Andrew Smith of the Anabantoid Association of Great Britain looks at Betta fusca, which has recently been on sale at specialist stores in the UK.
Common name: Brown betta
Scientific name: Betta fusca
Origin: Pakanbaru, Central Sumatra
Habitat: Pools and flowing water courses.
Size: Up to 10cm/4".
Diet: Zooplankton, insects and insect larvae. Aquarium fish do very well on virtually all prepared foods.
Aquarium: Needs to be kept with fishes of a similar size as adults can get boisterous and small fish might suffer. Keep in pairs or trios - I have pairs in 46 x 25 x 25cm/18" x 10" x 10" tanks, where they spawn and release fry.
Water conditions: pH on the neutral side or slightly alkaline. Lower than pH 6.5 is not really necessary, but don't let it get too much higher than pH 7.8. Keep the hardness relative to the pH. High temperatures are also unnecessary; 21-25C/70-76F is fine. Filter the water well.
Breeding: Paternal mouthbrooders. The fry hatch and are released after two to three weeks. The female initiates spawning and becomes the dominant fish. She chooses a site, often under cover of a pipe or pot, but also with a smooth base like a piece of slate. Her lateral stripes pale and her belly turns a creamy colour. The male has green iridescent scales on the gill cover, which intensify in colour, as does the body which deepens to a rich, red-brown colour. The female pushes the male into the spawning site and swims across his back. He stays on the slate as she swims into his body. He bends his body to accommodate her and they embrace at the base of the tank. The eggs are released and sit in the trough the male forms with his anal fin. The female gathers these up in her mouth and spits them to the male. The whole process of spawning can take two to three hours.Once complete, she retreats and defends the brooding male for a few days before losing interest. Once released, fry take coarse food.
Notes: The male may take several spawns before holding the eggs for the full term.
Availability: Becoming more common, both in shops and in the Anabantoid Association of Great Britain, as they are easy to keep and breed.
Price: Around 7 per pair.
This article was first published in the October 2004 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine.