Welcome to bettafishonline.com – a site dedicated to all Betta fans who share the same interests – keeping, caring for and breeding Betta. So if you own, or simply admire this little fighter, well, you are in the right place.
Unlike any other fishes, Bettas are unique in every ways from displaying the most vibrant colors of tropical fishes to its famous fighting spirit and intolerable temperament.
Its popularity easily surpassed all other tropical fishes, and without doubt, it’s one of the most interesting fish to keep. Many of us have a chance to keep them (the betta) as a child as they requires minimal aquarium space and is one of the hardiest fish of all that can tolerate less than ideal water conditions and temperatures.
Their colours are unmatched in intensity, brightness and gives you a lively and energetic impression on those little fishes.
All in all, betta’s unique appearance and character is next to none compared to all tropical fish, not to mention that rearing bettas it is not that hard, being a rather forgiving fish. A tank full of beautiful healthy betta fighting fishes will definitely impress and trill everyone young and old, and believe!
Historical Information of Betta
The interest in Betta, particularly in its fighting qualities, has lasted for more than 150 years. In its native land, the Siamese were as much aroused by fish fights as their neighbors, the Malaysians, were by cock fights. The fish selected for the aquatic fighting “rings” were chosen for their pugnacious attitude. They were short finned, streamlined, tenacious creatures bent on dispatching their adversaries quickly. The Siamese wagered heavily on the outcomes of these battles. Sometimes they even wagered themselves and their families. And because such fights had to be licensed, the King of Siam collected on them as well. These fighters bore little resemblance to today’s betas with their streamlined beauty, surpassing with their flowing fins and blatant color most of the other tropical aquarium fishes.
The wild betas give little hint of this glory. They are found in ponds, ditches, rice paddies, and sluggish little streams in Thailand and Malaysia. They are nondescript creatures, a dirty greenish brown color. How they found their way into the hearts of today’s hobbyists an interesting story. In 1849, the time of the California gold rush, Theodor Cantor, a doctor in the Bengal Medical Service, published an article on a fish he called Macropodus pugnax, var. He was in error. He had confused his fish with a closely related species which had already been given that name. It was not until 1909 that C. Tate Regan, re-examining the situation, pointed out that pugnax was already a valid species.
Since Cantor’s Siamese fighting fish had no scientific name, Regan described it as Betta Splendens. Legend has it that the “Bettah”were a warrior-like tribe of people. History states that the King of Siam, in 1840, presented several of his prized fighting fish to a friend of Theodor Cantor. He, in turn, gave them to Dr. Cantor, whose description pictures them thus: The head is deep greenish olive; the abdomen blood red with the scales edged with black; the body with three black horizontal lines; the dorsal fin slivery greenish brown crossed with wavy black lines; the caudal fin rays a bright blood red edged with black; the caudal fin membranes golden green; the anal fin membranes a bright blood red shading into silvery green to blue; the anal fin rays are black; ventral fin membranes bright red to black; ventral fin rays black, and even the iris in the eye was described as being a pale reddish golden with bluish-black spot in the center of the lower half. Cantor noted that both the colors and fin lengths varied among specimens. He also commented on the remarkable change that occurred when a relaxed dull-hued fish suddenly, at the prospect of a contest, transformed itself into a fighter of scintillating beauty.
The famed German aquarist, Arnold and Ahl, stated that the first living fighters were introduced into Germany in 1896. Even then; they described their imports as variable in color and short of fin. This same species did not arrive in the United States until 1910. William T. Innes, the late famed American aquarist, states that in the early days of the hobby, the “original” Betta splendens had a body of yellowish brown with a few indistinct horizontal lines. At moments of emotional stress, the male darken and showed metallic green scales. The dorsal was also this color, tipped with red, while the anal fin was red, tipped with blue. The ventrals were then, as they are now, red, tipped with white. Fins were of moderate size and there was a rounded tail to match.
It was not until 1927 that the first brightly-hued, flowing-finned Siamese fighting fish as we know them today arrived in the United States. They were in a shipment consigned to Frank Locke of San Francisco. He noted both dark-bodied and lighter cream-colored variations. Thinking these light-bodied specimens were a new species, he named them Betta Cambodia. It soon became evident that this particular variant was only another of the many-hued forms of Betta splendens.
Dr. Hugh M. Smith, in his magnificent book, The Freshwater Fishes of Siam or Thailand, United States national Museum Bulletin No.188, describes the Betta Splendens species so thoroughly that present-day writers continue to forage through his pages to complete their own data. It was Smith who made the observation concerning the strain first known as the Cambodian Betta. He thought that the light-bodied fish with the brightly colored fins originated first in French Indochina in about 1900.The Siamese referred to them as “pla kat khmer” or Cambodian biting fish. Today, whether they be bitters or fighters, alert or sulky, brightly colored or dully hued, they always are identified and readily command attention.” There they are,” someone will say,” Those are the Siamese fighting fish.”
No other comment is necessary. The Betta is very well known.
The fighting fish, Betta splendens, can be found not only in Thailand, but in Malaysia and parts of China and Vietnam. Its native habitats are the flooded rice paddies, quiet, swampy pools, and, on occasion, slowly-moving streams. We do not mean to imply, however, that the betta we know is native to these waters.
Our long-finned, magnificently colored betas are the product of selective breeding. The native betta hardly ever attains the size of our prize-winning fighters who sometimes exceed five inches in length, tails included. The native male rarely reaches half this size. Female betas occasionally attain the body length of the males. They are even greater in girth when full of eggs. However, the females never develop long and pointed fins. Theirs remain short. They are made even shorter by the male during breeding.
Some aquarists, at times, had maintained a strain of betas in which the females often carried such exceptional fins (for their sex) that they were mistaken for males. There were also attempts to breed one of these females, thinking she was a male, to another female. The misidentification occurred because this presumed “male” blew a beautiful bubble nest. Which goes to show that the female betta does, on rare occasion, take on the nest-manufacturing job usually assumed by the male.
Bettas belong to the Belontiidae family. These fish are noted for their ability to breathe atmospheric air directly from the surface. This is done through an accessory respiratory organ called the labyrinth. This structure is located in the gill chamber alongside and above their normal gills. Atmospheric air gulped in at the surface is forced into the labyrinth organ. This organ in composed of bony plates covered by a membrane through which flows venous blood. By gaseous exchange, passing through the labyrinth organ, the oxygen content is removed to pass immediately into the blood stream. Then the used air is expelled.
The anabantoids are capable of normal gill respiration, but it alone cannot satisfy the fish’s requirements. If, by chance, it is prevented from surfacing to acquire needed atmospheric air, the fish can suffocate. This is why the betas, like the other anabantoids, can survive in water with extremely poor oxygen content due to pollution or an overabundance of non-anabantoid fished. It is this labyrinth organ which gives credibility to reports of specimens surviving a night in nothing but a wet net, or being found on the floor in a puddle of water not even deep enough to do more than moisten the flopping fish.
Over the years, the betta breeders have raised many thousands of bettas, each being kept in its individual one-quart glass jar. Bettas have been found lying on the wet floor. They immediately were returned to their glass homes where they sedately carried on as though nothing had happened.
A comparison of the breathing habits between wild and domesticated bettas is interesting. Both can store only small amounts of air in their extra respiratory organ and must make frequent trips to the surface to replenish it. The aquarist sees his pet hovering just below the surface, languidly surveying life. Not so with its wild brother. In the native habitat, where the fish are exposed to such surface dangers as egrets, herons, kingfishers, and other predatory birds and animals, theirs is a quick dash to the surface, a gulp of air, and a downward dive into the depths. In that moment the used air is expelled and a fresh supply taken in.
The fighting instinct
Ounce for ounce, Betta splendens is a far tougher adversary than most fishes, but this pugnaciousness is aimed at only one species — his own. Some people find this difficult to comprehend. Fish salesmen constantly must reassure them that the betta does not fight anything and everything.
In reality, the opposite is true. The betta is so indifferent to most other fishes that there is a feeling among some that a mistake was made when it was called “Fighting Fish.” In a community aquarium, the betta is likely to be picked on. Some fish will nudge it along to get it going. Others find its long fins a good target for an occasional nip. This is why, if it is at all possible, bettas should be separated not only from their brothers but from almost all other fishes as well. Little plastic trap-like tanks can be hung inside an aquarium to house one or two –not together, of course. There also are available especially designed betta aquariums. These are long and narrow with separate compartments.
The betta usually will fight only a male betta. He also will flare up and try to fight his own reflection in a mirror. Experimentation has shown that even a painted wooden dummy crudely carved to resemble a betta will arouse his wrath. Why do these fish like to fight? No one can explain it.
The fighting instinct does not first appear in a fully mature male as one might think. It first appears in youngsters not more than nine weeks old. As the young fish develop, little mock battles ensue. The fish, not even an inch long, circle each other head to tail with all of their fins extended and mouth open. Each seems to want the other to “knock a chip off his shoulder.” Sometimes there is a quick ripping motion and the skirmish is over.
To raise prime show specimens, separate developing males as soon as their sex is identifiable. Their lengthening fins and their “chip on the shoulder” attitude are the first discernible signs. Ripping fins may grow back but they can leave scars. The scheduled bout A planned betta match is carried on much as one might assume. The contestants are shown off, each in its own container. During this period, there is furious betting on the outcome. The fighters then are placed together in a small bowl.
With bettas bred specifically for fighting, there is little delay. A few moments of sparring around with spread fins and a flaring of the gills which spread like a huge ruff beneath their heads. Often there is head-to-tail circling with a trembling, shimmying movement. Then like a flash, the first strike is made. The damage is all done with the mouth and teeth. Over and over the charging continues, accompanied by ripping and tearing. The circling for advantage and the spreading and trembling of the fins never seem to end. And then, slowly, you come to realize that both fish are being denuded of their fins. Often only shreds remain where there was once a dorsal or tail. What seemed like an hour has taken only a few minutes. At the end, one fish refuses to rise up and charge. It lies sulking and damaged. The other fish, no matter how battered, will continue to challenge. He is considered the winner.
Betta fights are not, as many people believe, fights to the death. The truth is, a death seldom, if ever, occurs. When the battered combatants are separated and their wounds treated by medicating their water and they are kept clean and well fed, healing is very quick. After six or eight weeks, only a few battle scars remain. Even the denuded fins are regrown almost completely.
The domesticated betta fish is comparatively short-lived. At from eight to ten weeks, it has matured enough for sex to be determined. The fish keepers have bred them when they were only twelve weeks old, but he does not recommend it. They are prime for breeding when they are from 12 to 14 months of age, if they have been raised properly.
Breeding can be carried on with older specimens, but problems often arise with the older but more temperamental virgin fish. At two years, the betta is beyond its prime. If it lives for more than three years, it is, indeed, an old fish.
Although some aquarists have frequently maintained the stock for two years or longer, it was for personal reasons. These old fellows, which in their prime did their part in breeding and continuing their strain, deserved to be pastured off and to receive the best the could offer.