Big Fin Siamese Fighting Fish, 2013, by Visarute Angkatavanich, from our book, Animal: Exploring the Zoological World

Astonishing Animals – The Siamese Fighting Fish

Decades of selective breeding has enabled East Asian animal lovers to create this beautiful but rather violent pet

Dogs are the animals we commonly think of being selectively bred for their striking features and fighting abilities. However, as our new book Animal: Exploring the Zoological World explains, this activity extends into the aquatic realm.

“Smart, inquisitive, territorial and highly aggressive, Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) are the result of over 120 years of selective breeding," says our new book. “The fish, which in their native form have short fins and a muddy colouration that ranges from green to brown to grey, were originally selected by children in Malaysia and southern China for fighting matches. Males, and some females, placed together in a limited space will usually fight, flaring their fins and turning bright colours. The fights are sometimes to the death. As the fashion for fighting matches spread, the king of Siam (now Thailand) decided to license and breed the fish in the mid-nineteenth century. Through selective breeding, fish keepers have been able to create fish with outsized flowing fins whose colours remain permanently bright.”


Animal: Exploring the Zoological World
Animal: Exploring the Zoological World

This particular specimen was shot by the commercial photographer Visarute Angkatavanich, who specializes in capturing these fish at the height of their beauty. You can see this image, alongside more than 300 other ways we have documented the animals around us throughout time by ordering a copy of Animal: Exploring the Zoological World here. Check out our previous stories from the book on Sir Edwin Landseer's Monarch of the Glen, Underwater photographer Alexander Semenov's Lion's Mane JellyfishCai Guo-Qing's Heritage, Jill Greenberg's Diana Monkey  Nick Veasey's Fruit BatThe Sweat Bee and The Steppe Bison.