geno verses pheno 

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one of the most confusing area of betta buying 
is covered on this page.  

Understanding the difference 

You cannot visit a stock page without immediately running into these two words: "geno" and "pheno". What do they mean and how can they affect you? 

bulletpheno: (short for: phenotype) A phenotype is a betta that shows certain traits. This betta carries certain genes that have combined together to express themselves in the current individual. Usually "pheno" is not mentioned on  stock pages because it goes without saying LOL. For example a lot listed under "Black melano male" means melano pheno male.
bulletgeno: (short for: genotype) A genotype is a betta that does not show certain traits he carries. This betta carries certain genes that will express themselves in the following generation(s) (in its offspring). Geno is used very often on stock pages to indicate the genetic potential and background of a lot. For example, a melano geno male will be a blue male that however carries melano genes and will produce blacks.

For the sake of clarity let us look at a very good example:

bulletDouble Tail (DT) genes: A betta with a Single Tail (ST) may be a DT geno if it carries DT. This is often showed as ST/dt. The symbol means Single Tail carrying Double Tail. If you were to look at two ST bettas, one being a DT geno and one not being a DT geno, you would not see any difference. Let us illustrate this:

ST (not DT geno)

ST (DT geno)

As you see above both fish look pretty similar. Unless the seller knows that the one to the right carries a gene called DT and tells you , you will not know.

bulletMelano genes: A blue betta may produce black bettas if he carries the melano genes. He would then be a blue betta carrying melano, also called a melano geno. A melano geno betta is NOT a black betta. It is a blue bettas that carries the black and that will produce some black offsprings. Let us illustrate this:


blue (melano geno)

blue (not carrying melano)

As you see above both fish look pretty similar. Unless the seller knows that the one to the left carries a gene called melano and tells you , you will not know. 

bulletButterfly (BF) genes: A solid colored betta may produce beautiful butterfly bettas if it carries the BF gene. It then referred to as a BF geno

The above example show just how important it is to purchase stock from a reputable breeder who knows their lines well and understand the genes at work. You will not usually be able to tell by just looking at it. Let us illustrate this:


blue (not a BF geno)

blue (BF geno)


Now let us look at the results you could obtain by breeding the two above bettas to their respective sisters:

                    will produce :   a Double Tail blue/white Butterfly betta :))


          while   will produce :  a Single Tail black melano betta :)))

The above example clearly shows how a genotype can produce a phenotype that looks very different from him. It shows that two seemingly identical bettas can produce dramatically different results.  It also stresses the importance of purchasing ONLY from a reputable breeder: He/she knows their lines genetic background inside out and can tell you what the geno of your lot is as well as predict possible results in future generations. Last but not least it clearly demonstrates that a photo is not be your best asset when picking stock ;).


Understanding pricing structures 

Prices vary greatly depending on the each lot's geno. Meaning that 3 bettas that look seemingly identical may have very different prices! Once again let us look at the above example and add one more blue betta to the equation. This last betta is blue and does not carry anything else. It is called a ST blue betta. Let us look at all 3 bettas and show what their prices could potentially be (this is only an example and is not meant to reflect current market rate of such strains)

ST blue $20

ST melano geno $50

ST/dt blue BF geno $60

As you see, the prices are directly related to the gene pool each betta carries (or does not carry). Hence looking at just  a photo of the betta will not explain why the prices are what they are. Likewise, looking at your betta once it is delivered will not help you understand why you paid the price you paid. When you buy betta you buy genes.

When you buy bettas you buy genes

You buy into a line, into a gene pool, into the hard work of a breeder who knows their line well and is able to help you foresee the possible color/pattern outcomes of future generations. This knowledge is invaluable and worth spending the extra money for. A beginner may sell his/her fish cheap but they also do not know what they are doing and you may get the most surprising (and seldom desirable) outcome when you spawn the lot. Novices are notorious for crossing the most incompatible colors together, because they 'want to try it'. Experienced breeders have tried it all and have learned the does and don'ts and know how to manipulate betta genes with precision and some predictability. 


Understanding a strain 

It is imperative you see photos of what the strain has produced in the past (BETTATALK provides such photos, plus an informative background on each of  the strains we sell on a consistent basis - see our catalog). Remember that the same genes run in the veins (if I may say) of your purchased lot! Genes get passed from generation to generation (when handled by a knowledgeable breeder, that is LOL). Seeing what the strain is capable of producing will help you assess the potential of your lot. Do not expect your lot to look like these top specimen produced over the years. DO expect, however, that the genes necessary to duplicate that specific look are included in the DNA of your bettas :). Although your specific bettas may look very different from the ideal phenotype of the strain, your betta carry the gene necessary to produce the look. Let us illustrate this very important notion with my very popular Apache line.

this otherwise plain looking, red Apache betta produced:
these exciting looking Apaches!

The above example illustrates the fact that the plain looking red apache may not have looked like the top specimen displayed on the Apache catalog page, but it possessed the DNA necessary to produce some of the best Apaches produced to date! Hence when you are purchasing Apaches on the stock page, and they are described as solid reds for example, you may think when you receive them that you paid a lot for plain red bettas. That is because you are unable to see the genes carried and foresee the outcome. Trusting the expertise of your seller is of the utmost importance. Trust that the seasoned, successful breeder knows the genes of their lines and prices his/her lots accordingly.

Should I buy pheno or geno? 

You can buy a phenotype or a genotype from a strain and in the end, both will give you similar results. So you could go either way. Each way has, however, some pros and cons:

bulletbuying phenotypes. If phenotypes are available and you have the budget (they will be significantly more expensive), then by all means do select a phenotype lot. Meaning that if you want to work with melano and find a pheno melano (a betta that is actually black melano himself), and if you can afford it, then buy it. You will spend more money but get faster results. Phenotypes will also usually produce a greater percentage of what you are after.
bulletbuying genotypes. If phenotypes of the strains are not available or if you do not have a big budget, then a geno pair is a great way to go. A geno pair will cost you less (you save $$), but you still have the same genes. If you have the budget, you can sometimes get 2 geno pairs for what you might pay for 1 pheno pair, hence doubling your chance of a successful spawn! As you see there are some major advantages going this route. Downside: There will be a period of wait before you produce your first phenotypes. For example, if you cannot afford a black melano, or cannot find one, you can purchase a melano geno. This blue betta carries melano and when spawned with a sister who also carries melano, will produce a percentage of black melano bettas (phenos). Then you take one of your black melano offspring and off you go :). Extra time invested: 1 spawn = 4 months. In the great picture, 4 months is nothing, especially when you are going to be working with the strain for YEARS to come! 

Let us illustrate above with this table:

  costs ability to produce what you want time investment end result
phenotype   costs more  produces a higher % of the desired look  immediate results same look
genotype   costs less  produces a smaller % of the desired look  wait one more generation same look

Either way you go, you will, in the end, get the same results. 

Note that many sought after betta looks are extremely hard to produce (ex: Apache phenos and Dreamcatcher phenos, true halfmoon BFs, etc...). Bettas that are phenotypes are oftentimes needed by the breeder to insure the survival of the strain. If extra ones are available, then they will be put up for sale but the prices are usually very high (duh!). If no phenotypes are available, should one be very patient and wait for some? My advice: Do not wait for a phenotype to become available! You might never get one. Remember that a billion other people want one too so they are so hard to snatch! Instead, do get a geno pair, trust in the breeder's knowledge and revel in the knowledge that your smilingly 'boring looking' pair is going to give you a number of the marvelous betta look you are after. Roll up your sleeve and get to work! LOL

I hope the above has helped all of you understand all the ever so settle and ever so confusing betta gene nuances as well as betta pricing in general. And remember: Photos will not show you what you are really buying!