Wild Betta Fish | Different Types & Natural Habitat


Wild Betta vs Domesticated Betta

Wild Bettas can still be found in their native habitats throughout Asia in shallow, freshwater ponds, canals, rice paddies, and even rivers. There are over 75 different species of Wild Bettas, and even though most of their needs are similar there are some species of Betta Fish that have very specific requirements to keep, very different colors, and temperaments.

 The name Wild Betta means that these species of Betta Fish can still be found in the wild as they are sold from a pet store or breeder. Many of these species are not as brightly colored as their selectively bred and domesticated counterparts, but many owners of Wild Betta types say that they are just as enjoyable to keep, and are often much more docile.

Domesticated Bettas are selectively bred to display certain colorings or features. The most commonly domesticated Betta species is Betta Splendens. In Betta Splendens you will see certain markings such as halfmoon, veil, crown tail, and many others as well as a wider variety of colorations. Wild Bettas are often more plainly colored in comparison. Wild Betta Fish tend to have shorter tails than domesticated Bettas as well. This can make it more difficult to determine if you have a male or a female when the fish have reached full maturity. 

Are Wild Bettas Aggressive?

Betta Fish have often been referred to as Siamese Fighting Fish. Betta Fish got this nickname from the children of Siam, (which is now called Thailand) who would capture these fish, place them together, and watch them spar with one another. Despite their reputation and nickname, these Betta Fish do not fight to the death very often. Betta Fish males flare up towards one another as a display of dominance and strength in defense of their territory. Doing this will usually scare or intimidate the fish, and it will cause the less dominant Betta to retreat. Once the lesser male retreats, this is the end of the altercation. In the wild, these incidents rarely lead to actual fighting and death. It is only when the two are locked in a confined space and can not get away from one another that this will happen.

Keepers of Wild Betta fish say that they tend to be more docile overall, and less aggressive about their territory. Wild Bettas are more often successfully kept in community tank setups provided that there is enough space for them.

Wild Betta
Wild Betta (Upper left: Betta splendens, Upper right: Betta smaragdina, Lower left: Betta imbellis, Lower right: Betta mahachaiensis)

Are Wild Bettas Rare?

Wild Bettas can still be found in their natural habitats in Asia. They are not so rare a genus as a whole, but certain species are considered more rare to find in the wild than others. The fact that their natural habitats are being destroyed and polluted more often doesn’t help this species. The most rare type of Wild Betta is Betta Macrostoma. This species of Wild Betta was thought to be extinct for a long time before being rediscovered in 1981.

Wild Betta Diet

Wild Bettas, in their natural habitat, are carnivorous. They survive mostly on insects and insect larvae as well as zooplankton and even some crustaceans. If they can swallow it, they will eat it. Wild Bettas in captivity should be offered a diet that is rich in quality proteins. They can be fed bloodworms, fruit flies, mosquito larvae, and brine shrimp. In order to help keep their water more clean and avoid overfeeding, Bettas should be fed only enough food that they can completely consume in roughly 3 minutes. Offering them 2 smaller meals a day opposed to 1 big one is a great way to keep your fish happy.

Wild Betta Habitat

In the wild, Betta Fish can be found in shallow, freshwater areas. There are many places where Bettas show up in nature. Depending on the species of Wild Betta, they can be found in their preferred calm waterways, such as ponds, rice paddies, streams, and canals. Wild Bettas can also be found in faster moving rivers as well, but not as often.

Wild Betta males will often find and occupy a territory that is lush with pants and debris to claim as their own. These territories are often dense with debris and provide enough cover for these fish to live in proximity of one another without much incident while also releasing beneficial tannins into the water as they decay.

The changing of the seasons plays a huge role in the way Betta Fish live in their natural habitat. During the dry season the water evaporates from the ponds and streams that Wild Bettas inhabit. This will often lead to Betta Fish being trapped in small places that can not provide fully for their needs. This could lead to a less than ideal situation for the Betta Fish who now have major problems such as less food, no mates, or dirty oxygenated water.

Where Do Wild Betta Fish Come From?

To help them survive this situation, Betta Fish have developed in a few surprising ways to help them survive. They have developed a special organ called a Labyrinth organ that allows them to get oxygen from the air if they are not able to get adequate oxygen from their water supply. This is most helpful if they find themselves stuck in a small puddle without the benefit of running, oxygenated water. Their labyrinth organ will help keep them alive for a while, but it is not enough to help them for long periods of time.

Wild Bettas have also developed a remarkable ability to jump. Betta will jump from their small pool of water to the next pool and so on. By jumping from one puddle to the next, they are often able to get back to larger and more habitable bodies of water. Even with their specialty breathing organs and excellent jumping ability, sometimes they do not survive the dry season.

In captivity, Wild Bettas need a setup that closely mimics the habitat that they come from in the wild. The closer that you can make their habitat like their natural home in the wild, your fish will be happier and healthier for the effort. This does not mean that any Bettas of the species need to be housed in a small aquarium. Unlike the small containers that most Bettas are sold in at pet stores, Bettas require a minimum of a 5 gallon tank for one Betta Fish.

Wild Betta Types

There are over 75 recognized species in the genus Betta. The following is a short list of some of the most popular species of Betta Fish.

Betta Splendens

Betta Fish (Betta splendens)
Betta Fish (Betta splendens)

Betta Splendens is by far the most common species of Betta fish. In fact, they are one of the most popular species of fish in the aquarium hobby. Betta Splendens has been selectively bred for different colorations, body shapes, and tail variations. It is said that this variety of Betta is more aggressive than some of the Wild Betta Species. Wild Betta Splendens are not as brightly colored or finned as the selectively bred ones are, but they have the same needs and requirements.

Betta Macrostoma

Betta macrostoma breeding pair. John Pittman, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Betta Macrostoma is often referred to as a Spotted Betta. They are named this because of the black spot that is located on their tail fin. This is the most rare of all the species of Wild Betta ,and was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1981.

Betta Mahachaiensis

Betta Mahachaiensis
Betta Mahachaiensis

Betta Mahachaiensis are a relatively new species which were discovered in 2012. There is not a lot known about how they differ from other Betta Fish types at this time. Betta Mahachaiensis has smaller fins than domesticated Bettas which can make it difficult to determine if they are male or female when the fish has reached full maturity. This species of Betta Fish has larger flowy fins, and sports a metallic coloration to its body.

Betta Smaragdina

Betta Smaragdina
Betta Smaragdina

Betta Smaragdina is also often called the Emerald Betta for its vibrant greenish blue coloration. They have a silvery sheen to their bodies that make them stand out and a popular choice for aquarists.

Betta Imbellis

Peaceful Betta (Betta imbellis)
Peaceful Betta (Betta imbellis)

Betta Imbellis are an easier type of Betta fish to identify due to the red crescent shape marking on their fins, and the bright blue green of their iridescent bodies. They are easier to keep in groups, which is why they are often called Peaceful Bettas. They are also called Crescent Bettas after the markings on their tails.

Betta Albimarginata

Betta albimarginata, Photo taken by user de:Benutzer BS Thurner Hof. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Betta Albimarginata can only be found endemic to the waters of Borneo. These fish are often called Strawberry Betas for the coloration of the males.

Alien Betta

Alien Betta
Alien Betta

Alien Betta is created by mixing two other types of Betta Fish together. This is done for the striking coloration and patterning that it creates. These Bettas are often sought after for their appearance. They have a metallic sheen to their bodies, and a tight patterning that gives them their appealing look.

Betta Channoides

Betta Channoides are often called Snakehead Bettas. They are colored orange, and have black fins with white highlights to them. These Bettas are one of the smaller species of Betta Fish. They only grow up to 2 inches in length.

Betta Rubra

Betta Rubra are more commonly called Tobra Betta. These Bettas have metallic gray colored bodies with dark reddish colored stripes.

Betta Uberis

Betta Uberis has a deep red body with a metallic sheen. This species of Betta Fish looks similar to another species, Betta Burdigala. It can be identified from Betta Burdigala by the distinctive green, metallic line that runs laterally through their bodies.

Betta Ocellata

Female Betta Ocellatas are extremely peaceful, but the males will still fight over territory. This species of Betta is commonly called the Eyespot Mouthbrooder.

Betta Coccina

Betta Coccina, also known as Red Wine Betta, has a dark red wine colored body and fins. This species of Betta Fish builds a submerged bubble nest that is usually attached to a plant under the water.

Betta Unimaculata

Betta Unimaculata has a long snakelike appearance, which gives it a unique enough look to set it apart from other Betta species. Betta Unimaculata have dull dark black or brown bodies that have slashes of metallic colored scales. They can reach up to 5 inches in length.

Betta Pugnax

Betta Pugnax is often referred to as the Forest Betta after the habitat that it prefers. The Betta Pugnax can be found in forest streams that are dense with vegetation. This species of Betta is a mouthbrooder. This means that they raise their young in their mouths until they are able to care for themselves.

Betta Brownorum

Betta Brownorum has a intensely red coloration and this species of Betta Fish can be identified not only by the bright red coloration of its body, but the bright metallic green spot that is located in the middle of its body.

Betta Miniopinna

Betta Miniopinna requires an acidic blackwater habitat. They get this in the wild from all of the decaying plant matter in the water of their environment. This species is threatened in the wild due to construction. This species has been listed on the Critically Endangered Species list since 1996.

Betta Hipposideros

Betta Hipposideros has a pink colored body and white colored finns. This species of Betta Fish looks ghostly at first glance. Betta Hipposideros can be found in water that is densely blocked from the natural light by thick vegetation. Their water is dark colored from the tannins released by the decaying plant matter. This makes their water a lower pH of around 3.0 to 4.0.

Where Can I Find Wild Betta for Sale?

Wild Betta Fish can be purchased in local pet stores or from breeders online. With so many different kinds of Betta Fish species to choose from it is important to do your research about what each specific species needs before you purchase them to ensure their health and happiness. With so many species of Betta Fish, you can expect to find them at an extreme range of pricing. There are pet stores selling some species for as low as $8, while some breeders online are selling the more rare species for hundreds.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

Recent Posts