What Is a Betta?

What Is a Betta?

Betta fish, one of the most popular fish in the aquarium, has been an interest for many enthusiasts. They come in wide range of tail types and colors. However, what many don't realize is that there are multiple species of Bettas that are not domesticated. In this article, I will be explaining what wild Bettas are and how they are different compared to domestic Bettas.

So, what is a wild Betta you might ask? Well, wild Bettas is a genus of fish that are NOT your typical domestic Betta splendens. There are many different species of Bettas (besides splendens of course), each having interesting characteristics and behaviors. Most wild Bettas are social or somewhat social in nature, meaning that you can easily house them with minimal issues. Even male wild Bettas can coexist in the same aquarium! Now let's get something that you might not know about wild Bettas, and that is the complex. A complex is a species group that share similar traits and behaviors. There many different types of complexes out there ranging from splendens, coccina, albimarginata, pugnax, unimaculata, and so on! So, saying that a Betta needs a warm temperature of the 80s or you can't keep them in groups or pairs is not true. Depending on the species, most species of Bettas prefer to be kept in the low 70s. Every species of Bettas has interesting behaviors that set apart from domestic Bettas. For instance, breeding. Most species of Bettas are mouthbrooders, which means that they do not build bubble nest, but instead tend to their young inside their mouth (similar to most African cichlids). However, some species of Bettas are actually bubble nester, which includes splendens and coccina complexes. As for the pair or group housing, you can easily house male/female pair or a mixed group with minimal issues. Bubble nesting species should be housed in a ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 with more females than males. However, the role is reversed in mouthbrooding species. Instead of housing more females in the same aquarium, housing more males is better since females are going to be the ones to initiate breeding. Of course, you can house a mixed group of Bettas as long as the aquarium is spacious and contains plants and/or hardscapes for the fish to hide.

But what about aggression within species? Unlike your domestic Bettas, which will fight to the death, wild Bettas are extremely peaceful (for the most part, though there are some aggressive species such as B. persephone). The only aggression that wild Bettas will pose is some slight chasing. That's it! It's a rare occurrence for a wild Betta to kill another Betta. Of course, wild Bettas will continuously fight with other Bettas if the aquarium is small.

Every fishkeepers are well aware of domesticated Bettas, which consists of a variety of colors and tail types, but some or even a few are aware of the true beauty that lie within wild species. Wild species of Bettas come in array of color, sizes, and behavior that sets apart from the Bettas that we all know and love. Most people are spending their time and money on Bettas that are potentially poor in genetics. Some people even tried to rescue dying Bettas at their local chain pet stores, which isn't going to solve the case. In fact, if we, the consumers, spend a buck load of money on genetically weak fish, then we are not solving the problem. In actuality, we are encouraging irresponsible fish farms and breeders to continue the practice of inbreeding fish. Unlike domestic Bettas, wild Bettas pose no genetic issues. In reality, wild Bettas are ten times hardier than your typical Bettas. However, I am not saying that new fishkeepers should tackle wild Bettas. Probably the most important aspect that I want to talk about with regards to wild Bettas is their population size. According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), most species of Bettas are listed as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered. On the contrary, you might see some species that are listed as "DD" (data deficient), which means that we do not have enough information to conclusively state whether a species has a stable population or not. This DOES NOT mean that everything is okay with regards to species population. In fact, habitat destruction may still occur in certain areas. If more people are well aware of the different species and that there is a high demand for it, then there is hope that the population for endangered species to have a stable population. As fishkeepers and hobbyists, it is our job to educate and preserve certain specimens from reaching extinction.

Before I end this thread, I would like to do a recap on what Bettas are. Betta IS A GENUS and NOT A SPECIES. A genus is defined as "a principal taxonomic category that ranks above species and below family, and is denoted by a capitalized Latin name, e.g. Leo." A species is defined as "a group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. The species is the principal natural taxonomic unit, ranking below a genus and denoted by a Latin binomial, e.g. H. sapiens." So saying that Betta is an aggressive fish that can't be housed together is entirely not true. So if anyone is referring to Bettas, just remember that "Betta" is just a genus and that the genus consists of multiple species.

Here is some links to get you started if you are interested in learning and/or keeping wild Bettas:
Keeping and Breeding Wild Betta Species | Betta Breeding 160411

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This article is very well written and informative.
I learned a few new things about bettas. Thank you for putting this out.
That was awesome! Very informative and mentioned quite a few things I didn’t know about wild bettas!
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