The Aquatic Critter

Siamese Fighting Fish

America’s best friend with fins is the goldfish. But that long-standing love affair needs to end. A far better choice is a betta, or Siamese Fighting fish.

Here’s the sad truth: goldfish don’t like living in bowls. They do much better in a tank with a filter system, but betta fish thrive in torpid water. Not only are they hardier than goldfish, they’re way more suited to life in a bowl. When the water starts to become dirty and oxygen deficient, goldfish begin to fail and eventually go belly up. A betta doesn’t much care; it just reaches above the surface and takes a breath of fresh air with its rudimentary lung-like organ called a labyrinth. They also prefer lukewarm water, typical room temperature is just fine, while goldfish prefer larger spaces and somewhat cooler water.

Although goldfish do appear in various shades of gold, sometimes with black touches on their fins, bettas appear in a kaleidoscope of color combinations; blues and reds are particularly common. Their delicate fins, which appear too large for their bodies, gently fan the water.

However, don’t let the betta’s dainty appearance fool you. They’re called Siamese “fighting” fish for good reason. In the wild they live in rice paddies in such Southeast Asian countries as Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. They defend their small territories to the death, and don’t feel secure in large spaces. You’d be an accessory to a murder if you put a betta in a bowl already containing one. In fact, breeding bettas is a tricky proposition, one we don’t recommend you try without first learning as much about these interesting fish as you can.

It’s no surprise that a fish with this dramatic disposition is carnivorous. About half of a betta’s diet should consist of bloodworms. The other half should be a variety of frozen brine shrimp, freeze-fried tubifex worms, freeze-dried brine shrimp and freeze-dried chopped beef hearts. If you listen carefully, you can even hear your betta munch and crunch its food. But, don’t worry, their teeth are way too small to ever nibble on a finger.

Many people are not aware that you can keep bettas in a community tank, provided they’re the only one of their species. They’ll defend their territory from other bettas or other closely related betta species, such as paradise fish, gouramis, etc., but show little interest in other varieties of fish. In fact, other fish may harass the betta, so choose tankmates carefully. Put into a peaceful community aquarium, the splendid betta can be a star attraction


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