We have been so busy doing water changes with our spawns maturing I have not had much time to spend updating the blog. Most of the inquiries and search terms for the blog are for betta barracks and housing. It is easy to see why.. when an average spawn can produce close to 200 fish and they all have to be separated at about 8-12 weeks.. you need a way to house them and not spend all your free time doing water changes. Clean fresh water, and lots of it, give you fast growth and healthy fish. If you can’t devote the time to changing water, you will have a lot of sick fish and probably get out of the hobby all together. So housing lots of betas and reducing water changes is a big search term bringing many people here. But there is more to bettas than a gazillion water changes. To get this many bettas you need to successfully set up and raise spawns to the age they need separating, so here is how we go about breeding our fish.
Bettas are actually pretty easy to spawn if you meet some basic conditions. They need warm water, healthy fish and not too much interference. We use inexpensive plastic shoe box sized containers we got from Wal-mart. I don’t think we spend but $5 each for them. We have gone to this size because we can sit the container in larger aquariums and gradually raise the tank water to just over the top of the spawn container. This allows a gentle transition to a grow out container for the fry. I have been known to just dump them into a grow out.. and they do fine. I feel gently overflowing the container dramatizes me and the fish a whole lot less. They also do not take up much room and the fish seem to get after the spawning much quicker than if they are in a larger container. In larger containers the female can swim off and the male often will lose interest.
In the container I add a submersible heater set to 82 degrees. The containers are small and you should do a dry run with water and the heater to make sure the temp stays around 82. I have some heaters that will actually bring the water up to about 84 because the container is a bit small for the heat they put out. So set every thing up and monitor the temp a few days. This habit is actually a good practice to develop as I have had a heater malfunction overnight and cook my fish. Another heater was in the process of cooking fish but I caught it in time. On a side note.. do not skimp on your heaters. Buy nice quality and take care of them. With $20 in each I know they can add up. But better to spend a few dollars more and have them last a few years then have to shell out another $20 a year from now. Personally, I like the Stealth heaters. They have been consistent in putting out good heat, turn off if removed from the water and have lasted several years now. The newer ones have a light so you can see if they are working.. my older ones don’t have that and I monitor with a thermometer.
Along with a heater you want something the male can build a nest under. I like to use a piece of bubble wrap. It seems to look like a nest and the males take to it readily. I have also used the plastic top to a Pringles can, a floating Indian Almond leaf, half a Styrofoam cup as well as live and artificial plants. There is no hard and fast rule.. look around and try a few things. I use the bubble wrap and have an artificial plant in the spawn tank for the female to get some shelter, and some males will build their nest around the leaves.
Since the container is small, it is a good idea to have some place for the female to get away from the male or at least slow him down. The heaters are a bit big in relation to the container and offers a low barrier you will find her behind or under. A plastic or live plant will offer a hiding place as well as offer the male a place to build his nest. For some reason I can’t seem to grow plants here.. probably because of some other water issue.. so I use plastic. If you go with the plastic you will need to watch for ammonia, nitrate and nitrite levels going bad on the fry tanks.
To our container we add enough r/o water to get water level about 4″ deep. Even if you do not have the issues we have had with water, spawning in the r/o will give you pure water and larger spawns. I had no issues in Ohio with breeding, even though the water was hard.. but I have much larger spawns now using the r/o. My average spawn in Ohio was about 79-80 except the ones I used a mix with the r/o.. they were larger. I think the ph and stuff found in water affects the fertilization of the eggs. Now I’m getting close to 200 fish each spawn. You will have to find what works for you but do not underestimate the water you are using.
If you do a search on the net you will find many ways to breed bettas. Most places have you put the male in the spawning container and the female in a chimney of shorts. They can see each other but she is protected. They say to wait for the male to build a nest before letting the female out. Not me. If the female is eggy I put them both in the water, put a cover over the top to keep in the humidity and leave them alone. I do check here and there to make sure neither one is getting abused, but for the most part let them go at it. The male may or may not build a nest before they spawn. The female will come out and flirt as well as run and hide. It is all part of their behavior. Personally, I don’t have the time to wait for the male to start a nest and see if they are in the mood to spawn. I find the flirting and chasing will get the pair in the mood quicker then having the female unobtainable. Then you run the risk of frustrated fish that may give you aggression problems when they are put together.
Most pairs will spawn within a few days of putting them together. Do not feed the fish in the spawn tank as it can quickly foul the water and create problems. aggression and chasing is common with these fish. Both can get ripped fins and some missing scales.. that is normal. Keep an eye out for battering. If one of the fish looks stressed it may be time to remove them and try again some other time. After the pair has finished spawning the female will be chased off and the male sets about taking care of the nest. Gently remove the female and put her in clean warm water and give her a light meal. Use care when removing her not to disrupt the male and his nest. When she is removed you get to wait.
Approximately a day and a half to two days after the spawn has taken place, you see the eggs hatching. Fry will be hanging tail down from the nest and often falling to the bottom of the container. Dad will be busy picking them up and placing them back in the nest. Some males are really good and get the fry up in the nest.. others kinda blow them in the general direction. Not to worry as the fry will probably make it to free-swimming regardless. Now is the time to make sure you have your brine shrimp hatching so you will have food ready for the fry to eat.
I usually figure about two more days for the fry to be free-swimming and horizontal. While they hang tail down they are using up their egg sacks. As they get horizontal they will need something they can feed on. I use Vinegar Eels as their first foods. On that second day, when they should be free-swimming, I add a lot of the vinegar eels so there is something live for them to snack on. The vinegar eels stay alive a long time in the water and swim through out the water column. The fry will spend a few days at the top so you don’t want a food on the bottom. Now is also the time to remove dad and put him in some clean water and feed him lightly.
About the third day I add some baby brine shrimp to the water for something more substantial for the fry. Many breeders use only bbs for a first food and I think most of the fry can handle eating them. For me I’ve just found the VE to be a better start and add the shrimp the second or third day. From then on the fry get one feeding of bbs and another feeding of some of the various micro worms. We always have some of the worms for sale on our auctions if you need some. Fry are fed this till about 4-6 weeks when we start adding some small pelleted foods. As they grow they are still fed the bbs and pellets. You will always find smaller fry among the fast growers and by feeding the bbs they will always have something the proper size to keep them growing. By the time they are 8 weeks old they will be on pellet food. Another few weeks and the boys will start getting full of them selves and need separating.
All along the way you will need to do water changes. After the fry are free-swimming you will want to siphon some of the funk off the bottom and replace with clean water about every 4 days. You can use a turkey baster being careful not to suck up fry. I still squirt in a container like a measuring cup to make sure I did not get any fry. Do this removing some water and replacing water till fry are about 4 weeks, then move them to a larger grow out tank. The size of the spawn determining the size of the tank. Most of my fish are grown out in 30 gallon tanks.. some smaller spawns are put in 20 gallon tanks. If you do not keep fresh water in your fry, you will find the ammonia will get high enough to kill you spawn off overnight. A lesson I learned the hard way and only once.
Some tricks if the pair won’t spawn. I have found a front coming through an area to give me good results when spawning.. especially when the barometer is falling. Another trick I’ve used is to siphon out some of the water and add fresh, simulating a rain storm. Usually having the pair well fed and in good condition will give the best result. Good luck and happy spawning!
All the pictures are from my friend Karen McAuley who breeds some the finest bettas in the US. Check out her web site here.