So you want to know how to breed Betta fish?
Well, it’s important you do this right, or you’ll end up with dead Bettas and/or sickly fry. Not to mention the amount of money you’d have wasted.
However, there’s a popular method you can use to make sure you get your desired results.
In this article, I’m going to share with you a method you can use to successfully breed desirable and healthy Betta fish–without putting your fish’s health at risk.
Warning: I’m going to be straight with you–breeding Bettas is hard, time-consuming, and expensive. Only do this if you have a clear plan in place with what you will do with the fry. However, if you’re just curious and want to know, keep reading–you’ll learn.
Table of Contents
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Step 1: Set up your Permanent Betta Tanks
Before you do anything, you need to set up the permanent homes for your male and female Betta.
You can read a clear guide on how to set up the perfect Betta fish tank here.
Once you’ve bought all your equipment and set it up, you’ll now need cycle both aquariums before you buy your fish.
If you’re unsure how to properly cycle your aquarium, you can read a detailed guide here.
Step 2: Betta Fish Breeding Tank Setup (Buying Your Equipment)
The BIGGEST mistake people make when breeding Bettas is attempting to breed them in the males current tank–don’t.
You need a breeding tank because fry are extremely fragile and need pristine water conditions. Once they’re free swimming, you will need to remove your male (which you can’t do if it’s his tank) so he doesn’t see them as threat.
Fact: In the wild, male Bettas will only look after the fry until they’re free swimming. At this point, they will all go their separate ways.
Here’s what you’re going to need if you want a successful breeding tank:
Step 3: How to Choose Your Betta Breeding Pair
This is the most important, most vital, the most everything.
Your success is going to based on the breeding pair you choose.
You’re going to be faced with two choices here: buy from a reputable breeder or a pet shop.
Now, even though you have a choice, really (if you want to be successful), you only have one – buy from a reputable breeder.
Yes, it’s “cheaper” to buy the Bettas from a pet shop, but, your chance of success dramatically drops.
And after investing money in tanks and equipment, you don’t want to take shortcuts now.
Why does buying from a pet shop dramatically reduce your chances of breeding? Because you’ll have no information on their genetics and age.
You need this information.
Bettas breed best when they’re young (ideally 4-12 months; max age 14 months), and if you end up with poor genetics, the fry could end up being sickly or undesirable.
Pro Tip: You’re going to need to let your Bettas settle for a month, so you’ll need to account for this when choosing them. Ideally, you don’t want them to over 12 months old when it’s time to breed.
A reputable breeder will be able to provide you with all the information you need. Plus, you can also ask them for tips on how they successful bred their Bettas.
So, now we know we need to buy our breeding pair from a quality breeder, how do you determine which Bettas to pick?
In the wild, female Bettas are the picky sex while males compete with each other for mating rights and territory.
Fact: Female Bettas will “spy” on fighting males and select the winner to mate with. This is a low-risk method for evaluating a males ability.
However, we’re not in the wild. How will your female know your male is suitable if she’s unable to see him in action?
Betta Breeding Tips & Tricks: Choosing A Male Betta
Follow this guideline to increase your chances of picking a desirable male:
If your chosen male lacks energy and vigor, your female Betta will think he is infected with parasites or other disease carrying pathogens and doesn’t have a good immune system.
A poor immune system can be heritable, so it’s important for female Bettas to be able to determine your males resistance so her offspring have the best chance of survival.
You want to pick a male with bright colors because it tells the female he’s eaten enough carotenoids to support his immune system and coloration – indicating he’s a successful forager.
But, is one color better than another?
These graphs taken from a study on female Betta’s mating preferences shows how they spent a greater time fixated on the red males. Suggesting females prefer red-pigmented males over blue.
This theory is also backed up in this study. They found female Betta tend to prefer red males because it’s an indicator that they’ve got a healthy immune system and associated genes, as well as good overall health.
So, if you want to increase your chances of your Bettas breeding – go for a red male.
Interesting? In the same study, when given supplemental carotenoids, redder Betta’s immune response and redness increased. Where as, bluer Bettas did not become more red; only their immune system benefitted.
Another vital visual indicator of health. When male Betta have strong immune systems and are successful foragers, their fins will heal from minor injuries quicker (within one or two days).
If your chosen male has any marks or signs of damage, it’s unlikely your female will not pursue him.
A female Betta is more attracted to a male with long, undamaged fins because it’s tells the females he is an excellent fighter and in good health.
How To Choose A Successful Breeding Pair Summary
To break it down, here’s the summary of what you need to look for when choosing your breeding pair:
Step 4: How to Create the Breeding Conditions
We’re now going to discuss the exact measures you need to take to ensure you create the best possible breeding conditions.
Step 4.1: Let Your Bettas Settle in
We briefly discussed before you’ll need to let your Bettas settle into their new environment for a month (absolute minimum 2 weeks).
During this time, you should monitor their health – making sure they show no signs of disease.
You’ll also need to “condition” your Bettas during this time by feeding them live food. This will help increase your males carotenoid levels (making him look bright and healthy).
The mating process is very stressful for your female. This settling in time will help her develop healthy, fertile eggs and build up her strength.
Step 4.2: How to Set up Your Breeding Tank
Before you set up your breeding tank, you want to make sure it’s near any distractions.
Make sure it’s away from other tanks with bright fish (or any fish), there’s no bright colors around or lots of human activity. Betta fish like privacy when they mate.
Okay, so once you’ve found the best place, here’s how you can set it up:
2. Add your sponge filter and air pump.
3. Add the heater: Place your heater in at an angle so it’s fully submerged (if it’s exposed, it could overheat), and set it to 80 degrees.
4. Add Almond leaf or styrofoam cup: Tape it to the front of your tank if you want to see the bubble nest in action.
5. Add your moss: Create plenty of places for your fish to hide. But, not so many it’s hard for them to find each other.
6. Leave it: Now it’s time to let it sit for 24 hours – make sure your heater is stable at 80 degrees.
Step 5: How To Introduce Your Male To Your Female Betta
Now your breeding tank is in the optimum condition, it’s time to introduce your breeding pair.
Step 5.1: Add Your Female To The Breeding Tank
You’ve got two options here: use an open-top vase (ensure your breeding tanks water line is below the top of the vase), or use a divider in the tank.
Once you’ve added her, let her get used to her surroundings for 30 minutes before moving onto the next step.
Step 5.2: Introduce Your Male Betta To Your Female
Open-top vase: Add your male and allow him to swim freely around the breeding tank.
Divider: Add your male into the other side of the tank (where the female isn’t), and allow him to swim freely around his section of the breeding tank.
Once your male notices the female, you’ll see him turn a deeper color and start to display his fins, flaring, and generally showing off to try and attract the female.
If he attempts to bite at the glass–don’t worry this is normal behavior.
If your female is receptive, her color will darken and will display her ‘barring’ pattern (vertical stripes along her midsection, indicating she is ready to breed).
And her ovipositor will be visible as a speck of white between her ventral fins.
A cheeky female will flirt by flaring back at him and wagging her body.
Pro Tip: Some females are shy, clamping heir fins in submission or ignoring the male. But, as long as they have the barring pattern, not the horizontal stripes, you can be confident to continue.
Step 5.3: Wait For The Bubble Nest
After approximately one hour after the initial introduction, you should notice the male start building his bubble nest.
He’ll spend it time darting back and forth between building the nest and showing off.
You’ll now want to leave them separated overnight.
Step 6: Breeding Your Bettas
It’s time for the big show. But, be warned, this is an aggressive process.
Step 6.1: Release Your Female
She’ll probably head straight for the nest to check if it’s up to her standards. If it’s not, she’ll swim away or sometimes try to destroy it.
Once your male realizes he can reach your female, his display will become even more elaborate.
He’ll start chasing her around the tank, trying to engage her in the mating “dance”.
Step 6.2: Cover Your Tank With Plastic Wrap
This creates moisture and keeps the heat in. You want your tank to be very humid because it aids the hatching of eggs and the development of the fry.
Step 6.3: Now It Gets Ugly
Over the next few hours (can be between 2 and 6 hours), you’ll see a lot of chasing and biting.
This is normal behavior, but, you should keep a close eye on what is happening just in case it turns sour.
Pro Tip: This is why you add the Christmas moss. It gives the female places to hide if things get too much for her.
Throughout this process, your female will keep checking on the nest. Once she’s decided it’s ready, the mating dance will begin.
They’ll spread their fins and swim side-by-side, stopping every few inches to flare at each other and display their sides.
If your male doesn’t feel like she’s in awe of his performance, he’ll nip and chase her around before dancing again.
Your female may then seek a place to hide again until she is ready to spawn.
She’ll continue to hide until your male finds and chases her out, or she feels ready to approach the male herself.
The way your female initiates spawning will depend on her personality.
Some will directly swim up to the male with their heads down and fins clamped to show her submissiveness; others will charge the nest, banners flaring, and challenge the male to spawn.
Pro Tip: If at any point, you feel very concerned about your females safety because of how aggressive the male is being – take her out.
Step 6.4: The Betta Fish Mating Dance
Mating will begin by the paid nosing into each other’s sides until the male is able to flip the female upside down and wrap himself around her midsection–squeezing her tightly.
Pro Tip: For first-timers, this may take a few attempts before they get it right. You remember your first time? Not the smoothest or process, eh? Well, at least mine wasn’t…
Once they’ve nailed it, they’ll then either float to the surface or sink to the bottom.
Your male will then release her and allow her some time to recover (3-5 minutes) before they do it again.
After several tight squeezes, you’ll see her start to drop eggs during each embrace.
Fact: They’re not squeezing the eggs out of the female. The purpose of this embrace is to place the ventrals close to each other to improve the chance of fertilization.
Now, it’s important you don’t panic here. Your female will go into a “zombie-like” state while the eggs fall to the ground from her ovipositor.
She’ll float sideways, looking dead to world, but she’s not–trust me.
Your male will now start to scoop up the eggs, putting them in the nest one-by-one.
When your female recovers, she may help your male put the eggs in the nest. However, some females will eat the eggs, so watch carefully and remove her if she is.
I recommend taking her out of the tank as soon as she has woken up, because your male will now see her as a threat and could try to kill her.
Pro Tip: Bettas need privacy and sometimes will not spawn if the light it on. Having Almond leaves will darken your tanks water, helping them feel more comfortable.
Step 7: Male Betta Looks After The Nest
Over the nest 24-36 hours, your male will spend all of his time attending to the eggs: mouthing them and blowing more bubbles.
He may even build a brand new nest in another location and move them all there.
But, most of his time will be hovering under the nest looking bored, periodically checking to see if they’ve started to hatch.
Some first-time Dads may eat the eggs or fry, which can be very frustrating.
However, he may only be eating ones which haven’t been properly fertilized or have something wrong with them.
He might just be doing his job, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Step 8: Hatching The Fry
When your fry start to hatch, their wriggling can shake them loose from the bubbles and they’ll fall.
If your males see, he’ll catch them and put them back.
When they all start to hatch, he’ll be very busy: darting around to catch them and put them back–scanning the bottom for any he’s missed.
Your fry will hang tail-down for the first few days, and slowly start taking on a horizontal swimming position.
Once they’re free-swimming, remove the male and give them their first feeding of small brine shrimp, microworms, vinegar eels, or infurisa.
Now you’ve successfully bred your Bettas–congradulations, it’s time to raise the fry. You can click here (coming soon) to see our guide on how to successfully raise Betta fry.
– Got your own Betta breeding stories? Let us know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.