Chocolate Betta: The Unique Genetics Of This Beautiful Fish

Thanks to selective breeding, betta fish come in various colors and pattern types.

Brightly-colored bettas are the most common in fish stores. But there are stunning black and brown-bodied betta fish, as well.

When brown betta fish were first introduced, they were usually dismissed as plain.

An enterprising breeder made the brown betta popular by renaming the strain “chocolate.”

Now, bettas with a rich chocolate color on their bodies are one of the most sought-after varieties!

Keep reading to find out what makes chocolate bettas so unique.

What Is a Chocolate Betta?

chocolate betta appearance

Chocolate bettas have a light or dark brown body. Sometimes, orange or yellow hues are present.

A chocolate betta’s brown body color may come from a mutated melano gene.

The tail has a pale yellow or golden color. Some chocolate bettas have black edges on their fins.

Most chocolate bettas have a halfmoon tail type. You may find rosetail chocolate bettas, but they are very rare.

According to breeding standards, the body of chocolate bettas should not have any iridescence. The tail and fins should not have a variegated or butterfly pattern.

If the body is close to black, it is not a true chocolate betta.

The International Betta Congress does not recognize chocolate as a color for betta fish. For show purposes, the IBC classifies chocolate bettas as a dark-bodied bicolor.

Walt Maurus referred to the original chocolate color as a brown and yellow bicolor betta. He also said these fish were not attractive.

Little did he know: the chocolate betta would become one of the most popular types among betta enthusiasts!

The Mustard Gas betta is also a popular color choice and has the same yellow tail and fins. But, instead of a brown body, the Mustard Gas betta has a body with vivid blue or green iridescence.

Are Chocolate Bettas Rare?

Chocolate bettas are a rare color type.

This is due to their complicated genetics and selective breeding.

Because of its rarity, you won’t find a chocolate betta fish for sale at your local pet store.

But some online breeders sell these beautiful fish.

Always check an online breeder’s shipping policy before you buy a betta from them.

You must ensure the breeder ships to your location and has a return policy in case your betta arrives in poor health.

Average Cost of Chocolate Bettas

The average cost of a chocolate betta ranges from $40 to $50.

If you have your heart set on a chocolate betta, expect a bit of a search.

This color combination is often outshined by the mustard gas betta, so it is very rare.

Some breeders label these bettas as chocolate mustard gas, although this is incorrect. True mustard gas bettas do not have brown bodies.

The Breeding History of Chocolate Betta Fish

No one knows the exact origins of the chocolate betta fish.

Early descriptions of chocolate bettas depict these brown fish as plain and not worth pursuing. The fins sometimes had black edges with a freckling of melanophores.

These descriptions are quite different than what we know about chocolate bettas today.

You must learn about their genetics to understand how modern chocolate betta fish got their colors.

Genetics of Chocolate Betta Fish

Betta fish genetics are complex. This makes breeding for certain colors a challenge.

Many of the colors needed for a chocolate betta come from recessive genes.

Chocolate bettas have the recessive NR gene (non-red). The non-red gene controls yellow and orange colors in bettas.

A chocolate betta carries the NR-1 gene, which controls the yellow gene.

These bettas also carry at least one normal dark gene.

If you mate two chocolate bettas, you increase the chance of having 100% chocolate spawn. There is also a chance for a few solid yellow spawns.

Breeding a chocolate betta with a yellow betta produces 50% chocolate and 50% yellow spawn. But, this is only true if the chocolate betta carries the Cambodian gene.

When a chocolate betta without the Cambodian gene breeds with a yellow betta, the chance for chocolate spawn increases.

If you breed a chocolate betta with a betta carrying the recessive melano gene, they produce 100% multi-colored bettas. These bettas can produce chocolate, melano, or multi-colored bettas because of their genes. 

How Are Chocolate Bettas and Pineapple Bettas Different?

chocolate betta rarity pineapple bumblebee

Pineapple bettas have the same non-red genes as chocolate bettas.

But pineapple bettas are yellow with scales outlined in black. Their genetics allows for many different colors on the body and fins.

Chocolate bettas are true bi-colored fish, much like the Mustard Gas variety.

Are Bumblebee Bettas the Same As Chocolate Bettas?

While Bumblebee bettas look a bit like chocolate bettas, they are not always the same.

A popular pet store chain coined the term “Bumblebee.” These bettas usually have yellow fins and a brown or black body.

Bumblebee bettas may share some of the same genetics as chocolate bettas. But there are a few differences.

Some of these Bumblebee bettas have iridescent bodies. Iridescence is a fault in chocolate bettas and disqualifies them from show competitions.

A few betta hobbyists report their Bumblebee bettas changing color. This means the betta is not a true chocolate betta because it carries the marble gene.

While the Bumblebee variant makes an attractive betta, know you are not getting a true chocolate betta.

The same pet store chain also carries what they call the “Paradise” bettas. Paradise bettas look like the traditional Mustard Gas variant.

Like the Bumblebee, Paradise bettas are not always true bi-color variants. They may have different genetics than the true Mustard Gas bettas.

Are There Other Brown Betta Color Variations?

Chocolate bettas are the only domesticated bettas bred with a brown color.

But many wild bettas, such as the betta imbellis, have a gray or brown body color.

The brown color of wild bettas helps them blend in with their natural blackwater environment.

Camoflauge is important for wild bettas. Their dull coloring lets them hide from larger predators and hunt for food.

Male imbellis bettas sometimes have iridescent scales, but the females do not.

Can Colorful Bettas Turn Brown?

There are several reasons a colorful betta turns brown.

Turning brown is not always a cause for concern.

But the color change can signal an underlying illness.

Old Age

A betta’s vivid colors fade as they get older.

Bright red or orange bettas may turn brown when they age.

The average lifespan of domestic bettas is only 2-5 years.

A betta can begin losing its original color any time after it reaches three years of age.

Marble Genetics

Bettas with marble genetics can develop brown patches on their bodies and fins.

This genetic mutation evolves throughout a betta’s life.

The brown color may spread or change into a different color over time.

Nitrite Poisoning

Ammonia spikes in your aquarium increase nitrite levels.

Exposure to high nitrite levels causes a betta’s blood to turn brown.

This brown color may show through your betta’s body.

A betta with nitrite poisoning also becomes lethargic and has rapid gill movement.

Placing your betta in an aquarium salt bath can relieve the symptoms of nitrite poisoning.

Prevent ammonia and nitrite spikes through weekly partial water changes and regular tank cleaning.


Columnaris cause brown gills in infected bettas.

This bacterial disease is deadly without prompt treatment.

Bettas with columnaris must receive antibiotics in a separate quarantine tank.

Maintaining clean water conditions and providing a nutritious diet helps prevent columnaris.

Fin Rot

Fin rot causes brown edges on your betta’s fins and tail.

Without treatment, fin rot can spread to a betta’s body.

Treat fin rot with antibiotic medications at the first signs of the disease.

Like columnaris, fin rot stems from poor water conditions.

Performing weekly partial water changes and tank cleanings prevents the disease.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?


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.

Follow Us on Facebook!

Get betta fish fun facts right on your Facebook feed and see when we share new content by following our page on Facebook.

blue betta fish

Advertiser Disclosure

We are reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. To be 100% clear, you should assume that we will earn a commission on any product you purchase after clicking on links or images on this website.

Our affiliate partners include but are not limited to

In addition, we generate revenue through advertisements within the body of the articles you read on our site.

Although we only recommend products that we feel are of the best quality (which we may or may not have personal experience with) and represent value for money, you should be aware that our opinions can differ.

A product we like and recommend may not be suitable for your unique goals. So always be sure to do your due diligence on any product before you purchase it.