Why are Siamese Fighting Fish popular and what’s the best way to take care of one?
There are many reasons why Siamese Fighting Fish or Bettas (pronounced 'betters') prove a popular choice in the fishkeeping hobby, Certainly it has to be said that the colours and varieties available are a real draw. Everything from deep reds to bold platinums can be found, and coupled with the different tails and body shapes, Bettas are a fish that can show incredible variation and display a unique form not often to be seen.
This instantly makes them a wonderful show fish and there are many fishkeepers out there who dedicate themselves to breeding, developing and showing their fighters in highly-contested competitions. Keep your eyes open for new varieties entering the trade, as you'll be amazed at the endless combinations of colour and finnage that are available.
Another reason for their popularity is that fighters are a great choice for small or even "nano" aquariums, and when you consider the sleek designs of many of the small tanks available these days, it's easy to see how this adds to their appeal for many fishkeepers. Not every fish is suitable for the smaller aquarium, but the biology of the Siamese fighter allows it to thrive in smaller environments. T
They have evolved over many millions of years to live in habitats such as small, stagnant pools and flooded swampland. In environments such as these, pollutants can run high and oxygen is often in short supply, so it is for that reason that these labyrinth fishes can “breath air” and why many fishkeepers will notice their fish regularly gulping fresh air at the water's surface. If you are thinking about a small designer tank for your fighter, do remember that you should ensure it has access to the water's surface. This is primarily for breathing, but also because fighters construct amazing "Bubble Nests" when breeding - yet another interesting characteristic of these small but feisty fishes.
With that said, what is the best way to house and care for these creatures? Firstly and most importantly, male fighters must be kept in separate tanks. Even in the largest aquariums, these animals will most definitely spot each other and once two of them begin to spar, it can result in one of them either being killed outright or becoming so badly maimed that it can die from its injuries. You can however, keep male and female fish together in small groups by providing plenty of cover such as dense plant growth. However, the feisty nature of this fish is not just confined to the males, and the females themselves can fight causing damage or death, so be prepared to remove or rehome fish as soon as problems crop up.
Your tank should be fully cycled using a suitable product such as Aquarium Munster's BactoSprint, before you introduce your fighter or indeed any fish. Although fighters can be introduced to community tanks, great care must be taken to match tank mates appropriately. These cannot include anything long-finned or aggressive, so things like Guppies and Angels can be problematic. It's worth remembering that short-finned forms will often fare better in mixed company and deal better with flow from filters etc. You will, however, get the very best from your fighter if kept in its own tank. Although the Anabantoid Association guidelines state that the smallest tank suitable for Siamese Fighters is 5L, Maidenhead Aquatics recommend that you opt for a larger tank, so please speak with a member of staff in store for further advice on suitable aquaria.