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Tropical fish - Better Betta Splendens - the Siamese Fighting Fish comes in many colours

Updated on April 27, 2015

Siamese Fighting Fish or Betta splendens

The Siamese Fighting Fish has that name because the males fight ferociously and it comes from Thailand the country that used to be known as Siam. The Siamese Fighter's scientific name is Betta splendens and many people simply refer to these fish as "Bettas."

The male Siamese Fighting Fish have always been very a beautiful creature with their longer fins that they display when courting and their colourful appearance, but the process of selective breeding has improved the basic model to a fantastic degree with stunning new colours and really extravagant fins. Bettas look so much better than they used to and it is almost as if perfection has been improved on! 

The Bettas that have been produced in recent years are truly some of the most colourful and amazing fish in the world. They are a far cry from what I was used to seeing when I kept tropical fish many years ago. Males then used to come in bright blues and reds and purples but nowadays you name the colour and it exists in the range of variations available and many fish have more than one colour on their fins and bodies.

Betta Splendens

Siamese Fighting Fish male orange half-moon by Daniella Vereeken
Siamese Fighting Fish male orange half-moon by Daniella Vereeken | Source

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{ Sold out } Betta Splendens : (0211-20) Salamander HM STM.mp4

{ Sold out } Betta Splendens : (1210-138) Orange Gas HM STM.mp4

Siamese Fighting Fish males

Like with many species of animal the males of the Siamese Fighting Fish are larger and much more colourful. They use their larger size and colourful appearance to attract females and the battle with rival males.

Siamese Fighting Fish males expand their gills to make themselves look even bigger and they also do the same with their fins for the same purpose. At the sight of another male this behaviour is triggered. Male Bettas will even go into aggressive mode and display if they are shown their own image in a mirror put to the glass of an aquarium.

Two males that are allowed to fight will savagely rip at each others fins and bodies although in the wild one would normally give up after a few minutes of fighting and would make a retreat. This they cannot do successfully in the confines of a standard aquarium and so these fish are always kept as single males.

They can be kept in community tanks although they may harass and nip the fins of some other species of fish, especially if the bear any resemblance to another Siamese Fighter by having flowing fins. Aggressive species of tropical fish such as Tiger Barbs (Puntius tetrazona), may attack Siamese Fighting Fish too in a reverse of the situation. Female Siamese Fighting Fish can be kept together but not with males apart from when breeding. After spawning the male will attack the female in an effort to drive her away from the eggs which are left in his care and which she will eat.

The original wild Siamese Fighting Fish from the paddy-fields of Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia are green and a brownish colouration and have much shorter fins than those of the domesticated varieties. Nowadays, due to selective breeding, Siamese Fighting Fish come in all colours of the rainbow and the fish has become known as "The Jewel of the Orient." Red, tangerine, blue, turquoise, orange, yellow, green, bright blue with pink highlights, cream and white are all available as colours for the Betta male.

Breeders have also created colour pattern variations including "butterfly" and "marbled" and metallic colouration such as copper, gold and platinum.

Many fin and tail variations have been created too including "veiltail" with an extended flowing fin, "crowntail" with extended rays of the tail that stick out like the prongs of a crown, and "double-tail where the tail is split into two sections.

Natural and older varieties of Siamese Fighters always had females that had short fins and dull colouration but in recent years the breeders have developed females that have the pretty colours like the males but never with the magnificent fins.

Bettas of today are so much more amazing than they already were. Just like with pedigree dogs, fancy goldfish and roses, among countless species of animal and plant that have been selectively bred, the types that breeders have created look very different to the natural forms.

The YouTube website has hundreds of examples of male Siamese Fighting Fish. These fish are sold by breeders and are very popular indeed, for obvious reasons.

Female Betta Splendens

Female Siamese Fighting Fish by HAH
Female Siamese Fighting Fish by HAH | Source

Siamese Fighting Fish females

Siamese Fighting Fish females are slightly smaller than the males and have short fins. They are dull by comparison though in recent years coloured varieties have been developed by selective breeding. 

The females have dark horizontal stripes that show up more if the fish is frightened. They are nowhere near as aggressive as the males but they will flare their gill-covers out at other females.  Kept in groups and in community tanks they usually get along fine with the other fish present.

Often in tropical fish shops there are a far better selection of male Bettas than the females for the simple reason that more people will pay for the males due to their amazing colours and appearance.  You would obviously need a female fish if you wanted to breed the species though.

Betta Splendens mating (Siamese Fighting Fish) HD

To breed Siamese Fighting Fish

Siamese Fighting Fish are what is known as anabantids or labyrinth fish. This means that they can breathe atmospheric air which they rise to the surface to gulp. This is an adaptation fish in the Anabantidae have that allows them to live in water with low levels of oxygen. Because of this male Siamese Fighters are often kept in small glass containers and kept this way for display. It is by no means a good way to keep them because Bettas are intelligent fish and like to have something more to do that swim up and down the same small space. Nevertheless because they can breathe air they will survive like this.

This air-breathing ability extends into the breeding habits of the Siamese Fighting Fish and other labyrinth fish, most of which are bubble-nest breeders. The males blow nests of thousands of bubbles at the surface of the water, often under a floating leaf or plant debris.

They entice the females to join them under these nests and after some further courtship displays they actually embrace their partners by wrapping their bodies around them. As the males discharge their sperm the females release eggs to be fertilised.

In Bettas the eggs sink, although many other anabantids have floating eggs. The male fish will rush down in the water to collect the precious eggs in his mouth and then carefully blows them into the nest of bubbles.

Female fish act the opposite way to the males and will eat their own eggs. Because of this the male Siamese Fighting Fish will drive the female away after spawning. He takes care of the nest, repairing it with more bubbles and chasing off other fish that come too near.

He goes on to watch over the fry when they hatch for a while too but it is usual to remove the male then in case he changes his mind.

The baby Siamese Fighting Fish can be fed on newly-hatched brine shrimps and grow fast. As soon as the males start to reach sexual maturity they must be put in single accommodation though or else they will start fighting their brothers.

Siamese Fighting Fish are a fascinating and very beautiful species of tropical fish to keep, as well as an outstanding example of what selective breeding can accomplish.

© 2011 Steve Andrews


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    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Look on YouTube and you will see all sorts of gorgeous Bettas.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      The orange gas one is so extremely beautiful! I had no idea it existed. Amazing!


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