the sum of
the parts may be greater than the whole ;)
take a tour of Mr. Betta’s body:
The above is
a rough map of Mr. Betta's attributes. But now let us get a more in
depth look. Come closer. Cloooooser... Don't worry, he's not going
to bite. Or is he?
Every time I look
closely at a betta’s face, I think of bulldogs. Of course bettas are
prettier, but still, their jaw is proportionally just as impressive. The
lower jaw is powerful and will shred any live worms, mosquito larva, brine
shrimp, etc… The mouth is perfectly designed and positioned to devour as
well as to blow bubbles, which, as you all know by now, is two of Mr.
Betta’s favorite pass times. :) Bettas are voracious and if you ever try
to stick your whole arm in a 60 gal tank filled with adult bettas, you
will know just what I mean. AOUTCH!!!! Those guys keep biting the inside
of my arm and it hurts! Like needles. Used to make it hard for me to care for my
live plants. I have nicknamed them “my little piranhas” hehehehe. The
same jaws can do wonders on another betta’s fins. One of my females once
SHREDDED a gorgeous DT male to the point where he had no fins left. He
looked like a female!! I was told by the Animal Planet crew that
proprotionally, bettas had bigger and stronger jaws than...
JAWS himself. Watch out great white sharks, here comes the
bettas! It's a good thing bettas are small, cause on a larger
scale they would be quite a handful! The might is lined with
pointy teeth that work kinda like a paper shredder: CHOMP
CHOMP CHOMP. When bettas latch on to each other's fins they do
not let go. Actually the fins will tear and the aggressor
usually leaves the scene with a nice chunk of fin in his
mouth, which he then proceeds to promptly gobble up (remember
what I said? Fighting and eating are their favorite pass times
But there is more to the
mouth than meet the eyes. Beyond that intimidating row of
sharp teeth, lays a warm, safe place for the fry. For the
bettas will carry their young inside that same mouth formerly
used to chew up their food and rivals. How such an aggressive
fighter can be such a gentle parent is always a sort of
amazement to me. How can a male catch his falling fry in his
mouth and then gently take them back to the nest and spit them
out, alive and well, without harming them? Ahhhhh... The
wonders of mother nature. What's most, how come the fry don't
get stuck between his teeth? I always wondered about that,
until the day I caught a betta (late at night) discretely
flossing ;P. Because bettas floss on a regular basis, they
never get cavities. Hence you will not have to worry about
ever having to take your betta to the dentist LOL. So bettas
are a low maintenance pet. (I think I need a vacation)...
OK so maybe the part about
flossing was not exactly true, but everything else up and
until that point is. I promise :).
Wait. There is more.
Let us in passing mention a few other items located near the mouth. On
each side of the head, you will locate one bulging eye. The head has
two sides, so (let me see if my calculations are correct) that would
mean that the betta has 1+1 ab2 - cd3 + (34/56) = 2. Yes, that seems
about right. Two eyes it is. The eyes are protruding and the iris is
usually black, while the rest of the eye can be of different color.
From snow white to jet black. Bettas can move their eyes to follow a
moving object. They are also rather curious about their surroundings
and will check out anything new you add to their tanks with much
interest. One problem bettas have: They cannot blink. This makes courtship
between the male and female especially tricky, for the male cannot
blink to the female to indicate that he thinks she is HOT. Also,
bettas are not very good whistlers. I think that is why they had to
come up with another way to show their belle that they are crazy about
her: That's where the whole flaring thing comes in.
trait of Mr. Betta is the presence of a membrane under the gill plate
covers. Females have a smaller version of it, but in the male it is large
enough to actually kinda “stick out” when the gill plate are closed.
This membrane can be of various coloration, depending on the betta color.
Generally, in bettas of dark color, blues and red, the membrane will be
dark. But with light colored bettas, it will often have the same color as
the body (yellow, white, clear, etc…). Marbles can be interesting as the
membrane can also be marbled. What use is this membrane you ask? OK, OK I’m
getting there, don’t be impatient! :)
Above: Cool shot (from underneath the betta's belly) of a betta gill
covers opened wide and of the spread membrane as a male lunges at another
male. Note that this male's membrane is actually clear with a black edge. Fear not, there was a glass partition
between the two males, which explain why the 'victim' is completely ignoring
you can see the same membrane,
when it is neatly tucked under the (closed this time)
membrane is designed to make Mr. Betta look bigger, meaner and more
threatening to his adversaries then he’s ever been. When a betta see
another rival, the first thing he will do is open his fins and his gill
plates as large as he can (also known as “FLARING“), thus displaying
the membrane, like a peacock if you will. When facing his rival, Mr. Betta
now looks larger than life (literally :P). He is basically using
psychological warfare LOL.
For more on aggressive behavior and flaring see Betta
If you look
once again at the above photo (cool angle, you got to admit) you will
clearly see the membrane but you will also see the gills of the betta.
I must point this out to you because here lays one of Mr. Bettas most
interesting, most useful and most fascinating attribute: The
For in deed the most fascinating trait of Mr. Betta is his ability to breath air
from the surface, just like you and I do (or almost :) ).
It is believed that
because Bettas originally came from shallow stagnant waters, which
contained little oxygen, Bettas had to adapt by developing a new organ,
called a “Labyrinth”, which would allow them to get the oxygen they
need to survive directly from the atmosphere, above the water’s surface.
is an accessory respiratory organ, located in the gill chamber alongside
and above the normal gills. It is composed of bony plates covered by a
membrane through which flows venous blood. By gaseous exchange, passing
through the labyrinth organ, the oxygen content is passed immediately into
the blood stream, then the used air is expelled. Because only small
amounts of air can be stored into the labyrinth, bettas must make frequent
trips to the surface to replenish it. This is why you will see your betta
regularly going back up to the surface of his bowl to take a gulp of air.
The labyrinth allows
betta to survive in oxygen deprived environments, such as small bowls, and
to also survive outside of water for what seems a long period of time.
Bettas are sometimes found on the floor, having jumped out of their bowl,
and after lying on the carpet for quite sometime, come right back to life
when returned to their water. The labyrinth also allows us, breeders, to
ship bettas in small amounts of water (just enough to cover their bodies)
without suffering fatalities.
but not least, the labyrinth has one more purpose: Unsuspecting
hobbyists who get into bettas will wander in and get lost inside the
labyrinth. It is said that they can never find their way out :).So
they become enslaved to the bettas and usually there is little hope
for them to ever get out of the hobby LOL. (I should know, I am one
of them LOL)
So maybe I
was pulling your leg about this labyrinth trapping betta hobbyist
business, but one thing I do know for sure. The main reason bettas
have taken over our lives is because they have gorgeous finnage!
When born, male and female
look alike, with tiny, short fins that one cannot see with the naked eye. (see
fry growth for a visual). It is only around the 8th week that some of the
faster growing fry will start exhibiting a longer anal fin. An
experienced breeder doesn’t need much more to be able to sex such fry
with accuracy. Soon, the males will stand out because their fins, (anal,
dorsal and caudal) will keep growing and become, in comparison, much
longer than those of their sisters. Females fins only grow
so much. They soon stop developing, leaving the female with a "short
hair cut" look. On the other hand, the males fins will
keep growing throughout the betta's life. If one would cut the fins, one
would soon see them start to grow back. Gradually, as bettas fins get
longer and heavier, the fish
becomes more and more sluggish. It may be hard for them to steer and maneuver
with all this excess baggage. But nature has its own way of
dealing with the problem: Over activity or sometimes bacterial diseases
will give Mr. Betta a quick "hair cut": The fins
(which are only a few cells thick) ) will tear and fall off
(also called "blowing a tail"). This will usually
rejuvenate Mr. Betta and he might become once again
(although now ugly) active. So I guess one cannot have it
all LOL. One of the biggest problem with halfmoon bettas
(who have the largest, heaviest and most majestic caudal) is that they “blow” their
tails most easily :(.
Meaning that the tail will literally fall apart, somewhat like a large
sailboat sail in a strong wind. One day your betta is glorious, the next
he looks like an old torn rag LOL. Once blown, the tail will never be the
same, it will grow back, but some discoloration or unevenness will occur.
Thus such bettas can no longer be entered on the show circuit. They do,
however, make fine breeders and will usually be discounted
so you can save money and still work with great genes. Not a
bad way to go is you ask me. When spawning, the fins usually
will get damaged, both in the female and male. Thus once bettas have been
bred they cannot be shown either. With years of selective
breeding, we were able to create a large variety of fin
shapes and this too adds to the attraction bettas have on
us. For more info on finnage and tail shapes
see betta finnage.
OK so we
talked about the mouth, head, eyes, gills, labyrinth, fins and tail of
the betta. I could talk about the neck of the betta, but he doesn't
have one, so so much for that LOL. What does that leaves us with? A
bunch of little thingies neatly packed inside Mr. Betta's body, also
known as "organs" ;).
Mr. Betta's body may
measure up to 3 inches in length. However you might be surprised to
know that everything is crammed in the first third (behind the head)
of the body while not much is happening past that point and all the
way to the peduncle. (other than the spine and swimbladder that
Brain, heart, stomach, guts,
liver, spleen, and all the other useful gadgets seem to lodge comfortably in the “belly” area, all
well packed between the head and the beginning of the anal fin. Right
there you will find Mr. Betta’s you know what, well hum, I mean you
know, his anus. Females will also have an “egg spot” aka the
ovipositor tube. The egg spot is a good way to identify a female and
tell her apart from a young male. The egg spot is a white dot, located
near the base of the ventrals.
It is from this egg spot that eggs will be released by the female during
the egg spot is very visible on this female
The other half of Mr. Betta’s body
is nothing more than flesh, spine and swimbladder. The swimbladder is an
interesting organ, which looks like a long clear balloon stretching along the spine. One can easily see it when looking at
young fry. The organ grows and elongates as the betta grows. If the
swimbladder fails to grow, to match the betta’s body size, then the betta
will have what is called “swimbladder disease”, which will cause him
to swim vertically or to slide on the bottom of tank on his belly. (see betta
friends, I can’t think of anything else right this moment, so I guess that
about covers it for now. I am planning on
adding close up photos and possibly, more technical information for the purists :) to this page at a
later date and when I do I will mention it in the latest updates section
on our home page.
keep surfing the site for tons more info and cool pics. Have fun!!