Animals

6 Countries and Regions You Can Find Betta Fish in the Wild

In Western pet stores, betta fish have been available for purchase since the 1800s. But Thai aristocracy has kept them as pets for far longer—roughly a millennium ago. These fish have become one of the most popular kinds purchased as pets since the 19th century.

Although betta fish originated as freshwater fish, many people mistakenly believe that they are saltwater fish. In southeast Asia, they can be found in shallow freshwater habitats such as rice paddies and stagnant ponds. Let’s examine the six nations and areas in more detail so you can see betta fish in their natural habitat.

1. Thailand

These betta fish, once known as Siamese fighting fish, are found in the central plain of Thailand. Originally, they were duller in color and less attractive than the bettas we find in pet stores nowadays. They are usually smaller and have shorter fins in the wild. Furthermore, as opposed to pet store bettas’ vivid colors of turquoise, violet, and other hues, they are primarily gray, green, brown, or olive in appearance.

The Thai people started raising betta fish almost a millennium ago. In slow-moving streams or rice paddies, children would find them and bring them home. To see two males fight, they would pair them up. Soon, they were being kept by Thai nobility to see them engage in cockfighting.

After years of domestication, the betta fish has grown far more decorative than its wild version, much way dogs are bred for particular qualities. Regretfully, their breeding has prioritized conflict over beauty.

2. Malaysia

It is possible to identify more than 70 different species of betta fish based on their patterns, colors, and tail shapes. One of the native betta fish that naturally occurs in Malaysia is the betta imbellis, often known as the crescent betta or calm betta. This species can reach a maximum height of 2.4 inches.

There are at least 27 different species of betta fish native to Malaysia, including the betta akarensis, betta omega, betta bellica, and betta brownorum. However, as a result of domestication and breeding, the Malaysian betta fish we see in pet stores are different in color, tail form, and pattern from those found in the wild.

3. Indonesia

There are betta fish in the wild in Indonesia, another nation in Southeast Asia. One species of gourami that is indigenous to Singkep Island in Indonesia is the betta andrei. It’s interesting to note that this variation was initially thought to be one of the “black water” fighting fish that live in the acidic waters of Singkep Island. It wasn’t until a closer look that it was discovered to be a “new” species.

In Indonesia’s East Java region, a lake with volcanic origins supplies water to the river ecology. It has an acidic quality as a result. Not only does the betta andrei inhabit this ecosystem, but it has also been kept out of sight from people for many years. It was first discovered by scientists in September of 2023.

4. Laos

Betta fish can also be found in Laos. The slow-moving freshwater that these fish, such as the species Betta smaragdina, love is found in the Mekong basins and the Chao Phraya River. This species can also be found in roadside ditches, wetlands, and rice fields.

Wild bettas can live on the leaf litter and other vegetation in the mud or sand even in ditches. Nevertheless, despite being a rather robust fish, betta smaragdina are currently under threat due to pollution and habitat destruction. The fish are endangered not just by environmental variables but also by unintentional hybridization with abandoned or escaped domesticated betta fish.

5. Vietnam

The caudal fins of feathertail and rosetail betta fish can stretch 180 degrees or more. There are several branches on the tail rays that resemble a rose’s ruffled petals.

One species that can be found in the wild in Vietnam is the betta siamorientalis. These betta fish are native to Thailand and Cambodia, and they are actually a relatively recent species of betta splendens. But they are also found in Vietnam in ditches and other slow-moving waterways. Their scales are iridescent and wonderfully colored, even those discovered in the wild.

Another type of fighting fish found in Vietnam are called vang bettas. Watching these fish fight in the ring still draws crowds. They congregate around combative male bettas in glass bowls, selecting two at a time to engage in combat. The crowd yells for the two men to fight to the death as they are placed in a glass pot filled with water. Other nations in Southeast Asia have outlawed this practice because of the brutal nature of the sport.

6. Cambodia

The betta stiktos, betta imbellis, betta splenden, betta siamorientalis, and betta trapeang rusaaie are only a few of the endemic betta fish species found in Cambodia. The Mekon River basin is home to the betta stiktos. This specific species was believed to be extinct, but with the assistance of select breeders, it is currently making a comeback.

Compared to other betta fish, Cambodian betta fish are usually smaller and bicolored. These fish are just as vicious as other fighting fish, despite their smaller size. If given the right care, Cambodian bettas, like other betta species, can live for three years or longer.

Overview of Countries Where Betta Fish Are Found

Country
Thailand
Malaysia
Indonesia
Laos
Vietnam
Cambodia

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