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.
Consider This Before Breeding
For just a second, I have to be the voice of reason that could potentially rain on your parade.
Bettas can produce hundreds of fry from a single spawn. You’re going to have to house and feed all those babies until they are big enough to be sold.
And once you’ve got them up to size, selling fish can be quite a bit of work.
Before you get going with this, make sure that you have the facilities to house all those fish and an outlet for the fry you produce.
This is a fairly labor intensive process. You will need to dedicate quite a bit of time to this endeavor, especially when it comes to raising the babies.
I’m not saying don’t breed Bettas; I’m just saying be prepared for a lot of work and have quite a bit of space cleared out to raise and house fry.
Your first step towards breeding Bettas is to condition the adult fish in order to get them ready for spawning.
The adult fish will live separately during this time. You can place their tanks close together, so they can see each other and interact for a few hours a day, but you’ll need to block their view with a divider most of the time.
Feed them lots of protein rich foods to get them into spawning mode:
- Brine shrimp
- California blackworms
You can use some prepared foods, but live and frozen foods will give much better results.
The male should be very active, flaring his fins and strutting his stuff. And the tip of the female’s ovipositor will start to protrude slightly. It will look like a small white dot that sticks out of her belly between her ventral and anal fins.
The female’s abdomen will also start to become rounder when she starts to hold eggs.
It’s very important to make sure the pair are eating well at this point since they will not be fed while they’re in the spawning tank.
Setting Up a Betta Spawning Tank
You’ll need to set up a separate tank for your Bettas to spawn in.
The female will need to be removed shortly after she lays eggs. The male should be left to take care of the eggs and tend to the fry until they become free swimming.
Then, the male should be removed so the fry can be safely raised.
You don’t need to break the bank to set up a Betta spawning tank.
A simple 10 gallon (39 liter) aquarium will suffice.
Bettas originate from a very warm part of the world. Unless your room temperature stays around 80°F (27°C), you’ll need to add a heater to your spawning tank.
You want the temperature to stay at 80°-82°F (27°-28°C).
Normally, I would not recommend keeping a fish in an unfiltered aquarium. But, the water flow from a filter can tear apart the male’s bubble nest as well as keep the delicate fry from being able to eat.
The adult fish should only be in the spawning tank for a few days at most. You’ll need to do water changes every third day or so if the adults have to remain in the tank for 3 or more days.
Once the fry can swim and find food easily, usually a week after they become free swimming, you can add a gentle sponge filter to their grow out tank.
Bettas are notorious for jumping out of their aquariums. And they can jump farther than you think!
It’s best if you can at least loosely cover the top of your tank to prevent any Bettas from getting wild ideas about leaving the water.
If you have a traditional tank hood, that’s fine, but you really don’t need anything fancy.
You can use a piece of plastic, a board, styrofoam cooler lid, whatever you’ve got lying around that can block jumping fish.
Plants and Decor
I don’t recommend adding any kind of decor to a spawning tank.
What I do recommend adding are some clumps of Java moss. They provide hiding places for the female, if she needs to retreat, and the infusoria that grows around within the moss can provide a little bit of food for the fry.
I also recommend adding some dried leaves, especially Indian almond leaves (also called catappa leaves).
Indian almond leaves will release tannins that have a myriad of positive effects:
- Reduces pH
- Anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antibacterial properties
The reduced pH helps mimic a Betta’s natural environment and the antimicrobial properties of the leaves help to heal up the nips and bites the female sustains during the mating process.
The tannins can also help keep the eggs and fry from developing infections.
The male may use the underside of the leaf as a support for his bubble nest.
Indian almond leaves can also provide hiding places for the female.
For a 10 gallon tank, I would recommend floating one large, whole leaf and tearing a second one into large chunks that you scatter around.
There are two simple pieces of equipment that you’ll need for your spawning tank, both of which you likely have hanging around the house:
- 3×4″ piece of bubble wrap – let this float at the top of the spawning tank. It’s a great support for the male’s bubble nest. Leaves can get saturated and sink, but the bubble wrap will always float.
- Clear 2 liter bottle – cut the top and the bottom of the bottle off so you’re left with just a cylinder. This will be a divider for when you introduce the male and female to each other.
Fill the tank with about 4 gallons (15 liters) of water. I’d recommend using seasoned tank water so you don’t need to drip acclimate the fish.
Install the heater, you may need to turn the heater sideways to ensure that it is fully submerged.
Break apart one catappa leaf and spread the pieces around the tank. Let a whole leaf float on the surface.
Let the bubble wrap float on the surface as well.
Add some chunks of Java moss.
Place the plastic divider into the tank. One of the cut edges can just rest on the bottom of the aquarium.
And that’s it, pretty simple.
Introducing the Pair
It’s extremely important that you very carefully introduce the male and female fish gradually. Bettas are very territorial fish, especially the males.
If you just dump the female into the tank, the male will see her as an intruder and will likely attack and perhaps even kill her.
This is where the cylinder made from the 2 liter bottle will come into play; you’ll use it as a divider that lets the two fish examine each other closely, but keeps them safely separated so they can’t bite each other.
Place the cylinder on the bottom of the aquarium, and put the female Betta inside of it, leaving the male to roam free in the tank.
Let the pair interact like this overnight. Cover the tank and let the two lovebirds get to know each other.
Watch for Bubble Nests
The male Betta should start to build a bubble nest once he’s decided to mate with the female, rather than kill her.
In the wild, males will grab mouthfuls of air from the surface, and release them underneath a floating leaf. The fish’s saliva acts like the skin of a tiny balloon, trapping the little gulp of air.
When you see that the male has built a nest, it’s time to release the female into the main tank. Just lift the divider out of the aquarium and set it aside.
Release and Watch
Once the pair is finally together, keep an eye on them for a bit.
There is going to be some aggression back and forth between the two fish.
Expect to see some circling and fin nipping. The male will likely flair his gills and fins at the female.
You just want to ensure that the aggression doesn’t become so extreme that one of the fish (usually the female) is being cornered, beat up and terribly stressed. If that happens, put the divider back into the tank to separate them again.
You can let them interact through the divider and give them another chance the next day.
If all is going well, cover the tank and give the happy couple some time to themselves. Check on them the next day.
The Mating Process
The female will turn upside down as the male wraps around her.
She will release eggs as he releases sperm to fertilize them. The eggs will sink to the bottom of the tank.
The male will swim down, scoop up the eggs in his mouth and deposit them up into the bubble nest.
The pair will repeat this process again and again until the female has released all of the eggs she is holding in her abdomen.
Bettas do not need to be fed while they’re in the spawning tank. They’re going to be focused on each other, and not trying to find a meal. Food will likely go uneaten, fouling the water in the spawning tank.
Check for Eggs
Check the nest for eggs. They will look like little white spheres amongst the bubbles.
You might need to give the fish 2 days before they will spawn. Watch out for over-the-top aggression and separate the pair if needed.
If they’re just not laying eggs, put the two fish back into their original tanks for some reconditioning. Feed them lots of protein rich foods and give them another try in a few days.
Remove the Female
Bettas are amazing fathers. It is the males that tend and protect the eggs and the fry when they first emerge.
Watch for chasing behavior. The male will begin to charge the female to run her off from the nest.
Remove the female when this happens, but leave the male to tend to the eggs.
Hatching the Eggs
The male Betta will continue to guard the nest as the eggs hatch. If any eggs fall out of the bubbles, he will carefully scoop them up and put them back.
Betta eggs usually hatch within 2-3 days of being laid.
At first, the fry will not be able to swim. They will dangle their tails down from the bubble nest as they feed from their attached yolk sacs.
After another 2-3 days, the fry will become free swimming.
Remove the Male
Once the fry are starting to swim around on their own, it’s time to remove the male.
At this point, he hasn’t had a meal in a week or more. So, make sure to feed him some protein rich foods to help him recover.
Raising the Fry
Raising the fry is the most difficult part of breeding Bettas.
The fry are very small, so small that they can’t even eat baby brine shrimp when they first hatch.
You have to strike a delicate balance between providing the baby fish with food and not overfeeding and fouling the water.
For the first few days, you’ll need to feed the fry egg yolk.
Hard boil an egg, separate the yolk from the white and take a pinch of the yolk. Submerge this in a few ounces of dechlorinated water and rub it between your fingers to dissolve some of the yolk in the water.
You can then drip small amounts of this over the surface of the water using a pipette. You’ll need to feed the fry this way 2-3 times a day at this stage.
Good water quality is essential while raising the fry. You’ll need to do frequent water changes to ensure that there is not a build up of ammonia, nitrite or nitrate.
A week or so after the fry become free swimming, you can start to raise the water level in the tank and add a sponge filter.
You want only a gentle flow in the tank so the fish don’t exhaust themselves trying to swim against the current and they’re able to capture their food.
Breeding Bettas is a labor intensive project, but it can be very rewarding.
It’s really cool to watch the life cycle of a fish play out right in front of you.
I love watching fish go from eggs, to tiny fry, to adults. It is immensely satisfying.
Be prepared to put in some serious prep and work to breed your Bettas and raise the fry. It’s not all fun and games, but breeding these fish can be amazing.
I hope you find this article helpful.
I wish you and your fish the very best!