How to Combat Shyness
While extremely beautiful, many of the smaller species of wild bettas (particularly those from the coccina complex) can be excruciatingly shy. I think it is their sometimes elusive nature and specific care requirements that have led to a lack of popularity outside of a small group of enthusiasts.
Excessively shy fish can be exasperating for any fish keeper. It can be disappointing when all you see of your fish is one or two glimpses as it beats a hasty retreat. Furthermore, it becomes increasingly difficult to pick up symptoms of disease or injury if your fish are always hiding.
I have found that one of the best methods of combating shyness in wilds, is to hand feed almost exclusively using tweezers or something similar to hold the food. Even the shyest of bettas is not able to hold out indefinitely, particularly when you have something appealing like a live blackworm wriggling around.
Each time I feed any of my wild bettas, I gently tap on the front panel of glass. All of my wilds associate a tap on the glass with food, and most will come out to eat, or at least come into view if they hear me tapping. This gives me the opportunity to check everyone over, and make sure that everyone is still where they are supposed to be.
You will find that some fish will become bolder if they are forced out into the open by a lack of cover. This is what I did with my wild-caught burdigala pair. By decreasing the amount of cover in the tank, I found they became more comfortable in my presence and I was able to keep track of them and their fry a lot more easily.
Perhaps most importantly of all, is that you give fish (particularly wild-caught stock and new arrivals) time to settle in. If you have had your wilds shipped to you, that in itself can be an extremely stressful and traumatic experience. Some fish are more sensitive than others, and while one may be fine in only a couple of days, another could take a couple of weeks until it is completely comfortable in your tank.
Plenty of human contact, plenty of hand-feeding and plenty of patience is generally all that is required to encourage even the most elusive fish into coming out of its shell.
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, I currently keep and breed a number of species from the coccina complex.