Breeding Bettas Part 2: Five Steps for Spawning Bettas

November 12, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Freshwater fish

Learn more about Bettas, Siamese Fighting FishMale Betta with Bubble Nest

Betta Splendens are gorgeous fish that are fun and easy to breed!

Breeding Bettas is fun and easy with just a few basic steps. Both the commonly available “veil tail” Siamese Fighting Fish and show quality specimens will spawn equally well.

Select healthy specimens of the type of betta you want. The tail fin types of betta breeds and how to tell male or female betta fish are discussed in Breeding Bettas Part 1, Selecting and Sexing for the Perfect Pair. Then choose the best breeding stock as outlined here. The pair of breeders you select should be conditioned and the breeding tank needs to be set-up.

Getting Bettas to spawn is not at all difficult and is very rewarding. The ultimate reward however, is when you finally spawn your pair and successfully raise the young. Raising the fry is the tricky part, so when you start a breeding program it’s important that you are prepared for the entire process. You’ll need to be ready to feed the newly hatched fry, and in a short order be ready to house them.

This guide will take you through the steps for breeding Bettas.

Step #1: Selecting the Pair

If you want to attempt to breed Betta Splendens the first thing you must do is select a pair. Choose a male and female with the characteristics you would like to see in the fry. Those with a similar color and fin type will produce the best results.

When selecting a pair there are some things that should be taken into consideration.

  1. Ages of the Fish
    The first thing that should be looked at is the ages of the fish you would like to breed. Bettas are usually at their peak breeding age between about four to twelve months of age. Females are usually able to breed for a while longer than males. This does not mean that an older pair will not breed; it simply means that you will have much better luck with younger fish, especially if you are a beginner.

  2. Sizes of the Fish
    The next thing that must be taken into consideration is the sizes of the fish. Always choose a pair of fish that are about the same size, or a female that is slightly smaller than the male. You should never attempt to breed a small male to a large female. The male will have a lot of trouble wrapping around the female during the spawning embrace, if he can even wrap around her at all. This can cause a lot of frustration for both fish. Frustration will result in torn fins and tails, unhappy fish, and no eggs in the bubble nest.

Breeding standard pet store Bettas vs. show/breeder quality Bettas:

This is basically a matter of opinion depending on what your goals are for breeding Bettas. If you simply want to breed for fun and don’t care about showing, developing your own strains, genetics, or making a profit off your bettas, then pet store bettas are fine. If your goals are to work with different strains and colors, develop your own strains, show your bettas, and/or work with tail types other than veil tails, then you will need to purchase quality stock.

  1. Standard pet store Bettas
    If you do decide to breed pet store bettas, keep in mind the fact that while many of them are very beautiful, they are genetic mutts. You cannot predict the outcome of fry from pet store betta parents. Their genes are too mixed up. Also keep in mind the fact that you will not make any money off of them. Pet Store bettas are veil tails, and not worth much more than a few dollars each. If you are planning on breeding pet store bettas, make sure you will be able to find homes for the fry, either through friends, or a local pet store that is willing to take them or trade for them when they are old enough.

  2. Show/breeder quality Bettas
    For show/breeder quality bettas you will need to get good stock. You can purchase quality stock from a breeder, or sometimes from a pet store that carries show quality stock. These bettas are more expensive but usually well worth the money. Make sure to research the breeder before you buy from them, to insure that you are getting healthy, quality stock. If getting them from a pet store, observe them to make sure they are healthy and talk to them about the source.

Step #2: Conditioning the Pair

You need to condition bettas so that they will be able to withstand the stress of courting and spawning. You also need to do this so that the female can produce a lot of eggs, and be ready to spawn, and so the male will have enough energy to take care of the eggs and fry after spawning. Conditioning usually takes about 1-2 weeks, though some breeders prefer a longer time to allow the female to produce the most eggs.

Conditioning a pair of bettas means feeding them high quality foods for one or two weeks prior to spawning. The pair should be fed small amounts two to four times a day, depending on the amount offered at each meal. If you regularly feed your Bettas a well balanced, high protein diet full of many different kinds of food, then conditioning may be unnecessary.

Live foods are the best to feed during the conditioning period, and will help condition them in a shorter time than processed commercial foods. Live foods can include bloodworms (mosquito larvae), tubifex worms, daphnias, finely chopped meat, and small insects like fruit flies. if you don’t have access to live foods then frozen and freeze dried are good also. Foods like frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp work well.

Place the male and female, each in its own container. Some breeders also claim that the pair should be separated from and unable to see other fish at this time. They also suggest that a light should be left over them for the conditioning period to stimulate a breeding hormone. However others have successfully conditioned without isolating them from others before spawning.

When they are allowed to see each other both the male and female should start to flare. The male will begin to build a bubble nest and the female will start producing eggs and her belly will begin to swell. Once the female is quite large and the ovipositor is protruding from her belly breeding can start.

Step #3: Setting up the breeding tank

You need to condition bettas so that they will be able to withstand the stress of courting and spawning. You also need to do this so that the female can produce a lot of eggs, and be ready to spawn, and so the male will have enough energy to take care of the eggs and fry after spawning. Conditioning usually takes about 1-2 weeks, though some breeders prefer a longer time to allow the female to produce the most eggs.

Step #4: Adding the pair to the breeding tank

There are a couple of approaches that breeders use when adding the pair to the tank. One is a “glass chimney approach” and another is a free swimming approach.

Glass chimney approach

Add a glass chimney (from a hurricane lamp) to the tank. Float each fish, still in their conditioning containers, in the tank for about an hour so that they get used to the temperature of the water. If the containers are too big to float in the breeding tank, place each in a smaller jar with water from their conditioning container, and float them in that. After an hour release the male directly into the tank, and gently pour the female into the glass chimney.

The male should start flaring at the female. Often she will flare right back at him, and if she is darkly colored she begin to display her vertical mating stripes. Eventually, usually within a few hours, the male will begin to build his nest under the styrofoam cup.

The best thing to do now is to leave the pair alone for a day or two. Let the male work on his nest and let the female decide that she wants to spawn with him. When the male has built a good size nest and/or the female is ready, you should release her from the chimney.

Some males do not make very large nests during spawning, or they decide to not make a nest at all. If after a few hours the male is still is not building a nest, and seems to have no clue, you can use a spoon to scoop up part of a nest from a different male and add that under or against the cup. This will usually give him the right idea, and he will start building a nest of his own.

You can tell that a female is ready by a few signs:

  1. Females will be displaying vertical mating stripes. However, this is almost impossible to see on light colored females.
  2. The female will be fat with eggs and her vent (the white spot between her ventral fins) will be elongated and easy to spot.
  3. She will be attempting to swim “with” the male and not away from him. She may be swimming at him in a head down position through the glass of the chimney, and/or flaring at him.

If the female is not showing any of these signs, wait another day or so to see if she does before releasing her. If she still does not respond to the male, you may want to try another female. If the male is not building a nest or is ignoring the female you may also want to try another pair, or another male. Some pairs just don’t seem to like each other.

Once the female appears ready and you let her out, a few different things may happen. She may swim over to the nest and the pair will spawn right then and there. But more than likely the male will chase her away from the nest and around the tank. He will then work on his nest and then chase her some more. This will continue for a while before she will approach him in a head-down position, and he will let her under the nest to spawn.

Free swimming approach

After conditioning, introduce the pair into the breeding tank. The male can be moved into the breeding tank during the conditioning period or just before breeding. They will flare at each other a lot at first, even chasing and biting each other. Then the male will get down to the business of building a nest and start enticing the female over, and when all is fine they will mate.

Torn fins and tails are very common at this point, particularly with the female. You should not remove her unless she is seriously wounded, or if she is picking on the male and not the other way around. If the male is not being overly aggressive towards the female, and she eludes him easily and does not seem scared to death of him, you should leave them in the tank together over night. Leave a small, dim light over the pair when leaving them out together overnight.

If the male is being very aggressive, and the female is having a really rough time, it is best to place her in the chimney over night. Let her out again in the morning when you can keep an eye on them. You may have to leave the pair in the tank together for two or three days before they spawn.

Step #5: The Spawning Embrace

When the male finally lets the female approach the nest the pair will begin a kind of “dance” together. The male will swim in a horizontal “S” like pattern; the female may do the same. The male will embrace the female, and eggs will begin to fall.

It may take the pair a few trys to get the embrace right, this is normal, especially if they are young, and/or it is their first time spawning. After the embrace the male will gather the eggs in his mouth and spit them up into the bubble nest. The female will float at the top, temporarily unconscious. This is normal. She will soon recover and often help the male gather the eggs.

The pair will then repeat this process, often for a few hours. Anywhere from 50-500 eggs may be in the nest when they are done spawning, though 100-200 seems to be the aver rage. You will know the pair is done spawning once the male starts defending his nest from the female, and won’t let her anywhere near it.

If you aren’t sure whether or not there are eggs in the nest, you can shine a flashlight under the nest and usually see the eggs. You will also notice the male poking around in the nest, tending to the eggs; He will be extremely defensive about the nest and the female will not be able to get anywhere near it.

Your Bettas have spawned, so what’s next?

Once your Bettas have successfully spawned and the eggs begin to hatch, feeding the fry will critical for their survival. As the fry grow the males will start to fight, so having containers to separate them into will soon be needed. Learn about growing out Betta fry in the next article of this three part series, Breeding Bettas Part 3: Raising Betta Fry and Care.

All sorts of Siamese Fighting Fish varieties have been developed in each of the 5 basic fin types. See the Betta Splendens information page to learn all about these different types, as well as other Betta species that you may encounter.

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Some excerpts are from BurningAmber520’s article “Breeding Bettas,” originally posted in Animals-World’s Aquatic Passions site.

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