Take a Walk On the Wild Side of Bettas

Summer Davis
by Summer Davis
Hey betta… take a walk on the wild side! You know about bettas, but what do you know about wild betta fish? Let’s take a look at wild bettas that can be kept in an aquarium.

Just about everyone knows the betta – it’s a beautiful, colorful fish that can be purchased just about anywhere. What most people don’t know is that there is a whole other side to bettas that are not nearly as common in the aquarium trade. The less vibrant, but perhaps more beautiful, wild cousins to the average domestic betta are abundant in its natural habitat.

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A key difference between wild bettas and domestics is that males and females can be kept together in the same aquarium. The wild bettas are much less aggressive towards each other than domestic bettas, which were bred initially for fighting

There are many species of wild betta. They are divided into complexes:

  • Akarensis
  • Albimarginata
  • Bellica
  • Coccina
  • Foerschi
  • Picta
  • Pugnax
  • Splendens
  • Unimaculata
  • Waseri

Each complex has its own particular characteristics that make them unique, such as breeding habits, color, shape, size, and scale patterns.

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The Splenden complex is the closest wild cousin to the domestic betta that is typically seen in the aquarium trade. Wild splendens, such as B. Imbellis, B. Smaragdina, and B. Mahachai come in stunning colors such as copper, green, and gold. They are bubble nesters – the male creates a bubble nest by exhaling at the surface of the water; he then embraces the female, which causes her to drop her eggs. Once he fertilizes the eggs, he places them into the bubble nest and tends to the nest until the fry are free swimming. Other bubble-nesting complexes include Coccina, and Bellica.

The Unimaculata complex includes species such as B. Pallifina, B. Macrostoma, B. Ocellota, and B. Patoti, among others. They are larger in size than their domestic cousins and also have a different breeding practice called paternal mouthbrooding. During spawning, Unimaculata embrace, much like the Splenden complex, however the male will take the eggs in his mouth and hold them in his chin area, called the buccal cavity. He keeps the fry in his buccal cavity until they have grown and absorbed their yolk sac before he releases the fry into the world. Other mouthbrooding complexes of wild betta include Akarensis, Albimarginata, Foerschi, Picta, Pugnax, and Waseri.

Wild bettas are found in the waters of Indonesia and Thailand. Conditions vary greatly through the different species, so research is required before attempting to keep wild bettas in a home aquarium. They are, however, rewarding fish to keep. Some of the species are critically endangered in the wild, and their only hope of survival is to be kept in home aquariums. Many wild betta keepers rave about the rewarding challenge in breeding, keeping, and watching their fish.

Want to learn more about wild betta fish? Head over to International Betta Congress for more information about this fascinating fish.

Summer Davis
Summer Davis

Summer Davis is the mom of three kids, four dogs, and several tanks of fish. She boasts a passion for all animals, whether they are in the water or on land. This fish aficionado has kept many different species in her time, but holds a special place in her heart for wild and domestic bettas. When she's not talking about fish, Summer "spins" her extra time as the director of a baton twirling organization."

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