Articles Betta

Rosetail betta – the downside of beauty

February 9, 2014
rosetail betta

I’ve been seeing a lot of extreme rosetail and feathertail bettas on Aquabid lately – and a lot of people admiring them on other websites like Tumblr. Their peacock-like tails make them beautiful fish to see, but at what cost? A lot of rosetail/feathertail betta admirers don’t realize that the excessive branching of the caudal fin (tail) on those beautiful fish has some very big downsides. Think twice before you stimulate these extremes by buying a fish like this or using it in your own lines!

What are rosetail/feathertail bettas?

Rosetail and feathertail bettas are halfmoon bettas with extra branching in the fin rays (especially on the caudal fin). This allows the caudal fin to spread beyond 180° in some cases, causing it to overlap with the other fins. This makes for a gorgeous fish; the excessive branching gives the fins a rose-like, or, in extreme cases, feather-like appearance.

Their beauty has made rosetails and feathertails increasingly commercially popular. Whereas at first they were mainly used by breeders to quickly improve the tail spread of their lines, they are now specifically bred to sell to the public on sites like Aquabid. And I have to agree, if I didn’t know better I’d definitely consider this tail types over others! Unfortunately, only paying attention to improving the finnage of a fish to create the ultimate X-factor rosetail will cause many problems for said fish later on.

Why should this tail type be avoided?

As mentioned before, I would try to avoid buying rosetail and feathertail bettas. This especially goes for the more extreme versions. The fish you see in photos and videos are almost always still young and strong; their fins are not fully grown in yet and they are not showing the various typical ‘rosetail-problems’.

  • Lethargy. This one can also be seen in more extreme halfmoons, but is extra common with rosetails and feathertails. Their fins are so heavy the fish can’t swim for long periods of time and often spend most of their day sitting on plant leaves or on the bottom of the tank.
  • Broken fin rays. Fin rays are the thin bones that hold the webbing of the fin together. Towards the end of the fin these rays spread out, which is called branching. Perfectly normal, except when the fish is bred so that the rays branch out much more than usual. The excessive branching causes a bigger tail, which in turn puts more weight on the rays. When the tail gets too heavy, the rays will not be able to hold the weight any more – they can break, causing the whole tail to collapse and damaging the fish. Once this happens, the beautiful rosetail/feathertail effect is usually gone; you’re left with a fish with collapsed fins that is often unable to swim properly.
  • Tail biting. One thing leads to another; to decrease the weight of their fins and move more freely, a lot of rosetail and feathertail bettas start tail biting at some point in their lives. This habit, where the fish simply bites off parts of the caudal fin, increases the chance of fin rot. It’s very important to keep the aquarium very clean if you have a tail biting betta!
  • Premature death. Most breeders agree that there is something wrong with the immune system in a lot of rosetail and feathertail bettas. They are weaker than regular bettas and often the smallest of the fry – because all the attention goes towards breeding the fish with the best finnage, other problems* are ignored. This can eventually lead to premature death, as the fish is more vulnerable to disease.
    *Ignoring imperfections just to focus on the fins can also lead to improper form or bad scaling, as showed in the video below. Note how the scales are not lined up like they’re supposed to be.

What to do when you already have a rosetail betta

If you’ve already bought a rosetail or feathertail betta or rescued one, you may run into one or more of the problems mentioned above. Some fishkeepers choose to trim the tail of their extremely long-finned bettas, but this is not something I’d recommend. There are, however, a few things you can do to keep your fish comfortable: baffle the filter is the flow seems bothersome, go for an aquarium that is long rather than tall and, most importantly, add plenty of resting places. Broad-leaved plants such as Anubias are perfect for this and will definitely be appreciated by tired and frustrated rosetails.

Real life example

A good example of what can happen when a rosetail betta is no longer young and strong was e-mailed to me by Kenny, admin of Goodbetterbetta on Tumblr. She rescued a betta from a neglected tank, but it unfortunately turned out that the problems Columbus had stretched way beyond just those caused by the neglect.

Columbus came to me as a rescue from an owner who hadn’t cleaned his tank in over a year (literally).
Columbus himself wasn’t in good shape, either. He was pale and skinny and never moved. He wouldn’t eat for a week. He must have been a feather or rose tail, but his fins were so blown out it was impossible to tell. The rays on his fins were all broken. His fins were ragged and lifeless and it was like he was just dragging a huge feather duster behind him. It limited his growth and he would tail-bite to reduce the weight, but it was never enough. He would sit there at the bottom of the tank, visibly miserable, or perch on the betta hammock I got for him so he could reach the surface to breathe more easily.

Columbus right after being rescued, waiting for his tank to be cleaned. You can obviously see the rosetail characteristics here.

Columbus right after being rescued, waiting for his tank to be cleaned. You can obviously see the collapsed rosetail here.

It’s important to mention that of course not all rosetails and feathertails will end up like Columbus. There are examples out there of fish with the gene living a happy healthy life, but most of the time things unfortunately go wrong at a later age. If you’re considering buying a rosetail betta, please think twice about it. Even if you don’t want to breed, you’re still encouraging the production of these extreme and harmful fin types.

For more info on betta keeping, check out the Betta caresheet. If you’re looking for more examples of experiences with rosetails,  be sure to scroll down to the comment section. Own a rosetail or feathertail betta yourself? Feel free to leave a comment and share your experience with them. Happy fishkeeping!

Cover photo: Double-Headed Awesome by yummysmellsca

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  • Reply Allen April 20, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    Great article! I bought a gorgeously fluffy halfmoon from an independent shop awhile ago and he always has probelms with his fins including dorsal + caudal fin breaks and degredation I think is from tail biting. He is really ugly now haha. I bought a normal tail-sized betta not long after I got the first and he has never had any problems with his fins, also he looks much better and healthier than the fancy halfmoon. They are in virtually the same water conditions + same water change frequency. I do not regret buying the halfmoon because he still has a good quality of life but would not buy another.

    • Reply Mari April 23, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      Sorry to hear about your betta, but glad you won’t be buying super long finned fish any more! Short finned bettas just seem so much happier. 🙂

  • Reply Please Help With First Betta (Rescue) - Page 6 - The Planted Tank Forum February 28, 2016 at 7:46 am

    […] leuistic, etc). Just mentioning. I saw you ask about rosetails before, but forgot to reply. Rosetail betta ? the downside of beauty | Aquariadise Forms & Finnage – Rosetail betta's AAB-Rosetails WaterLife is […]

  • Reply Marly Lamm January 7, 2016 at 6:45 am

    Hi I was wondering if I should be worried about my rosetail Rhaegal. His fins were in extremely bad condition when I got him but I saw his potential beauty. I have been successful in starting to heal and regrow his fins but after reading this I’m worried about his fins getting too big. Just FYI his fins didn’t have anything like described above, his fins looked like they had been cut into by something. Looked very human inflicted perhaps.

    • Reply Mari January 7, 2016 at 10:45 am

      Hi! Sorry to hear you had lots of trouble with your betta. Unless he starts getting visible issues, I wouldn’t worry too much. Please don’t support the breeding of rosetails by buying more in the future, though!

  • Reply BettaVet April 21, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    Thank you so much for this informative post. I wish I had seen it 4 months ago when I purchased my first Betta. He is a rosetail and was absolutely stunning. I purchased him from a chain store because I fell in love with his fins and color. Now 4 months in, he’s currently in quarrantine being treated for his second bout of fin rot. 🙁 Next time I will be wiser!

    • Reply Mari April 21, 2015 at 11:36 pm

      Glad this post was helpful to you in identifying the cause of your betta’s problems. So sorry to hear he’s not doing well, I’ve actually had problems with all types of long finned bettas, not just rosetails, so I definitely know what it’s like to have your fish in and out of quarantine constantly. Super frustrating! Hopefully he gets better soon.

  • Reply elizabeth March 5, 2014 at 1:44 am

    I’m so sad. I had no clue about rosetails. I bought a betta maybe 7 months ago, off of aquabid. A red rosetail who I now notice demonstrates everything you’ve mentioned. His tail is mangled from the biting, but he still has a lot of fin left, and noticeably struggles to swim to the top. He rests on the plant and columns I have in his tank. I’m not sure what to do, but keep the water levels low.

    • Reply Mari March 5, 2014 at 11:16 am

      Oh dear, I’m so so sorry to hear that. The best thing you can do I think is to keep him comfortable. Be sure to have lots of plants with big leaves like anubias and betta hammocks so he can rest near the surface. Baffle the filter if you haven’t already, but make sure the water stays very clean because the tail biting does leave him vulnerable to finrot. Keeping the water level low is also an option if nothing else works.

      Good luck with him. Hope these tips help a bit. 🙂

      • Reply Alvin Yao October 3, 2014 at 3:26 pm

        What about a fish surgery like the one done in here in this you tube vid:
        Would that help the rose tail live a longer, happier life?

        • Reply Mari October 4, 2014 at 1:37 pm

          Betta fins usually grow back as far as I know, at least they do when the fish has had fin rot. Also, they just shouldn’t be bred! If people stopped buying them the market would quickly disappear and breeders would stop breeding for excessive finnage.

          • Alvin Yao October 4, 2014 at 3:07 pm

            Yeah they shouldn’t be breed, but for the people who already have a rose tail, would cutting the finnage short in a fish urgery help it?

          • Mari October 4, 2014 at 6:28 pm

            I think that usually does more harm than good. I also think the fins may grow back like when the fish gets fin rot. Doing a “surgery” like this likely puts the fish at a huge risk of infection, even if the water is kept very clean. I’m not sure, though, as I’ve never read reports of it.

          • Alvin Yao October 5, 2014 at 4:42 am

            Ok, thanks for your reply!!!

  • Reply Jaws February 14, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Oh wow, thanks for this article!
    My first betta was, a halfmoon, was a rosetail from PetSmart and the second was a halfmoon with a large tail (not quite a rosetail) as well. I’ve still got them both, but let me say, I see a HUGE difference in activity level!
    First of all, both fish had CONSTANT issues with fin rot. At first I didn’t know what I was doing with my bettas, had them in tiny 2.5G tanks, and didn’t know how to properly take care of the water. Fast forward several month with both in a divided and cycled 10G, and my inexperience had permanently damaged one of the fish. Both nearly lost all of their tails and while both have their tails growing/grown back splendidly, the rosetail’s fins just don’t look right. It’s getting better, but the other halfmoon was almost much more active. At this point, because the rosetail had a harder time growing his fins back, his tail is smaller than the other fish. The thing I noticed? He’s much more active than he used to be, though still not as much as the other fish.
    And man, I wish I had seen this article when you first published it! Now that I’m a more experienced betta keeper, I’ve got 4 bettas, one of which is another rosetail. When I stuck him alone in a 10G, he had no idea what to do and didn’t move around a lot. I was concerned. He’s much more active with only having 5G, but it never even occurred to me that the reason behind that would be his fins. And because I’ve only had halfmoons and veiltails, I stupidly believed the LFS employees who told me bettas aren’t active fish (I have since been corrected and someone actually told me I should look at plakats)…
    So what I’m saying is, thank you! 4 bettas at a time is enough for me right now, but if and when I look at getting another betta, I’ll definitely check out the smaller finned guys (those ones seem to stay at LFS’s longer anyway). 🙂

    • Reply Mari February 16, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience! I’ll refer to your comment in the article, it’s definitely worth the read for anyone considering a rosetail.
      So sorry to hear you’ve had so much trouble with rosetails, this is just exactly what I meant. If you do ever get another betta, I’d totally recommend going for a plakat. I will be doing the same, as I’ve had nothing but trouble with ANYTHING long-finned!

  • Reply Mamajin February 11, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    Thanks for the shot of your hairy chest, and for the information in the post. 😉

    • Reply Mari February 12, 2014 at 9:52 am

      HAHA, wow, I hadn’t even noticed that! Apparently the rosetail breeder whose videos I used also likes to show off his chest… will replace that one by another video. My goodness!

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