Siamese Fighting Fish (Betta Splendens)

Order: Anabantiformes
Family: Osphronemidae
Genus & Species: Betta Splendens
Common Names: Siamese Fighting Fish, Betta Fish, Fighter Fish
Temperature: 76 – 82.5ºF (24.5 – 28ºC)
pH: 6.0 – 7.5
GH: 1.0 – 8 dGH
Max Size: 6 – 8 cm (2.4 – 3.1 inches)
Lifespan: 3 – 5 years
Depth Preference: Mid dweller & top dweller
Tank Size: 10 gallons

Siamese fighting fish are among the first known species of fish in the aquarium industry, having been domesticated since the earliest accounts in Thailand in the 14th century. They are a popular fish among aquarium enthusiasts due to variations in color and morphology that emerged as a result of domestication, producing a vast array of distinct colors, patterns, and fins.

Origin & Habitat

The siamese fighting fish is a freshwater species endemic to Southeast Asia throughout central and eastern Thailand, including the northern Malay Peninsula, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Introduced populations have been established in Brazil, Malaysia, Singapore, the Dominican Republic, and Malaysia. Additionally, they have been discovered in the Adelaide River Floodplain in the Northern Territory of Australia and in southern Texas and Florida, two subtropical regions of the United States.

Their natural habitat is made up of shallow, still bodies of water, such as marshes, small ponds, rice paddies, and areas that flood during the rainy season. These are typically surrounded by an abundance of flora, with dense populations of aquatic plants that are both floating and submerged.

Siamese Fighting Fish Care

In properly kept aquariums, some siamese fighting fish have been known to survive up to 10 years. Your local pet store’s supplier will also have a big impact on how long your betta lives. Since Thailand is still the largest supplier of siamese fighting fish, they are typically kept in cramped quarters and transported for several days without sustenance. A much healthier betta fish can be produced by local breeders.

Betta fish prefer waters that are somewhat soft to mildly hard, typically below 10 dGH. The siamese fighting fish will start to grow labyrinth organs, which will allow them to breathe air from the surface, as early as 3 weeks old. This is frequently misunderstood as meaning that betta fish can endure harsh conditions for extended periods of time.

Fish bowls and tiny aquariums without filters are frequently the main cause of death, which is typically brought on by an incomplete nitrogen cycle, cold temperatures, and poor water quality. They are definitely hardy fish capable of surviving harsh environments for a short period of time but often neglected unbeknownst to beginners.

Maintaining the right conditions is essential to their health and longevity, including a decent-sized aquarium (10 gallons or more), a filter, a heater, regular maintenance, and a basic understanding of the nitrogen cycle. Bettas also do not perform well in cold water and instead prefer warmer environments.

Due to their long-flowing fins, strong water movement should be avoided because it causes stress and consumes too much of their energy. Filtration systems should instead produce a gentle current that resembles the betta fish’s slow-moving habitat.

Siamese fighting fish typically fare best in densely planted aquariums since they spend most of their time in the wilderness hiding from potential predators under floating debris or overhanging plants. Floating plants and leaves not only provide male bettas with an anchor from which to construct their bubble nests, but also increase their sense of security.

Artificial silk or plastic decorations are acceptable as long as they have soft edges and are not sharp since a male betta fish generally swims in and around or even rests their delicate fins on leaves, anchoring themselves to rest.

Indian almond leaves are becoming more and more popular since they offer something that is more resemblant to the natural vegetation that bettas would hide under in the wild. The tannins that are released provide a number of health benefits, including the ability to treat conditions like bladder disease and fin rot while maintaining a slightly acidic to neutral pH.

Test your aquarium’s pH frequently after introducing any organic material that will decompose and create tannins to ensure the pH is maintained to the desired result. Tannins will gradually reduce the pH over time while having a greater impact on softer water. Testing the water in between routine weekly water changes and gradually adding a few almond leaves at a time makes it simple to maintain a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5. If you believe the pH is dropping too low or not enough, remove or add a few almond leaves.

Tannins can also slightly discolor the water brown, so to stop this process, soak the leaves in hot water for 24 hours. This will lessen the staining effect while also lessening the pH-altering effects of the tannins. A charcoal filter can be added to further remove the discoloration.

Most wild betta fish tend to live in waters with a pH of 5.0, and domesticated species have been accustomed to a more neutral range. Although, slightly acidic waters have been proven to aid in the prevention of many diseases.

Siamese Fighting Fish Diet and Feeding

The siamese fighting fish is a carnivore by nature and consumes up to 15,000 insect larvae annually in the wild in addition to small insects, crustaceans, zooplankton, and other invertebrates that it encounters.

Bettas have trouble processing carbohydrates, which are present in most commercial flake foods, and are not tolerated by betta fish due to their short digestive tracts (a trait shared by most carnivores). Overeating and a diet high in carbohydrates can cause problems with their digestive system, obesity, disease, and other health-related issues.

Siamese fighting fish are also capable of going without food for up to 2 weeks and in some cases, they will skip meals for a day or two when under stress. Stress can occur due to water changes, new tank mates, pollutants, depression, and fluctuating water parameters.

Betta fish are known for being able to identify their guardians, and feeding is an important part of forging this connection. Personally, I’ve found that gently tapping my betta’s tank with my fingernail a few times just before feeding always results in an enthusiastic and quick response.

The majority of live, frozen, or dry food will be readily accepted by them since they are not picky eaters. However, insect larvae, brine shrimp, blood worms, daphnia, and a premium, specially formulated protein flake diet for carnivorous fish are the best sources of food for betta fish.

Including frozen or live foods on a regular basis, such as brine shrimp, small blood worms, or daphnia, will guarantee the best possible color development.

Siamese fighting fish are known to be particularly prone to obesity, so it’s advised that they go without food for at least one day every week to allow for proper digestion. A betta fish should be fed once per day and receive enough food that can be consumed within 2 minutes, any excess food should be removed from the tank shortly afterward. If accidental overfeeding does occur, you can simply skip your betta’s meal the very next day.

Additional care will be needed when placing betta fish into a community tank, fast-swimming species of fish will quite easily outcompete your betta for food. To attract your other fish, a smart feeding habit is to take two pinches of food and scatter one on the tank’s opposing side. The second pinch should then be placed directly above your betta.

Tank Mates & Temperament

The pairing of two rival betta fish in staged fights became a national pastime in Thailand in the 18th and 19th centuries. The domesticated betta is now far more aggressive when compared to the wild betta as a result of hundreds of years of selective breeding for its fighting ability.

Generally speaking, betta fish are a peaceful species of fish towards most other fish. However, male betta fish or other colorful fish with long, flowing fins may frequently engage in aggressive territorial fights, which could leave one or both of them seriously injured or result in death. As a result, do not keep two male betta fish or other colorful species of fish with long, flowing fins that may be perceived as rivals together in the same tank.

It is strongly advised to have a more than appropriate sized tank and an extra aquarium on hand when integrating one male betta with females. Females are best suited in groups of 4 to 6 because they naturally establish a pecking order in which one female will assert herself as the alpha over the other females.

During the first week, as they establish dominance, aggressive behavior is typical. After a week, keep an eye on them periodically to make sure neither the male nor the female betta is extremely aggressive. If you notice that one of your betta fish is frequently displaying aggressive behavior or constantly chasing and nipping the others, you will need to relocate the aggressive betta.

Ideal tank mates for the siamese fighting fish are neon tetras, cardinal tetra, diamond tetra, corydoras, rasboras, zebra danios, kuhli loaches, minnows, mollies, guppies, platys, the bristlenose pleco or other similar-sized peaceful species of fish.

Male & Female Differences

There are several distinguishing characteristics between a male and a female siamese fighting fish. A male betta will have significantly longer fins than its female counterparts, which is the simplest way to tell them apart.

The opercular membrane of a male, which in layman’s terms resembles a beard, is also significantly more apparent and larger than that of a female. A female betta can grow up to 6.35 cm (2.5″) in length, whereas males typically grow to be larger, measuring up to 8 cm (3.1″).

Male betta fish vs female betta fish

Breeding & Spawning

In Thailand, wild betta fish migrates to shallow waters to reproduce between April and May, during their breeding season which is typically hot and humid. During this time, female betta fish have the capacity to deposit up to 1000 eggs.

In a standard home aquarium, they may spawn on rare occasions in densely planted aquascapes with floating plants present.

Quality live foods are crucial for betta fish to properly spawn; dry food and undernourished betta fish severely limit spawning activity and rarely ever reproduce. A high success rate can be achieved by feeding them once or twice daily with mosquito larvae and live or frozen brine shrimp to prepare them for spawning.

Males and females do not need to be separated in order for spawning to be effective, but keeping them apart allows you to properly condition them on live food and select the best mates. The best males are those who construct bubble nests in their own aquariums, although not all males do so in the absence of females. Ideal females will be those that appear gravid, their bellies will appear to be full of eggs.

Creating a shallow breeding environment that mimics their natural habitat is the second most crucial step in successfully spawning betta fish. Provide a shallow tank with a capacity of 2 to 5 gallons that is no taller than 20 to 25 cm and filled to a level of 10 cm with mature tank water. Covering the rear and sides of the tank to provide more comfort and prevent them from being disturbed by movement.

The reason behind the shallow spawning tank is that male and female betta fish embrace during spawning, in which the female deposits eggs in batches while the male fertilizes them. The male will then collect the eggs with his mouth and bring them back to the bubble nest. Deep tanks make it much more challenging for the male since this process will be repeated numerous times.

Since they will only be in the tank for a short period of time and the males need a static environment with little to no current to effectively construct their bubble nest, the spawning tank won’t require a filtration system.

Betta fish (Siamese fighting fish) bubble nest

A cover for the aquarium should fit as securely as possible; plastic cling wrap can also be used. If the fry are unable to access a layer of air that is warm and humid, the development of the labyrinth organ may not develop properly.

To stimulate the betta fish in the spawning tank, provide one or two broad-leaved plants where the leaves nearly reach the surface of the water and another fine-leaved plant in a location of your choosing. Creating an enriched environment with either live or artificial decorations increases spawning behavior.

In order to gently lower the pH, there should be one or two almond leaves on the surface per 1 gallon of water, along with a few small fine-leaved floating plants. It is on this surface near these plants that male betta fish will normally construct their bubble nest.

The best water parameters for spawning are a pH range of 6.0 to 6.8 which is slightly acidic and a temperature range of 82.5ºF (28ºC). While higher temperatures of 91°F (33 ºC) increase larval mortality, lower temperatures of 73 – 77°F (23 – 25°C) may result in a higher ratio of females. The ratio of males and females is typically 50% for each sex at 82.5ºF (28ºC), and certain pathogens are less likely to be present.

In harder waters, the reproductive rates of siamese fighting fish will slightly decrease, and their bubble nests are prone to dissolving with the males typically unable to reconstruct them. A good number of eggs (824 +/- 175) are on average produced at 4 – 8 dKH (71 – 142 ppm).

Once you’ve successfully set up the spawning tank and after several weeks of conditioning the male and female siamese fighting fish on live food. Add mating pairs to the spawning tank a few hours before the lights are scheduled to go out, and then keep an eye out for mating behavior the next morning. Most pairs begin mating the following day between one and five hours after the first light appears.

Keeping the female behind a clear divider initially allows the male to build a large bubble nest uninterrupted. Place the female within a hollow, translucent plastic tube made from a 2-liter pop bottle that has been thoroughly cleaned and dechlorinated. This arrangement allows the couple to see each other but prevents any physical contact. Since they only spawn during the early mornings, the tube will need to be taken out at the crack of dawn.

Betta fish spawn on average for 5 hours, during which the female releases a small number of externally fertilized eggs at a time, which then drop down to the base of the tank. With little assistance from the female, the male uses his mouth to recover and places the majority of the dropped eggs into the bubble nest.

When the female withdraws, usually to a location in the tank where she may hide from the male, mating has ended. If three days have passed with no eggs being clearly visible, the mating pairs are unlikely to spawn and will need to repeat the conditioning process. This method typically produces a 50% success rate in spawning the following day.

For up to three days, eggs and freshly emerged larvae stay in the bubble nest. The male lingers nearby to retrieve any dropped eggs or larvae with his mouth and returns them back to the bubble nest.

The larvae start to hatch between 29 and 44 hours after fertilization, and they can swim 72 hours later. About three days after hatching, when the larval fish have fully absorbed their yolk sacs, they are taken out of the spawning tank and acclimated into a mature grow-out tank with a complete nitrogen cycle and safe filtration unit for the newly hatched fish fry.

They will initially only eat cultured infusoria for the first 10 days, they can then consume Brachionus Rotundiformis rotifers shortly afterward, which have been observed to accelerate growth rates when compared to other live food. After two to three weeks, the addition of mosquito larvae and baby brine shrimp to their diet will aid in the betta fish’s development of bright colorations.

More Information

Charles Regan published the first scientific description of the siamese fighting fish in 1909, and in 1910 it was first introduced to the United States. There are currently more than 70 known species of betta, with new species like B. Mahachaiensis only recently being reported.

The siamese fighting fish is not only well-known all over the world, but it is also Thailand’s national animal. The wild betta fish is dull brown or green in contrast to the vivid color patterns seen in captivity.

In the late 1800s, they were originally introduced from Thailand and immediately gained popularity as domestic pets. Through selective breeding, betta fish have been produced in a wide variety of shapes and colors over the years.

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