Breeding Betta splendens
Breeding Betta splendens is quite a long and drawn out process, and there seem to be many misconceptions about it we hope this article will iron out. If you are planning any holidays, don't attempt to spawn some Bettas. It will take a good 6–8 months before your fry are ready to go on to new homes and will need round-the-clock care before then. Read on if you still have your heart set on being a Betta breeder.
Theres quite a surprising amount of kit you need before you even being to get your pair together. This is the recommended equipment list, many breeders have their own, slightly different, tried and tested methods.
- 38 Litres (10 US G.) tank
- 76 Litres (20 US G.)-151 Litres (40 US G.) grow-out tank
- 2x 19 Litres (5 US G.) tanks, one for mum, one for dad
- At least 12-24 (the more the better) 4 Litres (1 US G.) tanks for male grow outs
- Sponge filters each for the larger tanks, and another larger filter for the grow-out as the fry mature
- Glass Chimney - something tall enough the female can't get into the main tank
- Half a styrofoam cup
- Indian Almond Leaf
- Turkey Baster
- Bushy silk plants/live plants for the female to hide in in the 38 Litres (10 US G.) tank
- Fish nets
- Medications: antibiotics for any injuries sustained
- Water conditioner
- Heaters for each of the larger tanks
- Grindal worm culture
- Brine Shrimp culture
Choosing a Pair
Choosing a perfect breeding pair is essential, using any old pair will produce effectively mutt-babies. When breeding Bettas, having an aim for tail type and/or colour is key. A pair should be in optimum health and no older than 1 year, 6–8 months old is ideal.
When it comes to what fry you'll get from a pair, this when buying from another breeder has it's advantages as you will able to find out the family tree and work out what colour/fin types are recessive and what are dominant.
Betta genetics can get quite complicated and drawn out, but it is important to remember the two main dominant colours are red and blue, and the dominant (and undesirable) tail type is veil.
Set Up and Introductions
First things first, your pair needs to be pampered for around 2 weeks to ensure they are at their optimum health. Treat them with IAL, live food such as bloodworm and immaculate water conditions in their 19 Litres (5 US G.) tanks.
The next part of the process is to set up your 38 Litres (10 US G.) tank. Add dechlorinated water but a maximum of only 10.2-15.2cm (4-6") depth. Keep it bare-bottom, substrate would hide the eggs. Use the matured sponge filter, add a bushy plant (live plants work best to help keep the water healthier while the filter is off), some IAL, float the styrofoam cup securely in the tank. Make sure this tank has cycled completely, in that there is as much good bacteria in the sponge filter as possible. Add the heater and set it to 26.7°C (80°F) .
Next, the male needs to be introduced to this tank. Add him slowly and carefully using the drip method (in a bag/cup, with tank water slowly dripped in for at least half an hour). Once he's in the tank, give him a day or so to get used to his surroundings. He may start building a bubblenest even without seeing the female yet.
Now it's time to introduce the female to him. She will need to be added to the glass chimney, so they can look, but not touch. The male will frolic and dance in front of the female, flaring and generally showing off. The female may or may not act receptive. She should be fairly gravid (fat with eggs) already, if not do not let her in with the male until she is. You will know she's ready for spawning if she's gravid and is showing vertical (not horizontal) bars. The male should be getting busy and building his bubble nest under the styrofoam cup, he will alternate between showing off and building his nest.
So the nest has been built, the male is showing off, the female is showing vertical bars and is full of eggs, it's time to let them in together! When they first realise they can get to each other there will be a whole lot of confusion, chasing and nipping. This is where the bushy plant is handy for her to hide in. It will take several hours, to several days, for them to really realise what they're meant to be doing. If it looks like the female (or indeed the male) is getting too beat up, separate them. It can be almost instant, to 24–48 hours before they truly do the deed.
When they do manage to work it out they will both hang under the bubble nest, the female will hang with her head down in a submissive posture. The male will begin to wrap his body around hers, physically squeezing out the eggs from the female and fertilising them.
The eggs will begin to fall to the bottom of the tank, which is why a substrate is advised against as they will get lost. The breeding will pause frequently, both fish seeming paralysed for a few seconds, and then the male, occasionally the female, will begin to dash around frantically collecting the eggs and spitting them into the bubble nest. They will wrap several times more, when you are sure the female is empty of eggs, she can be removed to her tank to begin the process of recovery. Do not leave her in the tank, once she's finished she will swim away and try and hide, during this time the male will now see her as a threat and she could be injured, or even killed.
The male will stay with the nest until the fry are free-swimming. He will tend to the nest and not feed, mouthing the eggs, blowing bubbles, he may even entirely move the nest and eggs. He will spend most of his time underneath the nest watching the eggs, catching any that fall, he will often eat any infertile eggs. Some first-time dads may eat eggs or fry, if this is seen to be happening, it's best to move him out of the tank.
The fry should hatch in about 48 hours. They will wiggle about, you will see little tails hanging from the nest, and then they will start to fall. The devoted dad will dash about and catch these and put them back in the nest. The dad will spend most of his time for the next day or so catching these fry and putting them back in the nest. In a day or so the fry will develop their strength and be able to stay in the nest themselves and develop a horizontal swimming position. Once they are able to swim, the dad can be removed to recuperate.
Caring for Fry
After the fry become free swimming and have lost their yolk-sacs you can start to feed them. Infusoria makes a great first food for such small fry. After a few days they should be able to eat baby brine shrimp, vinegar eels, or microworms (although microworms tend to sink and may not be found by the fry who tend to hang out near the surface).
Frequent water changes need to be made to keep water quality up but this should be done carefully as to not injure or accidentally remove the fry. Use water of the same temperature and parameters (pH, hardness, etc) as in the aquarium.