Betta Fish Breeding – Step By Step Guide


Breeding Betta fish, though exciting, requires a lot of patience and meticulousness.

Taxonomy lists over 70 kinds of Betta fish species.  But the most common kind Betta fish farmers, aquarists, and even new hobbyists like take care of and breed are Betta Splendens.

Betta Splendens are small, colorful fish characterized by beautiful, oversized fins.  They are native to the warm, low-current waters of Southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand and Cambodia, where they live in shallow rice paddies.

So before we dive in, let’s deal with some basics first.

Betta Fish Are Gorgeous, But Need Special Breeding Care

While attractive and possessing colorful bodies as well as astonishing fins, they are famously known as Siamese fighting fish for their aggressiveness.  Their fins flare when the fish senses hostility or danger.  It is their way of warding off would-be attackers.

There’s something for everyone to learn: first-timers get the satisfaction of successfully creating more of these lovely, tropical creatures; and expert breeders get the thrill of creating new strains and colors of Betta fish through crossbreeding.

Male Betta fish in particular, will not accept any male rival in its territory.  Therefore, putting 2 males in one tank is dangerous and won’t work out.

Female Betta fish, though just a little less aggressive as their male counterparts, will also fight for hierarchy if put together in one small place.  But unlike male Bettas, sororities can be possible, usually in 20-gallon tanks with around 4 to 6 females.

Can Betta Fish Be Crossbred?

Betta fish crossbreeding dates back as far as when Thailand was still known as Siam.  People wanted to produce the most aggressive fish that can win the most fights, as matches involve quite the sum. 

Nowadays, crossbreeding is done to produce beautiful, rare-colored Bettas.  Those with the marble-color gene even change appearances during adulthood. There is a downside however, as offspring produced through Betta fish crossbreeding have a slightly higher risk of acquiring health problems and deformities.

So, if you’re ready for your Betta fish to start a family, gather all the things you need.

 Here are the steps in breeding Betta fish:

Betta Fish Breeding - Step By Step Guide
Betta Fish Breeding – Step By Step Guide

1. Betta Fish Conditioning Before Mating:

You might feel like you’re producing a series of The Bachelor, but your male and female stars do need to look good and healthy.  So, before you choose a male and female Betta pair, it would be best to give them protein-rich food.  This will make both more fertile.

What Type Of Food Makes A Betta Fish Healthy For Breeding?

Since Betta fish are insectivores, feed them a good protein-rich diet includes live baby brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, and bloodworms.

2. Betta Fish Pairing:

Female Betta fish that are mature enough for breeding can be sometimes seen laying eggs in her tank. While carrying eggs, they’re called gravid.

Since Betta fish don’t give birth to live young, females don’t really get pregnant.  She spawns these eggs about twice a month, making her look fat, and will dispel them without a male.

Can A Female Betta Fish Become Pregnant Without A Male?

In the absence of a male Betta fish partner, eggs will not be fertilized, and that’s why eggs won’t hatch. To make it perfect, a male Betta fish must be needed to fertilize eggs. Long story short, female and male Bettas come together at the same time, the female Betta releases eggs and male releases sperms to fertilize eggs.

How To Select Betta Fish Pair For Breeding?

Yes, Betta fish marriages are arranged, but really, it’s for their own good.  As a good parent, you’d want the best-looking and healthiest Betta fish as a mate for your pet in order for them to have the strongest babies with the liveliest colors.

When pairing Betta fish for breeding, choose a male and a female Betta aged around 4 to 12 months.  This is the time when they mature and are most active, giving you a better chance at successful breeding.

Male Betta fish have bigger, wider, and more colorful fins than their female counterparts.  Select a female that is slightly smaller than her male counterpart.  This is because the male has to dominate the relationship.

If the female is bigger than her partner, the male might get intimidated and won’t be interested in breeding.

3. The Breeder Tank For Betta Fish:

So it’s time to give Prince Charming his castle now.  Choose a tank that will not be too big so that when the male Betta fish tries to catch fertilized eggs, he will not have to travel too far.  Eggs that fall to the bottom of the tank will not survive.

How Big A Tank Should Be For Betta Fish Breeding?

Set up a 2-gallon breeding container with water around 3-4 inches high. 

Add a piece of aquarium plant to create infusoria for fish fry food and as an absorbent for dirt and germs.  Add an Indian Almond leaf, too, to release tannins that will help keep the tank clean.  Another purpose for both plants is to act as a hiding place for the fish, simulating their natural environment.  The Indian Almond leaves provide tannins that condition the water, preventing the fast spread of bacteria.  This is beneficial when the fish fry hatch. 

After several hours, put the male Betta fish in this tank.  Wait an hour as he dominates his new territory.  When he does, the fish is less stressed and more fertile.

One other reason why the breeding container is shallow with only 3-4 inches of conditioned water is so that when the Betta fish fry hatch, they can easily get to their food.

Because of the “homely” setup, male Betta fish will feel right at home in this small yet comfy breeder tank.

4. The Betta Fish Acquaintance Stage:

Your couple would have to be set up on a “blind date”.

How To Introduce Betta Fish Before Breeding?

Put your Betta fish in separate see-through containers and blacken out the sides except for where they can see each other.  This is so they can get used to the other’s presence.

Give your Betta fish around 24 hours to both settle down and get excited.

5. Introducing Female Betta Fish:

Ah, so near and yet so far.  This is the chance for the princess to bat her eyelashes while building up anticipation, otherwise known as the courtship stage.

How To Make Female Betta Ready For Breeding?

After the hour has past, place a see-through container (can be glass or plastic) with the female Betta fish inside the tank.  This container acts as a barrier between the two during courtship as males are known for attacking the females to assert dominance.  This is to make sure that they accept each other before releasing.

Cover the tank for privacy and leave them there for 24 hours.

6.The Betta Fish Bubble Nest Stage:

Responsible parenthood begins with family planning, and your male Betta fish knows this.

Why Does Betta Fish Make Bubble Nest? How long the bubble nest will last?

After a day, you will notice that a bubble nest has been created by the male.  This is how you know that your male has accepted his partner.  A bubble nest is a cluster of bubbles floating on top of the water created by the male Betta fish using his saliva. 

This behavior of the male is totally normal and is a good indication that he is healthy and looking forward to building his family. The bubble nest usually lasts for more than a week.

Once the breeding and hatching periods are over, it is alright if you decide to destroy the bubble nest for the tank cleaning purposes.

7. Feed Your Betta Fish Before They Mate

Weddings always include a meal.  I mean, c’mon, mating can be exhausting.  So in anticipation, your fish will need their strength.

Make sure your Betta fish are fed before releasing the female from its container.  After which, you can release the female from its confinement. 

Observe for a while.  If the male chases the female around aggressively in the tank, it’s a sign that he has not accepted her as a mate, or she is not ready to breed.  If this happens, put her back into her container and leave a little while more in view of the male.

If all seems well, cover the tank again for another 24 hours.  Exposure to air makes the bubbles in the nest burst, and you don’t want that.

8.Betta Fish Mating:

Do not disturb.  Seriously, put that cover back on.  This couple needs their privacy.

Does Betta Fish Eggs Float Or Sink?

During mating, the male Betta fish will coil around the female’s body, squeeze her, and strike the roe (or unfertilized eggs) out of her belly between her fins and her tail.  He will then release milt, or seminal fluid, into the water.  Before the fertilized eggs sink to the bottom of the tank, the male Betta fish will gather them into his mouth and secure them on the bubble nest.

It is not advisable to feed pairs while waiting for them to mate.  If you try to, you might disturb, delay, or halt the process of breeding altogether. 

While the female is laying eggs, it is natural for her to look like she’s momentarily stupefied or floating on her side.  Don’t panic, this is normal.  She will recuperate in a minute or two.

9. Betta Fish Spawning Eggs Stage:

Check on your couple the next day for success. Observe the bubble nest and look for small opaque white balls.  These are your Betta fish eggs. If the pair is not done yet with spawning eggs, place the cover back on and wait a few more hours. 

How Many Eggs Can A Female Betta Fish Lay?

Usually, it takes few minutes to produce up to 40 eggs per laying and can lay once or several times during the mating.  This is how some breeders can say they found hundreds of eggs in their breeder tank after the process.

10. How Does A Betta Fish Protect Eggs?

And just like that, the romance is over.  Male Betta fish shift their attention to the eggs right after they’re fertilized. 

In the wild, it is the male Betta fish’s job to protect its eggs from falling off of the nest as well as from lurking predators.  You’ll find the Betta fish male swimming under the bubble nest and warding off anything that comes its way, including the female.

As females don’t have any participation in rearing its young, males are no longer interested in the females and chase them away after the mating process.  As such, the female needs to be removed from the tank so she won’t get injured. 

You’ll know when to remove the female Betta fish when:

  • Its body is thinner than it used to, indicating successful egg-laying.
  • It doesn’t want to approach the male anymore as mating is done and both are no longer interested in each other.
  • The male is already incubating the eggs in the bubble nest.

Removing the female Betta fish from the breeding tank should be done carefully so as not to disturb the incubation process.  Males will get jealous and angry with any disturbance during the incubation period.

After removing the female Betta fish, you can feed both parents.  Start slow and don’t overwhelm them.

Sounds simple, right?  But what if something goes wrong?

Problems You May Encounter When Breeding Betta Fish:

While you are trying this process, a number of things can go wrong. 

  • Male Betta Fish Can Eat Their Eggs

Male Betta fish, that are not inclined to breed, may eat the eggs instead of fertilize them.  That’s why instead of numerous eggs floating on the water, you’d see only a few… and they’re not even fertilized.

  • Why Male Betta Fish Didn’t Blow A Bubble Nest?

Some males want to be good, responsible fathers, but just can’t.  They didn’t blow enough bubbles to create a nest, and some don’t create nests at all.  The most ideal bubble nests are those that look like a cluster of suds or foam.

There are many factors as to why male Betta fish don’t create bubble nests.  Among them are dirty tanks, wrong water temperature, young or old age, strong currents or filters, or poor health.

There are also instances when the female destroys the bubble nest as a sign that she does not accept the male Betta as her partner.

Be sure to check under your plants, too, as sometimes, the bubble nest is actually hidden under a leaf.  As it is natural instinct for male Bettas to keep eggs secure, floating leaves or debris are good places to hide nests.

  • Why My Betta Fish Breeding Process Was Not Successful?

Unfortunately, some Betta fish pairings don’t end up like a fairy tale, but a Shakespearean tragedy instead.

If your male Betta fish keeps on aggressively chasing the female in the breeding tank, remove her immediately.  You can try again starting with the acquaintance stage, but give them a longer time to adjust to each other.  If they still won’t get along, select another female for the task.  It isn’t rare to find female Betta fish killed by the male when you’re trying to pair them.

It won’t hurt to try again as the male Betta fish may be suited more to a different female.  But if he continues to hurt and kill his partner, he can be concluded as unfit for breeding.

Now that the eggs are here, let’s focus on the babies.

Taking Care Of Betta Fish Fry: From Laying To Transfer

The time from laying to transferring fish fry to a new tank is very crucial, as this is when most breeding attempts fail. 

These are the usual day-to-day stages that Betta fish fry go through.  They may be lengthened or shortened depending on the indicators described.

Day 1: Don’t Stress Daddy Betta Fish

As mentioned earlier, male Betta fish will be aggressive towards anything that approaches his bubble nest. 

The eggs are attached to the bubbles, and the male Betta fish is very protective of them.  Disturbing him might result in frustration, causing him to eat the eggs.

At this point, observe but don’t disturb.

Day 2: Confirmation Of Due Date

Don’t take daddy away yet!  Some advise removing the father from the tank at this stage, but it still has a crucial role to play in ensuring his kids will turn out fine.

The eggs will turn yellowish at this point.  This is a good sign that the eggs are fertilized and being taken care of properly by their father.

Some male Betta fish continue to blow bubbles to ensure the safety of the eggs.  If he deems that corner of the tank unsuitable for his kids, he might move them to another.  He will also pick up and return any egg that falls from the nest.

Day 3-4: Hatching

Some of the eggs may have hatched.  As they are sometimes too tiny to be seen, a good indication would be that the bubbles from the nest are a little scattered than before.  This means that there are fry attached underneath the bubbles.

You may also see some fry swimming in the tank, or breaking away from the bubbles.

As for feeding, your newly hatched fry will be happy with the infusoria you cultivated in the tank.  They’re microscopic, meaning they’re small enough that the babies won’t choke. 

Day 4: All Eggs Hatched

Daddy Betta will be busier than ever, scanning the bottom of the tank for fry that may have fallen off.  He will continue to do this until all babies are able to swim freely.

There may no longer be bubbles floating on the water and the fry are now all seemingly independent in the breeding tank.

Day 5: Removing The Male Betta Fish

You may now remove the male Betta fish (father) from the breeding tank.  This is also the day when you will administer the first feeding to your fry.

When the male Betta fish is no longer making bubbles and the fry are swimming freely, it means that the babies can now survive without the father’s help.  He can now be removed from the breeding tank.

If you are interested in learning more about your fish behavior, check out the links below:

What And How To Feed Betta Fish Fry?

Infusoria will not be enough to satisfy your Betta fish fry’s hunger.  The day before your fry are to be fed with live food, you will need to create a mixture of baby brine shrimp.  Live food is the best source of much-needed proteins and nutrients for your baby Betta fish. 

Feeding is crucial for Betta fish fry as this will dictate the outcome of the whole process of breeding.  Either premature or delayed feeding may cause death.  When the father Betta is removed from the breeding tank, the fry can now be fed with baby brine shrimp.

Take a hundred grams of baby brine shrimp (available at pet stores) and mix it with 1 teaspoon of fine salt in a quart jar of clean water.  Aerate the mixture for a day.

After 24 hours, you’ll notice shrimp shells or “pinkish sand” at the sides of the jar.  That means the baby brine shrimp have hatched and can be fed to your Betta fish fry. 

Betta fish fry demand a lot more food than adult Bettas.  They are fed more often—as much as 4 feedings per day—while adults only need to be fed 4 to 5 times a week.  Only put minute amounts in the water, though, as uneaten shrimp will die and rot, making the tank dirty and unsafe for the fry.

When your fry reaches three weeks, they are old enough to feed on other kinds of live food.  Continue feeding them the baby brine shrimp mixture but you can also check out your local pet stores for frozen daphnias, microworms, or tubifex worms.

The Growth Tank For Betta Fish Fry

Three days after the first feeding, the fry can now be transferred to a big tank.  This is called the growout tank.

Moving Betta fish fry is a delicate process.  Water should be conditioned with tannins from Indian Almond leaves and should have the same temperature as the breeder tank.  Any mistake on this part will result in the death of the fry.        

For water temperature consistency, submerge half of the breeder tank onto the nursery tank.  Let the fish acclimate for an hour or two and then add water from the nursery into the breeder tank very slowly and carefully until all the fry swim out of the container.

Betta fish fry do not fight with each other in the growout tank as they were born together and acclimated with each other.  Two months after hatching, these young fish will be transferred to individual containers.  After which, they should never be put in the same tank anymore because they will fight.

Congratulations!

The process gets easier as you get used to breeding Betta fish.  You will find better techniques and materials to use as you familiarize yourself with the process.

Here’s a helpful tip: if you want to breed Betta fish again, you can use the same male and female that’s been successfully paired before.  This way, you don’t have to apply the acquaintance stage anymore as they are already familiar with each other.

Enjoy your Betta fish babies!

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