Introduction to Bettas
If ever a fish has given spirit to the imagination, amazed its beholders, thrilled its
audience, and surpassed all other fishes in popularity, it is the Siamese fighting fish,
Betta splendens. There is little doubt that todays wide fascination with the
fishkeeping hobby has been added and advanced by this most unique of tropical fishes.
The betta can live comfortably in only enough water to cover it. The bettas
brother is apparently his worst enemy. His colors are those of the rainbow. He builds a
nest to harbor his offspring and gives them vigilant care. And yet, the comparison with
other species, the bettas needs are little, his resistance to illness great. In
fact, everything about him is pleasantly gratifying.
Betta (pronounced BET-TUH, not BAY-TUH) Splendens, also known as 'Siamese Fighting
Fish', derive from Asia. The bettas in the wild look very different than the ones we know
and have been captivated by. In the wild, speed and agility are more important than color
and beauty. With this in mind, you can envision the wild betta with short fins and dark,
mottled coloring. The wild bettas are very interesting and beautiful in their own way.
Bettas also are known to inhabit the shallow rice patties in Asia. These rice patties
are very shallow, muddy waters, not our ideal habitat for a fish. This is where their
hardiness resulted from. They use a special organ called the labyrinth to enable them to
breathe oxygen straight from the surface of the water. If they did not have this ability,
they would not be able to survive in their natural habitat due to the low oxygen levels.
This aspect of their lives also makes it easier for modern bettas to survive in those
little cups that you see in pet store. If you haven't noticed, many pet stores find it
unnecessary to clean the bettas water. It is easy to imagine that the water in those cups
would lose it's oxygen content very quickly with a gill-breathing fish. Since the bettas
breathe from the surface, this allows them to survive these conditions. The conditions
they are forced to survive in are still unhealthy and I hope that someday pet store owners
will realize this.
Bettas were originally discovered in Siam. This is where the term 'Siamese
Fighting Fish' came from. The males, as well as females, are very aggressive and
territorial fish. If you put a male in another males eyesight, it will result in a display
of fins and color to intimidate the other male. The bettas used in Siam to fight were,
again, not like our Betta Splendens of today. We now only breed to share their
beauty with the world.