Visually striking, attractive, hardy and requiring not a great deal of space, the Betta Splendens is a fauna with a lot to give in return for little. In this article, we will take an in depth look at this splendid fauna and the requirements for its good health.
A normal B. Splendens will grow to about 5cm in length with giants growing easily to more than 14cm. They are available in a myriad of colours and in almost every combination imaginable, all a result of many years of selective breeding by dedicated breeders.
The B. Splendens today is a far cry from its ancestors in the wild. The wild betta is almost of a dull brown or green colour and has fins that are much smaller. This is in stark comparison to the B. Splendens we find in our local fish shops that boast splendid colours and amazing fins. The dull colouration and more practical fins of the wild betta are thus more suited for survival in the wild, than the commercially bred B. Splendens.
The wild betta was first kept by the people of Siam in the 19th century. Because of its aggressive nature, they named it “pal kat” which means biting fish. Today, this name is still used for one of the varieties of the B. Splendens. By the mid 19th centuries, matches between these bettas were extremely popular in Siam.
Like its ancestors, the B. Splendens is an extremely territorial and tenacious fauna, attacking another male of its kind without any hesitation. Because of this trait, all males are to be kept by themselves and selective tank mates may be possible. Females can be kept together as they are not as aggressive as males, however, a hierarchy of sorts will be established and minor fights are common.
In nature, the wild betta hails from still waters that are often oxygen deprived. Because of this, the B. Splendens has a labyrinth, a unique organ that allows it to respirate oxygen directly from air. This labyrinth allows the oxygen to be absorbed into the B. Splendens’ bloodstream and this important ability allows the B. Splendens to survive in environments that other fauna will perish in.
Besides a low oxygen environment, the wild betta also has to live with less than ideal water conditions, because of decaying leaf litter coupled with slow water flow. The adaptation of this environment has enabled the wild betta to have a higher tolerance to poor water condition, compared to other fauna that are more used to pristine water conditions.
Because of the hardiness of their wild ancestors, the B. Splendens has the ability to cope in aquarium conditions that are less than ideal. However, their hardiness level is not of the same as the wild betta as multiple generations of breeding in pristine aquarium conditions have eroded that. We would recommend that the B. Splendens be treated like any other fauna, requiring a proper aquarium size with a filter.
The B. Splendens does best in its own aquarium. As mentioned earlier, tank mates are possible, but a trial and error process will have to take place which may result in the injury or death of potential tank mates. It has been known for some B. Splendens to be able to share their aquarium with almost any fauna, exhibiting an uncommon peaceful attitude with them, while other B. Splendens have attacked anything that is placed in their aquarium. The B. Splendens is a fauna with a bucket full of character and how acceptable they are to tank mates will be highly dependent on their character.
In our local fish shops, it is very common to find B. Splendens in bags with as little as 150ml of water for days on end. Although the B. Splendens is able to survive in such bags, it is cruel as these bags do not get a water change and the B. Splendens will die either from the lack of food or from their increasingly poisoned environment.
Although the eventually suffer in such tiny amounts of water, many local fish shops and aquarists continue to keep them in very small tanks. We do not recommend such tanks and to properly care for a B. Splendens, it needs about 5 litres to 10 litres of water equipped with a filter. A smaller filterless aquarium is possible, but with very regular water changes.
A B. Splendens needs a good feed to reach its potential, being both strong and beautiful. A good feed like Hikari Betta Bio Gold or Atison’s Betta Pro will go a long way in the B. Splendens’ well being.
The B. Splendens have a cult following in some countries and it is not unusual for these hobbyists to have tens to a few hundred B. Splendens under their care. In such an set up, the B. Splendens are usually kept in clear plastic or glass containers of about a litre or so of water. The B. Splendens live in an ‘empty’ environment, devoid of aquascape as this helps the hobbyist to quickly perform regular water changes, maintaining the water quality.
However, if you are not at such a level and only have one or two B. Splendens, we highly recommend an aquascape for this intelligent fauna. We have observed numerous B. Splendens that interact intimately with the aquascape, sleeping among flora, resting on them or hiding in them. One of our favourite B. Splendens has a particular habit of hiding the lower half of its body among the leaves of a anubias nana when it’s feeding time, allowing the food pellets to float around for a few seconds before launching violently from his ‘hiding’ place to attack his food. Extremely cute fellow.
The B. Splendens is a favourite among many aquarists for its keen intelligence, hardy constitution and ability to live in an aquarium without a filter or aeration. If you have not tried keeping one of these beauties before, we highly recommend you give it a go.
image credits: Tzara Maud | Chantal Wagner