Browns Betta (Betta brownorum) Complete Care Guide

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Betta brownorum holds a very special place in my heart as it was the first-ever wild Betta species I had the pleasure of keeping. At the age of 12, my mentor had acquired some Betta brownorum from Allan and Barbara Brown and gifted me a pair in an attempt to get them breeding. 

At first, as I stirred into their bag, I didn’t think much of them, as they were washed out from their travels, and paled in comparison to the Killifish which were dominating my fish room at the time. 

I took them home and put them in an 8-gallon aquarium that had previously housed some Rivulus Xiphidius. I added some Malaysian bogwood and leaf litter with a few drops of homemade blackwater extract and left the pair to settle.

The next day I checked their aquarium and the pair were nowhere in sight. I immediately started searching the floor in case they had jumped out from the tiny gap at the back of the aquarium. Suddenly, something caught my eye in the aquarium, a small bright green glint peering from under the leaf litter. It was the male Betta brownorum watching me as I was frantically searching the surrounding area for his corpse. 

He was the deepest red in colour, almost invisible in the tannin-rich water, with his emerald green eyes and lateral blotch piercing the darkness of the blackwater. I was captivated, as if the flashes of his emerald green blotch had hypnotised me as he darted in and out of the leaf litter.

That one pair of Betta brownorum ignited a spark in me that started a lifetime passion for Bettas, particularly the Coccina complex, taking me across the world on Betta conservation and developing my knowledge of this remarkable Genus.


Betta Brownorum Care Summary

Scientific Names:

Betta Brownorum (Witte & Schmidt -1992)


In honour of Barbara and Allan Brown, who were the first to collect the species.

Common Name:

Browns Betta, Scorpion Betta


Malaysia and Indonesia

Maximum Size:

3.8cm (1.5")


Bubble Nest Builder

Sexual Dimorphism:

Males have brighter colours and longer fins than females as they develop.

Food & Diet:

Live and Frozen foods.


 22°C - 26°C (71-78 deg F)


 4.5 - 6. Prefers slightly acidic water.


18 -90 ppm

Tank Size:

Minimum 20 gallons for a group of 5.


2-3 Years


Peaceful, males can be aggressive to each other when breeding areas are established.

Conservation status:




Betta brownorum is found on the island of Borneo, where it is limited to the southern and western regions of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Which extends from Sibu southwest to Kuching and onwards as far as Matang, with a few populations across the border in Kalimantan Barat (West Kalimantan) province, Indonesia.

In the wild, Betta brownorum typically inhabits forest peat swamps and related blackwater streams in as little as 5cm of water in some areas. Their habitat is thick with leaf litter which releases humic acid as it decays, causing the pH to drop as low as 3.0.


The natural habitat of Betta brownorum is rich in tannins and cluttered with leaf litter and forest debris. 


Betta brownorum has been collected in a variety of locations in Borneo, with variants appearing in the species depending on where it was collected. This has led to Betta keepers and collectors labelling Betta brownorum with its collection area, for example,  Betta brownorum Sibu or Betta brownorum Matang to preserve the bloodlines.

From personal experience, I have noticed that Brownorum collected from the Matang region have at times a larger lateral blotch. Not only on the males but in rare cases on the females too.

What makes Matang collected Brownorum even more interesting is those with a small lateral blotch, as they mature the lateral blotch grows, expanding along the flank and even the finnage.

The lateral blotch coverage varies from individual to individual, with some Matang males going through a glow-up with the beautiful blotch covering over 80% of their body.

So far, I have only experienced this unique transformation in Matang Brownorum.

CONSERVATION: As of 2019, the Castle Dawn Aquatics Betta Rescue program has returned over 200 Betta brownorum back into the wild through joint breed and release efforts.


Betta Brownorum Care

Aquarium Setup:

The rule of thumb with most keepers including myself is 1 pair of Brownorum per 5 gallons (US) of water. As the species tends to be shy, a heavily planted aquarium with aquatic wood, leaf litter and medium-sized aquarium botanicals will make the Betta brownorum feel more secure.

PRO TIP: Betta brownorum are naturally elusive, so offering enough shelter in the aquarium will encourage them to come out into the open.

Castle Dawns Aquatics Botanical Pack includes everything need to create a natural habitat for Betta brownorum

 Our blackwater aquarium botanical starter packs can help you make the perfect setup for Betta brownorum.


In addition to hiding spots, the leaf litter and aquarium botanicals will help keep the aquarium water soft and tannin-rich, similar to the Betta brownorums' natural habitat, with some bigger botanicals making ideal breeding areas.


Plant the aquarium with soft water-loving species such as Java fern (Microsorium sp.), Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana), and dwarf Sagittaria (Sagittaria subulata).


Betta brownorum appreciates floating plants in the aquarium such as Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum), Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalicotoides) and Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum). Floating plants provide additional cover, shade and potential spawning spots.


PRO TIP:  If your main goal is to breed Betta brownorum add used film canisters or piping cut into 3-inch pieces at the surface of the aquarium, this will encourage males to build a bubble nest.

IMPORTANT: Betta brownorum need an tight fitting lid on the aquarium as they will jump through the smallest of gaps.



Betta brownorum prefers little to no flow in the aquarium, so small air-driven filters are best suited for the species. In their natural environment, the water tends to be on the verge of being motionless or even stagnant. Strong power filters would quickly tire out Brownorum and may result in their death.

As Betta brownorum are bubble nest builders you want a filter that will cause very little surface disruption, so as not to destroy the delicate nests of the male.

Castle Dawn Aquatics Bio Sponge Filters Are Ideal For All Wild Bettas.

Air Driven bio sponge filters are ideal for wild Betta species such as Betta brownorum.

 At Castle Dawn Aquatics, we use our air-driven bio sponge filters in our brownorum tanks, they produce excellent filtration without a heavy current, and are perfect not only for brownorum but other species of Betta in the Coccina complex.



Low light, low light and more low light. Betta brownorum although tolerant of bright light, you may find keeping them in bright lighting will make them withdrawn, jumping from one hiding spot to the next, like a vampire avoiding the sunlight. If your Betta brownorum are wild-caught, they may not even venture out to feed if the aquarium lighting is too intense.

Castle Dawn Aquatics Dimmer Switch LED Aquarium Fish Tank Light Perfect For Wild Bettas

Our Castle Dawn Aquatics dimmer switch Nano LED light is perfect for a Betta brownorum aquarium, allowing you to adjust the light brightness accordingly.


Betta brownorums' natural environment is devoided of direct sunlight as the forest canopy shelters the forest swamps and streams. The tannin-rich blackwater absorbs any remaining light that manages to break through the forest canopy, creating a very low light environment.

At Castle Dawn Aquatics we recommend our customers to use an aquarium light with a lower colour temperature of around 4500K. We find it lights the aquarium sufficiently for low light plants such as Java fern or Bucephalandra, but also does not upset the Betta brownorum while providing enough light for you to enjoy them in all their glory.


Water Parameters:

Betta brownorum prefers acidic water and is comfortable in a pH of 3.0 - 6.5 with a water hardness between (dGH): 0 - 8°N. This can easily be achieved using natural products like Castle Dawn Aquatics Aquarium Peat Filter Media, Indian almond leaves or aquarium botanicals.

Depending on whether your Betta brownorum is wild-caught or not it is better to keep them at the higher end of the acidic pH spectrum, especially if you are a beginner and not familiar with water chemistry yet. Keeping Betta brownorum or any species of fish that prefers tannin-rich blackwater with an acidic pH brings a whole set of new challenges in maintaining a balanced aquarium.

Ask your retailer or breeder when purchasing your Betta brownorum what pH they are currently being kept in. If it is above 6.5, then gradually bring their new aquarium down to 6.0 and if it is below 4.0 and you are a beginner then slowly raise it to 6.0. If you are confident in your water chemistry skills then we find that a pH of 5.0 is a happy medium for the species.  

BEGINNERS NOTE: Do NOT use CO2 in a blackwater aquarium, the pH in the aquarium will be slightly volatile with the addition of humic acids being released from natural décor like botanicals or wood. CO2 can drive the pH down rapidly causing a pH crash, which can be detrimental to the aquarium inhabitants.



In the home aquarium, Betta brownorum is content in temperatures between 22°C - and 28°C (71-78 deg F). Some breeders including ourselves have noticed that Betta brownorum yield a higher number of females in a spawn, when kept at a higher temperature, however, we have yet to actively test it in a controlled environment, and it may just be a coincidence.



Betta brownorum are micropredators and enjoy live foods such as Grindal worm, Daphnia, White worm and baby brine shrimp. However, they will quickly adapt to frozen foods, and if your Betta brownorum are captive bred there is a high chance they may happily accept fried foods.

PRO TIP: Wherever you are purchasing your Betta brownorum from, always ask the seller what the Brownorum are currently eating and if they are wild caught or captive bred. This will allow you to gauge their eating habits.


Tank Mates:

Betta brownorum is best kept in a species only aquarium, and I find that they are one species that do better in a male-dominated aquarium, with one female to 2 males, if breeding is to be encouraged. Expect a few nipped fins in a group of Betta brownorum from the odd minor dispute.

Castle Dawn Aquatics Browns Betta (Betta brownorum) Complete Care Guide Tank Mates

 Clown rasbora ( Rasbora kalochroma)  are commonly found alongside Betta brownorum in the wild.


If you want to set up a biotope aquarium using Brownorum, there are many species to choose from due to Betta brownorum being so widely distributed.

If a Malaysian biotope is your goal, species such as Chocolate gourami (Sphaerichthys osphromenoides), Dwarf rasbora (Rasbora maculatus) and Liquorice Gourami (Parosphromenus sp.), particularly Parosphromenus allani are all ideal, and commonly found with Brownorum.

If you want to create an Indonesian Brownorum biotope aquarium, Parosphromenus ornaticauda is ideal, and just like the Malaysian biotope try some Chocolate gourami (Sphaerichthys osphromenoides). Bettas such as Edithae and Simorum are also commonly found in the same habitat, and on occasions Betta rutilans.



Sexual Dimorphism:


Browns Betta (Betta brownorum) Complete Care Guide Male and Female Difference

Male and female Betta brownorum are easy to distinguish apart.


Male Betta brownorum are brighter in colour with longer finnage as they mature. Females although a rich red colour appears slightly washed out compared to the males.

Another distinguishing feature in males is they exhibit a brighter emerald green lateral blotch than females. However, it is not uncommon to see female Betta brownorum with no lateral blotch, particularly if they are captive bred.

PRO TIP: Do not rely on the egg spot to tell the sexes apart, which is a common method used for Bettas in other complexes such as Splendens. It is not uncommon for both the male and female species in the Coccina complex to display the egg spot.

IMPOSTER ALERT: When purchasing wild-caught Betta brownorum and the collection point is unknown, select your females by their finnage and weaker lateral blotch. Just because a female in your LFS shows no blotch does not necessarily mean it is a female Brownorum.

If the Betta brownorum has been collected from Indonesia, particularly from Kapuas Kalbar, there is a possibility the female could be Betta rutilans, which is commonly found in the same habitat as Betta Brownorum. Without the lateral blotch on a female Brownorum, they are almost impossible to tell apart from female Rutilans.

DID YOU KNOW: The famous green lateral blotch found on Betta brownorum is not always green. In the past, we have come across Brownorum with variations  of blue and even violet-coloured blotches. Which I believe is an example of polymorphism within the species. However, breeding the rare irregular-coloured specimen with a standard green blotch specimen, always resulted in offspring with a green blotch. 

This could mean the irregular-coloured blotch gene is recessive, of course, this is all speculation and more research needs to be done to explore the variations of blotch colour in Betta brownorum. 


Setup and Mating:

Breeding betta brownorum is straightforward when the conditions are right.

Introduce pipes into the aquarium of about 1.5-inch in diameter and cut into 3-inch lengths. Place the pipes at the surface and at the front of the aquarium for easy viewing.

Betta brownorum building a nest in an old camera film tube. Credit: unknown

A male Betta brownorum building his bubble nest in a old camera tube. Credit: Unknown.


Large botanicals like coconut shell halves or gorged out lotus seed pods make excellent natural structures for the bottom of the aquarium. From personal experience, not all male brownorum like to build their nests at the surface, some prefer to build closer to the aquarium floor in anything that can hold a nest.

Regardless of where your male Brownorum builds a nest, lower the water level to about half and cover the aquarium. Some aquarists use clingfilm ( saran wrap to all our American readers) or glass panels to create a humid layer in the aquarium. 

The humid layer is essential for the development of the labyrinth organ. Lowering the water level will also allow you to gradually add a little bit of prepared fresh water to the aquarium, till the fry are strong enough to handle a standard water change.

Unlike its cousins in the splendens complex, the pair do not need to be separated and gradually introduced to each other before spawning. When the male brownorum builds his bubble nest, he will typically not accept the female in the area until he is finished. When he is ready he will lure the female to his nest with a display of movements.

Before spawning, the female's body colour pales and dark bars form on her flanks, which is an indication that she is ready to mate. The mating itself generally occurs below the nest in an osphronemid embrace, with the male wrapping himself around the female. 

Milt and a couple of eggs are expelled, which the female then catches between her pelvic fins and body. The male will deposit the eggs in the bubble nest while the female actively collects any he has missed.

After mating, the female is no longer required and leaves the nest where the male will remain and attend to it in typical Betta fashion. A spawn can be as many as 20 -30 eggs although larger spawns have been recorded. The female can remain in the aquarium after mating as the male will tend to ignore her as he looks after the nest. 

Castle Dawn Aquatics Browns Betta (Betta brownorum) Complete Care Guide Betta Fry in Bubble Nest

Betta Fry in a their bubble nest still feeding of their egg sacs


The eggs hatch remarkably fast, in as little as 24 hours after mating. The fry will remain in the nest for up to 4 days after hatching until the egg sac is completely absorbed. As the fry becomes free-swimming the male will lose interest and go on his way. 

The fry can remain with the aloof parents as they rarely will eat their own brood. However, it is worth noting that if the fry is reared in a tank containing multiple adults, the fry may struggle to compete for food, restricting growth.

FACT: Betta brownorum has been reported to be a mouthbrooder on occasion. Personally, I've never encountered it with Betta brownorum. However, I've experienced it in Betta rutilans on many occasions, which is a member of the same Coccina complex as Brownorum.


Fry Care:

From the moment the egg sack is consumed Betta brownorum fry will happily accept  Microworms (Panagrellus redivivus) or infusoria for the first 14 days. From thereafter they can eat slightly bigger foods such as freshly hatched brine shrimp (Artemia) or powdered foods.

A juvenile Betta brownorum from one of our Castle Dawn Aquatics breeding projects hiding in leaf litter.

A juvenile Betta brownorum from one of our breeding projects hiding in leaf litter. 


Betta brownorum fry can be prone to velvet, thus it is critical to remove any uneaten food and maintain water quality.

We always use and recommend Catappa Indian almond leaves or Logan leaves in a fry aquarium to help maintain health as the leaves are renowned for their antibacterial properties.

You can cure velvet with salt in conjunction with heat and darkness - albeit this procedure must be used carefully.

If you wish to use this strategy, raise the temperature to around 28 degrees Celsius (82.4F).

It is recommended that one tablespoon of aquarium salt be added per gallon of water in your aquarium when fry is involved. In a one-gallon container, combine this solution and gradually add the brine solution over a few hours. Just keep an eye out for signs of stress fry, such as trouble maintaining buoyancy, and up righting themselves.

If chemicals are the preferred method of treatment, copper sulphate should be used to cure velvet. We always prefer the natural method, but at times in extreme outbreaks chemicals may need to be used.

PRO TIP: Use our Castle Dawn Aquatics micro aquarium siphon for removing uneaten food in your fry tanks, the smaller intake pipe minimalizes the chances of accidently damaging fry.



Betta brownorum common name Scorpion Betta was given to them because they sting.

This is false, the true origins of how the common name came about are unknown, however, Betta brownorum can not sting you nor are they venomous.


Betta Brownorum Conclusion

Browns Betta (Betta brownorum) Complete Care Guide conclusion on keeping Betta Brownorum

I am somewhat biased when it comes to this species, even our own logo for Castle Dawn Aquatics was designed around Betta brownorum. 

Betta brownorum are hard to find in the hobby, but they may be found if you do some digging. They are a remarkable, beautiful, resilient little oddity of a Betta, and well worth the extra little bit of care they need to thrive. You will lose track of time as you sit in front of their aquarium, marvelling at these little gems as they go about their day as if they were in a forest pool in Sarawak.

We hope you enjoyed and found this article useful. If you have any further questions about Betta brownorum care please leave them in the comment section and we will get back to you.

The article was written based on personal knowledge and experience in keeping the species. It may differ from your own experience or opinions of the species.

Disclaimer: All images are credited accordingly, if an image is miscredited please contact us at


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