Plakat Betta are a well-kept secret in the fish-keeping world, especially in the West. However, these lesser-known cousins of the standard betta splendens that are commonly bred for the pet trade have some distinct advantages, including being better-suited to most community tanks.
Here’s what you need to know about how to keep a Plakat Betta happy and healthy and why you may want to consider having one in your aquarium.
What are Plakat Bettas?
Betta splendens are some of the most popular freshwater fish bred for the pet trade due to their beauty, interesting behavior, and robustness. These bettas are also known as fighting fish. They are usually blue or red, but also come in a wide range of colors. However, Plakat Bettas aren’t nearly as well known, especially in the west. Here’s why:
Plakats are closer to their wild cousins. They are built more powerfully, with a heavier body and less showy fins, and are generally only one or two inches long.
They also have a shorter and stockier body. However, they still come in beautiful, bright colors.
In some parts of the world, such as several Southeast Asian countries, especially Thailand, wild and domesticated Plakats are sometimes used as fighting fish. The more powerful build of the Plakat Betta makes them more capable of fighting. They have an extremely aggressive temperament with other Plakats.
Varieties of Plakat Betta Fish
- Snakehead Plakats have a longer, narrower body than the standard variety. They also tend to have smaller fans. This variety is bred for defensive fighting.
- Spoonhead Plakats have longer ventral fins and a distinct curve to their mouths. They are often bred for offensive fighting.
Advantages of Keeping Plakat Bettas
You may be wondering why you would choose a variety bred with less appealing fins that comes in fewer fin and color variations. However, we think that there are some very good reasons to choose a Plakat Betta fighting fish instead of a regular fighting fish. You see, Plakat Betta fish have some distinct advantages:
Typically, all Bettas prefer less current. In the wild, such as in their native Thailand, they prefer very slow-moving current or still water.
However, in our experience, Plakats may be able to hold up to current in a community aquarium. Their shorter finned bodies don’t weigh them down as much as a regular betta’s fins do.
Simply put, their stout, strong body is more muscular and able to propel them against the current. This can make Plakats stronger swimmers and better suited to the average community environment.
Fins That are Less Attractive to Nippers
As if that’s not enough, one of the downsides to keeping Bettas in a community tank is that you are limited in the types of tropical fish that you can keep with them. Any fish that may tend to nip at fins will find long, flowing fins to be irresistible.
However, since Plakat Bettas are shorter finned, they may be able to coexist with fish that would be too likely to nip at standard fighting fish fins.
Maybe More Active
We think that one of the reasons that many people enjoy Betta care is because of their interesting behavior. They tend to be more intelligent than many other types of community fish.
Turns out, they interact with their environment in interesting ways, moving up and down the water column as they search for various foods. They may even take naps in specially designed hammocks or large leaves.
On the other hand, standard Bettas are often tired out by moving around with their very large and decorative fins. They may not be as active as a result.
Since Plakat Betta fish don’t have these large fins to slow them down and wear them out, you may get to see more of their interesting behavior.
Resistance to Fin Rot
Perhaps best of all in our opinion, Plakat Bettas generally tend to be a bit more resilient to disease. This is especially true when it comes to fin rot.
You see, the short, strong fins of the Plakats are much less likely to succumb to fin rot. They may also have been bred to be more resilient for fighting in Thailand and other countries where they are fought.
Plakat Betta Care
We have found that Plakat Bettas are quite easy to care for and very hardy. If you want a fish species that you can enjoy without having to constantly worry about them succumbing to the smallest changes in their environment or variations in pH or temperature, this is the fish for you. No wonder these fish may be a great match for the community aquarium.
That said, to keep your Plakats as healthy and happy as possible and get the most from them, you’ll want to follow the guidelines we layout here.
Minimum Tank Size
Too often, all types of Betta, including Plakats, are kept in tiny spaces, often no more than a small vase of water. While they can survive in this type of environment for a time thanks to how they evolved in the wild of Thailand, it will shorten their lifestyle and make them more susceptible to disease.
Furthermore, you won’t be able to see many of the interesting behavior that Plakats can exhibit when they are kept in this way. In fact, Plakats kept in a very small space with minimal environmental factors to engage them may even seem to be depressed, often doing nothing but lying listlessly at the bottom. What does this mean for you?
Plakats can do fine in a smaller space than most aquarium fish. In case you might be asking yourself, there are very few other species that can live in a space as small as 5 gallons. This is because in their native Thailand, these freshwater fish evolved living in very small puddles and rice paddies in environments that flooded, enabling them to tolerate stagnant water more easily than most species.
In our experience, 5 gallons is enough room for Plakats to swim around and interact with their environment. It also provides enough water that water stability won’t be as much of a problem as in a smaller space.
Specially designed filters can be found to provide good water quality without adding too much flow.
Conditions for Larger Enclosures
It’s true that if it is possible for you to go larger than 5 gallons, your Plakats will thank you for it.
Plakats can do perfectly well even in very large community enclosures. However, they do prefer shallower water since they need to have access to the air to breathe.
If you are keeping this fish in a deeper environment, we recommend that you provide lots of driftwood and decor so that your fish can rest higher in the water column, closer to the surface. It is essential for your fish’s health that access to the air is available. We don’t advise tightly fitted lids.
Plant the Aquarium Heavily
Think about it: Bettas come from densely vegetated environments. No wonder Plakat Bettas do best in tanks with lots of plants similar to what they’d find in rice puddles in the wild. If you don’t want to put in the work and pay the price required for a planted aquarium, we recommend artificial decor to provide the effects of a densely vegetated environment.
On the other hand, live plants offer some advantages in maintaining better water quality which Plakat Bettas will benefit from. Since Plakat Bettas do not eat vegetation at all, you won’t have to worry about them destroying your decorations.
Use an Appropriate Filter
We have found that Plakat Bettas can handle more water flow than regular Betta, so you have more options in choosing an appropriate filter for these fish than you otherwise would. Simply put, they are more tolerant of current but still do not like lots of current and agitation in the tank.
We recommend specially designed filters that are powered by air pumps or offer very adjustable flow to provide the right level of current. In case you might be asking yourself, “But I want more flow in my community tank,” you can create pockets of lower flow using driftwood and other aquarium decorations.
The Plakat Betta fish is a strong enough swimmer that they can move in and out of the current and rest in their low current pockets when needed.
Maintain pH and Water Hardness
By now, you should be realizing just how hardy Plakats are. No wonder Plakats are also extremely tolerant in the pH and water hardness that they can thrive in. We think these fish do best with a pH between 6 and 7.5 and hardness between 2 to 12 dKH. However, it is important that pH does not fluctuate dramatically.
As long as pH is consistent, these fish do well in very acidic to fairly hard water. And the good news? This is a huge advantage in the community tank since you can pair your Plakat Betta fish with a number of different other fish species that require specific pH without doing any harm to your fish.
If you are optimizing your aquarium specifically for the needs of a fighting fish, we recommend that you lean more towards acidic water. You can make your water more acidic by adding lots of driftwood or using a peat pocket in the filter cartridge.
There are products commercially available to lower the ph as well, but these products can be dangerous to use since they tend to cause dramatic changes in the pH. Furthermore, their effects tend to be temporary and require regular redosing.
Maintain Temperatures from 72 to 82 Degrees
We’ve found that Betta fish do best in consistently warmer water. It is important that water temperature not fluctuate too much throughout the day and night, as this will stress your fish and may cause disease to be more likely.
Turns out, it is best to use a heater and thermometer to ensure that temperatures are kept at the appropriate levels.
Feeding Plakat Bettas
Plakat Bettas are strictly carnivorous, preferring to prey on live foods. What does this mean for you? It means that you can keep them in a planted tank without having to worry about them destroying your plants. On the other hand, it’s very important to choose a diet designed specifically for Plakats or other carnivorous fish when you are choosing food for your Betta.
We’ve found that most fish respond very well to pellet diets, which are less likely to contaminate a small aquarium than flake food. It’s a very good idea to supplement your Plakat Betta’s diet with live foods as well.
Turns out that live food has nutritional benefits and also enables natural behavior to enrich their captive lives which is also fun for you to watch. Bloodworms, microworms, daphnia, and copepods are all excellent options. If live food is difficult to find, consider frozen options to benefit your fish’s health.
We’ve found that in a well-established planted tank with good water parameters, you may even be able to get copepods to reproduce naturally and establish a population in the tank. What does this mean for you? Your fish can continuously hunt for prey in a way that’s very natural to how they would do in the wild.
Keeping the Plakat Betta as a Community Fish
Turns out, it is a common misconception that fighting fish are never peaceful and can’t live with any other fish. In fact, they can typically do fine with a wide variety of community fish and invertebrates such as shrimp. They are much more peaceful than most people expect.
On the other hand, Plakat Bettas will eat any fish or invertebrate that they can fit in their mouth.
They will also behave aggressively against any fish that looks to them like a betta. Therefore, it is important to avoid any fish that are brightly colored with flowing fins, such as some types of gouramis, fancy guppies, etc.
However, we think Plakats do very well with peaceful community fish that do not have flowing fins, like most species of tetra, bottom-dwelling fish like Cory and catfish, and less showy livebearers like platies and mollies. And that’s just one side of the story. They also do very well with decorative shrimp, like cherry shrimp, provided the shrimp are big enough to not fit in their mouth.
Fish species that are prone to nipping are much less likely to nip at a Plakat Betta’s fins than they would with a standard betta. Nevertheless, fin nipping can still be an issue, so it’s important to avoid fish that tend to be aggressive. If a fish becomes aggressive towards your Plakat Betta, your Betta will very likely be more than willing to take up the fight, resulting in a lot of unrest within your aquarium.
Simply put, if you’ve made a mistake in putting your Plakat Betta fish with a fish that they are not compatible with, you’ll find out very quickly. Your Plakat Betta will flare their gills, puff up, and begin charging and nipping at the offending fish.
We think they are very determined in their attack, and will often keep attacking until the offending fish is trying to jump right out of the tank.
Nevertheless, provided you search out the right tank mates for your Plakat Betta, you will likely find you have a very peaceful aquarium. Plakat Betta don’t tend to be very aggressive with other fish as long as they do not view them as a betta and they are not prone to fin nipping or aggressive displays.
Breeding Plakat Bettas
We think that breeding Plakat Bettas is not exceptionally difficult, since they tend to be very good parents, especially males. However, success requires on careful observation of your pair and good food before breeding. In our experience, first-time parents are typically not as effective and you may have more issues with eggs or fry being consumed.
If this happens, just wait some time and try it again. Your Plakat Bettas will likely do much better on the second go-around.
- Set up and cycle your breeding tank. The tank is should be very shallow, no more than five inches, since newly hatched fry may struggle to get to the top and breathe in air. Do not use any kind of substrate on the bottom so that it will be easier for malesto spot eggs and put them in the bubble nest. However, it is a good idea to use lots of moss and some plants so that females can hide when she wants to.
- Put the male and female on either side of a divider. It may be better to choose a red stud since females seem to prefer red to blue mates. Observe their behavior carefully to see if they are displaying breeding behavior. The male should flare up and begin to build his bubble nest. The female should form vertical bars across her body and also deepen in color. It’s best to leave them at least overnight.
- Remove the divider and observe. They will conduct a breeding dance that involves lots of chasing and hiding. Eventually, they will intertwine and your female will drop eggs. The male will pick up the eggs and put them in the nest.
- Remove the female. Once the eggs are released, remove the female since the male does the egg raising duty.
- Remove the male once the fry is free-swimming. The male will care for the eggs and then the fry over the next several days. He will put any eggs or fry that fall out of the nest back in it. He may eat some eggs that were not fertilized properly so that they do not contaminate the nest. When the fry is swimming on their own, remove the male and begin to provide standard betta care by giving them very small portions of food.
Try Out The Plakat Betta For Yourself
Plakat Bettas may not be as showy or as popular as the standard varieties of Betta, but we think they are extremely interesting and beautiful freshwater fish that can be a wonderful addition to a small planted tank or even a larger community tank. Try out keeping Plakat Betta for yourself or even breeding them to find out just how interesting they can be.
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