Betta fish are colorful, they are aggressive
Betta fish are small fish belonging to the gourami family (Osphronemidae), abundant in the slow moving, stagnant waters and paddy fields of Southeast Asian countries, and became very popular as aquarium fish because of their fabulously rich body coloration and long flowing fins. There are many types of Betta fish that can adorn an aquarium or add life to your fish tank. They have a strong territorial instinct which makes them intensely aggressive, giving them the honorific – Siamese fighting fish.
They add beauty and thrill to drab lives
Betta fish are very active, highly intelligent and intensely inquisitive by nature with a streak of quiet assertiveness, and they can be trained to perform small tasks. The female Betta fish appear smaller in size and are less brightly colored, with grain like egg bubbles covering their underbelly. The onset of bright vertical stripes on the female Betta signals to the male that she is ready for mating and shedding eggs.
Breeding them has its problems and hurdles
The problem with Bettas is that they fight aggressively and this makes the task of breeding Betta fish more difficult than with other fish. The following step by step analysis ought to help beginners in breeding these wonderful fish with more success.
I. A simple 6 point program to get your breeding requirements correct
1. It’s a fact that known fish breeders maintain healthier breeds and are preferable to pet stores for sourcing better breeds.
2. Preferably healthy male Betta fish should be larger and they appear to favor smaller sized females.
3. Because of their aggressive nature never introduce males and females together in the same tank unless mating is strongly indicated by their actions.
4. Ensure that males and females are the same strain of Bettas as that will better the chances of mating. Betta fish with identical color and fin shape patterns are most likely to father colorful offspring.
5. You can expect Betta fish to survive up to five years in captivity, and the best time to initiate breeding is when the Betta fish are six to twelve months old.
6. Don’t lay your bets on a single pair; make sure you have a healthy number of males and females just to ensure there is sufficient variety to attract the male. We don’t want a situation where a pair becomes disinterested to the point they ignore each other.
II. The dos and don’ts of the breeding process
1. Preparing the breeding tank(s)
You need two 10 gallon tanks or just one tank with a glass partition separating the two halves. Water should be around 80 to 83 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure there’s plenty of live green vegetation for the female to hide in. Take extreme care in planning a Betta fish tank and learn how to set it up properly.
2. Getting the male Betta “into the right mood” for pairing
Betta fish are active, aggressive and carnivorous. They feed off blood worms (live or freeze dried), brine shrimp and other foods that have high protein content. You must know your Betta fish’s needs intimately and learn as much as you can about Betta fish food and what you should be feeding them. Proper healthy feeding should commence at least two weeks before you begin breeding.
3. Releasing the male into the breeding tank
Scoop a cup of the tank water and gently release the male into the cup; then allow the cup to float in the breeding tank to get the cup water to normalize with the breeding tank temperature. After about half an hour, release the male so he can swim freely and get his bearings in the tank.
4. Introducing the male to the female Betta next door
Keeping males and female Betta fish together is risky as they are extremely aggressive and territorial and fight each other in close proximity. The best tactic is to hold the female in a separate area partitioned by a glass wall. This is a good method to get the male and female to check each other out and gauge their level of interest or disinterest before pairing them in the same tank.
5. Conditioning the pair: Getting the male Betta to “like” the female Betta
The male shows his interest by flaring at the female followed by twisting of its body and spreading of its fins. If the male refuses to flare or it’s the female that does the flaring there won’t be any “magic” as you expected. The interested male begins building his bubble nest within a day or week of sighting and flaring a female. In the conditioning period Bettas should be fed well preferably with live food and ensure to keep the water very clean.
6. Adding the female to the breeding tank
The next step is bringing the male and the female in direct contact in the same breeding tank. Drain the breeding tank leaving around five inches of water, and adjust the water filter ensuring that it is working properly. Then gently add the female to the tank following the same procedure as you did for the male.
7. Watching the fish for healthy interaction
The idea is to closely observe if any signs of mutual interest are manifesting, and whether they are repelling each other or showing increasing attraction. Usually, if the male is attracted he will swim circles around the female or chase the female frantically and might even snap at her. He will dart away quickly to work on his bubble nest, a collection of thick frothy bubbles that attach to the underside of living plants and rocks that pierce the water surface. The female also keeps checking whether the bubble nest is ready.
8. Checking for signs of consummation
If the “wedding” is successful the pair will start swimming together. The female darkens and twists and turns her body and begins brushing against the male, indicating her readiness to mate. The female then becomes submissive and permits the male to wrap himself around her and squeeze her. Following every squeeze, the female releases her eggs. The female releases anything from 500 to 1000 eggs that sink to the bottom of the tank. The moment the eggs are released the male sprays his milt over the eggs to aid fertilization. The male herds the fertilized eggs with his mouth and carries them up to his bubble nest individually inserting eggs into bubbles which makes for a very time consuming affair. At this point it is best to remove the female as she might otherwise start eating the eggs when she is hungry.
9. Hatching the baby “frys”
During the period when the male Betta tends to the bubble nests he won’t be eating any food so there’s no point in polluting the tank with uneaten food at this point. Within a period of thirty six hours the larvae incubate and start consuming the contents of the egg yolk sac. Within two to three days small baby Bettas or “frys” start appearing within the bubbles looking like microscopic dots.
Once the babies hatch and leave their bubble sacs they need to be supplied with micro food that can be sourced from your local pet shop. Within a few weeks the Bettas will be large enough to be fed live blood worms or brine shrimps, but in any case wait till they grow an inch before feeding freeze dried worms. At this stage it would be prudent to remove the male for the breeding tank.
The joy of breeding Betta fish
Breeders around the world have been successful in breeding true colors like ruby red, turquoise blue, dark blue, jet black, bright orange, startling yellow, electric green, bright blues, pink, and shades of cream. One of the most prized colors is albino white which is still eluding enthusiastic breeders. If you take sufficient care and pay close attention to each stage of the breeding process you may ultimately become the happy owner of hundreds of delightful and colorfully varied Betta fish that will be a source of immense pride and joy not only to you and your children but to thousands of other pet owners and aquariums.