how bettas spawn... in pictures...

OK, so you bought all the supplies, then you proceeded to set-up the spawning tank (see previous section) boy, you have been a busy camper. Busy??? Hah!!! You don’t even know the meaning of the word “busy” until you start spawning and raising fries!!… Aaaahhhhhh I used to have a life… I used to take long walks along the beach at sunset… I used to … Well, so much for that. :).

Watching bettas spawn (especially if it is your first time) is one of the most exciting moments you will experience as a betta breeder. Even now, after having tones of spawns under my belt, I find myself sometimes waking up in the middle of the night and going to my fishroom to see how my pairs are doing. And if I catch them at the right moment :) huh hum, (you know….) then I just sit on the carpeted floor and watch them until my eye hurt. Truly, the males never look as magnificent as when they are spawning. Their colors are vibrant, their fins all spread out in a superb display of beauty and grace.

Every time I spawn them I am taken by their beauty. And every time, I learn something new. It seems no two bettas are alike and no two bettas will go about it exactly the same way. Hence the novice breeder can be quite confused. Many things can go wrong at this stage, and the pair may not breed. I cover this more in length in the next section “Problems with spawning”. But for now, let’s assume you are on a lucky strike and everything goes well and let’s see what happens when a male betta and a female betta are put together in a spawning tank:

To refresh your memory, both male and female were introduced at the same time in the spawning tank. Female was placed inside a glass chimney and male released in the tank. The first thing that happens is the male sees the female inside her chimney glass and swims towards her, flaring.
If the female is dark bodied and if she is receptive to the male’s display, she will soon have vertical bars on her body. Bettas get vertical bars when they want to spawn (or if they are scared). So, if your female has bars, you are in good shape. But if she does not, don’t be bummed, there is still a chance she will change her mind later she is after all, female !!! LOL !!!!
Male will then look like he is possessed. Basically the testosterones are up the roof :)) !!! He’ll swim like crazy, darting and flaring and attacking the glass, unable to get to the grand price (yet :) ). Meanwhile she is a bit worried but soon figures out he can’t get to her, so she starts teasing him: “Look but don’t touch!” and might even flare back at him :).
Male gets busier still, alternating his showing off macho attitude with frantic building of a nest. The one to the left was so insanely thick I had to take a photo!! He’ll keep blowing bubbles on one hand and huffing and puffing at the female on the other for the next day or two or even more. But as soon as he has built his nest, or got a good head start on it, you should release the damsel.
Then he realizes she is in reach, and she realizes that she can get her little fishie butt kicked, so a lot of confusion will take over the spawning tank. Some pairs may be gentle with each other, other will beat the crap out of one another. Usually, it is the female that gets picked on and after the first bite from the male she starts running for her life. That is normal. He will chase her around and nip her and she will run away for a day or two or even three.
The female will usually figure out a way to hide from him, usually behind the corner filter, heater and of course the bushy plastic plant you have placed inside the tank for her protection. Her fins will be frayed, but usually she will take quite a bit of abuse before being truly endangered. Some males do kill the females though so you need to be the referee and keep a close eye on the honeymooners :) at all times.
Then, out of the blue it seems, she decides she is not scared anymore and she swims up to the nest, checking it out. If she likes what she sees, she allows the male to get close and if all goes well, they start telling each other they like each other: She swims with her head down (often with her fins closed), indicating she is now submissive. He stops beating her up and instead starts swimming in an S like motion, rubbing his body against her (sheeesh this is starting to get a bit risque!!) :)))))

There she is, with her head down, under the nest, ready to start spawning. He tries to figure out the best angle to approach her for the embrace.



They often swim in circle, clockwise or counterclockwise, trying different angles and it often takes a while before they figure out how to do it best (some male NEVER do figure it out! Ha!! ) :P

To the left, the male is too high and she is too low, hence they failed to wrap, and had to try again.



They’ll keep trying over and over again for hours until they finally get it right.




And finally: BINGO!!!! The male successfully wraps his body around the female’s and squeezes hard, they lock in that position for a few seconds, sometimes sinking both at the bottom, still not letting go of each other (how romantic!) :). First few embraces usually produce no eggs, but that doesn’t stop the bettas from having a grand old time. :)
Finally the male releases her and swims away, usually to the bottom of the tank, looking for eggs. She lays motionless, floating pathetically, paralyzed. I am not sure why that happens, but the advantage is that it gives the male a chance to collect most of the eggs before she has a chance to get to them. Some females eat the eggs if they can get them first, but many more actually help place them up the nest with no intention to harm them or gobble them up :).
Well, for now he didn’t find zip so he joins her again under the nest. I remember this male who got side tracked and forgot to go back up, and so after a while the female swam down, nudged him like she was saying “Hey, what about me, huh?”, and then he followed her back up and resumed the spawning!! I was amazed at how much personality she had!!

Again, they circle each other, but now they have one good embrace under their belt, so it comes back naturally and they seem to be a bit more sure footed (or should I say sure finned? ) :))



And abracadabra, another embrace!!

This time he got her just right and she is able to release eggs. While she releases them from her egg spot, he fertilizes them. The eggs often collect inside a fold of her anal fin, and will that will break their fall until she is flipped right side up again, or...




They will gracefully fall, like little snow flakes, while the bettas are embracing. Here you see him starting to disengage and swim down, he will try to pick up the eggs in his mouth before they even touch the bottom. The eggs are white, uneven, and look like grains of salt. Every embrace can yield a batch of anywhere from 5 to 50 eggs.

Now he is picking them up. Since he has no basket or anything, he uses his mouth. :)) He is NOT eating them silly! (well, but then again, sometimes he is :(( ). He will pick up to 10 eggs at a time and then swim straight up to the nest where he spits them back out, along with a few bubbles, in a neat little package. They stick to the bubbles, and up they stay, awaiting the arrival of more eggs :)).

He will do as many trips as necessary to insure that all eggs have been placed in the nest. As I said before, many females will gladly participate in the collecting and storing of the eggs. It is sweet to see them working side by side. Of course it usually takes a while for the female to come out of her temporary paralysis and get to work, so she usually will only bring a few eggs back to the nest.

Then they do it again, and again and again… Every time, a new batch of eggs is added to the previous batch, and the pile of eggs gets bigger and bigger and bigger.




Up to 500 eggs can be produced that way. If the embrace is tight, like the one to the left, the eggs are likely to be fertile. If the embrace is a half ass job :), then the eggs will not be fertilized properly and will not hatch. They will usually be eaten by the male who keeps the nest clean (see next section). Unfertile eggs will fungus and may infect the good eggs if not removed.
The spawning process can take anywhere from 2 to 10 hours, so when does one know when they are done? It is easy: the female will release less and less eggs (left) and then she will release none. At that point the male figures he can’t get anything more out of her and chases her away (figures!! :) ). (oh, just kidding guys, where is your sense of humor? :) ). She will hide in the far back and if she comes out to the open he will chase her away as though she is the devil itself.
At this point, it would be a good idea to remove the female and put her in a clean jar with some bettamax, to prevent her injured fins/body from getting infected. Feed her well, pamper her and do not spawn her again for at least 3 weeks. Mr. Betta is now king of the spawning tank. He has posted himself under the bubble nest and will not budge from under there for the next few days.

What happens next? I'm getting there, I'm getting there, my impatient apprentice!! :). If your spawning attempt failed pathetically, proceed to the "problem with spawning" page. Otherwise, if you are one of the (few) chosen ones, go to the next section of this website entitled: "rearing the fry" and click on "the first few days". I'll meet you there.