8 Facts About Betta Fish

  1. Over 150 years ago the hobby of keeping Betta fish by humans began in then Siam – present day Thailand. It is reported that the children of Siam would collect them from the rice paddies and then would place them into a small area with water so that they could fight each other. This is where the same Siamese Fighting Fish came from. Soon after the children started these fish fights, these fish fighting contests became common. The king of Siam at the time saw this and started to regulate and tax the fights.

2. In 1840 Danish physician Dr. Theodore Cantor was given some Betta Fish to study. He identified the fish as Macropodus pugnax which is a species of Gourami that looks very similar to the female Betta Splendus. It was later discovered that there was already a fish with that name. So Charles Tate Regan, a British ichthyologist who was known for his extensive work regarding the classification of fish, renamed the species as Betta splendus.

Macropodus pugnax – Image Source: Bernard Ladenthin, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

3. There are a little over 70 species of Betta Fish. The most commonly available species in the aquarium trade is the Betta splendens. After many years of selective breeding techniques, there are now many different variations of this species with absolutely beautiful color variations as well as different types of fin shapes and sizes.

BETTAS ZERO, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

4. Wild Bettas tend to be a dull brown and green color who will only exhibit the brighter colors that you see in the Bettas in pet stores when they are threatened. Their tails and fins are much shorter than the Bettas that you see in the pet stores as well. In the wild this makes them less noticeable to their predators. This is likely why Dr. Theodore Cantor initially identified the fish as Macropodus pugnax, since they do look very similar.

5. In the wild Bettas are insectivores. They collect a variety of insects that hang out near the surface of the water as well as consume any insect larva that they can find. In aquariums Bettas are fed a variety of flake foods, pellet foods, freeze dried foods and frozen foods such as frozen bloodworms.

6. For a long time it was common that people kept Betta fish exclusively in small bowls of water without any type of filtration. It was believed that they didn’t need it since they could breathe air. The organ that allows them to do this is called the labyrinth organ. The labyrinth extends from the Betta’s gill plate and is made up of many folds of bone. When the Betta fish gulps down air from the surface, it passes over the blood vessels that run over these folds. This allows oxygen to be absorbed into the blood in a similar manner to what happens in our lungs. This allows the Betta fish to survive in waters with low oxygen levels, which is typical in their environments where they are found in the wild. As aquarium science continues to progress and we learn more about this species, it is now recommended that this species is kept in a well oxygenated and high water quality type of an aquarium. There are many aquarium manufacturers who make compact all in one aquariums just for Bettas as these are now the recommended norm for Betta keeping.

7. These fish are highly intelligent! Not only are they trainable, but they actually seem to enjoy the mental stimulation that comes along with learning their new tricks.

8. First time Betta owners at some point will notice a layer of bubbles against the glass or in a corner of their aquarium just on the surface. Bettas use what’s called a bubble nest which protects both the eggs while they develop and the small fry or baby Betta fish for a period of time.

The male takes care of both the eggs and the fry until they are ready to go off on their own. The females only provide the eggs, that’s it. On average it is reported that the female Betta will lay between 40 and 50 eggs per spawn. Some experienced breeders have reported to have had 500 eggs during a single spawn.

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