ANDERSON — Aquamarine, orange, purple and white, inch-long Betta fish danced in small containers stacked in tiers during the Midwest Betta Club’s Spring Show on Saturday at Hollywood Estates Clubhouse in Anderson.
“It takes my stress away,” said Mohan Balakrishnan, 37, of Sterling Heights, Mich. “It’s one way of getting my stress out. I’d call them ‘beauty and the beast.’ Originally they were raised for fighting.”
Balakrishnan, a computer analyst for AAA, won best-of-show in the overall female class. A native of India, and U.S. resident for about a decade, he said he’s been raising the fish since he was a child, but only started competitively showing his Bettas for about the last two years.
“Right from the beginning, we always had fish in the house,” Balakrishnan said. “But what attracted me to Betta is the challenge of breeding them. To raise them to show-quality, you have to spend several hours a day with them.”
Tracy Benson, chairwoman for Saturday’s show, said this was the third year the club held the event in Anderson. There were more than 300 entrants, and about 20 people attended. Most of the entries were mailed to the show.
“They get bagged up and they’ll do fine,” Benson said, “as long as they stay wet. They come in from Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Chicago.
“There are people who have hundreds to thousands in their homes.”
Dan Young, Midwest Betta Club president and show judge, said the hobby is popular because fish need little space and they are hardy yet attractive.
“The color,” Young said of why people are drawn to Betta. “Their beauty, obviously. They’re feisty. They have a lot of flair. It’s not something where you need a lot of money to keep them.”
But big bucks can be spent. Saturday’s event also included an auction, and both Young and Benson said some fish, which live for a few years, can sell for as high as several hundred dollars each.
“Which is a lot for a small fish with a short life and not guaranteed breeding capacity,” Young said. “It’s like anything else. People want the best. It’s all relative to what it is.”