If you love betta fish, you’ll adore the Emerald betta!
Contrary to popular belief, bettas can live in a community setting, provided that they’re housed with peaceful non-territorial species. But is this beautiful fish suitable for life in your aquarium?
Read this guide to learn how to care for these popular tropical fish and more.
Betta Smaragdina – Summary
The Emerald betta’s scientific name is betta smaragdina, taking its common name from its sparkling, emerald green color.
|Emerald Betta Info|
|Common Names||Emerald betta|
|Scientific Name||Betta smaragdina|
|Minimum Tank Size||4 to 10 gallons|
|Lifespan||Up to 4 years|
|Diet||Omnivore but primarily carnivorous|
|Water temperature||75° to 81°F|
|pH level||pH 6.5 to 7.5|
|Water hardness||3 to 5 dKH|
Emerald Betta Origins
These wild species of betta are found throughout the eastern regions of Thailand, including on the Khorat Plateau. The Emerald betta also inhabits localized areas of Cambodia and Laos, and thanks to human activity, the species has spread to Malaysia and the rest of Thailand. So, that makes betta smaragdina one of the most widely distributed betta species, together with betta splendens.
Wild betta fish live in slow-moving water bodies, such as rice paddies, pools, ditches, and swamps.
These habitats are heavily vegetated, and the muddy substrate is rich with organic materials, including leaves and algae. Although betta fish are primarily carnivorous, they also feed on small quantities of algae and plant matter.
The water conditions are generally poor in these environments, and oxygen levels are low. Over generations, bettas have evolved a structure called a labyrinth organ that enables the fish to take atmospheric oxygen directly from the air.
Even in captivity, you will see your pet betta fish periodically darting up to the water surface to snatch a gulp of air. If the betta is unable to breathe through his labyrinth organ, the fish will not be able to derive enough dissolved oxygen from the water, causing stress and potentially weakening the betta’s immune system.
What Does Betta Smaragdina Look Like?
The name Smaragdina comes from the Latin word for emerald.
The betta smaragdina is a distinctive emerald green color with green patterning and is covered in iridescent aqua-green scales that create a snake-like pattern. The fish appears blue when viewed under cold lighting, although its real coloration is green, tinged with orange accents.
LIke the betta mahachaiensis, betta smaragdina is the largest in the betta splendens group. Males of this species can reach up to 2.5 inches in length. Females are slightly smaller, growing to around 2 inches long and not boasting the same vibrant coloration and large fins as their male counterparts.
Betta Smaragdina Vs Betta Mahachaiensis
Betta mahachaiensis is similar in size and appearance to betta smaragdina. However, there are differences between these two species of wild betta fish.
The most obvious difference between the fish is their scales. As previously mentioned, Betta smaragdina has a very distinctive scaling pattern that resembles a snake. That coloration and pattern extend throughout the betta’s body into its cheeks.
In contrast, the betta mahachaiensis has a black stripe that divides the mask on its cheeks and a more plated type of scale. The black background color is more evident in this variety of betta, and the scales don’t form a consecutive pattern.
Betta Smaragdina Subspecies
There are two variants of the betta smaragdina:
Betta smaragdina sp. guitar
This species of betta is a wild sub-species that occurs naturally and is found only in northeastern Thailand.
These fish differ from betta smaragdina in that they have markings on their caudal and dorsal fins that resemble a guitar. The two species are virtually identical in size and coloration, although the sub-species’ ventral fins are longer.
Betta smaragdina ‘copper’
The betta smaragdina copper is a hybrid subspecies that has been artificially created by selective breeding. This variety of betta smaragdina is a beautiful copper-brown but is otherwise very similar to the original smaragdina.
However, this variant is a hybrid and cannot be crossbred with the original smaragdina species.
Typical Emerald Betta Behavior
Wild betta fish tend to be quite shy when kept in community tanks. That can lead to aggression toward their tank mates and even result in the betta being injured. That said, betta smaragdina is quite a bit more resilient to many of the common fish diseases that affect tank-kept tropical fish since they haven’t been weakened by crossbreeding in captivity.
However, one major cause of fatalities in wild captive bettas is accidental death through the betta jumping out of the tank.
It’s a myth that you can keep a sorority of female bettas and have two males. You must never keep two male bettas in one tank, as that will undoubtedly lead to fighting and, most likely, injuries and death. Wild bettas are always solitary and will fight each other if they meet. Even without the presence of females in the aquarium, the betta fish is a bubble nester, and that behavior won’t change.
Betta Smaragdina Care Guide
Betta smaragdina are beginner-friendly and pretty easy to look after. However, you do need to set the tank up correctly and maintain it properly if your betta is to live a happy and healthy life.
Despite being small fish, wild male bettas command quite an extensive territory in the natural environment. For that reason, a larger tank is preferable, although an aquarium between 4 and 10 gallons is fine.
A tank of that size gives the betta a manageable patch to patrol and defend without him becoming stressed, which can sometimes happen if the tank is too big and the betta is kept alone. However, if you go for a larger setup, use plants and decorations to divide the tank into different parts that the betta can claim as a territory.
Always choose a betta tank with a tightly fitting lid! These fish are excellent jumpers, and you don’t want to risk your fishy friend leaping right out of the tank.
Bettas are relatively hardy fish, although they are very sensitive to the water temperature in their tank. Ideally, the temperature should be close to 78°F, not lower than 75°, and no higher than 81°F. Keeping a betta fish in hot water or water that’s too cool can cause serious health problems, including temperature shock.
Also, the water temperature should be as close to the ambient air temperature as possible to prevent damage to the betta’s labyrinth organ.
The ideal water pH is between 6.5 and 7.5, with a water hardness of 3 to 5 dKH.
Wild bettas do best in a shaded aquarium rather than a very brightly lit tank. You can replicate the betta’s natural, dimly lit environment by using floating plants. You’ll also find that the betta will rest and hide among the leaves, which are also perfect for bubble nesting.
In the natural smaragdina habitat, the betta’s environment is full of thick vegetation. That not only keeps the water well-oxygenated and filtered, but it provides the fish with the cover they need for safety and ambush hunting. In a tank setting, bettas like to use a broad plant leaf as a resting place, so we recommend that you use plenty of living plants in your betta’s tank. Use plants such as java moss, Cryptocoryne, anubias, and the like.
You should also include extra shelter in the form of hardscapes, such as rocks or driftwood.
The deep sediment substrate in the wild betta’s wild habitats is often covered with a layer of leaf litter. So, it’s a good idea to use Catappa leaves in your betta’s tank.
Catappa leaves add tannins to the water, helping to lower the pH and prevent diseases, giving the water a more natural look.
Although many betta keepers don’t use a filtration system, you absolutely should!
Probably the most common cause of disease and fish kills in tropical tanks is poor water conditions. All fish tanks should be properly filtered to remove toxic chemicals, including ammonia and nitrites, from the water and control the levels of nitrates that are present.
As far as betta fish are concerned, the waters in their natural habitat are generally very slow-moving or even stagnant. So, the flow in your tank should be gentle but strong enough to circulate the water around the tank and through the filtration system at least four times per hour. If necessary, you can buffer the flow by using plants or decorations or choosing a filtration system with an adjustable flow director.
Each week you’ll need to carry out partial water changes of up to 20% to keep the water fresh and healthy for your Emerald betta.
As part of the water change regimen, you should use an aquarium vacuum cleaner to remove fish waste, dead plants, uneaten food, and other organic matter from around the bases of plants, underneath ornaments, and in the tank’s corners. If you don’t remove that general detritus and allow excessive amounts to accumulate in the tank, the waste will gradually rot, polluting the water and potentially leading to health problems for your fish.
What Are Good Tank Mates For Emerald Bettas?
Although betta splendens can safely live in a community tank of peaceful species, the same doesn’t necessarily apply to the Emerald betta.
These wild fighting fish tend to be shy when placed in a busy tank full of other fish, which can lead to your beautiful pet hiding away so that you don’t get to enjoy him. However, you can include a few peaceful, small fish species, snails, and shrimp if you provide sufficient cover for your betta fish.
What To Feed Your Betta Smaragdina
To keep your fish healthy and thriving, it’s crucial that you feed him a high-quality, balanced diet.
Wild bettas are primarily carnivorous, feeding on insect larvae and water-bound insects, as well as a small quantity of plant matter and algae. Captive bettas can be picky eaters, but if you offer your pet a diet containing frozen meaty protein, specially formulated betta pellets, fish flakes, and freeze-dried bloodworms, he should be fine.
Good foods for Emerald bettas include bloodworms, Mysis shrimp, artemia, mosquito larvae, and daphnia. You can offer your fish live foods, but ensure that you source them from a reliable supplier to avoid bringing diseases and parasites into your fish tank.
How Much And How Often To Feed
One of the most critical care requirements for betta fish is correct feeding.
Like all betta fish, betta smaragdina can suffer from health problems, such as constipation if overfed. So, we recommend that you feed your fish twice daily, offering only what your betta will clear in a couple of minutes.
It’s also recommended that you don’t feed your betta for one day per week. That allows any food still in the fish’s digestive tract to be processed and digested, avoiding problems such as constipation and bloating, which are common in this species.
Breeding Betta Smaragdina
It’s actually pretty easy to breed this variation of betta fish. However, you should look for reputable breeders prepared to sell you pairs for breeding purposes.
You’ll need to condition the breeding pair for a couple of weeks prior to spawning. Set up a breeding tank of around 10 to 15 gallons so that the pair have plenty of space and include lots of potential nesting sites and hiding places in the form of floating plants, overhangs, and caves.
The male will build a bubble nest. Place the female in a bottle or small perspex tank and place it in the breeding tank with the male. That arrangement allows the fish to meet without physical contact.
Within a couple of days, the female betta should show pronounced vertical markings. As long as the male doesn’t appear to be aggressive, you can then release the female into the tank with him. There may be a small amount of aggression at this point, but that’s not a cause for concern and is quite normal during the breeding season, as long as the two are not constantly fighting.
Spawning takes between one and two days. Once the eggs have been laid and transferred by the fish to the bubble nest, you should remove the female so that the male doesn’t attack her.
At first, the fry will feed on their egg’s yolk sac. Once the fry is free-swimming in a couple of days, you should remove the male betta. Feed the fry infusoria or vinegar eels until they are large enough to take the same food as the adults.
You don’t generally see these unusual bettas offered for sale in pet stores. However, you can sometimes find them online or through specialist betta breeders.
Since these beautiful betta fish are quite rare, they are expensive, costing between $50 and $100 on average, depending on the coloration and quality of the specimen.
Is The Betta Smaragdina Suitable For My Tank?
If you want a fish that you can keep in a relatively small tank, either alone or perhaps with a few non-aggressive tank mates, the betta smaragdina could be a good choice for you.
These beautiful betta fish are pretty easy to care for and can make an eye-catching addition to your fishkeeping hobby. However, the betta smaragdina is not cheap, so for that reason, we recommend that only aquarists with experience in keeping betta fish take on this species.