Siamese fighting fish confirmed as national aquatic animal

Siamese fighting fish confirmed as national aquatic animal

This file photo taken on Dec 23, 2018 shows a Siamese fighting fish swimming in a tank at the Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery in Bangkok. (AFP photo)
This file photo taken on Dec 23, 2018 shows a Siamese fighting fish swimming in a tank at the Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery in Bangkok. (AFP photo)

Tiny, testy and eye-catching with a colourful fin plumage, the Siamese fighting fish was on Tuesday confirmed as Thailand's national aquatic animal.

Known in the West as a betta fish, the underwater brawler is popular in home aquariums for its iridescent body and many-hued tail.

The government said in a statement that the cabinet greenlighted a proposal for the "fighting fish to be the national fish", citing its historical and cultural significance.

The fish’s evolutionary elevation was previously approved on Dec 20 by the National Identity Committee and on Jan 22 by the National Cultural Committee.

It brings up feelings of nostalgia for older generations in Thailand -- which changed its name from Siam in 1939. They remember a time when the fish were traded and sparred in childhood games.

"Most Thais when they were young, especially in rural areas, caught the fish from canals and ponds," Sakda Sihapat, a caretaker at the Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery in Samut Prakhan, told AFP.

The gallery is a 15-minute trip from Bangkok by boat across the Chao Phraya river -- said to be the betta's native swimming grounds.

But Thailand's waterways have changed over the years with agricultural and commercial development driving out local species.

Children looking for the fish today will mostly see it in pet shops.

"You have to go to a really virgin swamp to find this fish, and there aren't any anymore," Sakda said.

Thailand's official national animal is the elephant.


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