Also known as "siamese fighting fish
", these are the long-finned, flashy fish sitting in bowls at the local pet store
. the males
are territorial and aggressive and will attack
, (but contrary to popular belief not usually kill. the other fish usually dies from an infection in his wounds) any other male that he deems a "threat". This is why males are kept in little fishbowl
s. The females, however, are very social and can be kept together. Betta females
are almost impossible to find, though, in stores because they are kind of drab fish. They are less brightly colored, and lack the flowing fins that the males have that the species is known for. The only reason people buy the females, if the store even has them, is to breed bettas. Most people will never see a female betta, they will see the flashy males out for sale and think that is the entire species.
Betta Splendens is the species that is found in pet stores, and the one typically called the "betta". However there are at least 8 additional species of bettas that are very rarely sold--there is no market for them because the time has not been put into selectively breeding them for looks. The long fins and very bright colors of the male have been bred for for years. In their wild state, the fins are barely longer than the female's, although their colors are still brighter. Interestingly, the fish that *are* bred for fighting (mostly in asia) have the dominant short fins. They have aggressive tendencies bred out, instead of looks. "Show", or pet store bettas, are have been bred into gunmetal blue, turquoise, red, and "cambodian" (white, not albino. there are three albino bettas ever on record. all were crippled and died very early). Also available but rarer are yellow, black, and marbled.
Siamese fighters are actually *the* best "bowl" fish. People think goldfish are the traditional 'keep in a bowl feed once a week change water maybe every second month' pet. Wrong. Goldfish, seven times out of ten, die from lack of oxygen. If your water supply is oxygen-poor, or you don't' change the bowl often enough, the goldfish will literally suffocate because they have only gills and take their oxygen from the water. However, bettas and their cousins the gouramis and paradise fish are anabantids, and they have something called a "labyrinth organ", basically a rudimentary set of lungs, as well as gills. This allows the fish, who naturally live in oxygen-poor rice paddies, to literally breathe air from the surface instead of taking it in through the water via gills. Gouramis can also be "bowled" but they tend to grow larger than a bowl can handle and are not as impressive to look at.