Betta Fish

August 22, 2009

History and Background Of Betta Fish
Historically speaking, Betta Fish are said to have gotten their name from an ancient clan of Asian warriors called the “Bettah.” They were given these warriors’ names because about 150 years ago people enjoyed participating in a popular sport that involved the fighting of two of these warrior fish.  (In fact, the sport was so popular that it was regulated – and taxed – by the King of Siam!)

One interesting note about Betta fish fighting is that, unlike cock or dog fighting in the west, at Siamese fighting fish tournaments, the actual fight was more to test the bravery of the fish, rather than a fight to see how much damage would be inflicted, or a death match. 

Spectators bet on how long a particular fish would fight, and which one would give up first.  (In fact, most fish would only fight once or twice, and then live out the remainder of their lives being pampered and used for breeding.) 

Natural Habitat
A Betta fish’s natural habitat is in shallow, tropical water.  This is because they need to be able to surface frequently, in order to breathe air.  They can be found in nature in rice paddies, drainage ditches, slow moving streams and fresh water ponds.  Betta fish have even been known thrive in large puddles!  Their natural food source is insects and mosquito larvae. 

How Breeding Began
According to historical accounts, a close friend of the King of Siam, Dr. Theodore Cantor received a pair of breeding Bettas from the king in 1840.   The doctor bred them and studied them for several years, and then wrote a scientific paper about them, giving them a Latin name of “Macropodus Pugnax.”  However, shortly after his paper was published, Dr. Cantor discovered that a species by that name already existed, and so the fish were renamed “Betta Splendens.”

Several breeding pairs of Bettas where sent to Germany in 1896 and then in 1910, Mr. Frank Locke of San Francisco California imported several Bettas to the U.S.A. 

One of the fish that he received had unusual red fins – and he excitedly thought he had discovered a new species, and named it “Betta Cambodia.”  In reality, he had one of the first of the Betta splendens that had naturally developed new colors and characteristics through breeding.

Since that time, breeders have been able to develop Bettas with all of the vibrant coloring and varied fin shapes that we find today.  Betta breeding has become a profitable and ongoing passion for many people today, many of whom started with just one or two Bettas in a small aquarium.
 
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Betta Fish Care – Aquarium Heaters – Do You Really Need One?
While it can be difficult to maintain the water temperature in a tank, it’s absolutely necessary that you have one.  There are two reasons for this.  First of all, if your Betta gets too stressed out over a period of time, his immune system will become compromised, and he’ll begin to lose his ability to fight off infection and disease. 

The second reason is that your Betta is used to living in water that is between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit – and he will become listless and unresponsive if the water is too far above or too far below that temperature. This becomes even more important in a large tank. 

It’s also very important that you maintain a fairly consistent temperature in your Betta fish’s tank.  Your fish won’t handle extreme temperature changes either.   By the way, it doesn’t take much of a water temperature change – just the matter of a couple of degrees Fahrenheit – for your Betta to be affected – so this is something you really need to pay attention to.

The unit of measurement for aquarium heaters is in watts.  When trying to decide on which heater will be best for you, a good basic guideline is 5 watts per gallon of water.  Make sure that the heater fits your tank and, if it’s an internal one, can be properly inserted. 

If you’re not sure and you didn’t buy the tank and heater together, take the tank with you to the store, and ask the manager to help you get the right one.

Two Types of Heating Systems:
There are two main types of heating systems – internal and external.  You’ll have to decide which one works best for you – and if you have any questions, ask your local pet store or your Betta breeder for recommendations based on your tank set up.

One other important thing to keep in mind is the water circulation – without proper water circulation, you’re going to have “hot spots” and “cold spots” in the water, both of which can be harmful to your Betta

fish.  Heaters cost anywhere from about $20 to $50, although like with anything else, you can find more expensive models.

Internal Tank Heating Systems:
Internal heating systems are the most common.  They usually consist of a glass tube anywhere between 4 inches (10.16 cm) to 12 inches (30.48 cm) long.  Some offer a built-in thermostat, while others will have an external thermostat, usually outside the tank and are usually used to control multiple heating units.

External Tank Heating Systems:
There are several different models of external heating systems, such as a model which fits under the tank and heats the water from below, or one that connects to the filtering system. They are widely available both online and off.

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The Best Water for Your Betta Fish:
First of all, let’s dispel a myth about the best water for your Betta fish – it is NOT using bottled water!  Many people, in an effort to give their fish the best possible environment will rush out and buy the most expensive bottled waters on the market.  But the truth is, not only do most bottled waters not contain the essential minerals your fish needs, they may also contain some harmful chemicals.  Likewise, you should never use distilled water or water that has been “purified” in any way – including through a carbon filter.  This water won’t have the minerals that your Betta needs.

The actual best water for your Betta fish is just plain old tap water!  (By the way, if you’ve been using bottled water in the past, don’t worry.  It won’t kill your fish, but unless your local tap water is so bad that you don’t drink it either, switch back to tap water ASAP.  And if you have to used bottled water, make it spring water, and follow the steps below, to make sure that you remove any harmful chemicals before adding it to your Betta’s tank.) 

Of course, because most of the water we drink is chemically treated, there are a few steps to follow to make the water safe for your Betta fish – but don’t worry!  Follow these simple instructions and it will be a breeze:

1.  Find out if your local water supply is treated with a chemical called chloramines.  (If so, then you’ll have to buy a special treatment for it.  It’s called AmQuel and is readily available at most pet stores.)

2.  Plain tap water right from the tap will kill your fish, because of the chlorine (chloramines), so it has to be treated first.  The product to do this that’s also best for your Betta fish is called “stress coat” and you’ll find it at your local pet store too.

3.  Once you’ve treated the water according to package directions, it needs to “age” which will allow all of the chemicals and gasses to evaporate, and also for the pH in the water to normalize.  To do this, just let it sit in an open container for about a week.

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Why Betta Fish Fight Each Other

Betta fish fight to protect their territory, to ensure that they have enough food, and also because they want to be “king of the hill” when it comes time for them to breed.  These are genetic traits, and you won’t be able to train your fish not to fight.

When you have two male Betta fish in the tank, they will “flare” at each other – (this means they puff up, flaring out their fins and gill covers, to make themselves look bigger and more threatening.)  Often one fish will admit defeat and swim away, leaving the other male victorious. 

When people began keeping and fighting Betta fish, aggression was bred into them, but over the last few years, this trait has begun to be bred out of them.

Most of the time male Bettas will only attack other males.  However it’s not totally unheard of for a male Betta fish to attack a new female or one that he feels threatened by, so it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your Betta fish when you first introduce another fish into the tank, or if you’re putting your Betta in with other fish. 

Sometimes more aggressive Betta fish will nip or bite the other fish. 

So if you see this happening, remove the aggressive one right away to avoid injuries.

How to Keep Your Betta Fish from Fighting:

There really is only one way – don’t put two male Bettas in the same tank.  If you only have one tank and two male Bettas, you have a couple of choices – the first is to use a “fish condo”.

Fish Condos:  These are clear plastic containers with air holes that let the tank water flow through them.  Depending on the size of your tank, you may be able to fit in a two, three or four space condo.  Each Betta fish has his own space, and you can put up visual barriers such as plants or java moss so that he can’t see the other Betta.

You can also put a single mesh divider in one section of your tank that will keep your male Betta fish separated from each other.

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August 22, 2009

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