The origin of the Thailand betta we call dragons!
We get this question a lot and every one wants to know how to make a dragon so I will post the real info. As most of you know Thailand is the start of 90% of all colors and types in the world when it comes to bettas. We are very determined breeders and have access to the wild base lines needed to add new colors and types.
All of you dragon lovers can thank our friend MR. Pichet from the Interfish breeder team here in Thailand, as the first of what we call dragons today were created by using a Super Red, a Wild Hybrid Red Copper and then mixing in some Betta sp. mahachai. This type of cross comes with great difficulty and time because the fry are small, low survival rates and low fry counts, the Wild mahachai was crossed successfully to the wild Hybrid Red Copper with the hopes of preserving the mahachai traits of scales and deep colors in the offspring. Then a dark color male showing some green copper hue from this spawn was crossed to a Super Red female.
The next step was a mother x son back-cross where the super red female was crossed to one of her offspring in a method commonly we refer to as ‘line breeding’. This type of cross always gives bad body shape and bad and strange fins on the fry, as expected it was not very good with lots of malformations in the body but the color was there for sure and the first dragon type was born! The first dragon types we know today was developed again by a Thailand farm by Mr. Tea. The “Red dragon V1″ were first presented here to the Thai public in the December 2004 with a few going to farms in 2003 and shown in an edition of a magazine called “Fancy Fish” by the Interfish breeder team.
The copper golds were created at about the very same at several farms here in Thailand as we were all working with coppers and wilds at that time at that time a copper gold was bring over 1000 USD a pair. Golds first came from Betta Splendens to other species of wild betta, namely Betta Imbellis and Betta Mahachai. The first gold betta came from our uncle at Golden betta Thailand and a lot of TV interviews and media covered it. Is funny a car painter used his knowledge to rework the color layers to produce some very first golds.
There is another way and much older way to get dragons that is not talked about in the show community. So, lets add in some more information kept in the dark because of the word fighter. There is and was a strain that exists between the wild caught Betta and the captive-bred copper wild species called hybrid-fighting fish. Betta smaragdina x betta sp. mahachai x copper smaragdina x Thai fighter. Be betta in Thailand is probably the best new style Thai hybrid breeder and the fish are the most amazing we have ever seen and so much more to come with the wild cross hybrids from her.
The word we use for them is: “Pla Sung Ka See” (“Sung Ka See” means steel iron sheets) “Pla Sung”. This is the name we hear a lot from the older fighter breeders. Everyone over here has interesting definitions for “Pla Sung Ka See”. I was told Dr. Yon Musik, Vice Professor of the Department of Fisheries at the University of Agriculture defines the meaning of “Pla Sung Ka See” in his article “The Legend of Plakat Thai” as being a fighter with scales as tough as galvanized iron sheets!!
“Pla Sang” or hybrid strains played a very big role in creating todays drgons. The development of Plakat Thai fighters to this day are a vital gene pool often over looked by many breeders because of the word “fighter” used to describe fish they think are bred to kill and fight only. So, a lot of breeders are missing important genes in their efforts to produce top dragons… The hybrid thai fighter plays an important and often forgotten role as a bridge for the Betta crossing from the wild to the dragon fancy show community, far too often overlooked in fancy breeding.
There are up to 26,000 different gene combinations to create that betta look that you have. Wilds and domestic do not have the same layers and for this reason we like to work with both and not limit our breeding to only domestic types. In domestic bettas Iridescent Layer (Top layer), Black Layer, Red Layer, Yellow Layer (Bottom layer) in that order but in wild types and wild hybrids the color layer is Iridescent Layer (Top layer), Red Layer, Black Layer, Yellow Layer (Bottom layer) in that order.
The Black color is regarded as base color for wild betta. It should also be noted that the reason Thai breeders like to use so much wild is the colors will appear much darker and richer in crosses like golds and dragons because when using domestic stuff, you get more pastel appearance when new lines are created. Some breeders like to use steels to create the darker base but wilds offer much better darker base colors if done correctly. Use this with spread iridocytes and your copper will be much richer and your golds much deeper your dragons will be better scales.
Armageddon is just a fancy commercial name given to a certain unique phenotype that has become more or less “official” due to its widespread use as so many others have before it. Most new colors start off with groups and society people all saying what the hell is that and never will we make a standard for that kind of thing. As it becomes popular with the people it always gets quietly added to clubs and shows and all of the sudden you see it as a standard. Man, you have got to love global sales on groups! The “Armageddon” betta is typically a bicolor with a blue/black/turquoise body and yellow or orange fins. But this is where it gets very very interesting. The Armageddon is very unique because of its ability to express red or orange at the same time as yellow (non red), making for a dramatic and colorful effect loved by so many. It was quietly with hope of those involved in Project Armageddon to get a better grasp of how this works on a genetic level, how it was originally created, and how to best perpetuate it.
According to PG Saga, an Armageddon betta can be achieved by crossing a blue/yellow or purple/yellow bi-color betta to a copper/red. Richard Kent Laughery had very similar fish randomly appear in his Purple line. In our experience, you can see the fin marble effect starting as early as the F1 by crossing super orange to wild bi-color fighter cross. As Thailand breeders work more and more with new color types and wild types there is soon going to be a rainbow flood of colors developed in a few years for sure. Bright green dragons, iridescent orange and more super colors….
Warning on Color Combinations
Bettas certainly can come in hundreds or thousands of different combinations. There are up to 26,000 different gene combinations to create that betta look that you have 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 or what we call a BAP (breed and pray).
Also, you really need to be careful when you are shopping, especially FB online. Think about it for a second, do you really think just because the seller says the betta is a Cambodian or true this or pure that, does not mean that it really is! 75% of breeders or more will put whatever name they need to on a betta just to get people interested in it. I’ve come across more fake “true” “pure” or whatever than I can care to think about now days, literally (true lines are REALLY rare). Plus, whenever a strange betta comes out of a BAP spawn the breeder will stick some made-up name on it to get people to buy it. Need a samurai betta breed very bad dragons. They should be posted under “I over line bred my dragons and this is my fish” The probability that the pattern, however beautiful it is, is repeatable is very low at best.
If you happen to come across a color type that we do not know here then it was probably just made up by the breeder because they didn’t know how to categorize their BAP betta. New betta strains are developed here in Thailand every year and do pop up every now and again with trade names that are new. Although it is 1 or 2 a year at best and if the price is more than a few USD and sold by known breeders only at first.
So, the next time you want a great line of bettas that you can reproduce make sure to check the line before you are disappointed with that cherry vanilla swirl giant that was nothing more than an old forgotten red wash marble in the tank in the back 3 years ago that ends up throwing nothing but crap steel blues with backward fins.