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BETTAS by Jim Sonnier

Excellent Black genotype Butterfly pair preparing to spawn



My setup consists of a glass covered 10 gallon tank with 4 gallons of treated water (about 4") maintained at a temperature between 80-82 degrees by a 100 watt submersible heater. Plastic plants are included to serve as hiding places for the female. A floating 3x2" square of waxed paper is used for the bubblenest anchor. The anchor can be loosely stuck by one corner to the side of the aquarium in the location of your choice. It appears that bright lights inhibit spawning behavior, so subdued lighting is the best way to go. The male is allowed free movement in the spawning tank while the female is confined to a jar. Usually the breeders are introduced in the afternoon or evening.

The male and female will usually begin to flare at each other through the side of the jar. Their colors will deepen and the female will show verticle bars on her sides. The bars appear right over the ovaries showing that eggs are present and this is a signal to the male that she is ready to spawn. The male usually then divides his time between flaring at the female and constructing a bubblenest.

The next day, if a bubblenest has been built, the female is released into the spawning tank and the jar is removed. You should see an explosion of flaring and dancing as the breeders interact. Apparently male dominance must be established and the female can be chased, bitten, and have her fins shredded. The amount of violent behavior that you see will depend on the breeders you use. Some females do not submit easily and often end up with severe injuries that, on rare occassions, result in death. Some males are terrible bullies that hound the female mercilessly even when she is hiding and assuming the head-down submissive position. Only infrequently will you have a pair that are gentle and leave the spawning tank with minimal injuries.

The embrace and gathering of fertilized eggs

The spawning is one of the most beautiful sights in nature. The male and female meet under the bubble nest and engage in a circular dance. It is an absolute wonder! After a short while they embrace with the male curling his body over hers after turning her on her back. Some eggs are released from the female and some sperm from the male. The fertilization is in vitro. Both fish become motionless and appear to pass out. Many times the eggs can be seen cupped in one of the female's pectoral fins. The male awakens first and rolls off the female causing the eggs to fall. He scoops them into his mouth. He then blows a bubbles around each one and places them all in the nest. In the meantime, the female has recovered and the mating dance begins again. This ritual can continue for 2 or 3 hours until the female is empty of eggs. The bubblenest usually contains 100 to 300 eggs after the spawn. Some excellent spawning videos can be accessed at Kevin Pelletier's

Once the spawning has been completed the female should be removed from the tank. The male will diligently guard and maintain the nest for the next 2 days. If any bubbles burst and eggs fall, he will scoop them up and reinsert them into the nest. He does not eat during this time. After 36 to 48 hours the eggs hatch and the babies can be seen hanging from the bubblenest. They look very much like commas and their attitude is vertical because their swim bladders are not yet fully developed. Many times they will lose their grip and go spiraling head-first toward the bottom of the tank. But the ever present male chases them down, gulps them into his mouth, and blows them back into the nest. If there are a lot of fry the male can really have his "fins" full for a couple of days.

During the next 48 hours the frys' swim bladders complete development and they become horizontal and free swimming. Now the male may be removed and the spawning tank becomes a fry rearing tank. For fry feeding information go to feeding fry.


1. Water temperature 80-82 degrees F.

2. Water depth of about 4 inches

3. An anchor for the bubblenest

4. Hiding places for the female


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This page was last updated on 02/05/13

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