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The origin of long fin bettas: a brief little-known history


A brief and little-known history about the betta long fin

You have probably seen bettas with well-developed fins, some of them huge, haven't you? These bettas are aesthetically amazing. All over the world, specimens with this characteristic, are bred in captivity, and obtained through selective breeding.

However, did you know that the betta, all of them, in nature, doesn’t have the elongated fins, but rather, short fins? So how did this fin increasing happen? What is the origin of these long fin bettas?

In this lecture, we intend to bring to you a little clarification on a mystery that has lasted for many years, for those who study the Betta genetics, or even, for those who only deal with them (however, have a natural curiosity to understand the various facets that this awesome fish reveals to us).

What mystery would that be?

As we said, it concerns to the emergence of the current bettas with elongated fin, the so-called long fin bettas. However, as we said, in Thai nature, the various different types of wild bettas have only short fins, and they call them as Plakat bettas.

Therefore, it should be expected that from these mating – among these Plakats – only Plakats should arise (in other words, bettas just having short fins), and never any betta with elongated fins!

That is exactly what happens in Southeast Asia, as noted by the Thai historians and researchers, on their various types of wild bettas. According to Mr. Precha Jintasaerewonge (Thai historian and researcher), this situation appears in official Thai history documents; or shown in many ancient painting, or through ancient private notes from traditional Thai breeders, which show that such a reality happens in over 200 years! If you want more information on this exciting subject, please consult the website – Siamese CyberAquarium.

So, what happened to get the long fin bettas?

According to Mr. Jintasaerewonge, legend has it that the first long fin bettas appeared in the Southeast Asian markets (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia etc.) from China, through Chinese traders, many years ago. It is believed that many of these Chinese traders liked to watch and bet on fights between animals (like, they already had there, in China, using locusts, roosters, dogs etc.), and wished to have too this fun, with the Plakats of Southeast Asia.

Then, they took these Plakats from Thailand to China, and there, they placed them in isolated places – not necessarily in facilities as we do today – where these Plakats spontaneously crossed with some kind of fish from the Chinese local fauna.

Of course, this Chinese fish was necessarily genetically compatible with these Plakats, and thus, unbeknownst to them, it was introduced the genetic characteristic "long fin" in this new hybrid fish resulting from this mating.

Therefore, these new individuals resulting from these mating were considered viable and fertile hybrid.

However, what would that be "viable and fertile hybrid"?

– It is hybrid because it was the result of a mating between different species;

– It is viable because it can generate individuals born alive, and with the ability to develop in nature; and

– It is fertile, because it had the ability to generate new individuals.

According to Mr. Jintasaerewonge, this new hybrid – the combatant with elongated fins – the Thai people referred to it as Plakat chin – or Chinese Plakat.

However, which fish was this unintentionally used by Chinese breeders with the Plakats?

That's the mystery! To this day, no one knows for sure. Well, this is a summary of the story about the long fin bettas, brought by Mr. Precha Jintasaerewonge.

Again, we thank him for the authorization to disseminate part of his research on the history of Thai Plakat, which greatly enriched this lecture.

If you want more information on this exciting subject, please consult the website – Siamese CyberAquarium..

When we refer to these fertile hybrids as "Betta Splendens" – in quotation marks –, we're going to be instilling a technical error, because they are not a pure specie, as is the case of the Plakats individuals, these actually belonging to the species Betta Splendens, or the species Betta Imbellis, or Betta Smaragdina, or Betta Stiktus etc.

As for the history of the Betta in Brazil, since the 1960s – when I became aware of the first specimens that arrived here (from Europe) –, these hybrid long fin individuals were introduced to me as Betta Splendens.

At that time, when I was still a teenager, I didn’t know about the existence of the real Betta Splendens (the pure, the Plakat, the short fins), let alone, of the other various species of existing Bettas.

Taking advantage of the moment, and having everything to do with the subject of this lecture, we at Betta Project are fully aware that the presence of these bettas loose (and perfectly adapted) in nature, here in Brazil, constitutes a very serious environmental disaster.

Let's get to the facts:

As we said earlier, here in Brazil, since the ninety sixties, bettas found loose in nature are considered wild (however, presenting more elongated fins), in some cities in Brazilian northeastern. The same is the case in Brazilian southeastern, more precisely, in the State of Rio de Janeiro, in some cities belonging to its Metropolitan Area.

In both cases, these artificial biotopes are small ponds; however, in some cases they are filthy and fetid puddles, fed by open sewers.

These bettas have the same colors (and color distributions) as the pure Plakats of Southeast Asia. However, the fins of these "Brazilian wild bettas" are larger – but, in some cases, not much – than those of the Thai Plakats. How did these "wild bettas" – in quotation marks – appear loose here, in Brazilian territory?

Well, we can answer this question with great assertion.

These fish found loose in the Brazilian wild (both in some cities in the Northeast and in the Southeast) are descendants of those first European hybrid fish (and remote descendants of Chinese hybrids), which were imported more than 80 years ago, by Brazilian traders who wished to raise and market them in Brazil.

However, either by accident (due to the overflow of outdoor breeding tanks, because of heavy rains), or deliberately released into the wild by the own creators, who gave up to reproducing them, many specimens managed to escape, and settle into our environment, over all these years.

Moreover, none of them is Plakat!

All they are of the long fin type, even though these fins are small when compared to those of the current selected long fin specimens, and which truly have gigantic fins.

The explanation is simple: these "rustic bettas" – so we, at the Betta Project, refer to them – need quickness to hunt, and especially to escape from predators, just like their pure Asian ancestors.

Therefore, the heavy and long fins of the bettas created and kept in aquariums, without the need to hunt to eat, well fed, would not serve to face the reality imposed by the Brazilian "wild" environments.

In this way, these new rustic environments forced these descendants of the imported hybrids to decrease the size of their fins, as well as, modifying their formats – initially, with their huge and heavy fins, and some of these hybrids, having their caudal fins resembling a tail of horse.

However, these Brazilian rustic hybrids still have larger and more elongated fins (spearhead-shaped) when compared to those small, rounded fins of their ancestors, the true Thai Plakats.

As for the more detailed explanation, about the various format types of the fin of the current bettas, as well as, their genetic behaviors, you can obtain in our Course on Betta Genetics.

We wish success with your bettas!


[1] Internal archive.

[2] – Siamese CyberAquarium. Mr. Precha Jintasaerewonge


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