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Rainforests of the World 

April 6, 2010

Wild Bettas of Borneo

wild betta taeniata SE Asia Borneo CAS rainforest

Photo by: Charles Delbeek

The majority of visitors looking at our SE Asian Stream exhibit on the Borneo level of the rainforest miss one of my favorite fish here at the Academy, a species of wild betta (pronounced BET-TUH not BAY-TUH) that is probably Betta taeniata.

When people think about bettas what they are probably picturing is the ubiquitous Betta splendens, also known as the “Siamese Fighting Fish”. This fish is perhaps the most popular fish kept in the aquarium hobby and a trip to most any pet store will usually find dozens, if not hundreds, of these fish kept in very small bowls or plastic cups. These unlucky animals are uniquely able to survive in substandard conditions like this because they possess what is called a labyrinth organ. It allows them to breathe oxygen straight from the air at the surface of the water. This is an adaptation that has evolved to help them thrive in water that is so hot it holds too little oxygen, or is too polluted, for most fishes.

Because Betta splendens is frequently referred to simply as “betta”, many fish fanciers are unaware that there are actually about 65 different species in the Betta genus. Many of these are Threatened, Endangered or even Critically Endangered in the wild so keeping and breeding them in captivity is of paramount importance!

All bettas show strong sexual dimorphism, meaning that males and females look very different from each other. Below are photos first of a male and then of a female individual currently on display in our rainforest.

wild betta taeniata SE Asia Borneo CAS rainforest

Photo by: Charles Delbeek

wild betta taeniata SE Asia Borneo CAS rainforest

Photo by: Charles Delbeek

If you’re as smitten as I am with these fascinating beauties look for another species of wild betta, Betta albimarginata, on exhibit in the Staff Pick section of the aquarium!

Filed under: Fish — brooke @ 11:51 am

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