I was first introduced to the world of fighting fish when I was in standard five (1965).
I forgot who was the one responsible for it, but all I remember was I was so attracted to the bright colours of the fish when it saw itself in a mirror or when another male was placed near.
I was not keen in fish fighting. It was very cruel. Unlike spider fighting, which is often very short and non-damaging to both parties, fish fighting often results in serious bodily damage to one or both gladiators and most often the winner would not stop the fight without human intervention.
It was the search or the hunt for good fighting fish that was far more interesting to me.
It began with the identification of most probable site or the location where they are available. Normally it was the swampy area where there were nooks and corners with very shallow water.
Fighting fish pairs normally choose isolated and shallow spots to build their nests. Only discerning eyes could detect the most probable sites.
Sometimes I had to bend over and lift overhanging leaves in order to be able to detect the nests. The more experienced the couple the more concealed the nest. Sometimes there was only one or two inches of water making up the nest.
The firs evidence of a nest was the presence of bubbles on the water surface.
Finding one cluster of bubbles, I gently scooped (using both my hands) below the bubbles making sure the fish underneath did not escape.
The male fish was then placed in a bottle. The female was let loose.
The colour of the bubbles would determine the age and ferocity of the fish. From my personal observation I noticed that rustic bubbles produced matured and ferocious fish and clean white bubbles were usually made by young and inexperienced fish.
The sensation of the fish knocking against your hand as you tried to surround it with your hands also determined its ferocity.
A fish with a downward curving mouth-parts was usually a good fighter compared to the straight-mouthed.
The hunt was said to be incomplete without catching one or more leeches on our feet!
The newly caught male fish were placed in separate bottles to prevent fighting. They were placed next to each other in transparent glass bottles so that the sight of another male around would trigger them into fighting frenzy, complete with colour changes and wild body, tail and mouth movements!
I also placed the fish in dark places, such as, believe it or not, in stumps of banana stems just so that the fish develop the colour intensity needed.
As for fish food I normally used mosquito larvae and small insects.
My most memorable experience was when a MARA officer offered to buy my entire catch for the day for RM5.oo.