An historic overview: The development of Betta Splendens tail forms

In 1849 Theodor Cantor published an article about a fighting fish that he called Macropodus pugnax [1, 2]. In 1909 C. Tate Regan realized that Cantor made a mistake and that pugnax already was an excisting related species. Regan renamed Cantor's fighting fish to the now common familiar name Betta splendens.

All the now so common known breeding forms of Betta splendens were derived from the short-finned (plakat) wildtype. For ages the short-finned form was held by the people in Thailand. The Thai bred fighters from wild caught bettas. Their main objectives were to develop its fighting nature, hardiness, size, fighting style and color. Selection of breeders was made by organizing fights with bettas from other breeders. The winner became the model for the next generation of fighters.

Because natural selection was not present here, after many generations bettas arose with a slightly longer dorsal and caudal fins. These fish didn't have the desired "fighting spirit" because they were less aggressive and couldn't manoeuvre as fast than their short-finned cousins. This betta with longer fins was now only bred for their beauty. Probably this form was already established when the Europeans and Americans came to South-East Asia in great numbers (1850). Around 1960 breeders from India succeeded to breed a bettas with to tailfins, the so-called doubletails. A typical characteristic of these fish is the extreme broad dorsal fin and the slightly shorter body length. Probably they wanted to loose this last characteristic by crossing doubletails with normal single tail bettas. The breeders noticed the offspring of these spawns had an improved form of the dorsal and caudal fins.

Slowly the aquariumhobby became more beloved in Europe and America. Asia responded to this by large-scale breeding of the longer-finned Betta splendens in big breeding-farms. Now hobbyists in Europe and America started to select these fishes in order to obtain certain characteritics in their fish. In 1960 an American breeder, Warren Young, succeeded to breed a betta with extreme long fins. Young called these bettas "Libby-bettas" after his wife Libby. These fish were sold to hobbyists all across the world and to the farms in Asia. It was this development that led to the now so familiar veiltail tailtype.

Around the same time a German breeder, Dr. Eduard Schmidt-Focke, bred the first deltatail betta. A betta with a symmetrical triangular tail shape. In 1967 in America the IBC (International Betta Congres) was founded. The IBC had the goal to breed Betta splendens with broad symmetrical fins instead of long. This resulted in fish with a better swim capacity. But still it took a long time before the other now so familiar tailtypes were developed. In 1980 some wellknown American betta breeders, like Peter Göettner and Paris Jones, developed the superdelta tailtype which were bettas with enormous fins. In 1984, the Frenchman Guy Delaval imported offspring of these fishes to France. Delaval selected and bred these to obtain a bigger angle of the caudal. In 1987 he succeeded to breed fishes with a 180 degrees angle. Rajiv Massilamoni realized that Deleval did what was thought to be impossible. Till that time most Betta splendens were asymmetrical deltas or superdeltas with a maximal spread of 160 degrees. Laurent Chenot and Rajiv Massilamoni started to cooperate in order to maintain this tailtype. They tried to breed these fishes but they were to much inbred. The male didn't make a nest anymore and didn't know how to wrap himself around the female. After many attempts they with petstore Betta splendens and different lines, Chenot and Massilamoni eventually succeeded to breed a fish which had a mother from Delaval and the father was a melano doubletail male from a American line. This fish was called R39, and was coupled to all the females in the lines of Chenot and Massilamoni. Again some fish showed up with the 180 degree spread. In 1991 the American betta breeder, Jeff Wilson saw these fishes an he called them "halfmoons". He started cooperating with Chenot and Massilamoni and the inbreeding of the American line led more frequent halfmoon appearance in the offspring. In 1993, Chenot, Massilamoni and Wilson showed on of their halfmoon fishes at the IBC show in Tampa Florida under the name CHENMASWIL. They won the "Best of show". This was the start of a true halfmoon fever.

The last 5-10 years another type of tail was developed. An Indonesian breeder, Ahmad Yusuf, developed the crowntail. Here the rays extended to outside the edges of the fin. This is why the fins get a "comb-like"appearance (is also called the combtail treat).

But the developments of the different tailtypes are still going on. People all across the world are still trying to develop halfmoons and crowntails with a better spreading and tailform. In the halfmoon breeding this already led to the development of halfmoon fish with a different ray-splitting (4-, 8- and 16-ray halfmoons). The better the ray-splitting, the better the tail is supported during the spreading. This support is especially important when the fish become older and their fins become longer. Other new developments in halfmoon breeding are the overhalfmoons, which have a spreading which is bigger than 180 degrees, and the rosetail halfmoon.

Also in the crowntail breeding this led to different variants with a different amount of rays which influences the number of the extentions (single, double, triple and double-double ray CT) but also influences the support and spreading of the tail.

By: Joep van Esch