Betta splendens

Congratulations! You have recently acquired a Betta splendens, and, since you didn't feed me to your cat or flush me down your toilet as soon as you brought me home, maybe there is a chance that we will soon begin to build a long-lasting and rewarding relationship together. Let's become good friends, okay? But, as my future caretaker, you will, of course, need to know some things about me that will ensure my health and happiness as your pet. So, please, take the time to read ALL of what follows below. It's not only interesting, but much of it is also very VERY IMPORTANT!

First, let me introduce myself and give you a little background. I am a small, tropical, freshwater fish of southeastern Asia, related to the climbing perch and gourami of the fish family Anabantidae. In my native habitat, we Bettas are rather drab, small-finned fish of little interest to anyone. But years of selective breeding and cultivation have, however, produced many brilliantly colored, graceful forms with elegant long fins. These new varieties of Bettas can today be found in most pet stores and have become very popular in tropical fish aquaria in people's homes.

For you science buffs, my full name is Betta splendens. Together, these two Latin words comprise what is known as my "scientific name," Betta being the "genus name" (by rule, with first letter always upper case) and splendens being my "species name" (by rule with first letter always lower case). I like that word splendens. I think it means that I am a splendid fish. You'll see for yourself just how true that is after you get to know me a little betta .

(PLEASE NOTE: I am a BETTA (with two Ts), not a beta (one t). The word Betta is properly pronounced BET-tuh and no other way. The other word beta is the second letter of the Greek alphabet and is pronounced BAY-tuh, but that is NOT my genus name. Never mind that you will hear most other people pronounce my name as BAY-tuh. They are doofusses and simply wrong on that. I guess you can call this one of my "pet peeves." But it really does bug me. (Now that you know the truth, feel free to politely inform the rest of the world about my name. It will help make it become a smarter place.) By the way, if it makes you happy, you can also give me another name like Gilly or Mr. Fancyfins. I won't mind at all. But forget naming me Nemo! Do you think I look like a clown?

BETTA SEX, BEHAVIORS, AND LIFE SPANS:

I'll bet that title caught your attention. Anyhow, please understand that I am a male Betta and, as is often the case in the animal kingdom with male members of a species, the more visually striking of the two sexes. Thus, most female members of my species, by comparison with me, are rather dull, boring, plain Janes, to say the least (although I must admit I did once cross currents with a bodacious Betta babe who really made my dorsal fin stand high!).

Sometimes we feisty Bettas are referred to as the Siamese Fighting Fish and, more rarely, as the "Super-Evolved Samurai Vampire Battle Beasts from the Rice Paddies and Fishbowls of Planet Piscesaluna" (Not really.). But Siamese Fighting Fish is correct. Sounds kind of scary, doesn't it? We earned that name because of our tendency to want to rip to shreds any other male Bettas who dare to get within a few inches of any one of us guys. So never, EVER, place another male Betta in the same container with me, okay? If you do, we will fight each other to the death and if, by chance, one of us survives the struggle, he will no longer look very handsome to you with his fins all torn and tattered, will likely remain weak from battle, become sickly, and probably die too within a few more days. (Note: If you would like to see me display my intimidating ready-for-action warrior fighting stance, just hold a small mirror up to the side of the container so that I can see my reflection. Since fish rarely, if ever, get to see their own images, I will likely get fooled (I never said I was perfect.) into thinking that my reflection is another male Betta and will show him that my dander is up and he should prepare to DIE! I can't help it! It's been in my genetic make-up for millions of years. You humans call it instinct, I believe, and I do it because I don't want other male Bettas to have the slightest chance to win the attentions of any female Bettas who might happen to be swimming around on my turf (or in my surf?). It's something we must do to guarantee our survival through reproduction. You know, Darwin, natural selection, and all that Bio 101 stuff. Dare I say the "E" word? Oh, why not? Evolution! There, I said it and it felt good! Like you naked apes, it's been going on with us Bettas too for millions of years. Forget theory, it's The Law! We all possess certain clever adaptations that are needed to help manage the survival of our species. (Thank you, Charles, for helping us understand how this all works.) Now read on to learn about more of my clever adaptations.

Unlike most other fish, the Betta splendens has a special accessory breathing apparatus that enables it to live in oxygen-deficient water that otherwise would be lethal to it. So don't be surprised if you see me come up to the surface occasionally to suck down a mouthful of air from above. You might also notice me sometimes construct my "bubble nest." This is what I am doing when you catch me take bubbles of air into my mouth, coat them with a sticky secretion, then blow them to the surface of the water to form a kind of nest. After fertilizing the eggs as they are extruded from a female Betta's body, the male Betta blows them to the surface nest where they hatch in a short time. Also, it is the male Betta that cares for the young during the brief period they remain in the nest. (Don't be concerned if your Betta builds such a nest even if there is no female with him. Nest building is simply a good sign that your Betta is quite content in his home and that he is healthy, strong, and ready to spawn, if that opportunity should arise.)

Finally, about my life span. Understand that if you provide your Betta with plenty of room to grow, along with the very best possible living conditions and quality care and feeding, he should survive happily for two to three years. This is a Betta's average life span. That's pretty good for such a small but tough-ass fish like me, don't you think? However, some people have reported their Bettas living for as long as six years. Those are the rare Russian Imperial Bettas and it might have something to do with the amount of vodka their owners add to the aquarium water. But no definitive studies have been carried out yet to determine if that is truly the case (Not serious about that Russian part.).

HOUSING AND FEEDING YOUR BETTA:

Now what follows about me is really REALLY important, so read all of it carefully, okay? It has to do with all those things you will need to know that will keep me happy and healthy for the rest of my life. I will depend on you alone to do these things for me so do try to get it right from the very beginning and please never fail in your responsibility to give me the very best quality of life that you can afford.

The Container You Choose For Your Betta's Home:

First of all, the teeny tiny plastic container in which you probably first saw me at the pet store is simply NOT BIG ENOUGH! Think of it as just temporary housing for me. My permanent o-fishal home should be the container of water that you will allow me to grow in and swim around in for the rest of my life. If you confine me to anything smaller (like that horrible teeny tiny plastic container in which you probably first saw me at the pet store), it would be like you living out the rest of your life in an outhouse or coat closet! Think about it. I would get to swim around and around..., then around some more..., in very tight circles, around and around..., maybe reverse direction once in a while (For a change of scenery? NOT!), around and around..., every day of every week of every month, forever. FOR THE REST OF MY FRIGGIN' LIFE!!!! Doesn't sound like much fun, does it?

So, while Bettas do not require much living space, giving Bettas more living space will increase their activity level, promote better fin development, and enhance their vibrant coloration. Also, the smaller your Betta's home, the sooner that harmful wastes will build up to make an unhealthy and dangerous environment for your fish and the more often the water will need to be changed. So, please invest a few dollars or more in a suitable fishbowl (preferably made of glass) or aquarium tank that will allow me plenty of swimming space and room to grow and play. It should have a water depth of at least five inches and a diameter or length of at least six or seven inches so that I can swim up and down and across and back in my living quarters from time to time, instead of just the same old around-and-around routine. Variety is the spice of life, is it not? And don't make me feel like I am trapped in a small rain puddle for the rest of my days. A sufficient volume of water is essential too. At least a half gallon to gallon-size aquarium bowl will be just fine. Anything bigger will be roomier, of course, and all the better to my liking. (IMPORTANT: If you place me in a large fish tank with other species of fish, first make sure that we will all be compatible, or there could be trouble for me or one or more of them.) (ALSO IMPORTANT: Always fill my container to no higher than an inch from the top so that I don't get the urge to jump out. And always be sure to add more clean water whenever you notice the water level has dropped down an inch or lower due to evaporation. Thanks!)

NOTE: Your local pet store carries a special line of products that are intended just for us Bettas, so please visit one of those stores and see what they have to offer. You can also find lots of cool Betta aquariums and other useful accessories on the Internet. Marineland Inc. recently designed a nifty "Betta Kit" for only $9.99. It contains a half gallon plastic Betta aquarium with cover, Betta water conditioner, Betta food, a plastic aquatic plant, and even gravel. It's almost the best deal in town! (I would have preferred a gallon aquarium). At the least, it's a good way to get started on this exciting adventure. Find it at your nearest pet store or any of the many Betta product Websites.

The Water You Choose To Fill My Home:

Inexpensive bottled natural spring water (found in most supermarkets) is perfect. It contains all kinds of minerals and metabolites that are benefishal to my health and well-being. (Be careful: Distilled water and natural spring water are not the same. Never use distilled water as it contains no useful minerals or metabolites.) And never EVER put me into plain tap water which contains many nasty chemicals (such as chlorine) that are very harmful to me. If you must use tap water, be sure to detoxify it first with Betta Water Conditioner (found in most pet stores). Then allow this water to sit awhile and reach room temperature (74 to 78 degrees is best for me) before gently (and I do mean gently) placing me into my home. A clean ladle or small aquarium net ( NEVER your hand!) works best to transfer a Betta from one container to another. Remember: BE GENTLE! As tough as we look and act, we can still hurt easily.

Cleanliness Is Next To FISHliness (If you think about it, fish must be the cleanest animals.They're always bathing, aren't they?):

Consider this now: (Are you sitting down? I hope so, as this gets ugly.) The aquarium I live and play in will also serve as my toilet bowl. (How would you like to be confined to your water-filled bathtub for days on end without anyone ever draining the tub of your smelly pee and poo and refilling it with clean water once in a while? Disgusting, right? Yes, I thought you'd agree.) So, obviously, my aquarium water will need to be changed FREQUENTLY! On a regular basis! And it is entirely up to you, my good friend and caretaker, to keep my home's water and the things in it as clean for me as possible. But how often you do this depends on the size of my container. Naturally, body wastes from yours truly quickly produce harmful ammonia which can cause serious health problems or even death if I suffer prolonged exposure to this toxic substance. (A good sign that my water needs to be changed immediately is when it starts to look cloudy, like dirty dishwater, and begins to have a distinct and unpleasant odor. But change it even if it doesn't reveal those clues.) Changing your Betta's water every few days is recommended for a pint-size container or smaller, such as the one I came with. For a quart fishbowl, at least once a week. A half-gallon aquarium should be cleaned and its water changed every other week and a 3/4-gal to one-gallon aquarium at least once a month. The more often the better for each size container. It really all depends on how much waste you think the water is holding as well as its physical appearance. There are also ammonia test kits you can buy at pet stores that will allow you to monitor the ammonia content of your Betta's aquarium and help you determine the right time to change its water. These test kits are very useful and a good investment for your Betta. One kit will cost around $10 but will last a few months or longer if used according to instructions. By the way, wastes can also be any food not eaten by your fish that settles to the bottom of the aquarium where it soon decays, turning the water foul in the process. As it accumulates, uneaten food will cause a build-up of harmful bacteria and contribute even more to a dangerous and unhealthy environment in your Betta's home. More about how to avoid this problem in the next section.

Now, when you decide it's time to clean my home, first fill a small jar or deep bowl with some of the clean new water that you will use to fill my freshly cleaned aquarium. Then place me in there (use a net please) and set me aside in a safe place while I patiently wait for you to clean and prepare my aquarium. Finally, when you are sure it is ready for me, slowly and carefully pour me and the water from the jar or bowl back into the aquarium. Watch close as I swim around to inspect my fresh surroundings. If I approve of your aquarium-cleaning efforts, you might see me wink and smile briefly at you to show how pleased I am (just kidding).

Feng Shui:

You may want to decorate your Betta bowl with pebbles, or easy-to-clean colored glass beads or marbles which you can find in most pet shops or pet departments in discount stores. You can also add aquarium ornaments and a live or plastic aquarium plant or two, if you like. But avoid cluttering your Betta's home with too many objects. Remember, the more living space he has, the better it will be for his health and well-being. Allow him plenty of room to grow and to swim around freely. Also be careful never to obstruct the water surface with any objects. It is important to leave room for your fish to reach the water surface since, as already described, Bettas need to breathe air from the surface. (This has absolutely nothing to do with Feng Shui, by the way. That was just a title I used to lure you into reading this.)

Should You Use An Air Pump And Filter Or Heater?

As long as you keep my home clean for me, changing my water on a regular basis, there will be no need to place an aquarium filter in my home or run an air pump to provide additional oxygen for the water. The filter will only reduce my available living space and the pump will likely move the water around too much for my comfort. We Bettas prefer calm waters with little or no currents or turbulence. An electric aquarium heater is also not necessary as long as you don't allow my water to get much below 74 degrees. (Check the temperature of my water during the winter season if you don't heat your home to a high enough temp to keep me warm and comfy. If it does show a temperature below 74 degrees for long durations, then either turn up the thermostat in your home or please do buy me an aquarium heater.)

Feeding Your Betta:

YES, please FEED ME! I get hungry just like you, although I can hold out for much longer periods (up to a week or two, if necessary) than most of you humans. Feed me daily just like you would your cat, dog, or parakeet. But give me just a small portion of food because my stomach is pretty small and won't hold very much. If you feed me too much and/or too often, you can just sit back and watch me get sick and die from overeating (a lesson to learn for you supersizers out there). And please don't let junior or his baby sis feed me. In most cases he, or she, will dump half the package of food into my water at one time. Some of it will get eaten, but, as already mentioned earlier, most of it will gradually sink to the bottom and start to foul up my water with bacteria, make it get smelly, then start to look like dirty dishwater and eventually make me get sick and die. GOOD GRIEF!

We Bettas are carnivorous fish, so we prefer live foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp (Yum!) above everything else. But, more convenient for you to obtain are the excellent packaged dry foods available for us in the pet stores. You will find such products as Betta Bites, Betta Bits, and Betta Bio-Gold. Betta Bites don't float too well and we won't eat them if they fall to the bottom. Betta Bits are okay, but sometimes too large for small Bettas to ingest. Betta Bio-Gold is my personal, I mean fishonal, favorite. These tiny round pellets float nicely on the water surface and are the most readily accepted by all Bettas, large or small. So look for Betta Bio-Gold. Two or three of these tasty morsels once or twice a day are all I require. Really! We fish like to watch our weight, unlike some large hairy creatures we have observed out there. By the way, the small attached plastic bag contains enough Betta Bio-Gold to last your Betta at least a couple of weeks. Remember: Just two or three of these little pellets, once or twice a day, is plenty for one Betta to eat. Feed me in the morning, then only once more in the afternoon or evening.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT BETTAS do a Web search or visit the following Websites:

http://www.countee.us/lauren/bettas/faq_general.htm

http://www.bettasrus.com/products/bettavase.htm

OR Email the kind human who took the time to create this website treatise on Bettas. His name is Joe Desy (retired science teacher) and he told me it was okay for you to email him () if you have any other questions about me. He would love to chat with you about the wonderful world of Bettas, among other things. He's really interesting! And THANKS for taking the time to read all this junk. Also please return to this website to learn even more about Bettas, as Joe plans to add new information to this website, from time to time, when he gets ambitious.

Photo shows Buster's home. Buster is Joe Desy's handsome 3-year-old dark indigo blue Betta currently living in Burlington, Iowa. See him hovering above the glass beads near the bottom left of plant in large fishbowl? The small bowl to the left is the one used for Buster only when his bigger bowl needs to get cleaned. It holds just 28 oz. (3 1/2 cups) of water and is not nearly enough room for a Betta. The larger bowl holds more than a gallon of water to give Buster more than four times as much living space as the small bowl. That (one gallon) is the least amount of water you should provide for your Betta if you want him to grow and be happy and show all his best qualities. The net in this photo is used to transfer Buster back and forth from one bowl to the other. The package of Betta Bio-Gold is Buster's favorite food. Only a few tiny pellets of this food once or twice a day are all he ever requires. Take good care of your Betta. He's worth it!

ONE FINAL IMPORTANT NOTE: Please keep Maurice away from me. We won't get along. Cats! YIKES!!!

Copyright March 2005 Joe Desy - All rights reserved