Dragon scale bettas are a more recent variety of betta fish. They were created with selective breeding of Betta Splendens Copper Red PK with wild Betta mahachaiensis.
Dragon scale bettas first appeared in Thailand in 2004 and have become very popular.
These beautiful fish have accentuated thick scales with darker edges. They often have a metallic sheen making them look like dragon scales.
The thick white scales covering the bright colors of the dragon betta give them their name.
The selective breeding required to create the dragon scale also created a tendency toward blindness.
The opaque scales giving the Dragon Scale Betta its name also can grow to cover its eyes.
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What Do Dragon Scale Bettas Look Like?
The dragon scale betta has some interesting characteristics. Their metallic scales are lined with darker coloration, accenting their shape.
The term dragon scale refers to medieval dragon-scale armor of the same pattern, which was said to look like the scales of the mythical dragon.
They have been successfully bred to express a variety of colors, except for blue dragon scales, which are genetically impossible.
They come with several different types of fins and varied color patterns as well. Dragon scale bettas are usually called by their base or body color rather than the scale color.
Bettas have four genetic color layers: the iridescent or blue, black, red, and yellow layers. The iridescent or blue layer has been replaced with thick white scales in the dragon scale betta.
For example, a red dragon betta will have a red body and fins as the original color but will have white scales instead of the iridescent layer.
A blue underlayer with white scales is one color combination that cannot occur because of genetics.
Some fish keepers believe only fish with white scales from the dragon gene are true dragon scale betta fish.
There are many different metallic colors of dragon scale betta fish as well.
Dragon Scale Betta Facts
The average lifespan of a betta fish is 5 years. Because of selective breeding, your dragon scale betta may only be healthy enough to live for 2 or 3 years.
Thoughtful care of your betta may extend its lifespan considerably.
Dragon scale bettas grow up to 2-3″ inches, just like other betta splendens.
Dragon Scale Betta Care
Caring for the beautiful dragon scale betta is not difficult. It is essential to maintain a consistent routine, especially if they are losing their vision.
Maintaining the same physical locations of items in the tank and stable water parameters is helpful.
Dragon bettas, like all bettas, need at least a 5-gallon tank to live in. A ten-gallon tank is better.
It takes a minimum of 5 gallons to have the nitrogen cycle in your tank, which is essential to breaking down your fish’s waste.
Anything smaller and the number of water changes you would have to do would disrupt the beneficial bacteria.
Adequate tank size for your fish is a huge factor in their health. A rule of thumb is 1″ inch of fish per gallon of water, minimum.
Leaving some space at the top of your fish tank is helpful. Bettas like to breathe air at the surface sometimes.
Because dragon scale bettas often go blind, it is better not to add other fish to the tank.
The ideal water conditions for betta fish are a water temperature of 78-80° degrees Fahrenheit (25.5-27° C), a more neutral pH of 6.5-7.5, and slightly softer water.
Use chemical testing to check the pH, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels often. Keep a clean tank and change the fish tank water weekly.
As bettas come from an environment with slower-moving water, make sure the gallons per hour do not exceed four times the size of your tank. Bettas do not like a strong current.
The filter must move the water in the tank through it 4-6 times per hour. A filter with adjustable flow settings is a good idea.
A tank heater with 3-5 watts per gallon of aquarium water is preferable. Bettas come from a tropical environment and so need warmer water.
A submersible heater with a thermostat will give you the best experience. Using two heaters for larger tanks is a good idea.
Use a separate thermometer to monitor the temperature in your tank. Water heater thermostats are sometimes unreliable.
Do not have excessively bright lights in your betta’s aquarium. They prefer a more natural, dark environment and will hide in a shady spot if the light is too bright.
Bettas prefer 1 watt or less per gallon. You will have to balance your betta’s preferences with the needs of the plants in your aquarium.
Plants and Decorations
Including live plants is a terrific way to improve water quality and enrich your betta’s environment. Do not move the plants around if your betta’s vision is impaired.
Silk plants are also acceptable. Artificial plastic plants are not a good idea.
They may have sharp edges which can injure your betta’s fins.
Decorations must not have sharp edges, either, and must be rust-free without flaking paint.
Caves, floating logs, or large rocks make nice decorations for a betta tank and provide hiding and resting places for a tired fish.
Smooth, natural gravel is the best substrate for your betta fish tank. Gravel holds plants better.
Neon rocks may look amazing, but they are unnatural for your betta. Natural rocks will help the colors of your betta stand out.
Dragon scale bettas are susceptible to the same diseases as other bettas. Sadly, they are particularly prone to overgrowth of their scales, which causes vision impairment.
Some common diseases bettas get are:
- Fin and Tail Rot
- Hemorraghic Septicemia
A key to keeping your betta healthy and safe is maintaining optimal water parameters, performing regular water changes, and making sure their environment is betta-friendly.
Read more about the common betta diseases in our article here.
Bettas enjoy a varied diet with frozen brine shrimp, bloodworms, and other frozen live food. Bettas also eat pellets and flake food, which are easy to store.
Your betta will find live food stimulating and tasty. Bettas are carnivorous, which means they need a diet primarily consisting of meat proteins.
Caring for Your Blind Dragon Scale Betta
The Dragon Scale Betta being bred selectively has led to an unfortunate consequence.
Many of these fish eventually go blind and need proper care to thrive.
The thick scales they derive their name from can grow too fast and cover their eyes.
This is known as diamond eye and cannot be fully remedied.
Supposed ‘high quality’ dragon scale betta fish have full scaling across their face.
They are more susceptible to growth leading to blindness.
This can also happen in other breeds but is more common in dragon scale bettas.
Some signs of encroaching blindness are designer names like ‘snake eyes’, ‘dragon eyes’, or ‘diamond eyes’ describing the look of the eyes.
These are often expensive fish because novice fish keepers do not realize the fish are going blind.
There are other effects of extensive modification and breeding to make their fins fancier or have more striking colors. Swimming, breathing, and eating may be more difficult for these fish.
Arranging your betta’s environment for the maximum benefit of the fish will help extend the life of your pet and increase its happiness.
Keep to the water parameters specified for betta fish and keep water quality as stable as possible.
Other ways to help your fish navigate blindness is to only change equipment, lighting, decor, and plants when necessary.
Live plants are beneficial as they put more oxygen into the water and provide places for your betta to rest.
Live or silk plants will not injure your betta like hard plastic plants can.
Setting up a feeding regimen is helpful as well. Feed your betta at the same times of day, twice a day, and in the same spot.
Some dragon scale betta owners use tannins in the water for their water conditioning benefits. The tannins also thin the scales covering the betta’s eyes and help with vision somewhat.
The tannins also thin the fish’s other scales and reduce the “dragon scale” look, but is a small price to pay for helping your fish see!
Behavior & Temperament
Dragon scale betta males are similar in temperament to other bettas. They are very territorial and aggressive.
It is imperative to keep male bettas by themselves as they will attack other male bettas they perceive as a threat.
They can live with other fish in a community tank, but the other fish should be smaller and less aggressive than a betta.
Bettas are known to dislike other showy fish with flowing fins and should not be kept with them.
A calm betta will swim with a gentle and smooth motion. A stressed betta will swim rapidly and be visibly agitated.
If your betta is in a community tank and attacks the other fish, separate them immediately.
If your dragon scale betta develops blindness, it might also be necessary to remove the other fish.
Keeping dragon scale bettas in a community tank is tricky, as their blindness will eventually be an issue.
Male dragon scale bettas should never be kept with other male bettas or fish with flowing, colorful fins as they will see them as a threat and attack.
Bettas can live with other species of fish if they are smaller and placid. It is better to keep a dragon scale betta by himself because of the propensity to go blind.
Female bettas are a better choice for community tanks as long as they do not have aggressive tank mates.
Excellent tank mates for a betta are:
- Cory catfish
- Ghost shrimp
- Female guppies
- Kuhli loaches
- Neon tetras
- Black tetras
See our full list of the best and worst betta tank mates for more information.
Breeding dragon scale bettas follows the same process as with any other betta. You put a male and a female in the same tank and let nature take its course.
Breeding bettas prefer more natural blackwater conditions, which are achievable using tannins. For more on tannins in the betta tank, visit our article on the benefits of tannins.
Ensure both fish are true dragon scale bettas with dominant genes and not a lesser variety, or you will not get the desired results.
Watch out for aggression from the male betta towards the female. Fights can cause severe injury or even death.
Live plants will help breeding because males build bubble nests underneath broad leaves. Plants also give the two fish hiding places from each other.
The average price range of a dragon scale betta is from $15-$25.
National chain pet stores might sell a more common dragon scale betta for as low as $10 while a less common variety might sell on eBay for upwards of $65.
Dragon scale bettas are a rare variety of betta splendens. The dragon trait replaces the iridescent or blue layer.
Breeders continually experiment with color combinations, patterns, and fin and tail appearance.
Certain tail types, such as the longfin dragon scale betta, are more desirable than others.
An albino dragon scale betta fish would be exceedingly rare.
Commonly Asked Dragon Betta Questions
What makes a betta a dragon scale?
The thick white accentuated scales on a dragon scale betta are what give rise to the name. Many fishkeepers believe these scales differentiate the “true” dragon scale betta from other varieties.
How big do dragon scale bettas get?
Dragon scale bettas are the same size as other betta splendens. They will grow to about 2-3″ inches.
Is a Dragon Scale Betta Rare?
Yes. A dragon-scale betta is considered rare.
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