Breeding Betta Fish: Detailed Step-By-Step Guide

Betta Fish Underwater
Betta Fish Underwater
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 10, 2024
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Often chosen for home aquariums, Betta fish, also known as Siamese fighting fish, are highly popular. While breeding these colorful and active fish can be quite difficult, many people opt to buy them from a reputable breeder or a pet store.

If you’re ready to breed betta fish on your own, but confused by all the information out there, read on to find our carefully researched guide on how to successfully breed betta fish.

Article Summary

  • Betta fish cannot live in a community tank, and finding homes for the offspring can be difficult.
  • The breeding tank setup should provide privacy, specific water parameters, and hiding spots for the female.
  • After breeding, the female should be separated from the male, and he will care for the eggs.

Can you breed betta fish?

In short, yes, betta fish can be bred in captivity, but betta breeding is considered very challenging. Many fish keepers don’t see the value in breeding betta because the process is difficult and once you have successfully mated a breeding pair you have to find homes for all of the babies.

Unlike other fish, betta’s are not able to live in a community tank, so you either have to find an individual home for each or give them away to friends. Most pet stores won’t take them because they have their own deals with other fish brokers.

A Blue Mustard Betta Fish in an Aquarium
A Blue Mustard Betta Fish in an Aquarium

If you’re determined to breed your own betta fish it’s best to breed when they’re young, ideally between 4 and 12 months. The youth of the fish will help curb their temperaments and territorialism.

FUN FACT

The latin name for betta is Betta splendens meaning “beautiful warrior.” However, they were originally named Macropoduc pugnax, until it was discovered that another fish was already named that.

Are betta fish easy to breed?

No, betta breeding is very complex and has many steps. Depending on the step your whole breeding process could fail. Breeding betta fish is a very aggressive process, you will have to be on call throughout the whole mating process to ensure that nobody is hurt.

When is betta fish breeding season?

In an aquarium setting bettas breed year round. The temperature of the tank should be 2-3 degrees higher and try mimicking the natural breeding conditions of wild betta fish.

More importantly, you should be observing your male and female betta fish for signs that they are ready to mate. Male betta fish will begin making bubble nests to prepare for hatchlings and the female will have a stripe across her back. The female is actively ready to breed when they have a barring pattern (vertical stripes along their midsection), not to be mistaken with horizontal stripes.

NOTE

Only put the two bettas together when the female has developed the barring pattern!

How long does it take to breed betta fish?

The actual breeding and mating dance between the male and female betta fish can take 2 to 6 hours depending on the satisfaction of the breeding pair. After about 1 hour of introducing the pair the male will start building a bubble nest to try to impress the female.

How do you breed betta fish successfully

There are 3 main steps for a successful breeding of betta fish: breeding tank setup, choosing your breeding pair, and the actual mating. All three steps are equally important and require close reading as preparation for breeding is fairly complicated.

1. Breeding Tank Setup

Your betta breeding tank should be set up away from day-to-day activities. Breeding betta fish like their privacy, consider placing the betta tank in a low light room with no colors and little to no human or fish activity. Tank setup is just as important as the actual breeding process, but some people leave it until the very end. Remember it takes 2-3 weeks to properly cycle a tank so you should begin setup prior to getting your bettas.

Unlike other breeding tanks your bettas should only have 3-5 inches of water, just enough to remain upright, this is because fry will have a hard time swimming to the water surface to breath and feed. For the actual mating process you might have to raise the water level depending on what process you are using to introduce your mating pair, but more on that later.

Woman Placing Empty Aquarium On The Table
Woman Placing Empty Aquarium On The Table

Next add a sponge filter, air pump, and heater to your breeding tank. We recommend keeping the temperature of the heater set to 80℉. Make sure that no part of the heather is out of the water as it might overheat trying to heat the air instead of the water. To your fry tank you should also add an indian almond leaf of a styrofoam cup to the water to provide an area for the bubble nest.

TIP

If you want to see the breeding process, tape the styrofoam cup to the side of your aquarium and cut open the bottom so that your male betta can swim in and out easily.

Lastly, add moss and other small decor to provide hiding spots for the female betta during the mating ritual, but not so many that the male won’t be able to find her. Allow the breeding tank to sit, cycle, and stabilize.

Water Parameters
Temperature~80℉
pH6.5
Hardness4-8 dGH

It will take about 24 hours for the heater to raise the water temperature to the necessary degree, so be sure to factor this in when planning out the process.

2. Choose Your Breeding Pair

There are many decisions to make when you breed bettas, the first being where to buy your betta fish from. We suggest buying your betta from a reputable breeder, while it is initially cheaper to buy from a pet store a breeder can give you information about the fish’s genetics and age, two very important things when it comes to breeding.

TIP

It’s recommended to begin breeding betta when they’re between 4 and 12 months of age. After purchasing from a breeder you need to let your betta’s destress and settle from the move for at least a month. This is important to take into account if purchasing an older betta.

Sexing Betta Fish

Sexing your adult bettas is generally pretty easy. Male bettas have long dorsal, ventral, and caudal fins. The dorsal and caudal fins will often droop due to their weight. Males also tend to have much brighter coloration than females. Additionally, if placed in front of a reflection of themselves males will flare their fins to show dominance.

Female bettas, on the other hand, have short fins and not as vibrant coloration. Depending on the age and sexual maturity of a fish you may be able to see a females egg spot located near the edge of the ventral fin near the female’s head. However, some male bettas can develop a false egg spot so this is not the most reliable method.

To learn more about sexing betta fish, watch the video below.

Betta Fish Male And Female (Differences and Determining gender)

How to choose a betta breeding pair

Now that you’re confident in being able to choose a male and female betta, let’s look at some of the characteristics to choose a pair off of.

Since in their natural habitat, the female chooses the male, you want to choose a male that you think would be attractive. The three main categories of attraction are: color, fins, and activity level.

ColorMales with bright colors tend to be more attractive to females. Bright coloration correlates with a high amount of carotenoids, showing that the male has a strong immune system and is an excellent forager. 
Research also shows that female bettas tend to prefer red colored males. 
FinsFins are an important visual indicator of your male bettas health. Damaged fins could be an indicator of a sick fish. Strong males will heal from minor injuries quicker. If your male has damaged fins it is unlikely that your female betta will pursue him. 
Activity LevelEnergy levels are another way for females to decipher male betta genes. A betta with poor energy might be infected with parasites or other diseases. Since immune systems can be inheritable female bettas don’t want a lackluster male. 

NOTE


It can take a few years and cycles for a certain trait to fully appear, so be patient if you want to achieve a certain goal through your selective breeding.

3. Breeding

The third and final step is perhaps the hardest, you’ve set up the breeding tank, picked your male and female bettas, and now it’s time to start breeding bettas!

How to condition betta fish for breeding

While your bettas are settling in their separate two tanks you should begin to condition them by feeding them live food. For your male, live food like brine shrimp and insect larvae will help build your coloration, it will also help build strength for your female fish.

When is your betta ready to mate?

After a period of time in their separate tanks you will notice your female betta getting vertical bars or stripe patterns along her abdomen, this is called ‘barring.’ Do not try to mate your bettas before the female has a barring pattern, your attempts will be unsuccessful and violent.

Adding your female to the breeding tank

Pair of Bettas
Pair of Bettas

There’s a few different options to introduce the betta splendens: using an open top vase (with the breeding tank water line below the top of the vase), or a divider within the tank. Once placing the vase or tank divider to your breeding tank add your female and allow her to adjust to the new setting for 30 minutes or so.

Introducing the Female and Male Metta

Now add your male to either the open topped vase, or on the side of the divider where the female isn’t. Allow him to swim freely and observe. Once your male notices the female he’ll turn a more vibrant color and begin displaying his fins to show off. He might attempt to bite the glass, but this is normal behavior.

If the female is willing to receive the male her color will darken and she will show him her barring pattern. Some females might even flare their fins back at the male.

The Bubble Nest

This initial interaction will continue off and on for about an hour, after which you’ll see the male begin to build his bubble nest. While the male continues to show off for the female while building his nest you’ll want to leave them separated overnight to let tensions build.

The Breeding Process

When you finally add the male to the breeding tank (whether it’s by lifting the divider or transferring him from the vase to the tank) the female will likely ignore him and go straight to the bubble nest. If the nest is not up to the female’s standards she might try to destroy it or swim away. If that happens you should go back to the beginning of step 3 and try again.

Betta Fish Mating Dance

After the male figures out that he can reach the female he’ll begin to flirt even more aggressively, chasing her around the tank eager to start the mating dance.

TIP

Before things progress you should cover your tank with plastic wrap to create a moist and humid environment. The increased humidity can help with the egg hatching and fry development.

The breeding process has now officially begun and can take a few hours to complete. For the next 2 to 6 hours you’ll see a lot of chasing and biting, be sure to keep a close eye on the new breeding pair just in case things start to turn violent.

Your female will continually check on the bubble nest until she’s satisfied with it. Once it meets her approval the pair will spread their fins and swim next to each other, stopping to flare and display their sides at each other. Your male might decide the female betta is not properly impressed in which case he’ll begin chasing her again. If this becomes too much for the female she’ll try to find hiding places in the moss or other decor you placed in the tank until the male finds her.

Some females will approach the male head down to show their submissiveness, others will charge the nest to challenge the male. It depends on the personality of your female.

A pair of bettas spawning under a bubble nest
(1) A pair of bettas spawning under a bubble nest

The bettas mate after nosing into each other until the male flips the female upside down and wraps himself around her, the pair will then float or sink. The male fish will release the female and allow her time to recover before repeating the process several more times.

After mating the female will enter into a coma-like state while she drop eggs, she’ll float sideways and dead but will revive shortly. This is a good time to remove the female as she’s easy to move and when she wakes, the male will perceive her as a threat. The male now takes over parenting the bubble nest and attending to the eggs until they hatch.

What to do after breeding betta fish

After the female betta has finished dispersing the eggs, immediately remove her into her own private tank. The male betta will start transferring the eggs to the bubble nest and begin his vigil, watching over it day and night. This mostly consists of fanning the bubble nest to increase oxygen flow, and checking to see if the eggs have hatched.

Once the fry hatch their wiggling will likely knock them loose from the bubble nest. The male betta will quickly begin putting them back. The betta fry will hang tail down for the first few days and slowly move into a more horizontal position. It takes roughly 2 days after hatching for the fry to start swimming.

How soon after breeding should you separate betta fish?

You should remove the female betta immediately after she lays eggs. After waking from her egg laying stupor some females will try to eat the eggs, others will help the male place the eggs in the bubble nest. The male betta should be left in the breeding tank until the baby bettas become free swimming. After they start swimming there’s a chance that the male betta will interpret the hatchlings as a threat and try to eat them.

How many times can a betta fish lay eggs?

Betta fish can lay eggs every few weeks, though most only produce eggs once or twice a year. Most betta breeders suggest letting your female betta rest for 12 to 14 days in between breeding sessions. Be aware that if you’re only waiting 2 weeks between mating conditions will have to be optimal to ensure the female betta will be ready again.

How many babies do betta fish have?

A single mating pair can produce over 400 eggs, and assuming that all of them hatch into fry there’s a survival rate of 90%. We’re not saying that there will be this many fertilized eggs every time you successfully mate a pair, however, the high survival rate does ensure a large amount of betta hatchlings.

Not all of the hatchlings will become adult fish…

Not all of the hatchlings will become adult fish, as they are sometimes eaten by their larger siblings when still in the breeding tank. Despite all of the obstacles when breeding betta fish you will likely have a large amount of young bettas. It is extremely important to plan ahead and be able to accommodate all hatchlings!

Do betta fish eat their babies?

Yes, the female betta will begin to eat the eggs as soon as she lays them, and males will eat betta fry after they start swimming because he will perceive them as a threat. It’s important to have a permanent betta tank for both the male and female when you are not actively breeding them.

How long do betta eggs take to hatch?

It normally takes betta eggs 2-3 days to hatch from the time they’re in the male’s bubble nest until they hatch. All the eggs will hatch at slightly different times, but don’t worry, your male betta will be carefully watching over his brood.

NOTE

If you notice your male eating a few eggs, don’t panic, your male betta is likely eating unfertilized eggs. It is recommended not to feed the male betta until the eggs hatch.

Betta Fry Care

Betta fry in bubble nest
(2) Betta Fry In Bubble Nest

The male betta is an excellent parent and will guard over the bubble nest day and night, almost no sleep, until the eggs hatch. The newly hatched fry might wiggle themselves out of the bubble nest and the male will very carefully restore them. For the first few days the young fry will hang vertically, and tail down. After about 2 days the fry will adapt to a horizontal position, this is an indication that they are almost at the free swimming stage and is a good time to remove the male. If you do not remove the male betta before this he will likely perceive them as a threat and you run the risk of the male eating your healthy betta babies.

RECOMMENDATION

You can leave the Indian almond leaf inside the breeding tank even after the bettas have left the bubble nest. Not only does it provide a hiding place, but it’s tannins help prevent ammonia burns on fish and are generally considered soothing.

Prior to them becoming free swimming, fry will cluster at the top of their tank near the bubble nest to feed on their egg yolk, this provides them with lots of essential nutrients. Not all of your fry will become free swimming at the same time, but when a majority have reached that stage you can begin feeding them.

Betta Fry Diet

To breed fish you need to be willing to feed hatchlings a high quality diet, but that’s especially important for developing healthy bettas. Fry will eat anything smaller than them, but will not eat dry food. Options for live food include: infusoria, vinegar eels, microworms, and baby brine shrimp. It is easiest to feed several times a day in small quantities to make sure all of the young bettas are eating.

TIP

When you begin to feed your fry live foods starting with infusoria, they won’t be large enough to eat baby brine shrimp and vinegar eels until ~3 days old.

When breeding bettas it is also important to recognize that the fry are very sensitive to betta tank conditions. The temperature should be kept between 85 and 88 and betta tank water changes should be made frequently. Keeping a sponge filter, heater, and plastic wrap on the tank are all excellent ways to keep your fry happy and healthy. We also suggest adding hiding places to your nursery tank such as live plants for betta, driftwood, or even betta toys to allow the smaller fry to disperse and hide.

At 8-9 weeks the fry will begin to show their color and assert their personalities. Each male fry will need his own tank, this could be a jar, bottle, or other container. Females can also be placed in a separate tank from each other, but this isn’t entirely necessary.

Conclusion

In conclusion, breeding betta fish is a challenging but rewarding process. To breed bettas you have to have a considerable amount of time and resources to accommodate your adult bettas and their needs. We encourage you to accept the challenge of breeding betta fish, and can’t wait to hear all of your stories.

(1) ZooFari, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
(2) ZooFari, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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