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Aiming to share information and experience in fish keeping.


Siamese Fighting Fish - Betta splendens

Pictured is a Royal Blue Betta against a background of Java Fern- exactly as you would see them in my display aquaria.

Bettas in small containers
Asian Betta species
Links to my other Betta pages

Bettas make excellent pets and are easy to keep once a few basic rules are followed. They do need a warm environment, however, with their water temperature around 25°C - 27°Celsius. The air above their container must be warm and humid, so a closely fitting cover plate is required.

NameBetta splendens is the scientific name; the local, indigenous names are Plakat (pla kat in Thai means, "biting fish"), with  Plakat Morh and Plakat Cheen being the fighting-fish and ornamental varieties of Plakat, respectively. There is also a second ornamental form, the Plakat Kmer or "Cambodian" form.  In Australia Betta splendens are commonly called "the Siamese Fighting Fish" but that name should be restricted to the Plakat Morh, the true fighting fish that were bred from the wild forms for gaming.  "Siamese Fighting Fish" is a somewhat misleading term, as most modern forms are neither bred for fighting nor are they all from from "Siam" or Thailand. The most appropriate name to use is 'Betta' (or plural, 'Bettas' ) which derives from the generic name, Betta.   When reference is made to the species, the name Betta splendens is used.  Betta (in italic print) refers to the genus and Betta in plain print is used as a common name.

Description:  Bettas are anabantid fish with an elongate, rounded body; sexual dimorphism is markedly strong, with males having longer fins.  Only some males of selected, domestic breeds having long, flowing fins.  Bettas live short lives and breed quickly.  They live to about 18 months to two years in captivity.

FORMS:  The colourful, long-finned form that is most frequently seen in pet shops is developed from the Plakat Cheen and Plakat Kmer and their hybrids. These ornamental varieties are slender and have many forms of fin type, colour and body pattern. The various Types are shown from this link.

Plakat Morh have a stocky, bullish look, with a pug-nose and a slightly humped back while the so-called wild form is thinner and shows no more aggression to its own kind than most other anabantids. Some short, round-tailed forms are sold as "Plakats".

A domestic strain of the Siamese Fighting Fish
Many colour forms exist and with a variety of fin shapes.





Distribution: Asia: Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia.
Occurrence shown in red.

Click map for larger view.

Solid, Extended Red Veil-tailed Betta Male


Natural Habitat: Occurs in standing waters of floodplains, canals and rice paddies; benthopelagic; freshwater; pH range: 6.0 - 8.0; dGH range: 5.0 - 19.0; climate is tropical, with air temperatures ranging from 24 - 30°C.  Water conditions in habitats is often oxygen depleted.  The air above the water is always warm and humid.
Conservation Status: Unknown.  Tank bred specimens are popular as a pet.
Threats: Not in IUCN Red List.
Size: Max. size: 6.5 cm TL; maximum reported age: 2 years.  May live longer in good aquaculture.
Water Requirements: clean, freshwater, temperature 25°C - 27°C is ideal; can tolerate warmer water to 30°C.  Tolerates a wide range of conditions, from slightly acidic, moderately soft water to alkaline  hard water (pH up to 8.0 is tolerated), which means that any domestic water supply is suitable once dechloraminated and aged.
Tank Habitat: As Bettas are air breathers, the tank must be fitted with a close-fitting lid and must have an air space between it and the water so that the fish breathe humid air of the same temperature as the water. These fish will survive in limited space or water with low oxygen levels.  However, holding male Bettas in very small containers should be discouraged; a well planted tank is best.  Frequent water changes are essential, with well conditioned, chlorine and chloramine free water used and care taken to adjust for temperature and pH.  Tank maintenance for healthy Bettas.
Diet: Omnivorous; small insects, insect larvae and crustaceans; adapts well to flake foods, pellets and frozen foods such as beef-heart mixes; condition for breeding by feeding brine shrimp or black worms.
Sexing:  Sexual dimorphism is obvious; male have longer fins; females have short fins, more rounded bodies and show several lateral, horizontal stripes. Some domestic strains have females as colourful as the males but these females usually show horizontal markings when ready for breeding.

Keeping the Beautiful Betta

The "Siamese Fighting Fish" is a fascinating fish to keep- not for fighting but for the pleasure of enjoying its beautiful form and iridescent colouring. 

Regardless of their common name, Bettas are not aggressive species EXCEPT for mature males which flare and contend with any mature male Betta that they come across. They are peaceful towards other fishes and in a community tank they are often timid and hide. Males certainly show 'attitude' when another Betta is close- even displaying to their own reflection. I do not support exploiting any animals in fighting or for gambling and blood sports. I also do not support the keeping of Bettas in tiny "fish  tanks" or vases and deplore some of the current practices in selling Bettas in very small containers. Enjoy keeping Bettas but create a suitable habitat for them.

Keeping Bettas in very small containers for all of their lives is a cruel, deplorable practice and is to be discouraged. 

Bettas are anabantids, belonging to a special group of fishes that have a secondary breathing organ- the labyrinth organ- that enables them to breathe air directly from the surface of the water. This enables them to live in oxygen depleted water.  ANATOMY

It is this factor than enables them to also survive in small amounts of water or in oxygen depleted pools. That does not mean that we SHOULD keep these fishes in small containers, however. Like all fishes, they need space in which to swim and to carry out their lives - and surely that is our aim in keeping them. 

Yes, Betta splendens will survive in half a litre of water- but they will not thrive for long.  Mature males are frequently kept in large jam jars and are often displayed that way in shops.  Such commercial practices are maintained by frequent water changes (hopefully) to remove wastes such as uneaten food, faeces and any ammonia and nitrite build up.  Using small containers is not good practice for keeping your pets, however. 

Let us keep fish and not torture them by confining them in small containers or keeping them in the bottom of vases.

A current American fad of selling Bettas in Peace Lily vases is a deplorable practice.

Bettas do best in a properly constructed environment, with water temperatures maintained around 27°C (80°F.).  Most home and office rooms are kept at temperatures less than that level and are not constant, experiencing temperature drops at night that are not good for the fish. 

When daily water changes are possible, I recommend keeping Bettas in at least 1 litre of water per fish, with care given to maintaining an even, water temperature of 27°C and good water quality.  Adult male Bettas may be housed temporarily in 5cm x 5cm "barracks", partitioned from each other within a larger aquarium with good filtration flow. Smaller amounts of water are satisfactory for transportation, exhibition and temporary housing.  A surface area of 625 is adequate for breeding pairs, with at least 15 cm depth of water.  Fry can be raised in 50 litre tanks.

Selling fish in small containers may be profitable retailing but it is very poor aquaculture and cruel animal husbandry. The fish do not do well and develop disease because of confined spaces are conducive to poor water quality.

I once rescued four, small male Bettas from a pet shop in that sold them in containers that held less than half a litre of water as well as a handful of dirty gravel and a stiff, plastic plantThe fish were already showing curled gill plates from nitrite poisoning and the stress of cold temperatures. The shop staff was dumb-founded when I complained of their cruelty. If you see such examples of poor fish culture, telephone the RSPCA, who will take action if the fish are stressed. 

Bettas in large jars and bowls: maintenance information. 

Be a responsible Betta fan: house your Bettas in suitable containers or tanks.

A small "2 gallon" tank such as the one illustrated is ideal for keeping a single male Betta.  A range of similar products exists, allowing larger sizes to be used with a small floor space.  Some are fitted with heaters, lights and filters. Shop around.

Small tanks still require frequent, partial, water changes to maintain good fish health. A larger tank is easier to maintain than a small one.

Suitable plants for such a tank include Dwarf Anubias, Java Fern, Java Moss and Vallisneria.

Other suitable containers include large, wide mouthed jars (1 gal. size), quart jars, and goldfish bowls.  Close fitting covers are essential for Bettas and a suitable cover can be made from plastic wrap. Remember, small containers will require frequent partial water changes for good maintenance and health for your fish.

Bettas are bubble nest builders and nest guarders.  The males build bubble nests at the surface of the water: these can be very large structures incorporating pieces of vegetation.  Mating takes place below the nesting site. The male will display and chase the female to a spot below the nest. He eventually wraps himself around her in an embrace and she releases her eggs which he will take up in his mouth and transfer to the nest in a bubble. Males raise the fry in the bubble-nest for a few days.  The nest is guarded vigorously and the bubbles are renewed as necessary. Eggs that fall are caught and returned to the nest. Hatching is in about 24 hours and the tiny fry swim free at about four days.

The newly hatched fry feed on their egg sacks until used up and then on micro- organisms.

Feeding fry (which are very small) in the early stages requires "infusoria" and rotifers.  A culture of "green water" may be useful.

HINT: begin a culture of micro worms before mating the fish, to be ready for feeding the fry.

Breeding Bettas:
Males show readiness to breed by building a bubble-nest at the water surface and display to females by flaring their gill covers and extending the fins (much like their aggression displays). 

Females show readiness when the abdomen is rounded with eggs and the body shows horizontal brooding markings and a white egg-spot is seen at the vent. 

Place the pair together in a small tank (a surface area of 25 x 25cm is adequate) with at least 15cm depth of water. 

Remove the female after eggs are laid and allow her to recover in peace.  Treat any wounds with Melafix.

Remove male when fry are free swimming and feed the tiny fish on plankton, rotifers or "infusoria", then on newly hatched brine shrimp nauplii. 

Fry can be raised in 50 litre tanks. MORE

The embrace

             Fry at day 3




Tank Community: A single male (or several females) suits mixed community of quiet fish; males of some strains can be kept together without fighting occurring; males will hide in tanks heavily populated with other species. The Betta is really a shy fish and does best when kept in a species tank, with the sexes separated until breeding time.  Keep male separated if space is limited: in my experience, brothers from the same brood do not fight unless separated and returned to the same tank.  Females are usually very peaceful.

All of my green Betta strains seemed to be able to be kept in mixed batches without fighting.  Acts of confrontation and bluffing occurred but fights never happened.  Interestingly, when I have seen males of other strains fight, they do not cause harm, other than to rip a few fins apart, and even stop fighting when an opponent goes for air.
Males are aggressive when guarding bubble-nests, however, and females are best removed after spawning.
Incompatible Species:  Larger fish, fin nippers and boisterous fish.
Comments: Bettas are fishes that live short lives and breed easily.  They make interesting subjects for studying genetics and are used for that purpose in some Universities and Colleges. Breeding your pets is very rewarding.  Please house them in bio-friendly, fish friendly containers with room to carry out their life.  Help STOP Keeping Bettas in small jars- its like keeping a Huskie in an old fridge case- you simply don't do it over the long term. 

Other Asian Betta species:
The genus Betta includes other notable species, including B. bella, B. bellica, B. imbellis, B. macrostoma, B. picta and B. pugnax. 

These species are not generally available in Australia and are shown here for interest.



Male Betta imbellis - closely resembles the wild type B. splendens

Betta macrostoma

B. pugnax

B. picta

B. bellica

Further Reading

Basic Anatomy of Bettas

Maintenance for Bettas

More information about breeding Bettas

Diseases in Bettas


Colours and Genetics in Bettas

Link to IBC.

Notes on setting up an aquarium



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This private hatchery is now closed due to the greed of electricity suppliers.