Betta Splendens is the scientific name for a small, colorful freshwater tropical fish known as a betta, beta, or the Siamese fighting fish. Bettas are originally from Asia, however, the colorful varieties in the pet stores are bred locally.
Bettas are probably one of the most recognized fish in the aquarium trade, often sold in tiny cups of water, stacked on shelves, side-by-side. This controversial and hotly debated practice is thought to be inhumane by many hobbyists, despite the fact that the betta is a quite extraordinary fish that takes most of its oxygen from the surface, thereby able to exist in oxygen depleted water.
The male betta is a long-finned colorful and graceful looking fish with an upturned mouth. Its crepe-like fins and 3-inch (7 centimeters) body can be deep red, blue, or nearly any combination of colors. The female fish of the species has shorter fins and is often less colorful. Females may be kept together, but males will fight to the death. For this reason only one male betta can be kept in an aquarium, though it can be kept with other species of fish or other betta females.
In Asia, bettas are found in organically polluted shallow rice paddies and slow moving rivers. Their upturned mouths are perfect for eating insects from the surface. In captivity, they eat frozen bloodworms, flakes, and other prepared diets, but prefer live foods.
Bettas are easily bred in captivity. First, the male builds a bubble-nest at the surface signaling his readiness to mate. Once the female lays eggs, the male scoops the eggs up into his mouth and spits them into the bubble nest. The male will tend the nest until the young bettas hatch. He must be separated shortly thereafter to prevent him from eating the fry.
Bettas prefer warm temperatures of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius), and slightly acid to neutral water. And while the betta can breathe oxygen and survive in non-ideal conditions for a period of time, it is neither humane nor advantageous to keep a betta in a bowl or small container without heat and filtration. A small tank of 10 gallons (38 liters), heater and filter, is negligible in price and will be repaid many times over by the enjoyment derived from a fish well kept. In this minimal environment a betta will thrive happily with improved coloration and temperament. A tank of this size also has the added advantage of allowing your betta a few friends. Just remember to avoid fish that are fin-nippers!
Kept in ideal conditions, bettas can live 2-3 years. Though this might sound like a rather brief life span, there are few fish more beautiful, or that give more pleasure, than the exotic Betta Splendens.