The golden betta of Siam
In the last decade the popularity of the Siamese fighting fish was coming from various parts of the world with the developement of the halfmoon betta in France to the discover of the crowntail betta in Indonesia.The question remained “When would Thailand (formerly Siam) reclaim the fame of their national tropical fish , the betta splendens?”.For decades , Thailnad has been known to mass produce and export bettas around the world which they typically raise to maturity in small rum bottles.
However , in those decades they did not produce any exceptional betta but just the variety that sold in pet stores. It was only in the outbreak of the new century did the popularity of new forms of betta come to the attention of the Thai breeders. With the export of high quality bettas to Singapore, the Thai breeders easily got their hands to good stock of half moon and crowntail bettas.
Since they were the masters of mass production , the Thai breeders were able to produce high quanlity bettas in a span of four years. The betta splendens coming from Thailand was place back in the map. Aside from improving betta finnage , the Thai breeders came up with a new phenomena that creates headline news- the developement of a new color strain never imagined in American Standards.
THE BASICS OF BETTA COLORS
The wild betta splendens typically has a dark body with green irridescence and the finnage are mostly bicolored with blends of green and red. The caudal finnage is short and rounded. The short finnage made it ideal for fighting these fishes , a popular gambling sport in Thailand. As longer finnage developed in these fishes, the popularity of the betta splendens expanded to the ornamental trade. As the veiltail in bettas got fixed, the focus on color became crucial.
The red wash on finnage was selectively remove in time. Solid colored bettas set the new color standards of the seventies. American betta scholars of the seventies classified solid betta colors as irridescent and non-irridescent classes. The irridescent class has the green irridescence extent to the whole body and fins. In time, the steel blue came out of the irridescent class. By breeding the steel blue with the green, a new color called royal blue was born.
By breeding the royal blue and green, it came out with Turqouise green. Due to indiscriminate and careless breeding of these three colors, the true green color eventually disappeared because the process is not reversible. The non-irridescence class removed all type of irridescence from body and finnage and displays its base body color. In this
class, the body color comes as black( melano) , red , and yellow ( cambodian ). In the latter part of the 20th century, experimentation in the betta colors continued and a new guanine growth evolved from steel blue bettas. Through selective breeding, the solid opaque white betta came into being.
Opaque white was the only color phenomena of the 20th century developed by DR.Gene Lucas of Iowa in the latter part of the last cebtury. On the non-irridescent variety, Dr. Gilbert Limhengco of California developed the color orange through experimentations crossing yellow with black.
THE GERMAN EXPERIMENTS
In all the experimentations done by American breeders, It limited the crosses to existing betta splendens varieties. It was different from the goals of betta enthusiasts in Germany. The late Dr.Eduard Schmidt-Focke was fascinated with the neon irridescence found in the betta smarigdina. He successfully crossed wild betta smarigdina to wild betta splendens to get betta splendens with extended smarigdina irridescence.He continued the breeding of the F1 offspring to increase the number of what he termed as the neon betta.
Due to his diversion to Discus variety and color ecperimentations he pursued in the discus, the development of the neon betta did not expand to commercial proportion. In 1993 , another German breeder , Horst Linke, pursued these experiments and came up with a new specimen of hybrid betta splendens with better neon irridescence. The new colors did not become popular in the show community since the experiments were limited to wild variety only.
Bangkok, Thailand 2002 – THE BIRTH OF THE COPPER BETTA
My wife and I flew to Bangkok, Thailand in August 2002 on the inviatation of one of the most respected betta breeder in Thailand, Atison Phumchoosri. Upon arrival in Bangkok, I was surprised to see this new metropolis filled with tall building and freeways. I could no longer find the old street and locations where I spent my scholastic days. I felt like a total stranger in this place. We joined Atison and his family for dinner at his residence. Here he showd me his method of propagating show quality betta fish and the selection process he uses to identify show quality from pet quality.
In this visit, he showed me his best kept secret that almost threw me off my chair when I saw it. It was the first batch of Copper Plakat ( short finned bettas ). What is the fascinating in this dark bodied betta is that its irridescence is copper in color and not the neon green of the German experiments which makes it obvious that it did not come from the betta smarigdina but from some other wild betta specie. This time it did not involve wild splendens but rather short finned fighters.
The Thai breeder were constantly crossing their short finned fighters to fighting perfection while at the same time they were carefully selective breeding the betta imbellis to add some desirable new traits to their fighters. It is through the crossing of the splendens and imbellis that the new copper irridescence mutated. In the course of time and selection, the copper color was fixed. The one phenomenal trait of Thai breeders is their mastery of mass production.
Through mass production and experimentation, they were able to bring the copper gene to the half moon betta pool in a short period of time. It is through this new gene that new betta colors that once were considered impossible was developed and continue to be developed. It brought the goals of the German experiments to commercial proportions for the first time.
Since the year 2000 on my trip in HongKong, I have always been fascinated to see a sample of a golden betta in a pet store in the Tong Choi district, Skyriver aquarium, owned by Arnoldson Chong. The betta was a short finned fighter ( plakat ) that has a golden shin on its yellow body but the owner mentioned that this was not something bred for but rather just an accidental fluke of nature.
Ever since then, I believed that such a color was possible and definitely desirable. However, this new color is not possible in the United States variety since the base irrdescence was pastel green or blue as it applied to the light color ( Cambodian ) specimen so we have the pastel green ot pastel blue classes but never a golden class which is a transparent irridescent sheen over yellow or orange. So the new irridescence trait and when bred to Cambodian color fishes produced the new colors of solid platinum, golden red, and the pure gold betta. The once evasive color I saw in HongKong is now plentiful in Thailand. The golden Plakat was exhibited by Thai breeders in their website in 2003, That was still newsworthy until they could exhibit this in show betta finnage such as half moon and crowntail variety.
Even since my trip to Thailand, I kept in contact with professional breeders on the progress of their experiments. Some of the experts who I met in 2000 are now focused on their fighters which they find more profitablein their areas due to the popularity of weekend fights. In Thailand, there are two types of breeders that sell bettas on aquabid. The more common type are the young agents ( mostly professionals in other fields during the weekday ) who selectively choose their specimens in the weekend market. Thailand has one of the best cooperative in the world where farmers bring their goods to market on weekends. One such market that sells show bettas is the Jatujak market. This gives the agents the opportunity to earn extra US dollars by offering it in American auctions. These breeders do their private breeding sparingly and may develop show quality but not leading edge varieties.
The other type of breeder are the more serious breeders. They breed their specimens to perfection on a trait they set as their goal. Most of these breeders own a small betta farm and majority of their breeding is focused on combative betta fish for the local market. They are also the ones that purue a fixed characteristic in the show bettas.
In my quest to exhibit the golden bettas of siam in this publication, I kept track of the progress and calculated crosses made bt two Thai breeders.
Wasan Sattayapun ( Wasanbetta )
Over the years, I have gained the friendship and confidence of Wasan Sattayapun who developed exceptional half moon bettas. His family farm produced the half moon copper betta and early experiments produced the black silver marble betta from betta imbellis crosses. His experiments with short finned fighters produced the golden plakat.
Chok Pengdit ( Bettaboy77 )
In my years of reporting about betta breeders around the world. I found that the best breeders also create the best brand. For example, during crowtail betta fame in Indonesia the brand made popular was ” Herry Yin ” that Henry Gunawan coined for his breed of bettas. In this era of the golden betta, The brand is SUthasine, a name coined by Chok Pengdit after the name of his wife. Here is collection of SUthasine show bettas of exceptional color derived from the Copper irridescence.