Things to Decide Before You Choose to Spawn Bettas
The first thing you should do before you choose to breed bettas is think about why you are breeding bettas. Identify your goals.
Do you want to show your bettas? If so you should familiarize yourself with the standards for form and color of the International Betta Congress.
Do you want to breed your favorite pet to get more of him/her? Would others want more of your fish? It is easy to fall in love with these fish as they are very full of personality, but when others go to purchase fish, they are usually looking for something different than your typical red/blue veiltail. If your fish is one of these commonly available types, look into things such as artificially reducing the spawn size.
Do you want to sell the fish to a fish store? Make sure that you have an agreement with the pet store BEFORE you ever put together fish. Ask them what kind of fish they want. Small mom and pop fish stores may not have clientele that want to spend more than $5 on a fish, so halfmoons or fancier breeds might not be for them. You should also talk to them about what size they want the fish and what price you will get from them.
Do you want to experiment with different fish to learn more about genetics? What are you going to do if you end up with "ugly" fish?
Do you want to develop your own line? Researching genetics of the colors you choose to work with will help you to know what to expect from your fish.
No matter what your goals, you need to stick with them. It is very easy to buy lots of pretty fish and have too many pairs to work with at any given time. Betta's prime breeding time is from 5 months - 1 yr old. If you get all of your fish at the same time, you won't be able to see the results of your first spawn before you should start thinking about breeding the others. I recommend getting 1-2 pairs to start with and do one spawn at a time for your first couple of spawns. You never want to overwhelm yourself, because any lax in care can result in a tank full of sick babies or stunted babies which is going to make things harder.
You also need to make sure you have somewhere for your fry to go. Selling on aquabid usually only works for spectacular fish. You should only expect a few of these per spawn if you use high quality adults. Selling to people on forums will also only usually only get you a few takers because of shipping costs. Your best bet is to find either a mom and pop fish store who will buy them from you. I know my aquarium society also has auctions where people can sell fish and supplies. Make sure you have this info before you breed your fish. You don't want to get stuck with a large 200 fry spawn and have nowhere for them to go.
Choosing the pair
Once you know your goals, you get to choose your pair!
Ideally, you will be able to get your fish from a reputable breeder. Aquabid.com, breeder websites, forums, and ebay are places to look for quality fish. It is my opinion that using pet store fish is acceptable, but not ideal. This is because pet store fish are usually too old, you are guaranteed to never know the genetic background of the fish and usually breeding pet store quality fish begets more pet store quality fish. Breeder fish may still have genetic issues, but usually they can tell you about the background of the fish before you buy them.
You want to work with the absolute best pair you can. Fish should have nice even scales, full fins, a smooth topline with no bumps, dips or humps, their body should not be short or stumpy and your fish should be healthy!
Some things to keep in mind:
- Doubletails should not be bred to other doubletails as this will increase the chance of severe spinal deformities.
- Rosetails (or HMs in general! both longfinned and shortfinned) may carry the x-factor gene. When working with HM finnage, you want to be able to potentially cull the fish who display this gene. It can cause severely misaligned scales and poor color and finnage. Read more here on the x-factor gene and rosetails.
- When crossing short finned and long finned fish, you will end up with long finned fish, but including the plakat will usually result in an extremely elongated anal fin. This is not always desirable.
Another thing you should do before putting your pair together is to experiment with culturing fry foods. You don't want to crash a culture right when your fry need it.
Now, there are a lot of foods to feed your fry and some are recommended as first fry foods and some as staples for later. I have gotten to the point where I only use freshly hatched baby brine shrimp and don't even bother with the rest. I'll still tell you about my experience with each food though.
Egg yolk is a first few days food. It is to be used when the fry are free swimming for a few days until they are able to eat baby brine shrimp. It is simply the yolk of a hard boiled egg dissolved in water and usually sprayed onto the surface of the water.
I gave egg yolk a try recently. I didn't like that it had the potential to foul the water so easily. I don't think that the fry really took to it either. There are plenty of people who say that their fry love it, but mine didn't and it wasn't worth polluting the water.
These small clearish white worms are another "first food" that people swear by. I honestly cannot see why microworms are a first food. They tend to be rather large. If anything, walter worms should be the first food.
These worms are easy to culture. Make some oatmeal but make it a bit more on the moist side. Let it cool and put it in a small container like a deli container - you just need about half an inch at the bottom. Sprinkle a small amount of yeast onto the oatmeal and mist with water to make it a bit wet. Pour in the sludge you get from your bidder or a scoop from an old culture. Wait. Soon there will be little clear worms climbing the sides of the container and moving on the surface so that it glistens. To feed, scoop from the sides of the walls with a q-tip or something similar. Swish in water to rinse and then use an eye dropper to feed to the fry.
I don't like the worm cultures mainly because of the smell. They make me want to gag. The fry eat them, but my fry tend to only really like them as they are falling through the water column. Once they hit the bottom, the fry loose interest. They also tend to tangle in the bits of IAL mulum and make a writing ball of gunk at the bottom of the tank. They do however live a fair amount of time under water so your fry can forage.
Feeding too many microworms has been linked to missing ventral fins.
If you are going to use worms as a first food, I would feed walter worms and for no more than a week.
Vinegar eels are another tiny worm that you can feed as a first food. They are a much more appropriate size for feeding to fry than microworms. These are another stinky culture as they are culture in - you guessed it! - vinegar.
I don't have advice for culturing or harvesting vinegar eels. I bought a starter culture off of aquabid and followed the directions. I did not get worms and instead got a thick greasy film on the top of my culture.
If you can get this culture to work, it might give you a good first food for your fry.
Hikari first bites or other powdered food
A lot of people want to skip on the live food culturing and skip right to the easy stuff. Hikari makes a powdered food called First Bites. This food is not optimal for betta fry as it sinks and they are just not interested. It will spoil your water and not feed your fish. Best to look to something else.
Infusoria is another popular first food for fry. They are microscopic aquatic creatures that can be cultured by putting IAl, lettuce or other organic matter in water and letting it set in a window. If the water gets cloudy, you are culturing bacteria and not infusorians. After a few days you should be able to see little swimming specks with a magnifying glass. (or so they say)
I have never intentionally tried to culture infusoria or use it in my spawns. I do, however, use live plants and IAL in my spawning tanks and have them up and running for at least a week before the spawning. This most likely cultures a few infusorians for the fry to much on.
At this point you might be wondering what I feed my fish as a first food.
Freshly hatched Baby Brine Shrimp
Freshly hatched baby brine shrimp is a necessity for any betta breeder. There are two strains of brine shrimp - the Salt Lake strain and the San Francisco Bay strain (not brand). The Salt Lake strain is larger than the San Francisco Bay brand.
Betta spawns produce different sized fry. I have had medium to large fry even when using young fish, so they have been able to eat baby brine shrimp as soon as their egg yolk is finished. I find that this is a great first food because they have great nutritional content, they don't stink, they swim around the water column which attracts the attention of fry even those at the surface. These make them the optimal fry food for me.
Yes it is a live food that you have to culture, but it is not hard, I promise! It is also no where near as stinky as the other cultures. The most scent you'll get is a bit of ocean smell from the salt water.
In order to hatch baby brine shrimp, you need to have a baby brine shrimp hatchery. They do sell these products, but they aren't worth the money, IMO. It is much easier to make your own hatchery! You will want to have 2 hatcheries running at a time so that you can rotate a new culture and one that is still harvestable. With a heater, the eggs will hatch in 18-24 hrs and should last a day or so, so every day or so, I switch to the new culutre and re culture the other, this way I have a constant supply of food for the babies.
Creating a Brine Shrimp Hatchery
To set up your
- 2 2L soda bottles - cleaned with the tops cut off
- Air pump
- Airline tubing
- airline splitter
- rigid airline tubing
- 2 airstones
- aquarium salt
- baking soda
- brine shrimp eggs
- 5 gallon tank with lid or rubbermaid with lid deep enough to hold the soda bottles
- heater (optional)
- turkey baster
- brine shrimp net
Setting up the hatchery is extremely simple!
Fill your tank or rubbermaid container with about 5" of water. Add the heater if you are using one.
Fill one of your soda bottles with water to about an inch from the surface. Add 1.5 tablespoons of aquarium salt, 1 pinch(1/16 teaspoon) of baking soda, and 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon (or the scoop that comes with brine shrimp direct eggs) of brine shrimp eggs.
Use the airline tubing, rigid airline tubing and airstone to make a rigid extender for your airstone. This is to keep it at the bottom of the 2L bottle. If your airstone isn't at the bottom, the eggs will clump there and not hatch and then the shrimp that do hatch will gather and die spoiling your culture.
Set up the airpump so that your culture gets a nice rolling flow of bubbles. You want the culture to constantly be moving the eggs around.
After the eggs hatch, the culture will look more orange than brown due to the newly hatched little orange brine shrimp. In order to harvest these brine shrimp, take out the bottle and set on a surface with a light shining at the bottom of the bottle. The light can be as simple as a flashlight. Baby brine shrimp are attracted to light, and spent egg shells float. By putting the light at the bottom and letting the egg shells settle to the top (usually about 5 mins), the babies will collect at the bottom and the shells at the top. Then use the turkey baster to suck the brine shrimp out of the bottom of the hatchery and squirt them into the brine shrimp net. Brine shrimp nets are fine enough that they catch the baby brine shrimp and let the water pass through. The stuff in your net should be bright orange and not brown. If it is brown, then you caught too much of the shells. Once you have a net of orange, you should get a small cup or shotglass of water and swish the brine shrimp in it. You can then feed this to your baby bettas with an eye dropper. It is very rare that they don't love it immediately
Be sure to replace your bottle in the hatchery with the airstone! You'll kill your culture if you don't.
Brine Shrimp Direct is my favorite place to get brine shrimp eggs. I find them to be far far superior in quality to the little tubes of San Francisco Bay brand that you can find in stores.