Betta Fish: Everything You Need to Know About the Species. Part 1

Betta Fish Everything You Need to Know About the Species

What is a Betta?

You may have seen them. You may even be familiar with their reputation, but you may not know their name. They are Betta fish and sadly, they’ve been universally labeled, “Doesn’t play well with others.”

The Betta is the fish that is alone in the fish tank in nearly every pet store. In this article, we will explain why they are normally isolated, but it doesn’t matter because their beauty blinds any of their shortcomings.

They are identified in most parts of the world as Siamese Fighting Fish. If you decide to purchase one of these “beautiful bad boys” then it will more than likely be a male. As with many species in the animal world, the males and females look vastly different from each other.

The females aren’t nearly as spectacularly colored as the males. Their hues are dull compared to the males and their fins are much shorter.

The scientific name: Betta splendens.

The name “Betta” is spelled with two “t’s,” unlike the name of the second Greek letter of the alphabet, and different than “beta” which is a website that is still in development. In actuality, Betta is a derivation of the Indian word “waderbetah,” and this is understandable since the Betta genus was originally developed in 1850 by a Dutch physician living in East India.

A variety of Betta species exist, but the type that’s usually found in pet stores is the Betta splendens or Siamese Fighting Fish. This Betta is a very close cousin to the Betta imbellis, and you may find this variety, or at least a hybrid version, in pet stores as well.

Betta Breeding: Big Business

Betta breeding has become big business worldwide; therefore, these fish are available in most countries. However, this also means species have been interbred. The definitive line that once separated these species has blurred, to say the least.

Today, Bettas are usually defined by the area in which they originated, more than by any other strict scientific reasoning. These delightful fish come from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and other Asian countries.

Most of these species are named for their physical characteristics, their colors or their fin patterns.

For example, the Betta half-moons are named because their tail resembles a capital “D” when it fans out. Likewise, the Betta splendens was named because of the word “splendid.” Not very scientific, but definitely descriptive!

Home: Still Waters Do Not Run Deep!

Home is where…there is stagnant water! If you were a Betta you’d be snuggling up on the proverbial couch with the remote control and settling down in some nice slow moving, or better yet, motionless water.

Now that’s what I call home!

As strange as it may sound, Bettas love this environment. Formerly, their natural home was a flooded rice patty. They thrive in low levels of still water. In addition to rice patties, their original homes included stagnant ponds and other low-lying, quiet bodies of shallow water.

As you are probably discovering, Bettas are definitely NOT your average fish. They thrive in water with low levels of oxygen which would kill most other fish. These amazing little creatures process oxygen differently than most other fish species. To survive, they swim to the surface of the water regularly and breathe atmospheric air.

Part of their astonishing adaptation to low-lying water involved the development of a mechanism that allowed them to survive in very shallow waters. These fish are so astonishingly adept at living in this type of water that they can, and have, lived in buffalo hoof prints filled only with rainwater!

The Amazing Betta Labyrinth

The labyrinth is the organ that allows Bettas to live in shallow, low-lying water such as those buffalo hoof prints. It extracts oxygen from the water and air more efficiently than gills.

Warm water, which is part of their natural habitat, is lower in oxygen, which makes it difficult for some species to breathe. Bettas are not the only fish to have this organ, as Georamas also feature this interesting structure.

Another characteristic that distinguishes these finned creatures from others is their love of warm water. Typically, rice patties in Asia are quite temperate, so you can understand why Bettas thrive in more temperate water. In fact, if you allow the water in the aquarium to fall below 75 degrees, you’ll likely see your little guy become very lethargic.

If you’ve ever kept fish before, you are aware that water filtration is a prerequisite for a healthy fish. If you plan on owning a Betta or two, you will have to restructure your way of thinking.

Remember the rice-patty home and the stagnant pools? Bettas are happiest in slow-moving water. They should never be kept in fish tanks that have high-powered filtration devices that cause excessive movement.

Getting to Know Your New Friend

Bettas feel right at home among plant life. No, you don’t have to plant rice in your aquarium . . . at least not initially. 🙂

Your Betta’s diet consists mainly of meat and protein, but they will also eat a bit of vegetation. The plants in your aquarium also allow for resting and breeding.

You can also find a lot of detailed information in: Betta Fish: Everything You Need to Know About the Species. Part 2

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