By Wilfred Pilo
KUCHING, Sept 30: They may not be the top gladiators of the aquatic world, but there’s no denying that Siamese fighting fish have conquered many hearts with their fighting spirit and beautiful displays of heart.
Scientifically known as Betta splendens, or simply Bettas to their many fans, the Siamese fighting fish is renowned for its aggression.
When two male Bettas are put together in a small aquatic tank, it often results in the fight to the death of at least one, if not both.
Bettas are naturally aggressive because they territorial, but over centuries, they have also been bred for their aggression and pitted against each other in matches, whether a form of entertainment or for gamblers to place bets on.
The small and colourful fish is endemic and plentiful in the paddy fields of central Thailand. The locals would catch the fish and put them in a container to spar. The practice gave rise to the fish’s common name of Siamese fighting fish.
Bettas are also found in other South East Asia countries, including Malaysia, where they are more popular as aquatic pets and often bred for their looks rather than fighting prowess.
Local Betta breeder and seller, Alex Goh, 43, took this writer to see his breeding aquarium and revealed that his interest in Bettas started when he was an eight-year-old boy in Brunei.
“One day after school, I went to an aquarium shop in Brunei town. When I saw this very colourful little fish, I fell in love with it. I later learned from the aquarium shop that the little fish is a fighting fish,” he recalled.
“I was engrossed with the fish and spent two Brunei dollars to buy one and brought it home to keep and shared with my young friends.”
Goh said he learnt how to care for Betta fishes and how to ensure that they are healthy.
“That (in Brunei) is when I started to appreciate nature, pets and aquatic lives,” he revealed.
When Goh’s family moved back to Kuching, the now ten-year-old started to look again for Betta fish.
He began to rear them, and after many years, his knowledge and exprience grew to include how to manage and take care of the many types of Bettas in his collection.
“Over the years, I kept Betta fish that are bred for fighting and also for their physical beauty. There are so many species, and some are rare too,” he revealed.
According to Goh, all Bettas are territorial and get aggressive towards each other once they are placed together.
“But for a good Betta fish for fighting, one species stands out, that is the beautiful Plakat Betta,” he revealed.
Goh said Bettas fish are small, measuring about 2.5 to 3 inches in length from mouth to caudal peduncle.
Among popular types of Bettas are the Crowntail Betta, Combtail Beta, Veiltail Betta, Halfmoon Betta, Retail Betta, Feather Tail Betta, Delta Betta and Giant Betta.
“These beautiful Bettas are differentiated by the shape of their tails, which is also how they got their names,” added Goh.
“The price of Bettas ranges from as low RM15 to a few hundred ringgit as it depends on the type of fish bought. But the price of Bettas has dropped over the years.”
Goh said a healthy Betta fish can live for about three years, and during that period, it must eat a healthy diet of worms, larvae and betta fish pellets.
“I am willing to teach people who wanted to rear this fish how to keep them healthy,” he added.
Over the years, apart from his 9-to-5 job, Goh had entered many competitions locally and across Malaysia.
“After more than thirty years of breeding and selling Betta fish, I have also organised competitions here locally in Sarawak. My focus now is more towards the physical anatomy and the beauty of Betta fish.
“From my experiences, as a competitor, a breeder and a seller, I know what kind of Betta fish can win a competition. These Bettas will display their physical beauty.
“We should not allow the fishes to nip at each other to cause fatality.
“We don’t want the fish to suffer but instead showing off its myriad of colours that is mesmerising to the eye. That’s why it is better to rear this fish for its beauty,” he said. — DayakDaily