Butterfly Betta: The Odd History Behind This Unique Pattern

There is no mistaking a betta with the butterfly pattern because of its striking appearance.

A butterfly betta’s distinct color bands set it apart from other types of betta fish color patterns.

Its growing popularity keeps this colorful fish in high demand among tropical fish enthusiasts.

This demand allows breeders to continue evolving the butterfly betta with new color and tail type combinations.

Let’s take a closer look at the appearance of the butterfly betta and how it was first developed.

What Is a Butterfly Betta?

butterfly betta appearance

A butterfly betta usually has a solid body color, which extends to part of the fins. The rest of the fins are either cellophane or white.

These two colors form distinct color bands on the fins.

The most common colors found in butterfly bettas are:

  • Steel blue
  • Turquoise
  • Red
  • Orange
  • Yellow

Uncommon colors for butterfly bettas are purple and green, which are rare colors for any type of betta.

Show-quality butterfly bettas have an equal amount of the main color and the cellophane or white color on the fins.

Some butterfly bettas now have multicolored bodies with the butterfly pattern on their fins. This is due to years of selective breeding.

Types of Fins

The butterfly pattern is most common in bettas with the halfmoon or delta tail types.

But the butterfly pattern can appear on any betta fish tail type, including:

  • Crowntail
  • Super delta
  • Rosetail
  • Halfmoon plakat

Most betta breeders focus on creating the butterfly pattern on bettas with long fins.

This butterfly pattern can appear on veil tail bettas, but the effect is less noticeable on the downward swooping tail.

Color Variations

Butterfly bettas are usually classified as bi-color bettas.

They have a solid color on the body which extends to part of the fins. The fin edges are usually white or cellophane.

But in recent years, breeders have created tri-color butterfly bettas. The extra color band usually appears between the main color and the outer fin edges.

A good example of a tri-color betta sometimes appears in the mustard gas pattern variant. Some mustard gas bettas have a butterfly pattern in their fins as the colors change from blue to yellow and then white.

Not every mustard gas betta has the butterfly pattern, but it is a possibility.

Outer band colors other than white or cellophane are also more common in the newer varieties of butterfly bettas.

These outer band colors can include:

  • Black
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Brown

A black outer band occurs when the betta has melano genes.

Other color variations show bettas with the marble or grizzle genes having butterfly tails. These beautiful color patterns create splotches of bright colors on the betta’s body.

Bettas with marble or grizzle genes can change colors several times during their lives.

While these mutating genes usually only affect the body, this is not always true.

There are several instances where a butterfly betta with marble genes developed a solid-colored tail over time.

In these bettas, the butterfly pattern is an effect of the slow color change.

This may come as a disappointment to betta owners who thought they had a true butterfly betta.

Are Butterfly Bettas Rare?

Butterfly bettas are one of the most common pattern varieties available today.

You may even find a butterfly betta at your local pet store.

But this wasn’t always the case.

Until breeders isolated the variegated fin gene, butterfly bettas were rare.

Due to advancements in selective breeding, butterfly bettas are now more common.

Average Cost of a Butterfly Betta

The average price of a butterfly betta ranges from $10 to $45.

A butterfly betta’s fin type and coloration affect its price.

Halfmoon and rosetail butterfly bettas are on the higher end of the price spectrum.

Elephant ear butterfly bettas are the most expensive with an average price of $65.

Butterfly bettas with equal color bands on their fins are usually more expensive than those with uneven color bands.

Female bettas with the butterfly pattern are the least expensive because of their shorter fins and duller colors.

If you buy your butterfly betta from an online breeder, you must also factor in shipping costs.

These shipping costs range from $15-$20 and include overnight shipping so your betta stays safe.

Breeding History of the Butterfly Betta

butterfly betta breeding

The earliest known example of a butterfly betta fish is the one created by tropical fish breeder Orville Tutweiler.

Tutweiler developed his tri-colored butterfly betta from bettas with the Cambodian color pattern.

His version of the butterfly betta looked much different than the butterfly bettas we know today.

This Cambodian betta had a pale body with a distinct red stripe on each fin. The red stripe had pale color bands on each side instead of blending red from the body.

Tutweiler never finished developing his butterfly betta, and he retired from breeding betta fish in the 1960s.

Only a blurry black-and-white photograph of Tutweiler’s butterfly betta exists. Nobody has ever created a replica of the Tutweiler butterfly pattern since then.

Since the creation of Tutweiler’s butterfly betta remained a mystery, breeders did not know about the genetics of the pattern.

It took several years of selective breeding before the development of other butterfly bettas.

Jay C. Neil, a tropical fish breeder from Michigan, gets the credit for creating the butterfly betta pattern we see today.

Like Tutweiler, Neil developed his butterfly pattern by breeding Cambodia-patterned bettas.

Is Breeding Butterfly Bettas Difficult?

Breeding butterfly bettas is easy as long as you understand how betta fish genetics work.

Domestic betta fish have four color layers:

  • Iridescent layer (top layer)
  • Black layer
  • Red layer
  • Yellow layer (bottom layer)

The combination of genes in each layer controls the coloration of a betta.

Betta fish with the butterfly pattern have the variegated fin (Vf) gene. This mutated gene is on the red color layer and is a dominant trait.

The genetic mutation deactivates some of the pigment cells in the red and yellow color layers. As a result, the colors on the fins form distinct color bands.

Even though the variegated fin gene is dominant, it produces varied effects.

There is no way of controlling how much of the fin is cellophane or white.

When a betta with the variegated fin gene also has melano genetics, the outer band on the fins appears black.

Breeding two bettas with the variegated fin gene results in offspring with the butterfly pattern.

Can Butterfly Bettas Change Color?

butterfly betta colors

A true butterfly betta fish maintains its fin pattern for its entire life.

But some butterfly bettas can carry marble genes.

Marble genetics complicate things a bit. Since the marble genes are always mutating, they can change the color of a betta several times during its life.

In some stages of color mutation, the butterfly pattern may appear on the betta’s fins.

But the pattern is only temporary and the fins may turn a solid color over a period of time.

These mutating genes have partial dominance over other colors.

If either of the breeding pair has marble genetics, these pass on to the offspring.

Once marble genes get introduced into a betta bloodline, breeding those genes out is almost impossible.

Are Butterfly Bettas Aggressive?

The color pattern of a betta does not determine if the fish has a more aggressive personality or not.

But certain tail types are more prone to aggressive behavior than others.

Halfmoon and rosetail betta types usually display a more aggressive temperament. Plakat bettas also have a reputation for being more aggressive.

Since many butterfly bettas have the halfmoon tail type, they are often classified as more aggressive.

This is not always true, as a betta’s personality is also influenced by its environment.

If you want to know your butterfly betta’s temperament, keep a close watch on its behavior.

Signs of aggression are not always obvious, especially when there are no other fish in your betta tank.

But if your betta flares at your hand during feeding or at bright objects nearby, these are signs of aggression.

Can Butterfly Bettas Live With Tank Mates?

Bettas are solitary fish and do not feel lonely when provided with enrichment activities.

Two male bettas can never live in the same tank because they can fight with each other.

But this does not mean your butterfly betta has to live alone for its entire life.

Some betta tank mates provide benefits like algae removal, which helps keep your tank clean.

Housing your betta with tank mates can work well if you take certain precautions.

Provide Lots of Space

First, you must ensure there is plenty of space for adding tank mates with your betta.

You need at least a 10-gallon tank for small tank mates like snails and shrimp. For schooling fish species, a 20-gallon tank size is more appropriate.

A larger tank prevents territorial behavior and avoids having too much of a bioload for your aquarium filter.

There must be enough space for adding plenty of aquatic plants and hiding spots.

Aquarium plants create a more natural habitat and prevent aggression by breaking the line of sight.

Hiding spots make your betta feel more secure and provide safety for the other tank mates.

Choose Suitable Tank Mates

butterfly betta tank mates

The next important step is choosing compatible tank mates.

Look for peaceful fish species and invertebrates, such as:

  • Mystery snails
  • Ghost shrimp
  • Otocinclus
  • Corydoras
  • Neon tetras

These aquatic species also have the same habitat requirements and care level as betta fish.

Avoid fish with aggressive temperaments, brighter colors, or large fins. These species include:

  • Other bettas
  • Goldfish
  • Cichlids
  • Tiger barbs
  • Danios

Learn more about choosing the best tank mates for your betta by clicking the link for our helpful guide.

Watch for Signs of Aggression

Another consideration for a community tank is the length of your betta’s fins.

Butterfly bettas with halfmoon or delta tail types are targets for fin nipping from other fish.

If you notice your butterfly betta getting bullied or bullying other fish, you must remove them to a separate tank.

Are Butterfly Bettas Prone to Health Issues?

The genes associated with the butterfly pattern in bettas do not cause tumors or other long-term health issues.

Butterfly bettas are hardy fish with an average lifespan of up to five years with proper care.

As long as you maintain ideal water parameters and provide a nutritious diet, your betta can live a healthy life.

But if you have a halfmoon butterfly betta or any other long-finned type, you must take a few extra precautions when it comes to fin health.

Fin rot is one of the most common health issues in long-finned bettas.

This disease usually occurs due to poor water conditions.

Physical injuries may also lead to fin rot. Any tear in the fins becomes open to bacterial infections.

Symptoms of fin rot in betta fish include:

  • Ragged fins
  • Brown, black, or bloody fin edges
  • Fuzzy white growths on the fins
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

Mild cases of fin rot are not fatal, but prompt treatment is crucial. In severe cases of fin rot, the infection can spread to the body and become deadly.

An aquarium salt bath is the most common treatment for mild cases of fin rot.

Antibacterial or antifungal medications can treat any underlying infections.

How To Prevent Fin Rot in Butterfly Betta Fish

Maintain a Clean Tank

Providing a healthy habitat and maintaining stable water parameters can prevent most cases of fin rot.

Regular water changes and tank cleaning removes toxins and harmful bacteria. Poor water quality is the most common cause of fin rot.

Proper filtration helps remove harmful substances from the aquarium water, as well. Ensure your aquarium filter has the correct flow rate for your tank size.

Always treat tap water with a water conditioner before adding it to your betta tank.

Water conditioners remove chlorine and chloramine, which can poison your fish and damage its fins.

Maintain Stable Water Parameters

Unstable water parameters cause stress in your butterfly betta. This stress lowers your betta’s immune system and makes the fish more prone to diseases like fin rot.

Maintain constant water temperatures between 78-80° degrees Fahrenheit (25.5-27° C). These warm water temperatures keep your betta healthy.

A sudden fluctuation in water temperature can cause shock.

Cold water temperatures also lead to poor digestive health in bettas.

Test your water for ammonia and nitrite every week with an aquarium water testing kit.

If the ammonia and nitrite levels are above 0 parts per million, perform a partial water change right away.

Leftover food and fish waste decay on the substrate and release ammonia. Cleaning the substrate with a gravel vacuum removes this debris.

Choose Safe Tank Decor

Since torn fins can lead to fin rot, you must ensure your butterfly betta’s environment is safe.

Check tank decorations for jagged edges and rough textures. If your aquarium net snags on any objects in the tank, they are not safe for your betta.

Artificial plants made from plastic also have sharp edges. Choose silk or live aquatic plants instead.

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Wesley Oaks has a background in web publishing and decided to combine his skillset with his enjoyment of betta fish. When he isn’t working behind the scenes for Betta Fish Bay, he’s homeschooling his kids and soaking up quality family time.

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