Betta fish, also known as the Siamese fighting fish, are known for their aggressive behavior but are widely loved for their vibrant colors. One of the first things anyone learns about this species is that they rarely get along with other fish, even with their own kind.
Although you simply cannot keep two males together in a single tank, you can keep one male with a few females. Aggression issues, however, can occur even in these situations.
With this said, how exactly do Betta fish mate when they hardly get along with other individuals? To be honest, it is not a simple process. In the wild, female Bettas will choose their own male.
In captivity, however, you need to set up a perfect tank and condition the Bettas if you want to succeed. As soon as the male sees the female, he should start building a bubble nest.
Once the nest has been made, the female can be safely introduced to the male and this is when their mating dance should begin. Ideally, the male will flip the female upside down. Then, he should attach or wrap himself around her. This is the process of fertilization and it normally happens more than once.
Below you can read a more in-depth explanation of the breeding process. It is actually a much more complicated series of actions than it sounds.
How to Breed Betta Fish
To begin with, there is a lot to learn before you can successfully try to breed your Bettas. I will take you through the whole process step by step. As already mentioned, in the wild, the female is the one that chooses the partner.
Normally, she will choose them based on size, coloration, energy. If a female sees a male that is moody and unenergetic, she will not mate with him. For them, this is a sign of sickness.
In an aquarium, however, you will have already chosen the two specimens. This way, the female has no other choice but to eventually mate with the male you have. It is all up to you, however, to create the perfect setting and execute all steps accordingly.
Set up a breeding tank
If you have a tank with two Bettas already, that is good, you can skip a few of the following steps. However, I would advise that you go through every bit of information.
Normally, people suddenly get the idea that they should try breeding their male Betta. It is the most common situation. Therefore, to do this, they have to buy a new female.
While you can either be in this situation or already have a permanent Betta tank with two specimens, you need a secondary breeding tank that will be entirely aimed for this.
Permanent Betta tank water parameters
|Tank Size||At least 5-10 gallons|
|pH||Between 6 and 7.5|
|Hardness||Between 5° to 20° dH|
Before we get to the set-up, you need to know that the tank needs to be perfectly cycled. This normally takes around a month or more. It sounds like a long time to prepare everything but as I said, it is not as simple as it sounds.
For the tank, get the most basic one between 5 to 10 gallons. The difference with your regular aquarium is that this one will have almost nothing in it. Do not add any gravel as the eggs may get stuck eventually.
Add a couple of plants, either live or plastic. The female will need a place to recover between the series of fertilization, and afterward. Males can get overly aggressive during the mating period.
You will need around five inches of water. While some hobbyists use filtration, I would rather not. We want steady waters for the eggs, so if you decide to use a filter, choose a weak model that will not create any currents. Light also needs to be weak. Bettas are not used to breeding under bright light.
Condition your fish
What does it mean to condition your fish? This means feeding them with high-quality food at least 3-4 times a day for at least two or three weeks. This way, you will ensure the maximal efficiency of the breeding cycle. Your pair will have enough energy for the stress and exhausting process.
The ultimate choice will always be live food. Nothing out of the ordinary, bloodworms, daphnia, and Tubifex are the most suitable for Bettas.
Introduce the female
I would say that we are finally getting to the interesting part of the breeding process. To introduce the female in the breeding tank, you will either need a divider or some sort of a transparent container that can either float or be attached to the aquarium.
My advice when choosing a container is to get something as large as possible. The introduction can take from an hour to a day, so the Betta should have some space to move.
Normally, the male will be the first one that is interested. It is uncertain whether the female will show signs of interest but eventually, she should. In both cases, the colors of the pair should darken and you will witness a change in their movements.
When a female is ready to breed, she will have new vertical stripes on her body. In addition, she will flaunt her ovipositor at the male. This is where she will later lay spray her eggs from.
Naturally, the male will start building the nest I mentioned in the beginning. It consists of air bubbles that are then coated in saliva. It is up to you to decide whether to leave the female in that same tank or take her back to the permanent tank until the nest is ready. If you have placed her in a tight container, I would suggest that you move her back.
You should pace some sort of an object that will float at the surface level. This is where the nest will normally be made. You can use some sort of a leaf or even Styrofoam.
Release the female
As soon as the male has successfully built the nest, you can continue with releasing the female. If you kept it in a container and removed it to wait, let her sit in that container for twenty to thirty minutes to condition itself. If the pair is separated by a divider, remove it.
Now comes the tricky part. The female will naturally inspect the nest as soon as she has been released. Even after all the work you did until this moment, it is uncertain whether the female will like the nest.
If she does not, she will likely destroy it. If this happens, you can start from scratch but if it happens more than once, I think it will be impossible. In such cases, consider buying another female.
At the same time, the male will not waste his time and he will immediately charge towards the female. As I already mentioned, males can become very aggressive during the mating period and you can expect hours of chasing and nibbling between the pair. Although it is normal, you should keep an eye as things can get out of hand.
At some point, the pair should start swimming together like a dance. This continues until the female allows the male to flip her upside down.
The mating dance itself
The female will release eggs through her ovipositor while the male will fertilize them. This process usually happens more than once.
Normally, they will have a few minutes of rest between the different times and during those periods. The male will scoop and collect all the fertilized eggs and move them to the nest.
This is when I would advise that you remove the female. Return her to her permanent tank as the male will get more aggressive after they have completed their breeding. Males are the ones that protect the brood while females often eat the eggs.
When will the eggs hatch?
Eggs normally hatch in one to two days. During this period, the male may fertilize them additionally or move the nest to another place in the aquarium. Either way, he will protect them and make sure none fall out of the nest.
As with most fish, the fry will eat their own egg yolk in the beginning. After a couple of days, you should start giving them baby food. Overfeeding them is dangerous, give them not more than two or three feedings per day.
Lastly, the male should be removed in a couple of days as well. This is an aggressive species and like most other fish, it could eventually eat the fry.
How do I choose a good male?
Male Bettas are more colorful, therefore, considered more beautiful. This is why I think you will rarely be buying a male instead of a female for breeding. However, if you actually have females or a single female, and you need a male, how would you choose a good one?
I already mentioned that energy is crucial when it comes to Bettas. Since the female is the one that is hard to convince, your choice of the male should be vigor, his colors need to be vibrant. Ideally, he should look healthy.
Males with scars and markings have lower chances to be chosen by a female. Often enough, it is considered that healthy males have undamaged fins. Therefore, this is another sign to carefully look for.
Should I buy from a pet store or a reputable breeder?
This is a very common question for most species of fish, as well as other types of animals as well. Of course, buying a Betta from a pet store is the cheapest option. That, however, is the only positive thing.
A reputable breeder will have a lot more knowledge on the species and care a lot more for the specimens themselves. In pet stores, conditions are often unbalanced. After all, it is not easy to take care of hundreds or thousands of fish at the same time. They simply cannot provide the perfect conditions to anyone.
A breeder will help you choose the correct Betta by telling you about their personal characteristics. He may even know how aggressive each one is.
Therefore, I would always recommend spending the extra dollar and getting your fish from reputable breeders. If you are so enthusiastic about fish that you want to breed them, I believe you have already spent a sufficient amount of money on fish.
Is it hard to breed Bettas?
Breeding a pair of Bettas is not necessarily hard but the process has a lot of small steps that require your attention. Besides that, the main issue will probably be female Betta. You never know whether she will or will not like the male.
Other than that, all you need is a separate tank that has been set entirely for this purpose and a pair of conditioned Bettas. Everything else, you can or have already learned by reading the article above.
How old should a Betta be in order to breed successfully?
As success rate with mating depends a lot on the age, it is key that you actually know the age of the specimens when you are buying them. This is another one of the reasons why I always recommend buying from a reputable breeder.
The most suitable time to breed Bettas is when they are between 4 months and a year old. A breeder will know the birth date of each of his fry and will also inform you about their genetics and temper.
Fish, older than 12 months are not always suitable for mating. The outcome may be a sickly brood that nobody would want eventually.
Can a female Betta get pregnant without a male?
Actually, female Bettas never really get pregnant. What they do is produce eggs that they drop for the male to fertilize. Therefore, Bettas can’t reproduce if there is not at least one specimen of both genders. However, females can produce eggs no matter if there is a male around.
How long does it take for Betta fish to mate?
I would say the overall process shouldn’t take more than a day. The longest waiting period is when you introduce the female and you are waiting for the male to build a bubble nest. Afterward, the mating dance and fertilization of eggs shouldn’t take more than a few hours.
The period between mating and hatching is usually between 24-48 hours.
How long does it take for Betta fry to grow to adulthood? What do I feed them?
The newborns will take four to five days to learn how to swim horizontally. During their first days, they will eat up all the yolk from their eggs. Then, however, you need to feed them small live food like brine shrimp and micro worms.
Normally, Bettas will grow to their full size in about three to four months. I am sure you already know their regular size. You never know, however, how many newborns you will have. In time, you will most likely need additional tanks/containers for the males who are the aggressive gender.