Betta fish raisers and hobbyists in the city are encouraging Palaweños, particularly the youth, to engage in the production of quality breeds, as it helps in the development of positive attitudes and character.
This freshwater species native to Asia is commonly referred to as the fighting fish, and its colors are vibrant. In addition to plant roots, bettas primarily consume insects and larvae, and must be kept in a minimum two-gallon tank with temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
David Garganza, the founder of Palawan Betta Malakas, one of the hobbyist groups existing in Palawan, said that organized betta keeping in Palawan just started a few years ago. Through different groups existing in Palawan, betta fish keeping is promoted across the province.
In 2018, he developed an interest in bettas and thereafter participated in shows and competitions in which the fish were judged. He found fellow betta breeders and formed a team with them.
There are five teams in Palawan with a combined total population of around 800 to 1,000 members. The other teams are Tubiflex, Siamsplenders, Team 150, and BBS-Batang Betta Snipers.
“Napo-promote natin lalo sa kabataan na ang Betta fish keeping ay nagbibigay ng magandang disiplina, magandang character sa bawat isa. Dati puro laro-laro lang, cellphone, ngayon natuturuan natin at natutulungan natin ang kabataan na tingnan nila ang abilidad nila kung ano pa pwede nila magawa,” he said.
“Isa sa pino-promote din natin ay gawang Palawan, kasi kaya natin gumawa ng quality breed of fish dito pero mas nabibigyan ng atensyon ‘yong mga imported–suportahan natin ang gawang lokal para ang industriya ng Betta fish dito ay tuloy-tuloy,” he added.
Garganza thought it would be better to keep local breeds of betta than to bring them in from other parts of the province.
“Nagagawa na natin magbigay sa ibang lugar, magpadala ng magagandang isda pero kulang pa. Kaya tuloy-tuloy ang mga show na ginagawa natin para tuloy-tuloy ang kanilang pag-aaral–maiaangat natin ang antas ng Palawan pagdating sa Betta fish keeping,” he added.
In addition to being a hobby, fish keeping can also be a source of income, as the price increases depending on the breed. In competitions, betta fish are judged on their qualities, elevating the standard of fish keeping. The judging adheres to the criteria established by the International Betta Congress.
Palawan fish keepers also send their fish to Davao, Cebu, and Iloilo to sell and compete.
He said the number of people who have taken an interest in raising bettas has also increased in the province during the pandemic because it helps people cope with its stress.
“Kapag nagkakaroon sila (kabataan) ng isang bagay na masaya sila, may mga tao silang nakakausap, nagkakaroon sila ng ibang persepsyon sa buhay, ibang perspektibo. Nagiging balanse, compare natin sa puro aral, puro laro lang ang ginagawa nila,” he said.
What’s good about betta fish?
Garganza claims that bettas, in contrast to more common decorative fish like goldfish, come in a wide variety of colors and breeds. Since there are so many different colors and patterns, it is more pleasing to the eye to keep.
“Naniniwala kasi kami na bawat individual, may klase ng Betta fish na gusto mo. Hindi lahat gusto mo pero meron kang Betta fish na parang nalo-love at first sight ka. Tingin ko ‘yong ganong klaseng pananaw ay nakabase sa personalidad ng isang tao,” he said.
Keeping bettas as pets is easy as it only requires adequate space, clean water, and a sufficient food supply. It becomes complicated if it is kept for breeding, as there are certain standards to meet to produce quality fish.
Keepers must also understand the genetics of the betta fish, as it takes years to produce them.
He advised new keepers to also consider their time if they can manage to keep fish to enjoy it. The life span of betta fish ranges from about two to three years, he said. The ages of the local community members ranged from 10 years old and above.
Prices for pets of lower quality start around P100–P200, while those of breeding stock cost between P150–P500. Keepers who are interested in acquiring betta fish can do so by contacting vendors online.
According to Garganza, local hobbyists and raisers are committed to improving the quality of varieties by avoiding mistreatment of animals in specially designed facilities known as breeding stations or barracks.
“Hindi naman namin nasasaktan ‘yong mga betta fish. Pinaparami pa namin sila at pinapaganda to appreciate the beauty of the creature,” he said.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says that bettas are sensitive and suffer in the pet trade because some buyers don’t give them the care they need.
Garganza defended, however, that fish keepers are particularly careful about the temperature and quality of aquarium or bowl water. The fish’s physical characteristics are also modified by their daily food intake.
“Dapat nakikita pa rin nila na masaya ang pag-aalaga. Kapag hindi na nila nakikita na masaya ang pag-aalaga, baka may ibang para sa kanila,” he said.