Clear Betta Fish: Unique Genetics of The See-Through Fish

Clear bettas are one of the most unique types of betta fish available.

This species does not have the usual betta fish colors, and there is no mistaking one when you see it.

Other common names for the clear betta include:

  • Transparent betta
  • Cellophane betta
  • Ghost Betta

Some varieties of clear bettas are so transparent their internal organs are visible!

Let’s look at the clear betta’s appearance and how breeders created this unusual betta fish variety.

What Is a Clear Betta?

A clear betta is exactly like you might expect.

These fish have transparent bodies and fins.

The more common name, “cellophane betta,” comes from how the clear fins look in the water.

Their pale bodies sometimes have a pink color.

This pale-pink body results from the betta’s veins and internal organs showing through the body.

Unlike albino bettas, clear bettas are not colorless, and their eyes are black instead of red.

Looking at a clear betta in the light, you may notice a shimmer on the body and fins.

All clear bettas have the iridescent gene.

The iridescence color ranges from steel to royal blue and turquoise.

Some clear bettas have blue or black spots on the fins and body.

These spots appear due to their marble genetics.

Not all clear bettas carry the marble gene.

Clear bettas without the marble gene usually do not have any color at all.

Clear bettas can have any betta fin type, but the most common ones are:

  • Halfmoon
  • Crowntail
  • Veiltail

Very rare cellophane betta variations have the double tail or elephant ear traits.

Do Clear Bettas Change Color?

If your clear betta starts changing color, do not panic.

Color changes in clear bettas are not uncommon due to the marble gene.

The marble gene, called the “jumping gene,” is constantly mutated.

This mutation turns color layers off and on in random spots on a betta’s body and fins.

Marble bettas can change colors numerous times throughout their lives.

Many betta owners report their clear bettas turning black or blue.

Red colors sometimes develop, as well.

This could mean the betta also carries the Cambodian gene.

Some cellophane bettas develop clear spots as they transition into another color.

This should not cause worry because a marble betta is a natural process.

But, as stated above, not all clear bettas carry the marble gene.

Some clear bettas get their color (or lack of color) from Cambodian and iridescent genes.

Cellophane with Cambodian betta bloodlines maintain their pale, translucent color throughout their lives.

When To Worry

If your clear betta develops black on its fin edges, it may suffer from fin rot.

Black fin edges are one of the first signs of fin rot. Other symptoms include:

  • Bloody fin edges
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Ragged fins

Start treating your betta with an antibiotic immediately if you notice these signs.

Quarantine the affected betta in a hospital tank when administering medications.

Prompt treatment is crucial for the recovery of your betta.

When the disease spreads to the body, it can lead to death.

After a betta recovers from fin rot, its fins start growing back.

This new fin growth is transparent at first and develops color later.

This is more noticeable in bettas with colorful fins.

If you have a multicolored betta without cellophane genetics, the sudden development of transparent patches is not a good sign.

These transparent spots on the body are open sores caused by a fungus.

Other symptoms of a fungal infection in a betta fish are:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rubbing against objects
  • Clamped fins

Start treating your betta with aquarium salt and an antifungal medication right away.

Without prompt treatment, your betta can die from a severe fungal infection.

Since fungal infections are contagious, you must treat any tank mates and deep clean the aquarium.

Stressed or injured bettas are more prone to fungal infections because of their lowered immune system.

Are Clear Bettas Rare?

Clear betta fish are rare to a certain extent.

You may find plenty of clear bettas from online breeders. But they aren’t pet store bettas, either.

And many of the clear bettas you see online likely have the marble gene.

This means they aren’t true cellophane bettas because they can change color over time.

Only cellophane bettas bred from Cambodian lines remain clear for their entire lives.

Few breeders specialize in clear bettas because of the unpredictable results of the offspring.

Breeders specializing in marble bettas usually focus on creating vivid colors like the ones seen in the koi and galaxy patterns.

Average Cost of a Clear Betta

The price of a clear betta ranges from $25 to $50.

Clear bettas from Cambodian lines usually cost more than those with marble genes.

Fin types also affect the price of a clear betta.

More elaborate fin types like the rosetail or halfmoon bettas cost more than veiltails.

Clear bettas with the elephant ear trait are also on the higher end of the price spectrum.

Remember, there are shipping charges when buying a clear betta from an online breeder.

Shipping prices for bettas are around $20.

This includes overnight shipping in a special container so the betta arrives to you unharmed.

Always research an online breeder’s return policy.

Many online breeders offer replacements if your betta gets sick or dies during shipping.

Breeding History

Betta enthusiasts are unsure about the exact origins of the clear betta variant.

Clear bettas from Cambodian lines likely have the non-red gene.

The non-red gene would remove the red color from the Cambodian pattern and produce a pale-bodied fish without pigment in the fins.

Cambodian-bred clear bettas also carry the iridescent gene, which is uncommon in Cambodian bettas.

Young marble bettas without pigment may develop spots of color as they age.

Likewise, the spots of color can disappear later in life.

Orville Gulley accidentally developed the first marble bettas when breeding for the black butterfly pattern.

Butterfly bettas usually have transparent fin edges.

Marble genes suppress certain pigments.

This means several of the offspring from Gulley’s breeding were likely transparent.

Basic Betta Color Genetics

Breeding bettas is not a straightforward process.

Cross-breeding bettas of different colors complicates things even more.

Betta breeders often cross-breed different colors of bettas.

This can produce offspring with desirable traits, such as brighter reds or darker blacks.

The offspring from these breeding pairs may carry the parents’ genetics but not show them physically.

These hidden traits are called phenotypes.

Visible traits in a betta fish are genotypes.

A betta’s genes also consist of dominant and recessive traits.

Both parents must carry the same recessive gene for it to show physically in the offspring.

Otherwise, the offspring carry the recessive gene as a phenotype.

Betta Fish Color Layers

Betta fish have four color layers with pigment cells:

  • Iridescent layer
  • Black layer
  • Red layer
  • Yellow layer

The iridescent layer contains pigment cells called iridocytes, also known as guanophores.

Iridocytes are blue and green cells. They control iridescent colors and spread iridocytes and non-blue pigments.

Cells in this layer give clear bettas their iridescent sheen.

The black layer contains melanophores.

These cells control the amount of black pigment in this layer.

Melanophores contain the Cambodian, Blonde/Bright, and Melano traits.

Clear bettas from Cambodian lines have the corresponding cells in the black layer.

The red layer contains erythrophores, which control the amount of red pigment in a betta.

Red pigment traits include extended red, reduced red, and non-red.

Erythrophore cells are also responsible for the variegated fin trait seen in butterfly bettas.

The red-loss trait in this layer causes fading of the red coloring as a young betta gets older.

Red-loss genes are separate from marble genes.

But many marble bettas without red pigment may have red-loss genes.

Despite its name, the yellow layer does not control yellow pigments.

Yellow and orange bettas result from non-red genes present in the red layer.

The yellow layer has cells called xanthophores.

After much research, Dr. Gene Lucas determined the yellow layer controls the opaque trait.

How Marble Genes Work

Marble genes, or “jumping genes,” interfere with a pigment cell’s color-producing ability.

When marble genes activate in a pigment cell, it becomes colorless.

If the marble gene leaves a pigment cell, its original color returns.

Marble genes are very unpredictable.

A marble betta may change colors several times during its life or not at all if the genes do not activate.

The Genetics of Clear Bettas from Cambodian Lines

Clear bettas from Cambodian lines must have several different pigment cells present.

The Cambodian pigment cells give the betta its pale or translucent body.

This gene also suppresses black pigments.

Traditional Cambodian bettas have the reduced red gene. Reduced red genes produce red on the fins only.

Clear bettas with Cambodian genes must have non-red genes instead of reduced red genes.

Non-red genes remove all red coloring from the body and fins.

Cambodian-bred clear bettas also have the spread iridescence trait on the iridescent layer.

Is Breeding Clear Bettas Difficult?

Breeding clear bettas is a challenge because their genetic traits do not always breed true.

A breeding pair of clear bettas with marbling genes may only produce a few cellophane offspring.

Some of the offspring may appear as cellophane when they are young.

But once the offspring mature, they can develop patches of color.

When breeding two clear bettas with Cambodian genes, there is still no guarantee of 100% cellophane offspring.

You may have some offspring with the cellophane appearance.

Others might have a traditional Cambodian appearance.

This variation is due to the phenotypes carried by the offspring

Are Clear Bettas Prone to Diseases?

Clear bettas are prone to the same diseases as other bettas.

The exception to this rule is clear bettas with marble genes.

Due to the constant mutation of marble genes, these bettas are more prone to the development of tumors.

Most of these tumors are not life-threatening. Cancerous tumors in bettas are very rare.

However, depending on their size and location, these tumors can affect a betta’s quality of life.

Large abdominal tumors may pressure the betta’s swim bladder, causing swim bladder disorder.

Betta fish with swim bladder disorder have trouble with buoyancy.

The betta may float to the surface or sink to the bottom.

Another common sign of swim bladder disorder in bettas is swimming sideways.

Without treatment for the tumor, the betta can not recover from the swim bladder disorder.

Tumors near the betta’s eyes or mouth can block a betta’s vision and make eating difficult.

Preventing Diseases in Your Clear Betta

The most common cause of most betta diseases is poor water quality.

Keeping your betta tank clean and performing regular water changes can prevent these diseases.

Do a partial water change by removing up to 20% of the tank water weekly.

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

A water conditioner removes the harmful chemicals in tap water, which can burn your betta.

Test your tank water for ammonia and nitrite regularly.

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

Maintain consistent warm water temperatures between 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sudden temperature fluctuations can cause digestive problems and other health issues in bettas.

Avoid fin injuries by ensuring there are no sharp objects in the tank.

Fin damage can lead to fin and tail rot if the injuries get infected by bacteria.

Stress is another factor in betta illnesses because it lowers your betta’s immune system.

This makes your betta more prone to bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections.

Reduce stress by providing your betta plenty of hiding places and a calm environment.

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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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