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Japanese Fighting Fish

The Ultimate Guide to Betta or Japanese Fighting Fish

A popular pet for many people today, Japanese fighting fish (also known as betta fish) have an interesting historical background.  Most people who enjoy the bright and spirited company of a betta fish don’t know their somewhat shady past.

Years ago in some Asian countries, betta fish performed in fights for human entertainment.  They were bred with shorter fins and trained to be aggressive to their opponents.  Thailand is one country known to have enjoyed this unique sport.  Betta were likely much less beautiful then, as modern breeding focuses more on obtaining a fish with bright colors and longer, sweeping fins.

Also commonly called Siamese fighting fish, this type of fish is still aggressive.  In their natural habitat, which was often shallow ponds or even puddles, males especially had to fight for the ability to mate with the females in their territory.  Natural circumstances, territory and breeding have led to a personality distinct to Japanese fighting fish.

Another unique characteristic of this fish is its ability to survive in very small bodies of water.  Betta fish have an organ called a “labyrinth” which gives them the ability to actually breathe air above as well as gather oxygen from the water (through their gills).  Often this means that Japanese fighting fish will survive in smaller tanks or bowls, although this may not be the healthiest situation for them.

Betta fish could be considered less hearty because of the regular maintenance that is important to their overall health.  Bettas have a life span of two to four years, but often they perish within 6 months of captivity in a home.  This is likely due to the lack of proper care their owners have given them.  Be sure that you can maintain the comfortable habitat this fish needs to thrive before you bring one home.

Japanese fighting fish are considered tropical fresh water fish.  That means you should maintain a water temperature of about 80 degrees in your tank.  Don’t let it go below 65 degrees or your fish will suffer.  Get a good quality aquarium heater and monitor it to ensure it’s working.  And even though their natural habitat could be small, having your fish in an aquarium that holds one gallon of water or more is ideal.  The more clean, clear water your fish has to live in, the better for them.

The water for your betta fish will need to be changed fairly often, up to once every two or three days if you have a small tank or bowl.  Make sure that you let the fresh water sit for 24 hours before you introduce it to your fish, as that will allow any chlorine to dissipate properly.  Also make sure that you have a slow-moving water filter.

Japanese fighting fish are carnivorous.  They may eat tropical flaked fish food, but also enjoy bloodworms, brine shrimp and specialized betta pellets.  These fish actually have a mouthful of small, pointed teeth.  Another strange habit of this fish is that the male will hold his eggs in his mouth of sharp teeth without harming them.  If you notice that your male fish is not eating, consider the possibility that he is carrying a group of eggs.  Look for a bubble nest that the male has created in preparation, sometimes near the surface of the tank and sometimes amid any aquatic plants you may have.

Male Japanese fighting fish also live up to their name when confronted with another male.  They tend to open their fins wide and flap their gill covers in a display of aggressiveness.  Your betta fish may even perform this act if he sees his reflection in a mirror.                         

Still a popular and enjoyable pet to own, betta or Japanese fighting fish will give you many years of companionship when looked after properly.  Maintain good water temperature, feed them well and watch for any disease that needs treatment.  You will find their bright colors and even brighter personalities will be the perfect addition to your family.



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