TOPIC: betta membrane, betta flaring

Q: Dear Faith,
I was wondering if It's normal for a betta's membrane (under the gill flap) to only come out halfway when he is flaring?
Thank you for your time,

above question submitted by Melissa, San Diego, CA

Hiya melissa :))

Hey, it looks like I am going to be in your neck of the woods this week-end :). Going down to San Diego to attend a Balboa workshop and a Charleston competition. What???? You guys don't know what Balboa is???? Well, neither did I up and until a year ago. But now, I dance it. Yop, there is more to little ol' Faith then meet the bettas hehehehehe and I have quite a few surprises up my sleeve. One of which is my ability to do a narly Lindy Hop and other 20's, 30's and 40's dances. It has been, lately, a focus of mine on my off time (OFF TIME?? What's ZAT?)... So anywhoooo I will be in San Diego this week-end, me and my old 30's shoes, just the 3 of us :)... (me, my left shoe and my right shoe) LOL. No, I will not be in the Charleston competition. I am not THAT good (yet). (But give me another year and watch out everyone! Here comes flapper faith hehehehee)...

What does any of this have to do with bettas? NOTHING. That's the beauty of it as a matter of fact ;).  It's nice to take a breather every now and then. The little finned tyrants are quite a handful. Just to be able to go out of town for a measly 2 days I have to do gyrations that defy the laws of gravity (and biology LOL). Clean the fish, feed the fish, put diapers on the fish... No, wait... That's the kid. ? Wait. I don't have a kid! See, I really need a week-end away, I'm losing it LOL.

Now let's talk bettas, cause I know that's (also) why you are reading this column ;). Bettas do have an interesting feature that I have not seen in any other of the tropical fish I personally have kept: a "I'm bigger and badder than you" membrane. Not sure if it is really called that, but the name fits :). It is probably called something very pompous and more than likely Latin such as "splendens membranus superflus" LOL. If I was a scientist, I would know it, but I am just a Charleston dancer LOL. Psssht, so splendens membranus superflus will have to do for now.

The membrane is located under the gill plates and is shaped like 2 half circles, one under each plate, joined at the chin. A betta bib? LOLOLOLOL.. They ARE messy eaters ;P... OK, when resting, the membrane folds and tucks under the plates, sticking out just a hair on the male. Note that females also have same membrane but it is called "splendens membranus frivolus" LOL. No, seriously, they do have one, but it is not as prominent as the male's. When the male flares (opens up his gills to express aggressive behavior), the membrane stretches out and makes the betta's head look much wider and larger than it really is. Now I have seen lizard with such membranes on their neck. When threatened, the lizard will open up the membrane and looks 3 times his size. Effect? The predator becomes intimidated and leaves. Figures: It's going to be too much work to eat that lad. Result: The lizard lives to see another day.

Note: There is a similar attribute with human males. It is called: Raised trucks with HUGE wheels. LOL. Intimidation process is the same, especially on the freeway... LOL

Let us have a look at the betta's membrane off duty and on duty:

tucked under gill plates, but sticking out a bit 
(see? I TOLD you)

Betta_flaring_from_back_copy.gif (44682 bytes)

at work: making the betta's head look twice as wide (as he lounges at his snoozing rival)- there was a clear partition between them !!

OK, the above right shot is RAD. It is taken from underneath the betta and clearly shows the membrane being stretched out, two half circles, joined at the chin and since this betta's membrane is clear you can even see the inside of the gill plate covers :) Click on the photo to see the larger version, silly :). Which bring me to the next topic: Membrane colors. Membrane colors will vary from betta to betta, most of them being dark. For example, green, blue or red bettas will have what looks like a dark almost black membrane. White opaques will have a clear whitish membrane (see below), while marbled bettas may have a clear or patterned one.

clear/white membrane on this spawning opaque male.

Bettas 2002 011.jpg (52769 bytes)

but a dark colored membrane on this otherwise light colored ivory male (go figure)

The membrane is strictly for "looks" and does not appear to have any other function. As I said, it helps the male intimidate his rivals. It is used profusely by the male when flaring. It's a "show off" device. 

Ironically fins are also 'membranes' and while they are prone to rot (bacterial disease), the gill membrane is not. I have never seen a betta with a gill membrane rot. Ironically X2, I have never even thought of this until JUST now. One might think that possibly the gill membrane is more tucked away so less accessible to bacteria? Sounds like an OK explanation but I am not satisfied. I guess we will be left wondering (for now). I'll tell you what. I'll ask the bettas tonight when I go home, see what they say (they speak a very broken english so half the time I can't make out what they are saying, so no promises, ok?)... ;)

Before I close this ever so informative column, I possibly should consider the thought of perhaps, maybe, why not after all, answering your question LOL!!!! I hope the photos gave you a bit of a reference point so you can compare the membrane of your betta to the ones above. I, however, do not have any visual reference so it is hard for me to tell whether your betta's membrane might be shorter, smaller, or deformed.

I hope this has helped you some, and that all of you found the info and photos interesting. Until next week, flapper faith says "Tata!".

 

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