Betta splendens

Betta splendens

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Scientific Name or classification 

Betta splendens (Regan, 1910)

Common Name

Siamese fighter



Type Locality

The type species is Betta picta; the type locality is reported to be near Buitenzorg, Java, Indonesia.


ikan bettah a local name for the fish. Splendens (from the Latin) meaning radiant.


Species Information

Size (TL or SL in cm)

Varies between 6-8 cm SL. As this fish is a man made variety different individuals may have different characteristics, depending on the parents crossed.


Siamese fighting fish sold in pet stores are a variety which was created through selective breeding, by professional aquarists (Myers, 1947; Sakurai, 1992). These are brightly coloured usually violet to red, blue and green, with excessively long fins. Wild-type specimens have much shorter fins and are of a drab (although variable) colouration, except for breeding males. Myers (1947) described the wild-type breeding male as dark brown to black in color with small yellow spots on their sides. Their dorsal fin is fan-like with metallic yellow and black flecks. Their caudal fin is deep crimson, edged with black, the outer rays of which are canary yellow to blue. Their anal fin is red turning to yellow towards the tip. Their eyes are green. (1)


The most distinctive characteristic of mature males is their long dorsal and caudal fins. Males also have longer ventral fins and a narrower body. However, short finned males are also available and sometimes confused as female Betta splendens. A good way to decide whether a fish is a male or a female is to put it next to another male; if it is a male it will display and flare his opercula, if it is a female it will display side bars.



Natural distribution 

The wild type fish is spread in Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, in shallow streams or rice paddies.




26o C - 30oC.   

Other parameters 

It does well in medium to high GH. Slow water flow is highly recommended, the fish will get stressed if the water flow is high.




Mosquito larvae are a favourite food though the fish will grow well on a good carnivore staple diet (flakes or pellets). Though it is a top feeder it will easily get used to eating sinking food.


Conspecific males should be kept in separate tanks or in long (over 1 meter for two males) planted tanks with clearly marked territories. We keep our males with peaceful catfish (cories etc) or young Loricariidae growing up and they do extremely well. The females can be kept together though particularly quarrelsome females may create problems. Usually a hierarchy is formed and on occasions we have seen ours swimming around as a group. Avoid keeping the fish with platties, mollies and guppies as these will nip the fins of the Bettas. Similarly gouramis should also be avoided as the fish recognise each other and they may start fights.

Suggested Tankmates                  

Corydoras, Ancistrus. Females can be kept together.


Sand, plants, sumatra wood. Plants need to be pruned regularly to ensure the fish have plenty of access to the surface of the water. This is necessary for them to breathe.

Tank Size

We keep about 5-6 females in a 40 litres tank though 20 litres is also an acceptable space when they are younger. We keep our males in 20 - 40 litres tanks. We have seen the fish behaving better when we use long and narrow tanks rather than square tanks or bowls.

Behaviour in

Will interact with keeper; males will attack females who are not ready to spawn if kept together in small environments. Takes extreme interest in tank and enjoys being in control.

Other remarks          

The fish have a life span of 3-4 years; most fish available in the trade are well over one year old. It is argued that the more a fish spawns the shorter its lifespan will be.



Quite tricky to pair them off. Either the male or the female (more rarely) may reject their partner and attack them. Better to keep the females separately and place them in a breeding tank with the male when they display the gravid spot. For a breeding report see Keeping and Breeding Betta splendens.



Photo by the authors.



(1) Betta splendens (Regan 1910)


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