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The Story of Plakat Thai
The purpose of this page is to represent the long going of Thais traditional rearing and keeping of Betta splendens or more famous Siamese fighting fish.
I use editorial method to presenting the story. I will use hyperlink to clarify some details. This can be pictures, comment, explanation, or even kidding. All materials in this page may take from archives in library. In this case I will print the author name, issued information of that documents. I may translate articles from Thai language into English language. Some article may come from my discussion with the hardcore breeder. In these two later cases you may get trouble with my English language. I will be very glad if anyone help me to correct them.
When starting this project I plan to write everything by myself what I have been practice, read from the old documents in library, summarized discussion from other experienced breeder. During collecting all material, I have learned from Betta fan in the internet that some people who keep Betta do not like or even anti-fighting fish. This cause me sick and vacillating me for several weeks. In fact I almost give up this project and thinking about to delete this topic from my main page. However, it is something like many worms moving in my head. I was thinking about the lost story of Siamese cat, Thai hunting dog. They are from the THAI great traditional intellectual heritage, they are famous in the myth, many people have them but they know very little about its origin. You may ask, why should I care for? It is just a pet that I can buy from anywhere. Yes, if you ask similar question to a gardener of public garden, "why should you care for all those plant". She/he will humbling tell you that, this is my pride duty, I enjoy to look after these plants but I am more enjoyable to perceiving the happiness of visitor and the realization of its existing. So I decided to continues my work, the primary reason is, it is my duty as a Thais Siamese fighting fish knowledgeable to tell the true story of this fascinating fish. The second is, there are some misconceptions about Siamese fighting fish prevailing somewhere in the magazine or internet, especially the statement, "THEY FIGHT TO THE DEATH". For me this is so painful statement. I can say that it is the tell story of the teller or hearer imaginative beyond the truth. As long as my fighting fish experiences are concern:
Fighting fish is the process of selection of best specimen, only the winner is chosen to be bred, cross breed with a female of another winner batch. The out come of descendant Bettas are the tough fish, able to live in 25 C to 38 C in the direct tab water and no chemical used, etc.
The third is, to prevent the misconception that every Betta is the best fighting creature. This point is so important and summing up all my intention of this page.
Editorial Note: This article from the Thai Fisheries Gazette (Thai language), issued January 2510 (1967). Reprinted from Holiday Time in Thailand, Vol. 49, No. 3. In which the original issued I do not see yet.
My first intention to reprint this article is for historical note, and to answer the selective process of Siamese fighting fish in Thailand, please understand that I do not advocate the method of fighting fish. If the reader consider this article is a promotion of fighting fish please let me know I will take it into consideration seriously whether to withdraw it out.
I do not sure that who was written such this short and clear article. From many points that I can notice, I think that she/he is not a Thais. But the writer could express the way of practicing with prakad Thai very well.
To making clear to the reader I made the hyperlink in some keyword for my personal commends. However, do not upset if nothing there, I just kidding
Finally this section is a public open, if reader have some useful article please send them to me I will publish your article with the writer name and the source.
Flashing fins, gorgeous gills and thorny tails stirring up a tempest in a bottle of water. They belong to two of the toughest, littlest species of fish in the world. Siamese fighting fish.
The scene is at one of the few remaining spots where fish-fighting takes place regularly, in the outskirts of Bangkok. No fish-fighting is permitted within the city limits.
The arena is a shed with open sides inside the compound of the proprietor who is giving a license to operate it. There is also a fightingcock pit in the same compound.
The owner lives in the wooden house in front of the fighting-fish arena and the pit. He also sells rice and other cooked food and refreshments to the enthusiasts of both sports.
Every Sunday, from 7 a.m. till 6 p.m., a large orderly crowd gathers in the compound, paying a gate admission of two baht each. The owner gets ten percent of stakes.
Fighting-fish breeders bring their champions and favorites in little bottles of water, each in one bottle. Before a contest, bottles of fish are placed alongside one another so that two possible adversaries may watch one another. Their reactions will be noted with particular interest by their owners and by the enthusiasts who will base their bets on impressions at these encounters with the glass of two bottles coming between the potential opponents.
When a fight is agreed upon between the owners, each of the adversaries is spooned out of its bottle in a receptable and carefully put into a large tall bottle. When it is in a bottle by itself a fighting fish is not extraordinary - looking and appears to be like any other small fish. However, when it faces an opponent, it transforms into a wonderfully beautiful creature.
It irradiates with exotic colors. Its gills become extended. Its fins flare up. Its tail spreads out. Every part is radiant and vibrant. (Figure I)
The adversaries lose no time in getting at one another. They bite-and sometimes their mouths are locked for minutes, even hours, while they move up and down the water in the bottle, struggling.
They are vicious with one another and relentless in their assaults. They chew off pieces of each other, gills, fins, tails, scale. The little bits of fish bitten off sink through the water.
No quarter is given in the battle in the battle between these courageous creatures. They fight to the death. Sometimes they fight the whole day without a decisive decision. A drawn fight (which is a fight that carries on until closing time without either being killed) is rare.
Enthusiasts watch a fish fight with discernment. They know the vital parts of a fish which, when attacked, may cost its life, and their bets are placed according to their estimates of the fighters in the progress of the battle (bets are also made in the course of a fight).
Even persons who have watched fish fights for years can still watch them with fascination and absorbing interest.
The fighting fish that goes to the professional battles is a thoroughbred. It has been carefully bred and crossbred.
There are various varieties of fighting fish, and each has dominant color-purple, green, red.
The natural habitats of the Siamese fighting fish are the ponds and marshes of Thailand. There are two chief kinds of Siamese fighting fish- Plakad lukmoh and Plakat pah (Plakad is the Thai name of fighting fish). The former kind can hardly be fond in the natural habitats today but it is bred by enthusiasts and is sold sometimes for two to three baht. The Plakad lukmoh is a tough guy which does not know the meaning of defeat.
Plakad pah abounds everywhere, even in the canals in Bangkoks twin city of Thonburi. This species has a longer body but it has no stamina for prolonged battles.
Plakad lukmoh and Plakad pah have been cross-bred.
A Siamese fighting fish is no more than five centimeters in length and no more than one centimeter in width. It may be caught in the ponds and marshes with the use of nets or sieves with tiny holes. When caught, the fish should be put into bottles of water. Pond water is better than water from the pipes at home.
Only the males are fighters. They may be distinguished from the females by their more brilliant colors, longer tails and bigger fins.
For breeding purposes, a female with eggs is placed in a bottle of water with the selected male so that they may get acquainted for one or two months.
When the female shows signs of bearing her eggs, a basin of water should be prepared. The basin should have a diameter of one meter. Some marsh vegetable and water plants should be placed in the basin. The basin should be kept away from a place where rainwater may fall into it.
Both the male and the female should then be placed in the basin. The male will chase the female until the female gets tired. It will then encircle the female with its tail around the abdomen. The eggs will drop out of the female. The male will then spit out sperm to fertilize the eggs which will be protected in bubbles. (Figure II)
It is strange but the female will try to eat up the eggs. The male will prevent the female from doing so. The female should be taken out of the basin and the male should be left to take care of the eggs until the little fish are hatched.
When the fish is hatched it is fed with tiny red plankton. When it grows bigger it is fed larvae of mosquitoes. When it is six to seven months old it is ready to fight.
The fighting fish has to undergo training. It is pitched against other fish in its own camp. Its owner churns the water in its bottle so that in swimming against the currents it strengthens itself for battle.
Then it is taken to the arena.
The quest to the origin
Editorial Note: I wrote this article by myself. The reader may get confusing with my non-mature English, please be patient for me. This article is about searching the origin of long fin Betta splendens. To find out how did long fin Betta come into. At this moment, I never discuss this topic with any biologist. Actually this is my personal interesting, but I think there are at least some Betta fan thinking the same as mine. The source of this topic come from my discussing with the local breeder, reading some books, and my own imagination. You may think that this segment of article so naive. I am fully agree and I am earnestly looking for the better explanation. When I was ten years old I always asked myself that "Where was Plakat Cheen (Long fin Betta splendens) came from". When I went to net the wild caught Betta, I always got the Striped Croaking Gourami with the Betta in my net. I simply concluded that "Oh yes long fin Betta come from Pla Krim" ("Pla" mean fish and "Krim" mean Striped Croaking Gourami). Today I am still believing!!!.
The purpose of this article is to raise the challenging question to the origin of Betta splendens. I try to setup the various possible hypothesis to open the way of thought for others researcher to discover its origin. What does Betta splendens distinct from others fish development?
First, Betta splendens was the outcome of the long streamline development of the first Thais aquarium fish, it is the native intellectual not the harmonized fish, no modern genetic technology is relevant. Second, Betta splendens developed from human-social interaction process, it is the success of exchanging knowledge of Thai peasant club, the traditional exchange intellectual. One claims that fighting fish was recognized for 600 years ago in the era of Sukhothai Empire, the first Capital of Thailand. The antecedent breeder or in fact the farmer learn by observation, test their hypothesis, and finalize with fought the fishes with the challenger. They were formed a group as breeding and fighting fish club. They were transmitting theirs Betta knowledge or software in close communication manner. By told his technique to his most trusted person to carry on his discovered Betta keeping and rearing technique. In order to keep his technique to be sacred discipline snake bones Do not tell to anyone, this is the top secret to made your fish superior to the challenger (this tradition still going on nowadays). By this way it made Thai's Betta development so unique, but on the other hand it becomes repetitive breeding practice or in other word, no progress in breeding. You can see the very obvious evident that show quality of long fin Betta in America continental far ahead from Thai long fin Betta.
Today the most serious fighting fish breeders still are in the lines of Peasant Society. My duty is to made their voice echo and exhibit their cache. So that their treasure knowledge are in the streamlines of Thai history and now in the NET.
In Thailand when speaking of Plakat, there are two distinguished types of Plakat Thai. One is short fin and another is long fin. Most of the Siamese fighting fish writer argued that both two types were developed from wild caught Betta. Wild caught Betta that 40 years backward were available in almost all area of flooded land and ditch in the rice field.
Surprisingly, how did long fin Betta come into? There is no question in short fin type. Because if you observing the wild Bettas colors and pattern. The different is only theirs size. No doubt that Thai breeder only made them bigger in every part of theirs organism, most of all theirs aggressiveness. However, the proverb you can not get everything is always hold true. What are Betta splendens both long fin and short fin lose theirs way during development? And I think they will never have? Wild Betta has very good balance shape from the mouth lips to the end of the fins, the neon brighten scale and fin and the most impressive of stylist flaring and dancing, no splendens could be matched. OK let made it short, the different between wild Betta and Betta splendens is only theirs size. But how about long fin Betta splendens? It is like another Betta specie. Though scientist declared that it is the same specie of short fin Betta splendens. I myself never see one of long fin Betta in a short fin batch. I always question the origin of the long fin Betta to the breeder I met all the time. Nobody knows, as many as breeders I have questioned them. They were answering the same, I saw these two type of Bettas since I was sensing the world. Western aquarium text also cannot answer this question, Where the large fins come from, I have no idea.[Christopher W. Coates. Tropical Fishes for a Private Aquarium. 1950: p.137). The oldest breeder I have interview him is 80 years old, the answer is the same. It is the Betta mythology I am interesting to tracking the answer.
There are five tell stories about the come into of long fin Betta:
One Pseudo breeding story. This technique believe that the female Betta will absorb the color and shape from her environment and relay to her baby. Using pseudo breeding technique, suppose you want yellow Bettas in your breeding stock. The technique suggest to paint a yellow color long fin male Betta on the white paper and attach it to the female bottle, no real male Betta in use. About 1 2 month take this female mating with any colors of male Betta. The breeding outcome stock are, some Bettas color and shape similar to painted Betta, some similar to mother, some similar to father etc. This breeding technique also applicable to the intensive breeding color selection. You may apply this method by using yellow paper attached every side of females bottle. After getting the first stock of slightly long fin yellow color. The breeder will select the yellow male long fin inbreed with the same yellow long fin female. By this continues process the long fin Betta will gradually developed.
Two Intensive breeding story. The pseudo breeding story using environmental explanation approach. An intensive-breeding story using sociological explanation approaches.
There were many written script in Thai language said that the first stock of Long fin Betta Splendens took place a hundred year ago. In western script the first appearance of long fin in San Francisco supporting above assumption.
"In Siam the fighting fish is bred just as are fighting cocks, and in the hundreds of years that the sport has been carried on, special breeds have been developed. None of these "domesticated" fighters reached us until 1928, when two shipments arrived in San Francisco from Bangkok. These fishes, with their tremendous veil-like fins, caused a furor in the aquarium world. One type was dark, with red fins. These "veil tails," bred together and interbred with the wild type and with other long-tailed stock received later from Siam via Germany,.." [Lucile Quarry Mann, Tropical fish, New York. 1954]
If we hold the Thai source and above reference are trues. This means that American in general knew long fin Betta splendends after at least 30 years of succeed breeding. I am strongly agreed that long fin Betta were developed from short fin Betta splendens in which have been developed from Betta caught from the wild.
Come back to my starting point, if the long fin Betta was a human breed or human creature product. The sociological explanation aspect must taking into consideration more or less. Why because hundred year ago we did not bred fish for the commercial purpose. We bred them for fun, whether for gambling or just a pet. (It is really totally different from today, the development of breeding of fishes that we do come from a commercial drive and wealth motive). Now my point come into, there is no doubt that boy having short fin fighter as his father or uncle or brother do. But how about the girl, what type of fish she may have. The short fin fighter was too cruel for her to have them(do not forget that in that day men have short fin Bettas for fighting purpose only). She just wanted some pet that can live with her in the hut as a boy did and it must be relating to an availability in her society. The long fin Betta splendens was come about, the breeder that could be her father or her uncle INTENT to breed the long fin type for his girl. The first speciemen stock I believed may selected from the distinguished longer fin in the short fin batch. I am believed that the long tail as we seeing today was gradually expanding from one family to another and from breeder to another. The development of long fin begun when the girl took her fish showing off to her friends. Her friend whose also had her relative breeding fighting fish must asking and requesting her father or her uncle to breed the long fins type. Now I think the reader can imagine what will be going on.
The habit to breeding special fishes for their children come along even today. In every breeding place most of the breeder must have one batch for their children. Some breed for the special colors, some breed the hybrid type (short fin type cross bred with wild type), for their children taking them to fight with his friend's fish. The purpose of breeding hybrid is for using them to fighting with the wild caught Betta, the later type of Betta do not have prolong fighting habit, whereas hybrid type have.
I think that, in the very beginning long fin type have had only in the local show may be somewhere outside or around Bangkok province. The commercial interest took this type of fish spreading over an aquarist club. The price in those day as I quote: "Two or three years ago, really good specimens of aquarium-raised Betta Splendens were quite expensive, as much as thirty dollars being paid for one pair."[Christopher W. Coates. Tropical Fishes for a Private Aquarium. 1950: p.138).
Today Thai girl favor to have long fin type for show whereas her brother likes to have short fin for fighting.
Three Originated from China. The third story using the linguistic approach, an interpretation of the term. This theory believed the "NAME" imply its existance and its meaning and meaning imply its reality. This story based solely from the NAME (in Thailand we call Long fin Betta splendens is "Plakat Cheen". This words can be translating as "Chinese fighting fish"(Plakat = fighting fish, Cheen = China, Chinese). As it name imply, the long fin Betta splendens come from China or at least it has some implication relevant to the China say Chinese breeder. I have heard some body said that one of a Chinese monk breeder in Thailand was a first person who introduced the long fin Betta to the aquarist's world.
There are three implications for Plakat Cheen, First, is Cheen mean Country or China. This means that long fin Betta splendens originated from China, and were bought to Thailand by merchant or sailors. Thailand and China have very good merchandise relationship many hundreds year ago. However, all Thai's source (both text and verbal) deny this possibility and state that it is a simply borrowing the term.
Second, is Cheen mean person or Chinese. This can be Chinese monk and Chinese laymen or Chinese breeder. I have heard by unexpectedly from the television few months ago that the first person who introduces long fin type is Chinese monk about 100 years ago. Another source came from aquarist scientist in Thailand said that the Chinese breeder was the first person succeeds breeding long fin Betta. I personally favor this explanation, it seem consistent with what I have thought back in the past. The long fin Betta not for fighting but for show and it has a hidden motivation, the commercial purpose. Chinese breeders were very famous in discovering the new strain of fishes. They were the first pilot group introduced fishes as an aquarium pet, for example, Koi, Gold fish, guppy etc... The fact was the Thai's short fin breeder did not sell his fighter to stranger or for show. He afraid off people will spoiled his breed lines either wrong practice of rearing and keeping or an opponent spy. (Do not forget that in those days the quality of fishes come along with the breeder name and the fish fought for money). The Chinese breeder could see the gold in this flaring fish and even foresee that if they could develop them more colorful and longer fin they can sold them as a mass product. When I was young I have seen the long fin Betta selling every where in the pet shop or in the market. The seller was Chinese family and they never talked about its fighting quality. The development of long fin Betta was the myth because in Chinese tradition they will never told the secret of theirs family profession to an outsider.
Third, is Cheen was the comparative conception about China or metaphoric term, say anything concerning China call Cheen. For example, speaking loud as a Chinese, her eyes like Chinese lady eyes, decorative design Chinese like. etc
(to be continued)
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