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Freshwater Fish and Resources

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2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, J. Atchison
Betta smaragdina

For the first month that I kept this fish I counted the four fish that I thought that I had. Every morning and every evening I counted to four and was so happy that they were surviving. I was not overly concerned that I might or might not be successful in breeding the fish because the person from whom I acquired the critters typically has hard water. Our natural tap is rather softish and I was most concerned about shocking them with the radical water changes and just keeping the fish alive.

I acquired the fish as fry. They were about 3/8 inch long and looked for all the world as any another betta fry might look. Not wanting to overfeed and foul the water, I nearly counted the baby brine shrimp as I fed them. They were little pigs and grew fairly rapidly. Water changes twice a week of about 50% seemed to keep them happy. I did add a little salt (literally a pinch) to keep the fungus at bay.

During one of the water change in about the second month, I discovered that the four fry that I had been counting were actually five fish. I had assumed that there were only 4 fish and only bothered to count that high. Perhaps if I had not stopped counting I would have seen that I had been caring for five fry all along.

It's a good thing that there were five fry too. As is turned out, four were females and one was a male. You might feel as I do that perhaps that lost fifth fish was the male. It had to be because that is the way my luck runs.

I house these fish in a 10 gallon tank with a group of 6 Cory cats. There are a few aponogetons growing in the tank and some duck weed as a surface cover. I do not heat their tank but the fishroom is kept at 73 degrees Fahrenheit. The water is kept at about 7.0 pH and 2 DH. The lighting in the tank is ambient room lighting.

This fish turned out to be a fairly easy fish to spawn. The females filled with eggs during the normal course of feeding. We did not create any special conditioning regimen nor did we change their normal diet. We feed a variety of foods including: baby brine shrimp, brine shrimp, daphnia, moina, mosquito larvae, Grindal worms, blackworms, and fruitflies. Two of these foods are fed each day. These fish have not seen flakes but have had some frozen brines shrimp and bloodworms. They seem to eat anything. They also seem to eat a great deal. They are routinely fed twice a day.

In about the fifth month the male was definitely showing signs of breeding coloration and two of the females were swelling with eggs. I separated the male and one female from the others, placing them into a 2 gallon tank with floating water sprite and a handful of java moss on the bottom. The male began to build a nest that evening and continued through the next day. On the morning of the third day, the pair spawned. The creamy white eggs sat near the top of a small (1 1/2 inch diameter) nest that stood about 1/4 inch high. I was not too concerned about observing hatching times nor conducting eggs counts and the like because all of the material I had read told me that these fish can be kept with their fry...the female will not be abused by the male...he will not eat the fry...bla, bla. Definitely not the case with my pair...and as it turned out on subsequent attempt...pair combinations!

The male nearly killed the female on the fourth day...ate the fry on the fifth...

I removed the female on the fourth day and the male on the fifth, placing them back into their ten gallon home with the other females. The other females swelled with eggs and I decided that the male was not too much worse for wear from his last experience and I would try again. Using a different female, the results were the same. I decided to try something different.

I set up a new 2 gallon tank, just as I had the first. However, this time I wrapped a towel around the back and two sides of the tank to darken it. The pair was placed in the tank and the next day a nest was built and on the next...eggs. More eggs this time. It looked like there might be as many as fifty, maybe more. As I had read about the small clutches this fish will lay, fifty was a good number. I removed the female as soon as I ascertained that the mating had concluded. I left the male with the eggs to keep them in the nest.

After two days, the fry seemed to be out of the nest and hanging on the sides of the tank as well as on the leaves of the water sprite. I removed the male.

When the fry became free swimming, I fed them greenwater/infusoria until they were moving throughout the water column at which time I began to feed them with vinegar eels.

Some ideas...

Unfortunately, the fry did not survive beyond the first week and the male developed a spinal challenge and subsequently died. Thinking back as to reasons the fry may have died...
we have always been a little paranoid about changing the water with such small fry. We have gone to using a filter sponge (Brilli style) slipped over the end of a plastic hose to block the fry from entering the hose as we syphon the water. We change water on a daily basis with all the betta fry. The losses have been much less since changing the water on a daily basis. We also add a 1/4 t of non-iodized salt per 1/2 gallon of water to help combat velvet. By using the salt and changing about 10 percent of the water each day we have been able to feel comfortable feeding more food thus dimishing the chances of starvation. We think we would have more success with this fish with these solutions...now to find a male.

We have read some material recently that suggests that this species is a cave spawning Betta. While we did not find this to be the case with our fish, our fish may represent pair(s) specific conduct and may not be the case for all fish from the species. We would be interested in hearing from other individuals who have bred this fish.