Types & Species of Wild Bettas by Complex

types of wild bettas
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While most aquarists are probably familiar with the common betta splendens, better known as the Siamese Fighting Fish, many other wild betta species also make excellent aquarium fish. 

In the wild, bettas are found in various conditions, from shallow rice paddies to small forest ponds, to puddles in the dry season. Most of them are adaptable to a range of conditions in the home aquarium. 

In this article, we’ll be sharing with you the different types and species of wild bettas by their complex.

What is a Betta Complex?

A species complex is a group of closely related species that are highly similar in appearance, that the differences between them can be unclear. So when talking about betta complexes, it’s a group of bettas that looks really similar to each other but are actually different species. 

In general, it’s best not to put bettas of the same complex together in the same aquarium. This is because these species can interbreed, and this hybridisation can create a new betta species. Hybridisation is not recommended as some, if not most wild betta species are endangered, and it’s best to keep its genetics as pure as possible.

Betta Splendens Complex

The betta splenden is a small, brightly coloured, fighting fish, popularly kept in aquariums. If you head to your local fish store, chances are these are the colourful bettas that you commonly see. These bettas will probably not survive in the wild as they result from generations of selective breeding and hybridisation; thus, they are domestic in nature. 

Chances are, they probably can’t survive in the wild too. With large flowy fins and bright colours, they’re a prime target for predators.

Many fish keepers don’t know that betta splendens look entirely different in the wild. Here’s how they naturally look.

Credits: SeriouslyFish

Betta species in this complex generally range between 4-6cm (1.5-2.4 inches), are more aggressive than other complexes (although this depends on the species and individual temperament), and are the easiest to obtain. 

The bettas in this complex are bubblenesters and are relatively easy to breed. They are also easy to train onto pellet foods.

The species of bettas in the splendens complex are:

  1. Betta imbellis
  2. Betta siamorientalis
  3. Betta smaragdina
  4. Betta splendens
  5. Betta stiktos
  6. Betta Mahachaiensis

Betta Albimarginata Complex

The wild bettas in the albimarginata complex are known for their unique black, white, and red colouration and their habit of swimming in pairs. Species in this complex are probably one of the most peaceful and smallest bettas.

Both species in the albimarginata complex are easy to keep and recommended for those new to wild bettas. 

male betta albimarginata

The species of bettas in the albimarginata complex are:

  1. Betta albimarginata
  2. Betta channoides

My experience keeping both species in this complex is pleasant. These mouthbrooders can live in the same aquarium together and remain relatively small between 3-5cm (1.2-2 inches). However, I currently have an aggressive male albimarginata – a first I’ve experienced and heard of. 

Most keepers mentioned that they have fishes that will only consume live food, while some managed to train them onto frozen bloodworms. Consumption of dried foods is reportedly rare. 

For myself, I’ve managed to train them to eat frozen foods and dried pellets.

Betta Coccina Complex

A complex of small and primarily red bettas (except for betta Hendra & Persephone), those in this species are the smallest bettas amongst all the betta complexes (3-5cm / 1.2-2 inches). However, don’t mistake their size for cuteness, as these beauties can be aggressive to their own kind.

Based on my research, some hobbyists successfully keep pairs and groups together in an aquarium, while others experience aggression almost as similar to the splendens complex.

The bettas in the coccina complex are:

  1. Betta brownorum
  2. Betta burdigala
  3. Betta coccina
  4. Betta hendra
  5. Betta livida
  6. Betta miniopinna
  7. Betta persephone
  8. Betta rutilans
  9. Betta tussyae
  10. Betta uberis
  11. Betta wojak
  12. Betta Api Api

My experience keeping betta coccinas show the latter. I needed a heavily planted aquarium and rarely see any fish except the alpha male. However, the beauty in these species is immaculate.

Most bettas in the coccina complex are bubblenesters, although there are reports of betta brownorum, coccina, and rutilans mouthbrooding. Although there are no studies done for this reason yet, it could potentially be the environment they’re kept in.

Mouthbrooding bettas tend to live in flowing streams; thus, these switchers might mouth brood if they can’t find a still spot to breed in.

The bettas in this complex are reported to eat only live foods and frozen foods. There are few reports of them eating pellet foods, though I’ve been able to teach my bettas to eat them as well.

Betta Unimaculata Complex

Bettas in the unimaculata complex are probably the biggest amongst all the betta species, ranging between 7-13cm (2.8-5.1 inches). They are mouthbrooders and are one of the easiest bettas to train onto pellets. 

Breeding wise, it is relatively easy, although you will need to condition them thoroughly first. There are many reports indicating that the unimaculata complex will swallow broods easily.

This could be due to a range of issues – pH, temperature, or even inexperience.

As with all bettas, these bettas are jumpers. The only exception is that those in the unimaculata complex will require weights on their aquarium lids. They are big and strong enough to push unweighted lids open only to end up on dry carpets!

Bettas in the unimaculata complex are:

  1. Betta compuncta
  2. Betta gladiator
  3. Betta ideii
  4. Betta macrostoma
  5. Betta ocellata 
  6. Betta pallifina
  7. Betta patoti
  8. Betta unimaculata
  9. Betta Antuta

Betta Pugnax Complex

Those in the pugnax complex are relatively dull as compared to bettas of other complexes. These mouthbrooders are not the favourites amongst hobbyists due to their primarily drab brown colour.

However, bettas in this complex are pretty easy to keep and feed, as they can be easily trained onto frozen foods like bloodworms. Pellet training can also be done, and they will eat it once recognised as food.

They grow up to 6-7cm (2.4-2.8 inches) long and are generally easy to breed in the right conditions.

The bettas in the pugnax complex are:

  1. Betta apollon
  2. Betta breviobesus
  3. Betta cracens
  4. Betta enisae
  5. Betta ferox
  6. Betta fusca
  7. Betta kuehnei
  8. Betta lehi
  9. Betta pallida 
  10. Betta prima
  11. Betta pugnax
  12. Betta pulchra
  13. Betta schalleri
  14. Betta stigmosa
  15. Betta raja

Betta Akarensis Complex

Looking similar to the pugnax complex, the betta species in this complex are slightly larger, with reports of them growing up to 7-8cm (2.8-3.1 inches). As compared to other complexes, these bettas mostly take up brown colourations.

However, these mouthbrooders are sought after due to their amazing finnages. They are relatively peaceful and can be kept together in a single aquarium.


Credits: IBC Bettas

I do not have much information about feeding and breeding ease, though I assume most wild bettas would fare better with live foods and could be taught to eat frozen bloodworms. Pellets are assumed to be hard ‌to train.

Breeding should occur if given the proper conditions and foods.

The bettas in the Akarensis complex are:

  1. Betta akarensis
  2. Betta Antoni
  3. Betta aurigans
  4. Betta balunga
  5. Betta chini
  6. Betta ibanorum
  7. Betta obscura
  8. Betta pinguis
  9. Betta nuluhon (NEW!)

Betta Anabatoides Complex

Credits: IBC Bettas

Bettas in the anabatoides complex are also drab brown in colouration. They grow up to 5-6cm (2-2.4 inches) and are mouthbrooders. They are peaceful, and a group of them can be kept together in an appropriate-sized aquarium.

I don’t have much information on feeding and breeding ease, but I assume these bettas would fare better with live foods and could be trained to eat frozen bloodworms. Pellets would probably be hard to train to eat.

Breeding should occur if given the proper conditions and foods.

Bettas in the Anabatoides complex are:

  1. Betta anabatoides
  2. Betta midas

Betta Bellica Complex

Credits: Adam Bakhtiar

Bettas in the bellica complex are relatively large, growing to about 8-9cm (3.1-3.5 inches) and are mouthbrooders. These bettas have a bluish sheen to their scales and fins. 

You might also notice vertical bars on the betta’s body – though sometimes this occurs when the fish is breeding. 

Peaceful in nature, they can be kept together in groups or pairs.

Although I do not have a lot of information about feeding and breeding ease for wild bettas, I suspect that they would much prefer to eat live foods but could be trained to eat frozen bloodworms. Pellets are assumed to be challenging to train.

Breeding should occur if given the proper conditions and foods.

Those in the bellica complex are:

  1. Betta bellica
  2. Betta simorum

Betta Dimidiata Complex

Bettas in the dimidiata complex are the second smallest mouthbrooding bettas after the albimarginata complex (3.5-4.5cm / 1.4-1.8 inches). They look like mini versions of the bellica complex and also have bluish sheens in their finnages. 

If you’re looking for a small blue wild betta, you can consider this complex. They are peaceful and a group, pair, or reverse trio can be kept in a home aquarium.

I don’t have much information about how to feed them and breed them, but I’m assuming most wild bettas would prefer live food over frozen bloodworms. Pellets should be hard to train, I suppose.

Breeding should occur if given the proper conditions and foods.

These bettas are in the dimidiata complex:

  1. Betta dimidiata
  2. Betta krataios

Betta Edithae Complex

The betta edithae complex currently only has 1 betta species in it – the betta edithae. A relatively peaceful complex, they can grow up to 6cm (2.4 inches). Like most bettas, these mouthbrooders are brown in colour, albeit it is a lighter shade than most.

I can’t say much about their feeding and breeding ease, but most wild bettas should be able to get used to eating bloodworms and frozen ones.‌ ‌Pellets‌‌ are‌ ‌assumed‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌hard‌ ‌‌to‌ ‌train.

Breeding should occur if given the proper conditions and foods.

The bettas in the edithae complex are:

  1. Betta edithae

Betta Foerschi Complex

Bettas in the foerschi complex have distinct yellow or red operculum bars (near their gills) that distinguish them from other bettas. They are relatively small mouthbrooders (3-6cm / 1.2-2.4 inches) and are a great option if you’re looking for a wild betta that’s bluish.

They are known to be peaceful and can be kept together in an aquarium.

I don’t have much information about feeding and breeding, but consider that most bettas will do better with live foods and can be trained to eat frozen bloodworms. Pellets are supposed‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌hard‌ ‌‌to‌ ‌train.

Breeding should occur if given the proper conditions and foods.

Bettas in the foerschi complex are:

  1. Betta foerschi
  2. Betta mandor
  3. Betta strohi

Betta Rubra Complex

Credits: Iven Betta

Bettas in the Betta rubra complex are relatively small (3-5cm / 1.2-2 inches) and are a great option for you to choose from. They are mainly red in colouration with vertical stripes on their body – a unique pattern not seen in most wild bettas.

These Bettas however are not known to be entirely peaceful as there are some reports indicating the aggressiveness of the Bettas in this complex.

Feeding wise, you can assume that they will do well with live and can be trained to eat frozen foods. Somehow, I vaguely remember reading about someone successfully training their betta rubra to eat pellets – I just can’t remember who and where I read it from.

Breeding should occur if all conditions are met.

Bettas in the rubra complex are:

  1. Betta rubra
  2. Betta dennisyongi

Betta Picta Complex

Another complex with the brown colouration, bettas in the picta complex, tend to have blue scales near their gills and their fins’ trimmings. They are medium-sized, ranging between 3-6cm (1.2-2.4 inches), depending on the species you’re keeping.

These mouthbrooders are known to be peaceful in nature and can be kept in pairs or a group in an aquarium. 

I do not have much information about feeding and breeding ease, although I presume most wild bettas would fare better with live foods and could be trained to eat frozen bloodworms. Pellets are assumed to be difficult to train to eat.

Breeding should occur if given the proper conditions and foods.

These bettas are in the picta complex:

  1. Betta falx
  2. Betta pallida
  3. Betta picta
  4. Betta simplex
  5. Betta taeniata

Betta Waseri Complex

One of the most unknown betta complexes, the waseri complex contains betta species that many aquarists and hobbyists have not heard of (including myself until researching for this piece!)

They are primarily brown in colouration and grow up to 9cm (3.5 inches). They are peaceful mouthbrooders that can be kept together in a large enough aquarium. They are pretty big, so make sure your tank size is appropriate!

I did not find much information regarding the feeding and breeding ease for these bettas though I assume most wild ones would do much better on frozen bloodworms and could be trained to eat pellets.

Breeding should occur if given the proper conditions and foods.

Bettas in the waseri complex are:

  1. Betta chloropharynx
  2. Betta hipposideros
  3. Betta Omega
  4. Betta pardalotos
  5. Betta pi
  6. Betta renata
  7. Betta spilotogena
  8. Betta tomi
  9. Betta waseri

Undescribed Betta Species

Although there are many bettas already in their respective complexes, there are currently undescribed ones. This could be due to new species being discovered, a potential hybridisation, or the lack of studies on them. 

Scientists differentiate these bettas by where they were found. For example, Betta sp. Banka means that they were first found in Bangka, an island in Indonesia. 

Bettas that are undescribed will be named this way until more studies and a formal name is given to them.

As with all wild bettas, you can assume that it will be challenging to train them to eat pellets. Thus, they should be fed with live foods or frozen bloodworms. Breeding will usually occur if given the proper conditions and foods.

These are the undescribed species of bettas:

  1. Betta sp.
  2. Betta sp. Bangka
  3. Betta sp. Bung Bihn (A researcher from a Singaporean university commented that these might be betta prima, though there are no further papers on this).
  4. Betta sp. Kapuas (Now betta krataios)
  5. Betta sp. Pangkalanbun (Now betta uberis)
  6. Betta sp. Sanggau (Now betta antoni)
  7. Betta sp. Sukadana (Now betta uberis)

Conclusion

I’m pretty sure many of you might not know that there is a huge list of the different types of wild bettas and how they are categorised. Although wild bettas may not be as colourful and beautiful as domestic betta splendens, they have their own appeal.

Wild bettas are more of a niche in the aquarium hobby. They are known to be rarer, and many keep them for their natural beauty. As globalisation occurs, many of their habitats are also destroyed. Keeping them in aquaria is a way to preserve these bettas in their natural state. 

Aggressiveness and receptiveness to consuming pellet foods can be based on luck. Although some complexes are more aggressive than others, it doesn’t mean that squabbles won’t happen. It boils down to the individual betta temperament as well.

Generally, mouthbrooders are more receptive to pellets than bubblenesters. Though, this could boil down to your luck as well. Perhaps you could start by reading my wild betta feeding guide to get a better understanding first.

If you’re new or an experienced wild betta keeper, I hope this article helps you identify the different complexes and hopefully decide on one that you want to keep. 

Have any information to contribute? Do contact me with your information and the URL you want to contribute to. Attribution will be added should you request them.

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