Siamese fighting fish

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Betta (Siamese fighting fish)
A blue veiltail male.
A blue veiltail male.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Osphronemidae
Genus: Betta
Species: B. splendens
Binomial name
Betta splendens
Regan, 1910

The Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens), also known as the "beta fish" or just "betta", is one of the most popular species of freshwater aquarium fish. It is native to the rice paddies of Thailand and called pla-kad or pla-kat ("Biting Fish") in its native Thailand.

The Betta fish is a relatively inexpensive way to enter the aquatic species ownership realm. Because these fish are descendants of the wild betta fish which live in oxygen-poor environments, Siamese fighting fish are capable of living in smaller containers than most aquarium fish, without the filters and aerators that other aquarium fish require, although this isn't the ideal living situation.[1] The name Betta (or betta) is pronounced /ˈbɛtə/.[2] The name Betta is not to be confused with the Greek letter beta. Instead, the name of the genus is derived from ikan bettah, taken from a local dialect of Thailand.[3]

B. splendens usually grow to an overall length of about 6.0 centimetres (2.4 in), though some varieties reach 8.0 centimetres (3.1 in) in length. In recent years[when?] breeders have been able to create "Giant Bettas" that exceed 8.0 centimetres (3.1 in) due to the manipulation of a mutant gene[verification needed][citation needed]. Although bettas are known for their brilliant colors and large, flowing fins, 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 (i.e. Veiltail; Delta; Superdelta; and Halfmoon) have been developed through selective breeding.

The betta 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.


[edit] Breathing

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 that cannot reach the surface will drown. If a betta is sick and having trouble reaching the surface, some owners find it helpful to place a tall, flat surface in the tank that the betta can rest on and reach the surface more easily. Pet shops, chain or locally-owned, often through ignorance or indifference house and display bettas in water heavily contaminated with their own waste, poisoning the bettas and damaging their gills.[citation needed]

[edit] Diet

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, such as flies, crickets, or grasshoppers.[citation needed] Bettas which feed on wide range of foods live longer, have richer colors, and heal fin damage more quickly. Typically, Betta pellets are a combination of mashed shrimp meal, fish meal, brine shrimp, bloodworms, and vitamins. Bettas will also eat live or frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp or daphnia. For variety and fiber, bettas are fed finely-chopped, high-protein vegetables, such as soybeans, peas, green beans, broccoli, corn, and carrots. Some bettas subsist on dried flaked food suitable for tropical fish, because although this feed reduces their coloring, the bettas are able to digest this better than pellets. However, bettas are carnivorous and therefore require meat products as well. Bettas can get constipated, exhibiting a swollen stomach, when their diet lacks variety.

[edit] Reproduction and nests

The Siamese fighting fish mate in a fashion that is called "nuptial embrace", in which the male and female spiral around each other, around 10-41 eggs are released and fertilized at each embrace, until the female is exhausted of eggs. Once the female has released all of her eggs, she is removed from the tank, as it is likely that she'll eat the eggs due to hunger. [4]The male carefully keeps every egg in his bubble nest, making sure none fall to the bottom, and repairing the bubble nest as needed. Incubation last 30-40 hours, and the eggs hatch in 3-4 days.

Betta males build bubble nests of various sizes and thicknesses at the surface of the water. During and after spawning, the male uses his mouth to retrieve sinking eggs and deposit them in the bubble nest. After approximately two days the eggs hatch, and after three more they become free-swimming fry; The male will try to keep the fry near the bubble nest in order to keep them alive while their gills develop. Once the fry are older the male fry and male parent will fight so it is best to remove all males from the tank and place separately. Betta fry are fed infusoria for the first several days, followed by newly hatched brine shrimp or similarly sized food.[5]

B. splendens can be hybridized with B. imbellis, Betta sp. Mahachai and B. smaragdina, though with the latter the fry tend to have low survival rates.

[edit] Colors

An orange dalmatian male.

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.[citation needed] However, breeders have been able to make this coloration permanent, and a wide variety of hues breed true. Bettas come in a variety of colors, such as red, blue, turquoise, orange, yellow, white, and green. Most are slightly iridescent, and can appear to change color with different lighting or viewing angle. Breeders have also developed different color patterns such as marble and butterfly, as well as metallic shades such as copper, gold, and opaque. Children of for eg: a blue fighter and a brown fighter, may turn out blue with a tint of gold.[citation needed]

Breeders around the world continue to develop new varieties. Often, the male species are sold preferentially in stores because of their beauty, compared to the females. Recently, breeders have developed in females the same range of colors previously only bred in males. However, females never develop fins as showy as males of the same type and are almost always more subdued in colouration.

The true albino betta is a 'holy grail' that has been feverishly sought after since one recorded appearance in 1927, and one in 1953. Neither of them were able to establish a line of true albino betta. In 1994, a hobbyist named Tanaka successfully bred it. [3]

[edit] Tail shapes

A metallic, double-tail male Betta

Breeders have developed several different tail shapes:

  • Veiltail (non-symmetrical tail, only two rays)
  • Crowntail (highly frilled, extended spiny rays, also called fringetail)
  • Combtail (less extended version of the crown tail)
  • Half-moon (large tail fin that forms a 180-degree or larger circle segment)
  • 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 with sharp edges)
  • Fantail (a rounded delta tail)

[edit] Behavior

A male "attacking" and flaring at his reflection in a mirror.

Male and female Bettas flare or "puff out" their gill covers (opercula) 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 colour 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 may set up a territory centered on 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. The aggression of bettas has been studied by ethologists and comparative psychologists[6]. 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.[citation needed] Bettas are intensely human-responsive and will initiate games of peekaboo with their masters or others who are watching them. They are quite curious and will watch humans going about their business nearby. they enjoy having in their tanks plants, natural or artificial, that almost reach the surface of the water so they may rest upon the plants and raise their heads slightly for a sip of air or for the males to build their bubblenest.

[edit] Tankmates

Because of the aggressive nature of the Betta splendens species, tank-mates must be carefully chosen:

Two or more Males: Contrary to popular belief, male betta splendens do not fight to the death in the wild; when one fish has won the fight, the loser retreats to safety.[citation needed] In an aquarium, however, there is no retreat, so the victor fish continues attacking the loser, often resulting in the loser's death; therefore, hobbyists rarely house two male B. splendens in the same tank unless they are (a) separated by a partition; (b) they are from the same batch of eggs and are immature; (c)the tank is fairly large (over 50 gallons) and is heavily planted.

A Male and a Female: In the wild, females stay clear of males, except during mating. When cohabiting in tanks, males might kill females, and are generally kept apart unless (a) they are juvenile siblings, (b) they are breeding, (c) there is a partition, or (d) the tank is large enough for the female or male to escape attack. Often, before breeding, breeders use a partitioned container to allow female display without risking harm by the male.

Several female bettas in a community tank with mollies and rainbowfish.

Two or more Females: Bettas are not schooling fish, but in a large tank with many hiding spaces, female bettas can cohabit. When two females share a tank, one usually bullies the other; however, four or more females will establish a hierarchy allowing peaceful co-existence. Nevertheless, females living in community must be monitored for aggressive females.

Compatible fish of other species: Hobbyists put Betta splendens in tanks with other species after careful research and preparation. Common tankmates include platies (moons), Corydoras catfish, and loaches. Females can share a tank with danios and tetras, but males should not be kept with these species as they tend to nip at their long fins. Shrimp are popular tank-mates because, provided with sufficient natural plant cover, they keep the tank clean without causing stress to the bettas.[citation needed]

The success of a betta in a community aquarium, however, is largely dependent on the particular betta's level of aggression. Whereas some bettas make wonderful community fish, particularly belligerent or skittish bettas are best housed alone. Bettas are very aggressive towards long-finned fish, the guppy for example.

Incompatible fish of other species:

  • Very small fish (smaller than one inch) may be eaten.
  • Fish with long, flowing fins may trigger aggression. This includes fancy guppies, white cloud mountain minnows (which at any rate are suited to cooler water than bettas), and some long-finned tetra species.
  • Slow-swimming fish, e.g. fancy guppies, will be unable to escape bullying.
  • Mollies tend to bite the fin or (if large enough) eat bettas.
  • Fish belonging to the same biological family as the betta, such as Paradise Fish and gouramis, may attack or be attacked due to their relatively similar appearance and cross species aggression.
  • Goldfish are unsuitable tank-mates because of their great appetites, preference for cold water, and high excretion-rate.
  • Barbs have a tendency to nip at slower-moving fish such as male and female bettas.
  • Cichlids are aggressive and certainly incompatible with bettas except for peaceful cichlids like German rams.

Like many tropical fish, Betta splendens might harass and kill small, slow fancy goldfish; in return, goldfish have been known to bite a betta's tail. Goldfish also are best suited to a cooler-water tank than the tropical Betta splendens. It's commonly thought that bettas are best housed in extremely small vessels; this is a misconception derived from the limited display space available in pet shops and the fact that males cannot be housed together. In fact, bettas need as much living volume as other tropical fish of comparable size, meaning that a tank of 1.5-2 gallons in capacity is the practical lower limit for an individual fish. Table-top tanks should be kept in warm locations, given optimal betta water temperature of 77 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, and thus are unsuitable for places that are air-conditioned to cooler temperatures. If a larger tank is used and the filtration is strong enough to cause a current, it is important to make sure the betta has plenty of tank space without a strong current, as this can damage the betta's fins and make it difficult for the betta to reach the surface.

[edit] In popular culture

The Siamese fighting fish has been used as the default background in the first official beta version of the Windows 7 operating system, in an apparent reference to the name "betta".

The James Bond villain Blofeld compared the strategy of SPECTRE of three Siamese fighting fish fighting each other, there two will fight each other to the death while the third will wait on its turn, symbolise the conflict between the USA and Soviet Union as the two fishes and SPECTRE as the third, in the movie From Russia with Love.

[edit] Further reading

  • Simpson, M. J. A. (1968). The display of the Siamese fighting fish Betta splendens. Animal Behaviour Monographs, 1, 1-73.
  • Thompson, T. (1966). Operant and Classically-Conditioned Aggressive Behavior in Siamese Fighting Fish. American Zoologist, 6, 629-741 (doi:10.1093/icb/6.4.629).

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. ^ [1] /
  2. ^ "Betta". American Heritage Dictionary (4th ed. ed.). Retrieved on 2006-06-29. 
  3. ^ "Betta". FishBase. Ed. Ranier Froese and Daniel Pauly. March 2006 version. N.p.: FishBase, 2006.
  4. ^ Leong, Paul (2004). In "[2]". Google Search. Retrieved on March 13, 2009.
  5. ^ Hemdal, Jay F. (2003). In "Aquarium Fish Breeding". Barron's Educational Series p. 101. ISBN 0764122088. Google Book Search. Retrieved on March 27, 2008.
  6. ^ Bronstein, Paul M. (1998). "Agonistic Sequences and the Assessment of Opponents in Male Betta splendens". American Journal of Psychology 265. 
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