By Léo Azambuja
Some of the best fish in the United States can be found right here on Kaua‘i. But they’re neither salt-water fish nor good to eat. They’re the betta fish – also known as Siamese fighting fish – raised and sold by Waimea resident Liz Hahn.
The betta, originally from Southeast Asia, is a unique fresh-water fish meticulously bred in captivity to achieve a bouquet of exquisite colors and patterns.
Last June, Hahn returned from the 2013-2014 International Betta Congress Convention in Santa Clara, Calif., with a handful of category awards and the fourth place overall for the entire season, quite an accomplishment for the veteran fish breeder who faced a large field of experienced breeders from the Mainland.
“To come out number four in the U.S. was pretty amazing,” said Hahn, adding that in the previous IBC show, she had placed seventh overall.
One aspect that makes her fish unique in the show circuit, she said, is that she shows different fish each show.
“Typically, a breeder on the Mainland will show the same outstanding fish in every show,” Hahn said.
Because of strict Hawaiian agricultural laws and high shipping costs, she doesn’t bring her fish back to Hawaii to show them again. Instead, she sells her fish at auctions on the Mainland after each show.
“To use the dog show analogy, I would have to have a litter of prize-winners and not just one great dog,” Hahn said.
She may be one of the best breeders in the nation, but Hahn says her first interest is to provide local people with collector-quality fish. Unless the fish is available locally, she said, a buyer must purchase a permit from the Department of Agriculture to bring it into the state. Add that to the cost of the fish and the shipping, and the cost becomes prohibitive, she said.
Often called the “fish whisperer,” Hahn said the betta is a solitary fish that likes to be by itself. Raising a betta, she said, is more like having a dog.
Though the betta is a relatively easy fish to keep – easy enough for a child to take care of it – the fish thrives from attention from the owner, according to Ahn.
“You can kill a fish with negative energy,” she said.
Whenever Hahn sells one her fish, she said she makes sure to tell people not to have negative thoughts around the fish, because it will pick on the bad energy and may not survive.
“Really what it translates to, is the fish becomes a conduit for people to be positive,” she said.
In addition to being an easy pet to take care of – you can go to Las Vegas and not feed your fish for a week – bettas make a good pet for people who have allergies to furry animals, such as cats and dogs.
Hahn sells her fish at the Community Market at Kaua‘i Community College in Puhi each Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. She also sells her fish from her home and online. She can be found on her Facebook page, Kaua‘i Bettas.