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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Betta Splendens History

The Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens, play /ˈbɛtə/), also known as the betta (particularly in the US[citation needed]), is a popular species of freshwater aquarium fish. The name of the genus is derived from ikan bettah, taken from a local dialect of Malay.[1] The wild ancestors of this fish are native to the rice paddies of Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam and are called pla-kad (lit. biting fish) in Thai or trey krem in Khmer.



[edit] Description

B. splendens usually grow to an overall length of about 5 cm (1.97 inch). Although 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. Brilliantly colored and longer finned varieties (i.e. Veiltail; Delta; Superdelta; and Halfmoon) have been developed through selective breeding.
Properly kept and fed a correct diet, B. Splendens lives approximately 2-4 years in captivity.
The fish 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 members of the Betta genus, B. splendens is one of the most popular species among aquarium hobbyists.
Betta Species also prefer a warmer water climate than other tropical fish - around 25-30 Degrees Celsius.(77-86 Degrees Fahrenheit)
Betta fish have an organ known as the labyrinth organ which allows them to breathe air at the water's surface. It is often wrongly thought that this organ allows Betta fish to be kept in unmaintained aquaria.[2] This is a misconception as poor water quality makes all tropical fish, including Betta Splendens more susceptible to diseases such as fin rot.

[edit] History

The people of Siam and Malaya (now Thailand and Malaysia) are known to have collected these fish prior to the 19th century.
In the wild, bettas spar for only a few minutes or so before one fish backs off. Bred specifically for fighting, domesticated betta matches can go on for much longer, with winners determined by a willingness to continue fighting. Once one fish retreats, the match is over. Large amounts of money are wagered during these fights, with potential losses as great as a person's home.
Seeing the popularity of these fights, the king of Siam started licensing and collecting these fighting fish. In 1840, he gave some of his prized fish to a man who, in turn, gave them to Dr. Theodor Cantor, a medical scientist. Nine years later, Dr. Cantor wrote an article describing them under the name Macropodus Pugnax. In 1909, Mr. Tate Regan realized that there was already a species with the name Macropodus Pugnax, and renamed the Siamese fighting fish to Betta splendens.[3]

[edit] Diet

Siamese fighting fish have upturned mouths and are primarily carnivorous surface feeders, although some vegetable matter may be eaten. In the wild, they feed on zooplankton, crustaceans, the larvae of mosquitoes and other water bound insect larvae.[4] Typically, commercial betta pellets are a combination of mashed shrimp meal, wheat flour, fish meal, brine shrimp, bloodworms, and vitamins. These fish will also eat live or frozen bloodworms, mosquito larvae, brine shrimp or daphnia.
Hatching brine shrimp is a popular method used by many in the aquarium hobby to obtain live food for their Betta fish.[5] Brine shrimp are the easiest live fish food to procure, hatch and cultivate and are particularly nutritious when they are in their early stages still attached to their yolk sack. Some aquarium fish are reluctant to accept dried or flake foods therefore live food is occasionally necessary.

[edit] Reproduction and early development

A pair spawning under a bubble nest in a breeder's tank.

1-day old larvae in a bubble nest. Note that their yolk sacs have not yet been absorbed. Betta fry rely entirely on their gills to breathe.

Betta splendens fish build bubble nests of varying sizes.

A 15-day old free-swimming fry, infected with Piscinoodinium sp. (Velvet disease), a common killer of betta fry in captivity. Adults can be treated successfully, but treating fry is much harder because of their intolerance to medications and changes in water parameters.
Male bettas flare their gills, twist their bodies, and spread their fins if interested in a female. The female will darken in colour, then curve her body back and forth as a response. Males build bubble nests of various sizes and thicknesses at the surface of the water. Plants or rocks that break the surface often form a base for bubble nests. The act of spawning itself is called a "nuptial embrace", for the male wraps his body around the female; around 10–41 eggs are released during each embrace, until the female is exhausted of eggs. The male, in his turn, releases milt into the water, and fertilization takes place externally. During and after spawning, the male uses his mouth to retrieve sinking eggs and deposit them in the bubble nest (during mating the female sometimes assists her partner, but more often she will simply devour all the eggs that she manages to catch). Once the female has released all of her eggs, she is chased away from the male's territory, as it is likely that she'll eat the eggs due to hunger.[6] The eggs remain in the male's care. He carefully keeps them in his bubble nest, making sure none fall to the bottom, repairing the bubble nest as needed. Incubation lasts for 24–36 hours; newly-hatched larvae remain in the nest for the next 2–3 days until their yolk sacs are fully absorbed. Afterwards the fry leave the nest and the free-swimming stage begins. It is common practice in the aquarium hobby to remove the male at this point, so that he would not eat his young (although it has been suggested that this danger is overrated). In this first period of their lives, B. splendens fry are totally dependent on their gills; the labyrinth organ which allows the species to breathe atmospheric oxygen typically develops at 3 to 6 weeks of age, depending on the general growth rate, which can be highly variable. B. splendens can reach sexual maturity at an age as early as 4-5 months.
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. As well as these hybrids within the Betta genus, there have been reports of the inter generic hybridizing of Betta splendens and Macropodus opercularis- the Paradise Fish.

[edit] Colors

A dalmatian orange male.
B. splendens have been affectionately nicknamed "The Jewel of the Orient" due to their beauty and wide range of colours which are produced through selective breeding[citation needed].
Wild fish exhibit strong colours only when agitated.[citation needed] Breeders have been able to make this colouration permanent, and a wide variety of hues breed true. Colours available to the aquarist include red, blue, turquoise, orange, yellow, green, bright blue with pink highlights, cream and even true white (the "Opaque" white, not to be confused with albino). The shades of blue, turquoise and green are slightly iridescent, and can appear to change colour with different lighting conditions or viewing angles; this is because these colours (unlike black or red) are not due to pigments, but created through refraction within a layer of translucent guanine crystals. Breeders have also developed different colour patterns such as marble and butterfly, as well as metallic shades like copper, gold, or platinum (these were obtained by crossing B. splendens to other Betta species).

Purple and blue female.
Breeders around the world continue to develop new varieties. Often, the male of the species are sold preferentially in stores because of their beauty, compared to the females. Recently, breeders have developed in females the same range of colours previously only bred in males. Females never develop fins as showy as males of the same type and are often more subdued in colouration.
The true albino betta has been feverishly sought after since 1 recorded appearance in 1927, and another in 1953. Neither of these were able to establish a line of true albinos. In 1994, a hobbyist named Tanaka claimed to have successfully bred albino bettas.[7]

[edit] Finnage and scale variations

A metallic, double-tail male

A crowntail male
Breeders have developed several different finnage and scale variations:
  • VeilTail (extended finnage length and non-symmetrical tail; caudal fin rays usually only split once)
  • CrownTail (fin rays are extended well beyond the membrane and consequently the tail can take on the appearance of a crown; also called fringetail)
  • CombTail (less extended version of the crown tail, derived from breeding crown and another finnage type)
  • Half-Moon (caudal fin that forms a 180 degree angle) The edges of the tail are crisp and straight.
  • Over-Half-Moon (caudal fin that is in excess of the 180 degree angle) by product of trying to breed half-moons; can sometimes cause problems because the fins are too big for the fish to swim properly. If the fish is able to swim properly, however, OHM's are sought after to breed with Super Deltas to try to get Half-Moons.
  • RoseTail (halfmoon variation with so much finnage that it overlaps and looks like a rose)
  • Short-Finned fighting style (sometimes called "plakat")
  • Double-Tail (the tail fin is duplicated into two lobes and the dorsal fin is significantly elongated; the two tails can show different levels of bifurcation depending on the individual)
  • Delta Tail (tail spread less than that of a half-moon with sharp edges)
  • HalfSun (Combtail with caudal fin going 180 degrees, like a halfmoon)
  • Dragon Scale (scales which are solid rich colour; colours tend to be mostly white)

[edit] Behaviour

A male attacking and flaring at his reflection in a mirror.
Males and females 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. Other reasons for flaring their gills is that they are startled by movement or change of scene in their environment. Both sexes will display horizontal bars (unless they are too light a colour for this to show) if stressed or frightened; however, such a colour change, common in females of any age, is very rare in mature males. 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 (females only). In fact the fish flare their fins and gills as a sign of aggression or flirting with other fish. Bettas sometimes require a place to hide, even in the absence of threats. They may set up a territory centred on a plant or rocky alcove, sometimes becoming highly possessive of it and aggressive toward trespassing rivals.
The aggression of this fish has been studied by ethologists and comparative psychologists.[8] These fish have historically been the objects of gambling; two male fish are pitted against each other in a fight and bets are placed on which one will win. One fish is almost always killed as a result. To avoid this, male Siamese fighting fish are best isolated from one another. Males will even respond aggressively to their own reflections in a mirror. Though this is obviously safer than exposing the fish to another male, prolonged sight of their reflection can lead to stress in some individuals. Like other fish, the Siamese fighting fish may respond to the presence of humans and become trained to respond to feeding cues (such as a hand placed over the water's surface). They are quite curious and will watch humans going about their business nearby.

Several females in a community tank with mollies and rainbowfish.

[edit] Tanks and tank mates

In captivity, male B. splendens are best housed alone[9] since, as their name "fighting fish" implies, they will aggressively attack and kill (or be killed by) another male in their territory. Putting female and male specimens together is not recommended either (except for breeding, in which the female should be removed immediately after the process) as they will often attack each other. Female bettas can sometimes be kept together in groups of three to seven in larger tanks with hiding places for the less-aggressive females. Male bettas have been successfully housed in large community tanks with other fish that have similar tropical temperature and water quality requirements. Platies, corycats, and African dwarf frogs work best with this fish as well as neon/cardinal tetras and white cloud mountain minnows. Other fish species may be kept in the same tank as a betta, provided the fish does not have long fins that would cause the betta to mistake it for a threatening male betta, and provided the fish isn't significantly smaller than the betta. Zebra Danios also can sometimes make an okay tankmate. Endlers (Poecillia wingei) should be fine as long as their fins are small. Bettas might harass and nip at other species that are colourful or have long, flowing fins, and may be nipped at by aggressive tank mates. Careful research should be carried out before selecting tank mates.[10] Although many retail pet shops market very small "bowls" for B. splendens and the fish can, in fact, survive in a small container for periods of time, for optimum health and vigour larger tanks should be used.[11] Recommended tank volume is 20 to 40 liters (5-10 US gallons).

[edit] Name

Although commonly called "betta," that is the name of a genus. B. splendens is more accurately called by its scientific name or Siamese fighting fish, to avoid confusion with the other species in the genus. The word betta is not pronounced "beta" like the Greek letter, with the "e" sounding like an "a", but with the "e" actually sounding like an "e", as in the word "bet".

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