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BETTAS by Jim Sonnier

Albino male - the rarest of all Bettas!

I wish to gratefully acknowledge Gene A. Lucas, Ph.D. for his assistance and contributions to this Betta genetics section. I have known Gene for 30 years and respect his dedication to Betta splendens. Most all of his adult life has been spent studying, writing about, and promoting these beautiful fish. Dr. Lucas has proofread these pages and suggested corrections and pointed out oversights.


Wild type Bettas exhibit four color pigments; Black, Red, Yellow, and Iridescents (metallic Blues and Greens). The arrangement of these colors creates a Betta with the well known pattern that we call Multicolor. The Yellow color is so much less dense than all other colors and is, by nature, such a light color that it can be safely ignored in a discussion of Betta color genetics. But do not confuse this wild type Yellow with the Yellow that we find in our domestic "Non-red" Yellows and Bicolors. The bright Yellow color that we see on our domestic Bettas is actually Red pigment that has been altered by genetic mutation. I will write about the known genetic mutations that affect Black, Red, and Metallic pigmentation in Bettas. Each normal color can be genetically manipulated in five basic ways. It can be reduced, absent, altered, extended, or patterned.


In wild type Bettas Black is a color that is often covered by other colors. The distribution of Black pigment is all over the fish except for most of the caudal fin and the abdomenal area. This dispersion is of medium density but is not usually obvious because of other overlying colors.

Black (Melano) male with some Steel Blue iridescence

BLACK BETTAS are also called Melanos. A mutant gene has caused the Black pigment to be greatly increased in density and coverage area. The overall appearance of these Bettas is quite Black. The mutated gene that causes increased Black color in Bettas is recessive to the normal Black gene. This means that if a Melano Betta were spawned to a normal Betta that does not have the mutated Black gene all the offspring would look like Multicolored Bettas. These offspring would be carrying the gene for melanism but it would not show in their coloration. These Bettas would be called Black genotypes and would be indistinguishable from normal Multicolors. Recessive characteristics only become visible if both parents pass down the mutant gene to their offspring. Some representative spawning results are presented below...

Spawnings for the Black (melanistic) gene
male parent female parent offspring
Black Red 100% Multicolor(Black genotype)
Black Multicolor(Black genotype) 50% Black, 50% Multicolor(Black genotype)
Black Black (Black females are infertile)
Multicolor(Black genotype) Blue 100% Multicolor(50% Black genotype)
Multicolor(Black genotype) Multicolor(Black genotype) 25% Black, 75% Multicolor(67% Black genotype)


Cambodian Green male

CAMBODIAN BETTAS are Bettas with cream or white colored bodies. This mutant was first discovered in the country of Cambodia. In this case the mutation causes an absence of Black pigments on the fish. Other colors such as Red, Yellow, and Blue or Green may be present. The fins are not as affected as the body but the fin coloration is lighter than that of normal dark-bodied Bettas. Like the gene for Melano the Cambodian gene is also recessive to the normal Black gene. Some representative spawning results are presented on genetics page 2...

genetics page || 2 || 3 || 4 || 5 || 6 || 7 ||


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This page was last updated on 02/05/13

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