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 fishbowls. 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.

Betta splendens is the most popular variety of betta. They are known as the Siamese Fighting Fish, Siam being moden day Thailand. The reason a fish such as the betta exists is due to the ecological niche of stagnant slow moving water. The native water of the betta is slow moving rivers and rice paddies in southeast Asia. The large fins and labyrinth organ are nearly useless in faster moving water, which can drag the fish around due to fin size, as well as being better areated, making the labyrinth useless. In Thailand they are still raised to be fought, these fish being more similar to the wild variety. The short finned wild variety of betta is known as plakat thai. Among fighters shorter fins are preferable, as the fins are the target of attacks. Many breeders of the fancy strains of bettas object strongly to their being fought. The science of betta genealogy is growing rapidly as it is useful in selectively breeding of the more unusual modern strains. Bettas are egg layers. The male betta splendens builds a bubblenest which he tends to and keeps the eggs in. The eggs will not develop properly if they are not near the surface of the water. There is a great deal of information to be found on breeding bettas available from breeders all over the world. There are many other varieties of bettas, the better known of which may be Betta pugnax and Betta imbellis. Some species are mouth brooders, mostly in varieties that exist in faster moving water that would break up a bubblenest quickly. The betta is a good fish for beginners, as well as experienced fishkeepers who can breed them and raise the young (a daunting task, as it requires changing a large number of bowls, glasses, jars, tanks, et cetera on a constant basis). When adding a betta to a community tank one must be careful of several factors. Bettas will instinctively attack any fish with long fins, often wounding the fish mortally. Keep in mind as well, that as a long finned fish, other aggressive species will also nip at a betta's fins. While not using a significant amount of oxygen in the tank, bettas add as much pollution as any other fish to the tank. To keeps bettas at bay in a community tank, a current in the water, such as that from a power filter, will keep the fish tired and prevent it from harrassing other fish.

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