Origins and Habitat of the Betta Fish (Betta splendens)
The Siamese Fighting Fish
, which is another name for the Betta splendens
, is one of the most beautiful freshwater fish you can find. It is one of the most popular aquarium fish because it has many bright colors and long fins that flow in the water. The story of the Betta fish is as bright and lively as its fins.
The Betta fish is said to be named after the Bettah, an ancient Asian warrior clan. Unlike cockfighting and dogfighting in the West, Betta fighting was a test of bravery to see which fish kept fighting and which gave up and swam away. Most of the time, a Betta would only fight once in his life, and if he won, he would be bred.
Betta lives in Asia and the Mekong basin, where the water is warm and shallow. They live in Thailand (Siam), Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and some parts of China, where they eat insects and mosquito larvae in rice paddies, shallow ponds, and even slow-moving streams.
In 1840, Theodor Cantor, a doctor in the Bengal Medical Service, got some rare fighting fish from a friend who had gotten them from the King of Siam. After breeding and studying the fish for a few years, Cantor wrote a scientific paper about them and called them "Macropodus pugnax." C. Tate Regan looked at Cantor's paper again in 1909 and saw that pugnax was already a separate species. The fish was then called "Betta Splendens."
In 1896, Germany got several pairs of Bettas that could have babies. These imported fighters had short fins and different colors. Bettas didn't come to the United States until 1910, when a shipment was sent to San Francisco and sent to Frank Locke. There were some with dark bodies and some with lighter, cream-colored bodies. He thought the ones with light colors were a new kind, so he gave them the name Betta Cambodia. Later, he found out that he had been given the first Betta splendens that were changing colors on their own.
It has taken many generations of breeding for the Betta species to get the bright colors and bright fins we see today.