Introduction
  This page in not intended to say that fish fighting is a righteous or a vicious activity. Also, this page is not intended to tell people how to select and train the good fighters.  First, the purpose of this page is to make people aware of the existing realities of the Siamese fighting fish's habitat and its aggressive nature. There are hundreds of articles on the Internet about Siamese fighting-fish, but none of them discuss the very nature of this fish. This gap in information has left me enough room to fill in.  I wish to offer an abundant source of information and knowledge to those who might be interested. Secondly, I wish to write this article as a document of historical value in the English language, and across the Internet. I hope it can contribute to the universal knowledge. Nowadays, it is hard enough to try and study the existence and history of an ancient being. This is because we are lacking in the primary source of knowledge.  I myself was born, and still live, in a country that possesses such a splendid fish, so I feel this should contribute something to that knowledge source. Third, the readers of my homepage unintentionally pushed me to write this article. I’ve received a lot of questions about how to keep Betta splendens, and the nature of its aggressiveness, and so on. I hope this article will answer some of these questions, either directly or indirectly. If so, this will be the most joyous piece of work I have done.

How Did Wild Caught Bettas Become Aggressive Fighters?

 

I am not a biologist, so I cannot tell you a scientific explanation of WHY the wild caught Bettas became aggressive creatures. What I can tell you, is HOW the wild caught Betta became a combat fighter. I have observed that most egg laying fish are aggressive. This is because they have to protect their nest, and their baby fry. The male always shoulders the protection duties. The very nature of all living creatures is to procreate and grow as a species as much as possible. In Betta splendens when the male is isolated he may assume that the area he occupies is his, his new territory. He will start to build a bubble nest and prepare for his new bride. Here are two reasons the Betta splendens must be very aggressive:

  •  He has to fight in order to mate; only the winner of the fight has the right to mate. The grouping of the bubble nest shows the healthy condition of the male, and it is also a way of claiming his territory.  (When you change the water or shift a healthy male, he will rebuild his bubble nest overnight. However, this should be in the breeding season.
  • He has to be able to protect the eggs and the fry. In this period of time, the male may or may not eat any food. So the time for breeding is naturally in the rainy season. That way, the male can prepare himself to have enough food for a long period of hard work. This is usually the most aggressive period for the male.

The two points above show why the Betta splendens are automatically so aggressive. One, it must fight in order to mate. And two, it must fight in order to protect the family. We take pleasure in watching the Betta splendens flare its splendid colors and display its beauty. Whether or not we are watching it display its aggressiveness doesn’t matter. An experienced breeder can easily distinguish between the fish that wants to fight, and the fish that wants to mate. When a fish is willing to mate, he will swim around flaring with joy. He will swim, waving his tail with pride as though it was a waving flag. He will stop beneath the plants or any corner of the tank and start to build his bubble nest (by building the bubble nest, he is claiming his territory.) He will point his head toward the surface of the water, while his body is sloping up, he will wave his tail by using the caudal peduncle muscle to persuade the female to come in—like a young man showing off for a girl. In this period of time, if any males enter into his territory he will fight like crazy (I think the male will fight to the death for the female, such a romantic love story).  When the male wants to fight, it is expressed differently. The male will spread his gill cover and thrust at his enemy. His eyes will become focused on the head of his enemy and he will take a long breath, like the soldier preparing to fight. He will make his body firm and try to push his enemy, making him lose control. If one fish starts the fight with a hit, then the other fish must immediately pay him back.

From an observation point, Thai farmers could watch from the rice field cabin the Betta splendens behavior.  Thais have the habit of being playful and enthusiastic about many sports, especially kickboxing (called Muay Thai), the national sport and art of self-defense in Thailand. This competitiveness resides in the very blood of all young Thai men. The Thai farmer was able to easily catch the wild Betta beneath its bubble nest, and keep them in earthenware jars (in those times all containers were made of earth).  When he was finished with the hard work in the rice field, he would take the fish to fight. In Thai we call earthenware jars “Morh.” The Betta splendens that are kept in those jars are called “Plakat Luk Morh”, or the fighting fish in the earthenware (Luk means the child that comes from… or belongs to.) Whereas the wild caught Betta we call “Plakat Luk Pah” or “Plakat Luk Thung” (Pah means jungle and Thung means flooded land area.) Plakat Luk Morh was developed to be more aggressive. The selective breeding process made them bigger and produced darker colors. Along with these developments, fighting styles and habits were also developed.

Breeding the Fighter

 

The imagination of the Thai breeder, along with some logical thinking, led the Thai breeder to learn to use several different breeding methods. These methods were used in order to produce hardier fish and darker colors, while also shaping the fish’s form and fighting style. There are three main techniques for breeding:

  • Inbreeding
  • Line Breeding
  • Import Breeding

Inbreeding Technique:

The farmers used to take Plakat Luk Morh to fight with their friends’ fish. Usually the loser of the fight would be released back to the river or flood lands. The winner would be kept as a specimen to breed with females from the same area. This method ensured that the new generation would have the same qualities as the parents. An old Thai proverb reads  “the fallen fruit goes not beyond its root” this could be the reason it is a rule of thumb for Thai breeders. This is also comparable to the knowledge of modern breeding techniques. This process of breeding is called inbreeding, or breeding a fish with members of its own family. Let’s say a father is bred with its offspring. All the fighters from that batch will have the same color patterns, body shape, and fighting style. The breeder can then predict the fighting style and know what fish to match up for a fight. Over 40 years ago the most famous breeders could identify their fish simply by the fighting style. The very best batches were preserved as the cornerstone species of his hatchery. The breeders would often keep the females in secret and sell the males for a very high price or sometimes give them away free to very close friends.

Line Breeding Technique:

The fish fighting games were rather complex in regards to betting and the egos of the breeders. A winner and a loser could not be avoided. A fish that wins all the time eventually loses, not once or twice, but many times. This is how the improvement of the next generation came about. The breeder took his best stock, and crossed it with the best stock from another family or a fish he exchanged with an associate group. The outcome of the breed was expected to be an improved fighter, but the fighting style was unknown. It may be better, or worse. The breeder must test the fish in the ring 2-3 times in order to see if the style improved or not. This technique was also applicable to random selection. Among the hundreds of fish in a batch, only 2-3 of the very best fish would be selected. The rest of the fish, the breeder would sell at a discounted price.

Import Breeding Technique:

Fish fighting crossed from one village to another, from one province to the next, and from country to country. Each part of the country developed their fighters in the their own desired image. Some breeders took specimens from the south, some from the northeast (the center of Plakat breeding is in the provinces outside Bangkok). The breeders might import the fish from neighboring countries like Malaysia, Cambodia, or Vietnam. The breeders would then cross this “new” stock with their own. Sometimes they would take several pairs to re-breed in a different environment. This technique is the most recent, and also combines the two techniques outlined above.

Selecting Desired Fighter Attributes

 

The following are the selection attributes of Plakat Thai that the breeder focusing on. (There is no significant sequence of the list).

The following are desired attributes of the Plakat Thai that the breeder focus on. (There is no significant order to the list.)

  • Fighting Style
  • Sharp Bite (or mouth)
  • Fight Endurance
  • Tough Scales
  • Size

Each breeder has attributes that he prefers, or places more importance on than the others. It is very fascinating to me, to discuss different fighting styles and attributes. I hope it is also fascinating to the reader, as it is not intended to be offensive to anyone. No matter what technique is used to breed the fish, it is obvious that selective breeding over the passage of time has given the Siamese fighting-fish unique fighting skills. Even more amazing is that the Siamese fighting-fish has a certain pattern of fighting. Some fish randomly hit an enemy, while others may only hit a single targeted position or a fixed two or three positions at a time. Below is a picture of the attack positions that can generally be observed.

Picture of Attack Positions

 

Table of Attack Positions

 

Code

Position

Percent

Note

1

Mouth

50

Interlocked and Reiterate hit

2

Molar

10

Reiterate hit

3

Gill Cover

80

Reiterate hit

4

Stomach

20

Reiterate hit

5

Pectoral Fin

20

Random hit

6

Caudal Peduncle

50

Reiterate or Random hit

7

Fin

80

Reiterate hit

8

Body

20

Random hit

9

Head

10

Very rare and random hit

Table of Fighting Styles

 

Style

Description

Direct Hit  

This basic fighting style is very similar to the boxer’s jab. This style of fighting normally takes place within the first 15 minutes. This is an observational period for the fighter; he will try to win with trickery. Some fish will use this fighting style throughout an entire fight.

Double Hit  

This is a stylistic fighting talent, any time the fish makes a hit; he will follow up with a double or triple strike. He will use the direct attack for the first hit and as soon as his enemy loses control he will follow up with two or three more strikes.

Turn Back Hit                  

This is also a stylistic fighting talent. This fish is a defensive fighter. He will kick or push the opponent with his tail in order to make his opponent lose control, suddenly he will turn back and attack his challenger once or twice and then quickly go back on the defensive. If his opponent is stupid, he will never learn to beat this tricky fighter.  

Persistent Hit                   

This fish is the most aggressive. This fish will attack immediately, as soon as he is shifted into the bottle he will begin his attack in the first second or two. No dancing, no trickery, no testing his enemy, no warm up is necessary for this fish. However, I have observed that this fish cannot last in the prolonged fight. I think these fish usually have a high percentage of wild blood.  

Where Have All the Fighters Gone

 

Either win or lose both of the fighter’s leave the arena injured. To heal the fish, the owners will keep his recovering fighter in a small cup with a little water, and a few drops of Acriflavine solution. Some owners use Indian almond feaf in the water as a medicine to cure the fish. The owner of the winning fish goes home with pride and glory. The owner of the losing fish goes home a little sad (real breeders bet very little, however gamblers bet large amounts on the fish) The winning fish will be considered to breed with another good female, or maybe given to a good friend. Some are sold if the buyer offers the right price. Surely the person buying the winner is taking it home to breed with his best stock.

After recovering the fish that lost (normally this takes 5 days.) The owner will consider releasing him back into the river or keeping him in the community tank and raising him as a normal pet. Some breeders will keep them in the bathroom tank and let them enjoy the mosquito larvae. Other breeders may even consider breeding the loser, if they feel the fighter has some qualities that make him suitable to breed. Some fighters are crossbred into the long fin types to improve the strength of the next generation. Not surprisingly the long fin types have been developed to be the healthiest and hardiest to breed. The long fin types are bred to show in the pet shop aquariums.

You come I'm so please, I'm regret when you leave.

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