“Breeding Anabantoids” by Joe Graffagnino

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Breeding Anabantoids with emphasis on Bettas

Anabantoids are extremely interesting fish. Most anabantoids go through great lengths to prepare a nest site, attract a suitable mate and then place the fertilized eggs into the nest. After the fry hatch generally it is the father that cares for the fry and he chases mom away. As the children start to leave the nest, to explore their surrounding area, dad is kept very busy in protecting the fry, even to attack the hobbyist hand if it gets too close to the nest. You can feel the frustration on the harried father as the little fry start darting away from home. He must try to eat to sustain his strength and health, protect and recapture his fry and spit them back into the nest continuously. It is no wonder that after several days of this hectic activity that he starts to cannibalize his offspring. I’m sure that many of us have thought the same with human offspring – remember the terrible two’s?

I deviate from the story. Anabantoids can be separated into three distinct classes:

  • Bubble nest builders – Examples of these are the majority of gouramies and betta splendens (Siamese Fighting fish).
  • Submerged plant nest builders – Examples are betta brownorum, betta coccina, betta tussyae and betta livida. From Africa there is the centopoma species.
  • Mouth brooders – They include betta channoides, betta albimargineta, betta unamaculatum and betta macrostoma,

The bubble nest builders I have found to be the easiest to spawn. Bubble nest builders build their nest to impress and attract a female to spawn with them. I generally have a Styrofoam cup cut vertically so the long side is now in half. I let that sit in a shallow tank, such as a 10 gallon with 6 – 9 inches of water at neutral pH (7.0) and a temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Water in Brooklyn comes from the tap soft (3-4GH) and neutral pH. Add floating plants such as duck weed and fairy moss so the fish can use the plant to anchor his bubble nest together.

At this point the male becomes very aggressive. He would even attack your hand or finger should it enter his territory. I keep the female in a small, clear glass container with the top of the container a few inches above the water line, in the same tank as the male, at the opposite side of his bubble nest. When the nest is complete and the females’ abdomen has become full with eggs, it is time to release her into the tank. Within a couple of hours the breeding should begin. One method to know if the female has eggs in her is after feeding them a diet of live or frozen food such as black or blood worms for 5 continuous days, don’t feed her for a couple of days. If she still has a round stomach area then its eggs. After spawning the female should be removed from the aquarium to protect her from the male and to help her recuperate from her strenuous ordeal. Within a few days the male will start chasing the fry that are hatching from the nest. He wants to keep them in his nest. At this point I would remove the male and place him into a separate tank from the female.

Allow the fry to grow in their original aquarium. It is important to have the same water parameters for the male and female as was in the spawning tank. Also the surface air temperature cannot deviate more than 3 degrees Fahrenheit from the water temperature, for when the fry come up for their first gulp of air they could catch pneumonia. The fry will grow very quickly on baby brine shrimp (live or frozen). Depending on how many fry you want to keep it would pay to start moving the fry to grow out tanks after their first month or for many of them their growth would become stunted.

Species that are submerged plant nest builders are more difficult mainly because you normally can’t see the nest and if there are fry in it. The usual method of noticing a successful breed is when you start seeing fry moving around the tank. Problem with this is that the parents may eat them and if there are other fish in the tank they will definitely eat them. Fish of this type generally like slow moving water and that the water is more acidic (4.5-6.5 pH). African centopomas fall into this category. I accidentally found a betta brownorum nest inside a submerged 35mm film canister.

Mouth brooders such as betta macrostoma utilize this type of spawning behavior. Breeding takes place between one pair of fish. When the female is gravid she initiates the mating process. The male wraps himself around her and squeezes the eggs from her while simultaneously fertilizes them with his milt. I have seen the female recover the eggs and at times the male will also recover eggs and while both fish face each other she will spit the egg into his mouth. Both betta channoides and albimargineta the female gathers the eggs in her mouth and spits them up over her head where the male is positioned to catch them. The male then holds the eggs until they hatch and he will release them from 14 to 28 days, depending on the species.

Anabantoids are beautiful and amazing fish. If the hobbyist wants to experience a different type of spawning behavior I highly recommend them getting a group of anabantoids.

One thought on ““Breeding Anabantoids” by Joe Graffagnino”

  1. You’re right about anabantoids, they are certainly very beautiful fish and are a good choice for an interesting and different addition to an aquarium

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