Tang’s favourite fish — the 'Super Red' — a rare 'pure' red Betta

Known for their bright, beautiful colouration and elaborate fin displays, the Siamese fighting fish — more commonly known nowadays as Betta — are are among the most popular freshwater fish around. Intrigued by the beauty, Tang Chong Hoe started collecting the tropical fish as he was fascinated by the vibrant and captivating colours of these little gems.

Easy to care for

Tang Chong Hoe started collecting Bettas in 2017.

Betta fish collector, Tang Chong Hoe, reflects that the time he spent on his hobby taught him to be a more thorough person, “When you take good care of the fish, you can understand them better. Therefore, I have become a more careful person,” said the 42-year-old.

The father of one also added that his Betta fish are like “children” that require equal attention. His venture with Betta started in 2017, “My friend showed me his Betta fish collections, and I was fascinated by the beautiful colours. So, I purchased some to start my own collection and it gradually grow.”

As the number of fish in his care grew, Tang recalled feeling contented just looking at them. “I then showed them to my friends and they were impressed. So, I gave them a fish or two to care for. Afterwards, they introduced me to their friends.”

According to Tang, back then, his friends never knew how beautiful Bettas can be. The businessman said that back then, the available colours were quite limited compared to now.

“Now, I can do cross-breeding of different species and colours, and create multi-coloured variants. So, I told my friends and their friends, to collect together as we can share the same interest,” he added.

The following year, Tang started to sell Bettas and organised several ‘Betta show’ competitions. He said that once there were competitions, it encouraged more people to become collectors.

Having seen different colours of Betta fish, Tang’s favourite was his solid red and solid white fish. “This is because my ‘Super Red’ fish is a rare one. It has no other colours on it. Usually, it is very common to see Bettas with a mixture of colours.”

But the price of the rare ones can sometimes reach more than RM200, quite pricey for a fish that usually sells for RM10. “It really depends on the colours, rarity and how beautiful it is,” he shared.

While Bettas are known to be fighting fish, toTang, it is such a waste to see two beautiful fish fight. He revealed that there actually two ways to nurture a Betta fish. “One way is for them to have vibrant, bright-coloured body. Another way is to nurture them to become a strong fighter.”

Aside from its beauty, Tang shared that Bettas are one of the easiest to care for. “It is easy because you do not need a fancy aquarium with oxygen tanks. They just need a cup of water to survive. To get a pretty fish however, you need to clean their cups daily in order for it to thrive in its surroundings.”

However, Tang added that Bettas cannot survive under cold temperature. “So it is advisable to leave them at a balanced temperature as they are tropical fish.”

Overall, Tang said he might spend RM20 a month to more than RM50 depending on the condition. “If they are all healthy, it is usually RM20 a month — the cost of changing their water daily. However if they are sick, I need to spend between RM30 to RM40 for medications.”

How to properly care for a Betta

As an experienced Betta fish collector, Tang recalled the days when Bettas were not as popular, “The care package and medications for them were really hard to find, so the collectors need to find alternatives.”

Tang then revealed his regular routine for his fish, “Aside from anti-chlorine, I regularly add salt into their water. This is said to lessen the toxicity of the water they are exposed to.”

“And when they are sick, I would just add more salt until they are better,” said Tang. However, these days, he is glad that he is now able to purchase proper medications whenever he needs them. “We also have different medications for different sicknesses. It is so much easier now.”

He also added that the water needs to be clean daily, “You don’t necessarily need to change all of it (the water), just clean up the feces.”

Apart from that, Tang also made sure his fish eat quality food, “They can eat regular fish food, but they would not grow well and won’t be as strong.” He shared that certain breeds such as the half-moon Bettas are harder to care for because of their tails which resembles half a circle, “However, with quality food and clean water, they can grow nicely. The fins would flourish and they usually display strong, beautiful colours.”

Tang also dipped Catappa leaf (Daun Ketapang) into his Bettas’ aquariums. It is said that the leaves release compounds that have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. “This will ensure the fish would not get sick easily. It can also help groom the colours of the fish to be brighter. It is a natural way to nurture the fish.”

Lastly, Tang advises all Betta collectors to always put up a divider between the fish. This is to avoid the fish to flare-up, or show their anger constantly. “When they are in aggressive mode, they will flare-up. At this moment, they are usually the prettiest.

“However, if they looked at their opponent too much, they will flare until it becomes a norm to them. This, in return, would discourage the fish to flare-up again in the future.

“Furthermore, too much display of aggressiveness can equate to stress, and stressed fish are prone to ilnesses,” he added.