Introduction
 

The purpose of this article is to present one more strain of Betta smaragdina; call the “Guitar”. They are living in clean and clear running stream water. The same specie that living in the difference environment tend to have difference characteristic in details. An ordinary Betta smaragdina that I have been discussed in the previous chapters, the fish living in the shallow rice paddy still water and muddy environment. The fish has tiny long body with a patch of metallic green color. The tail ray is spreading green line and shiny red color on the anal fin. An anal fin, pelvic fin and caudal fin are short but good proportion to its body structure. Because of the tiny shallow space with the massy wild grass has form its structure to best survive in that environment. The long fin would trouble them in that environment, and enemy may easily bite any part of its the long fin. But Betta smaragdina Guitar type is something special and difference. You will immediate impressed only the first glance and you would feel it is difference from the ordinary Betta smaragdina that you were acquainted. But what is the Guitar difference from the ordinary Betta smaragdina you may not able to give an answer. The only thing you can tell is the feeling of difference and impressive.

The Guitar impressed me when I first saw in the small aquarium shop at Jatujak market in Bangkok 5 years ago. The fish look very charming, active and playful with the shining scale and artistic waving tail. Its price of course is higher than an ordinary Betta smaragdina 10 times. I try to asked many things about the source and the place that Guitar available. But it seem that a seller did not want to talk about it.  Though he did confirm me that he has caught the fish from the natural habitat. By developing friendship slowly, he became understood my real intension that I do not want to disturb his business. And I have also promised to him that whenever I want Betta smaragdina I will order from him. (I am his constant customer over 2 years). Finally he contact his partner and made appointment for me in the next day. He said that there is only one area that Guitar can be found. That area is covered two districts "Sega" and "Bung Khong Lhong" of Nhong khai province in upper Northeast of Thailand. The province that connected to Lao and the Khong River is a border lines. I did prepare myself only a few hours and I saw myself waiting for the first class bus in the Northern bus terminal in the evening the same day. That day was 25th August 2005.

What is Guitar?
               

   

"Guitar" or in short "Tar" is a unique strain of Betta smaragdina that difference from the popular ordinary Betta smaragdina. The first and the most charming of Guitar is the long pelvic fin that shaking when it is flaring, (people name Guitar because of shaking the pelvic fin like scratch the guitar string) (movie clip), anal fin, caudal, dorsal fin and tail also longer flow. Another distinguished characteristic of Guitar is the ray of the tail which has vertical spot and also crystal scale shining green whereas an ordinary smaragdina has crystal green patch scale and the ray of the tail is ordinary pattern. The body structure of Guitar is considered longer and round form whereas an ordinary Betta smaragdina has shorter body structure. If Betta smaragdina is a soldier I think the Guitar could be the knight and an ordinary Betta smaragdina should be the lay soldier.

The living environment of Guitar also difference from the ordinary Betta smaragdina. Guitar lives in clear clean running water. With this habitat, the Guitar has crystal scale and the long flow fin which make it much more charming than an ordinary Betta smaragdina. Whereas ordinary smaragdina lives in the low land still muddy water, most of them lives in the free space beside the rice field. The Guitar lives in the more wild forest that far disturb from human.

The significance of Guitar in the aquarium world.
 

There are two significance roles of Guitar in contributing to the Betta world. One is the localized role of Guitar in the fighting fish activity in the Northeast of Thailand. Another is an international role of Guitar in the fancy Betta show quality .

The role of Guitar in the world of fighting fish in the Northeast.

 

The feeling to reserve Betta smaragdina as a fighter in Northeast of Thailand very strong. When I visit many breeding house I never see a single of captive Betta splendens that so popular in other part of the country. The fighting fish they use is the hybrid fighter strain that crosses bred between captive Betta splendens and captive Betta smaragdina. By long term breeding process the splendens bloodlines possibly resided in the smaragdina fighter about 10 percent. Right now the Betta smaragdina as a fighting fish is a complex bloodlines. The captive cross breeds just doing 10 years ago. The main objective was to create the fighter to be more tough heart, tough scale and good fighting style. The tough heart is resided in captive Betta splendens but the good fighting style is resided in the Guitar. 

In the time there was nobody bred Betta smaragdina for fighting. The player simply got the fighter from the rice field. The source of Guitar always kept in private and secret. The owner of ordinary Betta smaragdina did not happy to match with the Guitar. Because he knows that his fighter was disadvantage in fighting style. The Guitar fight on the top of water whereas the ordinary Betta smaragdina prefer to fighting in the middle of water. So the Guitar can control the game. The fins and the body structure longer means the swimming faster and attacking tactic is full of artistic skill (movie clip). This movie clip show that one fighter try to convince another fighter go to fight on the water surface level. But once he goes up for challenge he found a flash attacked from above at once. We can presumed that in the present time all over Northeast fighter at least the breeder has introduced the Guitar as an essential bloodlines to his fighter.

The role of Guitar in the world of Fancy Betta

  The Guitar playing in the very importance role in filling up what the modern fancy captive Betta splendens both long fin and short fin have been lost. They are the shining scale and the nature of enticement of the fish in which I consider is the most impressive creature. The modern fancy hybrid that selling in aquabid has filled up the Guitar bloodlines more or less. The injection of wild Betta to the modern fancy Betta is something like return the true nature of this lovely creature after it has been spoiled by human over a hundred years.
The Guitar natural habitat.
 

My friend claims that there is only one place that the Guitar can be found in the Northeast of Thailand. The area are presenting two difference geographical habitat, one is the lake side forest and another is small stream water in the high land rain climate forest. The fish live in the messy wild glass beside the clear slow stream water. May be because of stream water make the Guitar developed the long flow fin and clear water make the Guitar developed the crystal scale.  

The ecological pattern of the Guitar look like this:

 

 

 

 

Or we may map above ecological pattern into the real composite picture:

 

 
 

The area is cover two districts call ”Sega” and “Bung Khong Lhong”.  Both are close to Khong river, the Thai/Lao border. The Sega district is the highland flooded land that keep rain water for local agriculture use. The dam dike in Sega play the importance role to supply an overflow water to "Bung Khong Lhong lake". People say that the Guitar swim against the water stream and reach the high land above the dam dike, the distance around 30 kilometers. So the same strain of Guitar can be found in both districts and I would like to infer an origin of Guitar should be in the Bung Khong Lhong lake which itself is a separator Guitar from an ordinary Betta smaragdina.

Catching Guitar in highland flooded land area in Sega district was some what fun and adventures. We did wade through the mass of high wild grass. The professional catcher just simply survey around and did random trial catch to see an estimate population of the Guitar in the area. We were crossing a little stream water to another side and this time we have a lot of Guitar. But the purpose of this trip was not really to caught the Guitar, but for my research. So we were decided to leave this impressive place and lovely wild flower to another Guitar habitat, a peaceful Bung Khong Lhong lake side.

Catching Guitar in Bung Khong Lhong lake side was far difference from the Sega's experiences. In Sega we were in the mid of high wild grass with a fun adventure in the reddish mud in the slow stream water that came from the dam dike. In Bung Khong Lhong lake we found another fantastic experiences. The fish lives in the very clear still water. The short wild grass on the lake side allow us to capture the splendid smaragdina with full sight. A pleasure environment does allow us gently use our palm of hand to hold the fighter up. We were also able to explore the picture in the past, the primary selection of the good fighter by the farmer. He did put one fighter to another fighter and watching the way they fight (movie clip) then catch the winner back home. The background screen of high mountain and peaceful lake make us feel walking in the paradise garden.

The Guitar structure form.

 

The Guitar have three structure form types and slightly difference on two colors. Previously I always think that all wild caught Betta has only one structure form call “Channa” form type. That it has round and long structure body. However my friend told me that there are three structure form type for Betta smaragdina for the specific, Guitar.

Although I think that a difference of each structure form is not clear cut like the captive Betta splendens that I have been discuss in An introduction to Plakat Thai.   However, it is still show a trace of structure form that has been mentioned.  

There are two colors in Guitar that can be found in the same location, one is green another is black. Both have crystal green dot on its scale. Of course both colors has the colors pattern  difference from an ordinary Betta smaragdina that were found in the rice field dice.

Four methods of catching Guitar.

 

Since the water level in the stream water is rather high about 50 cm comparing to the Betta living in the rice field that about 10 cm. So using the palm hand is not possible in the high water level. There are 4 methods to catching the Guitar from its environments.

  • Palm hand in case a fish lives in the small level water in the animal foot print.  The catcher does slowly survey around and searching for the bubble nest of the fish. Then he does gently open the wild grass and use his hand scoop up the fish beneath the bubble nest. (movie clip).  This method the catcher may get  the healthy male fighter in a few numbers of fishes. Also this method is the most secure of preserving the Betta habitat and its population.
  • “Ta kheng”. Using local fisheries instrument call “Ta kheng”. “Ta Kheng” is the basic fisheries instrument of the local people for catching the various type of fishes in the flooded land. The catcher place the instrument in front of him then he step his feet  to chasing the fish swimming into the “Ta kheng” .  Using “Ta kheng” both male and female were caught for the large quantity. The scale's size of "Ta kheng" indicate the size of fish that fisherman want.
  • Bamboo tube. or small tin can placed on the surface of water on the mass of weeds. The catcher will come back to check each bamboo tube after 2 or 3 days. This will get the big size or an aggressive fish and also disturb less to the wild environment. Most of the time the catcher would get the couple of the fish, male and female. In this method there is a trick that may mention here, the catcher may walk through the wild grass. This will open the space and the water moving provoke the Betta come to find the new place to settle up the bubble nest.
  • Decoy trap. This method is some more fun and also using for getting the wild bird, by place a male Betta smaragdina in clear plastic bag at the corner that the catcher expecting to have other male. After a few hours the catcher will come back to see whether another wild male Betta smaragdina come to approach the fish in the clear plastic bag as an intruder. (movie clip).  He will show his authority and protect his territory by put his whole life and spirit jump to fight an intruder. The decoy trap method similar to the finding bubble nest method but it is more effective. The fighter that may hide itself in the mid of wild plant would show itself immediately when presenting an intruder.

Breeding Betta smaragdina.

 

Now people in the Northeast breed Betta smaragdina for fighting. They are complex captive fighter bloodlines. I found that the breeding policy is the same development pattern that happen in Betta splendens selective fighter. Both have the same variable factors of development.

Five years ago, the first trip on 2000, many players did not admitted that their fighters were the complex bloodlines, though they were secretly cross bred with the splendens. Most of them claim theirs fighters caught from the natural habitat or pure wild caught Betta smaragdina fighter. This means that in the past the breeding selective smaragdina fighter was not generally accepted. The majority practice were still caught from the wild to fight in the ring. But in this trip (25 August 2005) all players were accepted that theirs fighter came from breeding complex bloodlines.!!

The first emergence of breeding policy may be just 10 years ago which was slowly spread over to the players. However the fighting of Betta smaragdina can lead back over hundred years, but no one can tell the specific year that farmer start to play this game. I think it should start in the same period of splendens fighter. This may be the answer why the splendens fighter can not intruding into the Northeast fighting fish empire. A question from the last trip that I got the answer from this trip was "how did the player know which male has the good fighting talent if they caught from the wild". Because what I know was not all male of wild caught Betta willing to fight. Some were really aggressive but some simply play a flare up and runaway.

In the primary stage of selection, the farmer simply catch one fighter and put it to another fighter. They did simply watch them fight (Movie clip) to each other for fun . Then they took the winner home and kept the fish as a pet and for challenging other people to fight. To improve the fighting talent, the breeders introduce captive Betta splendens bloodlines and the Guitar bloodlines to the selective Betta smaragdina fighting fish.  The purpose of breeding are; develop the better scale, better heart, better fighting style, commercial oriented and most of all try to control the standard of fighting quality. In fact, all these variable factors same as the development of captive Betta splendens.

To set up breeding environment of Betta smaragdina for small scale quantity is simple and closest to its natural habitat. The breeder simply dig a small square pool depth 50 cm and length by width 1.5 meter. The breeder does furnishing the pool environment similar to its natural habitat. He put one bamboo tube for the breeding pair mate, hatching the eggs. This short movie clip was showing how busy the male protect his nest (movie clip) and the fry that reside in the bamboo tube. This breeding style is conservative and preserve an original Betta's specie that has no intension of selling in mass number as the Betta splendens is. However I can see the picture in the near future that breeder of Betta smaragdina would breed the fighter supply to mass players in the northeast region's fighting rings.

Last comment.

 

Whenever I meet the player who favor fighting Betta smaragdina. I always ask him why don't you fight the Betta splendens. The answers always the same, they said that the Betta splendens fighting too long. But when I ask them why should you introduce the splendens bloodlines to the smaragdina fighter? The answer always the same but it seems logical contradiction to the first answer. They said that they want to develop the smaragdina willing to fight longer. The fighting longer in smaragdina fighting ring means the fighter able to maintain his fighting activity exceed one hour. Because the setup rule for fighting game considered draw when one can not win another in one hour period of fighting time.

The question of why the player of Betta smaragdina do not change to play the Betta splendens. Or why Betta splendens can not intruding into the Betta smaragdina fighting arena in northeast?

I think there are few factors that can answer this question.

  • The cultural practice of fighting smaragdina in Northeast developing along with the splendens fighting fish. So both fighting fish practices has its own strength. The northeast has Betta smaragdina whereas the middle part has splendens. I think we can even use a development model of smaragdina fighting fish mapping to the development model of Betta splendens that it has been lose its evidence.
  • The degree of economical tension playing the role that the splendens look over the Northeast player. In northeast people mostly are the farmer but in the middle part of the country, Bangkok is the center of the country, the profession of the people are more complex and varieties, capitalization, business oriented etc. Now the modern captive Betta splendens is the major export item in the ornamental fish of Thailand. The nature of farmer society is the cultural confirmation, whereas the capitalization require the change and improvement. This is also imply the question that why the development of splendens much faster than the smaragdina. In fact the very nature of modern splendens fighting fish has develop itself out skirt of farmer society.  The smaragdina fighter, though do not copy development model from the splendens but still developing the same direction of splendens as follow up the Bangkok's economy .

I found the direction that smaragdina fighting fish is follow step by step to the development of the splendens fighting fish. For example, when I participate the small group of smaragdina fighting ring. I found that many matches were fight longer, many matches even fight exceed one hour in which considered to be draw. Some players in the ring complain that "next year we should extend the fighting time 1.30 hour. Why? Because one hour is not enough for him to get money. That's mean they have developed the more tough smaragdina fighter than the 5 years ago that I have been visited. In that time an average fighting would be around 20 - 30 minutes. Some matches even one of them simply ran away with the minimal injury. Who knows may be the next five years they might demand for 2 hours and so on. And finally they might develop the toughness of smaragdina fighter as tough as the splendens fighter, or even borrow the fighting regulation from the splendens fighting ring.

The true conductor of breeding policy of both smaragdina and splendens surely is the economical ideology. The extending of the cloud of capitalization from Bangkok has cover the Northeast people definitely relevance to the breeding fighter policy. The breeders are more concerning on win and lose. The reward of fighting is more bigger stake.  The good captive fighter stock can sell in the very good price, and there is no more the legend of the good fighter in the particular secret flooded area. That is only the best fighter can get from the best breeder in the most tough arena.  And the most tough fighter is an ideal production of the breeder. This story is definitely mapped to the story of Betta splendens. I can say that, if one want to see the clear development picture of Betta splendens in the past, simply see the present development of Betta smaragdina. Or the development story of smaragdina fighter actually is the reflection of the development of the splendens fighter.   Perhaps, I am afraid that if capitalization that blow from the West to Asia has to happen in the human history. May be the development breeding policy of fighting fish as has been said a cruelty game in Asia simply an unavoidable impact from the West wind.
(15 October 2005)

You come I'm so please, I'm regret when you leave.

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