The common betta fish is probably one of the single most misunderstood fishes in the aquarium hobby. Often sold as a beginners fish, usually in a tiny bowl, it is one of the most commonly sold fishes, and one of the most poorly treated; while a healthy betta should live for 2-3 years (and is probably only a few months old at purchase), most are dead within six months.
The common betta is often sold as "Betta splendens," however it is strictly improper to refer to this fish as such. The common betta is a hybrid fish, with several members of the genus Betta contributing genetically to it, including Betta splendens, Betta simplex, Betta smaragdina, and others. This has created a hybrid fish that looks very little like the parent species, which has also been selectively bred to enhance colouration and especially fins. The most commonly available form of these fish is a long finned, but varieties with various shaped fins, such as double tails, half moons, and crowntails all exist.
Despite popular belief, the length of the fins is not an adequate way to determine the sex of the fish; while most long finned bettas are male, many are actually female. Further, most tanks of short finned bettas labelled as "female bettas" contain an approximately even mix of males and females. Female domestic bettas develop a pattern of horizontal stress lines when stressed, such as when chased with a net. They are rounder, and will not build a bubble nest.
Domestic bettas are a tropical fish, and will generally languish at room temperature. Though they may survive for months, they will generally be short lived at room temperatures. They should be kept in a heated aquarium, and should not be kept in a small jar or container. While the long fins of many show varieties slow them down, they do swim, and do need room to do so. Additionally, domestic bettas are air breathing fish, and will actually drown if denied access to the surface. Air quality is as important as water quality, and dry, cold, or polluted air (including from household cleaners, smoke, and perfumes) can all contribute to short lived bettas.
While female betta may be successfully maintained together, males are generally intolerant of other males, and will drive them from their territory. Unless a significant break in line of sight can be offered, male bettas should not be maintained together. Males may also harass females (or even be attacked by unreceptive females), except during breeding. Bettas will generally leave other fishes alone (with the exception of some similar appearing anabantoids), however, they be mixed with other fish only with the utmost caution. Even relatively peaceful fish find the long, flowing fins of many fancy bettas irresistible, and will shred them.
Just as there is a difference between a hamburger at McDonalds and a prime steak, there is a big difference in the quality of bettas offered for the trade, with many of the mass produced bettas being of questionable quality -- part of what contributes to their often short lifespans. Batfish Aquatics offers only high quality bettas from selected breeders, and has a large variety of colours and fin types available. Please contact us with an idea of what you are looking for, and we'll be happy to find one.