Betta splendens originates from the still waters and slow, shallow rivers of Thailand and Cambodia. In Southeast Asia, bettas have been bred for centuries and have been used as a means of gambling, prestige and to settle business disputes. Nobility were the first to exploit these fish and help to create some of the strains seen today.
The Siamese fighting fish are known as anabantoids (a sub-order of fish also known as Anabantoidei) and are the smallest of them all. The word “Anabantoidei” derives from the Greek verb “Anabaiano” meaning “to journey up” or “to go up”. This is based on observations of the fish regularly going to the surface to breath oxygen.
Bettas are able to take in oxygen from the surface via an organ called the labyrinth. In the wild this adaptation allows the betta to survive, for a time, in oxygen depleted water far to hostile for other fish species. I have read that this adaptation also allows them to leave an exhausted or dried up water source and “walk” on their pectoral fins in search of new and viable water locations, although I have never witnessed this behavior. They can and normally do take in oxygen the same as any other fish, filtered through the gill pates.
Bettas grow to a length of 2-2 _ inches, females being a little smaller. Males have large, flamboyant fins were as the females lack this flashy finage. Under normal captive conditions, bettas live approximately 1-2 years.
Bettas prefer a temperature of 75-84 degrees F and are sensitive to changes in temperature. Swings in temperature may lead to the development of velvet (most common problem with bettas) and ich. A pH of 6.0-8.0 is an acceptable range with a hardness of 25 degrees dGH.
Bettas are surface to mid-water feeding fish. Betta Bites are the most balanced betta specific diet available and make for the perfect staple. Bettas will also consume a variety of flake, freeze-dried, frozen and live foods.
Betta Bites should be fed sparingly, gently applying the pellets to the surface allowing them to float. Frequency is determined by purpose. To just keep them healthy 1-2 times daily and if conditioning for breeding 2-3 times per day is adequate. Remove any uneaten food particles.
If your betta refuses to feed due to the stress of moving into a new location or switching to a new diet, be patient, by crushing the pellets between your fingers and then feeding, it will help to stimulate your bettas appetite. It should only take a few days for your betta to begin eating again and no, they will not starve to death in a matter of days. In the wild, they may go for more than a week without feeding with few ill effects.
• Note: Bettas will not live off the roots of the aquatic plants as advertised in those attractive vase kits. They need to be fed with some kind of beta food for long-term success.
The best way to keep male bettas in good condition is singly, in tanks or containers of their own. It should be noted that anything less than one quart is considered inhumane. Surface area is more important than volume considering most bettas are kept in un-circulated containers.
Male bettas when kept together in the same enclosure will brutally attack and kill one another (more so with same or similar colored males, so I have read). Both fish are usually damaged so badly that there really isn’t any “winners”. This behavior is due to their natural response when encountering other male bettas in shrinking water sources and for competition for ripe females in the wild.
Female bettas can be housed in groups with or without a single male present. Contrary to popular belief female bettas will and do at times kill other females. I have even had unusually aggressive females that attacked and nearly killed males of the same size.
Community tanks pose a whole set of new problems that are avoidable if the proper tank mates are chosen. Keeping bettas in a community setting will require the aquarist to choose slow moving, non-aggressive species, taking care to avoid “fin-nippers” such as angels, barbs, some types of tetras and cichlids.
The long and flamboyant fins of the line bred, males are irresistible targets and impair their ability to evade such taunts resulting in stress-induced death. The key to keeping bettas in a community setting is LOTS OF SPACE and HIDDING PLACES.
Breeding the betta is not difficult and even the amateur aquarists can be successful with a receptive pair. Color variations are only limited by ones imagination. However, albino bettas are rarely if ever seen in the hobby, and are near impossible to reproduce or pair up. Solid black and solid purple are also rare and are highly sought after with many breeders salivating over the opportunity to obtain these fish. These solid dark colored fish burn out quickly due to the constant production of melanin (the color in the fishes flesh).
Male bettas are constantly building bubble nests and when a female is present the nest building accelerates. As the male blows his bubble nest, the bubbles are coated with a secretion from “cement” glands. This allows the bubbles to adhere to themselves and hold their shape longer. This also allows the fry to stay suspended in the nest. A recommended water depth of 5-8 inches is best.
Receptive pairs will display and counter display until the final embrace of the male wrapping his body around the female. Males and females of similar color seem to pair more readily and are less quarrelsome. Some would say that hiding places might inhibit spawning behavior due to the female remaining secluded (out of sight out of mind). It has been my experience that if the pair is ready and are receptive to each other hiding places retard the damage sustained by the female with no effect on their spawning efforts.
After the female disperses her eggs and the male has fertilized them, the female should be removed to avoid any damage initiated by the male. The male will painstakingly blow the eggs up into the nest and return any that should fall.
The fry hatch after about 24 hours and hang vertically in the nest. Once free-swimming (horizontal) they are easily raised on micro-foods such as crushed flake food or crushed Fry Bites, hard-boiled egg yolk and after 4 weeks, freshly hatched brine shrimp (artemia). It is at the free-swimming stage that it's best to remove the male as he will no longer recognize the fry as his offspring and turn instead to them as food.
As soon as the juveniles’ gender is distinguishable, the males will need to be removed to their own rearing containers as to avoid aggressions between them. Male’s fins start to grow longer, they express that hard lateral bar less often and tension will begin to mount among them. Females can be raised together but should be watched so unusually aggressive females can be removed.