© Joseph Dougherty. All rights reserved.
Betta splendens Regan, 1910
Siamese Fighting Fish aka Betta
The people of Siam and Malaya (now Thailand and Malaysia) are known to have collected these fish prior to the 19th century.
In the wild, bettas spar for only a few minutes or so before one fish backs off. Bred specifically for fighting, domesticated betta matches can go on for much longer, with winners determined by a willingness to continue fighting. Once one fish retreats, the match is over. Large amounts of money are wagered during these fights, with potential losses as great as a person's home.
Seeing the popularity of these fights, the king of Siam started licensing and collecting these fighting fish. In 1840, he gave some of his prized fish to a man who, in turn, gave them to Dr. Theodor Cantor, a medical scientist. Nine years later, Dr. Cantor wrote an article describing them under the name Macropodus pugnax. In 1909 the ichthyologist Charles Tate Regan, realizing that there was already a species with the name Macropodus pugnax, renamed the domesticated Siamese fighting fish Betta splendens.