Betta fish (Betta splendens) or fighting fish

Betta fish (Betta splendens) or siamese fighting fish has been well known and popular among aquarists for quite a long time. It was fighting fish and its relative species paradise fish to be the first aquarium fish brought from Asia to Europe. However, long before that the fighting fish had already been bred in Thailand and Malaysia. The fish has become popular due to its gorgeous appearance, unusual behavior and its capability to inhabit in small tanks. Also bettas are easily bred and interbred, so as a result there are lots of morphs that have various coloring, fins shape etc. Wildlife betta fish species isn’t that attractive and colorful – it’s greenish or brownish colored fish with an elongated body and short fins.

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Betta fish has got the name of fighting fish because of violent fights that male put up with each other, which sometimes end up with death of one of fishes. Wildlife fish species is still used for fish fights in Thailand, though the fights now never last till the death of one of the fish. Despite the fact that the fish is a rather furious fighter; it has quite specific fighting strategy. If one of the fishes swims up to water surface to get some air, the other one won’t attack, the fish will wait till the other one gets back. The same happens when two males are fighting, the third one doesn’t interfere and it waits till the fight is over.

However, those fish that you may encounter on sale are far cry from the fighting fish which their relatives used to be. They still have the same temper and behavior and they’ll still have fights, but the concept of the fish itself has changed – because its modern breeds are supposed to be beautiful and attractive. They have gorgeous fins that are so long that can be damaged even by tank plants, not to mention the fish fights. These fish are now kept in tanks for their beauty, bright coloring and amazing long fins, but not for their ability to fight with each other.

Bettas are perfect for beginners and those aquarists which can’t afford to have big tanks, since this fish requires minimum space and feed. Also the fish isn’t demanding, it’s healthy and always on sale. Due to its labyrinth organ the fish can survive in the water poor with oxygen and in very small tanks.

Fighting fish is a rather peaceful one provided with proper tankmates. However, during the spawning period male is rather aggressive and it’ll attack any fish around, especially fish that has the same appearance (even its female fish mate) or any bright colored fishes. Because of that only one betta fish is usually kept in a tank or it has proper tank mates that it won’t be able to hurt. Also, you may keep a couple provided that they have a spacious tank, so that the female fish will have a place to hide.

Inhabitance in the wild

Fighting fish was first described in 1910. It can be encountered in South-West Asia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam. However, Thailand is considered to be the fish habitat, though it’s rather difficult to say if it’s true, taking into account its popularity. The fish got its name “Betta” from Javan ” Wuder Bettah “. Right now in Asia the fish is more often called “pla-kad”, which means – a biting fish. Another interesting fact, that in Thailand the fish is called “pla kat Khmer” which can be translated as a biting fish from Khmer lands.

B. splendens is one of more than 70 described species of Betta kind. There are 6 or more kinds of the fish, that weren’t classified. This kind of fish may be divided into 2 groups – one of them broods its juveniles in the mouth and the other one builds a bubble nest. Betta fish inhabits in thickly planted impounded waters or slow flowing waters – in channels, rice fields and in middle-sized and large rivers. The fish is considered to be Anabantoidei kind – the one that can breathe with atmospheric oxygen, which allows the fish to survive in very severe conditions.

Appearance

In the wild betta fish isn’t that attractive – it has an elongated body with short rounded fins, the body is greenish or brownish. However, nowadays the fish is a collectible item and its coloring, as well as its fins shape vary quite a lot. Max size is up to 6-7 cm (2,36-2,76 in), however its lifespan is rather short – as a rule it’s about 2-3 year provided that fish has good care.

Difficulties in keeping

The fish is good for beginners, since care is quite easy. It can be kept in very small tanks (like Tetra 29095 Cube Aquarium Kit, 3-Gallon) and under different tank conditions. Fighting fish is not demanding as for the feed and it’ll do with almost all types of feed available on sale. Usually the fighting fish is sold as a fish appropriate for community tanks, however keep in mind that males tend to have rather violent fights with each other, they may harm their female mates and they are aggressive during the spawning period. At the same time the fish can be kept alone in a tank and it stands this quite well.

Feeding

Though betta fish are omnivorous in the wild, they can even feed on some algae, however insects are its main diet. In the wild the fish feeds on insects larva, zooplankton, water insects.

In a tank the fish eats all types of live, frozen and artificial feed, so there shouldn’t be any trouble in this respect. The only thing is that you should make fighting fish diet diversified by changing feed types to keep the fish healthy and brightly colored. About the best feed for all types tropical aquarium fishes you can find here.

Keeping in a tank

Betta fish swims in all water layers, however it prefers upper one. Care is rather easy and 5 gallons is quite enough for one fish, however this is a minimal required capacity of a tank. It’s not a good idea to keep the fish in a round shaped tank, though it’s quite popular thing to do. It’s better to keep fighting fish in a tank of about 2 gallons capacity and more, with a heater and it must be covered from top, since the fish may jump out.

If your fish isn’t alone in a tank, it’ll surely has to be more spacious with some shelters for female, not bright lighting and some fluctuants. As for the routine care, it consists of water renew (of about 25% from the total tank capacity once a week), since when there are a lot of leftovers and other litter in the water it first of all effects the state and appearance of the fish fins. As for the tank water parameters, they may vary a lot. In general it’s recommended to maintain the following water parameters: 24-27С, ph: 6.0-8.0 , 5 – 35 dGH. Use Tetra BettaSafe Water Conditioner and Marina Betta Waste Remover for Aquarium.

Scientific Name Betta splendens
Common Name Betta fish, Siamese fighting fish
Tank size 5 gallons (20L) and more
Temperament Peaceful/Aggressive to same species
Diet Omnivorous
Temperature 75–81 °F (24–27 °C)
pH 6.0-8.0
Size 6.5 cm (2.6 in)

Compatibility

In general betta fish is quite suitable as a tank mate for many fishes. However, you definitely shouldn’t keep it together with the fishes that are nipping fins, for example dwarf puffer fish or tiger barb. However, betta fish itself may start nipping other fish fins, so don’t keep it together with long-finned fish kinds. Sometimes, fish attacks other fishes in a tank, but usually it’s because the fish has taken them for its relatives.

The thing that definitely shouldn’t be done is to put two males in one tank, because they will surely have fights. Female fish of this kind are less aggressive, though they have rather strong hierarchy. Therefore, one male fish can be kept together with several females provided that the latter have enough shelters in a tank. serpae tetra, glowlight tetras, black tetra, emperor tetra, opaline gourami, dwarf gourami and live-bearing fish are perfect betta fish tank mates.

Sex differences

It’s quite easy to see between male and female. The male fish is larger with larger fins and it has more saturated coloring. The female fish is less bright colored, smaller with small fins and its abdomen is rather rounded.

Breeding

As a majority of Anabantoidei fish kind the betta fish is a bubble nest builder. Betta fish breeding is an easy, but rather troublesome thing due to male temper and the ill health of fighting fish juveniles.

To grow the juveniles successfully one should get prepared to the process. After you’ve chosen a fish couple you should feed them well with live feed and keep the fish separately before they start breeding. Once the fish female is ready to spawn, its abdomen becomes more rounded due to the eggs she has inside.

As soon as the fish couple is ready to breed it’s put into a spawning tank with the water level not higher than 15 cm. You may encounter some info over the Internet, which says that a tank of 10 liters capacity will do as a spawning tank, however if you do some calculations, you’ll see that it’s not enough. Choose the tank capacity according to your resources, anyway you could do with another spare tank, since betta fish male will haunt and fight with the female fish and she’ll need some place to hide.
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Increase the water temperature up to 26-28° C, than the fish couple will start building a nest. To keep the male fish from killing the female one add some thick plants into the tank (for example some Javan moss and keep in mind that 10 liters capacity isn’t enough). Put some fluctuants on the water surface – some Riccia or floating weed.

As soon as the nest is ready, the male fish will start calling the female to get closer to it. Then the female will close its fins and approach to the male fish, but keep an eye on the male so he wouldn’t kill her! The male fish embraces the female one squeezing the eggs out of her and simultaneously sperm is being released. Betta female fish lays about 40 eggs in a time and about 200 eggs in general during all spawning period. Basically the eggs go down to the tank bottom and the male fish picks them up and puts into the nest. The female fish can also help him with that, but more often she just eats the eggs, so it’s better to remove the female fish from the spawning tank right after the spawning is finished. The eggs hatch in 24-36 hours. Larva stays in the nest for 2 or 3 days after that, till it completely eats its yolk sack and starts to swim. Once fighting fish juveniles start to swim you’d better remove the male fish from the tank, because it may start eating the juveniles. You should lower the water level (up to 5-7 cm) and turn on the aeration at a minimal level. These should be done till the juveniles have their labyrinth organ completely developed and they start taking some air from the water surface. After that you may start to raise the water level gradually. All abovementioned happens in about 4-6 weeks after the spawning.

Feed fighting fish juveniles with infusorian, egg yolk. As the juveniles grow you may add some brine shrimp nauplii and tubifex into their diet. Betta fish juvenile’s rate of growth is quite individual and different, so you should sort them according to their size to avoid cannibalism among the fish and to prevent their fights in the future.