The Top 10 Lessons For Conditioning Bettas For Breeding

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The need to condition betta fish for breeding is well known.

What may not be so well understood is how to approach it.

Even less well understood is how to tell when the blushing bride and eager groom are ready. That can be tricky. Not to mention fatal to the bride should you get it wrong.

Each hobby breeder is most likely going to give you different clues to look for. Some hints will make everyone’s list. Others may be different. Some will be unique. You’ll have to sort through all this and decide which to pay attention to and which to ignore. Developing your own game plan to set the stage for successful egg production.

Like anything else with breeding bettas it comes down to experience and putting together a pair that isn’t ready first for a time or two or three. So that you better understand how to recognize a pair that is ready next time. In other words you are simply going to have to make some mistakes before you get it right. And even then, given these are live animals, it may still not be right for every pair every time.

So yeah it’s a bit of a judgment call. And the only way you’ll make better judgments is to get it wrong. That’s just how it is. But still, there are some lessons to learn that can help you come down the learning curve faster.

So let’s start the lessons with the basics of this process.

Lesson 1: What is conditioning? It’s what breeders do get their pair ready to spawn. It usually involves heaping helpings of a high protein diet to get the male and female betta in top form so they can withstand the rigors of mating. The purpose is to help the chosen ones put on extra fat which they will then tap for energy during the spawning process. Remember your male may have to go six, maybe seven, days all together without eating as he tends the fry that result.

Then here’s a quick video to further your understanding of conditioning.

The conditioning drill used by this breeder is pretty straightforward. Here’s four lessons to take from this:

  • Lesson 2: Feeds frozen blood worms two to three times a day.
  • Lesson 3: Lets them see each other while conditioning.
  • Lesson 4: This guy advocates doing 100% water changes daily.
  • Lesson 5: And did you notice? He’s also got almond leaves in the tank to condition the water. Always a good idea.

Lesson 6: What he doesn’t delve into too much is the how long question. As in how long do you do this conditioning routine? Most often you’ll see it stated to be two weeks. But some breeders go for three weeks. Others as long as four. But again, two weeks seems to be pretty typical prep time.

Lesson 7: What foods are best to condition your breeding pair? Live foods would head my list. That would be your best bet and would include adult brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, and white worms. Mixed in with that you’d go for what’s behind door number 2 which would be frozen foods. There you’d want to included bloodworms and beefheart.

This is top notch protein laden grub. The idea is to feed them this high protein food in small portion sizes maybe three to five times a day like were you trying to fatten them up, which as it turns out, you are. Doing so insures the female will be laden with quality eggs when the time comes.

The risk with such a rich diet however, would be constipation and the accompanying swim bladder issues. And you don’t want that. So don’t overdo it either. For that reason it might be not a bad idea to slip them a bit of blanched frozen pea from time to time to keep thing rolling along.

Lesson 8: Pristine water, or as close as you can get to that is a must when setting the stage for spawning. The next to last thing you need is spiking ammonia and nitrite levels. Those can be as unwelcome as ants to a picnic to fish with their hearts set on other things. To avoid that you’ll want to be even more diligent about your partial water changes and checking the water parameters.

Lesson 9: Be sure their water temp is a stable 80 degrees F. This suggests that your conditioning tanks should no less than a couple of gallons or big enough to let you use a heater safely.

Lesson 10: While younger fish may produce better results you still want fish that are old enough. Some are ready at three months of age but you may find that a bit too young. Prime breeding age would be more like five or six to 12 months in most cases. If you are planning on line breeding you won’t want to wait too long or the foundation of your line may be dead about time the offspring are old enough to breed. That would be what you might call the end of the line.

How to Tell She’s Ready

Here’s six signs your girl is ready for action.

  1. Her belly will become swollen with eggs. I’ve seen it described as looking like she’s swallowed a small marble she’ll be that fat.
  2. Her ovipositor will be visible (that’s a white dot between her pelvic fins on her underside).
  3. You will see her colors becoming more vibrant. With darker colored females you may note the presence of prominent vertical bands or stripes along her sides.
  4. In the presence of the male she may dip her head down into a submission posture at something approaching a 45 degree angle.
  5. She may flirt with her fins or body lightly touching the male. At times she may allow him to gently nuzzle her stomach.
  6. In some cases she may take a hand at blowing a bubble or two.

Naturally none of these telltale signs will be present in every case. But enough will that you can judge she’s ready to go yet or not. Which would suggest it’s time to release her into the breeding tank. Then simply keep an eye on the body language and leave them alone to work things out.

Okay so all the signs are right but sometimes the male isn’t cooperating. It’s almost as if he’s declared war on the female. In that case you’ll need some tips for …

Getting An Aggressive Male To Chill Out

As you get deeper into conditioning and breeding you will find that most males will cool down and chill out after the initial wild chase scenes so commonly seen in the breeding tank. But some males can be super aggressive. With hormones coursing they pursue the released female relentlessly. With him in ceaseless attack mode fins can be frayed. Scales lost. It’s like he’s mad at the world or something and taking it out on your carefully conditioned female. Sure fighting fish courtship can on the rough side anyhow. But you need him to calm down or somebody might get killed. Not that he’s ever going to be exactly relaxed, but you do need him to take it easy on his mate so spawning can commence.

Okay so for those times when your choice of male Siamese fighting fish takes the courtship above and beyond what it safe for the female you need some things to try to get things to simmer down. Here is a list of tricks professional breeders use during conditioning, or in their breeding tank set up, in an attempt to make that happen.

  • Like in the video, let the male see his beloved (the female) twice a day for brief periods when conditioning.
  • Put another male in a bowl within eyeshot when your guy is in the breeding tank. This will lead him to believe he’s got competition. He’s flair and posture trying to impress this rival wearing him out just a little. Plus he just might value the female more and treat her with more respect if he thinks she’s got choices.
  • Use Indian Almond leaf to get him in a breeding mood. It will soften the water just a bit signaling his brain it bubble nest time. Although some males may not start to bubble nest until the female is released.
  • Use low lights and soft music. Well okay you can nix the music, but the low lighting is a tip worth remembering.
  • Sometimes pairing a young overly aggressive male with a more experienced female will cut him down to size.
  • Putting a lot of plants in the breeding tank can give the female places to take cover. She can dart into the midst of them and pull a quick escape if the going gets rough. And then reemerge to try again when the coast is clear.
  • I’ve even read where some put banana leaves into the breeding tank. Just not sure when one finds those.

Sure, no one thing might do the trick. But done collectively, they can help most males focus on the task at hand.

About Lucas
Putting a name with a face I'm Lucas Smatana. Like you I'm passionate about betta fish and hope to share my enthusiasm. The idea here is to make sure you get helpful info and useful ideas on betta fish care that really work. To insure your betta keeping experience is a good one both for you and your fish. So that you and your pet enjoy a long, happy and healthy relationship.

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4 Responses to “The Top 10 Lessons For Conditioning Bettas For Breeding”

  1. Teri Myers says:

    I just recently bought a female crown tail she looks
    like she us carrying eggs. Fat with the white spot on belly begging front fins. Does she have to have a male or can she just deliver the unfertilized eggs on her own?

    • Lucas says:

      From what you describe she may well have eggs. Or not. Which is curious because that usually only happens after conditioning. She won’t “deliver” them. A male usually has to squeeze them out.

  2. Shawn says:

    I’m having problems mating my male betta. They’re making bubble nests, does thier mating ritual, wraps around female but does not fertilize eggs. I’ve tried several different males and even the same male several times with the same results. [HELP]

  3. Pandora says:

    I have read that the primary reason for the conditioning period is to get the females to produce eggs. I have a lovely female crowntail that I intend to breed. She has a stomach FULL of eggs, and I was wondering if I should shorten or skip the conditioning period. I don’t want to diminish my chance of success because I was hasty, but she is roaring and ready to go. What should I do?

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