Last Updated: August 31, 2023 by Flora Gibbins
As if the nickname “Siamese fighting fish” wasn’t a clue enough about the temperament of these aggressive fish, a recent subspecies of Betta has been named after one of the most fearsome mythical creatures known to man: the dragon.
For us, Dragon Scale Betta fish earn the moniker because of the color of their scales—not because they breathe fire! So, if you’re thinking of keeping one of these tropical fish as a pet, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about them.
- About Dragon Scale Bettas
- Keeping Dragon Scale Betta
- Breeding Dragon Scale Betta Fish
- Caring for a Blind Dragon Scale Betta Fish
- Frequently Asked Questions
About Dragon Scale Bettas
Dragon Betta fish have resulted from years of selective breeding by experts who’ve attempted to create new variations of Betta splendens with varying success. You won’t find them in their native Thailand or anywhere else in the wild, as they’re a manufactured Betta variation.
Additionally, Dragon Betta fish aren’t as widely available as other Bettas, making them highly sought after and more expensive. Therefore, you’ll have to trawl many pet stores to find one. Although some pet stores market these popular fish as beginner-friendly, that promotion isn’t entirely accurate as there’s a learning curve to their care, as is typical of most Betta splendens.
Dragon Bettas are striking. These gorgeous fish sport scales with a metallic color, akin to the scales on a dragon, with darker edges lining the scales and accentuating them with a depth and prominence not typical to many fish. You’ll commonly find Dragon Scale Bettas with copper metallic “dragon scales”, though the color variations and fin-type are plentiful.
Additionally, variations of Dragon Scales get their names from their base color and not the sheen of their scales. For example, a Red Dragon Betta fish may have a red base color beneath white scales.
Real blue dragons are completely blue all over, and you won’t find them with scales of a different color (due to genetics). Like other Betta variations, Dragon Scales grow between 2-3 inches at maturity.
Many aquarium enthusiasts believe that white scaling is the dragon trait that separates Dragon Bettas from other Betta splendens. Still, the name has been extended to other fish in the Betta family that carries the metallic scale sheen. Therefore, the best way to know that you’re buying an actual Dragon Scale Betta is to patronize a reputable breeder.
Like most Bettas, Dragon Scale Betta fish aren’t the friendliest fish you can keep as a pet. Male Bettas are highly territorial and aggressive, whether to another Male Betta fish or other fish species. So, it may be challenging to keep them with other species, especially ones with bright colors. As such, it’s best to keep only one male in a tank.
Conversely, female Bettas aren’t as aggressive, so keeping more than one female Betta in a sorority is possible. Meanwhile, it’s typical behavior for both sexes of these fish to consider tank mates small enough to fit in their mouths as prey, so be forewarned.
Dragon Scale Betta fish share the same lifespan as other Betta splendens. With proper care and a healthy diet, these Bettas can live for four years.
However, this isn’t always the case due to how they’ve been bred, as it’s possible to end up with a Dragon Scale Betta fish with a lower life expectancy (in the region of 2-3 years). For example, breeders tend to prioritize aesthetic considerations like fins, which, while good-looking, may hinder normal functions like swimming or breathing.
Also, Dragon Scale Betta fish have a higher likelihood of going blind than other fish, further hampering their quality of life. The cause of this blindness is fast-growing scales that cover their eyes, inhibiting their vision. So you might come across Betta fish marketed as having Dragon eyes (snake eyes and diamond eyes are also common). However, it isn’t a good thing.
There isn’t much you can do to guarantee your Dragon Scale Betta won’t go blind. However, when buying a fish in this species, look for coverings over the eyes. Also, try as much as possible to choose a fish with scales that don’t reach its face.
Even though other Betta species are susceptible to scaling over the eyes, it’s a far more common occurrence with Dragon Scale Betta fish.
Keeping Dragon Scale Betta
Now that you’re aware of Dragon Scale Betta fish’s appearance, temperament, and lifespan, let’s explore how to take good care of them.
It’s best to avoid keeping Dragon Scale Betta in a very small tank. 10-gallons is a suitable minimum tank size, though you can shoot for a bigger tank if you have the space to spare. After all, you can’t have enough room when it comes to Betta tanks.
Moreover, it goes without saying that a tank filter is a must. However, like all Betta fish, Dragon Scale Bettas don’t do well in waters with strong currents, so make sure the filter current is at an acceptable level.
Try to keep the artificial lights in the aquarium to a bare minimum. Bettas’ natural habitat is primarily shady, so your pet may retreat to one of the tank’s hiding places if the lights are too bright.
It’ll also help to leave some space at the top of the tank. Since these fish have a labyrinth organ, Dragon Scale Bettas may swim to the water’s surface to breathe air.
Finally, including live plants is an excellent way to improve Betta tank conditions, especially in a community aquarium. They’ll provide your Betta fish with places to hide if it doesn’t have its own aquarium.
Bettas live in warm water climates in the wild, so the tank water’s temperature should mimic their habitat. Ideally, the temperature should fall between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and an aquarium heater should be enough to maintain the said temperature.
Otherwise, your Betta can become sluggish in colder water. Also, unlike freshwater fish, lower temperatures mess with Bettas’ digestion. You can easily monitor water temperature using a thermometer, so it’s worth investing in one if your tank doesn’t come with one built-in.
While it’s good to perform regular water changes, keep it at 25% of the water once weekly (make sure to condition any new water added). Betta fish can become stressed if you make too many changes, as they’re highly sensitive to any change in the water parameters. Also, you risk messing with the tank’s nitrogen cycle due to losing beneficial bacteria in the water.
Concerning water hardness and pH levels, Dragon Scale Bettas can’t tolerate water hardness with a dGH (degree of general hardness) higher than 20.
As for pH levels, between 6.8 and 7 is good enough to keep your Betta safe.
Like all other species of Betta splendens, Dragon Scale Bettas are carnivorous. Therefore, their diet should consist of a healthy helping of meat.
While it’s OK to feed these Bettas pellets and flakes, ensure that the main ingredient is meat. Also, if you go the pellet route, choose a product that floats; else, you risk uneaten food sinking to the bottom of the tank, decaying, and messing with the water parameters.
You can also include live food, frozen food, and freeze-dried food sources into a Dragon Scale Betta’s diet. For example, mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, and to a lesser extent, bloodworms are good sources of protein for a Dragon Scale Betta’s diet. A note on frozen foods: they may prove tricky for Bettas to consume, so thaw them before feeding.
As mentioned earlier, Dragon Scale Bettas don’t play well with many other fish species, being aggressive and territorial. However, if you insist on maintaining a community tank, you can include peaceful fish and medium-sized algae eaters like Amano shrimp and some crayfish species.
For example, Neon tetras, Plecos, and Cory catfish make excellent tank mates for Betta fish, as do some snail species. Meanwhile, avoid fin-nipping fish species (like red tail sharks) if you don’t want your Dragon Betta to have shorter fins.
Breeding Dragon Scale Betta Fish
Breeding Dragon Scale Bettas is a straightforward process of introducing a male and female into the same tank. However, male Bettas can be aggressive to their female counterparts, so that’s something you should keep an eye on.
Male Bettas create bubble nests where they’ll keep the eggs laid by the female and raise the Betta fry that emerge from them.
To be honest, we wouldn’t recommend you to attempt breeding these fish since injuries caused by fights between the two sexes in the same tank are relatively common. However, live plants come in handy at the breeding stage because they’ll give the two Bettas places to hide from one another.
Caring for a Blind Dragon Scale Betta Fish
Unfortunately, due to the adverse effects of cross-breeding, there’s a high likelihood that your Betta may go blind. So, if your Betta happens to lose its vision, there are a few things you can do to make its life easier:
- Isolate It: If your Dragon Betta was a member of a community tank before it went blind, you’d want to isolate it so it’s not competing with other fish for food.
- Feed It in the Same Spot: It’s a good idea to feed your blind Betta in the same spot daily so it knows where to swim during feeding time.
- Use Cues: Tapping on the glass is a good way to alert your blind Betta to your presence. With time, it should associate the sound with feeding time.
- Maintain a Stable Environment: Maintaining a stable environment in the aquarium is crucial for making your pet feel comfortable. Therefore, it’s best not to alter the tank setup regarding equipment placement, decorations, lighting, and the like, unless necessary.
- Remove Obstacles: While aquarium decorations help to keep Bettas engaged, it’s a different story when the Betta is blind. Therefore, ensure that any prop that can injure your Betta is removed from the tank.
- Adjust the pH Levels: Consider adjusting the pH levels to make them softer. Lower pH levels may thin scales, which could help to reduce the ones covering your Betta’s eyes.
- Try Tannins: Try to introduce tannins like almond leaves into the water. Though they thin fish scales, it’s a small price for your pet’s overall health.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is my Dragon Scale Betta white?
In addition to stress, anchor worms, ich, fin rot, and columnaris are the leading causes behind Dragon Scale Bettas losing their color and turning white. However, you can restore your Betta’s vibrant color by changing the water regularly to balance out the water parameters, feeding it nutrient-rich food that aids color vibrancy, and being careful about overstocking your tank.
Can Dragon Scale Bettas change color?
Yes, these Betta fish can start as one color and end up as another. The color change is caused by the marble genes found in their scales.
What’s the difference between metallic scales and dragon scales?
Like Dragon Scale, Bettas with metallic scales result from cross-breeding Bettas to come up with newer variations. In this case, experts bred Betta splendens with Betta mahachai and Betta imbellis to arrive at a Betta variation with an iridescent layer of scales.
Dragon Scale Bettas are some of the rarest and most beautiful variations of Betta splendens you can buy. They result from selective breeding between Betta species and get their name from their scales, which have a metallic sheen like a dragon’s scales.
Unlike most Bettas, Dragon Scales have a lower life expectancy due to side effects of cross-breeding like blindness caused by fast-growing scales. However, by maintaining balanced water parameters and providing a healthy diet, you can give your Dragon Scale Betta a good life.