Carnival fish part 2: The Betta
The Betta fish, Betta splendens, is another commonly found “prize fish” that you may have the pleasure of become the new owners of. Bettas are one of the most beautiful freshwater fishes that are available in the aquarium hobby; their striking color and ornate finnage are quite remarkable.
Bettas are often chosen as prizes because of their ease of care, and ability to do well in very small amounts of water. The Betta is native to areas of Thailand, where they are exposed to times extreme rainfall and drought, which during times of drought can result in little more than a puddle to live in. Unlike most fish, the Betta does not solely rely on oxygen from the water it resides in, it has the ability to breathe air. Bettas are members of a group of fishes called Labyrinth fishes. Labyrinth fishes have a specialized breathing organ, called the labyrinth, which allows them to breathe air at the waters surface, somewhat like a primitive lung. The ability to breathe air allows the Betta to survive in very warm water with little or no dissolved oxygen. This is how Bettas are able to cope with very small fish bowls, and is often how they are displayed and sold.
PLEASE do not use this as an excuse to keep a Betta in extremely small environments for extended periods: although they can survive in only a few ounces of water, they will not be happy and comfortable.
Bettas can be kept in unfiltered bowls, provided adequate water changes are maintained (at least 20% per week), and water quality is monitored. Larger aquariums of at least several gallons are preferred, the bigger the better. There are a number of small desktop aquariums that are ideal for Betta keeping.
There is another side of the Betta fishes heritage that there is much controversy surrounding. Another common name for the Betta, is the fighting fish, or Siamese fighting fish. This name comes from the aggressive nature that these fish have towards one another, especially two males. The Thai name for these fish is”pla-kat”, which means biting and tearing fish. When placed in the same tank, two male Betta fish will literally fight to the death. There is a whole world of fighting and gambling involving the Betta in other cultures. Fighting Bettas is not considered an appropriate practice in the hobby.
There are many commercially produced Betta foods, in pellet, flake and freeze dried forms. A good varied diet is best. Feed only as much as the fish will eat in a few minutes, take extra care not to overfeed, especially in unfiltered bowls. Bettas prefer warm water, 72-78 degrees, so avoid cool areas like window sills, and hallways when possible. Direct sunlight should also be avoided; this will lead to unwanted algae growth, and temperature fluctuations during the day. While you can not keep bettas together, they can be kept in peaceful community tanks, with other types of fish.
If you have any futher questions about bettas or other carnival fish, post them and I’ll be sure to answer.
Until next time,