story of fish fighting in the
southern part of Thailand is the most exciting and the most active in
Thailand. From my interview to the breeders and suppliers all agreed that,
80 percent of fighting fish bred in Thailand sent to this region. They said
that if south players stop to play the fighting fish, theirs’ breeding
business may come to an end. Giving the rough picture that,
there are 14 provinces in the south region. Each province has around 200
players we will have 2,800 players. And if each player
uses 50 fighters a month, the demand for top fighters is 140,000 fighters
that breeders support to the south players per month. If we multiply by 12
months it will be 1,680,000 fighters that south players consume the
fighting fish every year (an actual number should higher than this).
Each province approximately has 10 fighting rings. There
are four main provinces breed fighters supply to south players, Nakornpathom, Nakornsawan, Petchaburi and Padrew.
Because of fighting fish in the south so popular, the local Government
legalized the fighting fish ring by issue the
fish fighting license to the person who applies for it. The license has
to renew every year and government get paid by tax. The ring is legally open
7 days and active entire year. It may slightly slow down a few months in
winter (November – February), traditionally players turn to play fighting
southern part of Thailand is the hottest battle field of fish fighting; the
players also play an important role as a connecting bridge exchanging
fighters stock between Thai and Malaysian breeders. Many players in south
import the fighter from Malaysia and forward the good fighters to the
breeders in central part of Thailand and vice versa, from Thailand to
The factors of popularity:
There are many factors contributing to the popularity of fighting fish in
Southern of Thailand.
The meeting point of
toughest fighter; the south of Thailand is located between Malaysia and
central part of Thailand. Both regions produce the top quality fighters.
The south players are the meeting point of top breeders from Thailand
and Malaysia. In the old day there were many Malaysian and Thai players
carrying the fighting fish crossing the border to fight in another
The rich of natural
resource, all provinces of south of Thailand facing to the sea, Gulf of
Thailand and Andaman. The areas are very famous on natural sea side
resources. Many players have very solid financial support from tourism
business, rubber tree and mining.
and traditional way of life, most of the players own the rubber tree
plantation and follow theirs’ traditional way of life. They have a lot
of free time in the day and people in the village know each other well.
They play the wild Imbellis when they were young.
The habit of favor
to challenging and gambling, the southern men slightly are more
aggressive on challenging than other region of Thai people. The fighting
bull, fighting cock and
bird competitions is even more popular in the south.
The unique family
character of south young man is; they are homeward bound. Most of the
young people prefer to go back home to follow theirs’ family business
scheme after graduated from the University. So the linkage of local
culture and friendship are not broken. They can learn and drive the
traditional social practice from the older generation which nail them to
The climate is very
suitable for keeping the fighting fish; the region is tropical rain fall
on the entire year. The tropical rain climate with high temperatures
and high humidity throughout the year. Daytime temperatures around 25°C
- 30°C all year round. There is no winter season in South of Thailand.
These supportive climate factors are very good for keeping the fighting
fighting practice in the Southern of Thailand:
major income of the players in south of Thailand is from the rubber tree
which passed from theirs’ ancestor to theirs’ parents and to themselves.
They can collect money from the rubber tree everyday as long as the rubber
trees are there. They started to
collect the rubber in the very early morning 3 AM and finished theirs’
diary job in the late morning, 8 AM. So they are free on the day time.
fighting ring started late at 10.00 AM in one of the
player house who registered with the local government
showing the license on the entrance gate. It can be even in
the shade of rubber tree. The player comes to
one by one by motorbike or pickup car with the fighters in the round
whisky bottle in his old cloth bag. The ring was
crowded with players after an hour. The
busy matches started after a few minutes when the
players show off theirs’ fighters.
There are four kinds of fish fighting in the south of Thailand,
hybrid Imbellis ,
Green Cheek (Complex hybrid) and
captive bred fighter.
three rows of table, one table for the group of wild Imbellis
fighter. One table is for hybrid green cheek and one table is for the
captive fighting fish. In the present day, the captive fighter table seems
busier and more challenging than the traditional fighting fish,
Imbellis fighter and green cheek fighter. Using the gambling sense, they
said that the captive fighter can fight longer so they can play the bet
Fighting wild Imbellis:
fighting wild Imbellis in Thailand began the same way happened in
other fighting fish in Indonesia, Betta Smaragdina in the
north east of Thailand. The stories
were told undated and no record, that the farmer observed the wild Betta
fighting in the rice field; that the younger learned from the elder. So he
took some of them home, jarred each of them in the glass jar and watching
its aggressiveness to the Betta nearby jar. He let the wild Betta
fought in the earthen jar as he saw in the rice field. It happened even
more impressive than he saw the fish fighting in the open air rice field.
Both displayed more aggressive the colors ever darker, they fought even
longer period of time. The challenge started from the small money or
anything they had in hand. The loser searched the new fighter and challenged
to the winner. From one small group spread to the other groups, bigger and
bigger, became a cumulative social practice and culture. It is accepted as a
challenging hobby for a man in the south region.
time to play the fighting fish is on rainy season that wild fighting fish
easy to find. In the dry season player does turn to play fighting cock.
After fought a fighter was freed back to its habitat, just a
backyard of his house, waiting for the next year match.
While captive fighting fish are pervading to every part of fighting fish
arena. The fighting wild Imbellis still is taking its place around 20
percent. Because, it is very
easy to find for free in the
rubber tree plantation area. The wild Imbellis is easy to match,
for they have the same structure. The fighting period takes around 30
minutes and the bet is not much even a boy can have a fun with it. These
preserved the charms to keep the group of people in favor wild Imbellis.
However, please note that right now the players do not use the real wild
caught Imbellis any more. The players simply free the good captive
fighter to the wild Imbellis habitat and collect them back to fight
in the next year. He chooses only the fighter look closest to the wild
Imbellis to fight in the wild Imbellis fighting ring. This is the
reason why wild Imbellis fighter and hybrid Imbellis fighter
are merged into the same fighting ring and using the same regulation. The
only thing a player has to do is try to find the best match on size and
compared the color pattern that look closest to the real wild Imbellis.
Imbellis fighter still is not a fully captive bred fighter. It is still
preserved instinct shy fighter and very sensitive to any changing
environment. The matching carefully
made under the shelter with no strong daylight attached.
Because of Imbellis so sensitive to any changed. To introduce the
match must do very carefully. When size matched and the bet is agreed the
owner of the fighter
pour half of water off from his bottle, then he pours the
water along with a fighter to another
fighter bottle, then the
fight begins. Imbellis players do sit away from the fighting
bottle. The players are challenged with low noise (similar
to fighting Imbellis in Medan, Indonesia). The fighting time takes
around half an hour and one of them run away.
hybrid Imbellis began around 1980 or 35 years ago (2015), may be
hidden intention was to fight with the wild caught Imbellis. Its idea was derived
from fighting Imbellis climbed to its peak. When the wild Imbellis
player challenge more bet that imply win or lose was a serious matter. He
had confident on his fighter had a high percentage of winning over his
opponent fighter, why? The weak point of real wild Imbellis is the
fighter can not stand to fight longer than 30 minutes or by average is
around 10 – 20 minutes. The winning factor is just to find the toughest
fighter that can stand to fight longer. The captive fighters in Bangkok
were well known on tough structure and stamina habit. For they were intended
selected by the professional players over hundred years. The problem was the
fighting fish from Bangkok has very big structure, extremely dark and more
variety colors, while wild Imbellis fighter is very small, has very
slim structure, has only one color pattern and there are 2 patches on the
fighter’s cheek that make its differences from the captive fighter from
trick breeder did introduce the Bangkok fighter to the Imbellis
fighter stock. And he sent the hybrid fry back
to the preparation pond that setup an environment like the real wild Imbellis’
habitat, the same way the breeders in North East of Thailand do with the
Smaragdina fighter. The breeder harvests the fighter from the setup
natural environment pond after a year. Then he chose only the one look
closest to the wild Imbellis to fight with real wild Imbellis.
This process was repeated again and again year after year until the hybrid
fighter look like or even the same to wild Imbellis. The breeder
claim that his fighter was real wild Imbellis caught from the rice
field. The fighting period of
hybrid Imbellis is 2 hours
size and fighting styles almost the same of captive fighter.
Hybrid Green Cheek:
hybrid green cheek showed up around 20 years ago (2014) and presenting very
well on the challenging habit and the trick player of south players. It is
another step of developing hybrid fighters that cross bred with the variety
of Betta species. An outcome of cross bred sent off the new strain
fighter that neither looks like Imbellis nor look fully captive
fighter. It looks likely between wild and captive fighting fish. It has
green patches on its cover gills. The color looks crystal waxen bright like wild
Betta, while the structure looks like captive fighter. The green
patches on the cover gills can see only in the wild Betta, such as
Betta Mahachai, Betta Imbellis, Betta Smaragdina
but not captive fighter which has black cover gill and a small red strip on
its gills edge. Not knowing where the green color on the cover gills cross
bred from, the local player calls it
“green Cheek fighter”. In the beginning, a player tries to match the
green cheek fighter with the hybrid Imbellis, but since it structure
was unmatchable with the hybrid Imbellis that try to imitate the
wild Imbellis. They neither fought with the hybrid Imbellis
nor the captive fighter. So they grouped themselves and challenging among
themselves. Some player even challenges his green cheek with the captive
fighter. Since he knows that his green cheek fighter was actually the full
captive fighter. It was simply externally looking like the hybrid green
the beginning, the green cheek fighter was the reproduction cross bred of
the captive fighter with the various wild Betta species (Betta
Mahachai, Betta Imbellis or Betta Smaragdina).
Unlike the hybrid Imbellis, the green cheek fighter is fully tank
raised. The selections of green cheek parents stock were repeated again and
again. It will be called green cheek fighter as long as it has a green color
on its cheek. Knowing that in the past the local breeders did not know the
difference of the wild Betta. They had never recorded in theirs’
breeding routine. What the breeders care for were, they tried to breed the
fighter superior in the ring. Many of them imported from Nakornpathom and Padrew province that the breeders in these areas did better job and can serve
the fighter stock in the large numbers.
There are around 10 percent of green cheek fighters active in the fish
Captive fighting fish:
story of captive fighting fish in the South of Thailand began around 1995 or
20 years ago (2015). It came along with the green cheek fighter and
maintains 80 percent of popularity to all provinces in southern of Thailand.
In the beginning, when the computer technology was not much reach to
local south people. The tough fighters from the central of Thailand were imported by fishermen and train
conductors; they were often traveled round trip. These fighters mostly came
from the provinces around Bangkok such as Padrew, Nakornpathom and
Petchaburi. In the present day with the help of digital technology and
various modes of transportation, the players and the breeders can have
direct talk and the breeders can send the fighters to the players just over
night. The players have more choices and the game is growing more and more
Through the south players consume captive fighters more than 80 percent of
the fighting fish bred in Thailand. But there are very few local breeders
and they do only
10 to 20 tanks for personal used or just shared among their group. The
main reason is the live food for the fry very hard to find and its
availability is very limited. The survival fry are around 100 fish,
considered very low rate compared to the breeder in Nakornpathom breeder can
make 200 – 500 fighters in one tank batch. Each breeder owns 100 – 500 tanks
that offering more choice of selection. Another reason is the south player
too busy on his rubber tree job. His routine job is same as the breeder
collecting water flea and feed the fighter in the very early morning. It is
very hard for the south breeder to do both jobs at the same time. He thinks that it is easier to buy fighter
to play than to breed. Since he has more choice and can quit anytime when he
does not want.
Captive fighter and green cheek fighter using the same regulation and
matching practice. One of the most critical factors of winning the game is
the player has experienced in matching. Before 2014, unlike Bangkok players
flat whiskey bottle that can directly compare the whole body structure of the
fighter. The south players used
round long neck whiskey bottle, capped with the thick paper to preventing
from poisoning, match the fighters. The oval curve and the reflection of
the glass could mislead the player’s eyes if he has not enough experiences
on matching. So the players spend time on carefully match. Some players go
outside the roof to access more light for making sure the size of
fighters was suited to fight.
However, follow to Padrew and Bangkok ring in early 2014; in 2015 all
fighting rings in Thailand including the ring in south apply the digital
weight to find good match. This can solve all problems on sight matching and
welcome to the newcomer to join the tough game. All matching glass either flat or round bottle
story of fighting fish in the Southern of Thailand can divided into two
phases. The first phase is the fighting wild Imbellis fighter. For
the wild Imbellis, the story begins in the unknown period of time.
It is in the farmer society, there is no record on the starting date of the
game. We can see the connection line on playing wild fighting fish in Thailand,
Malaysia and Indonesia is the regional common hobby. The playing of wild
fighting fish has been spread over these countries in the very old day (even
before called countries), by passing from one generation to the next
generation. The first phase is the firm layer welcome to the next
phase. The second phase was recent year of the fighting captive fighter
imported from the central, when the game was climbing up to more
serious and more challenging.
study of fish fighting in the south of Thailand reflects explicitly two
contributing to the story of fish fighting in Thailand as a whole:
One, it reconfirmed on the playing of fighting fish was a common hobby of
the people in South East Asia in the very old day. It might co-exist with
the settlement of farmer society thousand years ago. Farmers used available
domestic wild Betta to fight for their entertainment, wild Betta
Splendens and Betta Mahachai in central part, Betta
Smaragdina in northeast and Betta Imbellis in South of
Thailand. I think at first each local player got experience on the fish fighting
by themselves, but not introduced from the outside. However, it gets popular and
spread over the region should come from
the continuous challenging from one village to another village.
Two, it reconfirmed that the breeders in the central part of Thailand
succeed in forming the prototype of Betta fighter. The fighters were sent off
to cross bred with other domestic fighters Imbellis fighter in
Southern of Thailand and Smaragdina fighter in the north east of
Thailand. It is the first development germ of all fancy short fins and long
fins show Betta. The first exciting appearance of short fin solid
waxen green and solid waxen blue in 2002 and exploded to the various unique
solid multiple waxen color were also derived from the "green cheek fighter",
the gambling breeder.
There are many breeders, players who support me on collecting data and
cooperation on informal interviews and observations. Without them this
article would not presenting on this website. I am really thankful and
appreciate for their help.
Mr. Taworn Chouyrueng 43 years old
(2014), the hard core player in Trang city district, Trang province. He took
care of me and drove me around in Trang province and shows me many
fighting rings during my two times visited southern of Thailand 19 – 25
December 2013 and 7 - 11 Oct 2014. As a local and hard core player he is
also an essential source in this research. He clarified me the
knot of the vague story. He also
jumped into flooded area, full of wild plants and dirty mud to catch the wild
Imbellis that not possible for me to do it.
Mr. Sagha Sakdavut 66 years old
(2013), breeder and fighting ring license holder in Na-yhong district, Trang
province. He had supplied me a lot of useful information on green cheek
fighter and the practice in the south fighting ring.
Uncle Sorn, 84 years old (2013)
(left, passed away), breeder and player of Imbellis fighter in
the Thung-shong district Nakornsrithamarat province. He gave me a very
clear picture of the beginning of wild catch Imbellis that he
observed the Imbellis fighting behavior in the muddy flooded area,
and he collected them to play when he was young.
Mr. Sawang Omroy (Pee Dang) (right)
55 years old who took care of me, he is the good source information during
my informal interview in Thung-shong district Nakornsrithamarat province 19
– 24 December 2013. He went to catch the good stock of wild hybrid
Imbellis he freed in the flooded land area.
Mr. Pornchai 47 years old (2013) the
real player of wild Imbellis in Thung-shong district
Mr. Tawee Pipatkul (Put Lorlek) 62 years
old (2014) the famous Thai kick boxing and the licensed of wild Imbellis
fighting ring in Pa-rearn district, Trang province.
The group of players that allow me to
took pictures and participate the exciting fighting ring and gave me a lot
of information in an informal interview that showing the very clear fighting
December 28, 2015