betta communtiy
Members of the UAE Pinoy Betta Club (UPBC), including Genuino (seated fifth from left) at the Saturday fighter fish beauty contest in Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A beauty pageant for fighter fishes in Dubai? You “betta” believe it because that is what a group of “betta” fish enthusiasts organised at a shopping centre here on Saturday.

Also known as Siamese fighting fish, betta is a group of small, brilliantly coloured, long-finned freshwater bony fishes of southeastern Asia.

Bettas are extremely territorial and typically flare their fins and gills in a display of aggression or dominance when they see another fish. When they flare or puff up their gill flaps and fins, bettas make themselves appear larger than they are. The more their flaring, the more awesome these shimmering aquatic wonders are considered to be.

The UAE Pinoy Betta Club (UPBC), which started out as a Facebook community group of Betta lovers, organised the unique pet show of betta fishes at as part of their third anniversary celebrations.

The Best of the Show Grand Champion, a Halfmoon Betta, owned by Arnel Edayan. Image Credit: Supplied

The event brought together several betta fish enthusiasts, breeders and curious onlookers. As many as 200 shiny fighter fishes showed off their beauty as judges prompted them with mirrors and flare sticks to get them to flare up, said Chris Owen Genuino, founder of the UPBC group, who happens to work as a creative director at an ad agency.

The runner-up, a Crowntail Betta, owned by Romar Balangao and Neal Angeles. Image Credit: Supplied

He said the pageant aimed to celebrate these colourful fishes and promote responsible breeding practices within the hobby.

Betta fish is not meant for just anyone with a fish bowl or home aquarium, according to Genuino.

“This one is exclusive. It has a niche market. You cannot just have a betta fish from the pet shop and keep it at home just like that. It needs special treatment, special water, special things to feed, and special kind of grooming.”

Betta grooming is a skill that betta lovers develop as they delve deep into the hobby of keeping and breeding this fish which has various classes. Their prices range from Dh150 to Dh3,500 or more depending on their exquisite looks.

During the show, judges looked for the fighting postures, the vibrancy of their colours, shapes of their fins etc. There were rewards for bettas in various classes and divisions.

Special prizes were given away to the Best of the Show Grand Champion, a Halfmoon Betta owned by Arnel Edayan and to the runner-up, a Crowntail Betta owned by Romar Balangao and Neal Angeles.

How the group was formed

An ardent betta enthusiast, Genuino started the FB group to connect with likeminded betta lovers in this part of the world during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when more people sought the company of different types of pets at home.

What started off as a small FB group, including co-founders Ray Escobar, Ed Seguido and Vic Vega by mid-2020, has now grown to become a community of more than 2,600 followers from different nationalities.

“We wanted to be an authentic group and we are the only group from this part of the world to be a member of the International Betta Congress (IBC),” Genuino told Gulf News.

The USA-based IBC is a worldwide union of betta lovers and breeders. UPBC represents the IBC Area 5, Middle East.

Once the group became big, Genuino said they wanted to hold pageants for their pets to show off their beauty.

“We see dog shows and cat shows. So we thought, why not shows for our bettas also?”

He said pet shops and aquariums have been supporting the group to organise shows.

“We are thankful to Famous Pets which supported us in our latest event,” Genuino added.