Bettas in the Far North

People love bettas from the tropics to the arctic.

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I was sitting in the middle of Iowa when I realized that if I jumped in my car and headed north on I-35 that I could go all the way to Duluth, Minnesota, then travel another 100 miles or so north and make the Canadian border. Then I'd be about halfway to the center of Hudson Bay, I thought, where I'd be at about 60 degrees north latitude, not far from the Arctic Circle.

Then, if I headed west I would find myself passing near Anchorage, Alaska, and eventually Siberia and Finland, maybe even passing over the lower part of Norway as I made my imaginary trip. Or if I headed east I would pass near the lower tip of Greenland, not far south of Iceland and once again to the lower part of Norway. None of these pladR bTng^o mind tropical environments.

Bettas in the Cold

During the latter part of this past summer, while on a quest to find some family relatives in Norway, we found ourselves in a small town called Notodden in an area with snow-topped mountains. This was a seemingly questionable location to find ropical fish hobbyists, especially betta ^llnciers. But I decided to follow up on some leads anyway.

ettas come from much warmer climes. Their natural range includes much of Indonesia and Southeast Asia None of countries bettas hail from bear much resemblance to Norway, but they are the natural homes of the more than 50 assorted Betta species. The island of Borneo seems to be the epicenter of the Betta world and has by far the largest number of species.

In its northern range the primary species seems to be Betta splendens and its near relatives, collectively now referred to as the "splendens group" (B. imbellis, B. smaragdina, etc.). In Java

In addition to bettas, Oyrind Hatveit, owner of the Notodden Zoo pet store in Notodden, Norway, offers planted tanks and lots of different fish for sale.

there appears to be only B. picta with possibly some regional variants. Most of the many new Betta species that have been described in the past two decades have come from the near-equatorial part of this range or from revisiting and refining the ones described in earlier times.

Warm and Comfortable

One thing is certain: bettas enjoy warm, swampy water and whatever else may represent equatorial conditions. They are best known (at least the bubblenest builders) for their adaptations: labyrinth organs (for supplementary air breathing), short life cycles (for quickly repopulating areas that periodically dry up), their reproductive mode (building bubblenests that provide proximity to air for developing fry, producing large numbers of offspring per spawn, etc.) and their territorial behavior with its dis play components, which led to their being used and developed for fighting.

It's hard to imagine places like Alaska, Siberia, Scandinavia and particularly Norway ever being any kind of home for fish like bettas.

Back to the Story

My trip to Norway included my brother and his wife, my wife and myself. We didn't just go to Norway. We went first to Ireland and England, then on to Norway and Denmark. Our searches for ancestors took place in Ireland and the Scandinavian countries, while England was conveniently in the way.

Looking for fishkeepers and bettas was not high on anyone's list of things to do, but it is something I always try to do when I travel. The first betta-related place I visited came during our brief stay in Birmingham, England. I found a listing in the phone book of a

Betta Fish

Betta Fish

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