Betta channoides is a small, relatively peaceful species of the B. splendens complex. It is very similar to Betta albimarginata and a great beginner species. It’s orange color with white and black accents make it an appealing Betta species for both beginners and experts.


Betta channoides in the wild

Betta channoides lives on the island of Borneo, in the eastern province. It inhabits the Mahakam river basin and lives in small streams and pools. These pools are shallow and have very low pH. The low pH in its habitat is caused by fallen leaf litter. The pH can get as low as 3-4 in some habitats. 

Not many plants are in the water, but roots of trees and vegetation provide extra cover. Most other natural cover is organic material such as branches and leaves. These streams are so called blackwater streams, due to the brown color the water has caused by the tannins the organic materials release.


Betta channoides is a relatively small-sized Betta species, with males getting up to around 2 inches in length. Males have bright orange coloration all over the body, that is more intense that of the females. Fins and ventrals are black and have white borders. 

Betta channoides has a remarkably big mouth, which is developed due to its way of breeding (mouthbrooder). This is where their nickname ‘Snakehead betta’ and scientific name channoides is derived from. The head of Betta channoides is in ways similar to that of Canna sp.

It can be hard to distinguish Betta channoides from its sibling in the Betta albimarginata complex, Betta albimarginata. The easiest and clearest way is to look at the dorsal fin. Betta channoides has a fully red-orange fin, with a white border at the top. Betta albimarginata has darker dorsal fins which are often fully black.


If you are looking for a peaceful betta, this species is a good choice. Betta channoides can be kept in pairs or even small groups with the fish living together peacefully.

Betta channoides males and sometimes females will fight between each other, if your tank is too small or just for dominance. Small frenzys will always happen, but those aren’t a problem if fish aren’t hurt.

In contrast to other species such as Betta splendens, Betta channoides doesn’t flare or attack each other when seeing each other. This doesn’t mean however that males can’t be aggressive. Males will fight when invading territories or feeling threatened. 

Thus, males should only be kept together in a big tank where each can form its own territory. Always have at least one female per male in the tank to minimise the risk of fights.

Betta channodies care


Betta channoides can be housed in pairs or groups. In a 10 gallon tank a pair can be housed. A 15 gallon tank can house a trio (1m 2f), and a 20 gallon can house a small group with max 2 males.

The far most important part in every wild betta setup is the plants. Every tank should be heavily planted in order to create natural cover for male and females to hide from each other. In bigger groups, a hierarchy will naturally form which causes small frenzys to regularly happen.

By putting in plants you not only provide cover but also recreate their natural habitat. However Betta channoides don’t live in heavily planted areas in the wild, plants still contribute to a habitat where they feel safe. 

Some good plants for betta fish are Java moss, Java fern, frogbit and anubias sp.

Another must-have in your Betta channoides tank are Indian almond leaves. If you don’t know the benefits which catappa leaves give to your betta fish, I suggest reading the full article on this blog. 

In their wild habitat, Betta channoides live in shallow pools and streams that are all packed with a layer of organic material. This organic material, which is mainly composed of leaves, provides shelter and changes the water parameters by adding tannins.

Mouthbrooding species tend to like some flow in the water, which makes adding a filter beneficial. A filter also helps keep your water clean overall. Make sure to keep the flow-rate of your filter low, since too much flow exhausts your fish. However, a filter isn’t a necessity and Betta channoides can do fine without, if enough water changes are done.

Tank mates

With some good preparation it is possible to keep other fish species with Betta channoides in the same tank. It is best however to set up a specialized tank for this species, to limit as much stress as possible. This species will feel more comfortable when kept alone in a tank.

If you do want to add tank mates to the tank, here are some things to make sure before adding any other species.

First off, the tank has to be a minimum of 15 gallons to keep any other species with it. This ensures your bettas can establish their own territory.

Your Betta channoides will be the dominant species in the tank and only calm and small species can be kept with it. Big and dominant fish will outcompete your Betta channoides for food or fight with it, causing permanent stress for both.

Here are some peaceful species that can live with Betta channoides, if your tank is big enough and has enough natural cover such as plants.

  • Shrimp – They are both amazing cleaners and is a bottom dweller and totally unharmful towards other fish. If you don’t mind some shrimp occasionally getting eaten this is an amazing choice.
  • Corydoras – Corydoras species inhabit the bottom layer and can be kept in combination with a lot of species due to their peaceful temperament.
  • Kuhli – A beautiful, somewhat shy species that lives in the same habitats as Betta channoides. Also a bottom dweller, so make sure to feed extra.
  • Norman’s Lampeye Killi – This killifish is small and peaceful towards other fish, so it makes the ideal tank mate for Betta fish.


Betta channoides is fully carnivorous and it eats a variety of meat-based foods.

Wild betta fish will eat anything that fits in their mouth and is another animal. The diet of bettas in the wild mostly consists of insect larvae, but due their big mouth they can also take on small crayfish and fish.

You can feed Betta channoides all kinds of dried and frozen foods and live foods. When feeding frozen or live foods, feeding a variety is very important. Feeding only one kind kind of food causes a lack of certain nutrients for your betta fish. 

When feeding dried food, buying high quality pellets with no fillers is recommended. Wild Betta species can be picky towards dried foods, especially wild caught specimens tend to not take dried food.

Water parameters

Betta channoides is quite tolerant towards water parameters. Lowering your pH can be beneficial, since the pH in their wild habitat is very low. Wild caught specimens are more sensitive. Lowering pH can be done with Indian almond leaves (Catappa), in combination with lowering the KH if it’s high. 

The temperature of the water can be between 72°F and 80°F (22-27°C). The higher you go with temperature the faster the metabolism of your fish will be and the faster it will die. For breeding purposes and raising fry can be higher (78°F-82°F), to encourage fast growth.

Keeping your water clean and water parameters stable is more important than the parameters themselves. Doing regular water changes is necessary and adding a filter helps to keep nitrite concentrations low.

Photo by Navin Rai

Breeding Betta channoides

Breeding this species is fairly easy. Betta channoides is a paternal mouthbrooder, which means males brood out the eggs in their mouth. In contrast to the well known domestic betta and species such as Betta imbellis that are bubble nesters, this species doesn’t build nests.

Betta channoides has developed this way of reproduction due to the habitat they live in. Bubble nesting species mostly live on mainland Asia, in shallow pools and lots of vegetation. The streams where Betta channoides lives in usually have some sort of current and little to no vegetation, except for dead branches and leaves. 

In these habitats bubble nests would be seen from far away and destroyed by the current. This way of breeding has some benefits such as bigger survival rate and protection, but the male is more vulnerable and batches are smaller.

Spawning process

To successfully breed Betta channoides, this species needs to be kept in pairs. A pair has to form before spawning can happen. When keeping in group with multiple males and females, pairs will naturally form. 

The greatest success is achieved when a pair is transferred to a special breeding setup. Preferably a 15-20 gallon where only one pair lives. There isn’t really a lot you can do to trigger spawning and pairs will spawn when feeling comfortable. Lowering the pH level might work as well as keeping them on a higher temperature (78°-82°) can work.

Since Betta channoides is a small species and males can only hold a limited amount of eggs, batches are very small. 

The eggs are fairly big around 1-2mm in diameter. Betta channoides’ eggs are significantly bigger than those of bubble nesting fish, and take longer to develop. On average, 5-12 eggs are laid. The male will care for the eggs/fry for 2-3 weeks, whereafter he will release the fully developed and independent fry, around 5mm in size.

After spawn it is important to expose the male to as little stress as possible. Inexperienced or stressed males will eat their eggs or release fry early. You can do this by dimming the light, adding extra cover and masking the glass.

Rasing fry

Baby Betta channoides feed off their yolk sack for a couple of days, while still being guarded by the male. When they are released, they have to search for all of their own food.

After the male has released its fry, it is recommended to remove both parents from the tank. The fry can grow out in their own tank which will be beneficial for the growth rate of the fry. After the fry has been released, the fry should be fed with baby brine shrimp and later with other chopped live or frozen foods. 

To speed up growth, lots of tannins such as catappa / Indian almond leaves should be added. They will result in a stronger resistance for your fry and result in a higher survival rate.

For raising fry, adding a filter is beneficial. Keeping the amounts of waste in your water as low as possible by doing a lot of water changes and adding a filter is important for the development of the fry.

Just as with adult fish, this filter shouldn’t have a high flow rate (max 3-4x volume). Ideal are sponge filters, which are fully biological.