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Betta Color Genetics

 

Our lovely pet store Bettas are much more then a stones throw away from the wild Splendens. Wild Splendens are an inconspicuous olive brown with a few green and red highlights and short fins. So how did we go for the little wild fighter to our beauties in the pet store? We did it through selective breeding. Every Betta Splendens, including the dull wild type, possess different layers of normal colors. Essentially our graceful Bettas are just mutations of the normal colors and the short fins that are found in the wild type. The colors of Bettas we see today is a result of a complex genetic system where certain colors are recessive, dominant and co-dominant or all of the above!

This marbled female bred by Kevin Pelletier is one of the many color variations available.

A Betta that has a blue and black gene is not one or the other; it is both - a multicolored Betta. This is called co-dominance (Ahh! Another term!). To keep this as simple as possible without over simplifying, we'll say there are two types of genes, Type A and Type B. Type A genes are are genes that show a dominant or recessive relationship when they are paired (like in Genetics). Just for the genetics buffs, the recessive genes of Type A genes can sometimes effect the Bettas phenotype slightly - single tailed Bettas carrying the double tail gene (heterozygous single tails) show a wider base and more expressive fins compared to homozygous single tails. Type B genes are genes are genes that interfere with each other when they are paired or genes that are both expressed - a green Betta crossed with a steel blue results in all blue Bettas.

Bettas' coloring is due to different color layers that exist with in their flesh. Yellow is the closes to the body followed by red, black, and green. The observable color or a Betta is due to the intensity or lack there of, of the layers. A red Betta results for a very intense red layer with the black and green layer lacking sufficient intensity and distribution to overcome the red layer. Solid colored Bettas are the result of only one or more of the normal colors mutating. Different color patterns are also related to the different layers of normal color. The butterfly pattern is a mutation of red, involving Type A genes. A butterfly red pattern is dominant over normal solid red yet it is still difficult to produce even when crossing a butterfly to a butterfly (well some things have got to remain a mystery, right?). The marble patterning is also linked to a color layer but in this case it is the black layer. The marble mutation causes some really weird results where the patterning can change over the course of time. Also, there are other color mutations that are a result of multiple gene pair interactions. For example, pastels result when green, blue or steel blue, overlay cambodian. White Bettas are produced by a combinations of mutations of the black, red and green layer. Usually the top color, green, and it's mutations will dominate all other colors if it is distributed evenly enough and it is intense enough. However, because of varying intensities and distribution different colors can be observed as in multicolors.

Now, let's assume you become a responsible breeder and you want to know if Type A or Type B are controlling a certain color characteristic. Theoretically Type A genes result in 75% of a spawn showing the same color but the same results will not occur if Type B genes are involved. To discover if Type A genes are involved you would need to breed for a minimum of two generations to be sure. For example, let say we cross one homozygous red (R,R) with another heterozygous red that is carrying a non-red gene (R,Y). The F1 generation will be 50% R,R and 50%R,Y but you will only see normal red because the normal red gene is overriding the non-red gene. However if you cross the F1 R,Y's (don't ask me how you can tell the difference in R,R or R,Y because they have the same phenotype but it's all theoretically right?) you will get 25% R,R, 50% R,Y and 25% Y,Y - 25% non-red phenotype and 75% red phenotype.

 
 
R
R
R
RR
RR
Y
RY
RR

F1 Generation

 
R
Y
R
RR
RY
Y
RY
YY

F2 Generation

Ok, next lets do some Type B gene action! Let's assume that we are crossing two mutations of the green layer; a heterozygous blue (G,S) and a homozygous green (G,G). By crossing these the F1 generation will be 50% G,G and 50% G,S - 50% green and 50% blue. If you cross the blues of the generation the F2's will result in 25%G,G, 50%G,S an 25%S,S - 25% green, 50% blue and 25% steel blue. See how it is impossible to get 75% of anything with Type B genes?

 

 
G
G
G
GG
GG
S
GS
GS

F1 Generation

 
G
S
G
GG
GS
S
GS
SS

 

Now you know everything you could possibly want to know about Betta genetics (unless you a huge bio buff and in that case, go ask someone else cause I don't know! : -) ) so go out and have some fun with breeding!