Based on what I have read online, a great number of people seem to think of wild bettas as nothing more than small, brown-coloured fish that live in rice paddies somewhere in Thailand.
That is if they have even heard of a 'wild' betta at all.
While Betta splendens have become one of the most commonly kept aquarium fish in the hobby, their wild cousins usually struggle to find a foothold outside of a dedicated circle of breeders and enthusiasts.
However, while it would be wonderful if one day you could step through the door of any fish store at all and purchase wild bettas, I often question whether this would be in the best interests of the fish. Perhaps it is better that wild bettas do find themselves predominately in the hands of dedicated hobbyists rather than those of Joe Public.
I've noticed that the more commonplace a fish becomes in the hobby, the less appreciated it is. Furthermore, because availability is intrinsically linked to price, the bread and butter species of this hobby are usually purchased for a pittance. Such fish become disposable pets, purchased on a whim and frequently left to live a brief and dismal existence. The ornamental form of Betta splendens, is a perfect example of such an attitude. It's a sad fact of life that few owners of these fish bother to educate themselves on proper care, because they can always drive down to the store and purchase a new one.
I am quite a vocal advocate for wild bettas. I enjoy sharing my experiences and photos with those who are eager to learn, and by doing so I hope to break down some of the stereotypes that surround these fish. Yet for all that, I think it would be sad day indeed if one could walk into a fish store and find wild bettas of any kind languishing in cups alongside splendens.
While I don't think that day is going to come any time soon, today's post did make me consider the often overlooked cost of 'popularity' within this hobby. It seems there needs to be a fine balance struck between securing the future of wild bettas in the hobby, and ensuring that our appreciation for these fish is not lost in the process.
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, I currently keep and breed a number of species from the coccina complex.