Siamese Fighting Fish: The Amazing Betta Fish

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Siamese fighting fsh in waterThe Siamese fighting fish, also known as the Betta fish, is one of the most popular fish varieties when it comes to keeping aquariums. These incredible fish are not only simply amazing to watch because of their vast array of colors but they are also a relatively easy fish to care for. While these brightly colored fish are so popular worldwide, not many people know much about the Siamese fighting fish. In this article we will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the Siamese fighting fish from their natural habitat to taking care of them in an aquarium setting. Read on to find out if the beta fish is the fish for you!

Where Does the Siamese fighting fish come from?

The Siamese fighting fish and the betta fish are one and the same; in fact the name “Betta fish” comes from the scientific term “Betta splendens.” The genus name of this fish comes from the Malay term ikan bettah, Malay is a language used throughout Malaysia and Indonesia. The origin of the Siamese fighting fish can be found in the pla-kad or trey krem fish that is native to the rice paddies of Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand. These wild ancestors of the Beta fish are not one and the same but they are the wild roots of this incredibly beautiful fish.

What is the Siamese fighting fish?

The Siamese fighting fish is generally recognized, even by less experienced individuals as being a brightly colored fish known for its long and flowing fins and the aggressive nature of males of the species. This amazingly colored fish grows to approximately two inches long and comes in a number of varieties; however, it is interesting to note that naturally the Betta splendens is a brown or less brilliant green color which is certainly not as awe-inspiring as the brighter colors achieved through selective breeding. These fish are known by scientists for being a member of the gourami fish family, a variety of fish that are known for being freshwater perch-like fish that are native to Asia. There are approximately fifty individual fish that fall within the Betta genus; however, the most recognized species is the Betta splendens that is commonly found in pet stores worldwide. The Betta splendens lives around two to five years when kept in captivity and feed on a carnivorous diet.

What Do Siamese fighting fish eat?

Because Siamese fighting fish are for the most part carnivorous surface feeders  they naturally feed upon mosquito larvae, insects, crustaceans and zooplankton that can be found on the surface of the water in their natural habitat. When kept in captivity, however, these fish mostly feed on specially formulated Betta pellets which consist of a combination of elements including: fish meal, bloodworms, shrimp meal, brine shrimp, wheat flour and vitamins to ensure health. For those fish lovers who prefer not to feed prepared pellets however, the Betta fish will also eat frozen of living daphnia, mosquito larvae, bloodworms and brine shrimp.

Why is the Siamese fighting fish called the Siamese fighting fish?

Siam, which is now referred to as Thailand, were the original collectors of the Betta fish and records exist to indicate that this collection of the Betta splendens began before the 19th century. While in nature these fish generally avoid extended “fighting” displays with one another, with these encounters lasting only a few minutes, the Siamese began to breed these fish specifically to develop this fighting instinct. Over time the fighting instinct within these fish was developed to the point that they became a large source of entertainment. Events would be held in which large amounts of money or other material possessions would be wagered on fights between Siamese fighting fish and backing the fish that backed down first resulted in losing what was wagered. These fish fighting events became so popular that the king of Siam saw an opportunity to profit and he began licensing and collecting Betta fish. In 1840 the King of Siam gifted a few of his fighting fish that had been bred specifically for fighting instinct to a man who then gave the fish to Dr Theodor Cantor. Cantor, a medical scientist, was fascinated by the fish and some years later he would go on to write about them in an article referring to them as Macropodus Pugnax, a name that he would later find was already attributed to another species. Cantor would later rename this species Betta splendens.

The Colors of the Siamese fighting fish

Red siamese fighting fishPerhaps the most recognizable feature of the Siamese fighting fish is its wide variety of colors. As mentioned above these colors do not appear naturally in the fish and are instead produced as a result of the selective breeding process. In the wild the darker more “plain” colored Betta fish only displays bright and vibrant colors when angered which is generally when faced with competition from another male; however, these displays generally do not last very long. As selective breeding has impacted this fish however, the brighter colors that used to display only when the fish was aggravated began to show more of the time until finally a large number of the fish kept their bright coloration permanently. The available variation in color of the Siamese fighting fish is incredible and includes: green, red, blue, turquoise, yellow, orange, bright blue with pink, cream and white although many of these colors can be combined to create an amazing display of color.

Interestingly when discussing the colors of the Siamese fighting fish it is noted the actual color itself is not a result of skin pigmentation and rather a result of refraction within a layer of crystals in the “skin” known as guanine crystals. It is from this that certain colors of the Beta fish appear to change as light shines upon the fish or when the fish is viewed from a different angle. Cross breeding specific colors of Betta fish has resulted in a number of color varieties and more recently breeders have also been able to obtain color patterns as well! Breeding specific fish has resulted in the production of not only newer color combinations but also in new patterning of the fish including such patterns as “marble” and “butterfly.” Sometimes these new color combinations or patterns are developed by cross breeding specific Betta species with the Betta splendens.

Male versus Female Betta Fish


The brightest and showiest of the Siamese fighting fish is always the male of the species which is why the male Betta fish always outsells the female in pet stores and aquarium supply shops. This fact derives from the history of the Siamese fighting fish since it is the males and not the females of the species that have these aggressive displays with one another. Since the females have no need for an aggressive display in nature they tend to have much duller and more subdued color tones. Over time though, breeders have begun to breed female Siamese fighting fish in a range of brighter colors as well.


The fins of the Siamese fighting fish are certainly one of the most awe-inspiring aspects of this fish; however, these incredible fins are only found on males of the species. The female Betta fish has no need to develop such showy find to attract a mate and intimidate other fish of the same-sex and as a result, the male is always a more desired fish when it comes to keeping the Betta fish as a pet.

The Tail Shape of the Betta Fish

While color is one of the things that amateur Betta fish lovers are drawn to, another feature of these colorful fish that garners much attention is the tail shape. There is a wide array of tail shapes in the Siamese fighting fish and each, combined with color, makes every individual fish unique.

Dragon Scale Betta Fish

The dragon scale Betta fish has a tail that is made up of scales that are one solid color. The color of these scales tends to be mostly white however, which makes this Betta fish a poor choice if you are looking for a bright and colorful fish.

Veiltail Betta Fish

The veiltail Betta fish has a tail that has only two rays and that is not symmetrical. The veiltail Betta has a tail that looks similar to a woman’s draped veil hence the name.

Rosetail Betta Fish

The rosetail Betta fish has a tail that is similar to the half-moon Betta’s tail; however, it has much more fin material and as such it tends to overlap and look like the petals of a rose.

Half-Moon Betta Fish

The half-moon Betta fish has a large tail fin that appears as a large circle segment that approximates 180 degrees, this shape is similar to a half-moon shape, hence the name.

Crowntail Betta Fish

The crowntail Betta fish is also known as a fringetail Betta fish and is recognized for having extended spiny rays that are jagged or frilled.

Halfsun Betta Fish

The halfsun Betta fish has a combtail appearance; however, they have an anal fin that points at 180 degrees like the half-moon Betta.

Delta Tail

The delta tail Betta fish has a tail that resembles that of the half-moon but has a smaller span and sharper edges.

Short-finned Fighting Style Betta

The short-finned fighting style Betta fish is simply known for having extremely short fins in comparison to other varieties of Betta fish like the veiltail.

Double-tail Betta Fish

The double-tail Betta fish has a tail that is split in two giving it the appearance of having two individual tails. The dorsal fin of the double-tail Betta fish is quite long in comparison to that of other styles of Betta.

Which Betta Fish Tail Style is the Best?

When choosing a Betta fish, some people try to learn which trail style is best. As it happens there is no “best” when it comes to tail style so much as there is a best choice for your needs. Depending upon what you need from your Betta fish you can choose from any variety of tail styles. Since Betta’s are no longer used for fighting the length of fins and tails has little bearing unless you plan on cross breeding Betta’s to create your own style of Betta fish. For most people the deciding factor in picking their Siamese fighting fish is deciding which fish style they most like the look of, this includes the tail design, fin shape and length and color.

What is it Like to Own a Betta Fish?

Owning a Siamese fighting fish is similar to owning any other fish; however, there are a few rules that should be followed. For example two male Betta’s should not be kept in the same enclosure because their territoriality will lead to fighting. This aggressive behavior generally starts with the puffing out of their gill covers to make themselves appear more intimidating. This type of behavior can also be a sign of a Betta fish trying to impress a potential mate as well; however, the difference is fairly obvious since it depends upon whether the male is confronted with a male or a female companion. A common misconception about this gill flaring activity is that it is limited to male Betta fish only but this is not the case. Females of the species will also flare their gills at other females; this flaring serves a similar function in females as they try to establish their position in the pecking order of the community. While both males and females use this display tactic it is true that the males of the species are more aggressive by nature than the females.

Puffing out of the gills is not the only display that these fish present. The Siamese fighting fish also displays horizontal bars on their skin when they are frightened or particularly stressed although this change is rarely noticed because while it is seen in females and young male Betta’s, the majority of Betta owners choose to own the mature males because of their splendid colors and impressive fins and tails.

How to Keep Siamese Fighting Fish

For the most part anyone who ventures to keep a Betta fish understands that males of the species should be kept alone. When multiple males of the species are placed within a single area they will become territorial and will fight, this fighting can result in injury or death to one or both of the fish. Keeping females and males together is also not recommended. If you are breeding your Betta’s the male and female must obviously be placed in a tank together; however, immediately after breeding the female should be taken out of the tank as the two will begin fighting. Multiple female Betta’s can be kept in a large tank together but they should not be placed in significantly large groups, groups of females should be kept to three or less fish. Females of the species are less aggressive than males which is why, when placed in small groups, in big tanks, with plenty of hiding places; these Betta’s will not fight or kill each other.

Sometimes owners of Siamese fighting fish want to keep their male Betta in a larger tank with other fish that have similar requirements in terms of water temperature and alkalinity. Males can be placed in large tanks with other community fish; however, much research should be done prior to doing this because not all fish are compatible with the male Betta. Fish that resemble other male Betta’s in color or in the shape and length of their fins are likely to get harassed or confronted by the male Betta fish. It is also possible for the male Betta to become the target of other aggressive fish within the aquarium community and have their long fins nipped or get seriously injured. The difficulty in finding compatible tank mates for this particular species of fish is why the males of the species are generally kept alone.

How Big of a Tank Should a Betta Fish Have?

If you are looking for a tank for your Siamese fighting fish then you have undoubtedly seen the small little cups that pet stores use to house their fish. These cups are used because it is an affordable way to make sure that the males of the species do not fight and the females of the species do not mate with the males. While the Siamese fighting fish are capable of surviving in these particularly small areas they are not happy in them for extended periods of time and as they become unhappy their colors will become dim and they will become lethargic. When bringing your own Betta fish home it is important to use the rule of thumb of twelve gallons. On average a male Siamese fighting fish is happiest with a tank that holds at least 12 gallons of water. This allows the fish to grow to its full potential while also having plenty of room to swim and hide in ornamental caves or plant life. While 12 gallons is the preferable minimum size for the fish, many people choose to use smaller desktop like aquariums in which their fish still thrive.

Is the Siamese Fighting Fish for You?

If you have been thinking about getting a Siamese fighting fish there are plenty of reasons why you should pick one of these colorful fish; however, there are also some reasons why they may not be the ideal pet for you. If you are looking for a fish that will fit in to a large community aquarium with other brightly colored fish, then the male Betta is not for you. If you are looking for a fish to keep in a relatively small aquarium, the Betta fish is probably not for you and if you are looking for a fish that loves an aerated tank with few hiding places, then the Betta is definitely not for you. If, however, you are looking for a beautifully colored and solitary fish then the male Betta fish may be your man!

About The Author:

Amy grew up in England and in the early 1990's moved to North Carolina where she completed a bachelors degree in Psychology in 2001. Amy's personal interest in writing was sparked by her love of reading fiction and her creative writing hobby. Amy is currently self employed as a freelance writer and web designer. When she is not working Amy can be found curled up with a good book and her black Labrador, Jet.

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April 7, 2017 3:08 am

i just got mine today

April 29, 2012 9:39 pm

Many people are also interested in breeding these amazing fish. If so, it is important to make sure the conditions are right. First of all, this usually works best with fish that are under a year old (many that are sold in pet shops are already at least six months). A bare bottom tank of about 10 gallons seem to work best for this purpose, but it can also be accomplished in either larger or smaller sized tanks.

Keep ideal conditions within the tank as well. This includes a PH of about 7.0 and a water temperature of about 80 degrees (or possibly slightly above). Feed them a diet of live food and also provide a hiding place for the female, since males may become aggressive during courtship. Even with a hiding place, it is quite common for the female to lose a few scales or have a fin frayed during spawning.

When he is ready to spawn, the male will blow an elaborate bubble nest. Then, both fish will display intense coloration and begin circling each other underneath the bubble nest. The male will wrap himself around the female who will be turned on her back. As she expels eggs they are fertilized and will begin to sink. The male scoops up the eggs and spits them back into the bubble nest. From this point on the male will tend to the brood and it is a good idea to remove the female from the tank, as he may become aggressive towards her. It is a really incredible process that almost has to be seen to be believed!

April 28, 2012 11:07 pm

I have found that it is rather difficult to keep these fish in tiny bowls. As a general rule, each fish should be allocated around 10 to 12 gallons of water in order to be the most happy, healthy and productive. In their native Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and parts of China they abound in rice paddies, shallow ponds and slow moving streams. These are also tropical regions and it should be noted that the temperature of the water can be well in the 80s. In fact, if a betta fish is kept in a tank with a temperature of below 75 degrees, they will increasingly become listless. The high water temperature is the biggest reason to keep them in a larger tank, since it is more difficult to adequately control the temperature in a small tank or bowl.

These fish also have a special respiratory organ which allows them to breathe air directly from the surface. They should be always allowed access to the surface for this purpose. Contrary to many popular beliefs, these fish do not require less oxygen than other types. The water itself should also have a neutral to slightly acidic PH level. The movement of the water should also be kept to a minimum. No power filters should be used in such a tank.

Betta fish may be kept in a community tank. However, please ensure that there are no other aggressive or fin nipping fish. Of course, only one male betta per tank, or else there could be trouble. Multiple females may be kept within the same tank, since they do not usually fight with each other.

In their natural habitat, these fish eat insects and insect larvae almost exclusively. While their digestive system is also ideal for eating meat, they will adapt to flake food and even frozen and freeze dried food. As far as frozen or freeze dried options, these include brine shrimp, plankton, glassworms, tubifex, Daphnia and beef heart. Flake food should be used solely, but supplemented with other types, especially live foods from time to time, if at all possible.

April 26, 2012 12:13 am

Siamese fighting fish is also called betta fish. They have a long, rich and interesting history. As a owner and an enthusiast of this breed, I was thrilled to see such a accurate and interesting article. This would serve as a very good introduction for anyone who is interested in becoming involved with these wonderful, brightly colored creatures. These fish are very easy to care for, keep and even breed if you are so inclined. They are also incredible to watch and can provide hours upon hours of entertainment.

If you are ever so inclined, take a mirror and place it next to a male betta fish. Allow him to see his reflection and get ready for a show! They will puff themselves up and strut and stare. Basically, they see the presence of another male as a challenge, and he is preparing to meet this challenge. If your fish os one of the more aggressive types, it is possible that he will even try to attack the reflection and start running into the side of the tank. At the very least, he will make a big show and try to frighten the other fish into backing off. After watching a few minutes of this, remove the mirror and allow your fish to think that he has won the challenge.

These fish are some of the best known and most well loved freshwater aquarium fish. They have very bright colors and long flowing fins. The colors can range from red to blue to white and all kinds of shades and combinations in between. It is also quite interesting to note that the females are not nearly as colorful as the males and their fins are also considerably shorter. Possibly this is why it is only the males who engage in those types of displays or fighting shows? I have always wondered the reasons for this. It seems that no one really knows for sure.

However, the most likely theory it was some type of observed instinctual behavior. It is also thought that the King of Siam (which is currently Thailand) noticed this behavior and saw a chance to profit from it. He had these fish more or less trained and these fighting displays encouraged. Then, a large gambling industry developed with a lot of money wagered on the winners of these displays. Usually the loser was the fish who voluntarily back away, although there were occasional actual fights among the more aggressive ones.