S'far as I've seen, betta most resemble cats. Sometimes hamsters, but mostly cats.
Anything you bring home, it's either edible, or something to sleep on, or something to shun with a fwip of that stylish tail and ignore - no matter how much you spent on it.
I say hamsters because I find that all of my boys have specific spots in their tank they go poop. The girls in my sorority dont seem to care much, as I find it - oh wait, right below the line where I feed them xP. But the boys definitely have their favourite cave or corner - much like a hamster has that ONE corner that's tugh and smelly and gross. Granted they get random, but there's always that concentration...
But these really arent all that makes betta complex with their behaviours.
Far from it.
Let's start with things I've noticed in my last several crazy months of going form one betta to twenty-two (will be twenty-four by end of April, weather allowing).
- Flaring is not just a threat display, or to show off to females. It's a form of subtle communication, and involves all the fins -- Dorsal spread, half, spread, twitched tot he side; ventrals straight out and down, or more spread, or tucked back; caudal twitched to the side, the wiggle-dance; the Eye...every fin and movement is a form of communication.
For example, when a great white shark is approached by a person, you can literally see them stop. They look at you, hunch they're backs, pectorals straight out and their body goes rigid - a warning to leave their territory.
Betta do this too. before they outright flare, they'll stop completely, hunch their backs and they're rigid, it's a warning.
But say a betta isn't rigid, slightly curved, has their dorsal twitched a little to the side and you can see their little ye flicking over you? Have you ever wondered what exactly they're trying to say? What they think?
- Another thing I noticed is there must be more than fins for communication;
I had two males in a split 10g. On and off they'd flare through the divider, but there were some times one would cruise by the divider while the other was in a cave. As soon as fin touched that divider, that other one from the cave was out and came to greet/challenge the one who had approached the divider first.
Was it a very subtle sound? Was it possible he recognized the other betta through a reflection of him through the plastic mesh I use for dividers?
Just how good are their hearing and eyesight? How sensitive are they to vibration? Has anyone else noticed that when you're home, your betta is awake and very happy to see you before you enter that specific room?
- Mood Swings; those who own chronic tail-biters may be most familiar with this, but I've read many cases where any betta just suddenly gets sulky.
Now, I won't pretty it up and say they have 'feelings' like we do. But I won't deny that a lot of animals we don't see as 'warm and cuddly' are easily affected by certain moods - stress for one thing is quite similar to ours. But there are bettas who only perk up when you change their scenery, or when they have another betta to be near. For such a solitary fish, they revel in being social - even if it's only to prove they're the biggest and baddest fish there.
Thus I've decided that thought they don't have a sense of self (they see themselves in mirrors, but don't react to it like it's a reflection, but as another fish - they don't recognize themselves; unlike dolphins in an experiment who showed signs of recognizing themselves in the mirror) BUT they do have a sense of individuality, and a sense of their world being bigger than them.
They arent completely enthralled by bubbles, or shiny stones, they don't swim lazilly in a current and filter feed on microscopic noms...they're very active, inquisisitve (often silly) fish. They constantly look out of their tanks into our world, and are often fascinated. They learn to recognize you, and know when you're going to feed them, when you're just going to sit by and do something else. Doesnt matter to them, you being nearby is the bare minimum of social interaction and they react to it well.
I've read stories where owners have talked to their betta, sang to them, even taught them tricks. They're smart little creatures, and they know when we want their attention - or well, they know when they want us to give them attention (note, cat-like...).
They may not 'feel' as we do, but they enjoy our companionship as much as we them. Yes, the basics of the relationship is set around food and good care - but I know you all have had your betta wiggle around and do zoomies and yawn as you take a photo or outright get upset with you. There's far more to them than a simple 'goldfish' relationship (no offense to goldfish lovers). You resemble more to a betta than simply a source of food. What exactly you mean to them may never actually be known, but I imagine if they could get out of their tanks and move around and not dry out...they'd be much like a cat.
Exploring. Being in your way in the very middle of what you're doing. Getting themselves into trouble. Sleeping on anything they desire. Attempting to nom anything they think looks tasty. And always interested in what you're doing.
In this thread I welcome members of the forum to post stories and examples proving the complex behaviors of your betta. I'm not really collecting data and information to prove anything, but think it would simply be nice to start a large reference source that will tell others more about these wonderful little guys and girls we love so much.