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Betta splendens
Betta Splendens, Regan, 1910


Complete books have been written about this fish, and there's loads of websites with this fish as the main topic. Here you'll find the basic info and some personal experiences, as well as a description of some of the varieties.

Origin:    Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. According to Linke the fish are probably only native to Thailand, and other reports are mostly mixups with Betta imbellis and introduced animals. Betta splendens has also been introduced in Brazil(Recife area), Florida, Hawaii. Axelrod reports that the fish originate from the Metang river(Thailand)
The natural habitat is slow flowing and standing waters, which are often densely planted, and have a muddy bottom..

Etymology: Splendens(L)= radiant, beautiful.

Synonyms: Macropodus pugnax var., Cantor, 1850, Betta pugnax, Bause, 1897, Betta pugnax var. trifasciata, Köhler, 1906, Betta pugnax var. rubra, Köhler, 1906, Betta trifasciata, Mattha, 1909, Betta rubra, Krüger, 1912.Betta splendens

First European import: France, 1874. First American import: USA, 1910. In 1927 the longfinned forms was first imported.

First bred by: Jeunet, France, 1892. (Originally the fish had been bred for a long period by the Thai and Cambodians for fighting purposes)

Description: See pictures.

Care: No particular special requirements. Clean water with a bit higher temperatures suit the fish. If you decide to keep the fish in a small bottle or similar, a minimum of 1 liter and waterchanges every other day will be necessary. The fish don't like strong currents, nor tanks that are too high. Do not attempt to keep more males together, not even in a large well planted tank. A densely planted tank with floating plants and lots of driftwood, some free swimming space in the higher regions, and neutral to slighly acidic water will resemble the natural habitat where the fish occur. Betta splendens should be kept together with quiet peacefull tankmates, or in a species tank. The tank in which they are kept should be covered well, since the fish are susceptible to temperature differences between air and water.

Feeding:    Bettas will eat almost anything, but definitely prefer live food. They're easily overfed, a fasting period every now and then of a week and max 1 feeding per day will keep the fish in proper condition. The fish can be kept on flakefood alone.

Temperature range: 24-30 degrees.

Size: Fancy bettas including tail may reach up to 9 cm, body around 5. Wildtype splendens 5.5cm. Fighting bettas are reported to reach also around 8 cm(without the long finnage). Betta splendens, DT female

pH: 6.0-8.0

Breeding: Betta splendens can be bred in small tank, starting from 30 cm, but it's easier to breed the fish in 40 or 60 cm tanks. Prepare a breeding tank by disinfecting it(see also the general section), and add prepared water to it. Adjust the pH so that it's slighlty acidic to neutral, and make sure the water isn't too hard, preferably below 15 dGH. Set the temperature at 25 degrees at this time, and cover the tank.Place a small bubblefilter and plants, floating plants as well, in the tank and let it run for two days. Add the male to the tank, in the same way you add new fish to a tank, slowly let the fish get accustomed to the new environment. Feed the fish once or twice a day small portions of high quality food. Meanwhile the female should also be fed lot's of food until she looks as fat as the female in the picture on the right, in which you can clearly see the white ovipositor. If the male is ready to breed he will indicate this by building a bubblenest at the surface. If the male hasn't built a nest within a week, raise the temperature to 28 degrees, and do a small 20% waterchange. It's also beneficial to place a piece of styropoam (10*10cm)on the surface of the water, and to lower the waterlevel to 20 cm. After the male started to build a bubblenest, the female should be added to the tank. Usually she will be immediately harassed by the male, so it may be wise to leave her in a jar in the tank, or to add a divider in the beginning(If the male refuses to build a nest this may also intice him to start to build one). If the female is also ready to breed she will show vertical bars on her body. If this is the case the fish can be placed together in the tank, and usually spawning will take place within the next 24 hours. Make sure the female has possibilities to hide from the male, since males(especially older males) can be really mean, and sometimes even kill the females.
Betta splendens spawn below the bubblenest, the female will push the male in the belly with her head, which reduces the males' agression. After this she will waggle her body head down before him. The fish will circle around eachother a few times, after which the male will curl his body a little. The female will swim into the half circle formed by the males body, and an embrace will take place, which will turn the female over until the ovipositor is turned upwards. Each mating will produce around 40 eggs, which are collected by both parents, and placed in the nest. Up to 300 eggs are produced, which will hatch in a day, and be free swimming after another two days. Female should be removed after spawning, and for a large number of fry it's better to also remove the male after the fry are free swimming. The fry should be fed large amounts of infusoria in the first week, after which they will take artemia nauplii. If fed well and frequent waterchanges are carried out, the fry can be 1.5-2 cm after a month, at which time they will start to show colors(Red first).

As soon as the males can be recognized(2.5 cm), which is best seen in the slighltly elongated anal fin, they should be separated from the tank.

Sexual dimorphism: Males have longer finnage in all the types and brighter colors. To the right is a life size picture from a female. Besides this, females have white ovipositors when sexually mature.

Prices:   Male 3 Euro, Female 2 Euro for normal fish. The rarer a breeding form and color, the higher the price. A black half moon will cost you more than 100 Euro.

Additional: Bettas can live up to 7 years, i kept and bred a fish at 5 years. In Thailand the longfinned fish is called Pla Kat Khmer, Pla=Fish, Kat=biting, Khmer=Cambodia, which could indicate that fancy bettas originally come from Cambodia.

If a male is removed after breeding, the female will usually take over the tasks of caring for the eggs and fry. If it's not the intention to raise 100-200 fry to adulthood, it's really nice to observe the male caring for the fry. Kühme described how a male started to shake his fins below the nest, and that all the free swimming fry in a 40 cm tank came swimming towards the male, who placed all the fry back into the nest.

If a male is kept with several females in a tank, he will spawn with more than one female sometimes. If she gets a chance to come near the nest, she will try to eat as many eggs and fry which are already in the nest, probably to ensure better care for her own eggs. The male will try to prevent the female from coming near the nest, if eggs are already present, the female is not allowed to place eggs in the nest, as described in the breeding section.(Personal observation).


Betta splendensThis is a vase with a plant and a male Betta splendens in it. You can buy these at some shops on the www, and probably also in some stores in the world. People are told it's some sort of mini ecosystem in which the plants absorb the nutrients in the water. The fish is supposed to supply the plant nutrients. The plant garbage is supposed to produce food(microorganisms) for the betta(some even claim the plant itself is food for the betta). I cannot even make this succeed in a large tank, so the betta will eventually die of starvation, or because of the water rotting. Most of them will probably not live long enough, adding some tap water, giving the plant some sun or filling the vase above the blue line will also produce dead bettas.
The thing to notice may be that peace lilies and some other plants may grow well from the corner of a large tank.






Picture references:
Photo 1: E. Naus. Photo 2: E. Naus. Photo 4: www, unknown origin. Photo 3: E. Naus.
Books and articles: Baensch, H. A., Riehl, R.(1982): Aquarien Atlas I. Mergus Verlag, Melle, Germany.(click on the link to buy this book)Richter, H. J. (1979): Das Buch der Labyrinthfische. Verlag Neumann-Neudamm, Melsungen, Germany.

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

If you are interested in this fish please join our anabantoid board

Betta splendensST cambodia red
Pair 8$
Black butterfly DT Pair 120€ USAGilbert Limhengco
NL; Barbara
Orange butterfly DT Pair 120€ USA; Gilbert Limhengco
NL; Barbara
Blue marble DT halfmoon Pair 120€ USA; Gilbert Limhengco
NL; Barbara







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