The Betta or Siamese Fighting Fish


“Betta” by Nguo at deviantart

It’s Temic Tuesday, folks, and I have to report that a new member of our family arrived last week!

For some reason, it hit me while perusing the plastic cups and laundry detergent aisles that I really needed a fish. My kids would love a fish!

So, we found the lonely guy sitting on a shelf.  Now, I’m aware that these guys fight other fish and must be separated out, but all the other fish were allowed ample space in the cleanest, most will lit square mansions, with plenty of company and lots of decorations on the spacious back wall.  

The Betta fish, on the other hand, were on an actual aisle. They were stacked in soup containers with no decorations, one on top of the other, and sandwiched between the packages and boxes of aquarium equipment. While my two young spawn were eyeing the pretty rainbow colored and golden colored fish, swimming madly about each other like kids on a playground, I was rooting for the trouble makers in the other aisle.

I know it’s supposed to be just a fish with a ten minute memory, but it made me feel awful. My mind was filled with the notion that they might not have eaten since yesterday, if someone remembered they were there. So, I decided to save one of these poor beings.  I convinced the boys that these were “better” fish, and even made sure with the employee that helped us that the fish had not been starved before I left, because I wasn’t really sure I could leave the store without being sure. So, our Betta fish came home with us.

My son being the adorable child that he is named our new Crown tailed Betta “Mario Kart 7” because that’s how a four year old’s mind works.  Far be it from me to deny him that super exciting responsibility of christening a living creature, but I went ahead and shortened it to the more bearable “Mario” so that I could say his name out loud without cringing.

This week’s totem animal musing is therefore dedicated to this beautiful creature.   Let’s see what I have found out about Mario and why I might have had the strange impulse to buy a fish at Wal-Mart…

The Siamese Fighting Fish, or Betta, is native to the rice fields and flood basins of Vietnam, Guam, Cambodia, and Laos. They are carnivorous and aggressive and were actual used as fighting fish to entertain. In the wild, a Betta fight ended when one of them backed off, but in captivity, they are more aggressive.  What I love about these guys, though, is that they have really great dads!

A male Betta will make a bubble nest when he’s happy (and currently Mario is nestled at the top of his water making more bubbles than kids at a picnic). If he has a female, he’ll wrap all those beautiful fins around her and catch all the eggs that she drops. He will actually go down to the bottom and rescue the fallen ones and bring them back to the safety of the bubbles. He releases a chemical to fertilize the eggs and then runs mom off before she can eat her babies.

If a male Betta doesn’t have a female around, he’ll still make a nest, like mine does, and snuggles in. In fact, he prefers to be a bachelor, and only wants a girl around for one thing, apparently!  This fish definitely likes his comfort!

The Betta Fish as a Totem

There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot out there. Most totem information online and in print seems to focus on the typical animals…bear, lion, horse, eagle….and forget about the tiny little ones that can mean a great deal!  I did find a couple of ideas online, and I’ve given credit to those sites at the end.

All fish teach adaptation and independence and are connected to the creative forces of water. When Fish entered your life as a Totem, it will often signal the onset of greater contact with the spiritual realm and may be accompanied by dreams, visions, or clairaudience.  Because the water is an intuitive force, and is largely mysterious to us, the fish is a symbol of the subconscious mind and of the unknown.

The only information I found specifically about Betta or Siamese Fighting Fish is that they are related to the protection of boundaries in relationships. They are a warrior spirit and can symbolize solitude and the confrontation of the ego.

So, why did I feel the need to buy a fish all of a sudden? I’m not a fish person and I have no other pets in my house because I’d long since given up on that idea. My youngest has eczema and is allergic to every thing that touches his skin, the middle child just wants to play as long as it’s still, and my oldest can’t be bothered to play with or feed an animal. So, my one attempt so far to introduce furriness to our house went badly and I found another home for the poor dear.

Is there a spiritual awakening going on? 

Maybe, I’d just received my first Reiki treatment in 7 years and had let go of a lot of pent up trauma from difficult pregnancies and childbirth.  Mario loves Reiki, by the way. I am a Level I practitioner and don’t often get the chance to use it on others. He always swims toward my hand, chases my finger, and fans his beautiful crown fins when I touch his bowl with intentional Reiki when I say hello everyday. I think I’ve become a daily habit for him.

Is there a boundary issue in any of my relationships?

Well, suddenly a picture of my mother-in-law swam across my mental field of vision.  There’s always a competition issue there.  She’s a strong-willed person with a personality to fit a whole room.  I am non-confrontational. I always lose.

Is there a connection to creativity?

Oh, definitely!  This fledgling blog I started a few weeks ago is a way to connect my inner imaginative world in the book I’m writing to my everyday and to not let the muse go stale.

What about solitude and confrontation of the ego?

I’ll have think on that. I hate being alone and I’m not at all territorial.  But, is there any area where I need to confront myself?  Or maybe I am fighting myself?


Maybe I need to ask Mario!


Any animals come into your life recently?  Feel free to share!  If you do, I’ll be sure to feature your animal!



About Hope Graham

I am a writer, teacher, and theatre and travel enthusiast. I teach theatre in public schools. I love to read, write, play with my kids and play pretend all day long!
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One Response to The Betta or Siamese Fighting Fish

  1. Linette says:

    I just found your blog because I Was looking for this very thing! I am also not a fish person, but found myself buying and falling head over heels for a beautiful betta over this past weekend. I have recently been on a mission to include more fun and play time in my life, as well as creativity. I don’t know if my sweet Leonardo (da Vinci… a name that popped into my head as fully and beautifully appropriate) is an emissary to that end, but I don’t even I never thought I’d love a little fish so much, but life is full of surprises! Thanks so much for posting this piece, and I hope you are still enjoying your beautiful Mario 🙂


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