Making a good Crowntail
I have recently started to breed crowntails. In my first spawn I noticed a lot of variation of the branching and the web reduction. Then I began to take notice of the variations in fish offered for sale. Most people only think of crowns in terms of web reduction and do not pay attention to balance or the branching variations. But a good CT should also display the balance and symmetry of a good halfmoon. So lets take a look at some things we see in today's crowntails and evaluate them in light of what we want to be breeding.
Symmetry is what a show fish is all about. So when you take a look at the rays on the tail you want to see each one look the same.. from the first top ray to the bottom. What you often find is inconsistencies in this branching. Take this royal blue here on the left. The first three rays come up and split in two. Then the next three rays split in two.. then each branch again splits in two. As a breeder you need to make a decision what branching you want to establish in the line and breed to that, eliminating anything that shows this type of inconsistency. On a plus side this male does have a 180 spread that may be needed in the breeding program. If that is the reason the male is bred, start selecting for ray consistency as well as spread in that next generation.
The tail to the right is also very inconsistent. There are some single rays and also rays that split three times. Also take note of the different width in the webbing between the rays. This fish was a neat color and has good reduction, but when evaluating a fish for breeding stock, you have to get more than color. You need a good structural foundation to build on as chances are you will get all kinds of wild colors in that first generation. It helps to have some decent form to work with as you start to work the color. There is a saying among breeders, you want to build the house, the paint it. So with bettas you need to work the form before color. So this male would be a cull in a breeding program geared to producing show fish as just too inconsistent and there are better fish offered on a regular basis.
Many Crowntails today have more than one level of reduction. Take the tail to the left. The rays come up and split into two. There is the reduction to the webbing between the rays, and also the reduction in the branching. First we will look at the web reduction between the rays. There should be a smooth half circle that outlines this web edge. If you look at this tail you see that this outline is not smooth but undulates. As a breeder you want to get the web reduction between each ray to be identical. Now we take a look at the webbing in the ray split. Again you will want to see a smooth half circle connecting those. There is more consistency in this reduction than the other. The spread on this male is good and showing almost 180, so could be considered for breeding. However, offspring will need to be looked at for the spread and then consistency in the reduction. A female that was very consistent in her reduction would improve the chances of getting the desired look in the fry.
The tail to the right is a good example of what to look for. Each ray comes up and splits into two. The web reduction between the rays is pretty consistent and shows a nice smooth arc from top to bottom. It is a little high between the first two rays and is something as a breeder you will work to correct. When you look at the ray reduction you once again can see a smooth arc. The distance between the web reduction and the ray reduction is also pretty consistent. With the good spread this male has, he would be an excellent choice for breeding.
Other things to evaluate in relation to the tail is the length of the dorsal and anal rays. You want them the same length at the tail rays. You also want the web reduction to be the same all the way around the fish. When you connect the outer tips of the rays you want to see the shape of a nicely balanced halfmoon. By paying attention to these little details, you should be breeding show quality bettas in not time.