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Freshwater Fish and Resources

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Betta pugnax

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A while ago I was visiting my favorite local fish store (LFS), Ocean Aquarium, in San Francisco. Its' a great place to find unusual fish. Some are really unusual and some in the middle of the "rare range"...Betta pugnax being in the middle of the "Oh-my-gosh-this-is-so-rare" meter. Owner Justin Hau always take the time to show me the new fish he has received during the week and saves the best for last. On that particular day two fish caught my eye: Corydoras sussei and Betta Pugnax. It was a tough decision but I picked up breeding groups of each. On the way home I thought up some pretty creative rationale to justify my decision to my wife...she is too kind.

Let me start out with a little background on this fish. It is a Betta, but does not build a bubble nest. It is a mouth brooder. Most of the mouth brooders are found higher in the drainage systems where the water flows. It would be nearly impossible for the fish to rely on a bubble nest for it's continued survival in flowing water, so it holds the eggs in it's mouth...more specifically the male holds the eggs in his mouth and the female roughly, more or less, guards the male and the immediate territory around the cave.

I have been using "system" water for these fish. Our normal water,  is neutral and 120 ppm TDS. The ambient temperature of the room creates a water temperature of about 75 degrees. We have these fish on the end of a row where they do not get too much foot traffic and the lighting is not an intense as it is in the middle of the room.

The tank is set up with a sponge filter running a fairly brisk bubble stream, three broken flower pots for the trio of fish, a java fern and a good sized clump of java moss.

It takes a whole lot of fruit flies and blackworms to bring these fish into breeding condition. I have used Grindal worms, blackworms, and fruitflies to bring these fish into condition. Two of these foods are fed each day.  While I use a limited palate of live foods, they seem to eat anything. They also seem to eat a great deal. They are routinely fed twice a day. They are not small fish and easily reach 3+ inches in body length. They have rather large finnage...not so much that the fins are long but that they are broad and powerful. No doubt to deal with something other than stagnant pools of water.

You can click on the photos to see an enlarged
and detailed version of each photograph.

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The fish is a rather drab color when it is not in breeding condition. This first photo is of a female in non-breeding coloration. You can see that she is heavy with eggs, but there is no available male for her to spawn with. She is a plain brownish hue with a dark bar behind her eye. Note the long ventral fins. Well they are long compared to some fish. Her caudal is rather large also and at approximately 3 inches she is a strong fish.

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This female is currently in breeding condition. In fact she and the male in subsequent photos are breeding. You can quickly see from the photo that the coloration is strikingly different than in the female not breeding. The bar behind the eye has extended around her lower lip and has darkened considerably. The highlights in her finnage have brightened and she has taken on a much darker purple coloration to her body.

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Look at the metallic scales around the face of the male. You can see the large eyes, suggesting a darkened environment in nature. The male is also showing an enlarged throat. This is not a sign of aggression but rather a sign he is holding eggs.

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From this angle you can easily see that the male is holding the eggs in his mouth. The spawning is almost completed at this point and the male is showing less and less interest in leaving the cave.

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The fish are approaching each other to embrace each other for spawning.

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The embrace has started and the fish are just beginning to...

BETTAS = http://www.splendidfarms.com

spawn. The fish slowly sink to the bottom during the height of the embrace. The flash of the camera does not seem to frighten them during the embrace. Between  these brief sessions, the female chases away all the other fish and returns to the cave to initiate another embrace. The female seems to be in charge of the process. The male does not leave the cave in the later parts of the spawning.

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Here's the interesting part. The male holds the eggs until the fry hatch and are able to be free swimming. How does he pick up the eggs? In my observations, he doesn't! In this photo the female has positioned herself to spit an egg in front of the male. He will pick the egg out of the water column and store it in his mouth. The female picks up the eggs from the substrate (in our case the bare tank bottom) and waits for a bit before she spits them, singularly and in multiples of 3 and 4 into the water in front of the male for him to pick out of the water. It is definitely a role playing situation. Try as I might, I could not snap a photograph of the egg in "mid air" (water in this case). They are quick about this procedure.