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Becoming A Steward For Betta Hendra Is More Than Just Keeping Them As Pets

By Fernando Granadino (@MirkwoodBettas)

 

Betta Hendra, a captivating and lesser-known member of the Betta fish family, hails from the dark, tannin-rich waters of Borneo’s peat swamps. This species has begun to capture the hearts of aquarists worldwide, thanks to its vibrant colors, intricate fin patterns, and unique behavioral traits.

This guide aims to provide a thorough understanding of Betta Hendra, covering everything from their social behavior and habitat requirements, to their dietary needs and health maintenance.

Embrace the challenge, revel in the beauty, and become a steward for Betta Hendra—a guardian for a species on the brink, ensuring that their grace and beauty continue to inspire generations to come.

 

A flaring blue iridescent male betta hendra in brown tinted aquarium water.

 

A male Betta Hendra Flares in Display with another Male

  

Can Betta Hendra Be Kept Together?

This is probably everyone’s first question. Betta Hendra are known for their more subdued nature compared to the famously aggressive Betta splendens. However, this does not mean they can be housed together without consideration. While less prone to aggression, territorial disputes can still arise, especially in confined spaces or if there are insufficient hiding spots.

To successfully house Betta Hendra together, a tank of at least 10 gallons is recommended for a pair, complemented with plenty of vegetation, hiding spots, botanicals, and visual barriers. for a colony, of around 10 fish, 20 gallons would be the minimum. Regular monitoring of their interactions is crucial, particularly during the initial introduction period, to prevent any escalation of aggression. 

 

A close up shot of a male betta hendra by alder cones in a botanical blackwater aquarium.

 

A male Betta Hendra swims through a cluster of Alder Cones.

 

Understanding Their Size and Temperament

Betta Hendra typically grow to sizes of 2-3 inches, with males being slightly larger on average. Despite their smaller size, they are active and require ample space to thrive.

In terms of temperament, Betta Hendra are generally less aggressive than other Betta species but can still exhibit territorial behavior. While these wild bettas can showcase aggression, they’re more akin to more of a performance than an act of violence. These remarkable fish engage in elaborate displays, flaunting their fins and swimming in intricate patterns to assert dominance. This behavior, often misinterpreted, is a natural aspect of their interaction. It’s crucial for establishing hierarchy and territorial boundaries without resorting to violence. In fact, actual serious physical confrontations are rare among these fish.

A well-structured environment and careful monitoring are vital to preventing aggression and ensuring a harmonious tank.

A small vernal pool of water where betta hendra live in Indonesia.
A seasonally flooded pool where Betta Hendra can be found.

 

Creating the Ideal Habitat for Betta Hendra

Creating a habitat that closely mimics the natural conditions of Betta Hendra’s native environments is crucial for their well-being. This section delves deeper into the aspects that make up an ideal living space for these exquisite creatures.

Tank Size and Layout - While Betta Hendra are a smaller species of Betta, they are active and appreciate space to swim and explore. A tank of at least 20 gallons is recommended, especially if you are considering keeping more than one or creating a Hendra community. The layout of the tank should provide open swimming areas as well as plenty of hiding spots using plants, rocks, botanicals, and driftwood. This not only ensures that the Betta Hendra feels secure but also adds aesthetic appeal to your aquarium.

 

A flooded pool of the Bornean jungle where Betta Hendra can be found.

 

A vernal pool where Betta Hendra can be found.

 

Substrate and Water Conditions - Choosing the right substrate is pivotal. Dark-colored gravel or sand not only reflects the Betta Hendra’s natural habitat but also enhances their colors. To further replicate blackwater conditions, consider adding leaf litter, such as Indian almond leaves, jackfruit leaves, and guava leaves, which release tannins into the water, creating a dark, tea-colored hue. These leaves also have anti-bacterial properties, promoting a healthier environment.

Ensure the water is soft and acidic, with pH levels maintained ideally between 4.0 and 6.0, hardness levels below 5 dGH, and a temperature range of 75-82°F (24-28°C). Using reverse osmosis (RO) water or rainwater can help achieve these conditions, but make sure to re-mineralize the water to provide the essential minerals required for their health. If neither RO water nor rainwater are an option, try lowering the pH naturally with botanicals such as alder cones and macaranga leaves.

A small flooded vegetation filled water body where betta can be found in Borneo.
A summer time vernal pool with Betta Hendra.

 

Filtration and Water Movement - Betta Hendra come from environments with gentle water flow. Opt for a filter that provides efficient biological filtration but creates minimal water movement. Sponge filters are an excellent choice as they fulfill these requirements and are also safe for fry if you are considering breeding. HOB, internal, and canister filters are also great options as long as you can regulate the flow so your fish are not sent flying all over the tank. Regular maintenance of the filter is necessary to ensure optimal performance and water quality.

Lighting and Vegetation - Low to moderate lighting suits Betta Hendra best, replicating the subdued light conditions of their natural habitat. This also encourages the growth of plants, which play a vital role in their environment.

Choose plants that thrive in low-light, acidic conditions. Floating plants such as Red Root Floaters, Salvinia Cucullata, or Salvinia Oblingofolia can provide shade and additional hiding spots, while rooted plants like cryptocoryne add structure and security to the tank. Epiphyte plants such as ferns, & bucephalandria are also great options that are very easy to care for.  Make sure that the plants used are free from pests and diseases to prevent any health issues for your Hendra. 

Enrichment and Decor - Providing enrichment through various elements and structures not only makes the aquarium more visually appealing, but also stimulates the Hendra, promoting natural behaviors and reducing stress. Caves made out of rocks, driftwood, or seed pods, tunnels made up of leaves, and a thick layer of leaf litter are great additions that offer hiding spots and encourage exploration. Hendra, like all bettas are very intelligent so occasionally changing the layout or adding new elements can also keep the environment engaging for your fish.

 

Feeding Your Betta Hendra

Betta Hendra are carnivorous and require a protein-rich diet. In the wild, their diet consists of small insects, larvae, and other protein-rich delicacies. To replicate this in captivity, offer a mix of high-quality pellets, flakes, frozen foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia, as well as live foods when possible. Live foods not only provide essential nutrients but also stimulate their natural hunting instincts, contributing to their physical and mental well-being. Grindal worms, baby brine shrimp, brine shrimp, peanut beetle larvae, and mosquito larvae are all fantastic options.

Paying attention to the specific needs of your Hendra can make a significant difference in their health. Juveniles require more frequent feedings with a higher protein content to support their growth. Older Hendra may need adjustments in their diet to accommodate a slower metabolism and changing nutritional needs.

 

Breeding and Lifecycle

Breeding Betta Hendra can be a rewarding experience, though it requires a dedicated setup and close monitoring. They have a lifespan of 3-5 years, and understanding their needs as they age is crucial for their long-term well-being.

Breeding this fish is a delicate process, requiring specific conditions and careful monitoring to ensure success. 

Setting the Stage for Breeding- A breeding tank with soft, acidic water, plenty of hiding spots, and subdued lighting provides the ideal environment for breeding. Introduce the male and female gently, allowing them to acclimate and display courtship behaviors. The male will build a bubble nest as part of the breeding ritual.

 

A male Hendra shrouded in shadow inside a betta breeding tube with is bubble nest.

 

A male Hendra guards a singular egg in our breeding tube.

 

The Spawning Process- Once the bubble nest is ready and the female shows interest, she will approach the male, leading to a dramatic and sometimes rough mating dance. After spawning, the male takes on the responsibility of guarding the nest and tending to the eggs until they hatch. During this stage, the male becomes extremely protective and territorial, often displaying aggression towards other tank mates or even the female.

Raising the Fry- Betta Hendra fry are delicate and require specific care to survive and thrive. Infusoria or liquid fry food serve as the initial diet, gradually transitioning to micro worms and baby brine shrimp as they grow. Maintaining water quality and providing ample hiding spots are crucial during this vulnerable stage.

 

On the Brink of Extinction

Betta Hendra, with their stunning appearance and captivating behavior, are unfortunately listed as a critically endangered species. Their precarious position calls for responsible practices and heightened awareness among the aquarist community.

The Hendra’s natural habitats in the peat swamps of Borneo are under relentless pressure from human activities. Deforestation for agricultural expansion, illegal logging, and peat extraction are rapidly depleting their environments. Additionally, pollution from agricultural runoff and improper waste disposal further degrades their water quality, making survival in the wild increasingly challenging. 

The Role of the Aquarium Trade - While the aquarium trade has played a part in the decline of wild populations due to overcollection, it also has the potential to aid in conservation efforts. Captive breeding programs can help alleviate pressure on wild populations, providing a sustainable source for aquarists while also preserving the genetic diversity of the species.

 

A blue iridescent male betta Hendra with Texas Live Oak Leaves at Betta Botanicals.

 

A male Betta Hendra above a leaf litter bed.
  

What Can We Do to Help? 

  1. Choose Captive-Bred Specimens: Unless you know the “collector” does so ethically and with conservation efforts in mind, whenever possible, opt for Betta Hendra that have been bred in captivity rather than collected from the wild. This not only supports sustainable practices but also ensures a healthier and more adaptable fish for your aquarium.
  2. Support Conservation Efforts: Contribute to or volunteer with organizations dedicated to freshwater conservation. Your support aids in habitat restoration, pollution control, and sustainable practices that benefit not just Betta Hendra but countless other species like the orangutan and others that share their habitat.
  3. Educate and Advocate: Share information about the plight of Betta Hendra and the importance of conservation with fellow aquarists and the broader community. Advocacy plays a crucial role in bringing about policy changes and increased funding for conservation initiatives.
  4. Practice Responsible Fish Keeping: Maintain high standards of care for your Hendra, and ensure that you are fully prepared for the commitment of keeping such a species. If you are considering Hendra for your tank, educate yourself and make sure you can provide the best care possible for them. 
  5. Participate in Captive Breeding: If you have the resources and knowledge, consider participating in captive breeding programs for Betta Hendra. Sharing knowledge and stock with other breeders helps maintain genetic diversity and strengthens the population of Betta Hendra in captivity.

 

 

A male betta Hendra with red cherry shrimp by a sterculia seed pod.
 A male Hendra inside a Sterculia Pod with Cherry Shrimp.

 

Becoming a Steward for Betta Hendra

Embracing the role of a Hendra keeper goes far beyond the realms of typical pet care—it is a journey into preserving a slice of the natural world, right within the confines of your living space. Betta Hendra, with their mesmerizing colors and graceful movements, are more than just aquarium inhabitants; they are ambassadors of the fragile ecosystems of Borneo, reminding us of the delicate balance of life that needs our attention and care.

By creating an ideal habitat, offering a balanced diet, and understanding their unique behavioral traits, you lay the groundwork for a thriving life for your wild bettas. Your commitment to sustainable practices and support for conservation not only aids in the survival of this critically endangered species, but also contributes to the broader efforts of preserving biodiversity and aquatic habitats worldwide.

Engage with the aquarist community, share knowledge, and learn continuously. Every tank set up responsibly, every Betta Hendra cared for diligently, becomes a beacon of hope, a testament to what passionate and informed fishkeeping can achieve. Remember, in the quest to protect and preserve, every action counts, and every Betta Hendra kept with love and respect is a step toward a future where these stunning creatures thrive, both in our homes and in the wild. 

About The Author

Fernando is a member of our #Tanninbae ambassador program, specializing in Betta Hendra care and stewardship. He has been keeping fish for years, but stepped to the tinted side of the hobby about 2 years ago. His favorite botanicals are Sterculia Pods and Betta Tea.

A photo of Fernando in a light pink shirt against white wavy window curtains.

 

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