Calico Betta Fish: Colors, Rarity, Breeding History, & More!

When you hear the word “calico,” you probably think of cats.

But did you know there are calico betta fish?

These beautiful betta fish usually have three or more different colors on their bodies and fins.

Calico bettas are also known as koi bettas or fancy bettas due to their many colors.

A calico plakat betta with orange, black, and white colors is the most sought-after. This betta looks like a smaller version of the much larger Japanese koi fish.

What Is a Calico Betta?

calico betta appearance

A calico betta has the marble gene. The marble gene creates splotches of vibrant colors on the betta’s body and fins.

Marble genetics go through a constant mutation. This means a betta with these genes can change colors throughout its life.

Calico betta fish can have a variety of color combinations, including:

  • Black
  • White
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Blue
  • Red

Below are some of the more common color combinations seen in calico bettas.

Varieties of Calico Bettas


Koi bettas look like the much larger koi carp usually found in garden ponds.

These bettas have blotches of white, black, orange, and yellow on their bodies and tails.

Female koi bettas have the same bold colors as males, but they usually have shorter tails.

The plakat variety is the most common type of koi betta. But koi bettas can have other tail types such as crowntail and half-moon.

Samurai koi bettas are the rarest type found with these colors. A Samurai koi betta has dragon body scales along with the marble gene. You can read about Samurai colors and patterns here.


Galaxy bettas are the most common type of calico bettas.

A Galaxy koi betta has orange, red, or white colors with bright splotches of blue.

What sets the Galaxy betta apart from the other color varieties is its iridescent body scales.

Female bettas usually have more iridescence than males.


Candy bettas look like Galaxy bettas but without the iridescent scales.

Common colors found in Candy calico bettas include:

  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Red
  • White
  • Blue

These bettas usually have lighter bodies with splotches of flashy colors resembling candy.


Tiger koi bettas have yellow bodies complimented with blue or black colors.

The darker colors form spots or stripes like a tiger.

Half-moon plakats are the most common tail and fin type seen in tiger koi bettas.

Hybrid varieties of tiger koi bettas have copper or red colors with iridescent scales.


Nemo bettas have a unique pattern with a more equal distribution of colors.

Red, orange, and black are the most common colors found in Nemo koi bettas.

But, some Nemo bettas can have five different colors on their bodies and fins.

Tail Types in Calico Bettas

Calico bettas can have any tail type, but plakats are the most common.

Crowntail calico bettas are another popular variety of this colorful fish.

Half-moon and half-moon plakat are also common tail and fin types in calico bettas.

Are Calico Betta’s Rare?

calico betta rarity

Although calico betta fish are a newer variety, they are not considered rare.

But, you may not find certain calico varieties like the Nemo or Tiger bettas in your local pet store.

Galaxy and koi color varieties are more popular, but also more expensive.

When it comes to fin types, plakat calico bettas are more common than long-finned varieties.

A calico betta’s rarity also depends on its genetics.

The marble genetics of calico bettas makes breeding precise color varieties difficult.

Predicting the final colors of a young calico betta is also a challenge.

This is because bettas with the mutating marble gene change colors. The calico betta you bring home can have a different appearance within several months to a year.

Average Cost of a Calico Betta

The average cost of a calico betta ranges from $12-$20.

A distinct color pattern can cost a bit more because of its rarity.

Galaxy bettas usually cost up to $50, and koi halfmoon bettas sell for around $65.

A rare Nemo Galaxy koi betta may cost more than $200.

Show-quality calico bettas have an average price ranging from $100-$1,500 due to their difficult breeding process.

The Breeding History of Calico Betta Fish

Calico betta fish have an interesting breeding history.

An inmate at an Indiana prison named Orville Gulley first created the koi betta in the 1970s.

Gulley began breeding betta fish in peanut butter jars while in prison. His original intention was to breed bi-color black butterfly bettas.

Bettas with the butterfly pattern have a solid-colored body with a distinct band of a different color on the fins and tail.

During the breeding process, Gulley discovered the marble gene. At the time, his marble bettas were black and white.

He sent some of his marble betta specimens to a man named Walt Maurus. Maurus was a hobbyist with ties to the International Betta Congress.

After more breeding and genetic studies, the International Betta Congress included the koi betta.

Koi bettas differ from regular marbled bettas because their patterns are more distinct. Koi bettas may have iridescent scales, as well.

Due to their genetic mutations, calico bettas do not exist in the wild.

Is Breeding Calico Bettas Difficult?

calico betta breed

The marble mutation in calico bettas is the result of a jumping gene. This gene can mutate and change its position within a genome.

A betta with marble genetics may change color once or twice in its life if the jumping gene is less active. Bettas with more active jumping genes can change color several times during their life.

Marbling genes in calico bettas are a co-dominant trait.

If you breed a calico betta with a solid-color betta, most of the offspring will have a solid color.

Breeding two calico bettas does not always guarantee offspring with the same marble genetics. The offspring can have light or dark solid colors, marbling, or a bi-color butterfly pattern.

Are Calico Bettas Prone to Health Issues?

Calico bettas face the same health concerns as other bettas.

But, the risk of tumors developing in calico bettas is much higher.

Since the marble genes are always mutating, this increases the risk of abnormal tumor growth.

But tumor growth is rare in betta fish and not all lumps are tumors. Lumps can appear from physical injuries or bacterial infections.

Surgery for betta fish tumors is not always successful. Humane euthanization is the end result.

Depending on where the tumor grows, a betta can still live a normal life without any special care. If your betta continues eating and swimming as normal there is usually no need for intervention.

Calico bettas are also prone to weakened immune systems due to inbreeding and other poor breeding practices.

A weakened immune system increases a betta’s risk of health issues like fin rot and dropsy.

Maintaining ideal water parameters and providing a nutritious diet lowers the risk of health problems in bettas.

If you buy a calico betta from an online breeder, be aware of the shipping policies.

Most online breeders use overnight shipping and you must sign for the package. The breeder may also include a return policy if your betta arrives in poor health.

Are Calico Betta Fish Aggressive?

All betta fish have a feisty personality.

Since most calico bettas have the plakat fin type, they are more aggressive than other betta breeds.

Aggressive behavior depends on the individual fish. But your calico betta is likely not the best choice for a sorority or community tank.

If you place your calico betta with tank mates, watch for aggressive behavior and bullying.

Place your betta in a separate tank at the first signs of aggression.

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Toni Tedescucci is a freelance writer who loves all animals, especially betta fish. When she isn’t busy writing for Betta Fish Bay, she’s spending time with her family or getting cozy with her cats and a good book.

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