Friday, May 15, 2009

The History Of Betta Splendens


This information from

Accessorizing with fish was not what the people of Siam originally had in
mind when they started collecting Bettas prior to the 1800s. Known as Siamese

Fighting Fish, the Bettas of that time were not the same elegant fish that we

see today. With much smaller fins and a dirty greenish brown hue, they were bred
for competitive fighting and not for the magnificent finnage and colors that
they are now famous for. Native to Siam (now Thailand), Indonesia, Malaysia,
Vietnam and parts of China, these fish became accustomed to water temperatures
that were often above 80 degrees.

For the children of Malaya, in southern China, collecting these Siamese

fighting fish was a favorite pastime. Able to catch 50 fish in an hour, from the
paddy fields, these children would conduct fish fights in order to determine who
the village champion was. Usually, it was the biggest fish that they had. Once
the wounds healed on the prize-winning fish, he would go into competition again

against a new opponent. This pastime diminished significantly when agricultural
chemicals and mechanized plowing were introduced for the harvesting of the paddy
fields. The fields were not the only place where one could find Bettas however.
They were also living in ditches, stagnant ponds and gentle flowing streams.

Known as pla kat, which means tearing or biting fish, the wild Bettas
generally would have short-lasting fights of only a few minutes or so. However,
once the Siamese started to breed them specifically for fighting, these matches
could go on for hours. The winner was determined, not by the wounds that he
inflicted, but instead by his willingness to continue fighting. The losing fish

retreated and the match was over. Damage to the fish generally was nothing more
than torn fins, with serious damage rarely seen. However, damage to the families
of the men betting on the fish was sometimes substantial, with potential losses
as great as his money, his house and, on occasion, his wife or other family

Seeing the obvious popularity of these fights, the King of Siam started
licensing and collecting these fighting fish. In 1840, he gave some of his
prized fish to a man who, in turn, gave them to Dr. Theodor Cantor, a medical
scientist from Bangor. Describing these fish in an article nine years later, Dr.
Cantor gave them the name Macropodus Pugnax. In 1909, Mr. Tate Regan renamed
those Betta Splendens, noting that there already was a species with the name

that Dr. Cantor had given to them. It is believed that Mr. Regan got the name
from a warrior-like tribe of people named “Bettah”.

By the last quarter of the 1800’s, the Betta Splendens were introduced into
France and Germany and in 1910 they were first seen in the United States.
Seventeen years later, Frank Locke of San Francisco received his first Bettas.
They were light-colored with brilliant red fins and he gave them the name Betta
Cambodia. With the variety of colors and color combinations that were being
introduced, these fish were considered to be different species, thus a long list
of alternate names was created.

Today, Betta Splendens are the most popular fish with breeders in the U.S.
and Japan. Commercial Betta farms in Malaya and Singapore breed both display
Splendens and fighting Splendens with the breeding of the fighters producing the
most revenue. Fighters are often discarded following their matches and new ones
are bought, whereas display Splendens do not need to be replaced for quite some