There are several species in the genus Betta, but the best known and most spectacular is the Siamese Fighting Fish; Betta splendens; the splendid Betta. This fish comes from Thailand and the old name of Thailand was Siam. Other names for this fish are: Japanese Fighting Fish, Samarai Fighting Fish, Chinese Fighting Fish and Mexican fighting Fish. The Cambodian Fighting Fish is a colour variety of this fish. If you put two males together they will usually fight after going through a display. The display seems to be part of the fish's method of recognising the sex of the other fish. In a limited space like a small aquarium a fight would usually end with one fish dead. In Thailand fish fights are staged with betting on the outcome. This is a traditional sport which is now illegal in Thailand, although this does not mean that it never occurs.
Females can be put together with each other and one male in a reasonable sized aquarium. Usually there is no serious trouble between them although a tank some hiding places is a good idea.
The males are usually much more spectacular than the females, having longer fins and more intense colour.
Fighting fish are a tropical fish; 24 degrees C is a suitable temperature. They can take at least 10 degrees higher than this, but will not be comfortable any lower than about 18 degrees C. In a climate like that of South Australia they need heating in the winter. The usual way of heating the tank is with an aquarium heater. A 50w heater is suitable for a small Aquarium. If you have a room that never gets cold then the Fighting Fish can be kept there without an aquarium heater. A room that is only heated by the sun will get cold when the sun is not shining. This is not suitable.
Some very small tanks are sold for fighting fish. These are suitable for places with a warm climate. In temperate areas they are not suitable for fighting fish in winter unless they can be kept in a place which does not get cold. Many of these tanks are too small to put a normal aquarium heater in.
Fighting fish are anabantids. They and their relatives can breathe air as well as water. This means that they can live in much smaller aquariums than most fish. In the wild they sometimes live and even breed in very small bodies of water including the water filled hoof prints of a water buffalo. They are often also found in rice fields. They need to be able to get to the surface or they can drown. Although they can be kept in very small containers this is not an ideal way. Like other fish they are affected by water quality. A small tank is harder to keep clean than a larger one, and usually you cannot put a filter in.
The Fighting fish is sometimes described as a carnivore. In my observation, it is an omnivore with a preference for animal based food. In an aquarium, I recommend that a good quality Betta food be used as the basic diet, and this should be varied with the addition of the occasional feeding of live food like mosquito larvae of daphnia. frozen food like blood worms are also good.
Rainwater is often used. Some people use it successfully, but not all rainwater is safe for fish. Rain, as it falls from the sky in Rural areas is generally good water. When it comes into contact with the roof and gutters and then stays in the rainwater tank with any leaves etc which have washed in, it picks up contaminants. Some of these are harmless, but others can kill fish. If rainwater is the only type of water available then you will need to use it. Apart from the obvious things like keeping your gutters clear and avoiding spraying near the house or if the wind is towards the house you can add a rainwater conditioner. This will add the salts that rainwater does not have. It will also neutralise some (but not all) of the possible contaminants.
If you are in an area with Chlorinated water, a water conditioner will get rid of the Chlorine. In areras which use Chloramine, ther conditioner will still work, but needs to be used at up to five times the normal rate.
If the Ph of the water is adjusted to be less than 7.2 the ammonia from the Chloramine should not be dangerous.
There are also some water conditioners which remove ammonia as well as Chlorine. I recommend the use of one of these.
Some domestic water filters which have carbon cartridges will remove most of the Chlorine and Chloramine. The filter cartridge needs to be in good condition. If you have a filter it is a good idea to use this water for your fish. However, because the filter may not remove all the Chlorine or Chloramine from the water, it is still a good idea to use a conditioner to be on the safe side.
Many types of spring water are suitable for fighting fish without any conditioner or modification. If it is too far from neutral you will need to adjust it.
Ph is a measure of acidity or alkalinity. A ph of 7 is neutral. Below 7 is acid and above 7 is alkaline. The ideal Ph for fighters is about 7.1, but they can take moderate variations from this. The Ph of water can change, so it is a good idea to check it regularly.
Foods and feeding
Like most fish, fighting fish are omnivores, in the wild they will eat any animal or vegetable food they can find. They prefer animal foods such as mosquito larvae (wrigglers) daphnia, etc. In an aquarium they will eat all normal types of aquarium foods, but seem to do better on a food designed for them. As with almost any animal a variety of food is welcomed by fighting fish. Do not overfeed!
Aquariums and Companions
One fighting fish without any other fish can be kept in a quite small tank, provided that it can be kept warm. Fighting fish are usually not an aggressive fish and can be kept in an aquarium with other peaceful fish of a similar size or smaller.
These are a few of the many sorts of fish suitable as companions for fighting fish in a reasonable sized aquarium.
Like nearly all fish, fighting fish will eat another fish if the fish is small enough to fit in its mouth. Generally a fighting fish can be kept with fish as small as neon tetras without trouble. However, the occasional fighting fish may learn to catch neons. I would suggest that in a confined space fighting fish should be by themselve. I know of at least two cases of a fighting fish which has been put in a bag with neons and has learned to eat them. Having learned, the fish is likely to continue to eat neons in an aquarium. Fish have quite good memories.
Fighting fish are slow and have long fins. They are very vulnerable to fish that nip fins.
Some of the fish that can be fin nippers and which I would not recommend as companions for fighting fish are Tiger Barbs, Red Eye Tetras, Serpae Tetras, Some Galaxies and Rosy Barbs.
Another way of keeping fighting fish is to use one of the Betta containers. These come under several names, but are similar and allow several male fighters to be kept in one aquarium.
Another, similar, way of keeping fighters is to use a breeding tank which floats in an aquarium. Normally these are use for breeding fish such as Guppies, but they can also be used for keeping (but not breeding) Fighting Fish.
There are several other options for keeping fighting fish. There are Duo and a Trio Fighting Fish tank, as well as many types of custom ones. The better ones are big enough to put a small heater into one of the compartments. There is often enough conduction of heat between compartments to keep them all warm enough.
Transporting fighting fish
Normally fighters are transported in a plastic bag. It is important that there be some air (or Oxygen) above the water in the bag. The bag should not be allowed to get very cold or very hot in transport. It is better that if you are transporting a male fighter that no other fish is in with it.
Siamese Fighting Fish are not very long lived. Their normal life span is about two years. The Male fighters normally on sale in shops are typically about nine months old, so if you have had a male fighter for a year, it is already old and could die of old age.
Female fighters are usually about five months old when sold.
Breeding Fighting Fish
The Siamese fighter is not one of the easiest fish to breed. It is considered to be a medium difficulty fish. Full instructions on breeding this fish would take up much more space than this fact sheet, but since I am frequently asked about breeding this fish, I will attempt to give a very brief description of breeding. Before the fish can breed they need to be in good condition; both the male and the female need to be well fed for sometime beforehand. An increase in temperature will sometimes induce the male to build his nest.
After the male has built his nest, you can attempt to put a female in with him. Watch them! It is not unusual for one of them to attack and try to kill the other. It is not always the male that tries to kill the female.
The fighting fish is a nest breeder. The male builds a nest of bubbles on the surface of the water.
Then he entices a female to go under the nest with him. They wrap their bodies round each other, and the female releases her eggs while the male releases his sperm to fertilise them.
After that the female sinks down in a sort of stupor while the male quickly picks up the eggs in his mouth and put them in the nest. If he has not finished before the female recovers, she starts eating the eggs. This process will be repeated until the female has no eggs left. The male then chases her away. She should be removed.
If there is another female available, in some cases, a male will then induce her to go under the nest as well and he will raise a bunch of fry from the eggs of both females, but you are increasing the danger of problems by having two or more females in while breeding.
The male guards the nest while the eggs hatch. He also guards the newly hatched babies until they are free swimming. After that he will eat them unless he is separated from them.
Raising Young Fighters
If you succeed in getting as far as having free swimming baby fighters, now you have the more difficult part. The babies are very small. You need reasonably good eyesight even to see them.
They will need tiny food. In the wild they would be eating things like protozoans. These are single celled organisms usually too small to see without magnification, but much bigger than bacteria. In the aquarium hobby these are usually called infusoria. Some of these will be present in nearly all aquariums, but there will probably not be enough for the babies.
There are ways of making cultures rich in infusoria, but this is a big subject in itself. There are also fry foods made by many companies. Fighting fish will need the finest ones at first.
If you succeed in getting them growing at first, they will soon be big enough to eat larger fry food. At all stages, fighting fish benefit from some live food of suitable size.
At around six weeks old the baby's accessory breathing organ; the 'labyrinth' starts working. At this stage it will be necessary to have a small stream of air from an air stone to break up any surface film because the babies might not be strong enough to penetrate it to get air.
The males and females are normally separated as soon as they can be distinguished, with the males going into containers by themselves.
Types of fighting fish
The wild fighting fish have much shorter fins than the aquarium ones. When they were bred in Thailand for fighting, colour varieties were developed, but fins were not selected for in the modem sense. The long and fancy fins of the present fighting fish are a comparatively recent development. Fighting fish are bred in many places. A lot of the fighting fish sold in Australia are bred in Singapore. Fighting fish come in many colours including blue, red, purple, white, yellow and black.
Many different fin types have also been developed, including the crown tail, the half moon the double tail and the delta tail.