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Betta fish, breeding and raising fry

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Orange halfmoon beta fish male

Orange halfmoon beta fish male

Betta fish, siamese fighters

Betta fish (Betta splendens), also known as the siamese fighting fish, are small freshwater fish naturally found in Thai rice paddies. They are very popular in the aquarium hobby because of their bright colours, usually dark blue or red, the flowing long fins of the male and ease of care. Although betta fish are usually stored in pet shops and Walmart in small cups and some people maintain they can be kept in bowls without any filtrarion, to properly maintain the water quality in their tank and keep the fish healthy, a simple filtration unit, and a proper tank with some aquatic plants and furnishing should be provided.

Also known as siamese fighter fish

Betta are known as the siamese fighting fish because males are extremely territorial and will fight to the death if put in the same tank where the weaker male cannot escape from the territory of the dominant fish. They recognize other betta fish by sight and if a male betta is shown his reflection in a mirror, it will cause him to flare his fins and engage in intimidating displays before trying to attack his own reflection.

Bettas are only aggressive towards co-specifics, they are rather timid in the company of other fish and can make a good addition to a community tank. However they should not be housed with barbs and other fish that are known for fin nipping, because the long fins of the male are irresistible to them.

Male beta fighting his reflection

Male beta fighting his reflection

Betta fish breeding

Bettas are easy to breed and have very interesting breeding behaviour. The male fish will build a bubble nest at the surface of the water, and will entice the female to breed underneath it. He guards his nests and returns any hatchlings that fall out of it until the fry are ready to swim independently. Although getting the fish to breed is easy, taking care of the tiny fry is time consuming and quite hard work. Also a betta female can produce up to 600 eggs at a time, although not all the fry will survive, you must have a plan as to what you will do with the offspring before you decide to breed betta.

Different genetic morphs

Although many people breed betta fish for the pleasure and experience, some people do it professionally for profit. Years of breeding have produced many genetic alleles which affect the colours such as red, blue, turquoise, orange and true white . There are also many morphs that have different tail shapes, such as the delta, half-moon, double tail and crown tail to name a few. There are even shows where ‘perfect’ examples of the different betta fish morphs are exhibited and complicated genetics to describe the inheritance of the different traits. However, breeding bettas for profit is not a ‘get rich quickly’ scheme, it involves a certain amount of setting up money and a lot of effort and commitment.

If you are interested in betta fish genetics, and breeding particular morphs, you should get your starter fish from a reputable dealer. It is also advisable to buy 2 or 3 pairs of fish, just in case the first pair you get is not compatible.

Setting up the beta fish breeding tank and introducing the pair

Before you start breeding your fish you must prepare and cycle a breeding tank. A 10 gallon tank half-full of water is sufficient. It should be filtered with a small box filter driven by an air pump, and you should be able to control the flow, since with small fry you will want a very gentle current in the tank. As usual when you set up an aquarium the filter must be fully cycled before you introduce any fish. A heater set at 80F should be included. For ease of cleaning it is advisable not to put any gravel at the bottom of the tank.

Another consideration is that betta fry only accept live food, which must be tiny. They are usually fed on microworms or infusoria. Because these cultures take one or two weeks to mature, you should start them before you breed the fish, so that you have a source of food ready when the fry need to be fed.

Before introducing the pair it is advisable to place the male in the breeding tank, and the female in a tank next to his, where the fish can see each other. Their behaviour should be observed for signs of attraction, if the pair is incompatible for some reason, the male might hurt the female. If all goes well the male will display his fins to the female and build a bubble nest. The female will show that she is ready to mate by displaying vertical bars on her body. Filtration should be switched off at this point so the current does not damage the nest. The female can then be introduced into the breeding tank. The pair will engage in complicated courtship behaviour, with the male enticing the female under the bubble nest where they will finally embrace and start laying eggs.

A pair of bettas embracing under a bubble nest

A pair of bettas embracing under a bubble nest

Raising the fry

After the mating is over the female should be removed. For the next 3- 4 days nothing more needs to be done, since the fry do not need to be fed, as they are absorbing their yolk sacs, and the male will take care of the hatchlings, returning any that have fallen out of the nest. Once they fry start swimming freely the male can be removed to his own tank and feeding the fry can begin. This is done by adding microworms or infusoria into the tank with an eyedropper. Do not add too much food or it will foul the water, always make sure that the fry can eat everything that you put in, and if there is uneaten food skip a feeding. Baby brine shrimp can also be used but should not be an exclusive food source since they can lead to bloating.

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When the fry are a week old the filter can be turned back on but the flow restricted to very slow. Adding a very gentle air bubbler will also help keep the water oxygenated. Two weeks after spawning 10% water changes should be carried out every few days with a turkey baster, making sure that fry are not hurt, or removed with the water. The water flow can be gradually increased over then next few weeks as the fry grow.

After 4 to 5 weeks the fry can be moved to bigger tanks, or separated into several grow-on tank. As the fish mature start observing them for signs of aggression between males, and isolate males that are beginning to show territorial behaviour.


Mirabelle on July 23, 2015:

umm i dont really understand but do ya; mean that i have to wait the male to make a bubble nest and free the female if the bubble nest is complete but the only one im thinkin' is how large the bubble nest is?? ya; mean the bubble nest is complete if the bubble nest covers the whole upper water?

Deep Fry Foods from United States on July 12, 2015:

It's really beautiful. That A crown tail male is the most beautiful.

Shonna DeJong on March 01, 2014:

I'm sorry that the male died

splasher on February 09, 2014:

Is it common for the male to die after spawning? My Splasher quit eating after and 3weeks later he died. Molly the female is fine.

bettaexpertperson on October 26, 2013:

the reason for him building the nest is probably because the isolation. no one ever knew why isolation sometimes gives a kick start. i had a male beta in a bowl also and no female was around and he just started to build a nest

864586 on July 30, 2012:

Love it!

Cholee Clay from Wisconsin on May 30, 2012:

I wish I would have known early that, that was what he was doing. Maybe I would have learned more about betta breeding and breed him. He was truly a beautiful fish.

aa lite (author) from London on May 30, 2012:

Thank you both for your comments. Shesabutterfly, I now feel sorry for your male betta fish, poor guy, so desperate to rear children that he started building a nest for them. The fish I had the most fun breeding were lake Malawi cichlids, the parents hold the eggs and fry in their mouths, until they are old enough to go independent.

Cholee Clay from Wisconsin on May 30, 2012:

Great hub! I love all the useful information. I had a male betta for 3 years and he started making bubble nests in the last year I had him. Don't know why though, he was never with or around a female. The thought of breeding him was too daunting with the fry being so little.

Helen Murphy Howell from Fife, Scotland on May 29, 2012:

What a fascinating hub. I'm very ignorant about fish and it's the first time I've heard of the bettas - I'm very impressed! They are very beautiful and the colours are amazing! I'm not surprised that people get such a pleasure out of keeping them.

Great hub + voted up!

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