Breeding Bettas: Spawning the pair

July 10, 2016 – Breeding Bettas: The above video is how things should go. The male should embrace the female gently. He will come out of the embrace trance first and should then try to catch as many eggs as possible before they reach the bottom of the aquarium. He will then swim back to the surface to deposit the eggs in his bubble nest. Often times the female will go down to the bottom of the aquarium and bring back any eggs the male has missed in his catch attempt.

The Next Step

Stop feeding the male 4 hours at least before you place him in a spawning aquarium (12-24 is better).  This helps to keep the breeding aquarium cleaner but if it bothers you, feeding him very lightly once a day is acceptable. Put the male betta in the breeding aquarium. If you feed the male it is advisable to siphon out the fish poop. Spawning tanks are often uncycled (don’t have the bacteria to break down fish waste into harmless compounds) and any extra ammonia can be lethal to fry.

Getting the pair to spawn:

This is the trickiest part of breeding. This is how it is supposed to go:

  • Float male in spawning aquarium for an hour, then release him. Leave him there alone for 24 hours
  • Add female  in clear cup at opposite end of aquarium of where the cup/bubble nest is located
  • The male should build a nice nest
  • After around 24 hours, release the female and watch
  • If the female is ready to spawn, she may start out by flaring at the male and following him. Darker colored females will show vertical breeding stripes (horizontal indicates fear or not being in breeding condition) If he attacks her continually, put her back in the cup but if he just nips her and goes back to building his nest, leave her loose in the aquarium (as long as there is a place for her to hide like a bunch of live plants).
  • When the female is ready to spawn, she will clamp her fins and assume a submissive head down position and swim in sort of an S movement. Do not put her back in the cup at this point as she will drop her eggs and you will have to start over in two weeks or with another female
  • The male should accept the female when she shows this head down and spawning should begin shortly.
  • The fish will embrace with the female upside down and the male bent in half around her.
  • The eggs will fall and the male and often female will collect the eggs and place them in the nest
  • Eventually the female will make a mad dash to get away and hide in the plants. Remove her as it means spawning is finished and she has no eggs left. After placing her back in her home, feed her a few pellets and feed frequently for a couple of days. Breeding takes alot out of the males and females.
  • Leaving a cup of clean dechlorinated water in the spawning aquarium is useful because the female can be caught and placed in it and the cup slowly removed. You can use a fishnet but you still have to be able to put the female back in the same temperature water to avoid shocking her.
  • Keep a close eye on the female for a few days and medicate if necessary. Spawning can be rough on them and torn fins and other injuries are relatively common. I have occasionally had pairs where neither fish causes injury to the other.

Spawning Problems

  • The male is too aggressive and hunts the female without focusing on building his nest. Eventually the female will lose interest in spawning or will drop her eggs without the male ever accepting her.
    Possible Solution: Try another female. Some males only like certain color females.
  • The female drops her eggs in the cup before she is released.
    Possible Solution:
    Release earlier next time or make sure there is a really thick bunch of plants and leave the female in the aquarium without placing her in a cup. Some males do not build a nest without seeing the female so this can be hit or miss too.
  • The female does not become receptive to the male. Possible Solution: Remove her and feed well for another week and try again or try another male. The female may not like the first male or she may just not be in breeding mode. Check to make sure she has eggs and seems healthy as illness will discourage breeding too.
  • Female attacks the male. The girls can be aggressive too. 
    Possible Solution:
    If you really want to breed that particular female, find a more aggressive male that will put her in her place.  Aggressive females will often submit to the right male.
  • The male eats the eggs. This one is very frustrating but sometimes it is natural/protective. If the eggs are not fertilized, the male will eat them to prevent fungus. I had a pair where almost every embrace was with the female facing upright  rather than upside-down. This spawn was not fertilized and the male ate all the eggs.
    Possible Solutions: Try the male 2-3 times with different females. If he eats every spawn give up on him or try hatching the eggs in an inch or two of water without the male. Some fry may become free-swimming with this method. My own preference is to only do spawns with good parents because most people buy fish assuming they will be potential breeders. Bad parenting might be genetic so it is not something I would promote by saving offspring from such a fish.
  • Fungus attacks and destroys all the eggs.
    Solution: Assuming the eggs are fertilized you can add a remedy for fungus prevention. I sometimes add 3ml per gallon of colloidal silver (6-7ppm) to my spawn aquariums after the spawn is completed and have not had problems with fungus except for the unfertilized spawn. Nothing will stop infertile eggs from deteriorating.
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