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Aqua Muay Thai

The Siamese fighting fish’s aggressive nature likens itself to Muay Thai, Thailand’s national martial arts
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - January 15, 2011
By: James Ong
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Aqua Muay Thai

For gongfu movie lovers like myself, nothing is as intriguing as watching martial arts flicks with heaps of fighting scenes, especially those adrenaline-pumping Thai gongfu blockbusters. Eyes fixed to the screen, I intently track every Muay Thai move with my mouth agape when characters break their opponents’ bones or crush their skulls.

Muay Thai, Thailand’s national martial arts style, originates from ancient Siamese Thai fighting. It is apparently not only popular among human males, but also exists in aqua form in the aggressive behaviour of the male Siamese fighting fish.

A little backgrounder

Also known by its glittery name “Jewel of the Orient”, the male Siamese fighting fish comes in a plethora of vibrant colours. Selective breeding can give them a variety of hues, including red, blue, orange, green, turquoise, yellow or even translucent. Adult specimens can grow up to a length of about 6 to 7cm and have a lifespan of between two and three years. 

Social issues

Their renowned aggressiveness, especially among the males, means tank mates must be chosen with care. In the wild, fighting fish do not necessarily fight to the death. When one fish gains the upper hand, and the other has had enough, the loser simply retreats to a hideout to nurse its wounds. But in a tank, especially a small one, there is no place to retreat to. The dominant fish will continue to attack the other until the latter dies. It would therefore be cruel to put two males in the same tank, and responsible aquarists are strongly advised to avoid this.

Keeping a male and female fighting fish in the same tank is not advisable either as the female has a well-known tendency to satiate her hunger with her own eggs, while the male is extremely protective of the spawn. This conflict of interest means that the male may attack the female after mating. Thus, the female fish should be removed from the tank immediately after she has released all her eggs.

Water conditions

Hailing from Thailand and Cambodia, Siamese fighting fish thrive in tropical climates, doing best in warm water ranging from 24 to 30 degrees Celsius. Ideally, the water should be neutral or slightly acidic, with pH ranging from 6.8 to 7.4.

Water movement in the tank should be minimal as strong currents may frustrate the male’s efforts to build a bubble nest during mating. No power filters or any other equipment that generates currents should be installed.

Tank conditions

The fighting fish is a top dweller that needs to come to the surface often to breathe. In addition to being able to extract oxygen from water through its gills like other fish, it is equipped with a respiratory organ in its head that allows it to take in oxygen directly from the atmosphere. Thus, the water surface should be clear of floating plants, so the fish have ample space when they swim up.

Diet

Being natural carnivores, Siamese fighting fish have shorter digestive tracts compared with those of herbivorous fish. In their natural habitat, they feed almost exclusively on insects and larvae; they have upward-facing mouths suited to catching insects lingering on the water surface.

Though they can adapt to your feed of flakes, pellets, frozen and freeze-dried foods, fighting fish which are fed with a diet of “live” foods, such as brine shrimp, daphnia, plankton and tubifex, tend to live longer and display richer colours.

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