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Atmospheric air gulped in at the surface is forced into the labyrinth organ. This organ in composed of bony plates covered by a membrane through which flows venous blood.
By gaseous exchange, passing through the labyrinth organ, the oxygen content is removed to pass immediately into the blood stream. Then the used air is expelled.
If, by chance, it is prevented from surfacing to acquire needed atmospheric air, the fish can suffocate. This is why the betas, like the other anabantoids, can survive in water with extremely poor oxygen content due to pollution or an overabundance of non-anabantoid fished.
It is this labyrinth organ which gives credibility to reports of specimens surviving a night in nothing but a wet net, or being found on the floor in a puddle of water not even deep enough to do more than moisten the flopping fish.
Over the years, the betta breeders have raised many thousands of bettas, each being kept in its individual one-quart glass jar.
Bettas have been found lying on the wet floor. They immediately were returned to their glass homes where they sedately carried on as though nothing had happened.
A comparison of the breathing habits between wild and domesticated bettas is interesting. Both can store only small amounts of air in their extra respiratory organ and must make frequent trips to the surface to replenish it.
The aquarist sees his pet hovering just below the surface, languidly surveying life. Not so with its wild brother.
In the native habitat, where the fish are exposed to such surface dangers as egrets, herons, kingfishers, and other predatory birds and animals, theirs is a quick dash to the surface, a gulp of air, and a downward dive into the depths.
In that moment the used air is expelled and a fresh supply taken in. Ounce for ounce, Betta splendens is a far tougher adversary than most fishes, but this pugnaciousness is aimed at only one species — his own.
Some people find this difficult to comprehend. Fish salesmen constantly must reassure them that the betta does not fight anything and everything.
In reality, the opposite is true. Some fish will nudge it along to get it going. Others find its long fins a good target for an occasional nip.
This is why, if it is at all possible, bettas should be separated not only from their brothers but from almost all other fishes as well.
Little plastic trap-like tanks can be hung inside an aquarium to house one or two —not together, of course. There also are available especially designed betta aquariums.
These are long and narrow with separate compartments. The betta usually will fight only a male betta. He also will flare up and try to fight his own reflection in a mirror.
Experimentation has shown that even a painted wooden dummy crudely carved to resemble a betta will arouse his wrath. Why do these fish like to fight?
No one can explain it. The fighting instinct does not first appear in a fully mature male as one might think. Today at AM Newbie Unanswered thread Is my betta okay?
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