Recent years have seen wild betta fish species becoming more popular. One of the most popular types is Betta imbellis.
Because of their relatively relaxed temperament and docile character, Betta imbellis has earned the common name the ‘Peaceful Betta’.
Peaceful bettas can be kept in a wider variety of tank setups than other bettas, including male and female pairs and community tanks with peaceful tank mates. Let’s get to know them better and learn how to keep them happy and healthy!
Betta Imbellis at a Glance
|Betta Imbellis info|
|Common Names||Peaceful Betta, Peaceful Fighter Fish, Crescent Betta|
|Maximum Size||2-2.5 inches|
|Care Level||Easy - Intermediate|
|Native Range||Southern Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia|
|Minimum Tank Size||10 gallons per fish|
|Water pH||5.5 – 7.5|
|Tank Mates||Other small peaceful fish|
Betta Imbellis – A Type of Wild Betta
Betta imbellis are a type of ‘wild betta fish’ in the Betta splendens complex. This means that they’re closely related to domesticated Betta splendens (aka. Siamese Fighting Fish), but have some different characteristics and are less highly bred.
Wild bettas have been becoming more popular in recent years due to their robust character, strong swimming ability, and typically more peaceful temperament than Betta splendens the ‘Siamese Fighting Fish’.
Other wild members of the Betta Splendens complex include Betta imbellis, Betta siamorientalis, Betta smaragdina, Betta stiktos, and Betta Mahachaiensis.
It must be understood, however, that these ‘wild bettas’ are not usually wild-caught! Most specimens you’ll find in pet stores have been captive-bred, and are simply much closer to the wild forms than the average Betta splendens.
Origin and Background
Betta imbellis is native to Southern Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. They hail from similar habitats to other members of the Betta splendens complex – rice paddies, swamps, ditches, and forest pools.
They have been far less exploited by the aquarium trade than their cousins, Betta splendens, but have been becoming more popular due to their combination of placid character and beautiful looks.
Size and Appearance
Wild Betta imbellis are rather plain-looking species with dull brown to dark red and blue colors.
Selective breeding, however, has produced an array of highly attractive color forms. The classic Betta imbellis sold by specialists today has beautiful blue metallic scales, interspersed with dark red skin pigments.
While their fins are not as long and showy as those of Betta splendens, they often possess exquisite patterns of the same dark red and iridescent blue colors that cover their body.
The attractive crescent-shaped tail of Betta imbellis has led to some hobbyists referring to them as ‘Crescent Bettas’. To see just how stunning modern types of Betta imbellis can be, I highly recommend checking out this well-made video from a wild betta specialist in Thailand.
Please see the ‘Sexual dimorphism’ section for notes on differences between male and female fish.
Betta Imbellis Care Guide
Like every other species in the Betta splendens complex, these fish need at least 5 gallons of swimming space per fish to be happy.
Because Betta imbellis is a fairly strong swimmer, I’d suggest that at least a 10-gallon tank for an individual fish, and a 20-gallon tank for a pair would be an even better option.
Betta imbellis will be happiest when you replicate their natural environment within your fish tank. Like other bettas, they thrive in a densely planted aquarium with dim lighting.
Plants and Decor
Pieces of driftwood look especially stunning in Betta tanks, and some rocky caves are useful to provide hiding places for both your bettas and any tank mates you choose to keep with them.
The natural habitats of Betta imbellis have soft muddy or sandy bottoms. Because these fish don’t tend to dig, however, this doesn’t need to be replicated in your aquarium.
Since aquarium gravel provides a better substrate for plant growth, is easier to clean, and doesn’t get stuck in filters, I’d advise a gravel substrate over sand for most setups.
Because the dark waters and overhanging trees of their native habitat allow less light to penetrate the water, Betta imbellis are adapted to fairly subdued lighting conditions.
The ideal balance is to provide enough lighting to stimulate sufficient plant growth yet not overwhelm your fish. An elegant solution is to incorporate floating plants like Amazon frogbit and water sprite that create a dappled shading effect underneath.
Use a timer switch to give your bettas around 10-12 hours of light per day.
Betta fish are notoriously good at jumping and are well-known for leaping out of fish tanks and onto the floor. The athletic physique of wild bettas makes them even more prone to this.
A tight-fitting tank lid without gaps is essential to prevent death by jumping and also helps to conserve heat within the tank.
Betta imbellis have an even more southerly distribution than most of their relatives, so I’d advise that warm water is especially important for this species
Install a reliable aquarium heater to keep the temperature range between 78-81°F.
Like other tropical species, Betta imbellis are sensitive to sudden changes in water temperature, so acclimatizing them properly in a new tank and avoiding temperature fluctuations is important to avoid thermal shock.
In the wild, Betta imbellis inhabits ‘blackwater’ environments that are stained by tannins. This type of water is characterized by soft water chemistry and a low pH.
Despite this, modern breeding over several generations has made these fish more tolerant to a wider range of water parameters.
Assuming your fish are captive-bred, a pH of anywhere between 5.5 – 7.5 will suffice. In the unlikely event you source wild-caught fish, they’ll prefer a pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
If you live in an area with alkaline water, you can make your water more acidic by adding items such as Indian almond leaf litter, peat, and driftwood that release tannins.
As with keeping any fish, an efficient aquarium filter is essential. Don’t buy into the myths that betta fish can live without a filter!
For 10-20 gallon tanks, I’d recommend installing one or two sponge filters. These filter types are inexpensive and don’t create the strong current that bettas hate.
For larger tanks, Hang-on-back filters and internal power filters are a better option, but water current should be moderated. Some filters allow you to manually adjust the flow rate. On other models, you can reduce the water current by using an aquarium spray bar, or lily pipe.
Betta imbellis are primarily carnivorous fish and will do best when fed on a meaty diet. While wild-caught fish may reject dried fish foods, captive-bred fish can be fed on the usual betta pellets, flake foods, and dried treats as a staple.
Commercial fish foods, however, should always be supplemented with high-protein fresh and frozen foods such as bloodworms, tubifex worms, daphnia, brine shrimp, and mosquito larvae.
Remember that overfeeding is one of the most common causes of water quality and health problems in betta fish. Aim to feed your bettas twice a day, with no more than they can eat in 2 minutes.
One of the biggest selling points of Betta imbellis is their relatively docile temperament.
Dubbed the ‘peaceful betta’ they’re usually a significantly more peaceful fish than Betta splendens, but that doesn’t mean they’re altogether benevolent!
Remember that each fish has its own personality, meaning that while many Betta imbellis males can be kept as community fish, the most feisty of them will be equally fierce as other Betta varieties and could still bully other fish.
Keep Betta Imbellis Alone or as a Pair
Whereas most Betta males are too aggressive to be kept permanently alongside a female, Betta imbellis provides an exception to this rule.
Although male Betta imbellis can still be aggressive towards females, they can just as often get along amicably and breed together without the female being harmed.
Because fighting can still occur, however, I’d only recommend keeping pairs for advanced fish keepers. For most aquarists, keeping a single male with some peaceful tank mates is the most sensible option.
Compatible Tank Mates
Because Betta imbellis tend to be more peaceful than other species of betta, they can be kept with a wider range of tank mates.
The usual recommendations for Betta splendens tank mates like harlequin rasboras, corydoras catfish, bristlenose plecos, and kuhli loaches still apply, but you can keep Betta imbellis with a larger range than this.
Most peaceful tetras like neon tetra, rummy nose tetra, cardinal tetra, and black skirt tetra are compatible, as are other small fish like danios, guppies, and most members of the rasbora tribe. Larger livebearers like platies and swordtails can also be considered.
As with Betta splendens, keeping some cleanup crew invertebrates such as ghost shrimp, cherry shrimp, Amano shrimp, and nerite snails is a good way to keep algae growth under control while adding interest to the tank.
Because they have shorter fins and a more agile physique than Betta splendens, the ‘peaceful betta’ may be less prone to having their fins nipped by other fish. Still, avoid keeping them with renowned fin-nippers like Serpae tetra and Buenos Aires tetra, and never with barbs, gouramis, or cichlids.
Health and Disease
Peaceful bettas can suffer the same health issues as other types of betta. Fin rot and swim bladder diseases are especially prevalent when water quality is poor, or their feeding regime is inadequate.
Ich, velvet, and columnaris are common parasitic and bacterial diseases that can lie dormant in an aquarium for years until a weakened fish or very poor water quality offers them a chance to strike.
Nipped fins are a classic way for fin rot to take hold – a bacterial infection that can later invade the rest of the body.
Keeping Betta imbellis with peaceful tank mates, with plenty of hiding places in a clean tank, is, therefore, the best defense against stress and unnecessary diseases.
As with other bettas, male Betta imbellis have much larger fins and more colorful bodies than their female counterparts.
Nevertheless, females also possess a modest beauty and can have some attractive colors on their fins. Keeping an all-female betta sorority with this species is possible, but since they can be kept in pairs, it’s a more unusual practice with this species.
Because peaceful betta males are usually more docile towards females, they’re slightly easier to breed than some other kinds of betta.
- Set up a 20-gallon breeding tank with a sponge filter and some floating plants.
- Like their cousins, Betta imbellis are bubble nesters. Using plants for mooring, the male builds a bubble nest from air bubbles mixed with sticky saliva at the water’s surface.
- If the male is successful at impressing the female, the pair will mate and carry the fertilized eggs to the nest.
- After spawning the parent fish can be removed from the tank to avoid them eating their eggs or young.
- Eggs will normally hatch after one to two days and the fry are free swimming for a further two days.
- Feed the fry on liquid fry food for the first days until they’re large enough to begin eating baby brine shrimp and microworms. Keep the tank scrupulously clean to avoid infections.
Wild bettas will usually live to a similar age to Betta splendens in captivity.
Four years is about average, but when kept in excellent condition, these fish can exceed 5 years in age.
Some top tips for keeping your Betta imbellis in tip-top condition!
- Install a good filter and clean it every 2-3 weeks.
- Vacuum your substrate and make partial water changes of 15-35% every 1-2 weeks with treated water of matching temperature.
- Get yourself a reliable heater and thermometer. Make daily checks to ensure the temperature is within the ideal range for all of your fish.
- Observe your tank closely every day to ensure all fish are in good health and interacting peacefully with each other.
- Test your aquarium’s water at least once a month or any time your fish seem unwell. Always keep nitrate levels below 20 ppm.
Betta imbellis are becoming more popular, but they’re still seen far less regularly than regular pet bettas in fish stores. Instead, you might have to go directly to a specialist online dealer or breeder.
If you’re buying your fish from a store, only choose active individuals, with bright colors, shiny eyes, and healthy-looking fins. If you’re buying online, always check reviews to ensure the site’s integrity.
The price of Betta imbellis can vary wildly depending on their particular form. Prices range from $7 – $30 for most types in 2023, with unique color forms sometimes fetching far higher prices.
Betta imbellis earned their name ‘the peaceful betta’ for good reason! These wild Betta fish are indeed more mild-mannered than many of their relatives, meaning they can be kept with a wider variety of fish in community tank setups.
Selective breeding has produced a dazzling array of colors in this fish, making them a great choice if you’re looking to keep a beautiful betta without the boisterous bravado of regular Siamese fighting fish.