The Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens), commonly known as the betta, is a popular fish in the aquarium trade.
Siamese fighting fish live in thickly overgrown ponds and in only very slowly flowing waters such as shallow rice paddies, stagnant pools, polluted streams, and other types of areas in which the water has a low-oxygen content.
The lifespan of Siamese fighting fish is about 3 to 5 years and up to 7 and 10 years in rare cases.
This fish, on average, is 7.5 centimeters (3 inches) in length.
Its body shape is streamlined, allowing it to slip smoothly and effortlessly through open water.
The fish’s body is covered with scales that overlap each other like the shingles on the roof of a house. These scales consist of thin, transparent plates that help protect the Siamese fighting fish’s body from injury and add streamlining for efficient gliding.
A mucus layer also covers the scales to provide the fish with extra smoothness and to protect against invading parasites and infection.
The Siamese fighting fish’s scales grow out from the skin and are generally lacking in color. The fish’s true color actually comes from pigment cells (chromatophores) located in the skin itself.
In the wild, the fish uses its coloration to ward off predators and to attract mates. Wild Bettas do not possess the vibrant bright red, lime green, and royal blue colors of their selectively bred counterparts. In fact, they are unusually dull and drab. However, captive-bred Betta males have adopted these new colors and use them to their advantage in mating displays.
It is popular to keep betta fish in very small containers, such as bowls for display around the home. Contrary to popular belief, this can cause health issues and lead to an early death for the fish. Bettas prefer to be kept in larger tanks or community tanks. A commonly recommended tank size is 20 liters, or 5 gallons, and bigger is advisable, while 10 litters (2.5 gallons) is the minimum.
A well-known behavioral characteristic of the Betta is fighting. Male Bettas, more commonly than females, instictively fight with one another to defend their territory. In the Orient, the fish’s animosity towards its own kind is capitalized upon through the medium of staged fights. Fighting fish have been bred for competitive fighting for centuries.
In the wild, Siamese fighting fish are primarily bug eaters. Their meals usually consist of insects that, for whatever reason, ended up dropping into their environments, whether ponds, canals or anything else. They also frequently feed on algae and bug larvae, as well.
It is typically not recommended to keep male and female bettas together, except temporarily for breeding purposes which should always be undertaken with caution.
Males and females flare or puff out their gill covers (opercula) to appear more impressive, either to intimidate other rivals or as an act of courtship.
The life cycle begins with the parents’ romance — which is exceedingly brief and potentially dangerous. The eggs hatch within 36 hours. Baby bettas stay in their nest until they’ve absorbed their yolk sacs at about 5 days of age. Bettas become fully adult between 3 and 12 months of age.
The “fight” in their names comes from the males’ habits of battling it out among themselves.
The Siamese fighting fish is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.
The titular character in the novel Rumble Fish (novel) and subsequent film Rumble Fish is a Siamese fighting fish.
A scene in the James Bond film From Russia with Love shows three Siamese fighting fish in an aquarium as the villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld likens the modus operandi of his criminal organisation, SPECTRE to one of the fish that observes as the other two fight to the death, then kills the weakened victor.