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Betta bellica male
Betta bellica, Sauvage, 1884

Origin: Indonesia; Sumatra, Malaysia; Malakka(Malay penisula), Perak, and Thailand(325 km south of Bangkok in the vicinity of Prochuats Khirikan). According to Ladiges Betta bellica was found in Malaysia in a large swamp, densely grown both above and below the water. This large swamp is probably the swamps next to the Kinta river, a tributary to the Perak river.

Etymology: Bellica means warlike.

Synonyms: Betta fasciata, Betta bleekeri, Regan, 1909.Betta bellica male

First European import: Germany, 1905, by J. Reichelt, who caught the fish in Sumatra

Description:See pictures. A blueish form also exists.

Care: Although the latin name suggests otherwise, Betta bellica are peaceful fish, suitable for larger community tanks, although they shouldn't be kept together with very small fish. In smaller tanks the fish are shy and don't show their colors, but in large well planted tanks with lots of hideouts the fish will show themselves with full color. The tank needs to be covered extremely well, since the fish will jump through the smallest hole. In it's original habitat Betta bellica can be found in extremely soft and acidic water, Vierke describes pH 4.6, temperature 28 degrees and electrical conductivity 33 mS. In an aquarium the fish can be kept in acidic to neutral , not too hard and clean water. Frequent waterchanges are important, the fish will show signs of discomfort in polluted water, among which brownisch spots on the body. Temperatures in the higher regions. Since the fish get very accustomed to their environment, it's best to buy some juveniles and to keep them in the same tank all their life, otherwise the fish may become very shy.

Temperature:24-30 degrees.

Feeding:Small and large live food(Insects!!!), but also frozen and flake food. The fish can actually get bored with food, and may refuse to eat if no varied diet is offered.

Size:Up to 11 cm(13.5 cm has also been reported)Betta bellica mae

pH: 6.0-7.5

Breeding: Betta bellica is the largest bubblenester of the betta family. The male will build a large bubblenest at the surface of the tank, or a more compact nest under floating plant leaves. The fish has both been described as incredibly difficult to breed(Baensch and Riehl, 1990), and as easy and will spawn in a community tank(A. van den Nieuwenhuizen, 1998). Much seems to depend on food! In nature B. bellica eats almost exclusively dragon and damsel fly larvae according to Quek, Ng and Chung (1994). Probably the imagos are also eaten in nature in the season judging from the feeding behaviour that occurs in tanks when fed live flying insects. The fish focus on the insects, not letting them out of sight, and wait until they settle down. Then they curl their body in an s-like shape and jump. The fish hardly ever miss.
Besides proper food, higher temperatures(28) and acidic to neutral and soft(GH below 5) water seems to induce spawning. In natural circumstances the fish inhabit pools and streams with low pH and low hardness in a swamp. At the start of the rain season the swamp will flood, and the fish will occupy the flooded shallow water with an abundance of small live food, where they will start making bubblenests and breed.

Sexual dimorphism:Males much more colorful and larger. As long as the fish have a striped appearance the difference cannot be seen.

Prices:Netherlands, 7€.

Additional:Baensch and Riehl(1990) describe that the fish occasionally rest on leaves on the surface, outside of the water. A similar behaviour has been observed by me in Betta miniopinna, but only when the water was foul. Probably the fish will try to escape from an unsuitable environment.

Betta bellica was originally described from Malaysia, Malakka, and Betta fasciata was described from Sumatra(Werner, 1939). Fasciata was supposed to have a blueish groundcolor and to remain a bit smaller, up to 10cm. See also description.

Picture references:Picture 1: Ernst van Genne.Picture 2+3:Peter Jan-Taheij

References:Baensch, H. A., Riehl, R.(1982): Aquarien Atlas I. Mergus Verlag, Melle, Germany.(click on the link to buy this book)Schäfer, F.(1997): Aqualog - All Labyrinths, Verlag A. C. S. Gmbh., Mörfelden - Walldorf, Germany.Werner, K.(1939): Kamer-Aquaria. N. V. Kosmos, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.Singer, T. A.(1980): Labyrint vissen. Zuidgroep B. V., Best, The Netherlands.

Hoedeman, J. J.(1969): Aquariumvissen encyclopedie 5. Elsevier Nederland B. V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Richter, H. J. (1979): Das Buch der Labyrinthfische. Verlag Neumann-Neudamm, Melsungen, Germany.

Linke, H.(1980): Labyrinthfische - Farbe im Aquarium. Tetra Verlag, Melle, Germany.


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