Let’s talk a little about bad betta genes
If you’ve ever looked online for a betta to buy, or just took a second to look around at the ones in cups at a petstore, you’ll have noticed that a surprising amount of them have deformities in some way or another. It may have been easy to tell if you know anything about bettas, or have seen so many healthy ones that the unhealthy one just looked off. But the practice of breeding and selling bettas is so rampant with inbreeding and selectively choosing bettas with awful genes but otherwise gorgeous fins, bad breeders and petstores will often times try to pass off a severely inbred betta as beautiful and healthy and normal. I want to talk a little bit about the obvious signs of one of these bettas so you can avoid those breeders at all costs, and reduce the chance of getting a betta that with bad genes.
I should start this off by saying that if you have a betta with any of these traits already you shouldn’t feel bad. You likely didn’t know because it’s just not talked about nearly as often, especially in the trade of a fish so widely and commonly abused and mistreated like the betta splenden. You should also be relieved to hear that these traits don’t necessarily affect the betta’s health, they’re just an indicator of bad genes. Short of a severe spinal deformity, they’re likely to live a nice life assuming they can swim and see fine. The only problem I could think of is that bad genetics could potentially mean they’re prone to more health issues as they grow older, though only slightly more so than a normal betta splenden.
Let’s talk about the betta I saw that prompted me to make this post in the first place.
This is one of the more inbred bettas I’ve seen in the trade recently. Let me go ahead and point out the obvious:
- This betta has an extremely short and stocky body. It’s essentially the equivalent of those dogs with the short spines, especially relevant to its more natural counterpart.
Here’s some other bettas splendens to compare the length of their bodies. If you didn’t see it before, you should be able to see the difference now.
- It has a dip in its skull. Though not as severe as ones I’ve seen in the past, this is still bad. A betta should have a nice, gentle curve from the tip of their face all the way along their body, to the tip of their tail.
There are more extreme examples of bettas with these dips, like these ones:
The second one even has a bit of a hunchback, which I’ll get into later in the post.
But you can see how these aren’t natural formations of the skull, even without much reference to what a betta’s head should look like. These types of deformities are extremely common and overlooked by many breeders, just because colorings and fin shapes are prioritized over healthy genes.
Like I said before, your betta should have a gentle slope from the tip of their face to the end of their body, without any severe dips or protrusions in between. These are some examples of bettas with a nice curve:
Giant bettas are especially prone to this dip in the skull.
- While we’re on the topic of spines and skulls, this is another thing to watch out for: Hunchback deformities.
I shouldn’t have to point out the problem in this picture. Even someone who knows nothing about bettas would be able to see that this is an unhealthy fish with a pretty severe spinal deformity. This makes it difficult for the fish to swim and eat, and can cause huge problems later in life as they grow older and they lose the energy needed to make up for this kind of problem. Most spines don’t get this bad, however. Not the ones for sale, anyway. But it’s something to be aware of and be able to catch even when it’s not as obvious as this. Just remember that a betta’s back should be a nice, smooth curve.
- Another thing to be aware of are tail kinks.
Now this fish is already deformed, being a feathertail (characterized by the obvious and separate segments of its tailfin like that), but it is especially a problem because if you look at its body right where it meets the tail, it is a clear and sudden dip and rise. This is one of the less obvious ones if you don’t already know what a betta’s body is supposed to look like, and the fins are gorgeous so it’s easy to overlook. However, it’s something to be aware of. A betta’s body is expected to rise at least somewhat as it connects to the tail, but not nearly as severely and obviously as the one pictured above. As stated numerous times before, a betta’s body should be one smooth curve from tip to end.
A fish like the picture in the beginning of this post could sell for hundreds of dollars, just based on its colorings, to fishkeepers who don’t know any better or who just don’t care about the health of the fish they’re getting. I often see bettas being sold for up to $500, almost seemingly because of these kinds of deformities that are so prevalent in the trade industry.
Betta splendens are already prone to tumors, and dragonscales and feathertails are considered especially unhealthy breeds with actual deformities being the staple of their varient. Dragonscales often have their scales grow over their eyes later in life, making them completely blind. Feathertails have such trouble swimming they often bite off their own fins in an attempt to make it easier, and open themselves up to infections that can kill them as a result. I’m not saying don’t buy either of those breeds, I’m saying be prepared when you do. These are bettas that are so far down the tree from their wild counterpart their own poorly taken care of genes work against them, and make their lives difficult for no reason other than they look beautiful.
I could go into much more depth about the specifics of each varient of betta splendens and the problems that may come with each breed, but this post is about the problems that can be prevalent in every betta type, regardless of whether it’s a dragonscale, a plakat, or a crowntail.
If anyone has more to add, please do.