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Basic Color Genetics of Betta Fish in 2018

Basic Color Genetics of Betta


There can be up to 29,000 different gene combinations to create that betta look that you love or have. Keep in mind the bettas fish color and variation are based on the color pigmentation in different types of cells in a layer. These color cells are in layers within the skin. To understand how it works you need to think of a betta like when you were a kid and had crayons. White paper and then you added red crayon line and then covered the line with blue crayon to make purple. In breading we all kind of agree there are basically four types of color cells for a betta and two types of betta layers, one wild and one domestic.



  1. Iridescent Layer (Top layer – Shinny looking)
  2. Black Layer
  3. Red Layer
  4. Yellow Layer (Bottom layer)



  1. Iridescent Layer (Top layer – Shinny looking)
  2. Red Layer
  3. Black Layer
  4. Yellow Layer (Bottom layer)


Even though the yellow is the bottom layer in general most breeders consider the black color as the bottom and is regarded as base color for wild betta. The Iridescent Blue or Green you always see in wilds is the densest at the top layer while the yellow layer is the least dense at the bottom layer and there is only a very few it will ever show in.  This Yellow color is so much less dense than all the other colors and is such a light color that it can be safely ignored in a discussion of 99% of Wild Betta color.

OK, before we get you confused let’s go back to the domestic type (not the wild types) betta. Each of these betta color layers has a genetic code or a series of genes that determines the color of the Betta from birth. The gene either gives an increase or decreases in pigment depending in which layers it is in. It also controls where each color is distributed.

Now you understand your betta color is determined by the color of pigments in their color cells which are found within the layers of their skin like a sandwich.

Let’s go a little deeper and talk about traits (known as Phenotypes) this is what we see in our bettas. Genes that make up the traits (known as Genotypes) contain the information we cannot see for the proteins that catalyze the reactions to produce the pigment we see. It can be very complicated, but simply put Phenotype you can see and genotypes are whit is in the fish genetically we cannot see and when breeding fish outside of an established strain–anything can happen because most can not do a DNA test to see the map of genes the fish has! So, lets talk about what we can see 😊

Iridescent Layer (Top Layer)

These colors are found on the top layer and would create relatively similar variations when crossed to other colors. This layer is dominant over all colors and will physically effect coloration. This layer is also known as the Blue Layer by some and controls the amount of blue pigments in your betta. Bettas like golds and dragons have a lot while orange and cellophane have very little.

Guanophores (Blue/ Green Cells), also known as iridophores, contain some or all of these traits;

Blue/Green (Steel Blue, Royal Blue, and Green) Spread Iridocytes (Turquoise Blue) Non-Blue (Total Absents of any Blue)

Blue-Green is represented by B1 on Punit squares. This gene can create 3 different colors that I know of;

If b1b1 – This will produce Steel Blue iridescent, giving you a Steel Blue betta.

B1b1 – This will produce Royal Blue iridescent, giving you a Royal Blue betta.

B1B1 – This will produce Green iridescent, giving you a Green betta.

So, let’s say when you breed a pair of old type steel blue bettas (b1b1 x b1b1), you will get probably get 100% steel blue fry. Now, the same goes to breeding a pair of green bettas (B1B1 x B1B1), you should get 100% green fry. The cool thing is when you breed a pair of royal blue bettas (B1b1 x B1b1), you will get 50% royal blue, 25% steel blue and 25% green fry and there could be some in-between the colors as well if there was some genetics you did not see (genotype).

I should also note to new breeders is that if a lot of black pigment is under the iridescent layer, the colors will appear much darker and richer like in super reds and if no black pigment is present a more pastel appearance is created like in super yellow or cellophane that have a lack of all pigments.

Spread Iridocytes: This gene gives a betta it’s metallic reflection or shine, producing colors such as turquoise and dragons and coppers it can be seen so it is a phenotype. Iridocytes is the name we have given to the crystals that create the iridescence that give the blue to green coloring. Spread Irodocytes refers to the genetic SiSi we use on charts which increases the amount of iridescence seen in the betta. Like in super golds. It is not a completely understood gene at this time but it is known that the combination sisi creates greatly reduced iridescence and could be associated with blond or the dulling of colors. With the wide range in amounts of iridescence that are seen in various domestic and wild specimen, it is possible that Sisi could create an intermediate level of iridescence or that there may be more than one gene pair involved in creating it.

The non-blue gene is what you have when you get a betta that consists of no blue layer. There has not been a gene identified yet that creates a complete elimination of the blue layer. However, with that being said, several of us have breed bettas that do not show any signs of blue. It is therefore argumentative that there is a gene and it is in play on no-blue types. However, to be honest, in the case of a blbl combined with sisi, the blue layer could be very limited and create only a small silver glow to the point where it may not be recognized as an actual blue by all but the best breeders. When you add to this the Cambodian, and Bright/Blond trait in yellows and whites, you may actually have a compounding effect of non-blue and blond limiting the blue layer. However, I feel there may still be an unrecognized gene to create this no-blue which has not been identified in DNA yet.


Black Layer – Scientifically speaking, this layer carries at least one of three main color genes; ie. Cambodian, blond, and melano which are said to be recessive

Melanophores (Black Cells), always contains these traits;

Cambodian (Creamy body or yellow, red fins and white anal fin tips)

Blond/ Bright (Bright “Cherry” color found in supers)

Melano (Black Bettas)

The above three (3) genes will directly affect any black layer

Cambodian type, besides the traditional cambodian style betta, which consists of a flesh or yellow colored body and red fins, I see nowadays you can find a wide variety of betta that are termed ‘Cambodian’ though they might look like the old Cambo types they might not breed like them.

The Cambodian gene is always considered double recessive (double recessive is very weak and hard to get to phenotype) which can be best represented by cc. When this gene is present, it eliminates all dark pigment like you see in orange or yellow bettas.

Today some of your newer Cambodian types have blue, green, white and even purple fins. This can be a issue when breeding as the genotype might not be what you need.

Cambodian x irid color = irid-red multi, red Cambodian (with or without irid layer), Cambodian like colors with irid fins, cellophane/whitish with irid layer on it, irid colors (often softer shade), pastel.

Cambodian x cherry red = cherry red, Cambodian, a lighter shade of red or darker shade of Cambodian (with and without tints of iridescence – depending on the Cambodian’s background).

Now combined genetic Cambodian may also throw yellow and orange

Cambodian x bright red = mostly Cambodian like colors with redder on the body, a few red, yellow and orange (often rather pale – depends on the background of both)

Cambodian x black = multi black with red fins. Some may have a rather dominant irid layer on the body, some may show less color (whatever color) which may indicate “blond” effect, Cambodian like colors


Blond/Bright gene is also double recessive (hard to pass on to the fry for phenotype), represented by bb. It has the effect of limiting the Black pigment and is best seen in the red bettas where its presence creates a bright red fish like a super red if a super red does not have enough blond you will get more of a maroon red very dark red and is beautiful. Where if this gene is 100% absent, it results in a maroon colored fish creating a much darker color. It also comes into play with iridescent fish making them appear much more pastel colored. But the blond gene can also be found in combination with other colors like black, steel blue and red. Blonde steels will appear silver, blonde blacks will look washed out and pale and blonde reds exhibit a bright Red color, rather than the usual dark “Cherry” Red

Melano gene, which is also double recessive mm, increases the black pigments in a betta, thus you will end up with a black betta. It used to be though with the increase of this gene it causes most melano females to be infertile. Today this is not true and most melano are very fertile and even more so than most. Thus, a breeder 10 years ago in thinking this would have to cross their black male with a blue or, better yet, a black lace female. Black lace types have a almost transparent fin set. The females are fertile from this cross and also a pure black lace pair will breed giving black looking fry.

Melano x any color = multi colored (melano geno – F1)

Inbreed F1 (melano geno) = some melano, melano geno, regular

Inbreed F2 melano x melano geno = Black melano, melano geno


Red Layer

Erythrophores (Red Cells), contain these traits in your betta;

Extended Red (Red covering whole body and fins)

Reduced Red (Body is dark color, blue or green, and red covering just fins like in red dragons)

Non-Red (Total absence of red)

Variegated Fins (The butterfly effect)

The above four (4) genes will determine the amount of red in a betta fry.

The extended red gene is called R and will control the distribution and intensity of red in a betta. One way to achieve this color is by crossing regular red to a Cambodian with blond genes. If it’s termed “Extended Red”, it means the red will cover the entire body and fins which is most desirable. This gene R is similar to the Si gene, as there are varying degrees in the red and not a 100% every time. If a betta has less red distribution, it is represented by rr, while one with more red is represented by RR on charts. Extended red is dominant over normal red.

Reduced Red/ Red Loss bettas will have a darker body (blue, green or black) with red fins. No gene has been identified that reduces the red. (I know- Blond but no proof on that yet) Red is always partially dominant over all colors in the sense that they will always show red markings, at least on the fins. Like iridescence color, it is difficult to absolutely clean red out of a line. It works similarly to the marble gene but only eliminates red pigments, bringing out the black layer. It is dominant over all red except extended.

Non-Red gene is double recessive nrnr, and does not show any red pigment. Most older breeders believed that the non-red gene modifies the pigment from red to yellow pigment color which is appearing slightly. Although non-red genes have been identified (nr1, nr2), but for either yellow or orange to appear physically involves a combination of genes. This color is highly recessive towards all colors thus will unlikely show when crossed to other colors.

To achieve this coloration extended red x Cambodian (pale body/no iridescence – nr genes) – F2 or F3 should throw some yellow and or orange.

Breeding yellow x yellow or orange x orange will eventually wear the color to a dull shade. To regain its intensity, you must breed back to nr2 Cambodian and repeat the above.

Variegated fins gene controls the red in fins and create the effect which we termed Butterfly. Most breeders refer to this gene as Vf, so we will use it here and it controls the variegation of red in the fins. The distribution of red in the fins can be in various patterns as well as intensity. Vf could also play a part in creating dalmatians. Dalmatian works similarly to marbles in that they are unpredictable. But unlike marbles that are partially dominant, dalmatian fin spotting are dominant and may or may not be related to Vf. Dalmatian can be achieved from crossing a melano to a yellow or orange. F1 will produce multi colors with the genotype for dals. F2 will produce only a few dalmatian with the rest being genotype still. F3 will produce dominantly dalmatians.

Yellow Layer (Bottom layer)

Xanthophores (Yellow cells), contain these traits in your betta;

– The absence of the red layer, black layer and the iridescent (blue) layer.

So far, to my knowledge there have been no genes identified yet that control the yellow layer of pigmentation. This means that a yellow betta has Cambodian (non-black) pigments in the black layer, non-red pigments in the red layer, and non-blue pigments in the Iridescent Layers.

However, I and some other koi type breeders have said that the yellow could be related to an Opaque gene. We use Op to break colors all the time in koi development so there could be a connection with yellow here…


So, lets make this kind of simple for you to pick up on what is going on in your betta.

The color of a betta is determined by the presence or absence of color pigment containing cells called chromatophores. These are categorized into the color pigments that they represent;

  1. Iridescent Layer (top layer) – Guanophores, also known as idiophones
  2. Black Layer – Melanophores (black cells)
  3. Red Layer – Erythrophores (red cells)
  4. Yellow Layer (bottom layer) – Xanthophores (yellow cells)


Remember, alleles are in pairs when setting up your chart to cross your pairs. If the gene is recessive both pairs needs to have it for it to show. If only one has it some of the fry will have it passed to them but will not show it as it will be recessive and be genotype.

Remember what you see in both bettas is phenotype and what you can not see is genotype. To get genotype to show you need double alleles if it is resistive in both parents and a sibling cross of genotypes might be needed to get it to show in the fry.


Difference between Opaque & Pastel

Ok, with all the koi and nemo and candy now so popular we need to hit a little on OP and Pas. So taking in fo from all over the web and adding in my info I give you what I feel is the important stuff.

The genetic makeup of Opaque White is C Bl Si Nr Op. (full mask white) while, the genetic makeup of Pastel is C Bl Si Nr + very slight Op. (not full masked with more iridescence body) 

The difference between the two colors is the amount of Op genes present. Pastels only need a small amount of Op factor.

Opaque/pastel x iridescence = pastel (mostly with more iridescence), irid-Cambodian like colors, iridescence

C – Cambodian gene for lack of dark body pigment

Bl – Steel blue pigment which appears silvery-white when o­n a light background

Si – The spread of the iridocyte pigment, in this case steel blue over the fish

Nr – Non-red, i.e. the inability of the fish to produce red pigment

Op – Opaque, the special gene that cause the opaqueness or powdery appearance of the fish

“Si” is treated as dominant, “c” and “nr” are treated as recessive, and “Op” as partial dominant. Opaque is partially dominant – a single allele for the trait will be visible, but 2 alleles will be very visible.


Op is the gene that characterizes Opaques.

Opaque does not mean White. There are 3 types of Opaque’s: Steel Blue, Green and Blue (Royal Blue) Opaque’s. But very often, when we say Opaque White, we are referring to Steel Blue Opaque bettas. However, because of the appearance of the betta, the “Opaque White” term is used generally.

There are also other opaque’s like Green and Blue Opaque bettas. Green and Blue Opaque’s have a Green or Blue sheen instead of pure white color. Opaque refers to the fish possessing the “Op” gene only.

Therefore, if you cross Blue Opaque x Blue Opaque;

You will get Blue, Green and Steel Opaque’s.

And If you cross Blue Opaque x Steel Opaque;

You will get Blue and Steel Opaque’s.

(Steel Opaque means Opaque White)

Opaque White get the light body from (C) Cambodian genes, but it is also possible for opaques to arise as a result of marble genes. In order for that to happen, the steel iridescence and the opaque factor must be present.

The (Op) opaque factor must be present in at least in one of the parents. Ideally both the parents would be some sort of Blue (Steel Blue x Steel Blue or Steel Blue x Royal Blue), in order for some of the progeny to be Steel. Both would have to be marble genos.

Opaque’s have inherent problems. Any small color defect, a black scale, black lips etc., will stand out very noticeably against the white betta. The white pigment does not blend well with the underlying yellow bodies too. This may result in a distinct yellow wash. Other strains may seem to tend towards having a blue tinge, especially on the fins.

Another problem with opaque white is the poor quality finnage. In order to have pure white, breeders of opaque white tend to select bettas for color quality instead of finnage. As a result, our current stock of opaque white does not compare well in finnage to other color strains.

One good point of opaque’s is that they are a little less aggressive than other strains.

The I.B.C. judging standards I think define this breed (Opaque’s) as: Non-Red light bodied fish similar in appearance to Pastels. However, there are guanine deposits giving a denser milkier appearance and an opacity to the coloration of these fish. These deposits are most visible around the head and eye and continue to accumulate as the betta ages.

To distinguish an Opaque betta and a Pastel, the thick powdery “white” pigment is the key. This can most easily be observed by looking at the fish from above and around the head. In an Opaque, the dense pigment goes all the way up to and including the nose, while in Pastels the pigment usually does not reach as far up or if present is usually sparse.

The genetic makeup of Pastel is C Bl Si Nr.

C – Cambodian gene for lack of dark body pigment

Bl – Steel blue pigment which appears silvery-white when o­n a light background

Si – The spread of the iridocyte pigment, in this case steel blue over the fish

Nr – Non-red, i.e. the inability of the fish to produce red pigment

Op – Opaque, optional but necessary to a degree here. If too little opaque factor, the fish appear translucent, and if too much, they may be classified as Opaque’s.


Pastels are iridescent bettas (Blue, Steel Blue and Green). It is the (C) Cambodian or Non-Red gene that differentiates them from the regular dark body iridescent bettas. Pastels are homozygous for Cambodian, which gives them the light flesh colored body. Most Pastels also carry a little Opaque factor to give the iridescent appear more solid. Without the Opaque factor, the iridescent color would be translucent in the absence of dark pigment (black or red).

You are right to say that Opaque’s are also Pastels, except that opaque’s carried much Opaquer factor than Pastels. Therefore, if you cross Opaque x Pastel, it will give you Pastels as well. A good pastel must have a light dose of Opaque factor, and such a cross will increase the amount of Opaque factor along the line.


Spawning’s 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


Spawning’s for the Cambodian (light body color) gene(Marble/Chocolate)

male parent female parent offspring
Cambodian Green (dark bodied) 100% Multicolor(Cambodian genotype)
Cambodian Multicolor(Cambodian genotype) 50% Cambodian, 50% Multicolor(Cambodian genotype)
Cambodian Cambodian 100% Cambodian
Multicolor(Cambodian genotype) Red (dark bodied) 100% Multicolor(50% Cambodian genotype)
Multicolor(Cambodian genotype) Multicolor(Cambodian genotype) 25% Cambodian, 75% Multicolor(67% Cambodian genotype)


Spawning’s for the extended Red gene

male parent female parent offspring
extended Red Multicolor 100% extended Red
extended Red extended Red 100% extended Red


Spawning’s for the non-Red (Yellow) gene

male parent female parent offspring
non-Red(Yellow) Multicolor(normal Red) 100% Multicolor(non-Red genotype)
non-Red(Yellow) Multicolor(non-Red genotype) 50% Multicolor(non-Red genotype), 50% non-Red(Yellow)
Multicolor(non-Red genotype) Multicolor(non-Red genotype) 75% Multicolor(67% non-Red genotype), 25% non-Red(Yellow)
non-Red(Yellow) extended Red 100% extended Red(non-Red genotype)
non-Red(Yellow) non-Red(Yellow) 100% non-Red(Yellow)


Spawning’s for the Red-loss gene

male parent female parent offspring
Red-loss(Marbles) Multicolor high% Red-loss
Red-loss(Marbles) extended Red ?Red Marbles?


Spawning’s for the spread Iridescent gene Iridescent color (Blues and Green)

male parent female parent offspring
spread Iridescence normal Iridescence 100% spread Iridescence
spread Iridescence spread Iridescence 100% spread Iridescence


Spawning’s for the Iridescent colors

male parent female parent offspring
Green Green 100% Green
Green Blue 50% Green, 50% Blue
Steel Blue Steel Blue 100% Steel Blue
Steel Blue Blue 50% Steel Blue, 50% Blue
Steel Blue Green 100% Blue
Blue Blue 25% Green, 50% Blue, 25% Steel Blue


And just some fin help because I know some will try it:

F1 Spawning’s for Short Fin, Long Fin, and Doubletail

male parent female parent offspring
Short Fin Long Fin 100% Long Fin (Short Fin genotype)
Short Fin Long Fin (Short Fin genotype) 50% Long Fin (Short Fin genotype), 50% Short Fin
Long Fin Doubletail 100% Long Fin (Doubletail genotype)
Long Fin (Doubletail genotype) Long Fin (Doubletail genotype) 75% Long Fin (67% Doubletail genotype), 25% Doubletail


F1 Spawning’s for Dumbo(dumbo gene is recessive)

male parent female parent offspring
Short Fin Dumbo 50% Short Fin Dumbo
Long Fin Dumbo 100% Long Fin,(some breeders warn of the heavy fins stress causing rot/tail bite)



And just some dragon info because we are dragon fans here in PKHM:

Copper has mutated in most lines and are now equally dominant.

  1. Copper x green = green (metallic and regular) and copper (fairly equal)
  2. White opaque x copper = platinum, copper, a mixture of both, strays are irid pastel/Cambodian like colors, irid colors (both metallic and regular).

Keep in mind that copper has been excessively cross bred to different colors. It’s pretty safe to say that there are no longer pure copper genetics. But with that being said –—-

  1. Copper x platinum = traditional Cambodian (with some iridescence), red Cambodian, yellow, solid copper, copper with red fins (red copper), green (mainly multi), both green and copper with yellow fins, pastel like colors.
  2. Copper x red Cambodian (metallic line) = red copper, gold copper, silverish copper, Cambodian (metallic and regular), Cambodian-red copper mix, pastel like colors.


Dragon scale

Was mostly produced from further cross breeding to wild types in copper form and selectively breeding their offspring. Dragons are metallic based bettas with thick looking scales covering the whole body (full masked dragon). This trait was designed to have white/silver body with different colored fins – which gives them their names;

Red dragon = white body with red fins

Yellow dragon = white body with yellow fins

Black dragon = silver/grey body with black fins

Iridescence colored dragons does not display this pattern. Instead iridescence color covers the whole body and fins. So, a green dragon has thick green scales and fins. A blue dragon has blue body and fins, etc ect ect.

Since dragons need double metallic allele ++, they are recessive. Crossing a dragon to a regular will produce dragon genotype. Physically they will show partial dragon scales like samurai. Usually after inbreeding to F3 or F4 will return the full masked dragon feature and full body scale color.

Iridescence colored dragon works similarly to that of regular scale. So pure iridescence colored dragons:

  1. Green dragon x green dragon = green dragon
  2. Steel blue dragon x steel blue dragon = steel blue
  3. Blue dragon x blue dragon = green, steel blue, blue (all dragons)

***As I repeatedly stated, there are not many “pure bred” betta sold. It’s more likely that you will end up with other color variations as well no matter what you see.

Ideal Red dragons are white body with red fins – no iridescence or other colors on the rays.

Many “red dragons” sold carry white or iridescence rays.

Since dragons are metallic based plus the fact that they have been crossed bred:

Breeding red dragons (pure or otherwise) = red dragons (both pure and multi), yellow, orange, gold, platinum (mostly dragons, possibly some regular) – some more severely crossed may throw coppers.

It is said that adding marble may result in a dragon scale with darker shade of red (the whole body and fin) – sort of maroon (very rare). But now day marble is in every thing and making a breeding night mare as it is so dominant.

Breeding Black dragons may result: copper, green, steel blue (both dragon and regular), Platinum (solid and multi), bad dragons with partial scaling are sold as samurai.

It is said that stray (by adding marble) may result in super black (a totally black color). These super blacks have been selectively bred and are now breeding true. But for some reason, this coloration most often comes in a less perfect fin form and adding marble can be a disaster later in breeding with mutations and hiding mutations in the geno that can pop up to ruin years of line breeding work.

So, just because you do not see it in some book that was wrote in 1970 or read it on some self professed breeding god’s site do not think it can not be done. With a little work and a basic understanding of colors there is no limit to what you can create. Now if some one copies it and gives it a new name that is a who other story!

Some of the best breeders in the world do not always post info or give their ideas to others for the simple reason if it proves some new color or type or makes a show guy look bad after they wrote a big long BS articular note on some show site on how they were the first to produce it and were not, the BS starts and the haters come out. Only thinking of the trophy’s, fame, and God complex to save a book deal and not about the betta or the genetics and for sure not giving credit were it is due to the hard work of the Asian breeder that took years to produce the fish.

The Gold betta, Dalamtion, Supers, BigEar, Giant, Crown Tail and Nemo, Candy, Dragons, Cellophane and Koi just to name a few were all first done by Asian breeders. No matter what IBC or others will try and have you think. Most new colors or types are years in Asia before they ever get to a outside country. On top of that most top genetic breeders could care less about a show or a trophy. With social media now days it is much faster, but credit for the older stuff is still not correct in most sites or books.  Breeder should not follow the rules of colors and open there minds to new color combo’s and genetics at the same time mixing in older wild types to find new and exciting genetic combo’s……


Here is a great video of my Uncle who produced the first Gold betta. He was a car painter by trade and knew how color layers worked. So as you can see it is about the layers and how you  stack them to get new colors. What you see is 75% of making new colors. Check out his sons page here –  http://goldenbetta.com/















Information in this article came from bettabunny before the site was closed and WorldBettas wild genetic and koi research.
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