Elephant Ear Betta: Complete Care Guide For This Unique Fish

Elephant ear bettas are a variant of the Betta splendens species.

They get their name from their large pectoral fins resembling elephant ears. These bettas are also known as Dumbo bettas.

Large pectoral fins developed as a genetic mutation in elephant ear bettas.

The elephant ear gene is a recessive trait. This makes producing elephant ear betta offspring difficult.

Breeding two elephant ear bettas does not guarantee their offspring will have the elephant ear trait.

Betta fish genetics are unpredictable because of selective breeding and genetic mutations.

Elephant ear bettas are a newer betta type, so their genetic makeup is not completely known.

elephant ear betta atf


The most distinct feature of elephant ear bettas is their large pectoral fins. These flowy fins protrude from each side of the betta’s head, making elephant ears appear.

Elephant ear genes have no connection to the tail type or coloration genes. This means elephant ear bettas can have various color options and distinct tail types.

Wild elephant ear betta fish are usually brown or gray in color.

Thanks to selective breeding, captive elephant ear bettas come in a variety of bright colors, including:

  • Blue
  • Turquoise
  • Red
  • Yellow
  • White

Elephant ear bettas can have any pattern type, including marble and dragon scale varieties.

Plakat types are the most common in Dumbo bettas, along with halfmoon tail types. Crowntail and rosetail types are also popular varieties of elephant ear bettas.

Check out our full list of all the types of betta out there.

Unique Differences

elephant ear betta appearance

Long-finned bettas cannot swim in strong currents.

Swimming is even more difficult for elephant ear bettas because of their large pectoral fins.

Ensure your aquarium filter is not too strong for your elephant ear betta.

Many betta fish owners think their Dumbo bettas are lazy because they are less active than other betta types.

In reality, swimming requires much effort for some elephant ear bettas, so they do not move around much. This is especially true for Dumbo bettas with halfmoon or rosetail types.

Elephant ear bettas usually become lethargic in their old age because of their heavy fins.


Elephant ear bettas have the same average lifespan as other betta types, which is 2-5 years.

With proper care, some bettas can live up to 10 years!

Genetics also play a vital role in the lifespan of a Dumbo betta.

Inbreeding is common among unreputable betta fish breeders. These breeders are only concerned about getting desirable traits, not the long-term health of the fish.

Many breeders think breeding elephant ear bettas from the same family increases the chance of fry with large pectoral fins.

While this is somewhat true, betta fish genetics are more unpredictable than other animal species.

Getting the desired elephant ear trait may come at the expense of other genetic mutations like blindness or tumors.

Certain genetic deformities cause a shortened lifespan in elephant ear bettas.

Average Size

elephant ear size betta

Despite their name, elephant ear bettas are smaller than common betta types.

The average size of an elephant ear betta ranges from 2.5 to 3.5″ inches.

Male Dumbo bettas are usually a bit larger than females. The males also have longer fins.

Elephant ear bettas can appear much larger than their actual body size due to their long, flowing fins. They use this to their advantage when flaring to scare away predators.

Elephant Ear Betta Care

Elephant ear bettas do not have any special care requirements compared to common bettas.

But you must take extra care to ensure your elephant ear betta has a safe environment.

Since Dumbo bettas have such long fins, they are more prone to injuries from sharp or coarse objects.

Below are some basic care requirements for your elephant ear betta.

Tank Size

The minimum tank size for a betta fish is 5 gallons. A 10-gallon tank is better for your Dumbo betta if you plan on having a lot of plants and tank decorations.

For a community tank with an elephant ear betta, increase the tank size to at least 20 gallons. This gives your betta plenty of swimming space and hiding places.

Choose a long horizontal tank over a tall vertical one. In the wild, bettas live in shallow waters and are not good vertical swimmers.

Betta fish also have a labyrinth organ, which allows them to breathe fresh air. This means they need easy access to the surface.

The ideal depth for a betta tank is 12″ inches from the tank floor to the surface.

You also need a cover for your aquarium. Betta fish can jump out of an open tank, leaving you to wonder where your fish is.

Water Parameters

Elephant ear bettas are tropical fish and must have warm water.

The ideal temperature range for bettas is between 78-80° degrees Fahrenheit (25.5-27° C).

Bettas prefer neutral to slightly acidic water. Maintain pH levels between 6.5-7.5.

Ensure your Dumbo betta has clean water at all times. Ammonia and nitrite can cause illness or even death in bettas.

Uneaten food, fish waste, and dead plants add ammonia to aquarium water.

A quality aquarium filter and weekly water changes remove these toxins. A gravel vacuum removes uneaten food and fish waste on the substrate.

Establishing a nitrogen cycle also aids in keeping the water clean.

Bettas are sensitive to sudden fluctuations in water parameters, so you must maintain a stable environment.

What To Put in Their Tank

elephant ear betta tank setup


The first thing you add to your betta tank is some substrate.

Gravel is the most common substrate, and it is easy to clean.

If you have plants, consider an aquarium soil substrate. Aquarium soil contains essential nutrients for healthy plant growth.

Consider adding a thin layer of gravel substrate over the soil for easier maintenance.


Betta tanks must have a heater and filter in the tank.

Aquarium heaters are the only way to maintain the warm water temperatures betta fish need.

Filters help circulate the water and remove harmful bacteria. Sponge filters are best for bettas because they produce a slow current.


Live plants provide your betta with cover and create a more natural environment. They also produce oxygen and help filter the tank water.

Avoid bushy plants or floating plants with long roots. Elephant ear bettas can get tangled up in these types of plants.

Soft plants like moss balls and java ferns are great choices for elephant ear bettas.

You may use artificial plants instead of live ones.

Do not use plastic plants, as they can have sharp edges. Silk plants are soft and will not tear your Dumbo betta’s delicate fins.


Aquarium lighting encourages plant growth and gives your betta a day and night cycle.

This day and night cycle is important for regulating your betta’s eating and sleeping patterns.

Adjustable LED lights are an excellent choice for betta tanks.

LED lights keep your plants and fish healthy without producing too much heat.

Hiding Spots/Tank Decorations

Bettas feel more secure when they have plenty of hiding spots.

Driftwood, smooth rocks, and caves prevent boredom and give your betta more hiding places.

Ensure your tank decorations do not have coarse textures or sharp edges.

Do not overcrowd your aquarium with plants and decorations. Your elephant ear betta needs plenty of space for swimming without snagging its fins.

Possible Diseases

Elephant ear bettas are more prone to fin rot because of their long fins.

Fin rot is usually caused by poor water conditions, but it also stems from injuries.

Dumbo bettas sometimes nip their long fins. If these injuries become infected, fin rot sets in.

Keeping the tank clean helps prevent fin rot.

If fin rot is not treated, it can spread to the body. Treatment for fin rot involves an antibiotic medication, such as erythromycin.

With prompt treatment, your Dumbo betta can make a full recovery. But, the length and color of the fins may not be the same.

Depending on genetics and inbreeding, your elephant ear betta can have birth defects like blindness or tumors.

Bettas with the marbling gene risk developing tumors more than other betta types. This includes the koi and galaxy patterns.

Food and Diet

Dumbo bettas are carnivorous fish and must have plenty of animal proteins in their diet.

A betta’s primary food source should consist of high-quality betta pellets with a protein content of at least 35%.

Provide your fish with a varied diet by supplementing with live, freeze-dried, or frozen foods. Many betta owners prefer live food because it contains the most nutrients.

Some excellent food options include:

  • Baby brine shrimp
  • Blood worms
  • Daphnia
  • Mosquito larvae

Always source these foods from a reputable seller. Live foods may contain harmful parasites or bacteria.

Parasitic and bacterial infections can lead to death without treatment.

A balanced diet maintains a strong immune system and healthy growth for your Dumbo betta.

Feed your betta two small meals per day, at least 6-8 hours apart. A day of fasting every week prevents issues with bloating and constipation.

Behavior and Temperament

elephant ear betta behavior

Your elephant ear betta’s temperament depends on the individual fish.

Bettas usually have an aggressive nature. Males are usually more aggressive than females.

This aggressive disposition is why bettas have the nickname of Siamese fighting fish.

But, some betta fish have a calmer temperament. Calmer bettas are well-suited for a community tank.

Plakat elephant ear bettas are the most aggressive type.

Despite popular belief, female bettas are often as aggressive as males.

If your Dumbo betta flares a lot, it likely has a more aggressive personality.

Elephant ear bettas may not swim as much as more common types of bettas.

It is not uncommon for elephant ear bettas to rest more often, especially as they age. This is because their long fins weigh them down, and they have trouble swimming.

Plakat elephant ear bettas swim better because they have shorter fins.

Tank Mates

Dumbo bettas are usually solitary creatures. But they can thrive in a community aquarium with the right tank mates.

Avoid fish species like tetras and tiger barbs. They are fin nippers and can cause a great deal of harm to your long-finned Dumbo betta.

Likewise, do not choose fish with vibrant colors. Fish with brighter colors are more prone to an attack by your betta.

Suitable tank mates for your elephant ear betta include:

  • Corydoras
  • Rasboras
  • Plecos
  • Mystery snails
  • Ghost shrimp

You need at least a 20-gallon tank for a community aquarium. The extra space helps prevent aggressive behavior and keeps your fish healthy.

If you notice aggression from your betta, move it to a separate tank immediately.


Breeding elephant ear betta is a complicated process.

The elephant ear trait is a recessive gene that rarely carries over to the offspring.

Even if you breed two confirmed elephant ear betta fish, your chances of elephant ear betta fry remain low.

Since elephant ear bettas are a new betta type, we don’t know much about their genetics. Many elephant ear betta breeders are reluctant to disclose the genetic makeup of their fish.


Elephant ear bettas have a surprisingly affordable price range.

Most pet stores sell elephant ear bettas for around $20.

Dumbo bettas with fancy colors or patterns can cost $30 or more. Koi and marble patterns are usually the most expensive.


Elephant ear bettas are an endangered species in the wild due to the destruction of their natural habitats.

Breeding elephant ear bettas in captivity is difficult but not especially rare.

Many pet stores sell elephant ear bettas. They are also available from specialty breeders.

Frequently Asked Questions About Elephant Ear Bettas

How to tell the difference between a male and female elephant ear betta?

Male elephant bettas have larger bodies and longer fins than their female counterparts. If you are unsure of the gender of your Dumbo betta, look for a white spot on the belly.

Only female bettas have this white spot, the ovipositor, for laying eggs.
Female bettas also have a head-down posture when flaring, and males do not.

Why are elephant ear bettas called Dumbo bettas?

Elephant ear bettas have the nickname Dumbo because of the animated Disney elephant named Dumbo.

Is it easy to take care of elephant ear bettas?

Elephant ear bettas do not have any special care requirements compared to common bettas. But, you must take considerations when setting up your betta tank.

Dumbo bettas are not strong swimmers, and their delicate fins make them more susceptible to injury. Give your elephant ear betta extra space for swimming. Avoid tank decorations and plants with sharp edges and rough textures.

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Written by

Contributing Writer

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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