Betta Splendens is indispensable for all aquarists, from beginner to expert levels, with its eye-catching and bright colors. But, like other fish, certain environmental factors are necessary for their care and health. Likewise, there are some conditions for breeding and the continuation of their lineage in their environment, during their mate selection, or during the ovulation period.
Betta fish come in hundreds of different varieties. Creating new and diverse betta species, increasing the numbers, commercial purposes, and hobbies are popular reasons for breeding this fish. Regardless of the purpose, there are points to be considered in the breeding.
The first thing to know about Betta splendens is that this fish is a bubble nester. The males build a bubble nest and deposit the eggs in it during the spawning and incubation periods. After the spawning completed in triumph, the male banishes the female, then cares for and protects the brood alone. The female doesn’t have any other parental responsibility for the brood after spawning.
Healthy males are always under the effect of testosterone. Thus, they are very aggressive and harsh to both other males and females and, they live alone most of their lives. In nature, females and males come together only for breeding purposes. The males build their bubble nests when they reach sexual maturity in the breeding season and wait for a proper female to come up. In aquariums, we need to follow some procedures to simulate this.
This article is prepared to provide some specifics and as a guideline for the healthy and successful breeding of Betta splendens.
Betta Breeding Tank Setup
If you intend to breed betta fish, first of all, you need two tanks; a permanent tank and a breeding tank. At this point, if you do not want to use more than one tank or if you do not have the opportunity, you can divide the existing tank into two. The setup of the permanent tank details is specified in the Betta Splendens Health and Care article. Shortly, the minimum tank size, water parameters, temperature, light, and hiding areas are essential for the healthy and stress-free life of betta fish. Creating a proper environment for betta fish will make them comfortable before starting the breeding process. Also, it is substantial to keep the female safe from the male. For this purpose, in case they will be accommodated in the same tank, plenty of hiding places and a heavily planted tank is mandatory. Otherwise, the male will kill the female before any breeding takes place.
The parameters of the breeding tanks are also almost the same as the permanent tank. Additionally, it is significant to place the breeding tank away from other aquariums and movements to prevent stress or disruption during the spawning or the caring period of the brood. The use of filters in the breeding tank causes conflict among aquarists. But using sponge filters with low flows are beneficial during the rearing period of the brood. High flow in the water damages the bubble nests and must be avoided for successful breeding.
Using coarse-grained gravel in the bottom is not suitable in the breeding aquariums since the eggs may drop between the grains and the male can not collect them.
Male betta fish become aggressive during breeding. For this reason, it is critical to creating hiding places in the breeding aquarium for the female. Plants such as java fern produce small, nutritious organisms besides hiding places, which feed the fish larvae after hatching.
Betta fish do not like bright light during their breeding, and it may affect breeding success. Thus, adjustment of the light intensity is vital. Using dim lighting and floating plants such as water lettuce, redroot floater, etc. will provide a proper environment for the bettas with suitable light diffusion. On the other hand, for the male betta fish to position the bubbles, floating plants are the best option. An alternative to floating plants, a floating material such as a piece of styrofoam or dry tree leaves is also useful. With the help of the floating materials or the floating plants, the bubble nest will be more powerful and the male will build the nest with less effort.
Selecting the Breeding Pair
If breeding is desired, the most important point to consider is the selection of the pair. If one individual of the breeding pair is sick, there can’t be any success on the breeding, or worse, both fish may die.
Betta fish can get bacterial, fungal, or other diseases. The most prominent symptoms caused by these diseases are loss of appetite, inactivity, abnormal swimming, white spots, open sores, redness of the skin, fragmented fins, and pallor of the skin. When breeding betta fish, it must be made sure that they do not have any of these symptoms. Otherwise, the spread of the disease may begin as well as a failed breeding.
The most successful and fertile breeding age of betta fish is 4-12 months. Although breeding occurs in betta fish older than 12 months, young fish have a higher chance of successful breeding. The sizes of the female and male betta fish are among the issues that should be noted during the breeding period. The female betta fish should not be larger than the male betta fish and the ages of the individuals must be convenient. For better results, male bettas must be older and experienced.
On the other hand, appearance is something that is inherited. For this reason, pairs should be chosen accordingly, just in case a specific variety of betta is intended to be produced. But, breeding specific varieties, colors, or patterns requires more experience and knowledge since it is related to genetics and subject to another article.
Female betta fish choose male betta fish to breed in their natural habitat. The criteria for this selection are the color, size, and quality of the bubbles in the nest. In the tank environment, this situation is set manually. If the pair selection is made properly and conditions are favorable, breeding is inevitable.
The breeding period is stressful and requires energy for the fish. For this reason, it is necessary to pre-condition the breeding fish separately before breeding. Fish needs to be fed 2-4 times a day with small amounts of high-quality dry and live foods. The point that should not be forgotten at this point is that betta fish are always better with live foods. Thus, in the conditioning phase, the fish require to eat mostly live foods such as bloodworms, daphnia, brine shrimp, small insects, mosquito larvae, and other insect larvae.
During the breeding period, the first step is to meet the pair. It is necessary to be slow and careful at this stage. A separator placed between the female and male betta fish will be useful since the fish can see each other. For this purpose, a plastic bottle with a cut bottom can be also used and it will be more practical to remove when required. After the pair get together in the breeding tank, the male and female who are placed on two different sides begin to get to know each other. At this point, it is recommended o place the male betta in the main part of the tank an hour earlier to get used to it. In the next stage, the male tries to swim around the female and get her attention by making itself darker. If he succeeds in attracting the female’s attention, the female also gets darker, and her ovipositor protrudes out. Meanwhile, within 24 hours of seeing the female, the male begins to bubble and collect the bubbles in a floating substance. These bubbles form the bubble nest when collected enough. After the male completed building the nest, and the female also shows interest in the male, she can be taken out of the area where she is placed. If the female is ready for spawning and interested in the male, she will develop a vertical line in the center of her body. This is the most specific sign that the female is ready for mating. The process usually takes half to a day after the pair meet. The critical point at that is not to release the female before the male built the nest. Otherwise, breeding may fail, the female may get hurt, or the breeding will not be very efficient with the loss of many eggs.
After releasing the female, she must be carefully observed to prevent the male to kill her. If the male becomes aggressive and starts harming the female, she must be removed back into the separated area. Having hiding places in the tank is critical for the female to hide at this stage. In some cases, the females can harm males, especially when they are larger than the males. Also, if the female destroys the nest more than once when released, it is necessary to change the pair. The stage after the release is critical and requires careful observation. If the male and female don’t settle in a short while (this takes 10 to 30 minutes) and start spawning, the female must be removed and put back into the separated area. On the other hand, if the breeding pair successfully mated, the spawning can continue for 1 to 2 hours. After the completion of the spawning, the female must be removed from the tank carefully. Otherwise, the female may swim around the nest and may cause the nest to breakdown, or eat the eggs. Also, while removing the female extra care is necessary for not destroying the bubble nest.
If the pair successfully mated, the male and female swim around each other and dance. This dance lasts until the female gets ready to lay eggs. Spawning can take from a few minutes to several hours and can raise 500 eggs. During spawning, the pair comes closer to each other and the female positions herself upside down near the male. Then, the male wraps the female and squeeze her to release the eggs. At this stage, both the male and female get locked together and stay still for a few seconds. While they are wrapped, the male fertilizes the eggs and then the male collects the released eggs into his mouth. All the eggs collected are arranged in the bubble nest by the male gently. At this point, the female is likely to be seen as a threat and chased by the male from time to time. But, afterward, the pair get together and continue spawning.
A humid and warm environment at the tank top should be created by wrapping the tank. This environment is necessary for the fertilized eggs to develop healthily. In the following days, the male will spend his time collecting the eggs that have fallen from the nest. Meanwhile, it is natural for him to make more than one nest. In the next 2-3 days, the eggs will hatch, and the fry will start moving and falling from the nest. Likewise, the male continues to carry them back to the nest. When it is noticed that the juvenile fish start swimming horizontally (usually after three days of hatching), the male can be taken from the tank. For the juvenile fish to grow up healthily in the next period, they must be fed with high-quality foods regularly. The food must be given in small amounts and 6 to 10 times a day for growing the fry faster. As the starter food, betta fry needs infusoria, and then gradually, they can eat microworms and newly hatched brine shrimps.
In summary, the breeding of betta fish is a job that requires some effort, attention, and patience. This process can be divided into three phases as the healthy conditioning period before breeding, the spawning period, and the development of the juvenile fish after spawning. It is significant to provide the proper parameters for each phase. Thus, before starting breeding, the breeder must have a complete plan to provide the necessary conditions for each stage.