betta fish photography

I will get to our betta fish photography setup in a minute, but first – a little background on the amazing Betta splendens.

Betta fish are among the most popular tropical aquarium fish in the world, but that wasn’t always the case. Wild betta fish are a dull greyish-green with short fins – homely little things and nothing like the spectacularly colored, long-finned beauties we see in the pet stores!

Those variations and characteristics came about only after years of selective breeding. Today, the Siamese Fighting Fish is seen in a huge range of colors and fin types, including veil, delta, halfmoon, crowntail, double tail, and many more.

The genus Betta contains more than 73 recognized species, but the fish most people are familiar with is Betta splendens, or Siamese Fighting Fish.

History of the Siamese Fighting Fish

Over 150 years ago, children in Siam (now known as Thailand) collected these little fish from rice paddies. The kids would place them together in small puddles to watch them fight. This is how they got the name Siamese Fighting Fish.

This fish-fighting spectacle became popular, and betting on these contests became commonplace. Their popularity was recognized by The King of Siam, who immediately saw a way to increase tax revenues. The King decided to regulate and tax them.

In 1840, the King gave a few of these fighting fish to a man who gave some to Dr. Theodore Cantor. The good Dr. Cantor, a Danish physician, bred and studied them. He eventually wrote a scientific paper that identified them as Macropodus pugnax. Later, a Mr. Tate Regan renamed them Betta splendens, noting that there was already a betta species with the name Dr. Cantor used.

Many believe Mr. Regan named them after the ancient Asian Bettah warrior tribe – pronounced “bet-tah.” Betta splendens. The name means “beautiful warrior” and it is a fitting name for such a beautiful fish. In Thailand, they are called “plakat”, which means “biting fish”.

OK… enough history. Let’s get right to the reason you are here: You want to learn about the best betta fish photography setup. If you were enjoying the background on the betta and you want more information on the fish – read this article.

Betta Fish Photography Setup

Your betta fish photography setup can be as technically awesome as you can afford. Or if you’re like me – you will figure out alternative methods that will get you great pictures. Without breaking the bank.

Aquarium photography is not as simple you might initially think. There are many factors that complicate things. They make it more difficult to get the perfect shot that you were going for.

Water, lighting, reflective glass, and fast-moving subjects all contribute to making it more difficult. But, never fear – I am going to show you how to use simple techniques that will allow you to take great photos of your Betta, whether you are using your phone, a point-and-shoot camera, or your fancy DSLR high-dollar camera.

Here are a few tips and tricks. They will help you capture that perfect picture of your beautiful Betta.

How to Get That Perfect Shot

Using the exposure triangle, you can adjust your camera to take great pictures. Experiment with the settings and with practice you will find the combination that works for your setup.

Use a small aquarium with no decorations, if you are looking for a fish portrait. The small space will allow you to shoot a lot of pics without having to track your fish around the big aquarium he normally lives in.


Use lighting from above the tank, or from the side. The tank should be well lit. Avoid using a flash as it will create glare from the glass. Using a flash is possible – it just takes a lot of practice. Other light sources are easier to control, and the results are more predictable.


Use a black-colored back-drop on the rear of the photo tank. Or, a white-colored back-drop, depending on your preference. This will bring out the vibrant colors of your Betta in your shot.

Professional Tips

  • The photo tank should have all filtration pumps, air stones, or air pumps turned off for the duration of the photoshoot because you don’t want moving water while you are shooting. Just don’t forget to turn the equipment back on after the shoot.
  • Use a tripod, if you can. I have found that the perfect picture takes a lot of patience on my part. Having my camera on a tripod makes waiting easier, and gives me a stable platform if I want to try slower shutter speeds.
  • Use a macro lens if you have one. This will allow you to put the lens against the glass of your photo tank and shoot pics of your Betta just on the other side.
  • Use an aperture setting of 20 to 22 and use a higher shutter speed in case your Betta suddenly decides to move just as you take the shot.

Get To Know Your Subject

Watch your fish and get to know his behavior. Learning his normal behavior patterns allows you to recognize when your fish is relaxed, agitated, hungry, or scared. This knowledge will help you because you can tell when to take your shot.

If your Betta is sitting stationary and you want to get him moving, you can try using a pencil to agitate him a bit. The Betta is territorial, the introduction of the strange object into his close vicinity will agitate him, even to the point of flaring, which makes for a perfect picture!

Just remember to get the pencil out of the shot. LOL