Due to their stunning appearance, black orchid betta fish are some of the most popular freshwater varieties you can find. Seeing them swim around is quite the sight!
This guide will show you how to care for them, and provide helpful tips that you can refer back to as an owner.
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If you’re looking for a freshwater fish with a standout appearance, check out the black orchid betta. This fish is one variant of the betta fish (Betta splendens) species. Like other varieties, the black orchid is a product of selective breeding.
Wild bettas live in shallow marshes and rice paddies of Thailand. However, most of the fish you see on the market today are captive-bred. The black orchid is no different.
Nicknamed the “Siamese fighting fish,” these fish have a long-held reputation for being some of the most aggressive fish in the hobby. Black orchids have a look to match!
Their dark appearance is fitting for a species of this temperament. But despite its unique behavioral challenges, bettas are loved the world over. This particular color morph is sought-after among collectors for its dark and mysterious appearance.
Black orchid betta fish have a unique look you don’t see very often with this species. The body is dark-colored. Most specimens are dark black. However, some have a reddish tint or a bluish-green sheen that comes out with the bright lighting.
Complementing that dark coloration is an accent of iridescent blue on the fins. The color appears as streaks on the tail, creating a butterfly-like look to an already beautiful fish.
Of course, these creatures are known for their distinct shape. The body is slender and streamlined. The upturned mouth creates a subtle point, and the back arch creates a smooth profile.
The most defining feature? The fins.
Black orchid betta fish have gorgeous, expansive fins. The caudal fin is wide and has a fan-like shape. Meanwhile, the dorsal fin sits far back on the body, making it look like it connects to the tail.
The same goes for the anal fin. Together, those fins create a plumage of silk-like tissue that effortlessly flows in the water.
There are a few varieties of black orchid betta fish. Crowntail types also have large fins, but the tissue between the rays is shorter. The result is a spiky shape that mimics a crown.
Plakat fish are available, too. They have shorter fins, but they’re gorgeous nonetheless.
Author Note: It’s easy to distinguish between male and female black orchid bettas. The males are the ones with the eye-catching finds. Females have much shorter fins, but they still take on similar coloration.
Black orchid fish have a lifespan between two and five years when in captivity.
But don’t let that stop you from owning one! These fish will make a beautiful addition to your fish collection, and their quirky personalities make them a joy to own.
The quality of care you provide greatly impacts their lifespan. Low-quality food, poor living conditions, and general bad husbandry can make your fish susceptible to disease and premature death.
Black orchid bettas are relatively small fish, but their fins make them appear far larger.
The body itself is only two to three inches long, but those fantastical fins can create a profile three times their size. The tail fin alone often reaches a diameter of eight inches!
Fortunately, you only have to worry about the size of the body when getting a tank big enough for your black orchid betta (more on that soon).
Black Orchid Betta Care
Don’t let the ornate appearance of the black orchid betta fish fool you. These fish are easier to take care of than most realize. Years of selective breeding and good genetics created a surprisingly hardy and adaptable fish.
Of course, these fish have preferences you must meet. But all things considered, black orchid bettas are beginner-friendly. Follow these care guidelines, and you’ll have no problem keeping your fish in good health.
Have you ever seen bettas at the pet store? They’re often stored in separate plastic containers!
These fish don’t need a ton of room to thrive. In the wild, they typically claim territory that’s only about three feet wide.
In captivity, black orchid bettas need a tank size that’s at least five gallons large to stay healthy. They do well in nano-sized tanks or desktop habitats.
If you have the means to go bigger, it’s always a good idea to use a larger tank. A bigger aquarium will give you more space to create an enriching environment. Plus, you may be able to create enough room to add tank mates without having to worry about aggression.
Author Note: When choosing a tank, select one that’s more vertically oriented. Bettas live in shallow waters, so vertical tanks serve no real purpose to this species.
When creating an underwater habitat for any fish, the goal should be to model conditions to the fish’s natural environment. The same goes for the black orchid betta.
You won’t find any black orchids meandering through the rice paddies of Thailand. However, these fish carry genetic information from their wild counterparts. As a result, they prefer much of the same thing.
The great thing about black orchid bettas is that they’re incredibly adaptable. The entire betta species can live in relatively stagnant water with little oxygenation.
Believe it or not, these fish can breathe in atmospheric air. They have a labyrinth organ that facilitates both underwater and above-surface breathing. That’s why you often see the fish gulp air at the surface.
Even still, creating an enriching environment with rock-solid water conditions is best. Black orchids prefer warm waters with a relatively neutral pH balance and moderate hardness. The parameters are broad, cementing the specie’s hardiness.
However, the best course of action is to aim in the middle of these ranges to ensure that your fish can handle slight fluctuations.
- Water temperature: 72 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (Optimal temperature is around 78 degrees)
- pH levels: 6.0 to 8.0 (Near neutral)
- Water hardness: 5 to 35 dGH
What To Put In Their Tank
Black orchid bettas aren’t picky about the style or decor you use. Many hobbyists choose bettas for their more experimental tanks, pairing them with abstract decorative items and minimalistic aesthetics.
But if you’re going for realism, a thriving aquatic environment is what black orchids prefer most. They come from shallow waters filled with plants. While they rarely venture to the bottom of the tank, having plenty of hiding spots and enrichment items goes a long way.
At the bottom of the tank, use a smooth substrate material. Sand, smooth pebbles, and non-abrasive gravel work best.
Next, you can add plants. Black orchid betta fish love plants, and they do well with most freshwater cultivars. You can use popular plants like Anubias, water sprite, betta bulbs, Amazon Swords, and more.
Floating aquarium plants are a great option, too. These fish particularly love Amazon frogbit and water lettuce.
Fake plants will also work, but the real stuff will enrich the water and help keep conditions stable. Consider installing an artificial leaf perch. Bettas have a habit of hopping onto broad-leaf plants to rest.
They’ll do the same if you install the leaf perch near the waterline. Don’t worry: bettas can breathe even if they’re partially out of the water!
In addition to plants, add a few decorative rocks or artificial caves. You don’t have to get crazy with decorations, but enrichment items are always welcome.
Remember to add your equipment. Black orchid betta tanks need an efficient filtration system to keep ammonia levels under control and prevent the water conditions from souring. Choose one that’s appropriate for the tank you’re using.
Author Note: It’s a good idea to install sponge filters to dampen the water flow. Bettas aren’t the strongest swimmers, so too much of a current can cause problems.
Finally, install a lighting system to simulate daylight. In the wild, bettas live in shallow rice paddies where they get lots of light. So, strong lighting is the recommendation.
Common Possible Diseases
Black orchid bettas can suffer from a wide range of diseases. Many of them are entirely preventable.
When these fish get sick, it’s often a byproduct of poor tank maintenance. Despite their hardiness, there’s a limit to what black orchids can take. High ammonia levels, improper temperatures, and more can cause unnecessary stress.
That suppresses the immune system, causing many diseases to take over.
Like other freshwater fish, black orchids can suffer from Ich. The infectious disorder causes white spots to form all over the body. With this fish’s black color, they are easy to spot.
That’s a good thing because early treatment is crucial to a good prognosis.
Fin Rot happens when the bacteria attack the delicate tissue of the fins. The otherwise beautiful black fins slowly turn gray before sloughing off entirely. Those wounds take time to heal and could worsen with additional infections.
Dropsy is an infection caused by bacteria that live in most aquariums. It doesn’t affect healthy fish, but those dealing with the stress of a poorly maintained tank are the first to suffer. Fluids build up in the fish’s belly, creating massive health problems. If not caught early, dropsy can be fatal even after providing treatment.
Other common problems that plague this species are swim bladder disease and constipation. The latter is a digestive problem that prevents the fish from passing feces. Fortunately, it’s easy to treat with fasting.
Swim bladder disease is trickier to treat, requiring antibacterial solutions. It messes with the organ that affects buoyancy, causing swimming difficulties.
Food & Diet
Bettas are typically known as micro predators. In the wild, they predominantly feed on insect larvae, small aquatic creatures, and any other high-protein food they can find. Some fish will also eat plant detritus and vegetation but prefer meaty foods whenever possible.
Black orchid bettas can be on the pickier side. That’s especially true when first added to a new tank. However, high-quality foods can make that issue a thing of the past.
This species loves to eat common fish foods like bloodworms, daphnia, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, and more. They do well with live or frozen food. If going the frozen route, give the food time to defrost and soak in water.
You can also offer commercial foods. Betta pellets are readily available and provide a balanced diet. Flakes are available, too. However, most aquarists prefer pellets because they carry a lower risk of expansion and accidental choking.
Author Note: Black orchid bettas should eat once or twice a day. During each feeding, only provide enough food for the fish to eat for a minute or two. Bettas have a healthy appetite and sometimes don’t know when to stop eating.
As a result, over-feeding can be a problem. It’s best to portion meals and stick to short feedings.
Behavior & Temperament
If you know anything about this species, you know that aggression is common.
Black orchid bettas are natural and highly territorial predators, and they bully most fish into submission. When another creature encroaches on their territory, the black orchid will puff out its gills and look as intimidating as possible.
Then, they go on the offensive, striking fish to the point of death!
You can’t even have a mirror around. Black orchid bettas will see their reflection, think it’s an invader, and attack the glass. You must be careful about creating unwanted reflections.
If necessary, consider covering the sides of the glass to avoid that issue.
When your black orchid isn’t being aggressive, it’s pretty low-key. This species will spend its day exploring the tank, swimming through plants, and resting. They will often stick to the water’s surface and occasionally take sips of air.
You may even catch them lounging on leaves. They might look dead, but it’s just the fish’s way of resting.
You should never keep two male black orchid bettas together. In fact, betta males of any variety should never live together. It’s a recipe for disaster and will cause constant fighting.
If you want to keep more than one betta, consider having a sorority of females. Keeping three or four females to one male is just fine. However, you must ensure that your tank is big enough to give every fish its own space.
Contrary to popular belief, these fish can live with others. The trick is to steer clear of small fish and invertebrates that they can bully. You’ll also want to avoid fin-nippers that could cause harm to those beautiful black orchid fins.
Peaceful fish species that your betta can’t bully are best. Ideal tank mates for the black orchid betta include:
- Dwarf Gouramis
- Ember Tetras
- White Cloud Mountain Minnows
- Larger shrimp species
If you’re worried about aggression, you can always keep your black orchid betta fish alone. Unlike other species, they don’t mind a life of solitude.
The only way to breed black orchid betta fish is to use a bonded pair that live together. Introducing a new male and female could lead to trouble. Even if the couple is familiar with each other, you must keep an eye on them and take action if the female takes a beating.
Prepare a separate breeding tank with a divider to separate the male and female. Condition them with high-quality proteins for a few weeks. Increase meal frequency while adjusting your portion sizes to avoid overfeeding.
When the male is ready, he’ll blow bubbles to create a nest. Males move the bubbles to a plant or on the corner of the tank.
At that point, you can remove the divider to initiate spawning. The spawning process looks violent, but it’s normal.
Females release their eggs into the water for the male to fertilize and move to the bubble nest. He’ll then watch over the eggs for a few days as they incubate and hatch.
The freshly hatched fry will absorb the egg sac before becoming free-feeding. You can remove the adults and allow the young fish to continue developing. During that time, provide infusoria, baby brine shrimp, and other foods they can safely eat.
There’s a lot to like about black orchid betta fish. This variety is not only gorgeous, but easy to care for as well!
Let us know if you own one! We’d love to see some pictures and hear your stories.