Betta mahachaiensis is a well-known species among wild Betta’s. However, when most people think about Betta’s, they instantly think about the domestics. But how does Betta mahachaiensis differ from our domestics and how can you make sure you provide them with good care?

Betta mahachaiensis is a wild Betta, which simply means they are original and still live in the wild. In contrast to the domestic Betta, it has smaller fins and its colors are more natural. In terms of care, they have many things in similar such as food and how they spawn. But there are also a lot dof things different like your tank and where they originate from.

No time to read? Some quick facts.

TemperamentA cheerful fish who is peaceful towards most other fish if housed the right way. Males can be aggressive.
AppearanceIridescent green-blue scaling all over the body with black background.
TankWell planted. At least 5 gallon for a single male, 15 gallon for a pair
FoodFrozen and live foods like mosquito larvae, daphnia, BBS, or bloodworms. Or dry pellets/ flakes.
WaterpH: 6-7.5 Temperature: 72°-80°F

Origins and habitat

Betta mahachaiensis is a species that lives in the central part of Thailand, near Bangkok. The first place where it was discovered is the Samut Sakhon province, southwestern of Bangkok, but is also observed in nearby provinces Samut Prakan and Samut Songkhram

At first, B. mahachai was thought to be a hybrid between species and only in 2012 a team led by Dr. Kowasupat recognized Betta sp. mahachaiensis and it was added to the splendens group along with five other species: Betta imbellis, Betta smaragdina, Betta stiktos, Betta splendens and Betta siamorientalis. Based on morphological characteristics such as body coloration, bars and patterns on the fins and iridescence of body scales it was added to the splendens complex.

The name mahachaiensis is a derivation of a sub district called ‘Maha Chai’ in the Samut Sakhon province where it lives.

A wild Betta mahachaiensis habitat

It is mainly found in brackish to even salt waters and its natural habitat consists mainly of Nipa palm trees which makes them very hard to catch and find. These palms create a natural environment where they can hide and reproduce. Males build their nests in the phytotelmata of the plant. The fallen leaves of the plant provide tannins to the water and make it optimal for microorganisms who serve as food.

Endangered status in the wild

Due to human activities and the population who keeps growing, the wild habitats of Betta mahachaiensis are under extreme threat. The habitats where it lives are in great danger due to farmers and have to move aside for human infrastructures and farming grounds. In addition to that, fish are caught for selling on markets or to the western aquarium trade. Betta mahachaiensis is one of the most endangered species due to these humanly caused threats.


Betta mahachaiensis male flairing to female. Photo under LED light.

Betta mahachaiensis is a green-blue colored fish with a black background behind the scales. Under a warmer light it will color a more emerald-green color, while on an LED-lighting it will color more blue. Its scaling on the cheeks is consecutive green with a black stripe dividing it in two parts.

It is along with Betta smaragdina the biggest Betta from the splendens complex, reaching up to Around 5.2 inches for males and 4.8 inches for females. Females are less colorful than males and have smaller fins.

Betta mahachaiensis vs Betta smaragdina

The species most similar to Betta mahachaiensis in terms of outer appearance is Betta smaragdina. However, with some explanation it should be fairly easy to see the difference between two species.

First off, scaling on the cheeks is different. Whereas smaragdina has more full mask-like snakeskin scaling all over the face, which continues further to the body scaling. Mahachaiensis doesn’t have this typical scaling and has more plated scales Its scales are bigger and don’t make this snakelike pattern and the black stripe on the cheeks makes it even more clear.

B. mahachaiensis (left) vs Betta smaragdina (right credit: FranksBettas).

The ventrals of Betta mahachaiensis are black with green or blue accents, Betta smaragdina has orange to red ventrals with most likely white tips. The anal fins wich are typical to be very big hold a blue green color with Betta mahachaiensis and an orange, sometimes blue accented color for Betta smaragdina.

The only thing you have to be careful for are wild betta hybrids. Those are hard to distinguish for someone not experienced.


The care of Betta mahachaiensis is similar to the care of its siblings from the splendens complex. It isn’t hard to care for your Betta mahachaiensis, as long as you can make sure your tank fits them and read up upon purchasing your fish.

Tank setup

The perfect tank for wild bettas
Photo by Peter Luijtens

Betta mahachaiensis prefers a shaded aquarium without too much lighting. To mimic its natural habitat, a lot of plants should be added. Think about java fern, java moss cryptocorynes or anubias. Hardscapes like wood or stones provide good shelter for your fish.

To give your tank a nice natural touch and add tannins to the water, you can add natural materials like catappa leaves alder cones. On top of that, they boost your fish’s immunity and boost microorganisms.

For a single male, a tank between 5 to 12 gallons is fine. Preferably choose a ‘long tank. so you can keep the water level low. For a pair, you have to look into a tank of at least a 20 gallon long tank. Always add a lid. This keeps the air at high humidity, keeps it the same temperature as the water (beneficial for the labyrinth organ) and most importantly: it prevents them jumping out of your tank.

Although it is said that wild Bettas are more peaceful than the classic domestic Betta, you have to be careful with placing pairs together in the same tank. If your tank is too small, you don’t have enough hiding materials or plants, or you just have bad luck, this will result in the male and female fighting a lot with eventually the female dying.

So if you want to keep a pair or harem (never keep more than one male) with multiple females take these tips into consideration.

Water parameters

As of water parameters, these guys aren’t picky. In the wild, Betta mahachaiensis lives at pH rates between 6.8 and almost 8, so as long as your parameters are stable, most tap water is fine. Temperature can range between 72° and 80° F.

In the wild, Betta mahachaiensis lives in brakish to even salt water. Although you could add salt to your water to mimic their habitat, it will more than likely do more harm than good. Not a lot of plants can grow in there and it is harder to keep stable parameters. So, they tend to do just fine in fresh tap water, too.


Betta mahachaiensis is a fully carnivorous fish, so they should be fed a variety of meat-based foods. In order to give your fish enough vitamins, minerals and proteins, offering a varied diet is recommended. They will take many frozen foods like bloodworms, mosquito larvae and daphnia. For dry foods you feed flakes and pellets. To condition them for spawning or provide them with extra nutrients a lot of live foods are loved too. 

Breeding Betta mahachaiensis

Betta mahachaiensis isn’t hard to breed if you can provide your fish with good care overall. First off, you will need to condition the pair. This can be done with live foods to give extra proteins and make them stronger for spawning. When you have conditioned the pair for about one to two weeks, you can put the male in the breeding tank and let him build his nest.  Make the pair meet each other by using something like a bottle where the female can be put in.

When the pair is ready, they will mate and the male will take care of the fry. You should remove the female as soon as the spawning happens, because the male will see her as an intruder.

If you already keep them successfully in a pair, the pairing will be a lot easier. If they haven’t bred already, mostly a lowering of the water level and extra conditioning should make them breed fairly easy.


It might be not as showy as the domestic Betta, but it is certainly worth keeping this beautiful and cheerful fish. If you plan on buying this fish, try avoiding wild caught fish, since its endangered status at its natural habitat.  Look for a tank at least 5 gallons and add plants to create the optimal environment.

If you can provide good care, you will enjoy an amazing and beautiful fish who can live upwards to four years.

What do you think about this fish and what is your experience? Let us know in the comments!

Betta mahachaiensis, a new species of bubble-nesting fighting fish

(Teleostei: Osphronemidae) from Samut Sakhon Province, Thailand