The Origin of Betta Splendens ...Part 2

By: Precha Jintasaerewonge
Submitted: 2004-09-29

ONE : Pseudo-Breeding Story

This technique believes that the female Betta will absorb the color and shape of her environment and then pass those traits on to her babies. Using the pseudo-breeding technique, let's suppose that you want long fin yellow Bettas in your breeding stock. This technique suggests we should paint a long fin yellow male on a piece of paper and attach it to the female's bottle, no real male Betta is necessary. About 1-2 months later, we take this female and breed her with any color of male Betta. The outcome of the breeding is that some Bettas color and shape will be similar to the painted Betta, some will be similar to the mother, and others will be similar to the father etc. After being successful in getting the first slightly long fin yellow stock. The breeder will select a yellow long fin male to inbreed with another long fin yellow female from the same batch. By repeatedly continuing this process the long fin Betta of desired color will gradually be developed.

TWO : Intensive Breeding Story

The pseudo-breeding story uses an environmental explanation to the approach. The intensive-breeding story utilizes a sociological explanation to the approach.

There are many scripts written in the Thai language that say the first stocks of long fin Betta splendens existed over one hundred years ago. In western texts the first appearance of the long fin was in San Francisco and supports the above assumption.

'In Siam the fighting fish is bred just as are fighting cocks, and in the hundreds of years that the sport has been carried on, special breeds have been developed. None of these 'domesticated' fighters reached us until 1928, when two shipments arrived in San Francisco from Bangkok. These fishes, with their tremendous veil-like fins, caused a furor in the aquarium world. One type was dark, with red fins. These 'veil tails,' bred together and interbred with the wild type and with other long-tailed stock received later from Siam via Germany,..' [Lucile Quarry Mann, Tropical fish, New York. 1954]

If we hold the Thai source, and the above reference as being true, this would mean that the Americas in general knew the long fin Betta at least 30 years after the fish had been successfully bred. I strongly believe that the long fin Betta was developed from the short fin Betta, which in turn was developed from the wild caught Betta.

Coming back to my original argument, if the long fin Betta was the product of human intervention or human breeding. Then the sociological explanation must be taken into consideration, more or less. Why? Because one hundred years ago we did not breed fish for commercial purposes. We bred them for fun, whether it was for gambling or just as a pet. (It really is different than today's motive for breeding; commercialism and profit now motivate most breeders). Now, to come to my point, there is no doubt that the Thai boy would keep the short fin fighter, just as his father and his uncles did. But what about the girl? what type of fish can she have? The short fin fighter was too cruel for her to keep. (Do not forget that in those days only men kept the short fin fighter, usually for fighting purposes only.) She just wanted a pet that can live with her in the hut, just like her brother's fish. This is how the long fin Betta splendens came to be. The girl's father or uncle, who also happened to be a breeder, intentionally bred the long fin Betta to make his girl happy. The first long fin specimen was selected because it had distinguishing characteristics from the rest of the short fin batch. I believe that the long fin we see today was gradually developed from one family to another and one breeder to the next. I think the development of the long fin came about when the proud girl took her new long fin fish to show off to her friends. Her friends then asked their fathers and uncles, who were also fish breeders to breed the long fin types. Now I think the reader can imagine what is going on.

The habit of breeding special fish for their children is still practiced even today. In every breeding area, most of the breeders will make a special batch for their children. Some will breed for special colors and others will breed the hybrids (captive short fins crossbred with the wild types) for their children to take and fight with their friends' fish. The purpose of breeding the hybrids is to fight them with the wild caught Betta. Wild caught Bettas do not have the stamina for prolonged fights, whereas the hybrid types more than certainly do.

I think that in the very beginning, they only had the long fin types in local shows, may be somewhere around or outside Bangkok province. The formation of aquarium clubs created the commercial need for the long fin type. The price in those days varied, and I quote: "Two or three years ago, really good specimens of aquarium raised Betta splendens were quite expensive, as much as thirty dollars being paid for one pair." [Christopher W. Coates. Tropical Fishes for a Private Aquarium. 1950: p.138]

Today, the Thai girls still favor the long fin type for show, while her brothers still like to have the short fin for fighting.

THREE : Originated from China

The third story uses a linguistic approach to explaining where the long fin came from. This theory implies that the "NAME" dictates the origin of the fish. This story is based solely on the NAME. In Thailand we call long fin Betta splendens "Plakat Cheen." Plakat Cheen can be translated to "Chinese fighting-fish" (Plakat = "Fighting Fish" Cheen = "China, or Chinese"). The name implies that the long fin Betta splendens comes from China, or at the very least it has some implication relevant to China or Chinese breeders. I once heard someone explain that a Chinese monk, who was also a breeder, introduced the long fin Betta to the aquarists' world.

There are three implications for the term Plakat Cheen. First, is the word Cheen, which can mean country or China. This would mean that the long fin Betta splendens originated in China and was brought to Thailand by traveling merchants or sailors. Thailand and China have had a long history of merchandise trade for hundreds of years. However, all Thai sources (both verbal and written) deny this possibility, and state that it is simply a borrowed term.

The second is Cheen meaning Chinese person. This could be a Chinese monk, a Chinese layman, or possibly a Chinese breeder. I was watching television a few months ago and to my surprise, the program said that the first person to introduce the long fin was a Chinese monk about 100 years ago. Another Thai source said that a Chinese breeder was the first to successfully breed the long fin Betta. Personally, I favor this explanation. It seems consistent with my thoughts in the past. The long fin Betta was never for fighting, only for show, with a hidden commercial motivation behind its development. Chinese breeders were very famous for discovering and developing new fish strains. The Chinese piloted the aquarium fish trade. For example: Koi, Gold Fish, guppies…etc. The fact remains that the Thai breeder did not sell his short fin fighters to strangers or for shows. He was afraid people would spoil his blood lines, either through improper keeping, rearing, or simply selling the fish to an opponent or spy (don't forget that the quality of the fish was associated with the breeder's name, and the amount of money made). The Chinese breeders could see the value in this flaring fish and even predict that if they could develop brighter colors and longer fins the fish could then be a mass marketed product. When I was young I can remember seeing long fin Bettas being sold everywhere in the pet shops. The seller was a Chinese family and they never talked about the fishs' fighting qualities. The development of the long fin Betta is a myth because in Chinese tradition they never tell the secrets of their family profession to outsiders.

Third, Cheen is a comparative concept about China or Chinese, a metaphor of sorts, anything concerning China or Chinese is called Cheen. For example: speaking loud like the Chinese, her eyes are like a Chinese ladies eyes, or like a Chinese decorative design ... etc.

Source: Plakat Thai

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Thanks to Victoria Parnell

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