the animal planet betta show

The ANIMAL PLANET betta segment and how it came to be... Get the full scoop here... e...   




view the animal planet betta segment now!

Note: segment has been heavily compressed to make it internet friendly. I recommend resizing the video image down to about 1.5 inches across. This offers the best ratio of speed / image quality.You will need RealOne player in order to view the segment. Don't have it? Download it for free here.

The unexpected good news: YES!!! ANIMAL PLANET decided to feature bettas in their "The Most Extreme" series in 2002. I was pretty darn surprised and excited to receive an email from the network requesting my permission to film me and my bettas/fishroom for a betta related segment which should soon air in many countries around the world, including the U.S. 

Tuesday, February 19th, 2002: The Animal Planet van pulls in front of the BETTATALK main headquarters (my humble home ;P) and three nice gentlemen straight from New Zealand come out, carrying an impressive amount of filming gear. (Above left: Camera man, me, sound guy, and one of the producers of "The Most Extreme")

It is an invasion of cables, lights, booms, microphones, cameras and other devices that I would not even attempt to describe LOL. The crew just flew into LAX from their native New Zealand and must be jet lagged. They got stuck in traffic on the 405 freeway and are a bit behind schedule, so they eagerly get to work and set-up everything. Everyone is very nice, friendly and extremely professional. Paperwork to release the rights to film my bettas and air the segment are signed, and we immediately get to work.

The band: The network was especially interested in the fact that I am not your typical fish breeder type and wanted to film me and my band performing for a bit. So we set up the band in the living room and lit candles and performed a cut from our second album "IF" featuring the sitar. The crew hoped that the music would be incorporated as the musical background  to the segment, although in the end they had to edit it out. The head honchoes at the network were too short on time and had to cover 10 animals in less than 50mn, hence lack of time to feature live music as well :((. Oh well, I guess one cannot have it all (but I try all the time LOL). It still was a lot of fun performing for these guys who seemed to show a lot of interest in my sitar. And who knows they might use it for something else. (Above: ALTERNATE FAITH 4 band members with the ANIMAL PLANET crew- Simon (bass), moi (vocals, songwriting, guitar, sitar), Hyland (guitars, mandolin) and Darius (drums, world percussions). After a few takes, the band was done, band members dismissed and we moved on to bettas :).

Aggressive behavior: the network was primarily interested in the aggressive behavior of the Siamese Fighting Fish, so they requested to film them flaring. One of the shots showed how males will flare at their own reflection in the mirror (left). Geronimo's Grandson was picked for the job. If you guys purchased Apaches from my recent spawn, know that their sibling is a TV star now LOL.



Community tank shots and other betta related shots: The crew then filmed several of my tanks, including my opaques and the apache females during feeding, as well as betta related tasks I perform on a daily/weekly basis, such as water changes and the feeding of jarred bettas. It was fun to be part of this filming process, even if I had to do each task 3 times, so they would have three different angles of the same thing. My jarred apaches, featured in the "feeding of the jarred bettas" were pretty happy to get fed three times in a row that day. "Hey mom, can the nice ANIMAL PLANET people come here everyday??" LOL. 

Bettas breeding: We then filmed betta courtship and a bunch more individual males. We hoped to show as many beautiful color variations as possible within a 
3 minute betta segment. Only a few made the final cut, but white opaques, cambodians, black melanos as well as chocolates did make national TV :).

(left: The ANIMAL PLANET TV crew film me working on this illustrious website :))  )

Special thanks to Michael Rosen for his great help and contribution to this shoot.

Woaw, that was a lot of work!
And now it is getting late and the crew is real tired and ready to pack up and go to their hotel. I wondered whether I would ever see any of them again and felt a bit sad we had to say goodbye. What can I say, I admit it, I am very sentimental person (sigh). But as they say, even the best things must come to an end! So now we had immortalized the betta hobby and all we could do was to sit back, wait and keep our fingers crossed that the editors would like the piece and not edit it too much and show the world out there just how beautiful and fun our little finned friends bettas are. I hoped this would bring more people into our wonderful hobby and was both honored and grateful that ANIMAL PLANET picked little old me to promote the betta hobby on their television network. I also hoped that the bettas are not gonna start coping an attitude and ask for a fruit basket in their dressing room or something, cause I think this whole TV stardom thing got to their little fishie heads LOL :))))))))))))))))). 


Many months go by! It is now almost the end of summer and still no word. I am starting to think that the network turned us down or something :((... Then I get an email. ANIMAL PLANET has approved the betta segment and it will indeed be incorporated in the finished product. The producer adds: " Don't worry, you look fine. (cause I asked, hey, I was worried that I would look scary or something LOL)". He further elaborates: "The Network gave you more on screen time than anyone else in the series". Now I was plain flattered. :) Unfortunately he was unable to tell me when they would air it, and I feared I would simply miss it cause let's face it, I spend a total of a whopping 3 hours a week in front of the tube (if that).

September 2002: We are on the air!!!
A bunch of emails suddenly flock into my mail box from betta hobbyist across the nation: "I saw you on ANIMAL PLANET" , "ANIMAL PLANET is airing the betta segment!!!" or even: "Woaw! You are a star now? LOL". I actually was in San Francisco on a road trip and had just plugged my laptop (wonderful invention by the way ;) ) into the phone line of the RV park. I started jumping up and down, yelling and screaming and clapping my hands and making strange little noises and grunts and giggles which seemed to make the RV park office attendant somewhat nervous. ("Oh yeah... She's gone!" said the look on his face). But I didn't care. I sprinted back to our RV to tell my other half, Mr.181, the good news. Since we have no TV in our RV, we were unable to watch it. :(( But we were due back in LA a few days later so I figured we would catch it then. 


What the TV show "The Most Extreme" is about:
The Most Extreme is about the best of the best. It's a countdown of the top ten animals with extraordinary powers that put people to shame. So who are the fastest, or strongest, or greediest animals? Which are the highest jumpers or the smartest? Each episode sets up the challenge, and then finds the most extraordinary solutions in the animal kingdom. It shows why each of The Most Extreme animals really are the best of the best, and puts our human achievements into perspective. Below is the show info, as listed on the Animal Planet official website.

Episode #7 - Fighters

Which animals are the most extreme fighters? The bombardier beetle squirts out boiling hot acidic liquid which quickly neutralizes any attack. Praying Mantids are effective fighters that they have a method of martial arts named after them. Wars rage in the animal world, too. Which animals are the Most Extreme Fighters? Creatures so aggressive, they can hardly stand the sight of their own kind. These animals are equipped with some of the fiercest fighting tools. The bombardier beetle combines chemicals in his rear end and can squirt out boiling hot acidic liquid which quickly neutralizes any attack. Gargantuan elephant seals launch full frontal attacks using their large tusks, leaving each contender battered and bloody and the winner gets the female! Praying Mantids are such effective fighters, there is a method of martial arts modeled after them. Find out who are the best of the best on this top ten countdown of the Most Extreme animals on earth.

I finally get to see the betta segment!!
Saturday September 14, 2002, our entire household (Mr.181, myself and our two dogs) was standing guard in front of the tube. The VCR was ready to roll. Remote control firmly in hand, we waited, holding our breath. Boum, 9AM rolled in and The Most Extreme episode entitled "fighters" started unfolding before our (amazed) eyes. I had no idea what to expect as very little was said about what the episode was about really. So I was just as surprised as everyone else to see that they were doing a countdown of the 10 most fearsome fighters of the animal kingdom. OK, I figured, we will probably be at number 10 or 9. When I saw the Lion at number 10, I was a bit worried. Geese, if the lion is at 10, then bettas maybe didn't make the countdown... (cause face it: Would rather be attacked by a lion or a betta? LOL). We kept watching nonetheless, primarily because hobbyists had already told me we were in there. OK, so we waited and the countdown kept getting further down and down from 9 to 8, 7, 6 and then 5 and soon 4... And still nothing. Mr.181 and I kept glancing at each other. "Well, maybe you are not in this one" he finally said. "No, no, everybody said we are! So we must be!". At number #3 was the Tasmanian Devil and those are some pretty nasty little beasties, so my hopes grew dimmer. Number Two kicked in and I recognized the rice fields of Thailand and immediately started jumping up and down, yelling and screaming and clapping my hands and making strange little noises and grunts and giggles which seemed to make no difference at all to Mr.181 ("I have seen it all, nothing you can do can ever surprise me anymore" said the look on his face LOL). So we watched. Even though the segment seemed to focus solely on the bad temper of bettas :), I was still pleased that they would at long last feature bettas (period) on ANIMAL PLANET, or on TV for that matter. They looked so cute the little juvenile opaques swimming gracefully in the tanks... And the gorgeous chocolate male courting his female looked every bit as gorgeous as he is in real life. I, of course, did not enjoy seeing the betta fighting in Thailand, and the poor male who got his fannies kicked, sinking to the bottom :((... I wanted to fly to his rescue: "Quick, Bettamax!!". Those were obviously not our bettas, since 1)- we don't breed fighters, 2)- our long fins bettas are not designed to fight 3)- we are all 100% against fighting bettas. But I guess they still fight them in Thailand, just as they have been for hundreds and hundreds of years... 

Well, we were very surprised to see Bettas at #2 on the countdown, and flattered. Our bettas might be small, but they are courageous. They are, after all the "Betta Splendens" ("Beautiful Warriors") and those warriors have long conquered out hearts (and made us slaves to their every needs and whims LOL). Mr.181 was impressed. He was seduced all over again ;). Personally I was glad that I looked nice on film, and surprised to hear my accent (which I forget I have LOL). All in all we were pleased and I will cherish forever this experience and the 4 mn film that I taped off the TV. 

As the camera crew had hinted that they may use the remaining footage and rest of the interview for another series (one less extreme ;) ), one is left to ponder whether the bettas will soon be back by popular demand on the small screen? I sure hope they will, cause face it:

they deserve it!