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 all you ever wanted to know
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... and weren't afraid to ask ;)

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Q: I would love to have a breeding pair but the thought of having to "cull" just makes me sick.  Is it really necessary, I mean can't you just take some of the eggs away before they hatch?

above topic submitted by Amie, San Diego - CA

 A: Amie, this is a very good question in deed, one that raises a very important concern and I would be glad to roll up my sleeve and put my two cents forth :).

I think one of the most exciting aspect of our betta hobby is the fact that they are fairly easy to breed and that their spawning ritual is so exciting to watch! Most of us, at one time or another, decide to take the step that separate betta keepers from betta breeders. It usually happens quite naturally, almost as though the betta keeper had little choice in the matter, he/she got bit by the bug, the betta fever is running in the triple digits hehe and, in a semi state of betta induced delirium, we decide we will spawn "hey, what the heck! Why not? It should be FUN".

And in deed it is. FUN FUN FUN! (A bit frustrating at times, a lot work most of the times, but FUN FUN FUN nonetheless). 

But where should our fun stop and betta ethics begin? It is oftentimes a fine line... Blurred by too many careless people... In other words, if we are to play GOD by creating life, do we not owe it to our creations to care about them and FOR them? Is it not our moral responsibility? If we do not have the adequate space, time, financial resources to provide the fry with proper care and most importantly homes, should we even attempt to spawn in the first place? Are we being selfish when we spawn for fun but the many bettas we produce suffer?

>>> continued from home page

The answer is yes, yes and YES.

So does that means then that we should not spawn bettas at all? Of course not, but we should be wise about the way we spawn and we should be responsible betta hobbyists in the way we spawn. In this column I am going to offer some suggestions (strike that word and replace it with the word 'INSTRUCTIONS' or better yet "ORDERS' hehe) so to keep all of you betta crazed feverish hobbyists in line ;) and so to make sure our hobby does not turn into a nightmare for the little fishies.

First of all, before setting up a spawn and deciding to breed bettas, each one of us should carefully examine the questions below and answer them honestly. If you cannot answer YES to these questions (all of them) then you should NOT spawn bettas.  
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do I have live fry food ready so to feed the hatchling? Alas too many people set up a spawn, not expecting for it to work and end up (beginner's luck helping) with eggs! Betta eggs hatch very fast, so before you know it (48 hrs or so) you have tiny little bettas darting around the tank, looking for something to chow on - and finding NOTHING cause you, the God who created them, omitted to think that they need food to survive. DUH! So now you are running around like a chicken with its head cut off (which in your case, might be a favor to bettas LOL) trying to locate fry food. No fish store I know carry microworm cultures so then you run to me and order one, failing to understand that it will take 4 to 7 days to be delivered, 1 day to set up and another 10 days to produce food! DUH X 2. So meanwhile what happens to the 300 fry? They drop dead, one at a time, from starvation. Way to go Mr. God! In short you should NEVER attempt a spawn unless you already have your microworm culture ready AND PRODUCING.

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do I have a proper spawning set-up? Too many people don't want to spend the money or plain don't have the financial resources to purchase a 10 gal tank, water conditioners, filters, meds etc... All of which most positively NECESSARY to spawn. I have seen people spawn bettas in plastic coke bottles (don't ask), in 1 gal bowls, in Tupperwares... Most of the time the male ends up killing the female (not enough hidden places and space to insure her safety) and even if the pair doesn't kill each other, the fry cannot survive in such small amount of water and will all die. Or if you try to then move them to bigger quarters, most of them will not make it. :(... Or sometimes you have the 10 gal tank but do not have a filter and the water quality promptly goes south while the fry go UP (as in up into the big betta heaven - where you will not be invited).

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do I have the time to care for the fry? They will need to be fed, cleaned, watched, medicated - oftentimes- then soon sexed, put in jars - which means more cleaning for you... If you run out of time and neglect them what do you think the outcome will be? THEY WILL DIE. And once again, you the betta hobbyist trying to play GOD, have killed them (booo).

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do I have the proper knowledge to spawn bettas? You can't just set-up a pair if you do not know what you are doing. It is OK to be a beginner - heck we all were one once upon a time hehe - but be a well informed beginner. Do your homework first and no fry shall die needlessly. Because one little ignorant mistake on your part and the bettas DIE. Luckily for you, you have bettatalk.com , so you are pretty much all set-up on that end of things :). So never spawn unless you have read at least the betta care, betta health, breeding bettas, raising the fry sections of my website back to back (and memorized them, too LOL).

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can I find homes for all the bettas I am going to bring to this world? That is, of all above, the MOST IMPORTANT question. If you did everything right and ended up with bettas that are now grown and in jars, what will you do with them? Can you keep 40 to 100 jars and care for them adequately? If not, can you find other people (friends, neighbors, in- laws - what the heck you are desperate LOL) that will provide a good home to each betta you produced? This is a very tough one. If you are about to shrug it off cause you think you can easily sell your fish, think again. Do a little homework and you will find that it is not that easy to sell fish now a day (unless you already have a very strong reputation and track record out there - which takes years and years of hard work). And if you sell them for nothing, they are likely to end up in the hands of people who are trying to cut corners financially and do not have the funds it take to really care properly for their fish. Ever looked at the price of fish meds at your local fish store? Do you want your babies in the hand of someone who cannot afford to buy them tetracycline when they get sick? Or who will put them in a plastic cup because they cannot afford to buy them the 2 gallon tank set-up? So as you see, a bad compromise can mean a demise (that of your bettas, regrettably). 

So now you are having an anxiety attack. "AGGHHHHH.. What should I do? But I want to spawn them sooo bad".... Well, maybe you can, with a little technique I am going to share with you called Birth Control. NO, not THAT kind of birth control ;)... I'll let your parents fill you out on that one hehe..... there will be no bees, no flowers, no storks on this website :)... I am talking about betta birth control... A wise wise way to go... So wise that only one being comes to mind to speak of it... Wait... Let me find my FaithYoda hat... Where is it? I thought I put it in this drawer.. No... Ah, here it is, it was on my head already :).

WISE FAITHYODA NOW SPEAKS  (so s... up and listen LOL): 

Before you, breeding bettas should, you pondering the following wise points should:

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make sure you can answer yes to all above 4 first questions.

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when it comes to question #5 make sure you can answer "YES I can find homes for about 10 to 20 bettas". Remember females can be kept in a community tank, so the males are usually the problem (wait.. let me put my surprise look on... LOL Males? Problem? NAAAAAA ). If your spawn is about 20 to 30 bettas, you may have 10 to 20 males. You may be able to keep the best 3 and will need to find homes for the rest. By having fewer offsprings, you can manage better and provide them with good homes.

"Wooowwww... Wait (you say). How am I supposed to know how many eggs my female will lay, how many will hatch and how many will survive?"

Patience my young apprentice, I  there, was getting. :). The fact is that YOU CANNOT predict how many fry a spawn will produce. You can however, control how many eggs will be allowed to hatch. Since you cannot tell a female how many eggs to lay (ever tried to talk sense into a female? hehe), and since you should not cull live fish (I am so FIRMLY against culling, it is not even funny) the only point of time where you, the betta breeder can step in to control the number of fry, is once the eggs have been laid and before they start turning into embryos and hatching into live fry.

In short, the careful removal of eggs right after the spawn has been completed (when you are removing the female, you can remove a large number of eggs as well) will insure smaller spawns and will insure less bettas but more HAPPY bettas :). Cause in your case, less is more. Although I do not suggest this method if you are a serious breeder with serious breeding program/goals, this method can be a life saver (literally) for the betta keeper who just wants to do a spawn or two for fun or just to try it. This way you can still have your fun, but bettas will not suffer from it. Also it will be less expensive to feed the fish, less jars to buy to house them, less space needed, less time to clean bowls etc... All in all it is the most reasonable approach to take.

How to properly remove eggs

Removing eggs will be easy with the help of a clean plastic spoon. But you must be careful to not destroy the nest in the process, or piss off the male too much.  Usually, if you are very gentle, you will be A-OK on both above counts.

So here is how to remove the eggs, step by step:

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first of all, once the spawning is done, use a flashlight to see where the eggs have been stored inside the nest. They may be all over, or clumped in one or two spots. They are easy to see since they look a bit yellowish. Look at them from UNDER.

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now, remove the female.

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while you are in there, this is the best time to also remove extra eggs - this way you only disturbed the male once.

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take a clean plastic spoon

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carefully dip the spoon near the nest by entering the water surface vertically (so to displace almost no water). Slowly maneuver the spoon under the nest. Level the spoon so it is horizontal and slide it slowly under the spot with most eggs. Scoop up bubbles and the eggs, keeping the spoon mainly horizontal but at a slight bit of an angle when exiting at the surface so to not displace much water at all (it will disrupt the nest less that way) but so the eggs you scooped up will still not fall back into the water.

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if the nest is under a stirofoam cup, you will have to lift the cup up gently so to access the eggs and remove them. This will result in the nest sliding partly out, but that is OK. Remove the eggs, then lower the cup back into the water while trying to move it over the majority of the nest and getting as much of it back under the cup - the male will fix the rest.

Even if the nest gets a bit disrupted, most males will fix it pronto. If they don't, it means they were not going to care for the nest and fry anyways, and so it was a lost case to begin with (as in, you have nothing to lose). 

However, by removing a good number of eggs, you will take a lot of pressure off of you and will never have to feel terrible about the bettas that died needlessly because you could not find them good homes and the people you gave them to were real lousy betta parents. Respect life, respect the betta. After all, these bettas you created are now your KIDS, shouldn't you care what becomes of them? So let us be responsible betta hobbyists and not take betta life lightly.

I hope the above suggestions will help you become a more responsible betta breeder and will insure a better quality of life for the bettas you bring into this world. Wise FaithYoda, spoken, has.


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About me

I am a member of the IBC, founder and President of LABS  (Los Angeles Betta Society) and have been helping the betta community through this website since 1998. I have over 180  spawns and  4000 shipments under my belt and have been featured on national and international television.        go to article