Published October 09, 2012
Breeding betta fish can be both an enjoyable and educational experience.
Breeding the Two Kinds of Betta Fish
Betta fish are an excellent species for beginners in the aquarium hobby because they are hardy and easy to care for. Not only are these fish easy to raise, but they are also fairly easy to breed. Most people are familiar with Betta splendens, or the Siamese fighting fish, but many aquarium hobbyists do not realize that there are actually over 30 different species of betta fish. These species are fairly similar in appearance but they can be divided into two groups based on their breeding habits – one group of betta species builds bubble nests while the others brood their young in their mouths. Before you attempt to breed your betta fish you should learn the basics about these two breeding methods and determine which type of breeder your betta is.
Bubble Nesting Betta Fish
Some of the most popular species of bubble-nesting betta fish include Betta smaragdina (Emerald Betta), Betta imbellis (Crescent Betta), Betta bellica (Slender Betta) and Betta splendens (Siamese Fighting Fish). In these species, it is typically the male who takes responsibility for building and guarding the nest. To construct a bubble nest, the male betta will blow many small bubbles on the surface of the tank, collecting the bubbles together to form a next. The size and shape of the nest may vary depending on the species as well as the conditions in the tank. After the nest is complete, the male betta will guard the nest until the female is ready to mate. When the female’s color pales and she develops bars or stripes on her flanks, it is typically a signal that spawning is about to occur.
In preparation for spawning, the male betta will lure the female under the bubble nest. Mating in most betta species involves a type of “embrace” in which the male wraps himself around the female. Spawning occurs when the male releases his sperm at the same time the female releases her eggs. As the eggs are released, the female catches them in her fins and the male takes them into his mouth and gently transfers them to the bubble nest. The process may then be repeated until the female has no more eggs and all of the eggs have been moved to the bubble nest. After spawning, the male will take up sole responsibility for the eggs, guarding them fiercely and returning them to the bubble nest if they fall out. The eggs typically hatch after 24 to 48 hours and will remain in the nest for another 3 or 4 days until the yolk sacs have been fully absorbed.
Mouth-brooding Betta Fish
Though they are somewhat less popular than the bubble-nesting species of betta fish, some breeders prefer to work with certain mouth-brooding species including Betta picta (Java Mouth-brooding Betta), Betta pugnax (Penang Betta) and Betta raja. While mouth-brooding species of betta fish do not build nests, the rest of the spawning process is very similar to that of bubble-nesting species. These fish engage in the same type of embrace in which the male betta wraps his body around the female and releases his sperm at the same moment she releases her eggs. Following spawning, the male catches the fertilized eggs in his fins for the female to pick up in her mouth. The female then spits the eggs out into the water and the male catches them. Once the male has caught all the fertilized eggs in his mouth, the couple may repeat the spawning cycle until the female has released all of her eggs.
After the male has gathered all of the eggs into his mouth he will typically incubate them for a period of 9 to 16 days. During this time, the male may eat little and, if he becomes stressed, he could end up swallowing the eggs or releasing them prematurely. After the incubation period has ended, the male betta will release the fully-formed fry. At this point, the male will continue to offer some protection to the newly hatched fry but it is also safe to remove the parents from the tank at this point to raise the fry to maturity on their own.
Tips for Breeding Bettas
Before you attempt to breed your betta fish you need to determine what species you have and whether it is a bubble-nesting or mouth-brooding species. Once you have this information you can begin to condition your male and female bettas in separate tanks, feeding them a diet of live and frozen foods. Once the female noticeably swells with eggs and the male (in bubble-nesting species) prepares a bubble nest, you can think about bringing the two sexes together. After conditioning the breeding pair you may introduce the female into the tank with the male, but be sure to provide some kind of shelter in case the male becomes aggressive with his advances and the female needs a break. In most cases, spawning will happen very quickly and without much provocation on your part. If, however, the betta fish seem to need some more time you should separate them and continue your conditioning regimen for a few days. If you do achieve success in spawning your bettas, be sure to remove the female from the tank after spawning to give her a chance to rest and so the male doesn’t feel threatened by her presence in the tank.