In this fascinating article, we feature the story of one professional breeder’s adventures when he tried to produce a fish that was a combination of the traditional Cambodian black but with black finnage.
The breeder in question was Walt Maurus, author of the highly-praised book, “Bettas, a Complete Introduction.”
The Initial Attempt
Maurus attempted to combine Cambodian body coloring with black fins. Although the project was interesting, the venture quickly became one of the most frustrating that experienced breeder Maurus had ever attempted.
First of all, a Cambodian female betta was crossed with a black male. The resulting spawn all exhibited the usual colors, but none were either Cambodian or black. Of course, that was to be expected in the first generation. Both Cambodian and black betta fish will give way to the more common colors found in the genetic background of each fish.
Next, a brother/sister cross produced a second-generation. That generation presented an approximate result of what Maurus was hoping for. However, the fish still had paleness and irregularity of the black markings on their fins. Maurus’ frustration grew as more generations of bettas passed without the result he was hoping for. It was only the beauty of some of the fish that the experiment produced that kept the experiment going.
Some breeders today report that they have bettas that do exhibit the combination tried in Marcus’ early experiments but with some improvements.
Notably, the intensity of the contrast has improved, and the enhancement has become even more sophisticated. Reports have indicated the existence of Cambodian black/white butterfly bettas. Maurus admitted to speculating on just how many color and pattern variations he could produce in bettas at any one moment. But he conceded that the creation of a definitive list would be very short-lived. However, that was exhilarating to Maurus, rather than frustrating!
The “Lethal Factor”
The brown, black, and Cambodian-black strains of betta fish all suffer from a malady that unseen among other betta fish colorings. Female bettas that are phenotypically black, brown, or Cambodian-black seem to be physically unable to provide viable eggs. They lay large clutches of eggs, but these always seem to develop fungus.
That odd phenomenon, known as the “lethal factor,” appears in blacks and related strains. Breeders from right across the U.S. have reported experiencing the same problem. Females that were phenotypical colors other than Cambodian-black, brown, or black but genotypically black, were used to continue the strains. As a result, they could pass on the color to their offspring, even though they did not exhibit the color themselves. Roughly a quarter of the fry were of the desired coloring when crossbreeding was carried out in this way. That is why there are hardly any of these strains on the market; very few breeders will take on the challenge of such a small success ratio.
The development of the gold strain came out of Maurus’ experiments with the Cambodian-black cross. Several of the first-generation fish were iridescent green. And a tiny sparkle of gold was seen in the pectorals of a few. A crossbreeding of a second-generation brother/sister resulted in both green and Cambodian fry, which grew to have a beautiful golden sheen to their bodies that extended to the finnage. However, the fins were mainly red.
In some of the fish, the pectoral fins were solid gold in color. Subsequent generations of the strain reduced the red coloration and enhanced the gold. One interesting aside is that when the fry are about two weeks to one month old, they look very much like tiny brass nails.