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Breeding Bettas

PREPARATION

Prepare the food cultures:
Getting  Bettas to spawn is the easy part: raising the fry is more difficult.  Consequently, it is best to begin any breeding program by developing a rich culture of micro-organisms such as "infusoria" and rotifers and a culture of micro-worms and brine shrimp.

"Infusoria" is a term that is used to refer to micro-organisms such as Euglena and Paramecium that grow rapidly when pond water is infused with rotting leaves, such as lettuce or hay straw.  Fill a small container with pond water or water siphoned from the bottom of an established aquarium and add a handful of soft lettuce leaves and/or hay straw to it and let it stand for several days.  Adding green water from a pond or tank will help the culture develop.  As the leaves rot, micro-organisms develop in the water in large numbers, feeding on the decomposing leaves.  These can be seen with a low powered microscope- a micro-zoo in a tub!

Use a turkey-baster or large eye-dropper to remove the culture to feed to the tiny Betta fry in the first days that they are seen free swimming.

Micro-worms are tiny worms that are easily cultured in a mix of "Easy Oats" or rolled oats mixed with boiled water to a thick, creamy consistency to which a little bakers yeast is added for fermentation. 

Prepare the fish for spawning by feeding them well with live foods such as brine shrimp, black worms, blood worms and mosquito larvae.  Frozen foods are acceptable for this, too. 

When ready to breed, females will be plump and show an egg spot at the vent and males will built a bubble nest at the water surface.  The nests may be any size but are usually 5-6 cms across, with the bubbles piled high.  Water temperature increases may trigger nest building and water temperature is an important factor, males that show no interest in breeding a water temperature 25oC will do so when the temperature rises to 27-28oC.

Adjust the water temperature to the optimum range for breeding,  28oC (82oF), and ensure that the cover plate is in place so that a humid, warm air space exist above the water surface.  Betta breeding is also possible within the range 26oC - 30oC (80-86oF) and some breeders have good results at temperatures around 84oF.

Place the male Betta in a wide topped container that is at least 15 cms deep and fitted with a close fitting cover.  The water should be well aged and clean and provided with floating plants (Duckweed is suitable) or half of a polystyrene cup cut length wise.  If he is ready to breed he will build a bubble nest at the top of the water among the plants or beneath the cup.  When he has finished building his nest he will swim just below it and guard it fiercely.

Prepare the fish

Feed both the males and females a balanced diet, including live-foods, to condition then prior to mating.  Select males that have begun to build their bubble nests (or wait until the selected specimen does so). 

Getting Bettas to spawn presents few problems.  Select a "ripe" female Betta, one showing a swollen belly full of eggs, and displaying the brooding stripes that female Bettas develop when ready to breed.  If she is ready to lay eggs, a small white spot may be seen at her vent (ovipositor).  Place her in with the male.

The male Betta will begin to display and to chase the female and tend to his bubble nest with more intensity.  Fights may occur if neither fish is ready to spawn.  The whole process can appear very violent.

Sometimes a female will release her eggs prematurely if the male excites her.   If this happens then the eggs will not be fertilized so you will have to begin over again with a new female- or wait until the first one is ready again.

SPAWNING

Eventually the female will position herself below the nest and the male will wrap himself around her in the spawning embrace.

As eggs are released, the male will catch them in his mouth and place them into the bubble nest.  The female will often appear as though 'frozen' in the embrace and hang limp in the water.  They recover quickly and soon are ready to repeat the embrace.

The spawning may take several hours.

After spawning is complete, remove the female to a clean recovery tank.  Salt (sodium chloride) added to the water at the rate of two teaspoons per gallon will help prevent any fungal growth on any torn fins or scales. 'Melafix' is also suitable for treating Bettas with torn fins and scales.

The male will guard the eggs and replace any eggs that fall from it and return them to the nest in a new bubble.



The spawning embrace, below the bubble nest.
HATCHING

The fertilized eggs will hatch in about 24 to 48 hours.  The fry are very tiny and hang tail-down from the bubbles and are attended by the male, who catches any that fall and returns them to the nest inside a new bubble.  Sometimes a male will eat the eggs and the fry and he is best removed and the fry allowed to hatch unattended.  Some will survive.

During this stage the fry live on their egg sacks and do not require feeding.   This is a good time to check the infusoria culture.

In about 3 days from hatching, some of the fry will turn themselves horizontally within the nest and begin to be free swimming.  The male is best removed at this time, as his constant efforts to catch the youngsters and return them to the nest may end up with him eating them.

Begin feeding the active, free swimming fry at day 3 or 4, as they begin to forage about the tank eating micro-organisms. Usually we have hundreds hatch but only a small percentage of the fry can take newly hatched brine shrimp nauplii as their first food.  This means that only those that are best able to feed will survive.  This is perhaps a good thing for hobbyists, as housing large numbers of maturing males may be a problem.  Feeding the fry rotifers, "infusoria", small copepods and micro-worms will enable a high survival rate.

RAISING THE TINY FRY is the hard part!  Unless live food is given, most Betta fry starve to death when their eggs sacks are depleted.

Fry at day 3.

FEEDING is critical:
The new fry are VERY tiny and their first foods are micro-organisms that we can't see without a microscope. 

Feed infusoria and newly hatched brine shrimp from the start of the free swimming stage. 

Frequent feeding is necessary in small amounts and up to ten times a day. 

The fry will be seen picking at the surface of plants, the glass and the filter sponge (if one is present), taking the micro-organisms on those surfaces. 

I have had success with Paragon's "Liqui-Fresh #1" as a first feeding substitute for live foods. I use it in conjunction with infusoria and pre-mix it in a small container and add it to the tank with an eye-dropper every two hours.  Similar prepared foods for baby fish may be tried.

Be careful not to over feed and sour the water.  Removing uneaten food is very difficult at this stage, as the tiny fry may be siphoned out as well.  Using a "turkey baster" is helpful.

The young fry may be raised in small tanks fitted with a mature sponge filter.  Run the air flow at a gentle rate. The fry will pick at a mature filter sponge, to eat the micro-organisms on its surface. 

It takes about three months for baby Bettas to begin to show their colours, body patterns and sex.  Males may begin to fight at this stage and may need separating.  I say, "may need separating" as I find that some Bettas do not fight among brothers of the same brood that are kept together since hatching- you may be so lucky!

Usually the males develop faster than the females,  which, in nature, probably prevents in-breeding.

    Good luck with breeding your favourite strain of Bettas.


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Bettas

Treating Diseases in Bettas

Bettas in small containers require special attention. 

Avoid cruel practices and use as large a bowl or jar as you can.

Help stamp out "Aqua Babies" and "Bettas in Peace Lily vases" and similarly cruel exploitation of Bettas.


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This hatchery is now closed due to the high cost of electricity in Sth Australia.