Betta fish are gorgeous and come in a massive variety of colors and shapes. Some people want to try their hand at breeding betta fish in order to see what colors and variants they can create. Others see the price tag of bettas, from $3-30, and want to try and make a profit.
Either way, you’ll need to do extensive research into breeding bettas. In the most simple terms, the male and female must be placed together to breed, but most people don’t have enough funds to do so properly or successfully. If you are looking to make a profit, you will unfortunately have a difficult time doing so. However, this does not mean it is impossible.
In this article, we will discuss how to choose a pair, conditioning, how to set up a breeding tank, how to introduce the bettas, spawning, egg care, fry care, and jarring.
Choosing Your Pair
When it comes to picking your pair, your breeding intent is an important consideration. If you want to breed to see what surprising colors you come up with, you won’t have a limited selection. Pick whichever fish you think look the best! However, you will want to avoid veil tails. Even though they are gorgeous, the veil tail gene is dominant, and veil tails have already oversaturated the market.
You may want to pick bettas with the marble gene, which will cause random color changes during the betta’s life. This can cause
However, if you plan on breeding for profit, you should get fish from a reputable breeder. The breeder will know the exact genetics of your fish, so you can predict the offspring. You can start out with show quality fish in order to produce the highest number of show quality fish. If you breed together two pretty fish, they may have nice colors, but they will not be show grade.
Show grade fish sell for the most money, sometimes for several hundred dollars. Before you start calculating all your potential profit, take into consideration that there is no guarantee you will get show quality offspring. Show quality fish will give you the best chance, but most, if not all, of the offspring will not carry the greatest traits.
Also, make sure your bettas are between 5 and 12 months of age. They can breed after this age, but they have the most potential if they breed at this age. Pet store bettas will not have specific ages, but bettas from a breeder will.
Once you have your pair, you must start preparations. Adult bettas must be conditioned in order to produce the most and healthiest offspring. The adults also sustain a great deal of damage during the breeding process, so keeping them healthy gives them the best chance of recovery.
You must separate your bettas in order to condition them for 2-4 weeks. Raise their temperatures to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Get some good quality frozen foods, like Mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, bloodworms, and beef heart. Even though frozen food will suffice, live food is the best way to condition your bettas. Blackworms and white worms are the best for conditioning, in my experience.
Feed your bettas smaller than normal meals 3-5 times a day. This will help the female produce more eggs while still gaining weight. Similarly, the male will need to build up his strength, as he will not eat for 5-7 days after spawning.
Raising the temperature, just by 2 degrees, help speed up their metabolism. This allows them to eat more food than normal and create excess fat reserves. The female will be able to produce more eggs than normal.
Blood worms and beef heart need to be fed in moderation, due to their excessive fat content. Feed these only 1-3 times a week while conditioning your betta. During this time period, they still need to eat their normal betta pellets.
Feeding Mysis and brine shrimp provides the bettas with a great source of protein and nutrients. Additionally, shrimp can also help bring out the best coloration in both fish. Female bettas tend to spawn with more brightly colored males, especially if they are red. Therefore, increasing their coloration can increase chances of impressing the female.
Breeding Tank Set Up
The breeding tank needs to be at least 10 gallons, though larger is also acceptable. Smaller is not. There should be no substrate, and it needs to be between 80 and 82 degrees. However, some decorations need to be present, as the female may need to escape and hide.
The bubble nest is the most important part of this process. The male creates bubbles from spit and water, often between 300-500 bubbles. These bubbles combine and form a nest, which is where the male will care for the babies.
These bubbles can only form if there is a large amount of moisture. Due to this, you need an extremely secure lid. You will want to see condensation dripping off the lid and all the sides of the aquarium. Therefore, if you have properly heated the aquarium and add a lid, you should see moisture start to form on the lids and sides within a few seconds.
The male also needs something to build the bubble nest around. You can use an Indian Almond leaf, floating plants, or even a Styrofoam cup. I have had the most luck using floating plants, particularly red root floats, because they flourish in the high moisture content. Some plants, like Frogbit and dwarf water lettuce will not survive the high moisture levels and will rot.
Some recommend lowering the water level to just a few inches, but I have found this unnecessary. You can do this if you want, but it doesn’t matter either way.
Introducing the Male and Female
Introducing the male and female to one another must be done carefully. Both has the power to kill the other, and sometimes they use that power. Above all, keep in mind that neither will come out of the breeding process unscathed; there will be carnage.
You need a tall vase or glass jar; something that can protrude from the top of the water and is see through. The female will first go in here. It must be open to the top so that she can take a breath of air when needed, but she can’t go into the tank just yet.
First, introduce the male to the new tank first, for several hours to several days. With any luck, he will start building a bubble nest without the female being introduced. He should build a bubble nest before you introduce the female, otherwise, he will just chase her or attempt to mate without the bubble nest, which the female will not do.
If the male has produced a successful bubble nest, the next step is to make sure the female is ready. Once you place her in the jar, the male will likely come over and start flaring. This is to show that he is dominant. Ideally, you want a dominant male and a submissive female.
If the female responds by angling her head and body down at a 45-degree angle, that is a great sign. That would be a signal of submissiveness, which the male would see and understand. At this point, both fish are ready to mate, or at least try. Once you have both a bubble nest and a submissive female, you can release her.
The actual spawning process is not harmful, but the part before can be. The female will inspect the bubble nest, but she may not like what she sees. It is possible she can then become aggressive. On the other hand, the male may become frustrated at the seeming unwillingness of the female to spawn, even after she indicated she wanted to.
During the spawning process, the male will wrap himself around the female, she will release eggs, and he will fertilize them. The female will then appear to be lifeless and fall, but she is fine. It looks more like she is in a trance while the male rapidly gathers all the eggs.
He will carry all the eggs in his mouth and spit them into the bubble nest. He will take several trips if necessary. The female can release anywhere from one to twenty eggs at a time. Therefore, it could take him several moments to carry all the eggs up and secure them. In addition, if the female comes out of her “trance”, she should help carry the eggs up.
The spawning process often takes several hours, during which you should not disturb them. Give them as much space as possible. After the spawning process, the male will begin to defend the nest aggressively, even against the female. She needs to be removed at this point, but carefully, so that the nest is not disturbed.
Luckily for you, the male will take care of the eggs! They will become “wigglers” within 2-3 days, during which the male will have to bring them back up to the nest as they start trying to swim. After the wiggler stage, the fry will become free swimming a few days later. They should all be free swimming five or six days after the eggs are laid, and the male can be removed at this point.
One of the hardest parts of caring for the fry is their food. This is because baby bettas will eat only live food for the first month of their lives. For example, they must be fed microworms, banana worms, or vinegar eels for the first 3-5 days of life. Starting on the fourth day, they should eat baby brine shrimp as a main meal.
The baby brine shrimp will be a major portion of their meal for most of the month, but they need other food as well. However, young daphnia and scuds should be fed as well and can even replace baby brine shrimp. As they grow, you can start to feed them Grindal and white worms, which will spur their growth. You can begin trying to feed them powdered fry foods at 3 weeks of age, but don’t expect them to eat
Jarring is one of the major expenses of breeding bettas. Bettas are aggressive, and they show that aggression young. Aggressive males and females must be separated out while the rest of the fry are moved to 40+ gallon tanks. The aggressive babies are moved to “jars”, which must be at least half a gallon and heated to 78 degrees.
If there is no central filtration system for the babies, 50% daily water changes are necessary. Additionally, the smaller the jar, the higher the chance that the babies will have some deformities. This will cut into their value.
Since betta spawns can reach 300+ babies, jarring gets expensive very quickly. About half the spawn will be males, which must be jarred, and more of the spawn will be aggressive females. You should start with 100-200 jars. Now you can see why this gets expensive!
Breeding bettas is an extremely rewarding task, but it is also very difficult. This is a time-consuming venture, but there is possibility for some return. Once you breed your first bettas successfully, you will just want more and more!