Siamese Fighting Fish (Betta splendens) - Wiki
Siamese fighting fish
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[Photo] Male betta. Photo by Vanessawitz
The Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) is one of the most popular species of freshwater aquarium fish, native to the Mekong basin in Southeast Asia and called pla-kad in its native Thailand. It is a member of the gourami family (family Osphronemidae) of order Perciformes, but was formerly classified among the Anabantidae. Although there are nearly 50 other types of bettas, B. splendens is the most popular species among aquarium hobbyists, particularly in the United States, and is commonly referred to with the imprecise name "betta."
B. splendens grows to an overall length of approximately 6 cm (~ 2.3" in). Bettas are notable for their colors and tail shapes. The natural coloration of B. splendens is a dull green and brown, and the fins of wild specimens are relatively short. However, brilliantly colored and longer-finned varieties have been developed through selective breeding.
Normally bettas live to be 2-5 years old, but some live to be nearly 8 years old. Typically, males purchased from a pet store are 9-12 months old, at a point when their finnage becomes fullest and most attractive. Due to their shorter finnage, females available in pet stores are often only 3-6 months old. Male bettas living in laboratories with large individual tanks and daily exercise have lived 10 years or longer.
Like anabantids and all members of the genus Betta, Siamese Fighting Fish have a labyrinth organ in their heads that allows them to take oxygen directly from the atmosphere in addition to the oxygen taken from water via their gills.
Bettas have upturned mouths and are primarily carnivorous surface feeders. In the wild, bettas feed on zooplankton and the larvae of mosquitoes and other insects.
The food for domesticated bettas must float on the surface of the water. Bettas that are fed a wide range of foods often live longer, show richer colors, and heal more quickly from fin damage. Betta pellets are typically a combination of mashed shrimp meal, bloodworms, and various vitamins. Bettas also will eat live or frozen bloodworms or brine shrimp or daphnia. For variety and fiber, bettas may also be fed finely chopped vegetables high in protein, such as soybeans, green beans, broccoli, corn, or carrots. Although some individuals can subsist on dried flaked food suitable for tropical fish, this will reduce their coloring somewhat.
Breeding and Nests
Bettas are moderately easy to breed if given healthy conditions. Females can be identified by a small, white 'pearl' at the rectum, most viewable from below the fish. They lay egg clutches of approximately 100-500 eggs, rarely over 600 eggs.
The male tends the eggs and newborns. Betta males build bubble nests of various sizes and thicknesses on the top of their tanks, sometimes even when not in the presence of female or young. Quick temperature change, barometer changes, materials in the tank, and presences of other males or females all have been shown to stimulate bubble nest construction. However, after the young fish are swimming freely, the chore of tending them falls upon the human owner. Therefore, it is advisable to research and prepare baby food, baby-ready (cycled) tanks, etc. prior to actual breeding.
Breeders have developed several different tail shapes:
veiltail (non-symetrical tail, only 2 rays)
crowntail (highly frilled, extended rays)
half-moon (large tail fin that forms a half circle)
short-finned fighting style (sometimes called "plakat")
double-tail (the tail fin is split into two lobes and the dorsal fin is significantly elongated).
delta tail (tail span is less than half-moon)
Bettas have been affectionately nicknamed "The Jewel of the Orient" due to the wide range of colors which are produced through selective breeding.
Wild bettas only exhibit strong colors when agitated. However, breeders have been able to make this coloration permanent, in a wide variety of hues. Bettas that are red or dark blue are the easiest to purchase, being fairly hardy and often breed true. However, bettas come in other colors, such as magenta, orange, yellow (rare), white and emerald green. Breeders have also developed different color patterns such as marble and butterfly, as well as metallic colors such as copper, gold, and opaque.
Breeders around the world continue to develop new strains. Recently breeders have developed in females the same range of colours previously only bred in males. However, females never develop finnage as showy as males of the same type, and are almost always more subdued in coloration.
Male and female Bettas flare or "puff out" their gill covers (operculum) in order to appear more impressive, either to intimidate other rivals or as an act of courtship. Females and males will display horizontal bars (unless they are too light a color for this to show) if stressed or frightened. Females often flare their gills at other females, especially when setting up a pecking order. Flirting fish behave similarly, with vertical instead of horizontal stripes indicating a willingness and readiness to breed. Bettas sometimes require a place to hide, even in the absence of threats. Bettas cling very close to a plant or rocky alcove, sometimes becoming highly possessive of it and aggressive toward trespassing rivals.
On average, males are more aggressive, though individual females demonstrate a wide range in level of aggression. In Asian countries, aggressive short-finned male bettas have long been used in a sport similar to cockfighting. The aggression of bettas has been studied by ethologists and comparative psychologists. Bettas will even respond aggressively to their own reflections in a mirror; use of a mirror avoids the risk of physical damage inherent in actual conflict.
Because of the aggressive nature of this species, a betta's tankmates must be chosen carefully:
Two Males: Male bettas do not 'fight to the death' in the wild; once one fish has clearly won the encounter, the loser will retreat to a safe location. In an aquarium, however, there is no place to run, and the winning fish will continue to attack the loser, often ending in death. Therefore, two male B. splendens should not be housed in the same tank unless they are (a) separated by a dividing wall, (b) in a very large tank so they can establish territory, or (c) offered the cover of rocks or floating plants.
A Male and a Female: Males are often too aggressive for cohabitation with females, though pairs may eventually mate. Often breeders use a container that allows the female to display without being harmed by the male, prior to induced breeding.
Two or more Females: Bettas are not schooling fish but with enough room and many hiding spaces, female bettas can cohabit. However, there should never be only two female bettas in a tank together: one will bully the other. However, three or more females generally establish a hierarchy, allowing them to live peacefully.
Compatible Fish of Other Species: Before co-housing bettas with other species, their compatibility should be carefully researched, and the owner should prepare a back-up plan. Common tankmates include mollies, catfish, or loaches. Amano Shrimp also provide good tankmates, and provided with sufficient natural plant cover will keep the tank clean without causing the betta any stress.
Incompatible Fish of Other Species: Certain fish should not be housed with bettas. Although bettas are most aggressive towards each other, they also can kill very small fish or nip at the fins of fish such as fancy guppies. Schooling fish may nip the fins of a betta. Also, aggressive fish such as barbs, piranha, or bluegill should not be kept around bettas. To avoid stressing bettas with tankmates, tanks should contain at least 8 liters of water per fish, with plenty of hiding places. Only females can be kept in communities, aggressive females should be monitored.
Because bettas breathe air, they are able to survive in smaller spaces and in poorer conditions (e.g., in stagnant water) that wouldn't support other aquarium fish. When kept in a small container such as a vase, the fish need frequent water changes, and the container must be kept in a warm room. A larger tank with a heater will provide better living conditions.
Fish of this breed are often kept in small containers, or even in vases as a display piece. Some argue that they should not be kept in these conditions, that they are only sold in small containers because they will fight if kept with other fish, even of the same species, and size. It is recommended by these groups that like all fish they should have adequate filtration and have a heated environment, as they are a tropical breed. These groups also frown upon them being kept in less than two gallons, as is often practiced when the breed is used as a display. They recommend that a living environment of at least five gallons is 'ideal'.
To maximize the lifespan of the fish and ensure their wellbeing, they should always be kept in appropriate sized tanks. As a rule of thumb, for each inch of fish there must be at least one gallon of water in its tank. Bettas ideally should be kept in a filtered tank 10 gallons or more and treated like any other freshwater tank fish. Although these conditions are ideal, with proper care and filtration a betta can be happily kept in a smaller tank.
Nonetheless, to keep an individual B. splendens, a minimum tank size of at least 3 U.S. gallons is recommended, if it will be kept in a warm room. Some authorities maintain that for a betta to lead a happy life and live the maximum lifespan, as much as 35 litres (10 U.S. gallons) is necessary. This absolute minimum ratio (8 litres/fish) holds true for both females and males who are being housed individually as well as females who are being housed together; this means that the smallest tank that can become a female community tank is 35 litres (10 US gallons), which can hold three or four females. A tank of 22 litres or larger (6 US gallons) will allow use of a heater, to maintain a temperature of about 27 °C (81 °F). It is optimum to keep the pH levels of the water between 6.5 and 7.5. One must take care in monitoring the pH levels to ensure the health of the fish, specifically if CO2 injection is being used in a planted tank, which can result in rapid spikes of pH values. The floor of the tank should have, as a minimum, a thin (5 mm or 0.25 in) layer of gravel to increase the surface area for nitrifying bacteria to colonize. Decorations can provide hiding places, especially important when two males are housed in a divided tank, or when the betta is living in a community tank. Every decoration must be free of rough areas or sharp points which can damage the delicate fins of the betta???for this reason, silk rather than plastic plants are recommended. Live plants will improve the water quality. Also, since the betta obtains oxygen from the air, the tank must not be covered with an air-tight lid and the betta must be able to easily reach the surface. (Note that some bettas enjoy leaping out of tanks, so a breathable lid is highly recommended.) If the betta has no access to air, it will suffocate. Be careful of housing a betta with small fish, for it will sometimes kill or eat them
Ideal tank conditions and Notes about Care
Since Siamese Fighting Fish are from the rice paddies of Southeast Asia, they typically thrive in conditions somewhat similar to their origins. In the wild, the Siamese fighting fish inhabits standing or slow-moving water, including floodplains and rice paddies, at temperatures of 24 to 30 °C (75 to 86 °F). This level of temperature should be used in the aquarium. Colder water temperatures could lower the fish's immune system and cause illness. The pH level should range between 6.5 and 7 (slightly acidic). Peat moss can be safely used to create softer acidic water since bettas are fine with water that is slightly tannic.
The most important factor in maintaining their ideal tank set-up is that bettas require consistent conditions. They are easily stressed by sudden changes in temperature, pH, or bacteria. Most metals, particularly copper, are lethal to bettas, and never should metal decorations be used unless they are marked for this purpose. Also, bettas may be allergic to certain types of natural/synthetic plastics, such as thermostats, elastomers, and thermoplastics. Two common maladies afflicting Siamese fighting fish are fin rot and ich. Bettas with more derived tail forms (e.g. half-moons) can be more difficult to keep in optimum health.
There is a stereotype that in the wild, bettas live in tiny muddy pools, and therefore that it is acceptable to keep them in small tanks, but bowls are usually too small. In reality, bettas live in vast paddies, the puddle myth originating from the fact that during the dry season, the paddies can dry out into small patches of water, thus enabling their easy capture by humans. It is not a natural state of affairs by any means, and in the wild, fish trapped in such puddles are likely to die in a short period of time when they dry out.
Bettas are sometimes sold in a vase with a plant, with the erroneous claim that the fish can feed on the roots of the plant and that they can survive without frequent water changes. This is dangerous since the roots of the plant may prevent the Betta from reaching the surface to breathe, causing the fish to suffocate in a matter of hours.
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