Betta fish come from Asia, and in the wild, they live in the shallow water of ponds and marshes, rice paddies, and very slow-moving streams. Although they can survive in puddles, they don’t actually live in them; finding betta fish in puddles means that their usual watery environment is receding.
This article takes a look at the betta fish in the wild: where they come from, where they live, and how they survive.
Where Do Betta Fish Come From?
Bettas are said to have originated in Thailand. They can now be found in a range of Asian countries and have even been found in the wild as far away as Australia. However, Asia is their true home, and there are around 80 different species of wild Betta there.
Countries in Asia where betta fish are found include:
What Does the Betta Habitat Look Like in the Wild?
The natural betta habitat in the wild is a water environment that is shallow, warm, and oxygen-poor. The Betta has developed significant features to enable them to survive well in these conditions.
The countries in which they are found all have important regional features common to the wild betta habitat:
- Expanses of still water that are relatively shallow, such as ditches, rice paddies, slow-moving shallow streams, rivulets, ponds, floodplains, and marshes
- Expanses of still water that are also warm
- An abundance of water vegetation
- Dense water surface foliage
- Water that fluctuates in temperature
- Water that fluctuates in chemistry and availability
- Plenty of insect and plant material for food
Are There Any Other Fish That Live With Bettas in the Wild?
Other fish that have been seen in or near betta fish habitats include the Gouramis (a freshwater fish native to Asia) and Rasboras, which are native to Southeast Asia and southern China.
Betta fish certainly live with each other, although they are naturally territorial, and use the water vegetation to stake out territory, make nests, and breed hatchlings.
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Male and female bettas do not live together, but they do engage in an elaborate courtship that begins with nest building and ends with the female Betta leaving (or being chased out) of the nesting area. This nesting area remains exclusively a male domain.
How Do Betta Fish Mate in the Wild?
A healthy and active male betta will first make a bubble nest and attach it to debris on the surface of the water and then signal for the attention of a female before the courtship begins.
During the time of nest-making and courtship, the male Betta exhibits far less aggressive behavior than usual.
Once the female has taken an interest in the bubble nest, he will wrap his body around the body of the female and squeeze the eggs from her body, fertilizing them as they emerge.
The male Betta then places the eggs in the nest with his mouth and guards them, and maintains the nest until they hatch. If the female Betta hasn’t yet taken off, the male will chase her away; her part in the process is over.
The larvae hatch into the bubble nest, where they will remain for 2 to 3 days, and then the hatchlings emerge from the nest.
What Do Betta Fish Eat In the Wild?
Bettas in the wild eat mainly crustaceans and insect larvae. They are carnivorous eaters that also eat vegetation and roots. However, in captivity, they cannot live on vegetation alone.
Some of the insects’ larvae that bettas, which are primarily insectivores, consume in the wild include:
- Midge flies
- Water fleas
- Brine shrimp
- Deer fly larvae
Bettas in the wild have also been known to feed on smaller fish and on hatchlings if they are available.
How Long Do Betta Fish Last in the Wild?
Betta fish in the wild seem to last for about two years. This is a shorter life span than those kept in captivity in aquarium conditions that are good and with fish that are healthy. In the wild, however, betta fish generally lead a far more stressful life.
Bettas in the wild are subject to the same exacting conditions that face all creatures in the wild.
The fight for survival depends on the availability and quality of water and accessibility of food. Although bettas have evolved to survive in shallow and fluctuating water conditions, their numbers will shrink as pools and ponds recede, and conflict between species for space intensifies.
Bettas are naturally territorial and constantly extinguish themselves through aggressive fighting and injury.
Why Do Betta Fish Last Longer in Captivity?
Bettas last longer in captivity because the conditions they live in are engineered to create a longer, safer, and healthier life than is available in the wild.
However, this only applies to fish enthusiasts who have researched accurately the best way to keep betta fish. Unfortunately, pet shops, whose main objective may be lucrative sales, often begin Betta lives in poor conditions.
Unless fish owners have experience and knowledge, the betta fish life goes downhill from there.
Keeping your fish in properly sized tanks with adequate lighting and filters, preparing a proper diet, and organizing the tank to suit the fish will all ensure your Betta has a long and healthy life.
FAQ About Betta Fish
How Do Betta Fish Make Bubble Nests in the Wild?
Betta fish construct bubble nests in the wild much the same way as they do in captivity. They gulp surface air and blow bubbles that are coated with saliva and are quite strong and durable.
The eggs form a nest around a piece of debris floating on the surface, and the betta fries are hatched inside this oxygen-rich nest.
Are Betta Fish in the Wild a Threatened Species?
Betta fish are not in the threatened species category; however, they are now classified as vulnerable. This is because betta fish water environments are under threat from deforestation and pollution.
Fish trade also has an impact on wild fish survival. Bettas are heavily fished for commercial trading, with activist concern worldwide over trading and selling conditions endured by the fish.
How Do Betta Fish Breathe?
Bettas have the astonishing ability to breathe oxygen from the air, and this is how they survive in shallow oxygen-poor water. To do this, they have a special labyrinth organ, which is a kind of lung. This means they can survive very, very briefly out of water.
Can I Take Betta Fish From the Wild?
It is possible to do this in the countries and regions from which they originate. If you are going to source your fish this way, it’s important that your tank conditions properly emulate the wild environment the fish came from.
Betta fish originated in Asia in unique and wild environments that provide clues to their exceptional ability to survive in captivity. The story of their survival in the wild is a fascinating part of betta life and history and is worth pursuing for all betta enthusiasts.