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Betta imbellis
Betta imbellis, Ladiges, 1975

Origin:Thailand; phuket, Ko Samui, Malaysia; near Kuala Lumpur, penang. Indonesia: North Sumatra(Medan and Sibolga) ,Vietnam, Phu Quoc.Here the fish occur mainly in the densely planted zones at the edge of the water.

Etymology: imbellis= not warlike, referring to it's peacefull nature, although some strains can be quite aggressiv.

Synonyms:Betta splendens, Betta rubraBetta imbellis female

First European import:Germany:1970, Dietrich Schaller, although a Dutch drawing published in 1944 clearly depicts B. imbellis, but at the time was known as B. splendens red.

Description:See pictures.

Care: Can be kept in small 40 cm tanks, but also in community tanks, although it should never be kept together with Betta splendens. Tanks should be densely planted, including floating plants. Water schould be around neutral and not too hard, dark soil brings out the colors better. Some type localities require slightly acidic waterconditions. The fish will inhabit the quieter parts of the tank, Betta imbellis dislikes stronger currents. The fish are in general quite hardy, as long as the temperature is kept in the higher regions, and the air above the tank is kept at the same temperature.

Temperature: 25-30 degrees. Betta imbellis male from Ko Samui, below a bubblenest.

Feeding:Live, frozen and flake food.

Size:5-5.5 cm.

pH: 6.5-7.5

Breeding: Well planted tank, spawning of B. imbellis is similar to B.splendens. Raise the temperature to 28 degrees, and do frequent small waterchanges. Sometimes it helps to reduce the waterlevel to 15-20 cm, although it's not required. Ph around neutral, athough some type localities require slightly acidic circumstances. The male will build a small bubblenest between or under some floating plants at the surface, and display below the nest with beautiful iridescent colors if a female is seen. If the female is interested she will swim towards the male, and the pair will mate below the nest, in a similar manner as B. splendens. The up to 200 eggs will hatch in a day, and are fully free swimming after another 2 days.In well planted tanks usually some fry will survive without any intervention. The fish should be bred in the first year!! Attempts made at a later age often fail!

Sexual dimorphism:Male much more colorful with longer fins.

Prices:Netherlands: 4€

Additional:Different type localities exist, and it's important to keep the strains pure(do not crossbreed!). Betta imbellis can be crossed with Betta splendens, and the offspring is fertile up to 2-3 generations, but then fertility problems start to occur. A few years back(1998) "peaceful bettas" have been offered in shops, which were clearly a crossing with fancy bettas, created by people only interested in profit and with a complete disregard for the consequences.

Seeing that imbellis has the largest natural occurence, it's likely to be the oldest species of the splendens group. If it can also be crossed with smaragdina it would be likely that both smaragdina and splendens have evolved from B. imbellis.

Lately it has been discovered that Betta rubra and Betta imbellis are the same species, and officially the name should be Betta rubra which is the oldest name. However, since the name has been used for such a long period, according to the "rules" it will keep the same name to prevent confusion.

Picture references: Picture 1: Unknown origin.Picture 3: Klaus Weissenberg. Other pictures: E. Naus


Schäfer, F.(1997): Aqualog - All Labyrinths, Verlag A. C. S. Gmbh., Mörfelden - Walldorf, Germany.Kottelat, M., A.J. Whitten, S.N. Kartikasari and S. Wirjoatmodjo, 1993. Freshwater fishes of Western Indonesia and Sulawesi. Periplus Editions, Hong Kong

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

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