|Breeding Bettas |
By Heidi Hart
Youíve been keeping bettas for a while, and you seem to have conquered all the hurdles that come with keeping them, and you now feel pretty confident in their daily care. So now you may be asking yourself, ďWhatís next?Ē Well, you can either go out and buy that huge 100-gallon tank and get a different species of fish, or you can try breeding your bettas. Breeding bettas, as with any fish, can be a bit of a challenge especially if youíve never done it before, and itís not something that you should decide overnight. Take your time and ask yourself, am I ready for the extra work that comes with breeding, do I have the extra time and money needed for fry (babies) care, do I have enough room for 50 or more jars for the males, if you can answer yes to all these questions then breeding may be for you.
The first thing you will need to do is set up a tank for when your bettas are ready to breed. The tank you choose will be very important, and it shouldnít be too small or too large. In most cases a ten-gallon will be sufficient. Donít add a bunch of gravel and decorations, it will only become a hassle for both you and your male betta once the female lays her eggs. Instead try dropping in a few large leafed plants, this will give the female somewhere to hide from the male, and give the male a place to build his bubble nest. It is best to keep the temperature around 80 degrees and the water level about 6 inches deep until the fry are free swimming.
Filtration is something that we donít normally think about when it comes to bettas, but since they will have a couple of hundred fry it is a must, however, donít run out and buy an expensive power filter that will suck up the fry. A good filter to use is the old-fashioned box filter that sticks to the corner of the tank powered by an air pump. There are several types of media that you can use in these filters, but since you will be using a mild medication to prevent fungus, the carbon the filter comes with is not one of them. Instead fill the filter with floss or sponges. If you have another tank that has already been cycled, you will need to place your new filter in it for several weeks to allow bacteria to grow. If you donít have another tank then it would be wise to cycle your breeding tank before breeding your bettas.
If youíve never bred bettas before and are just starting out then letís face it, you donít want to jump in with both feet before testing the water and go out and buy that pair of mustard gas bettas that you saw on the internet, or you could be in for a big disappointment and a huge hole in your pocket. Instead keep it simple at first, and then later on if you want to try your hand at coming up with the ultimate strain of bettas then go for it. The first thing you will want to look for when choosing a breeding pair is their level of activity. If they donít have much zip then chances are they wonít have it when it comes time for breeding either, and you might not get any fry from them. Donít pick bettas that are too old (over 18 months or so) or they may not breed either, you want them to be fairly young (over 7 or 8 months), but not too young or they may not know what to do when the time comes. It would also be a good idea to have a couple of pairs waiting in the wings in case the first pair doesnít work out.
Youíve got your tank set up and youíve picked out your breeding pair, now you will want to put the male in the breeding tank and the female close by where he can see her. At this point hopefully the male will begin to construct his bubble nest, but this is not always the case. Be sure to feed them live foods such as baby brine shrimp to condition them for breeding. Keep an eye on the female, and once vertical lines appear on her body and she has become considerably fatter, then she is most likely ready to breed with the male. Another way to tell is by looking towards the anal fin. If a bright white gravid tube is sticking out then she is ready. When the female shows signs that she is ready, you can then put her in with the male. Now spawning may not happen right away and it could even take days before it does, but it will be well worth the wait. Donít get overly anxious if a lot of chasing occurs at first and donít separate them because of a few torn fins, otherwise you will never have fry. When spawning finally takes place, the male will wrap himself around the female to extract her eggs. This will happen several times during the spawn, and will end once the male chases the female away from the nest. At this time you will need to remove the female or the male will end up killing her. Now to prevent fungus from growing on the eggs, or from growing on the males torn up fins, you should add Aquari-Sol to the tank. You will also need to treat the female to prevent fungus from growing on her fins as well.
After spawning, the male will spend most of his time trying to keep the eggs in the nest and may not eat during this time so feed sparingly if this is the case. Approximately 36 hours later the fry will begin to hatch and 24 hours after hatching you can feed them their first food. Their first food can consist of baby brine shrimp, daphnia, microworms, or liquid fry food for egg layers. You will need to feed the fry 4 to 5 times a day, and change their water several times a week because of the extra feedings. It would be best to remove the male once the fry are free swimming, which is when daddy will no longer be able keep his wayward children in the nest.
You can introduce adult foods (be sure to grind into a fine powder) once the fry have reached about ľ of an inch in length. At around 4 weeks of age you will be able to tell which are males, since they will most likely be flaring at each other, and this is when you will want to move the males to the jars you have waiting.
Breeding bettas can be a wonderful experience for both young and old alike, as long as you are ready for the extra responsibility that it entails.
AquariumHobbyist.com has a full line of species forums where you can discuss fish species with other owners, and hobbyists.