How Do Betta Fish Mate? Ritual Of The Bettas You Didn't Know

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Mar 04, 2023 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Oct 27, 2021
A pair of bettas fish in mating face.

The betta is a small fish species that is a popular pet in various parts of the world.

Bettas have become a popular pet species due to their wide range of colors and sizes. The males are easily distinguishable from the females as the males have larger fins that give them a more interesting look than the females.

Bettas are often separated from each other through their spawning pattern, as some build a bubble nest while some are mouthbrooders, i.e., they hold their babies in their mouths to provide them with protection and the necessary nutrition. Due to their flashy color palettes, the popularity of bettas as pet fish has increased over the years.

Additionally, unnatural breeding procedures are practiced by breeders to produce newer variations of this fish, which in turn leads to unsatisfactory results that end up killing them.

Bettas are an extremely curious species of fish and are playful with their owners, so if you are planning to bring home a playful fish species that can entertain you and vice versa, then this fish is something that you should have a look at!

If you like what you read, make sure to check out how do frogs mate? And how do butterflies mate?

What is the mating ritual of the betta fish?

During the breeding process, the male betta fish can be a bit aggressive as it is extremely protective of newly hatched and baby bettas. So, in most cases, it is recommended to divide the male and female betta breeding pair to save them from the female as the female is known to eat the eggs.

Before the mating process, the color of the male betta fish changes to a darker tone as it tries to attract the female betta fish and flares its fins and gill covers to attract potential female mates.

In some cases, the male can even bite the divider that is kept in the middle of the aquarium to separate the male and female bettas.

If the female is receptive to the approach of the male betta and is ready to breed, she takes on a darker color tone and visible vertical bars appear on her midsection. In female breeding bettas, the ovipositor can be seen as a speck between the ventral fins.

In some instances, females can be seen trying to attract the male by wagging their body, which is a sign of receptiveness to the breeding process.

During the process of betta fish breeding, specifically, after the female is receptive to the approach of the male, the male builds a bubble nest at the surface of the aquarium and attracts the female to this part of the tank.

After the attraction process is successful, the breeding pair goes through an elaborate mating ritual, which ends with the females releasing their eggs into the space where the male built a nest.

The male betta then fertilizes these eggs.

Sometimes, a female betta releases its eggs away from the bubble nest and the male betta retrieves said eggs and deposits them in the nest it has created. The male betta then proceeds to chase off the female and guard its nest until the eggs hatch.

Did you know that females can shed eggs randomly even without mating? This is a common occurrence among these tropical fish.

What is the mating process of betta fish?

This free-swimming, fighting fish species can be made to mate in a breeding tank or aquarium setup, given they are provided with proper conditions. Proper conditions include providing them with plenty of hiding places and good food sources like vinegar eels and brine shrimp.

First of all, for betta fish breeding, you need to include a sponge filter in your tank before the breeding process, the importance of a sponge filter is to avoid betta fry from getting sucked into the filtration device. Provide vegetation and adequate food sources for your newly hatched betta fry - brine shrimp is recommended.

During the mating process, it is necessary to provide your breeding pair with ample food sources, in the wild, these fighting fish are carnivorous and feed on insect larvae and zooplankton. In captivity, they maintain their surface feeder status and eat frozen or live food like bloodworms and mosquito larvae.

It is common to feed these fish pellets that are specifically designed to keep your betta fish healthy.

Another aspect of the mating process is to keep your breeding betta fish pair disease-free, as any signs of disease are bound to hamper your attempts to get a healthy male and female fish pair.

If even a single betta is infected, it can easily spread the infection to other bettas through interaction. Parasites and fungi can also contaminate the tank and harm the fry after the eggs hatch.

Signs of infection can be traced to food sources, so make sure you provide your breeding betta fish pair with only clean and healthy food sources.

After preparing the tank for the mating process, you need to choose a male and female betta that are ready to breed. This can be done by selecting males that are brightly colored and females who look healthy and strong.

Males can be distinguished from the female through the presence of long fins that the females lack. The females have a visible white egg spot that can be used to distinguish them from the males.

Female betta produce eggs via this white egg spot. Be mindful to buy your betta fish from a reputable breeder to avoid mating problems.

It is always recommended to use a different breeding tank for the betta breeding as the fry is delicate and requires the best water conditions to survive. Male bettas guard the fry until the young are independent and start swimming freely.

When the fry starts to swim freely, the male see them as a threat and it is recommended to remove the male from the fry as often betta fish eat their babies, it is common in new parents.

Once you have set up your breeding tank, place the male and the female in the tank and when all optimal conditions are met, the breeding betta fish come together to mate.

The starting of the breeding behavior may look threatening to inexperienced eyes as the process gives off a fighting vibe, which is not an issue unless the breeding pair harm each other physically, and if not, let the male and the female stay together in the tank.

When males are interested in the females, they begin by spreading their fins and flaring out their gills, and twisting their bodies.

In return, the females begin to turn a darker shade and curve their bodies back and forth.

After the breeding betta fish pair have been introduced, the male builds a bubble nest as aforementioned in which the female lays her eggs. The appearance of these nests varies in size and shape.

The male then embraces the female and wraps himself around the female.

Each embrace can lead to the female releasing 10-50 eggs, and these embraces continue until the female has no more eggs to release from her body. Following the main mating procedure, the female should be removed from the tank after she has released all her eggs.

The Incubation Process Of Eggs

The incubation process of the eggs is carried out by the male betta as it releases milt in the tank that fertilizes the eggs externally.

After fertilization, the eggs become heavier and start to sink to the bottom of the breeding tanks, but before that happens, the male catches these eggs with its mouth and carries them to the bubble nest.

In case the female has not been removed from the tank, the male chases her away to prevent her from eating the eggs. There is no ill-will behind the female eating her eggs, as it is just a sign of hunger, which is fulfilled by feasting on the nearest possible source of food.

In rare cases, the female helps carry the eggs to the bubble nests or hiding places where the nest is and deposits the eggs there.

The male betta takes care of the eggs for long hours extending from 24-36 hours as it watches on for eggs falling from the bubble nest and places them back in the nest if it finds falling eggs.

The young fry hatch after a period of up to three days but remain inside the nest for 2-3 days more as they absorb their yolk sacs which provide them with nutrition.

The young bettas start to swim freely after they have absorbed the entire yolk sac.

It is often observed that if not the female, the male ends up eating the young fry as soon as they begin swimming, as it sees them as young competitors for its territory. Upon reaching this stage, it is recommended to remove the male from the tank or provide a divider in between to separate them from the young.

How long are betta fish pregnant for?

These tropical fish can breed throughout the year as they do not have any preferred breeding season.

Female betta fish usually lay 30-40 eggs at once during the mating procedure and in some cases, can lay up to 500 eggs. The gravid period of the female betta fish is between a week or two, and this duration can be stretched to a week or two more if the female betta has not found a proper mate.

How many times can a betta fish lay eggs?

Betta fish can breed throughout the year and they can lay eggs every couple of weeks.

In case your betta fish has just gone through the process of laying eggs, you can easily get her to breed with another mate as the female can produce eggs in a short period of time.

If your female betta appears tired then she might not be as productive and have a weak body that is not strong enough to produce more eggs.

Also, if there is too much space being taken by the fry in the tanks, It is probably better to wait before the next breeding session.

Betta Fry Maturation Period

Young bettas after hatching become independent when they are 3-6 weeks old as they can use their gills freely and breathe oxygen through the water surface.

Betta fish go through sexual maturation at a varying rate and in some breeds or species, the young begin to sexually mature when they are three months old. Because of this, it is important to separate the males from the females.

Since it can be difficult to do so in young bettas, you can check if the white egg spot on the fish is present in the females only. This process can help you easily identify male and female betta fish even at a young age.

Cross Breeding Betta Fish In Your Tank

Bettas can be cross-bred with other betta varieties, but the procedure does carry a health risk to their body.

Betta varieties like the delta, veil tails, crown tails, and the half-moon bettas belong to the same species and hence, can be cross-bred. This cross-breeding may result in problems in the body such as small fins or disproportionate body size.

Cross-breeding bettas with different fish can cause health issues and disfigurements in the fry.

Know More About Your Betta Fish

Based on a report from PetMD, betta fish can recognize their humans and greet you excitedly as they flail their fins around. These fish are curious and inspect items that are placed in their tanks. Therefore, it is recommended to keep adding new items to your betta tank to keep your fish mentally stimulated.

Betta fish are among the few fish species that can experience depression and frustration.

Even though they can live happily and free in a tank alone, they need to be provided with toys and other items to keep them active. Picking a tank mate for your betta fish can be tricky as male bettas fight with other species, but the female bettas live peacefully with other species if they are not aggressive.

Nipping of fins and destruction of a nest by other species can result in extreme stress in your betta, which can lead to depression.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for how do betta fish mate? Then why not take a look at how do birds mate? Or how do dolphins sleep?

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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