Female bettas lay, on average, 350 eggs, so you really need to think twice before attempting to breed your fish. It takes a lot of time, space, money and elbow grease to successfully breed bettas. And, unless you know you have a market for the fry, you are soon going to be knee-deep in bettas. If you can manage all of that, then let’s proceed with how to breed bettas.
Selecting Your Parent Fish
The bettas of either sex should be similar in size and be over twenty weeks old. Bettas can breed at a younger age, but this is not healthy for the fish. Your parents should be exceptional in color, health and finnage. They should exhibit some quirk that you’d like to see passed on to future generations of bettas. It’s easier to select your parent stock if you know the colors and fin shapes of their parent’s fish. It’s next to impossible to do this with pet store bettas, since you do not have any idea what genes they are carrying.
Getting Ready For The Big Date
The parent fish need to be conditioned by being fed food higher in protein. This could include frozen bloodworms, slivers of fresh beef heart or live brine shrimp. They also should be at a constant temperature of 80 degrees Farenheight.
While they’re getting ready, you need to get the breeding tank ready, as well as a large as tank as possible for the female fry to live in. You’ll probably have more buyers for the males than the females. The breeding tank needs to be between five and fifteen gallons. It needs a submersible, adjustable aquarium heater and a stick-on thermometer so you can keep the heat at 80 F.
Don’t use a filter or air stone in the breeding tank. The filter will destroy the bubble nest and kill they fry. Heavy air currents will also do the same thing. Put a little hiding place for the female in case she can’t get along with the male.
The Big Date
After a couple of weeks or a month, put the male in the tank first and let him build a bubble nest for the eggs to hatch in. Usually the presence of a female will get him to build a bubble nest and some will build if a small piece of Styrofoam is floated on top of the tank. Then introduce the female.
Spawning takes about a day and is usually proceeded by a lot of posturing and chasing about. If fins start getting ripped off, separate the fish and forget about breeding that pair. When things go well, the male will hug the female, forming a U shape around her body. As she lays her eggs, he deposits his sperm over them. He goes off to place the eggs into the bubble nest while she floats as if dead for a little while, then she suddenly revives and helps to get the eggs into the bubble nest.
Her part is done. Get her out, because now the male will kill her.
The fry hatch two to three days after spawning. They don’t need their first feed until they are freely swimming about on their own, about four days after the hatching. They’ll look like sperm cells. They hatch with a yolk sac attached to them, but this is depleted after four days.
Remove the male. Feed the fry three times a day with boiled yolk egg, commercial liquid fry food or baby brine shrimp. After two months, they should start to look like miniature versions of their parents. As soon as you can tell the males from the females, separate them. The males will need to be housed in their own bowl or jar but the females can all live together in the big communal tank you set up earlier.
Don’t do any water changes until the fry are three weeks old, and then only do a 15% water change with the smallest diameter air hose you can. You can do these partial water changes every two weeks.
“Aquarium Care of Bettas.” David E. Boruchowitz. TFH Publications; 2006.
“A Complete Introduction to Bettas.” Walt Maurus. TFH Publications; 1986.
Betta Talk. “Breeding Bettas.” http://www.bettatalk.com/breeding_bettas.htm
Aquarium Hobbyist. “Breeding Bettas.” Heidi Hart. http://www.aquariumhobbyist.com/articles/BreedingBettas.html