The beautiful Betta fish is indigenous to the homeland waters of Thailand. Living in shallow pools of water, streams that are polluted, muddy rice paddies and other stagnant bodies of water with low oxygen content, Bettas were exported to the United States and other countries just over 100 years ago. Quickly, they have become one of the most popular aquarium fish for hobbyists.
The Betta Labyrinth Organ
The Betta belongs to the group called labyrinth fish. This interesting little organ (labyrinth) allows them to breathe atmospheric air which is highly useful considering the water oxygen level is low in their natural habitat. Interestingly, there are other members of this unique group of fish that can move across dry land because of their ability to stay alive while breathing air.
The History of Betta Keeping
As far back as 1846, French biologists Valenciennes and Cuvier are the ones that first studied this amazing little fish. By 1909, shipments of Bettas made their way into the United States.
The “Jewel of the Orient” is a nickname given to the modern-day Betta, as it made its way into the U.S., because of its brilliant body colors. And although this is commonplace today, many years ago, most of the Betta fish were plain-colored. When, on a rare occasion, a brightly-colored Betta ended up in a fisherman’s net, it was considered a good luck symbol and he would keep the fish in a bowl and care for it.
Currently, the vibrant colors that are commonplace to the present day hobbyist are descendants of Asian ancestors, which were carefully selected for breeding. Warren Young, an American, contributed to the breeding and development of the impressively stunning Bettas with long, elegant fins. And although the forerunners of these beautiful Bettas were predominantly dull-colored, specific breeding over the years has created the graceful and vibrant fish we see today.
Betta Fish Fighting
Historically, Bettas that live in the wild rarely fight. Of course they will defend their territory or become aggressive during mating, but aggression accompanied by the spreading of their fins, is enough to ward off any challengers. In the home aquarium, this is not a common scenario.
Due to confinement without the ability to escape, the domesticated Betta’s territorial instinct is greatly intensified. Therefore, keep only one male Betta in a fish tank. Other fish can accompany him, but they should be very docile, peaceful fish.
Normally it is safe to keep many female Betta fish together. On occasion you will notice some fin nipping or aggression, but it usually is short-lived and peace will soon be back in your aquarium.
In conclusion, the history of the Betta is one that is filled with stories and some myths about how this fish evolved into one that displays dazzling colors and a unique personality. This elegant, colorful species was once a normal looking fish—if it was in an aquarium today, you wouldn’t give a second look. Through successful breeding and a little luck, hobbyists all over the world now enjoy the fish we all appreciate today.