How to Breed Betta Fish Guide

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2 Betta fish in tank with bubbles: How to Breed Betta FishBetta fish are one of nature’s more colorful fish and one of the most popular pets. Many people decide to breed their Betta fish to discover more about the fish and to attempt to achieve brilliant new colorations. While these vibrant fish are a pleasure to look at, the breeding process is an extremely delicate one. These aggressive fish require strict supervision throughout the breeding process in order to ensure that the young survive and the male and female do not kill each other after mating. In this article we will discuss how to best go about mating your Betta fish in order to ensure the survival of the young.

About the Betta Fish

Before breeding, it is important to learn more about the species.

Territoriality

The Betta fish (also known as the Siamese fighting fish or Betta splendens) are known for their brightly colored skin. These fish are native to Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia where they naturally live in shallow rice paddies. The males are extremely territorial and after establishing their territory will not tolerate intrusion by other males. When faced with another male of the species (or indeed another fish that resembles the male of the species) the male will expand its gills in order to give a larger appearance and intimidate the intruding fish. Unfortunately, when male Betta fish feel threatened they will attack the other fish and these attacks often lead to death of one of the two fighting fish.

Appearance

The Betta fish do not have as splendid an appearance in the wild as they do in your local pet store. Selective breeding by pet stores and fish breeders have resulted in a wide variety of color and fish and tail shapes, especially in male Betta fish. In the wild, Bettas are a brown or dull green color and have much shorter fins. In captivity female Betta fish tend to retain this “plain” appearance, where as the aggressive males have been bred to show longer fins, spectacular tails and bright colors which work together in territory defense.

Learn more in our Betta Fish Facts article

Tips for Breeding Betta Fish

Follow these three tips to successfully prepare to breed Betta’s.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

When breeding, the diet of the Betta fish is exceptionally important. In nature the Betta fish is a carnivorous surface feeder meaning that they most often feed on insect larvae and zooplankton found at the surface of the water. In captivity the Betta is still a surface feeder but will commonly eat bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia or mosquito larvae which can either be live or frozen. Most people choose to feed with pellets designed specifically for maintaining a healthy Betta fish.

Keep Fish Free from Illnesses

It is important that both the male and female fish be healthy and show no signs of illness, parasite, disease or fungus. Not only can these things be passed from one fish to another but they will also contaminate the tank and affect the hatchlings. When feeding a Betta fish live food, it is important to watch for any signs of disease that could be transferred to the fish through the food supply which can lead to unhealthy conditions for breeding.

Have a Betta Breeding Tank and a Separate Nursery

In order to ensure that your Betta fish is happy it is crucial to keep a clean and reasonably sized tank for them to breed in. Male Betta fish generally need a tank of their own as they can be very territorial and aggressive with other fish. Female Betta fish can be placed in larger community aquariums in smaller groups of around three females and they will thrive. You should also have a Betta tank that can act as a nursery where young will be safe from the adults. It is important that you have a tank for the male and female Betta fish after breeding takes place so you can separate them as soon as possible.

Preparing for Breeding Bettas

Gathering Supplies

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First, here are a few things you should invest in for betta fish breeding:

  • A sponge filter for your tank during the breeding process. A sponge filter is important because it will not allow the Betta eggs or young to get sucked into the filtration system.
  • Floating plants to provide vegetation.
  • Adequate food handy to ensure that your newly hatched Betta young have a food source. Newly hatched brine shrimp serve as great feed during this process.

Steps for Preparing the Tank for Breeding

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Now that you have all your supplies hand, here are the steps you’ll want to take to get ready to breed your Betta fish.

  1. Fill the tank with water and condition the water so that when you place your fish in it they will be able to thrive. Water conditioners are sold at most pet stores and it is generally a good idea to treat water and allow it to stand for a couple of weeks before placing fish in the tank. Allowing water to stand will also ensure that any elements (e.g. chlorine) have been removed from the water.
  2. Heat up the water in your tank to ensure that it stays between 70-72 degrees Fahrenheit to promote healthy breeding.
  3. Test the water to ensure that there are no levels of elements that could harm your Betta fish breeding pair. Water test kits are sold in most pet stores and can indicate any treatments that your tank requires in order to be a healthy environment for your fish. These testing kits often come with a number of solutions that can be used to treat any excessive levels of elements. These treatments can often work overnight but it is important to ensure that any issues with tank water are resolved prior to placing fish in the tank.

Select the Betta Fish to Mate

Choosing a male and female Betta to breed is generally done by choosing a brightly colored male with long and beautiful fins and choosing a female who looks strong and healthy. Males are generally distinguished from female’s by their long elaborate fins and female’s tend to have a visible white egg spot. The egg spot on the female Betta fish can be observed underneath her belly, between the ventral and anal fins. You can buy them at a local pet store or find betta fish breeders online like BettaStars.

Adding and Removing Your Fish From the Breeding Tank

Now comes the fun part, placing both the both the male and female Betta fish in to the fish breeding tank. Here are the general stages of breeding you should be aware of and what to do once the new Betta fish eggs have been created.

The Beginning of Betta Breeding Behavior

Once the male and female Betta are placed in the breeding tank if all conditions in the tank are optimal, the breeding behavior will begin. The beginnings of mating behavior between a male and female Betta fish is often observed as fighting, this is not unusual behavior and assuming no real physical harm is done the two fish should be left in the tank together. When a male is interested in a female he will flare out his gills and spread his fins, he will also twist his body. In turn, if the female is interested in the male then she will respond to his display by curving her body back and forth while turning a darker color.

The Nuptial Embrace

After an initial “introduction” period in which the breeding pair will “fight”, the male Betta fish will build a bubble nest at the top of the water in the tank. Bubble nests vary in size, shape and appearance. Following this nest building activity the male will induce the female Betta fish to release her eggs by embracing her. This embrace is referred to as the “nuptial embrace” where the male wraps himself around the female. Each time the fish “embrace” the female releases a clutch of between 10 to 41 eggs. Embracing will continue until the female no longer has any eggs left to release.  As soon as the female Betta fish has released all of her eggs in the breeding tank she should be removed from the tank.

Egg Fertilization and Incubation

Once the female Betta fish has been removed from the water, the male Betta fish releases milt in the tank which externally fertilizes the eggs. After the eggs are fertilized they will begin to sink but the male will catch the eggs that sink by using his mouth and he will carry them up to the bubble nest. If the female Betta is not removed from the tank the male will chase her away to prevent her from eating the eggs. Female’s do not eat their eggs to be malicious – they are simply hungry and will feed on the nearest food source. On occasion the female, if left in the tank, will help the male to carry the fertilized eggs up to the bubble nest. However, more often than not she will simply eat all of the eggs that she catches which is why the male chases her out of his territory.

The male Betta fish cares for the eggs for between 24 to 36 hours where he vigilantly watches for eggs that fall from the bubble nest. If the male sees eggs falling he will catch them and place them back in the safety of the bubble nest. After 24 to 36 hours the eggs hatch but the young Betta fish hatchlings remain in the bubble nest for another 2 to 3 days as they fully absorb their yolk sacs. After the yolk sacs are fully absorbed, the young Betta’s will begin to free swim.

Removing the Male Betta from the Tank

Once the young fish are swimming in the tank the male Betta should be removed from the tank. It is a common belief that the male will eat his free swimming young; however, this belief is hotly contested by some. Regardless, most Betta fish breeders choose to pull the male from the breeding tank at this point. The new young are now fully dependent upon their gills until they are between 3 to 6 weeks old when they evolve to breathing oxygen from the surface of the water. Betta fish develop at varying rates which is why the time frame for this growth rate is so wide. For some varieties, the young are already at sexual maturity by the age of 3 months. As the fish grows, it is important to begin to separate the male and female from each other and the males from each other as well.

Find the best betta fish tank

Video: Betta Fish Breeding in 10 steps

Watch two fish as they court each other and eventually release eggs and become fry in this short video (around 5 minutes). They also mention a bubble cup which could be another option for creating a bubble nest.

Cross-Breeding Betta Fish

In some instances fish hobbyists decide to try to cross-breed different species of Betta fish. Most commonly Betta splendens are bred with other Betta splendens; however, cross breeding does occur. Some of the most commonly bred varieties are the Betta splendens bred with the Betta imbellis and the Betta Mahachai. The Betta splendens has also been cross-bred with the Betta smaragdine but this cross breeding frequently results in low survival rates of the fry produced so this cross breeding is not attempted too often. The Betta splendens has also been cross-bred with other types of fish. One such example of this inter-generic breeding involves the combination of the Betta splendens and the Macropodus to create the Paradise Fish. More commonly however; Betta fish are bred with each other to produce new coloration and fin or tail patterns. There are currently a number of finnage and scale variations that can be produced through the selective breeding process. Common finnage and scale variations include: the veiltail, the crowntail, the combtail, the half-moon, the short-finned fighting style, the double-tail, the delta tail, the halfsun, the rosetail and the dragon scale.

The Importance of Responsible Betta Fish Breeding

While many fish hobbyists think of breeding their fish as an experiment, it is important to understand the significance of responsible Betta fish breeding. Just like any other animal in the world, irresponsible breeding can result in genetically mutated fish with little chance of survival or a dilution of the gene pool which can ultimately damage the lineage of the fish if they are continually bred. Responsible breeding should always be a concern and all effort should be made to become fully educated in terms of the Betta fish breeding process and potential genetic defects in order to ensure the highest quality fish. If you are not willing or able to put in the time to become educated about the species or to create an appropriate breeding atmosphere, then it is best to leave the process to the professionals. Always breed Betta fish responsibly.

Do you have experience with breeding Betta fish or are you looking to breed them?

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Amy grew up in England and in the early 1990's moved to North Carolina where she completed a bachelors degree in Psychology in 2001. Amy's personal interest in writing was sparked by her love of reading fiction and her creative writing hobby. Amy is currently self employed as a freelance writer and web designer. When she is not working Amy can be found curled up with a good book and her black Labrador, Jet.

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3 Comments on "How to Breed Betta Fish Guide"

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David M
David M

I am very happy because I have successfully breeded betta fish. Now, I have betta fry age one week after following this guide.
Thanks for sharing!

Sadie Cornelius
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Sadie Cornelius

SO glad to hear, thanks for sharing and good luck with your new fish!

Moe Cohen
Moe Cohen

Had no clue you could breed these guys, might try to make some extra baby Bettas to give to my neighborhood kids as gifts. Thanks for the tips!

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