Betta Fish Anatomy


One of the reasons Betta Fish are so popular is because of their beautiful anatomy. They have vibrant colors and unique anatomy (especially fin forms) that aquarists drool over. In this article we will discuss the main parts of the Betta Fish Anatomy:

  • Eyes
  • Mouth
  • The Beard
  • Finnage
  • Labyrinth
  • Internal Organs

Betta Fish Anatomy: The Eyes

The eyes are located on the side of the head (one on each side) which means that the Betta Fish has trouble seeing anything that is directly in front of them. The eyes protrude and the iris is completely black. Betta Fish cannot blink, but their eyes are able to move to follow the movement of whatever they are investigating. They have very sharp eyesight, which no doubt helps in its natural habitat and during fights.

Betta Fish Anatomy: The Mouth

If you look closely at the jaws of your Betta fish you will begin to see that they are quite impressive. The lower jaw is lined with razor sharp teeth for shredding worms, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae and any other unfortunate creature. Get this, studies have shown that when the proportions of a Betta Fish and a Great White Shark are compared, the Betta Fish has bigger and stronger jaws.

As you may know, Betta Fish carry their fry in their mouth as well. Seems quite dangerous with those powerful jaws, right? Actually, there is a cavity behind their teeth where they can safely transport their fry back to the bubble nest. Find out more about Betta Fish Breeding.

Betta Fish Anatomy: The Beard

Betta Fish have a membrane under their gill plate cover which sticks out when the gills are closed. It is a distinct part of the Betta Fishes body and it looks little bit like a beard, so it is often called the Beard of a Betta. The beard also assumes the general coloration of the Betta Fish, so if the Betta is dark blue or red then the beard will be dark. On the other hand, if the Betta is white, yellow or another light color then the beard will be light in color.

The Beard of a Betta is sort of a protection mechanism. When the Betta opens its gill plates, the beard will be extended further and the Betta will look larger and more dangerous than it really is. This makes potential adversaries think twice about starting a fight. The female Bettas also have a beard, but it is small and barely noticeable.

Betta Fish Anatomy – The Finnage

The fins of a Betta Fish come in a variety of different shapes and sizes and are probably the most attractive part of these fishes. The fins do not start developing until the Bettas are about 8 weeks old. First the anal fin will develop, then the caudal and dorsal fins. The fins of a female only develop to a certain point and then stop, but the fins of a male continue to develop for their entire lives. This means that the fins can grow quite large. Since the fins are only a few cells thick they do not interfere with free movement of the fish, but they do make easy targets during fights.

The Betta Fish fins are also affected by disease which can cause them to wear and tear or even fall off completely. Sometimes the Betta will drop a fin completely and then grow it back. Every time a new fin is developed in this way it grows back with a different coloration. I have a page dedicated to the fins of a Betta Fish if you want to read more about them.

Betta Fish Anatomy: The Labyrinth

Betta fish are able to get oxygen in two ways. The first way is through the gills like nearly all other fish and the second is breathing air directly from the surface. An organ named the Labyrinth makes this possible.

The Labyrinth is equivalent to the lungs of mammals. It facilitates the exchange of gases at the arterial level; oxygen is absorbed and carbon dioxide is exhaled. The Labyrinth is quite small so if the water has little oxygen the Betta has to make very frequent trips to the surface to breath. In similar conditions other fish would have problems surviving, but the Betta is able to make it relatively easily.

Betta Fish Anatomy: Various Internal Organs

In the front half of the Betta’s body (from the nose to the start of the anal fin) you will find all of the important organs: heart, liver, brain, spleen, and stomach. Then anus is found at the anal fin. In females, you will see a white spot in that area. That is where the eggs are released during spawning.

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