Breeding Bettas Part 3: Raising Betta Fry and Care

November 20, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Freshwater fish

Learn more about Bettas, Siamese Fighting Fish

Your gorgeous breeding pair of Siamese Fighting Fish has spawned and the eggs are hatching; now it’s time for the grand finale!

Spawning the Betta Splendens is an awesome achievement!

If your just getting started, selecting the best healthy specimens of the type of betta you want to breed is discussed in Breeding Bettas Part 1, Selecting and Sexing for the Perfect Pair. Once you’ve chosen the best breeding stock, everything from conditioning to spawning your Bettas is outlined in Breeding Bettas Part 2: Spawning Bettas in 5 Easy Steps.

Breeding the Siamese Fighting Fish is very rewarding in and of itself, but getting a pair to spawn and produce eggs is actually only the beginning. The true success of the breeding experience comes from growing out the fry. This is the tricky part because these tiny little creatures are very fragile.

Raising fry successfully requires the proper environment for theses little fellows and diligence in their care and maintenance. They must have regular feedings of the proper foods for each stage of growth. At first they will only be able to eat very tiny foods, but as they get bigger so must the foods.

The number of fry can range anywhere from about 50 to 300 or more, so the supplies needed and the methods for raising the baby bettas can vary. However the water quality must be kept pristine and live foods are a must, as that is the only thing newly hatched fry will eat. You must also be ready to move them into new containers, especially as the young males begin to assert their territorial personalities.

Fry grow out tank

There are different methods for growing out betta fry. Some aquarists will transfer them immediately into a new tank designed specifically for raising them. Other aquarists will keep them in the breeding tank for about the first 3-4 weeks, or even 6 weeks, before moving them into a grow out tank. No matter what method you use, there are some basics that are needed for all grow out tanks

  1. Aquarium
    A grow out tank that’s 20 gallons or more is optimal.
  2. Aquarium heater
    A heater is needed to keep the temperature in the mid to high 80’s.
  3. Aquarium filter
    The tank needs a filter to help oxygenate the water and help keep the water clean.
  4. Lighting
    Lighting is needed to grow out fry, but it can be either standard aquarium lighting or natural daylight.
  5. Aquarium cover
    A top on the aquarium is a good idea to keep the fry from inadvertently jumping out, and keep anything from falling into the tank.
  6. Syphon for water changes
    When doing water changes, the regular gravel syphons will pull too much water and too quickly, so syphoning with either a turkey baster or flexible tubing like airline hose works best.
  7. Live Plants
    Live plants are not absolutely necessary but they are beneficial. They provide infusoria, which is a natural food source for very young fry, and they are also thought to help promote growth in the fry.

Betta fry foods

Betta fry have a natural instinct to feed on anything that is moving and smaller than them. However they won’t eat anything that is dry like flakes or even powders, so will need live foods.
Infusoria and tiny free-living nematodes such as Vinegar Eels, Microworms, Banana Worms, and Walter Worms, as well as baby Brine Shrimp, Daphnia, Fairy Shrimp, and Grindal Worms are all great fry food. Live food cultures are not always readily available in a fish store, but can often be special ordered or be purchased online.

It’s best to obtain cultures before starting the breeding process. Once your Betta Splendens spawn you’ll want to start growing cultures to have them available as the betta fry become free swimming. Most cultures like dark areas and they can be smelly, so you may want to store them out of the way.

Feeding Betta fry

Betta fry under a bubble nest

Newly hatched fry will be bunched up in a cluster near the top of the tank while they are still feeding from their egg sacks. During this time they won’t need to be fed. Once the majority of them are free swimming they will be ready for their first feeding. Some will become free swimming quickly while the majority of them are still in a clump, so this is where infusoria from live plants can help.

It’s best to feed the fry with several small feedings daily rather than just a couple large feedings. Smaller meals will help to insure that most of the food gets consumed. Foods that don’t get eaten will start to contaminate the water. Feeding 3-4 small feedings a day works best.

  • For the first three days after becoming free-swimming the fry will need very miniscule foods. Infusoria and tiny free-living nematodes like Vinegar Eels, Microworms, Banana Worms, and Walter Worms make great first foods.
  • After 3 days they will be large enough to also start feeding on baby brine shrimp.
  • After a week continue to feed baby brine shrimp, but feeding the tiny nematodes will no longer offer any nutritional value.
  • At 3-4 weeks continue to feed baby brine shrimp, but you can also introduce finely grated frozen foods. Frozen Bloodworms and frozen Daphnia work great. The Hikari brand is a good choice because their frozen foods have vitamins added before packaging and the food goes through a strict parasite decontamination process.
  • At 4-5 weeks you can keep feeding brine shrimp, but you can also introduce live Blackworms. These are aquatic worms and are great because they will live in the tank until they are eaten. Grindal Worms are also a good food that can be introduced at this time. Brine Shrimp, Blackworms, and Grindal Worms can all be fed to adult bettas as well.
  • At about 8-9 weeks the fry are starting to mature. Live Brine Shrimp and Bloodworms are still ideal foods, along with frozen foods. At this time dry foods can also be introduced.

As they become larger sized and are readily eating dry foods the number of feedings can be reduced. Feeding them once a day will be okay, but feeding twice a day is best until they are fully grown.

Fry tank maintenance

Betta fry are very susceptible to unstable tank conditions, which includes the quality of the water and the temperature. Good water quality is very important for a successful spawn, but also for the health of the fry and to stimulate fast growth. Keeping track of the water temperature and doing water changes are a necessary part of the daily maintenance. The ideal pH is between 7-7.2 but if you have lower or higher, it’s best to just leave it alone.

  1. Water Temperature
    Water temperature is a crucial element to successfully maintain the fry. Keep the temperature around 85-88 degrees F. for the best and optimal growth. Check the aquarium heater regularly and keep it as constant as possible, they cannot tolerate much fluctuation.
  2. Water Changes
    Changing out part of the water daily will be needed to keep the water quality perfect. The first water changes can be when the fry are two weeks old. At this point you can start doing regular water changes.
    Some breeders suggest changing out 25% of the water twice a week while others suggest a smaller daily water change. In the wild, the larger betta fry are known to release a Growth Inhibiting Hormone (GIH) which stunts the growth of the other fry. Besides providing optimal water quality, more regular water changes can reduce the amount of any inhibiting hormones that may be released into the grow out tank.
    Using a syphon to remove water works best and the syphoning action can also be used to remove dead fry and dead fry foods. However regular gravel syphons are too strong to use with the fry. At two weeks old these guys are still very small, reaching only about .6 cm in length. Gravel syphons pull too much water at one time and pull too quickly, sucking the fry up or killing them with a sudden rush of water.
    A turkey baster or flexible tubing work best for syphoning and refilling the tank. Airline hose works great and you can also put a slender stick, like a chopstick, into the end that you put into the tank to help slow the water flow down and have more control.

Separating the fry

Generally at about 8-9 weeks of age the fry will start to show their colors. An occasional batch may start coloring as early as 2 1/2 to 3 Weeks of age, but this is unusual. At this age the males will start to assert their nippy personalities. When this happens they must be separated into their own tanks or containers, a process known as “jarring.”

  1. Jarring containers
    Each male will need its own home which can be a jar, bottle, cup or other container. Females can also be moved into jars, but if there’s not enough space for that they can be kept together in a tank. However, the larger fish will eat their smaller siblings.
  2. Maintaining the jars
    Maintaining the jars can be a big job, depending on how many containers you have. To maintain the temperature you can place the jars into a large tub of water and keep a single heater in the tub. Water changes will still be needed for each individual jar, just as it was for the grow out tank.

Once your fry are grown out and have obtained their color, they will be ready to trade or sell. You may be able to find homes for them through friends or a local pet store that is willing to take them or trade for them. Show quality Bettas can be shared with other breeders and even sold to Betta lovers online. The entire process of breeding the Betta Splendens is fun and ultimately very rewarding!

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.

Photos provided courtesy of Animal-World.com contributors on Dr. Jungle’s Pets and Animal Photos of Siamese Fighting Fish – Betta and Aquatic Passions contributors.

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