Betta Madness has been around for a long time. It started in Siam some 150 years ago. The Siamese people would fight bettas, and hence the first form of betta madness was born: People would wager everything they owned, even their families! These betta fights were popular, so much so that the King of Siam decided to license them and to collect on them as well. Bettas that were fought back then looked nothing like the ones on this website. For that matter, bettas were originally boring, dull looking little thangs that would hang out in ponds, ditches, sluggish streams and rice paddies in Thailand and Malaysia.
The original wild bettas have a dirty greenish brown color and fins just big enough to keep them swimming. No excess baggage. But, because of the Betta Madness, people soon became slaves to the little finned creatures and started worshipping them, devoting their lives to turn the ugly ducklings into beautiful swans.
OK, back to the King of Siam. In 1840, he gave several of his prized fighting fish to a man who then gave them to Dr. Theodor Cantor, who was a doctor in the Bengal medical service. Nine years later, Theodor publishes an article in which he describes those fighting fish and names them: Macropodus Pugnax. Needless to say he had contracted the virus :), unbeknownst to him.
In 1909, our finned friends change names when Mr. Tate Regan pointed out that there were already a specie called Macropodus Pugnax, hence the need for a new name. Regan came up with Betta Splendens.
Why "Betta" ? It is believed that there was a warrior-like tribe of people called "Bettah". So I guess in a way Betta Splendens could be translated into : Splendid (beautiful) warrior. You have to admit the name is perfect :).
The first bettas were introduced into Germany in 1896. From there, bettas decided to go for the "American Dream" and moved to the US starting 1910.
Yes my friends, the Betta Invasion had started. And now they are everywhere, (even in my coffee maker!!). Maybe I have been watching too much X-files, but where was Moulder while all this was happening?
Are Bettas Extra Terrestrials???
It was not until 1927 that the first brightly colored, long finned bettas arrived in the US. They were a shipment sent to Mr. Frank Locke of San Fransisco. He opened his package, and behold, there were the beautiful bettas, and behold square, there were some light bodied, red finned bettas as well!! He named them Betta Cambodia, probably thinking it was another specie of bettas. Little did he know. It was in fact simply a new color mutation, the beginning of a massive explosion of colors in betta world. From clear to jet black and everything in between, this is the most fun fish to breed and work with, hence the Betta Bug is so easily contracted, because there is always another color, a new pattern you don't own and just gotta have… A very dangerous disease indeed.
After about 80 years of work with betta's fascinating genetics, breeders across the world (US and Japan especially), have developed many many strains. See photos of my strains, more photos of my bettas or Betta Colors.
Breeders all over the world are actively working on new strains, or on improving and keeping alive old strains. Betta Clubs such as the IBC (International Betta Congress) allow breeders to learn, share and show their best work and buy/sell bettas, competing against each other but also helping each other achieve individual goals. Mine for example is to have a strain of black bodied, white finned bettas. Still working on it :). Breeders in general are very cool and will share their fish, tips and help out new comers to the hobby. I know I do my share of answering questions via email on a daily basis, despite my insanely busy schedule. It is my own contribution, with this website, to the betta world