Last Updated: September 4, 2023 by Flora Gibbins
If you are looking to add an ornamental freshwater fish with lots of personality to your aquarium, you will find the king betta to be an excellent candidate.
The King betta is one of the over 70 betta splendens (betta fish) varieties, renowned for their striking colors and graceful, flowing fins. So, what’s so unique about this particular variety that it came to be known as the king of bettas?
This article will discuss everything you need to know about the King betta and how to provide proper care to this beautiful fish.
- An Overview of Betta Fish
- What is the King Betta Fish?
- King Betta Temperament
- King Betta Tank Mates
- King Betta Fish Care Guide
- Watch This!
- Frequently Asked Questions
An Overview of Betta Fish
Before delving into the ins and outs of King bettas, I feel it is essential that we polish up your betta fish knowledge so you can understand how the King betta came to be.
Regular bettas (Betta splendens) are endemic to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia, with Thailand having the highest population density of this beautiful fish. As you might remember, Thailand was initially called “Siam,” explaining why betta fish are also called “Siamese fighting fish.” More on the fighting part later.
Wild bettas primarily reside in shallow bodies of slow-moving or stagnant waters, such as rice paddies, ponds, marshes, and ditches.
As you can imagine, these water bodies tend to have much lower levels of dissolved oxygen than fast-moving waters, such as rivers or streams. The good news is that betta fish are perfectly adapted to that environment. They are anabantoids, meaning they can breathe air directly.
Moreover, betta fish are excellent jumpers, which allows them to leap from one puddle to the next in search of better conditions.
Wild betta fish have been around for centuries. However, they have been kept as ornamental pets for less than 200 years. Their roots are quite dark, to say the least. You see, betta fish are notoriously aggressive, especially the males.
When natives noticed that males almost always fought whenever their paths crossed, they started organizing fights. That meant putting two male bettas in the same location and sitting back to watch the action.
These fights became so popular that people started placing wagers on the outcome, with even the King of Siam levying a tax on the proceeds from the contests! Now you know why betta fish are also known as Siamese fighting fish.
Nevertheless, some people saw the potential of betta fish as ornamental pets. Make no mistake about it! Wild betta fish are not nearly as dazzling as their captive counterparts.
They are duller and have shorter fins. However, the few individuals that sported brighter colorations were cross-bred to create the numerous colorful betta fish variations we see today.
What is the King Betta Fish?
Like all other captive betta fish variants, the King betta has also been bred for ornamental purposes. That means King bettas also come in a wide array of beautiful color and pattern combinations.
However, King bettas have two unique attributes: they are super aggressive even by betta fish standards and sport shorter fins than other betta fish variations.
The reason for those unique traits is the King male betta was line-bred to win fish fights in his native home of Thailand. Higher aggression levels make the King betta more tenacious in battles.
Shorter fins allow this fish to be faster than your typical long-finned betta fish. Consequently, the King betta makes quick work of any other similar-sized fish that is unfortunate enough to find itself in a fight with the king.
This notoriety is what earned this fish the moniker “King of Bettas.”
King Betta vs Giant Betta
Today, one of the most popular betta fish varieties is the Giant betta, with some people thinking that the King betta and the Giant betta are the same. However, they aren’t, and you shouldn’t use their names interchangeably.
As their name suggests, Giant bettas are supersized betta fish. The average Giant betta can reach sizes of between 4 and 6 inches in length. On the other hand, King bettas reach a maximum length of 3 inches.
While King bettas were line-bred to win fights, Giant bettas were line-bred to push the boundaries of betta fish size.
The breeding of Giant betta fish began in 1999 in Thailand when a betta breeder noticed a massive specimen in his regular stock. The breeder immediately knew that the fish’s abnormal size resulted from a genetic mutation that accelerated the animal’s growth rate.
Not one to waste an opportunity, Athapon Ratanapichad (the breeder) embarked on creating a new variety of mega-sized bettas. He took the large male specimen and bred it with the largest female in his stock.
With his associates Natee Ratanapichad and Wasan Sattayapun, they produced generation after generation of large bettas. Eventually, they created actual giant bettas that reached over 4 inches when fully grown.
Later on, they started breeding their giant bettas with other betta varieties to enhance the giants’ ornamental appeal. That is because the first giants only came in a dull green color, as that was the color of the first large specimen.
King Betta vs Regular Betta
There are no stark differences between King bettas and regular betta fish (Betta splendens). The King betta is about the same size as a common betta when fully grown (2.5-3 inches long). King bettas also bare the striking colorations and spectacular finnage the betta family is renowned for.
Additionally, like other betta fish, King bettas also have a unique lung-like organ called a labyrinth that allows them to take in atmospheric oxygen directly. However, as mentioned earlier, the fins of a King betta fish are considerably shorter than those of other fish (regular bettas) to allow for enhanced agility during fights.
Consequently, King bettas are considered a distinct subspecies of Betta splendens called Betta splendens regen.
King Betta Temperament
The King betta is a fighting fish through and through. It is not only highly aggressive, but it is also a solitary animal, preferring to have the entire tank to itself.
As you can imagine, those traits make a King male betta extremely territorial; he will not hesitate to attack anyone that dares venture into his turf. In fact, the male King betta will not even tolerate the presence of a female King betta unless they are mating.
The female King betta has a more docile temperament and doesn’t mind coexisting with other fish.
King Betta Tank Mates
Considering the aggressive and solitary nature of male bettas, it would only make sense that they should be kept alone. However, that would make for an incredibly dull aquarium. Fortunately, the King betta male’s aggression seems to be reserved for bright-colored, long-finned fish. Male bettas rarely attack plain-looking, docile fish.
As such, if you desire to house your male betta with other fish, consider going for docile bottom-dwellers such as Corydoras catfish, Khuli loaches, guppies, and ghost shrimp.
As mentioned, female bettas can coexist with other fish, including bettas, peacefully. However, never put a male and female betta fish in the same tank unless it is for breeding purposes.
King Betta Fish Care Guide
Many people incorrectly assume that since King bettas originate from murky rice paddies where living conditions are less than ideal, these fighting fish can make do with whatever is given to them. However, that is a recipe for early death.
While your King betta might be a challenge than the average pet fish, they still require proper conditions to thrive. The following are some of the things you need to pay attention to when creating the ideal environment that will allow a King betta fish to thrive:
King Betta Tank Size
A common misconception is that the King betta can make do in a fishbowl or tiny fish tank due to his smaller size. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth; a King betta requires a 5-gallon fish tank at the very least.
The reason for this is straightforward. Betta fish are naturally active, which means they need lots of space to be happy. Keeping a King betta in a fishbowl is akin to putting a human in a wardrobe. Yes, you can survive in a closet, but that doesn’t mean you will be happy with your living conditions.
Secondly, a smaller fish tank gets polluted a lot faster by feces and food debris, raising the levels of ammonia and other toxic compounds much more quickly than in a larger tank. The resulting poisonous conditions will make your King betta susceptible to several debilitating diseases, such as fin rot and ick.
What’s more, it’s nearly impossible to install a filter inside a tiny fish tank, meaning you will need to change the tank’s water almost every day, which raises the risk of giving temperature shock to your betta fish, not to mention how tedious that task can be since you will also need to ensure that other water parameters are ideal.
As you can see, a larger tank will make your King betta happier and is also a lot easier to maintain.
When it comes to tank shape, longer is better than taller. This is because King bettas love staying near the water’s surface, meaning they don’t mind how deep the aquarium is. However, since these fish are known to jump out of the water, it would be best to have a lid on your tank.
King Betta Tank Conditions
Maintaining ideal conditions inside the tank is critical for your King betta’s health. This will involve paying close attention to specific water parameters.
First off, the King betta is a freshwater fish originating from tropical (warm) climates. As such, strive to maintain the water pH between 5.0 and 7.5 and water temperatures between 75° and 78° Fahrenheit.
Secondly, you will need an adequate filtration system to help you with waste removal. A biological filter works best since King bettas are adapted to live in stagnant waters. That is because biofilters do not cause lots of water movement during operation.
Finally, you may also want to include some décor to mimic the King betta’s natural environment. Floating plants constitute a significant portion of a betta’s natural habitat.
The fish use these plants to create bubble nests for mating, as well as to hide in case of danger. Therefore, consider including a few safe floating plants for your King betta.
King Betta Diet
The King betta fish is carnivorous. Their diet consists primarily of insects, insect larvae, and worms in the wild.
A pet King betta will also require a similar diet to thrive. Therefore, aim to feed your pet betta a high-protein carnivore diet consisting of frozen foods, flakes, and pellets. Make sure that they have been formulated for bettas.
The King betta male is a big fan of live food since it allows him to exercise his hunting instincts.
As such, consider offering him live food such as daphnia, bloodworms, and mosquito larvae occasionally. However, live food is known to carry parasites. Therefore, only source these foods from a trusted local fish store to avoid bringing diseases to your pet.
Most importantly, only feed your King betta as much food as they can consume in 3-5 minutes once or twice a day. King bettas are gluttonous and will happily gorge themselves to death given half a chance.
However, their stomachs are tiny – about the size of their eye -which means they do not need a lot to be satiated. Overfeeding can result in several health complications that shorten the fish’s life span.
Fun Fact: Betta fish are a really interesting species! We found another one and wrote an article about it entitled, “Halfmoon Betta: Fish Caring Tips And Miscellaneous Fun Facts“. Tell us what you think afterward!
Frequently Asked Questions
Since King bettas are one of the rarer varieties of bettas, there’s a good chance you might have more than a few questions about this rare breed. This section seeks to answer some of those queries.
Are King bettas prone to any diseases?
Despite being hardy characters, King bettas can be susceptible to a few health complications, with most of those complications resulting from stress and poor tank conditions. They include fin rot, velvet, and ick.
As such, the best way of ensuring that your King betta lives a long and happy life is by being fastidious when it comes to maintaining optimal conditions inside the tank.
How big do King bettas get?
The standard King betta size is 3 inches in length. In fact, when you make a King betta size comparison against regular betta splendens, you will hardly notice any difference.
What is a Halfmoon King Betta?
The Halfmoon King betta is simply a King betta whose tail spans 180 degrees, resembling a half-moon. This variety results from breeding efforts to increase the ornamental appeal of King bettas.
The King betta fish is arguably the most interesting member of the betta family. This freshwater fish is not only stupefyingly beautiful but is also incredibly charming. Moreover, they do not require a lot to be healthy and happy.
Consequently, the King betta would be an ideal fit for just about any responsible aquarist. Do you have any pressing questions about this beauty? Please let us know, and we will be glad to have a tete-a-tete with you.