This ancient fish is getting an ancient makeover. The dragon scale betta, or simply referred to as the dragon breed, is a relatively new variety of betta fish with accentuated scales and often metallic coloring. While these fish are desired by many for their stoic appearance, the consequences of selective breeding are often seen through eventual blindness.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about the dragon scale betta, how these fish are made, and the care required to keep one healthy in your own freshwater aquarium.
What is a dragon scale betta?
For decades, experienced breeders of Betta fish have been trying to achieve new types of fins, body structures, colors and appearance as well as behaviors within the Betta splendens species.
While many of the fish we see widespread in pet stores today are the successful attempts at this selective breeding, there are many fish that suffer the consequences of manipulated traits. At the same time, these manipulated traits have produced some of the most beautiful and expensive bedfish available. One of these breeds led to the dragon scale Betta.
The dragon scale Betta is a miracle to see. These bettas have distinctive scales that are often metallic in color and resemble a thick layer of armor with dragon scales. These scales are usually lined with darker edges for even more depth and highlighting. While many dragon scales are copper-metallic, they were bred to express most color variations in different types of fin types and markings.
These Bettas are often named for their base color instead of the sheen that makes up the “dragon scale”. For example, a red dragon betta might have white scales, but an overall red body and fins. Due to genetics, real blue dragon scales cannot exist because the top layer (blue) is already blue. In other words, a dragon scale betta cannot have a blue underlayer with white scale formation.
It is believed that only the fish with a layer of white scales are the true betta fish with dragon scales, although the name has also been expanded to include many variations of metallic coloration.
How do you know if your betta is a real dragon scale?
One of the best ways to determine whether or not you have a real betta with dragon scales is to go to a reputable breeder. Not only do they guarantee that you are getting a healthy fish, but it is also likely that those fish were more ethically bred with better genes.
Otherwise, you might be looking for a betta fish with an overlay of thick, white scales over a color other than blue. Even so, it can be difficult to tell if your fish is really dragon scales or some other similar looking breed.
Betta fish with dragon scales
Although they are a desirable breed of betta fish, there are a few important things you need to know to ensure that your beautiful betta fish stays as healthy as possible. Unfortunately, selective breeding has resulted in some long-lasting health problems for these Bettas, including blindness. Therefore, it is important to know what signs to look out for in a healthy betta fish.
Here are a few things to consider before you go out and get your new kite scale Betta!
How big do dragon scale betta get?
Dragon-scale Bettas grow as tall as other breeds of Betta splendens, and can reach 5.1 to 7.6 cm in height when mature. They also share the same aggressive temperaments as less ornate bettas and are usually best suited for an aquarium. This aquarium should be at least 5 gallons (18.9 L), heated with adequate filtration, and preferably planted with live plants.
As we will discuss, this arrangement may be necessary if your fish shows signs of blindness.
How long can kite bets live?
Again, betta fish with dragon scales have the potential to live just as long as other breeds under the right conditions. This means your fish can potentially live up to 5 years or more!
However, since these Bettas have been selectively bred to the limit, it is very likely that you have a fish that is not genetically designed to last. This could mean your fish will only live 2 or 3 years instead.
Other modifications have been made – and are still being made – to these fish to make their bodies and fins more ornate and desirable. Too often, these traits are just for looks and can make it difficult for these bettas to swim, breathe, and eat. As we will discuss further, betta fish with dragon scales are very likely to go blind, which can make feeding difficult and affect the overall quality of life.
Do bettas with dragon scales go blind?
Yes, dragon scales have the potential to go blind. Their scales can literally grow too quickly and cover the eye so that the fish can no longer see. This is sometimes called a diamond eye and cannot be fully treated, although with extra care the fish can reach its expected lifespan.
There is no guarantee that your kite scale will not go blind, but it is important to look for possible eye coverings that will be apparent when purchasing the fish. Both eyes should be clear, with the scaling preferably far from the face. While ‘high quality’ kite scales are those that have full scaling on their faces, like full mask kite scales, these types of bettas are most prone to blindness. It should be noted that scales can grow above the eyes of other Betta breeds and even other species of fish, but are more likely to occur on dragon scales.
Buyers of dragon scales betta should also be aware that some breeders are promoting fish that are already showing signs of blindness by using designer names such as snake eyes, dragon eyes or diamond eyes and charging inflated prices.
If your fish is showing signs of diamond eyes there are a few things you can do to make it feel at home and even relieve some of the symptoms.
As with any fish disease or disease, stability is key. Keep the water parameters stable and close to the ideal parameters for your tank. Try to keep the environment as unchanged as possible and only change appliances, lighting and decorations if absolutely necessary. Live plants are highly recommended for adding extra oxygen to the water column and for your Betta fish to rest when they get tired. Sharp objects should be removed from the aquarium immediately to avoid injury.
Many hobbyists also like to add almond leaves, banana leaves, or some other source of tannin to their tank. These are natural methods of flaking thin so your Betta fish can see a little better over time. However, doing so can also cause the rest of the body to thin out a bit and lose some of the dragon’s scale’s original pull – which isn’t a terrible thing in exchange for your fish’s health!
Finally, it is best to set up a feeding schedule. Food should be given at the same time in the same place every day. Some hobbyists find a feeding guide helpful in letting their bettas know when it is time to forage for food. Some of these helpful hints seem to briefly shine a light on the tank or gently tap the glass. It is even recommended to put foods in garlic and / or use lighter colored foods to draw your fish towards the food.
Other variations of the dragon scale
As with most betta fish breeds, dragon scale genetics have been pushed to exhibit other desirable traits. One such example is the betta fish with long fin kite scales, which has beautifully flowing fins that complement the body of the armor.
However, these fins can be pushed to the limit and ultimately make it difficult for fish to swim, just like Dumbo and Rosetail breeds. While some hobbyists know how to respectfully display these fish while providing them with an environment that suits their needs, too often they are bought for their beauty and remain seated at the bottom of the tank due to their overly heavy fin.
If you absolutely must have this type of betta fish, it is important to set up the tank to hold the fish. This includes not having other tank mates, creating plenty of resting places with live plants and other smooth surfaces, and helping with feeding if necessary.
Dragon-scale Betta fish definitely look great medieval, but they come at a price. These fish can be identified by the thick, white scales that cover most of their body, as well as the different colors they usually come in. Unfortunately, these fish are prone to blindness as these scales grow over their eyes and completely cover them. However, with proper care and appreciation, these issues can be fixed and treated to make this lovely Betta’s life a little easier.
If you have any questions about dragon scale Bettas or other captive bred Betta splendens breeds, or if you have experience of keeping any of these variations of Bettas in your own aquarium, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!