Betta Splendens | Wild & Ornamental Keeping Guide

betta splendens
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When people say betta fishes, Betta Splendens is what they’re usually referring to. 

This reference is because they are the ones that are found most commonly in fisheries or aquarium trades.

And this is also another reason why people get confused between different types of bettas.

But we should know that the Betta genus has more than 70+ recognised species.

One of the most, if not the most beautiful, variety of bettas would be Betta splendens. They belong to the complex of the same name and are generally more aggressive than other varieties.

So what do we know about Betta Splendens so far?

Although people first used betta species as fighting fishes in Thailand and parts of Asia, it was only in 1927 that C.Tate Regan formally gave it the name Betta splendens.

Most people may be surprised to know that wild Betta splendens don’t have many rich colours and decorative fins like those we usually see.

It is so because the ones we get in local stores are often a result of generations of selective breeding and hybridisation.

ornamental betta splendens

Common Betta Splendens

male betta splendens

Credits: SeriouslyFish

Looks aside, the domestic bred splendens may hardly survive in the same environmental conditions as the wild ones.

They may be in the same complex, but their temperament and health will usually not be similar.

Since these bettas have undergone a good series of evolutions over captive breeding, we now have beautiful varieties (specifically different tail types and colours).

One of the first tail types that emerged was the Veil Tail, and it is still a popular variant now.

There’s also plenty of other variants over the years like the delta, halfmoon, crowntail, double tail, rose tail, and so on.

New varieties are being developed because many breeders focus on bringing in new looks. Their immense beauty is another reason why many people consider Betta splendens the ‘designer fish’ of the underwater kingdom.

Common Names

Although Betta Splendens is its scientific name, one of its most common names would be the Siamese Fighting Fish(where ‘Siam’ is the former name of Thailand)

Before getting its scientific name, it was generally called ‘pla kat’ in Thailand, translated to ‘fighting fish.’ This name emerged because bettas are dominant and aggressive.

Where can we find Betta Splendens?

These bettas are endemic to Southeast Asia, including the Malay Peninsula, central and east Thailand, Cambodia, and South Vietnam.

Locality

We can naturally find Betta splendens throughout the central area of Thailand, the province of Chiang Rai, and specifically in the Menam River of Thailand, which refers to the river basin of Chao Praya.

Habitat description

Like most Bettas, the splendens also thrive in stagnant waters and can live healthy without enough oxygen in the water.

Sluggish water areas that are shallow, like rice paddies, ponds, swamps, ditches, etc., are perfect places where Betta splendens thrive.

We can also guess that this shallow-watered stagnant environment led the bettas to develop their labyrinths.

As for the vegetation, it is often submerged or slightly dense covers. The bettas also create their bubble nests in these covers, away from direct light.

But one thing we all have to be wary of is that, due to the vast increase in evolved or hybridised breeds, the natural wild species are suffering a decrease in population over the years.

How to take care of Betta splendens

Taking care of the domestic (colourful and various tail types you see in fish stores) are pretty easy.

The wild Betta splendens are the more sensitive ones.

If you’re lucky enough to own a wild breed of Betta Splenden, make sure to give it enough space to swim and explore because if it’s more than one that you own, the chances are that the males will fight among each other for territories.

This is unhealthy and could result in deaths, so best avoid it by providing a big room.

Apart from controlling its aggressiveness, look out for the females because the males could get rough during courting or after breeding. This point applies to captive-bred splendens too.

Since these breeds thrive in stagnant waters, avoid putting too much current in the tanks and choose to have little to no current at all.

Tank Size and Requirements

As with almost every Betta, bigger is always the better option. These territorial breeds need excellent space to explore freely and avoid getting cramped with other fishes.

There’s a misconception among many new breeders that we should keep betta fishes in small tanks or jars.

Avoid making this mistake as small spaces like that are unhealthy and cramped for your bettas, even if they may not be really big species.

If you’re short on budget and wish to go for a smaller tank, the least I’d recommend is a 30×20 cm tank. But if you want to house a pair or even a group, the best possible option is to go for much bigger ones.

I stress this time and again, many keepers and breeders have keepers have kept single splendens in smaller tanks without any issues.

But if you can opt for a bigger one, it’s always best.

However, a pair of splendens in the same tank will require a much bigger aquarium with lots of hiding spaces for the female.

When this space becomes too small, it becomes increasingly tense for fishes like Betta splendens to maintain their territories.

This tension then leads to aggression, and sparring may occur, leading to physical damage or death.

It may also become harder to give it proper light and dark areas and free swimming space.

Aquarium Layout

Since naturally, the Betta splendens flourish in sluggish waters with minimal oxygen and somehow dense vegetation.

We can be safe by arranging an aquarium that can mimic these features as close to the original.

Even though some fishkeepers prefer not having substrates, I recommend having at least a basic substrate setup for your bettas.

If you keep live plants, then the soil is the best option; along with it, you could also have some amounts of gravel or sand.

Almost every Betta fish doesn’t like excessive brightness, so make it a rule to have suitable varieties of plants (tall, short, and floaters) to provide good cover and serve as safe areas for their bubble nests.

You can also add some caves and rocks to improve on it.

Another point that some people miss is that you should keep at least a small surface area at the top since these species have evolved labyrinths to breathe with.

For Bettas, it’s almost always a good idea to paint to cover three sides of the tank in black. This can highly reduce excessive light entering and give the bettas more sense of security.

With this, you can also keep the tank near diffused light.

Remember that Bettas don’t need excessive light, but we should not keep them in complete darkness.

If you want to learn more about light, bettas, and tank setups, you can check out my Betta lighting guide.

Water Conditions

As for the water conditions, we can keep them safely in temperatures ranging from 22 to 30°C. This warm temperature is because the fish’s origin features warm climates. These temperatures can work for both ornamental betta splendens and wild ones.

The domestic splendens are pretty tolerant to pH levels as they’ve adapted to tap water, so anywhere between 5-7.5 should be fine.

The wild Betta splendens will require more attention as they prefer the acidic side.

The water should also have a hardness of about 5-20 DH.

What can you keep with Betta Splendens?

Due to their aggressive tendencies, it’s generally not recommended to keep Betta splendens in community tanks.

This is also a tricky claim because every betta fish has its distinct temperament.

While one may tolerate being in a community tank, another may dislike it.

This is also why we should first learn our Bettas’ habits and tendencies before moving on to additional members.

When you wish to keep a few species here and there, you can opt for those that inhabit different levels in the aquarium.

Tetras, cory catfish, rasboras, platies, etc., are some excellent choices as these are peaceful fishes and won’t cause any territorial threats to the Betta splendens.

Avoid fish that move fast or are too flashy in their looks, as the Betta could take it as a sign of intrusion.

We might think that the wild breeds are rough, but the ornamental strains carry more aggression. In most cases, we’re better off keeping a single male.

Feeding Betta Splendens

Despite their adorable features and size, the Betta splenden is a predatory fish, and it can also feed on certain insects.

These fishes eat minor bugs and insects that fall into the water in the wild, including mosquito larvae.

Many fishkeepers avoid food pellets, but you can go for it if you have no other alternative. However, I’d suggest giving live food like baby brine shrimp or mosquito larvae.

Bloodworms, daphnia, and almost anything small enough is acceptable.

I also have a Betta feeding guide that should help.

Sexing Betta Splendens

The males have more flamboyant fins and colours in both the wild breeds and the ornamental strains.

Females are more simple and can be either brownish or have primary colourations (ornamental).

Here you can see a visual comparison between male and female Betta splenden.

male wild betta splendens

Male Wild Betta Splendens

female wild betta splendens

Female Wild Betta Splendens

male and female ornamental betta splendens

Ornamental Betta Splendens

male female comparison ornamental betta splendens

Comparison between Male and Female Betta Splendens

Breeding Betta Splendens

Betta splenden are a typical bubble nester, which means that the male builds a nest of bubbles in a safe spot and shows his courtship displays to the female.

Once the female gives in, they begin to mate in a sort of embrace, and the female drops her eggs, which the male quickly collects in his mouth and transfers to the bubble nests.

In most cases, the male may chase away the female after the breeding process; in such cases, be sure to look out for her.

He’ll then diligently look after the nest, and after a week or so, the fry will appear.

Keep in mind that fry has big appetites, so you should feed them properly.

Once they successfully develop their labyrinths, the fry may safely grow into mature betta splendens, and the cycle repeats.

Standard length

With proper care, betta splendens can grow up to 60- 70 mm.

Lifespan of Betta Splendens

Wild betta splendens tend to have longer lifespans and reportedly can live for 5 to 8 years.

But such lifespans vary for the ornamental ones. Some reportedly could live for more than 5 years, but some may survive only a year and succumb to health problems.

Although the usual number of years I hear for both is only 2-3 years.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, the Betta splenden is one of the most visually attractive breeds.

However, its wild counterpart is not as flashy.

Their maintenance varies due to the strain variation, but overall, they’re mildly easy to keep.

Any fish lover would be fascinated by this species. Keeping one might be something to be proud of, especially if you can get your hands on a pure wild one.

If you wish to get one for yourself, I say it’s a beautiful choice as I would also love to own one, if not many of Betta splendens.

And if this is your first foray into the world of wild bettas, the wild Betta splenden is an excellent choice to begin with due to its relative ease of keeping.

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