Tuesday, February 20, 2007

How to breed and raise Betta Fish

Bettas (Siamese fighting fish) are a little tricky when it comes to breeding and raising their fry.

Water chemistry: Siamese fighting fish (Bettas) are not as sensitive to lack of oxygen in the water as other fish due to a special anatomical breathing apparatus on the top of their head that allows them to convert oxygen to their bloodstream directly from the atmosphere, as well as through water that passes over their gills. This doesn't mean that they are indestructible however and prefer a stable water PH of 6.5 - 7.0. For breeding purposes, we will go slightly acidic with a PH of 6.5 - 6.8. What ever PH you select, keep it as constant as possible.

Betta temperament: Betta males don't get along so well and will kill each other if placed in the same tank. Females get along with each other and can be kept and raised together. Males and females in the same tank are not a good idea because the male will always be after the female to breed. If she isn't ready, he will beat here up or worse, kill her.

Sexing Bettas: Males have long flowing colorful fins and females have short fins and are not as colorful.

Selecting breeders: Siamese fighting fish males are not particular. Any female will do as long as she is loaded with eggs and ready to breed.

Setting up the breeding tank: For breeding purposes we will need a 5 gallon tank, 25 watt submersible heater, air stone supplied with air from a vibrator pump and a piece of glass.

The piece of glass will be used to separate the male and female for a few weeks. During this time we condition the female for breeding, let them court each other and give the male time to build his bubble nest. Yes, as time goes by and the male gets in the mood, he builds a bubble nest by coating air with his saliva to create bubbles that float on the surface of the tank. Betta males use these bubbles constructed together in large numbers to create a nest at the surface of the tank. The nest could be the size of about four inches in circumference (round) x two inches high above the water line.

Fill the 5 gallon tank 2/3 water with a PH of 6.6 and a temperature of 78 degrees F. Keep it there! Place the piece of glass diagonally across the tank. If you do it this way, the glass will stay there and be easy to lift out when you are ready to put the male and female together for breeding. Now put a mature male in the tank on one side of the glass partition and a mature female on the other side.

Conditioning for the spawn: Conditioning the pair serves two functions. One is to give the female time to produce and load up with eggs. The other is to give the male time to build a solid bubble nest. This process takes about two - three weeks.

Feed them 4 - 5 times a day with a variety of high quality food. Frozen or live adult Brine Shrimp, frozen blood worms, flake food etc.....

Water changes are not needed often unless the water gets cloudy from feeding. If you want, syphon about 10% of the water from the females side of the tank (you don't want to disturb the males bubble nest if one is there) every other day. Replace it with water of the same chemical quality and temperature. After they have spawned, you won't be changing any water for weeks. The male won't be feeding while he is tending to the eggs and the fry will be too delicate for any water chemistry or temperature changes.

Now we will get these baby's to breed! After about two weeks or sooner, the male will be busy building his bubble nest and you will notice the females abdominal area increase in size. She's loading up with eggs!

Once the bubble nest is about 3-4 inches round, 1-2 inches high and the female looks like she is about to explode with eggs, it's time to try and put them together.

Lift the glass gently out of the tank as to not disturb the bubble nest. If the bubble nest is attached to the piece of glass, you have a little problem but it's not the end of the world. Most of the nest might stay intact if you are lucky and just float around. After they mate, the male will repair it. At this point, he is more interested in mating with the female than toying with a bubble nest.

The mating process: The male will chase the female around the tank notifying her that it is breeding time. If the female is properly conditioned and succumbs to the males overtures, the male will wrap his body around hers, eggs will be dropped and then fertilized by the male. This process repeats several times. After each batch of dropped eggs, the male will go to the bottom of the tank, pick up the eggs and blow them into his bubble nest. If all goes well, after a few hours or less, they will be finished breeding. As soon as you know that they are finished, remove the female from the tank as soon as you can so that the male doesn't kill her. As soon as the breeding is over, the male chases the female away. He takes sole responsibility for taking care of the young.

If after placing them together for let's say an hour and they haven't mated or the female is getting beat up, separate them again for 3-4 more days. You'll have to try again.

You have eggs, now what? Now that the eggs are laid and the female is not around, the male gets to work. Until the fry are free swimming in about 10-12 days, the male attends to his fry by making sure the bubble nest is always being updated with fresh bubbles, fetching eggs that fall out of the nest, then blowing them back into the nest. During this period of time there is no need to feed the male, he probably wouldn't eat anyway. When the fry start free swimming in about 10- 12 days, the male will be ready to eat. As soon as the fry are free swimming, remove the male. He's going to be hungry!

Feeding the fry: For a few days after the fry become free swimming, they won't need to be fed. They are supplied by nature with an egg sack of which they derive nourishment for a few days to get a head start in life. When the egg sack in the belly region disappears, it's dinner time!

Betta fry are too small to eat any kind of commercial fish food, there mouths are too small. Then what do they eat? Microscopic live organisms or infusoria. You can buy infusoria tablets at your aquarium shop. You just drop a tablet in the tank and in a few hours, your tank will be infested with live microscopic live fish food for the fry. I would pop a few of these tabs in the tank while the fry still have their egg sacks. Buy the time they are ready to eat, they got food! Another thing you could do is place a 2x2 inch piece of lettuce in the tank at the egg sack stage. This will also produce live food for the fry. In about two weeks time they will be ready to eat live or frozen baby brine shrimp and fine flake food.

At this point you can hook up your air stone and set it on slow bubble. Change no more than 2% of the water every other day for about 2 weeks, then you can change 5% a day if you want to keep the water clean as long as you have conditioned water on hand that matches the chemistry and temperature of the fry tank. You could also add a sponge filter after 2 weeks. Fry can't get hurt with a sponge filter.

Raising the fry: Wait about a month after the free swimming stage, then transfer them into a 10 or 15 gallon rearing tank. In approximately 8 weeks you should be able to tell the sexes. The males will start developing longer fins and have allot more color. This is about the right time to separate all fish into separate Betta bowls. Mason jars are perfect. Six to eight months later, you'll have some nice Bettas to either sell or give away to your friends.

by Jeff O' Corbett
Article Copyright 2007

Video of Bettas spawning