Name: Betta pugnax
Origin: Southeast Asia
Betta pugnax is often credited as being one of the best bettas for beginners. It is easy to keep, as it is not particular about water conditions, tankmates, etc., making it a good candidate for community tanks. This betta is also one of the easier mouthbrooding bettas to breed in captivity, so it is the best place to start when thinking about keeping mouthbrooders.
Personally, I have kept mouthbrooding bettas for a short time. These fish are notorious for being jumpers and I have lost fish to this behaviour. Keep a tight lid! They are quite peaceful in comparison to the much more common B. splendens, but also have much larger mouths! You may lose small schooling fish or fry to these bettas if you are not careful.
In appearance, B. pugnax is similar to wild-type (Plakat) B. splendens, but it is much larger (they can reach 12 cm). Another notable difference between B. pugnax and the colourful specimens of B. splendens is that they have a very dull colouration. I find them quite appealing in this way, they are in their natural colour form. They often change their colours to suit their mood, having horizontal bars of black, to pale brown, to even having an iridescent sheen.
B. pugnax is native to the peat swamps and forest streams of Southeast Asia (Malay Peninsula and parts of Indonesia). With this species, it is not necessary to simulate these conditions in aquaria, but it may be an aesthetic need for some.
In short, the Penang Betta is a great mouthbrooder to start out with. Having them in your tank is rewarding, and breeding them is very fascinating. I recommend this fish to anyone who can get their hands on some. Truly a great member of the Betta family!
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