4 Different Tropical Aquarium Bettas - Rare & Common

The Betta also referred to as the Siamese Fighting Fish, is an elegant freshwater fish. While they are marketed and known in the aquarium trade as the "Betta", it is actually one of 73 species in the genus.

Emerald Betta(Betta smaragdina)
Siamese Fighting Fish(Betta Splendens)
Snakehead Betta(Betta channoides)
Spotfin Betta(Betta macrostoma)

Bettas are among the most widely available and popular aquarium fish because of their varied and vibrant colours, diverse morphology, and relatively low maintenance.

Bettas have been kept and bred since at least the mid-19th century and possibly much earlier. Their exquisitely vibrant colours, large and flowy fins, and aggressive behaviour result from intensive artificial selection generations. They are sometimes known as "ornamental fish of the aquatic world."

Bettas usually grow to a length of around 6 to 8 cm and, with proper care, can live anywhere from two to four years, with some aquarists having noted lifespans that continued into their teens.

Although aquarium individuals are widely known for their striking colours and their large flowing fins, the natural colouration of Bettas is commonly predominantly coloured in a dull green or brown appearance, while their fins are short. Wild fish present intense colours only when disturbed. In captivity, Bettas have been selectively bred to display a vibrant array of tail types and colours.

Females and males look very different from each other, with males displaying longer, beautiful flowing fins. In contrast, females have much smaller bodies and fin length.

Natural habitat

Bettas are native to Thailand and their neighbouring countries Cambodia, Malasia, Laos and Vietnam. Mostly gathered in Thailand's Chao Phraya River Basin, Bettas were discovered in the still waters of rice paddies, canals and floodplains, where you can still find them.

Bettas have been kept and bred since at least the mid-19th century and likely much earlier. In addition to its global popularity, the Betta is the national aquatic animal of Thailand because of its cultural and historical significance. Thailand remains the primary exporter and breeder of bettas for the global aquarium market.

Despite their abundance as pets, Bettas are listed as "Vulnerable " by the ICUN due to increasing habitat destruction and pollution.

Typical behaviour

Bettas display intricate behavioural patterns and social interactions, which vary among individuals. Research indicates they are capable of associative training, in which they adopt a consistent response following exposure to new incentives. These characteristics have made Bettas victim to intensive study by neurologists, comparative psychologists and ethologists.

Males and females puff or flare out their gill covers to appear more impressive, either in the act of courtship or to intimidate other rivals. Flaring also occurs when they are threatened by a change of scene in their environment or movement.

Both sexes present pale horizontal bars if stressed or frightened; however, such colour changes, typical in females of any age, are limited in mature males due to their intensity of colour. Females often flare at other females, particularly when setting up a pecking order. Fish that are flirting behave similarly, with vertical instead of horizontal stripes indicating enthusiasm and readiness to breed.

Water conditions

Bettas prefer a water temperature of around 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit but have been witnessed surviving temporarily at extremes of 56 degrees Fahrenheit to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. If they are kept in colder climates, aquarium heaters are highly recommended, as much colder water can weaken their immune system and makes them susceptible to some diseases.

Bettas are also affected by the water's pH: a neutral pH of 7.0 is ideal; however, they can tolerate slightly higher levels.

Bettas have a labyrinth organ and can therefore endure low oxygen levels; however, they cannot survive for long in unmaintained aquariums, as poor water quality can make these fish more susceptible to diseases such as fin rot.

A power-driven air filter is considered necessary for their long-term health and longevity; also, live aquatic plants provide a supplemental filtration source.

Tankmates

Despite continually being publicised and sold in small containers in the pet trade, Bettas do best in larger environments. While they can survive in bowls, cups and other confined spaces, they will be happier, healthier, and longer-lived within a larger surface area. Although most Betta enthusiasts claim there is minimum tank size, determining a strict baseline is slightly uncertain and subjected to debate.

The general rule is that the ideal tank should be no less than 10 litres. However, a tank of just 4 litres can also suffice if it is cleaned regularly and maintained at an acceptable temperature of 75 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although males Bettas are aggressive and solitary towards one another, they can generally cohabit with many types of fish if there are adequate space and hiding places. However, compatibility varies based on the individual Betta's temperament, and it is advised to supervise the Betta's interaction with other fish carefully.

Tankmates must be tropical, non-territorial and communal; coldwater fish such as goldfish have conflicting temperature requirements, while predatory and aggressive fish are likely to nip at the Betta's fins or consume their slime coat.

Species that shoal, such as Danios and Tetras, are considered ideal tankmates since they usually keep to themselves and can handle bettas' territorial nature with their numbers. It would be best to avoid boldly coloured fish with large fins, such as Guppies, as they may encourage fin nipping by the male Betta.

You should usually add potential tankmates before the male Betta so they can establish their territories beforehand rather than battle with the Betta.

Female Bettas seem to be less aggressive and territorial than males and can live with a wider variety of fish; large-finned or brightly coloured fish will not usually disturb a female. Generally, female Bettas can also tolerate more numerous or larger tankmates than males. However, just like male Bettas, a female's tolerance of other fish will vary depending on the individual's temperament.

It is not recommended to keep female and male bettas together; however, if you wish to breed them, you can do this temporarily, which you should always undertake with caution and supervision.

Aquarium decor

Bettas are reasonably curious and intelligent and therefore require stimulation; otherwise, they can become depressed and bored, leading to inactivity and a weaker immune system.

Decorations such as artificial or live plants, caves, rocks, driftwood, and other ornaments provide crucial enhancement, provided they do not have jagged edges or rough textures, which may damage the delicate fins.

In their natural habitat, Bettas spend a majority of their time hiding under overhanging plants or floating debris to avoid potential predators. Leaves and floating plants can help Bettas feel more comfortable and secure while also providing the males with an anchor from which to construct their bubble nests.

Plentiful vegetation of any kind is customarily recommended; this will provide security and will cater for Betta's instinct to protect his territory.

Indian Almond Leaves are ever more popular for providing something closer to the natural foliage under which Bettas would hide in the wild. The leaves supposedly present several health benefits through their tannins and can be used to treat specific diseases, such as swim bladder. These leaves can also help to stabilise the water's pH.

Feeding

Bettas are naturally carnivores, feeding on small crustaceans, zooplankton and insect larvae such as mosquitos. Opposite to some marketing materials in the pet trade, bettas cannot subsist solely on vegetation or plants' roots.

You can feed Bettas a varied diet of high quality dried foods such as granules, pellets and flakes, as well as frozen foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia and similar.

Due to their short digestive tracts, a characteristic of most carnivores, Bettas have trouble processing carbohydrates such as wheat and corn, commonly used as fillers in many commercial fish foods. Therefore, regardless of the source, a proper betta diet should consist mainly of animal protein.

Bettas are susceptible to overfeeding, leading to constipation, obesity, swim bladder disease, and other health problems. Excessive food may also cause water to pollute.

It is generally advised to feed bettas daily, with only the amount of food it can eat within 3 to 5 minutes; you should remove leftover food.

Some professionals recommend that bettas should undergo a "fast" for at least a day to allow food to be fully digested. Bettas can go for up to two weeks without eating. It is not unusual for them to have no appetite for a couple of days, especially following stressful episodes such as water changes or the introduction of a new tank.

Breeding

If a male is interested in a female, he will flare up his gills, spread his fins and twist his body in a dance-like performance. Interested females will respond by darkening in colour and developing vertical stripes known as "breeding bars".

Males construct bubble nests of various thicknesses and sizes at the water's surface, which interested females may examine. Males do this regularly, even if there is no female present. Rocks or plants that break the surface regularly form a base for bubble nests.

When ready to spawn, the male will wrap his body around the female in a nuptial embrace. Then up to 40 eggs are released during each embrace until the female is spent of eggs.

With each deposit of eggs, the male will release milt into the water, and fertilisation will occur externally. During and after spawning, the male will use his mouth to retrieve eggs that are sinking and place them into his bubble nest; during mating, some females assist their partner but more often will devour all the eggs she manages to catch.

After the female has released all her eggs, the male will chase her away from his territory. It is advisable that you remove the female from the tank as soon as possible; otherwise, the male may kill her.

The eggs will reside in the male's care. He will carefully keep them in his bubble nest where he will guard and protect them, making sure none of them fall to the bottom, repairing the bubble nest as needed.

The Incubation period is usually 24 to 36 hours; the newly hatched larvae will remain in the nest for the next few days until they have fully absorbed their yolk sac. The fry will then leave the nest, where they will become free-swimming.

Initially, Betta fry depends on their gills; the labyrinth organ, which typically develops between three to six weeks old, depending on the growth rate, can be highly variable. This Organ allows the species to breathe atmospheric oxygen.

Bettas can reach sexual maturity as early as four to five months.

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