Fighting Fish – Fish Fighting as a “Sport”

March 13, 2013

Centuries ago Asian breeders of the Siamese Fighting Fish, given its name because of its aggressive nature, noticed that temperament, as well as appearance, could be bred into their fish. Once an especially nasty male was found, he was bred with a female. Then their offspring were bred, and so on, creating very surly fighting fish ready for a “betta fight”.
This led to the creation of fighting fish competitions, and eventually gambling on a betta fight was commonplace, and could even be found in the local markets. Even in present day Thailand (formerly Siam), fish fighting is a huge “sport”, and millions of dollars are bet on bouts every year. in the United States it is not usually fought, but remains one of the more popular tropical aquarium fish year after year, due to its incredibly wide range of colors, and fin shapes and styles.

Blue Male Fighting Fish

With several hundreds of years of breeding taking place on so many non-documented levels, unraveling the ancestry of this fish is impossible. But we do know that the first Siamese Fighting Fish landed in Europe in 1894, and considering that these fish can breed as early as nine months, and have a gestation period of about two weeks, so you can see that the numbers of possible generations in even a decade is in the hundreds.

Betta Splendens is the scientific name given to these beautiful fish, and actually means “Splendid Betta”. As the males have been bred more for fin size and coloration, their ability to swim has lessened, and that is why you will usually find them in tanks with little or no water flow. Whereas Fighting Fish competitions are commonplace in Thailand and Viet Nam, the only betting done in the United States is in Betta Fish Shows, with Regional, and National competitions frequently having hundreds of entrants.

When purchasing a betta tank, remember that betta fight other fish that appear similar in shape and/or color. Males must be separated, unless you plan on waking up to a dead Betta Splendens.

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Bettas show left-and right-hand preferences !

March 9, 2013

The Siamese fighting fish, Betta splendens, not only shows right- and left-hand preferences but also has accompanying body asymmetries according to research published in a recent issue of Behavioral Brain Research.

Lead researcher Yuichi Takeuchi aimed to answer three separate questions:

  • In a display of aggression, would betta fish present one side to an opponent in preference to the other side?
  • Are there are differences in appearance between the left and right side of the betta fish?
  • Are differences in betta body shape linked to which side the fish presented?

Bettas prove ideal fish for such experiments, as Takeuchi explains: “Betta splendens show intensive aggressive behavioural patterns” and “remarkably erect the operculum during these social situations”.

In the first phase of the experiment, Takeuchi found that when placed in a mirrored, hexagonal tank¬† just over half of the betta fish showed a left or right-sided preference for displays of aggressions: “lefty” bettas were more likely to present and flare their left gill cover at the mirror image of themselves, while “righty” fish would do the opposite.

Betta Fish Flaring

Betta Fish Flaring

In the second stage of the experiment, the researchers measured tiny differences in the body shapes of the fishes, specifically looking at the angle at which the spine met the head.  The overwhelming majority of betta fish had a slight left- or right-sided bend in their backbone.

Finally, Takeuchi compared the two sets of results and found that fish that were already identified as lefties had a subtle bend in their spine to the left while righties would most likely bend to the right, suggesting a link between body shape and left/right preference.

Takeuchi admits that the test may lead to more questions than answers, agreeing that “The reason for the relationship between behaviour laterality… and morphological asymmetry in Betta Splendens is not clear”, and that perhaps these results actually mean that it is time to “re-examine the widespread behavioural laterality in fish”.

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Published: Dr Claire Inness Wednesday 19 May 2010, 2:21 pm

posted in Practical Fishkeeping at

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