red bettas have bright red fins but their body is darker (Cherry Red); often covered in black or iridescence from the higher layers. Curly The Betta Fish by hiddensecret09Betta by PaulaDarwinkel Variegated/Butterfly Pattern:The Red Layer carries the genes that control Butterfly Patterning on the fins. The ideal butterfly pattern shows an equal division between color and clear fins. The variegated fin mutation is dominant but the results are unpredictable. You are lucky to get 1 or 2 perfect butterflies in a batch where both parents had the same pattern. Karma Rosetail Betta by DarkMoon17Mirage by DarkMoon17
      Butterfly Patterns Salamander: These generally have a purple/lavender body and red and white butterfly patterns on all fins with the white ring on the outside. salamander symmetrical by iwishfoalifesalamander by iwishfoalife Lavender: Lavenders are similar to salamanders but have a platinum-lavender body with a butterfly pattern that has a ring of purple closest to the body followed by a ring of red. Lavender Butterfly Pair by HymnsPhotography Mustard Gas: 
 The original Mustard gas bettas had a solid blue/greenish body and yellow fins but today the colors differ fish to fish. They are considered to be in the bicolored class.   Shall we dance? by HymnsPhotographySuspended Betta by RHAXBetta fish by zoops<--This is actually a really good representation of a blue mustard gas!…
In non-red bettas the red pigment is replaced by yellow. This is caused by the non-red gene (nr), which is recessive to the red gene. It results in orange bettas. an orange betta by me-and-mojoFlame by Thehappypet symmetrical plakat by iwishfoalife
      Orange Based Patterns Cherry/Orange Blossom or Dalmatian: These have pink or orange bodies and fins with darker orange or pink spots (the spots appear like faded paint drops). They can have platinum bodies. :thumb112225395:Tinted Blue by ashynekosanDrakon by Shangyu

The Yellow Layer
    Yellow:Yellow bettas have no pigment in the three other layers and solid yellow pigment in the bottom layer. Sometimes there is some black pigment which results in "Pineapple" bettas (see below). Fighter by littlemewhatever
      Yellow based Patterns Gold: A new strain of betta that appear "golden". They are yellow bettas with platinum iridescence. :thumb46002385:…… Pineapple:"Pineapple" refers to yellow bettas that have black outlining around the scales on the body giving them the appearance of a pineapple. orange betta by geldkobra
    Cellophane: Cellophane bettas are flesh colored bettas. They have no pigment at all but are not albinos as they do not have red eyes. Cellophane based marbles are very common; they have a flesh colored body with colored patches. Betta Fish by KaylaKiwifiedfemale Betta splendin by Neffiko

Other Patterns
    Albino Bettas that lack all pigment, including in the iris resulting in red eyes. Albinism in bettas is extremely rare. Attempts to create albino strain usually result in fatal mutations. There are a few out there and they tend to sell for a few hundred dollars.… Marble:

The true marble mutation is believed to have incomplete dominance and is extremely unpredictable. The pattern can change throughout the betta's life, which makes then interesting fish to keep. Some owners will freak when they see their fish form pale areas, especially around the head, and jump to medicate them only to find that it wasn't sick at all! Any fish can carry the marble mutation, even solid colored fish. There are also fish that are called marbles because of their mixture of colors but do not carry the marble gene. They are technically both considered marbles. Betta: Quixote by WearManyHats This betta is called a marble because of its color but may or may not carry the gene that caused color change. Marble changes by HymnsPhotography This remarkable betta has the marble mutation. Chocolate: 
They have a brown body with yellow or orange fins and are in the bicolored class.… Jindo by bunny27:thumb103588009:Emperor Shaddam the Betta by KaiserFlames Mascot: Bettas with blue bodies and red fins. Toren by LostArtemisFintastic by RandomWiktor Black/Red/Gold Devil: These bettas have a black body with red fins. Sometimes there is gold, green or blue iridescence. They look a lot like their wild ancestors. Apocalypse 2 by DarkMoon17 Apocalypse:These have turquoise or green bodies and orange fins. Armageddon Betta by DarkMoon17 Thai Flag: Refers to bettas with butterfly patterns that sport light blue or platinum bodies, blue rings closest to the body followed by white then red on the outside. Bettas with perfect Thai Flag patterns are really difficult to come by and extremely gorgeous.… 4th of July Betta:Bettas with any combination of red, white and blue. Of course, a clean butterfly pattern is preferred but marbles are also acceptable and quite stunning. Chomp- the betta by Spinkels Red and Gold: Gold body and iridescence with red fins. Another common version of this is Black and Gold. They simply have black instead of red fins.…… Snake:Honestly, I have no idea what classifies a betta as having a "snake" pattern. I have come across this name several times but I can't find a commonality between the fish pictured so I don't know what it signifies. Please let me know if you do! Hawk: "Hawk" is not a color, it refers to bettas whose dorsal fin angles forward sort of like a Mohawk. red halfmoon betta by iwishfoalife

Color Combinations
Bettas can come in hundreds of different combinations. For instance, you could have a Lavender Dragon (purple and red fins with opaque white body) or a Platinum Orange. If your betta doesn't fit one of the common groups then it is likely a mixture of them.

Also, be careful when you are shopping, especially online. Just because the seller says the betta is a Cambodian blah blah blah, does not mean that it really is! Breeders will put whatever name they need to on a betta just to get people interested in it. I've come across more fake Cambodians than I can shake a stick at, literally (true Cambodians are REALLY rare). Plus, whenever a strange betta comes out of a spawn the breeder will stick some made-up name on it to get people to buy it. The probability that the pattern, however beautiful it is, is repeatable is very low. If you happen across a color type that I don't mention here then it was probably just made up by the breeder because they didn't know how to categorize their betta. New betta strains do pop up every now and again though so feel free to let me know if you come across a name you haven't seen before. I'd love to look into it :)

Other Betta Related Articles
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ocenflower Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
my bettas coloure is a royal blue crown tail wit red splotches on the very bottom fins Fish :Fishy: 
ocenflower Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
very helpful 
DarKestcreagirl Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2013  Student General Artist
This journal was extremely helpful and made the layers and how they work much easier to understand. :) Your journal was featured here -> [link]
setokaibagirl749 Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
I have a royal blue halfmoon male with some red on his fins. Like, red splotches on his tail and fins. I think maybe he's a slight royal blue with red butterfly halfmoon.
horner735 Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
Very informative. I bread a very desirable looking female betta and she's pink with whine red fins and has a purplish metallic tint to her What do you call that? <*))))<
roxxyella Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2011  Student Traditional Artist
hay by any chance do you know any go betta breeds in wa or a link on the net?
DarkMoon17 Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I don't know anyone in WA but there are a number of american breeders who ship nationally. I do and I have a number of bettas available at the moment and there are also sites like BLUEBETTAUSA and AQUABID where you can find other breeders.
roxxyella Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
oh yer, souds awsome i might go have a look
Seraiden Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Besides probably a mutt what would an almost all black betta with just the tip of his fin being red tinged be called? He looks like someone held him by the end of his tail and dipped the rest of him in ink.
DarkMoon17 Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Sorry about the late reply. He is a multicolor. If the red lis a perfect ring, touching all three fins then he has a butterfly patter. If it is not on all three then he is likely a marble. He sounds pretty :)
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