Betta fish are one of, if not, the most popular fish in the aquarium hobby. But did you know that many other different species of betta fish are available for purchase?
Not only are there more types other than your typical Betta splendens, but these wild species are just as easy to keep and are sometimes less aggressive. This can open up new possibilities for tank mates and aquarium setups! One of these wild betta fish species is Betta coccina.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about wild bettas and how to keep the Betta coccina species in your own betta tank setup!
|Betta Coccina Info|
|Scientific name:||Betta coccina|
|Common names:||Scarlet Betta|
|Minimum tank size:||5 gallons|
|Temperament:||Social, some aggression|
What Are Betta coccina?
To understand what Betta coccina are, we need to know what they’re not. Betta coccina, commonly known as scarlet bettas, are ‘wild’ betta fish.
In general, wild species of betta fish are considered any that are not a breed of Betta splendens, which are the typical betta fish with flowing fins you see available for sale in your local pet store. These wild-type bettas are often duller in color with less impressive finnage.
There are a few advantages to keeping wild bettas, like B. coccina, over domesticated species, though! This includes keeping a more natural aquarium setup, a larger variety of biodiversity, and even the possibility of a group or community setting.
Domesticated bettas are also known as Siamese fighting fish. While these fish were bred for their beauty, they were also bred with aggression in mind. This fish’s history is rooted in competition in both fighting and attraction.
In the wild, bettas aren’t super aggressive. They’re still territorial, but much less than their captive-bred B. splendens relatives. This often allows for keeping groups of these wild fish together or with other tropical community species. Such is the case with the wild scarlet betta.
Are These Bettas Aggressive?
Wild-type bettas are less aggressive than their domesticated counterparts, but they can’t be labeled as community fish. Caution is still needed when keeping these fish together with each other and with other species.
That being said, Betta coccina are often kept together in pairs or in groups. These are small fish that can safely be kept together in the same tank as long as there is an appropriate male to female ratio and all individuals are added at the same time while juveniles.
Are These Bettas Easy To Keep?
All betta fish are hardy. That’s what makes them such a great choice for beginner hobbyists.
As we’ll see, betta fish originate from less-than-ideal water conditions. These poor and changing ecosystems caused betta fish to evolve a labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe atmospheric air instead of relying on what’s available in the water.
While conditions should never deteriorate this much in an aquarium setting, these fish have the ability to withstand temporary fluctuations in unideal water conditions.
Wild-type bettas originate from warm waters across Southeast Asia. Betta splendens come from Vietnam and Thailand while Betta coccina come from more exact locations throughout Indonesia and Malaysia, though there are many similarities between these ecosystems.
The scarlet betta can be found throughout acidic peat swamp forests in the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo as well as in Johor in Malaysia. There, these fish live in small groups in extreme and volatile environments in small rivers, floodplains, and even temporary puddles.
It is said that the wild scarlet betta’s habitat is nearly as dark as coffee, stained with tannins from leaf litter and other organics that have fallen from the dense forest canopy above. These tannins influence the color of the water and also lower the pH to between 3.0 and 4.5. Even with the darkness, many plants are able to survive.
These ecosystems are subject to the wet and dry seasons. When rain is limited, these fish have the ability to live in minimal water, sometimes taking shelter in only a thin layer of moist leaf litter.
B. coccina might not be the most attractive betta fish available, but there’s no denying the intensity of their red bodies.
These are small fish, growing to about 2 or 3 inches. But when placed in a group, their reds collectively make a bold addition to a tannin-stained aquarium.
The scarlet betta is named after its crimson body. Male fish feature a large greenish-blue dot in the middle of their sides. Their fins are short and pointed, similar to those seen in plakat bettas.
Scarlet bettas are the original members of the wine red betta group, which is a collection of closely related, similar-looking betta fish. Other members of this group include B. coccina, B. livida, B. rutilans, B. tussyae, B. persephone, B. burdigala, B. brownorum, B. uberis, B. hendra, and B. miniopinna.
Though hard to find, many of these species can be found available for purchase in the aquarium hobby. In fact, the majority of them have been successfully kept and spawned within the aquarium trade.
Telling these species apart can be very challenging as they look very similar to one another on a surface level. In fact, these fish may even differ within their own species depending on where the individual was collected.
To help ensure that you’re getting the right fish, research reputable breeders or fellow hobbyists.
Betta coccina Care
Wild-type bettas aren’t much more difficult to keep than domesticated bettas. In fact, they’re often easier to keep as they come from specialized breeders that give them proper care, making them healthier from the start.
There are some things to keep in mind when setting up a Betta coccina tank, though. These fish do best when kept in an aquarium that mimics their natural environments: acidic and tannin-stained with plenty of live plants. This also means that they’ll do best in a group setting.
Here’s how to keep your wild betta happy and healthy!
Wild bettas may be bred in the aquarium trade, but they haven’t quite acclimated to typical fish tank setups as well as captive fish have. Meaning, scarlet bettas need blackwater aquarium conditions that replicate their natural habitats.
The best Betta coccina tank setup will be heavily planted with dark water. The chosen plant species should not be light-demanding as the black water will lessen light penetration. Some possible options include:
- Anubias spp.
- Cryptocoryne spp.
- Java fern (Microsorum pteropus)
- Java moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri)
- Floating plants
These plants can be kept under dim lighting, which is preferred by scarlet bettas. To darken the water and lower the pH, add leaf litter and/or dose a tannin extract. In fact, leaf litter may substitute a substrate entirely. Broad plant leaf species will provide coverage, but structure can be increased through driftwood and smooth rocks.
Make sure that the water surface can be easily reached as bettas like to go to the top of the tank to breathe and make bubble nests; if your betta constantly stays at the top of the tank, check that water quality hasn’t declined.
What Size Tank Do They Need?
Wild-type bettas aren’t overly active fish, but they do best when given enough space for enrichment. They don’t need a ton of space, though.
Betta fish, including wild type bettas, are considered nano species. They aren’t active swimmers but enjoy moving around the tank of their own free will.
The minimum tank size recommended for a single Betta coccina is 5 gallons. A pair of scarlet bettas can also be kept in a 5 gallon aquarium, though a 10 gallon will provide much more room.
Some hobbyists like to keep wild bettas in small groups with 1 male per 5 females. These group dynamics can be difficult to predict and control as these fish are still aggressive. For this reason, a minimum tank size of 20 gallons is recommended for a group.
Betta fish are very forgiving of improper and changing water parameters. But even these resilient fish cannot withstand high levels of ammonia or nitrite. Instead, they’re able to adapt to low pH levels and low levels of available oxygen.
The ideal pH for Betta coccina is between 3.0-4.5. This can be achieved by creating tannin extracts or regularly replacing the organics in the tank.
However, this can become costly and take a lot of time. Most hobbyists opt into adapting their wild bettas to more neutral water conditions by slowly raising the pH over time. Be extremely careful with this as pH works on a logarithmic scale, meaning that each increase is much more than you think.
Along with acidic water, B. coccina also does best with soft water. This usually happens alongside the lowering of pH as organics introduce minerals into the water, but a good, soft source water can also be used.
Otherwise, these are tropical fish that appreciate water temperatures between 78-80° F (25.5-26.7° C). Ammonia and nitrite should remain at 0 ppm while some nitrates are needed to keep plants healthy.
Because Betta coccina are so adaptable, they don’t need a lot of filtration. In fact, having less filtration imitates their natural stagnant ecosystems better than a clean aquarium.
Still, some filtration is recommended to remove mechanical waste and to provide extra room for beneficial bacteria to grow.
The best wild betta filtration will be from a sponge filter or a low-powered hang on the back filter. A sponge filter will remove waste and provide plenty of room for bacteria while also keeping a gentle current throughout the aquarium.
Additional aeration isn’t needed as these fish can breathe from the surface of the water.
If your scarlet betta tank is heavily planted, then you might not need filtration or aeration at all! Aquarium plants provide the large benefit of processing wastes within the system while also introducing oxygen in return.
Creating a balance between fish waste and nutrient export can be achieved through a Walstad method tank where filtration is not needed and maintenance is minimal. This method can be tricky at first, so only attempt it if you’ve had some experience keeping tropical fish and plants before.
Wild bettas come from extreme environments where food can be limited at times.
Low pH and influence from the wet and dry seasons make life hard. Scarlet bettas are omnivores, but heavily rely on insects, particularly ants, as their source of food.
As a result, B. coccina is not a picky eater in the aquarium. So much so that these fish are prone to becoming overweight if not given a balanced diet or not given the opportunity to exercise.
Scarlet bettas will largely accept live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods. They especially enjoy mosquito larvae, daphnia, and bloodworms that hide in the leaf litter.
To help keep costs down and to provide your fish with a full spectrum of nutrients, a high-quality betta fish flake or pellet should be offered multiple times throughout the day.
Just because your fish is waiting for you at the top of its tank does not mean that it needs to be fed! Try to feed small portions 2 to 3 times throughout the day. Only feed live, frozen, and freeze-dried options a couple of times a week.
Some wild bettas are so peaceful that they can be kept with other fish outside of the Betta genus.
Betta coccina can be slightly aggressive and requires special water conditions that most other fish can’t withstand. As a result, scarlet bettas are best kept alone, in pairs, or in groups.
It should be noted that some hobbyists have had luck with keeping peaceful loaches that originate from similar environments, but this is a difficult pairing to get right.
Instead, B. coccina can happily live alone given enough enrichment. They’re also regularly sold in pairs as a male and female.
Another popular betta fish tank setup is keeping a group or a harem of these fish together. There have been mixed stories of success with these setups, but there is usually minimal damage if things start to go wrong.
Ideally, 1 male scarlet betta should be kept for every 5 to 6 female bettas. Having more than 1 male can cause territorial aggression. However, it’s strongly believed that once the dominant male has asserted itself, the subdominant males can live peacefully as long as the aquarium provides enough space and hiding spots.
Small invertebrates, like snails and shrimp, should not be kept with B. coccina as they will likely eat them.
Betta coccina Breeding
Many hobbyists adopt wild bettas with the intention of breeding them. Betta fish have some of the most interesting spawning behaviors in tropical fish and hobbyists want to try their luck with all the species available!
All members of the B. coccina complex have been successfully spawned in captivity. In fact, they’re not difficult to breed and will likely start on their own if conditions are right.
Like most other bettas, B. coccina is a bubble nester. The only preparation that needs to be done for breeding these fish is ensuring that the space between the water and the lid of the aquarium is humid. This is necessary for the success of the fries.
Once ready to spawn, both males and females will change in body color. Females will turn lighter shades and dark bars will begin to appear near their tails. Males will intensify in color and start to display signals to the females.
When ready, the male will build a bubble nest. The male and female will interlock and the female will eventually drop fertilized eggs; B. coccina produces smaller-than-average broods, with only about 20 to 40 eggs per spawn. The male and female will help catch the eggs and move them into the bubble nest.
Interestingly, male scarlet bettas have been known to move their nest around the tank.
The male will protect the nest until the eggs hatch after about one to two days. After a few more days, the fry will become free-swimming and the male will release all responsibility. It is unlikely that he will eat them, but for best results, remove the fry from the aquarium.
At this point, the fry may be fed small foods, like brine shrimp nauplii.
The next time you think to pick up a betta fish at your local pet store, consider trying out a different species. Wild bettas, like Betta coccina, are just as easy to care for as Betta splendens and don’t need a lot of space. In fact, several of these fish can happily live together in a small tank!
If you have any questions about scarlet bettas, other species of wild betta, or have had experience keeping these fish in your own aquarium, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!