If you’ve ever searched YouTube for videos on wild betta fish, you’ll likely have come across ‘Frank’s Bettas’ – a conservation project channel dedicated to preserving the precious bloodlines of wild bettas in Thailand.
Come with me as I take a closer look at wild betta fish, why they’ve been becoming more popular, and how Frank is helping to save them in their native lands.
I’ll also be highlighting some of Frank’s top tips from years of experience breeding wild bettas in Thailand, so pay close attention!
About Me and Wild Betta Fish
As a regular contributor to Bettasource.com, it’s a privilege to be asked to write an article on a personal passion.
Having twice visited Thailand, I’m fascinated by the natural habitats of betta fish and the wild species that still swim free in the country’s lush wetlands.
I was overjoyed, then, to come across Frank’s YouTube channel which shows wild bettas swimming in their natural habitat and his devotion to preserving each wild species.
A Brief Introduction to Wild Betta Fish
The first thing to understand about betta fish is that they’re not a single species, but a genus comprising several distinct species.
While the classic Betta splendens, or ‘Siamese Fighting Fish’ of Central Thailand is the best-known domestic species, there are five other close relatives that have been receiving more attention lately.
This group is known as the ‘Betta splendens Complex’ and consists of the following species:
- Betta splendens – From Western Thailand. The famous ‘pet betta fish’ aka. ‘Siamese Fighter Fish’ or ‘Japanese Fighter Fish’
- Betta smaragdina – From Eastern Thailand. The second most common species and the one that Frank has been breeding most intensively. Aka. The ‘Emerald Betta’
- Betta imbellis – From Southern Thailand. Aka. The ‘Crescent Betta’ or ‘Peaceful Betta’
- Betta mahachaiensis – Named after their native Mahachai region Southwest of Bangkok.
- Betta siamorientalis – From Rayong province, near Bangkok. Closely related to Betta imbellis.
- Betta stiktos – From Cambodia. The only species not native to Thailand. Highly sought-after, rare species with short fins.
Why Wild Bettas Are Becoming More Popular
While the domesticated Betta splendens have long been one of the world’s most popular aquarium fish, its wild relatives were largely ignored until recent years. So, why have wild bettas suddenly become so popular?
Until recently, fish keepers in the West were often simply unaware of the amazing variation in betta species available.
Wild types rarely made their way to pet stores, and until websites like Bettasource.com and Frank’s Bettas YouTube videos educated the masses about wild bettas, many people didn’t know about the possibilities of keeping wild bettas.
Once wild bettas were made known to the world, the internet was soon flooded with images and videos of their stunning colors and refined shapes.
While the domesticated Betta splendens have been bred for centuries to produce all manner of color combinations and fancy fins, the pure, elegant beauty of wild bettas captured the imagination of millions.
While each species has its own virtues, most types of wild betta display a gorgeous combination of emerald and reddish colors that, in my view, are every bit as beautiful as any Betta splendens variety.
By selective breeding wild bettas, some extraordinary deep blue, steel gray, and violet tones have also been achieved.
As well as being extremely beautiful, wild bettas have a reputation for often being somewhat more peaceful than their ‘Siamese fighter fish’ relatives.
We must be careful not to generalize too much here about their behavior because every individual fish has its own character and temperament. As a rule, however, wild bettas tend to be less feisty than their domesticated cousins and are therefore easier to breed without the female being injured by the male.
While some fish keepers have reported success with keeping multiple male wild bettas in a single tank, this should be considered exceptional. Most of the time, wild betta males will still fight with each other, and it’s only in the largest tanks with dense foliage that they may occasionally live in harmony.
How To Keep Wild Bettas – Frank’s Top Tips
Keeping wild betta fish is very similar to keeping a regular domesticated Betta splendens, but there are a few differences.
Even if they’ve been bred in captivity, wild betta types are genetically closer to their wild forebears, so tend to prefer softer, more acidic water (between 5-6.5) than domesticated bettas.
Adding tannins to the tank is a great way to lower pH and make the water softer, and Frank strongly advocates the use of tannins to improve both wild betta health and coloration.
As we already mentioned, wild bettas have a reputation for being easier to breed since males tend to be more peaceful towards females. As an expert breeder, however, Frank warns us that males can still become dangerously aggressive towards females once spawning has taken place.
Interestingly, a setup that he recommends is a densely planted breeding tank of at least 15 gallons with one male to 4-5 females. That way, aggression is distributed between females so none of them suffer excessively.
See Wild Betta Habitats for Yourself!
If you’ve kept betta fish for a while, you’ll probably know a bit about their natural environment.
Members of the Betta splendens complex typically inhabit still, fairly shallow waters such as small ponds, slow-moving streams, swamps, rice paddies, and forest pools across different regions of Thailand and neighboring countries.
While these descriptions can help us imagine and attempt to recreate a betta’s wild habitat at home, actually witnessing the habitats where Frank captures and releases his betta fish is both fascinating and highly educational. Some of his videos even include underwater footage!
Sadly, many of these habitats have been disappearing in recent years.
Why Wild Betta Fish Are Threatened
Frank’s informative YouTube channel and website are full of excellent information about wild betta fish and how their populations have shrunk dramatically in his short lifetime. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons that wild bettas are now threatened.
As with many places in the world, the native wetlands of Thailand have been disappearing due to expanding agriculture.
Because wetlands are not seen as commercially viable, they’re often drained and converted to more profitable arable fields or grasslands.
On Frank’s website he explains that just 10-15 years ago, there were still many wild betta habitats where he grew up in Eastern Thailand. Nowadays, encroaching farmlands and quarries have swallowed up all but a few of the wetlands that previously hosted betta fish.
Frank reminds us that farmers shouldn’t be blamed unfairly – they also need to earn a livelihood. In the long term, perhaps government conservation initiatives are the answer to preserving the precious wild betta habitats that remain. In the meantime, Frank has taken the task upon himself!
Urban Development and Pollution
As well as encroaching farmlands, wild betta fish habitats are also being lost to urban development. As more people move to towns and cities, surrounding wetlands are sometimes drained and built upon to accommodate expanding populations.
Additionally, urban areas, industries, and farms create pollution which can contaminate the waterways that survive. Even small amounts of sewage, oil, pesticides, fertilizers, and household cleaning products can be fatal when they run off into native betta habitats.
As well as the most serious threats to wild betta fish populations given above, an additional issue is overfishing. Because betta fish have become so popular in recent years, the demand for wild fish stocks has grown.
In areas where there are less lucrative business opportunities, locals sometimes make money by capturing and selling wild betta fish, even where it’s been forbidden.
The solution to this issue is surely for dealers and buyers to be more responsible about where they source their fish: To only choose reputable sources that either sell captive-bred fish or sustainably capture wild fish.
Frank’s Conservation Efforts
Since 2016, Frank has been working hard to conserve wild betta fish populations.
By posting regularly on YouTube, his channel has educated millions of viewers on wild betta habitat, and how they are caught, reared, and bred. Frank explains to us how the habitats and betta populations are threatened, which helps betta enthusiasts in the West to buy responsibly.
Additionally, Frank has built up extensive breeding programs to multiply the number of wild bettas from select bloodlines and return them to the wild.
Utilizing profits from his online business selling bettas, Frank continues to expand his project’s reach. Because he lives in the Betta’s native range of Eastern Thailand, he can breed bettas in both indoor aquariums and large-scale outdoor breeding ponds.
Why I Love Frank’s Bettas Project
Like many other wild betta fans, I’ve fallen in love with Frank’s Bettas project because it shows us the incredibly positive impact that one person can make when they’re truly dedicated to an important cause.
Frank started out simply collecting, breeding, and re-releasing wild bettas as a hobby to help conserve wild populations. Since one of this videos went viral, his message reached a worldwide audience, and soon people were asking to buy the incredibly beautiful fish he was breeding.
From this, a business grew, and Frank is now sending his renowned betta fish to customers around the world. Even after becoming a global success, betta conservation remains his primary goal.
I don’t have any affiliate links with Frank’s bettas, I simply find it a deeply inspiring project that deserves wide recognition. For me, it proves how one man’s devotion can make a massive difference to the natural world – an achievement beyond evaluation.
How You Can Support Frank’s Bettas Project
If, after reading this article, you’re feeling as inspired by Frank’s project as I am, you might be wondering how you can support his amazing work!
Firstly, you can tune into his YouTube channel to watch fascinating videos of him catching, breeding, and releasing betta fish into the wild. By liking and subscribing to his videos, you’ll be helping to support his channel.
If you like the look of Frank’s betta fish, you can also support his work by buying one! Having become one of the most renowned wild betta breeders in the world, Frank’s fish are of impeccable quality and can be shipped to North America, Europe, and several other parts of the world, too.
Frank also sells ‘Grade A Indian Almond Leaves’ (aka Catappa leaves) which are a great source of tannins in betta tanks. Many people believe that the medicinal properties of Catappa leaves are also useful in preventing and treating a variety of betta fish diseases.
Finally, Frank also mentions that some fans of his work have supported him via monetary donations.
Responsible Sourcing – Ensuring Fish for Future Generations
The story of wild betta fish conservation is only one example of an aquarium species that needs our support. Across the world, many other families of aquarium fish are threatened by habitat loss and over-harvesting for the aquarium trade.
By caring about and researching where our fish are coming from, we can support sustainable wild harvesting and domestic breeding programs that ensure these species will still be here for tomorrow’s fishkeepers to enjoy.
Frank’s bettas is an excellent example of a small-scale conservation project that is having a big impact on both ecological awareness and wild fish populations.
I don’t know Frank personally, but I feel enormously inspired by his selfless efforts to conserve some of the most beautiful and enchanting freshwater fish in the world. You can check out his YouTube channel here.
Hats off to you, Frank!