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Aquarium Fish

Betta Splendens - The Siamese fighting fish

Betta Splendens - The Siamese fighting fish

The Siamese fighting fish

The Siamese fighting fish - Betta splendens, is one of the well-known and most desirable ornamental fish in the aquarium hobby. Its success story stays unbroken, and new colors and shape variations are constantly being discovered, making it very popular worldwide.

Believe it or not, the Betta fish first reached Europe in the late 1800s! In addition to selective breeding, it's assumed that intentional or accidental crossings also played a significant role in the emergence of today's forms. Asian (including Cambodian) breeders relatively quickly released Bettas, both veiled and more colorful variations, so it became a blockbuster among aquarists.

The Siamese fighting fish owes its name to the aggressive behavior of their males among themselves. It should already be stated that it's incredibly peaceful regarding most other fish species, so don't be fooled by its name! On the other hand, a male could violently react to another male if one of them crosses the other's territory. Experiences also show that several males can be kept side by side in larger aquariums of several hundred liters without causing any significant problems. Unfortunately, the Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) has been exploited many times (in some places even today), among other things, for the so-called betta contests.

In the vicinity of another male specimen, or even with visual contact, they stretch their fins and spread their gill covers to appear as large as possible. An old but not recommendable aquarist practice could convince us of this behavior only by holding a mirror in front of the animal. It will most likely begin with a sequence of territorial defense movements. To ensure calm conditions for the animals, this should be avoided by all means, and according to the Animal Protection Act, our livestock has to be kept so that it isn't exposed to such stress.

Betta splendens - siamese fighting fish

The Betta's original habitat

In its homeland of Thailand, the Siamese fighting fish mainly inhabits flooded rice fields, swamps, and swampy areas. In any case, we are talking about stagnant or perhaps only slowly trickling waters, which are considerably overgrown by floating vegetation. It is usually found in warm and oxygen-poor waters. For these conditions, its labyrinth organ is of great use, as it can compensate for the poor oxygen content of the water by breathing from the atmospheric air. Also, during dry periods, the rice fields are often a threatening trap for the fish; sometimes, the water completely disappears. For a short-term time, a puddle of around 3 cm in height and up to 35 °C can provide living conditions for the fish. The reason for its resistance and wide tolerance is probably to be found in the harsh natural conditions of its origin habitats.

Betta splendens - siamese fighting fish

How to keep the Betta Fish?

The species is extremely easy to keep compared to many other relative species and several other aquarium fishesIt is highly recommended for beginners, and it even fits perfectly in small aquariums, where it can be kept alone or in the company of some dwarf armored catfish. The legal minimum of 30 liters is more than enough for a male fighting fish! Do not keep your Betta in a crowded aquarium. Its sociability is not easy - but not because of the general behavior of fighting fish. The elongated, veiled fin of the breeding versions is liked by other fish, such as the Puntigrus tetrazona. In addition, slow, calm-moving bettas are disturbed by fast-swimming, zigzag-moving species, so it's best not to have large groups of danios beside them. A suitable composition for the average aquarium is a group of Harlequin rasboras, a few Yaoshania pachychilus and Tateurndina ocellicauda, and Puntius titteya or Desmopuntius rhomboocellatus next to the fighting fish. Bettas would only tolerate a crowded, stressful, and busy aquarium in the short run, and still, it can quickly lead to its death. Siamese fighting fish are best kept alone or in the company of only a few companion fish. You could put together 2-3 females next to one male, although many experiences show that it's much more beneficial to most extensively keep the sexes separate. In some cases, females can be a little aggressive below the other, especially in tight spaces, although the intensity of this doesn't come even close to the behavior of betta males. The fighting fish aquarium should be well sealed because if the air above the water surface temperature is significantly cooler than the water itself, the fish could quickly get sick, catch a cold or get a swim bladder inflammation.

Aquarium floating plant

The aquarium should be a calm place! It shouldn't have significant water flow from the filter unit and no strong water movement caused by the filter's water flow or other water-moving devices. Plant the aquarium extensively and use some floating plants, like Limnobium leavigatum, Riccia fluitans or Phyllanthus fluitans; these are all preferred species.

Ideal water parameters

Most descriptions recommend a neutral environment (6,5 - 7,5 pH) for fighting fish, which makes it suitable for its care. However, the acidity in nature differs slightly from this. A value of around 6 pH is ideal. Preferably, please keep them in soft or medium-hard water, but many bred versions have already adapted well to slightly harder water like tap water. Bettas favor warm conditions; a temperature between 25-27 °C for keeping is recommended. For breeding purposes, it's advisable to offer them water slightly warmer than 27 °C. Temperatures above 30 °C can be easily tolerated, which often happens in its habitat; on the other hand, temperatures below 25 °C have already been measured in some places as well.

Feeding the Betta fish

Their feeding is not challenging. Fighting fish accept a wide range of granulated ornamental fish food, and it's worth offering color-enhancing types of food specially made for fighting fish, which is available on the market, too. To preserve the vitality of our fish, we regularly offer mosquito larvae, artemia, and other live and frozen food sources. The latter, especially if we pursue to breed the next generation of wonderful Bettas. Your Siamese fighting fish can easily live for three or even four years with proper care.

Betta splendens - siamese fighting fish

Betta fish breeding

Breeding isn't considered a complicated process, but pay attention to some crucial points. As a spawning ground, a smaller aquarium will also do the job, filling it with soft water, which holds a pH of 6-7 and a temperature of 28-30 °C. Make sure to put some floating plants in the aquarium to support the male by building a foam nest. If the male has been placed in the breeding aquarium, add the selected female, who should carry eggs, so she's next to the male to make her visible. Keep the female in a bottle, vase, or any other helpful container for this procedure. When the female is ready to spawn, vertical stripes appear on her. If we experience this, feel free to introduce the fish in the aquarium. Ensure the spawning male cannot see another male in the neighboring aquariums! If you are working with several pairs simultaneously, slide something like cardboard between the sides of the aquariums or prevent visual contact in any other practical way.

The spawning of Siamese fighting fish is one of the fascinating things in the world of freshwater fish. The process can last for hours. The male ensnares the female under his foam nest, and she squeezes out the eggs, which he then fertilizes. Male bettas are great parents, guarding and caring for their nest. At first, the male collects the eggs and carries them into the foam nest, and if an egg should fall out of its nest, it will immediately be brought to its equals again. Betta males defend their nests aggressively. It's worth removing the female without delay after she has laid the eggs because the male is able and willing to mercilessly chase her to death at that point of the spawning!

The hatching time is usually one day. The first fry will swim within another 2-3 days. At the time, the male should be removed from the breeding container. The feeding of young Betta fish can be started with egg yolk and Paramecium caudatum. Approximately at the age of one week, they can consume small brine shrimp (artemia). In the beginning, feed them at least twice a day! The first three weeks in the life of a Betta fish are the most critical period of the whole raising because the essential labyrinth organ will be developed by the end of the third week. Until then, the aquarium has to ensure a very constant temperature. Because of this, the aquarium shouldn't be kept open. Instead, a cover must be used to guarantee that the air temperature above the water surface is the same as the water temperature. 300-500 fry can be expected out of one spawning. In a spacious aquarium, the group of fry can be raised together at least for the first few months; later on, it will be necessary to separate the males (the ratio of the sexes usually favors the females). Most breeders keep the Siamese fighting fish in small plastic containers, bottles, or specially designed betta breeding aquariums. However, beautiful specimens with enormous fins can be obtained if the chosen containers are placed close to each other so the fish can see each other.

Nowadays, you can get Bettas in almost every aquarium fish store in Hungary and many other countries worldwide. Most stores put them in small plastic containers, glass bottles, or betta containers, a highly divisive issue among aquarists. One thing is for sure, with this method, the fish can be kept out of a fish store's community aquarium, which represents a source of significant stress (and perhaps a risk of injury as other fish aggression). Green Aqua's betta tank system is a modern solution on the market, as the Siamese fighting fish are strictly separated from each other but still belong to a common water cycle. As a result, they're in biologically stable, well-filtered, and slow-flowing water, while they can't have visual contact. It's worth it visiting us just for this reason because we offer a wide variety of Betta fish at Green Aqua, which is unique in our country. Among our beautiful Bettas with many shiny colors and various fins, everyone can find "a new friend" that they fall in love with. ;)

Betta splendens - The Siamese fighting fish

In Asia, several shops specialize in selling Siamese fighting fish, and you can also find mobile street sellers. Most of the sellers offer their fish in prepackaged plastic bags.
As Betta beauty contests (pre-selected and magnificent specimens are displayed) seem very popular, several breeders have specialized in breeding such competition bettas.

Sadly enough, the Siamese fighting fish is on the verge of becoming rare in nature and is now classified as a vulnerable species because 30% of its population has already disappeared. It's most threatened by environmental pollution, which results in the loss of its habitats. Unfortunately, the main distribution area of ​​the species is significantly polluted and, in many cases, converted to a more responsible agricultural behavior. On top of that, many aquarium-bred variants have been released into the wild, which signifies a huge problem. The original wild strain is subject to genetic erosion (mixing the gene pool of aquarium breeding variants with the original wild form). Artificially farmed fish fall prey to predators much more easily and have a significantly lower chance of survival than their wild relatives. So it's necessary to take steps to avoid spoiling the bloodline of wild strains. Experts believe that it would be crucial to start a breeding program that would also be accountable for the reproduction of the original wild form and, at the same time spreading it among fish keepers.

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Literature used: Akvarista Lexikon - Márk Liziczai

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