Uncover the Secrets of Caring for Dragon Scale Betta Fish

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By Linh Nguyen Updated on 08 May 2023

Dragon scale betta fish are some of the most unique and intriguing creatures in the aquarium world. For years, these scaled beauties have been the subject of fascination for both novice and experienced aquarists alike. With their vibrant colors and striking scales, they are truly a sight to behold. But what exactly makes them so special? And why do they continue to captivate our attention?

In this blog post, we will uncover all of the secrets behind the mysterious dragon scale betta. We will explore its diverse phenotype, discuss its unknown genealogy, and explain how it impacts our understanding of this particular species. Additionally, we will discuss new findings regarding this breed's hidden genetics and delve into what sets these magnificent fish apart from their peers. As we move forward, it is our hope that this blog post will help everyone gain a better appreciation for the dragon scale betta and all of its unique qualities.  So, let's dive into the fascinating world of dragon bettas!

1. What is a dragon scale betta?

1.1. Origin and history

For a long time, betta players only knew about the traditional colors of blue, red, black, yellow, and white... Until Thai fish breeders got involved. First came the copper fish, then the mask fish. Finally, they introduced the dragon scale betta fish with its thick layer of iridescent color.

The first dragon scale betta was launched in Thailand in December 2004 by Pichet (INTERFISH). This is a redfish with thick, iridescent scales. Immediately, it attracted a lot of attention and was featured on the cover of the aquarium magazine Fancy Fish.

These early bettas did not win any prize at the beauty contest because their tail shape was still primitive, but their unique iridescence was noticed by many people. Later, they were bred for beautiful tails and this formed the modern dragon scale bettas we see today.

1.2. The Secret of the dragon scale betta

When it first appeared, the secret of the thick and iridescent fins of the dragon scale betta was kept by Thai breeders. However, in 2008, people revealed the formula for breeding the first Arowanas.

People bred 3 types of fish:

  • Super red PK female
  • Red copper PK
  • Betta Mahachai

The wild Betta Mahachai was first bred with a red copper betta.

The second step is to cross the F1 male with the female super red PK.

The third step is to reverse the super red mother with the F2 male and produce the first dragon bettas.

The first V1 red dragon fish was bred by M. Tea.

The first dragon scale betta bred by M.Tea

The first dragon scale betta bred by M.Tea

Dragon scale betta fish V2

Dragon scale betta fish V2

1.3. Appearance

It is difficult to fully describe what a dragon scale betta is. Someone posted one, called Dragon; however, someone else said it wasn't true, since the scales had to be thicker or like this, so a controversy broke out... Sometimes, the problem doesn't stop at differences in opinion.

The original red dragon betta has powdery and lumpy scales, but there are clearly those from its flock that doesn't have powder and still have thick scales. There are also those with powdery but thin scales; these people are still called Dragons.

To be most accurate, we would like to give you the criteria to confirm whether a fish belongs to the dragonfish line or not.

First, the expression of the scaly spot (ri) gene originated in wild fish (Mahachai). Combining scaly spots with powder makes the scales look thicker and rougher.

Secondly, a black dragon is an opaque dark background that can join the bicolor-iridescent-dark background table. This is something new even now.

Third, is the metallic element; when we look back at the first dragons, we realize they were mostly red-copper. The color is not white but opaque, pale gold - different from the pure white of opaque white.

All of the above contribute to the mystery of the Dragon, leading people to assume that there is a "dragon gene"!

A typical dragon scale betta fish

A typical dragon scale betta fish

2. Quick facts about dragon scale betta

NameDragon scale betta
Another nameSiamese dragon fish
SizeThere are different sizes depending on the specific breed.
Lifespan2 - 3 years, up to 5 years.
PersonalityEspecially belligerent.
Tank size2 - 5 gallons.
HabitatMany aquatic plants
Temperature78 - 82°F (25-28°C)
PH level6.0 - 7.8
Nitrite levelsLess than 0.5 ppm
Food & dietNeed a lot of protein, should add protein from the viscera to enhance the thickness of the scales.
DiseasesIn addition to common diseases, it is also easy to get diseases that pull the eye membrane leading to blindness.

3. Overview of dragon scale betta

3.1. Variations

The color of the dragon betta fish is very diverse and rich, ranging from red, yellow, and white, to dark gray... combined with extremely colorful and eye-catching fins. A dragon betta fish is considered beautiful and qualified if its body, fins, and scales have a uniform and even color.

However, the special thing is that there will not exist a true blue dragon scale betta. Because there can never be a blue-green fin/steel body bicolor, there will never be a blue-green/white-fin "legendary" Arowana (i.e. steel + Opaque). That's due to genetic issues—a fish cannot be both blue (or green) and steel as the elements negate each other (only the Marble "jumping" gene allows that). An individual with such coloration may occur in a herd of Marble-based blue dragons, but it is not stable as the Marble gene can "jump" at any time and the trait is not heritable.

From the first dragons with thin scales, although not very excellent, they began to attract great attention from breeders. In just a short time, breeders with constant efforts had successfully bred a very beautiful dragon Betta with thick and iridescent scales in a variety of colors and tails: Plakat, Halfmoon Plakat, Halfmoon, Crowntail, and Double Tail.

A Blue Rim betta fish with two distinctive white - blue colors.

A Blue Rim betta fish with two distinctive white - blue colors.

3.2. Size

Dragon scale betta fish, one of the most sought-after varieties of bettas, vary in size depending on their lineage. On average, dragon scale bettas range from 3 to 4 cm in size. However, if they belong to the Plakat line, they will be smaller and measure only 2 to 3 cm. On the other hand, those belonging to the Giant line are much larger—with specimens measuring up to 7 to 10 cm.

3.3. Lifespan

A dragon scale betta has a lifespan of around two to five years. This is slightly longer than other betta varieties, which typically live for between one and three years. The key to helping your betta have the longest life possible is to provide them with a clean, healthy living environment. This means keeping the water temperature at a steady 76-80 degrees Fahrenheit, changing out 20-25% of the tank's water each week, using an air pump or filter to keep the water aerated, and providing plenty of hiding places with plants or decorations. Additionally, it’s important to feed them high-quality food in small amounts throughout the day to avoid overfeeding. Providing your betta with regular veterinary checkups and making sure their water is tested for levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate can also help ensure their health.

3.4. The behavior

Dragon Scale Bettas are aggressive fish, upon sighting an opponent from a distance, they will "stretch their fins" in preparation to attack. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that they be kept in separate tanks. If kept together, the fish will fight and sustain injury. However, when they spread their fins to battle, they also show off their most attractive appearance, so occasionally it is beneficial to allow them to "meet each other."

3.5. Prices

A dragon scale betta is considered to be one of the most beautiful and unique varieties of this popular species. As such, they are more expensive than other types of bettas. The price for a dragon scale betta can range from $20 - 50 depending on its color and quality. This is significantly higher than the prices of other varieties, which usually range from $10 - 15.

A female yellow dragon scale betta.

A female yellow dragon scale betta.

4. Common diseases and defects

There is a common defect appearing in dragon scale betta called a benign tumor, which can grow anywhere on their body or fin. Some betta has benign growths on the top of their heads called "Flower Horn bettas". According to assessments, this type of tumor is not a disease but just a proliferation of cytoplasm and affects the aesthetics of the fish. If you cut or scratch the tumor with your hand, it may grow back after some time.

Recently, a member of Betta Breeders United (Rachel Benson) posted pictures and an anatomical clip showing iridescent black fluid (guanine and melanocytes) secreted from it. Be careful to distinguish benign tumors from disease (lymph) tumors caused by viruses, which are often numerous and widespread.

In one of the same betta camps, a master (guppies Osin) made the following observation: dragon bettas are mixed with opaque blood! If you had been there in your early days as a betta, you must have been very excited about the opaque and its related problems. The essence of opaque is the integration or elimination of guanine on the squamous surface instead of through the liver/kidney.

Fish have a reason to do so because it can save a lot of energy. In some individuals, gene integration is out of control, up to the eyes. Therefore, older Opaque/Platinum fish often have reduced or completely lost; the eyes turn white in this membrane!

The phenomenon of a tumor is essentially a loss of control to a higher degree and it has been around since then, but not much is known about it. Its mechanism is not fully understood yet, but it may be related to genetics rather than food or environment. The defective “guanine loss control” gene is a linked gene associated with the Opaque factor, although it has been reported by hobbyists that their Opaque fish do not suffer from eye traction.

A Flowerhorn bettas with dragon scales.

A Flowerhorn bettas with dragon scales.

5. Care

To ensure that the dragon betta fish grows up healthy and displays its most satisfactory color, proper fish care is a prerequisite. Here are some experiences shared by experts in the betta world.

  • The ambient temperature is maintained between 24 and 30 degrees Celsius, and the pH ranges from 7 to 7.5. The DH is kept between a minimum of 7 and a maximum of 20.
  • Keep fish in a separate tank, with the water level at about ⅔ of the tank. Be sure to change the water at least once a week to keep it clean and free of impurities.
  • Feed the fish twice a day, the amount of food is about the size of the fish's eyes. Do not give too much food, as it can contaminate the water source, making the fish vulnerable to diseases such as fungal infections and abdominal bloating.
  • Food is guaranteed, and since fish are omnivorous, you should look for larvae, ground meat, or some kind of pre-packaged food for them to eat. The price is also quite affordable, so don't worry too much.
  • It is advisable to provide more plants and shelter in the tank to create a natural environment and create a sense of security for the fish.
  • Moreover, it is known that animal organs are rich in guanine. When the beef heart is added to the diet, the scales of dragon betta fish tend to thicken. Diet plays an important role in scale formation.
  • There were also reports that the juice of the leaves caused the scales to wear off. What is the cause: impaired guanine storage, poor diet, or low pH? This question has not yet been fully answered.

Besides the tips above, there are many other experiences in raising dragon scale bettas. However, for those of you just starting out, this should be enough for you to raise a healthy fish!

Is dragon scale betta suitable for you?

In conclusion, a dragon scale betta is one of the most unique and stunning breeds of betta fish you can find. The thick scales give this breed of fish a truly magical appearance that makes it an obvious choice for aquarium enthusiasts. The key to keeping a healthy dragon scale for your tank is making sure it has plenty of room to move and the proper temperature, pH balance, and nutrition to live happily and healthily. We've shared our experience and research with you into this interesting breed so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not this type of fish is right for you. Now's your turn - have any questions or comments on dragon scale bettas? Let me know in the comment below!

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