The word “elephant” conjures up an image of something gigantic. Well, the elephant ear betta has enormous fins and tail that resemble the ears of the elephant. It is from this fact that it derived its name. Without a doubt, the fish is extremely extraordinary and is a darling of many hobbyists.
Also referred to as the Siamese fighting fish, elephant ear betta belongs to the family of the gouramis. It is an aggressive fish, with the males known to take the lead in attacking even their own species. This makes it impossible to house two males in the same tank.
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Appearance of Elephant ear Betta
Elephant ear betta has very interesting characteristics. They include a huge fins that resemble the ears of the elephant which aid the fish during swimming expeditions. Like all other betta fish, elephant ear bettas have brilliant colors that are more pronounced in aquarium species as opposed to the ones found in their natural environment. Most fish found in natural habitats exhibit grey, dull green and brown colors. In captivity however, they display an array of bright colors including blue, light green, yellow, red and even pink. They grow up to lengths of about 6.5cm when mature and have a slim profiles against flowing fins that sometimes appear bigger than the actual body.
The fish is native to Asian waters of Vietnam, Thailand and Mekong Delta. It mostly exhibits standing waters found in floodplains, canals and rice paddies.
It found its way to the aquarium due to its aggressive disposition. The fighting spirit of the fish enthused King Rama III of Malaysia. After making a collection of some of the fish, he gave out a few of them to a man. The same man later gave them to a medical scientist by the name of Theodore. One thing led to another until finally the fighting fish was named Betta Splendens.
Currently, the IUCN lists elephant ear betta as a vulnerable fish. Most of its habitat is polluted, with some getting cleared to pave way for construction purposes.
Although betta fishes are known to be super hardy fish, you will still need to provide the right environment if you want to see your dumbo betta thrive. For a start, you should have a tank that is 20 gallons or more. Smaller tanks are likely to lead to health issues that may cause the fish trauma that could lead to its death.
Water temperatures of between 24 and 28 degrees Celsius or 75-82 degrees Fahrenheit should always be maintained. Aquarium heaters for the aquarium should therefore be available more so during cold seasons. You should also test and ensure the water has a neutral pH of 7.
Due to the extended flowing fins, you should choose smooth rocks that will not interfere with the flowing tails and fins. As the fish swims, rough rocks may tug at the tails and this could lead to fin rot which mostly affects aquarium fish.
Fine sand or substrate should be added at the bottom of the tank. Live hardy freshwater plants are a necessity to the tank too. Apart from adding to the beauty of the aquarium, plants also provide a sense of security to the fish. Remember to have plants without pointed extensions that will not interfere with the fish tail and fins.
The fish feeds on a variety of foods. The most common ones are mosquito larvae, zooplankton, crustaceans, bloodworms, brine shrimp, fish pellets and other types of insects.
The fish is classified as insectivorous and is likely to restrict its diet to insects and other fleshy meals. However, it has been noted that when housed with other fish species it tolerates (that eat veges), it may consume vegetables thrown in the tank for the tankmates.
A hobbyist decides on the feeding timetable for the fish. While at it, ensure the fish is well fed to maintain its brilliant colors. When poorly fed, the bright colors tend to be dull, lessening its allure.
Like most fish kept in captivity, the elephant ear betta is hard to breed in an aquarium. This should not deter a hobbyist from trying to breed it all the same.
Breeding times for the elephant ear betta can be quite an interesting episode to observe. Some scenes to expect include:
- Males flaring up their gills while spreading out fins in a dance-like manner to capture the attention of the females.
- The interested female darkens its color to confirm its readiness. At this juncture, breeding bars in the form of vertical lines appear on the body of the fish.
- The male builds several nests on the water surface as it prepares a place for the female to lay eggs.
- The male then wraps itself in a tight embrace around the female. This is referred to as “nuptial embrace”. Each time it does this, the female sprays eggs in the nests. This happens until there are no more eggs left.
- The male then releases milt into the water to have the eggs fertilized.
- The male then collects any eggs it considers to be sinking in its mouth to deposit into the nest. The female assists the partner but usually eats away eggs that it manages to catch.
- The male then sends away the female to save some of the eggs. At this juncture, it is important to take the female away from the tank as the male may end up killing it to save eggs.
- After about 24-36 hours, larvae remains in the nest until yolk sac gets fully absorbed.
- Another few days and fry begin to swim freely in the water.
The fish is very aggressive even to its own reflection in the glass. It is not uncommon to find it clawing at the glass tank when it spies its own reflection. For safety purposes, it pays to keep just one fish in a tank until it is time for spawning. If you really have to add in into a community tank, ensure that your aquarium is big enough for other fishes to swim around and hide.
Interesting facts about the fish
It is known to flare its gills to impress tank-mates. This also happens when any slight change has been made to their environment. When agitated, the elephant ear betta displays horizontal bars that become pale.
Being unique aquatic animal, many people place bets on bettas when the same sexes are housed in the same tank to start a fight. The fight may continue until one of them becomes submissive and bows out. In case this does not happen, the stronger may claw the other to death. The elephant ear betta is quite some catch for the home aquarium. The delightful colors make it an even perfect consideration.