If you’re new to betta-keeping, you’re most likely in awe at the amazing range of colors and tail forms. And all those fantastic species variants come with some pretty fancy names too, such as pineapples, metallics, piebald, butterfly, and the exotically named Cambodian.
In this article, we take a look at the Cambodian betta in more detail, and we explore how this beautiful color variant is possible. We also discuss how to breed “good” Cambodians for showing purposes.
What is a Cambodian betta?
A Cambodian betta is a variation of the bi-colored pattern. Still, it’s sufficiently distinct to have earned a name in its own right.
A bi-colored betta fish has a body of one solid color and fins of a different color. Bi-colors are typically marked in one of two ways:
- A dark bi-colored betta should have a solid-colored body in one of six accepted solid colors. The fish’s fins should be either brightly colored or translucent. However, contrasting color to the body is the preferred form.
- A light bi-colored betta must have a light-colored body. Although light-colored fins are acceptable for showing purposes, dark contrasting colors to the body are preferable.
With both the dark and light bi-color betta varieties, the fish must only have two colors. A competition will disqualify a betta with any other markings. The exception to that rule would be darker shading on the fish’s head, which is most specimens possess.
In Cambodian betta fish, the bi-colored pattern consists of a pale body that is ideally white, flesh-colored, or pale pink, with brightly colored fins that are typically red, although other fin colors are sometimes known to occur.
Note that, in all cases, the Cambodian betta must still have a solid flesh-colored body, regardless of his fin color.
Cambodian betta genetics
The light-bodied group of phenotypes in betta fish that is widely known as Cambodian has been traced to a single recessive gene.
It’s important to understand the nature of the action of that gene. It has previously been stated that it produces a “light-pink bodied fish” or “unvollstaendige albino.”
As previously mentioned, the perfect Cambodian betta should have a clean, pale body that is free from color impurities, and the fish will have bright, solid-colored fins. Although breeding Cambodian bettas is pretty straightforward, producing good Cambodians presents as great a challenge as breeding good fish from any of the other betta color lines. There are four crucial factors that are essential in the “ideal” Cambodian betta.
There must be NONE of the following:
- Black on the black color layer
- Red on the body on the red layer
- Iridescence on the iridescent layer
- Yellow on the yellow layer
Therefore, to breed a clean Cambodian betta of good quality that has a solid, flesh-colored body, you will need to use more than just a single gene that will remove the black.
Unfortunately, the Cambodian betta has received something of a bad reputation for spoiling the extended red line by muting the red color layer so that a less intense red is produced. In point of fact, the Cambodian gene has no effect on the red layer at all.
However, because the gene eliminates the black, it does have the effect of making an extended red fish appear paler. Breeders also use Cambodians in NR lines, such as orange and yellow, to produce a solid orange or yellow betta that is more intense in color.
So, from a genetics standpoint, just what is a Cambodian betta?
Cambodian (cc) male bettas are sometimes just as red as normal (not extended) red bettas. The only difference being the suppression of black on both the fins and body of the fish.
It’s important to note that Cambodian bettas are not true albinos, as the fish’s eye does contain a full quota of melanin pigmentation. That said, true albinos do occur in bettas, but these fish are usually partially or completely blind, which makes spawning and even basic survival very challenging. For that reason, no albino strain has been established or encouraged, and the relationship between the C locus and albinism has never been tested.
In some strains of Cambodian betta, a lot of black can form on the bodies of adult fish as a series of very regular dots. Careful examination of these fish reveals that these dots are caused by the presence of melanophores in the intermediate zone. The melanophores never appear in the deep zone, and they are only ever rarely present in the superficial zone.
It’s thought that the black spotting on Cambodians is inherited, although that theory has not been exhaustively tested because of the irregular time of the spots’ appearance. Often, the black spotting doesn’t develop until the fish is relatively old at 18 months. Red develops much later on male Cambodian bettas than on dark fish, and female Cambodian bettas very rarely develop red on the body. However, female Cambodians do have fins that are as red as that of their male counterparts.
Breeding Cambodians: What to look for
Breeding bettas is a fascinating, fun hobby, which frequently produces the unexpected!
Choosing the Breeders
When working to produce a line of “good” Cambodians, you should begin by choosing a male that is as pale in the body as possible.
Sometimes, a very pale, clean-bodied male Cambodian betta that doesn’t have any black or red impurities in the body color is available for purchase. Crossing that male with a very clean-bodied female Cambodian should produce a high number of true red or flesh-colored offspring. For that reason, you should only use Cambodian bettas that derive from NR lines for breeding purposes. Fish from extended lines will still spawn a large number of extended red or normal red offspring.
When choosing breeding stock, be extremely wary of very pale-bodied fish in which the fin color is also affected. These fish are usually carrying the opaque gene and could also be showing a pastel influence. A true Cambodian betta should have a flesh-colored body, together with vibrant, bright red or violet-red fins.
You may come across a great many references to green Cambodians, blue Cambodians, and even black Cambodian bettas. However, breeders are generally of the opinion that the only true Cambodian betta is flesh or red-colored. Those other varieties, while they possess a pale body and colored fins, do not behave either phenotypically or genotypically as a true Cambodian betta does. They are probably better categorized as marble or pastel bettas.
So, with that in mind, here’s how cross-breeding to other variants of betta outside of a pure, good Cambodian, would influence the spawn:
A Cambodian male mated to a…
- Green (dark-bodied female) would produce a 100% multicolored genotype.
- Multicolor Cambodian genotype female would produce 50% Cambodian, 50% multicolor Cambodian genotype.
- Cambodian female would produce a spawn of 100% Cambodian.
Here’s an extra tip to leave you with: Avoid fish that are advertised as albinos. Albino bettas do sometimes occur, but they are usually blind. You don’t want to risk perpetuating that genetic fault by further breeding the faulty gene. Only by using Cambodian male and female bettas can you be sure of producing true, good quality Cambodian spawn.
Breeding a good Cambodian betta is not an easy task, but when you’re successful, the results can be spectacular!