Top Tips For Breeding Betta Siamese Fighters
Getting bettas to spawn is a relatively easy task, mostly because the betta male takes care of all the needs of the eggs and freshly hatched spawn. He makes sure the eggs stay in the nest, cleans them by washing them about in his mouth, and when the little betta fry hatch just a day or two after being laid, he ensures that the young do not fall out of the nest, carefully catching his little ones and then spitting them back up into the nest. When betta fry first hatch, they do little other than hang vertically from the bubble nest and feed from the egg sacs still attached to their bodies. In a day or so however, those egg sacs are depleted and the fry become horizontally free swimming, looking for prey to eat. This is the stage at which the male is usually removed from the nest and given a good feed and a nice rest.
Now however, it is your turn to take care of the spawn, and it is a more time consuming task than you may imagine.
A good first food for baby fry is infusoria. I have written an article about how to culture infusoria here. With a good amount of infusoria in the tank, your fry will be set for two or three days, after which they should be transferred to a microworm diet. Microworms are very easy to culture. After the first week, you should be introducing BBS, or baby brine shrimp. If you need microworms too long, and if you let dead microworms build up on the bottom of the tank, you may very well find that your fry do not develop ventral fins. I highly recommend adding a freshwater snail or two to the fry tank to clean up any left over microworms and other foods.
Care should also be taken when feeding brine shrimp. Make sure to get all the casings out of the brineshrimp and rinse them. Baby brine shrimp are the best food for baby betta fry, but there are other options. For more on baby betta foods, read this article.
Feeding is just a part of looking after your fry however, you also need to ensure that they have good water quality. A sponge filter on a low setting is imperative, for filtering the tank, and daily water changes are also essential. Baby bettas, like most baby fish, release a growth inhibiting hormone. If you do not do daily water changes, this will stunt the growth of all the fry in your tank.
Water changes should be performed carefully and often from around the 5th day after hatching. Be careful not to change too much water at first, as your baby fish will be very sensitive to changes in water condition, however after the first week, decent water changes are essential to the continued health of your stronger fry.
Weak fry may die off early on in the piece, however this is entirely normal. 100% survival rates are not to be desired when raising a betta spawn, especially from unproven parents as 100% survival rates mean that even the weakest and least desirable fish may live to breed and further weaken the lines.
Thai breeders often cull all but the largest and best fish from a spawn, and whilst this may be distasteful for many breeders, it does mean that you are not left with hundreds of average fish to find homes for. If we breed to better the species, then we must also take care not to release substandard fish into the potential breeding pool.