Why are Betta fish called "Betta" fish?

Why are Betta fish called “Betta” fish?

At first thought, you may wonder why betta fish are called so. Yeah! Why not any other name?  “Betta fish” is such an unusual name and many do not know the origin of this name.

So, why are Betta fish called “Betta” fish?The term “Betta fish” simply refers to any species that fall under the genus of Betta, of which there are over seventy different species. The commonly kept hybrid, which normally falls under the category of Betta splendens, is just one of many different types of Bettas. Some of the other bettas are much larger, others are much smaller. Each one has a unique and distinct pattern.

There are other common names of the betta fish. In all, common names of betta fish have more to do with their behavior, natural habitat, and appearance which contribute to their classification.

Siamese Fighting Fish

While the term “Siamese Fighting Fish” is almost synonymous with “Betta”, this is not quite correct. Siamese Fighting Fish are only one of seventy species of Bettas, so if you happen to be looking at all the different species and call one a Fighting Fish, you have a very slim chance of being correct.

In fact, even if you pick the right species, there is one thing that may prevent it from being a Siamese Fighting Fish. This name refers to Betta Splendens, the commonly sold species. This species tends to be more aggressive than other species, but only due to selective breeding.

For example, if you have wild Betta Splendens, they are likely to be much more peaceful than those sold in stores. Chances are, you can even keep males together, which is not attainable with the domesticated ones (at least not in tanks under 55 or 75 gallons).

Similar to cockfighting with male chickens, these fish were used in fights, hence the need to breed them for aggression. The more aggressive the fish, the more likely it win the fight and brings the owner some money. Therefore, their use revolved around aggression.

However, this act is very rarely seen in this day and age, and they are now valued for their beauty. It is a shame that the breeders made them be so aggressive, as we would otherwise be able to keep many together and create a truly beautiful and stunning tank.

Species of Betta

Even though there are 70 different species of bettas, only a small handful can be kept by the average aquarist. Others are very sensitive and require extreme conditions that most people cannot produce.

For example, some of these bettas need a pH of 3 and an extreme blackwater environment. Others need brackish water, which is difficult to maintain for beginners. Others have much easier care requirements, such as only requiring some slight blackwater tint.

Some of the species that are easiest to keep in captivity are Betta imbellis, Betta smaragdina, and Betta mahachaiensis. These three are very beautiful, metallic fish and have striking coloration. While the coloration varies little in their species, unlike the domesticated betta, they are still quite a sight to behold.

Aside from these three, there are several very valued types of wild bettas that are trickier to keep, but quite impressive. Betta macrostoma is always in high demand, unfortunately, this fish is a mouth brooder and notoriously difficult to breed in captivity.

The commonly kept betta is a bubble nester, meaning the male builds a floating bubble nest, spawns with a female, and protects the young in the nest for the first week of their lives. Common species can have up to 300 babies in one spawn and can spawn as frequently as once a week.

As for mouth brooders, males hold the babies in their mouths for well over a week before releasing them. The issue arises in that any little stressor will cause the male to swallow the eggs and/or fry. In addition, getting just 10 fry out of spawn is an extremely successful spawn, with 5 or less being more typical, especially for beginners.


A genus is a category used to group similar animals and is further divided into species, then subspecies. All members of the genus Betta are anabantoids, or labyrinth fish, but are distinctly different from most other gouramis.

They tend to be much smaller and have a wider range of colors than other gouramis. Other species of gourami can easily grow over 2 feet long, and similar to the wild bettas, each species tends to have the same coloration.

Wild Bettas

Out of the over seventy members of the Betta genus, each has unique and distinct features that set it apart from the others. Although it may be tempting to keep as many species as possible, some are extinct, others are endangered, threatened, and vulnerable, so always check the status of the species you plan to keep.

Since these bettas are not commonly kept, they will be wild caught, hence all bettas besides the domesticated Splendens are referred to as “wild bettas”. These fish are not adaptable to high pH water, with the exception of hard water bettas, and these cannot adjust to low pH water.

They are collected from their native habitats and shipped to wherever the buyer is. Transshippers often facilitate this process, as they receive the bettas in the buyer’s country, check to make sure they arrived safely, give them rest, repackage them, and ship them to their final destination.

While this does add on significantly to the shipping costs, it is necessary in order to ensure the fish arrive safely. In addition to the shipping costs, the cost of each fish is generally more than that of the average betta you can find in a pet store, limiting these fish to invested hobbyists.

Wild Betta Care

The specific care for wild bettas depends on each individual species, but there are some overall care tips that apply to wild bettas and not the domesticated bettas. Some do apply to both but are much more important to the wilds.

For example, a wild betta is accustomed to live food. Be prepared for this and have multiple live food cultures ready. I have found California blackworms, white worms, daphnia, and even baby brine shrimp work very well for this purpose.

It often does not take more than one or two months to acclimate the wild bettas to prepared food. The best way to do so is to add either flakes or crushed pellets while feeding the live food. If you happen to have male and female bettas, one of the fortunate/unfortunate side effects of live food is frequent spawning, as they often are lacking food in the wild.

Lids are much more important for wild bettas than any other betta. While domesticated Splendens jump, often for no reason, they are not as adept at jumping or resourceful as their wild counterparts, even wild Splendens.

They can get out of the teeny, tiniest crack in the lid. These often occur around heater wires and filters, so you need to cover any possible area with something. For example, Saran Wrap is very easy to use and manipulate for this purpose.

The term Betta refers to a genus of gourami, meaning these fish possess a labyrinth organ, allowing them to breathe atmospheric air. Each species has a unique coloration and body shape, and there are over 70 different species to pick from. The wild species should only be kept by intermediate and advanced keepers, but the domesticated one can be kept by anybody.

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