THINGS I HATE ABOUT SPAWNING BETTAS:
A hard look at the negatives of this hobby and exploring possible solutions.

(Click on Bettas to return to my main betta page or on mainpage to browse 80 different topics: everything from telescopes and Knitting Nancies to the strange world of lucid dreaming.)

 
As much as I enjoy spawning bettas I'll be the first to admit that is can be an expensive, messy, time consuming hobby. After eleven spawns I found that my interest had slackened and my frustration with the mess and hassle had increased to the point where I needed to take a break. Then one day I received an email from someone with a betta-spawning question that required me to reread the details of my tenth spawn. As I did so the memory of all the frustrations came back to me. Suddenly, solutions to these problems started cascading into my consciousness. I decided it was time to start re-examining the problem.

I'm putting this page together to record the problems with betta spawning and the proposed solutions to them. Once I have everything planned out, I'll consider rebuilding my spawning cell and having another go at it. Many of the proposed solutions will be unique to my circumstances and not many people may be able to employ them. But I hope that at the very least the process of problem identification and solution will be entertaining and perhaps inspire solutions to your own particular betta spawning problems.

This page is evolutionary in nature. As time goes by new, better ideas may present themselves and be recorded. The older solutions will be kept to record how the final result was obtained.

 
STEP 1: List All the Problems and Possible Solutions:

It's Too Expensive:

Since I use three ten-gallon grow out tanks (which divides the spawn into three groups so that disease problems can't spread through an entire spawn) I need three heaters, three filter systems, three light systems, three pump systems and three aeration systems. That much redundancy is expensive.

All the Power Cords to Run the Tanks Creates a Rat's Nest:

This is another side of the problem mentioned above.

All Those Systems Eat Up a Lot of Electricity:

Ditto, above.

It's Difficult to Keep the Individual Betta Jars Warm:

I haven't been able to find very small thermostatically controlled heaters and even if I did, purchasing dozens of them would be too expensive.

 
The Cure to Some of the Above Four problems: Many of the power/cord problems could be eliminated by placing the spawning cell in a small room with a space heater. This trades three cords for one and makes it easy to keep the individual betta jars warm.

Also, switching from a mechanical pump filtration system to a bubble-driven system would eliminate the expense of the pumps ($25 each) and their power lines. The only question is whether or not I can get enough lift out of a bubble-driven system to provide the level of pumping I desire.

Carrying Buckets of Water to and from the Spawning Cell is Hard Work:

The Cure: Move the spawning cell into the unused shower in the front bathroom of my house. The opaque sliding doors will hide the tanks from guests using the bathroom. The shower spigot provides water, the drain takes care of spilled and discarder water. The area will be tight, but that's an acceptable trade off for the convenience. The enclosed stall would be easy to heat with a small space heater.

Nix this idea. I mentioned it to my wife and she went ballistic. Now I've got my eye on a small walk-in closet. I'll run water into it from a spigot on a nearby outside wall and a drain line through the same wall.

 
Water Spills Stain Carpeting and Can Lead to Mold Problems:

The Cure: The shower-stall idea solves this problem too. Placing a heavy duty rack on the floor will save me from having to stand in water as it flows to the drain.

Since the shower stall idea got killed, I just may have to learn to be more careful. Ripping up the carpeting in the closet and installing a waterproof covering is too much work and too expensive.

 
Carrying Jars and tanks to the Kitchen Sink is a Hassle and can be Messy:

The Cure: Place a small sink with a shelf in the closet.

 
Maintaining Vinegar Eels and Baby Brine Shrimp to Feed the fry is to Much Work:

The Cure: Dump the vinegar eels. I've read a report that stated that while the smallest betta fry may not be able to eat a baby brine shrimp whole, they can still bite off pieces of one and feed themselves that way. I'll simply feed the fry baby brine shrimp from the first day and see how it works. Another nice thing about this solution is that brine shrimp are much more nutritious than vinegar eels so the fry should get a healthier start.

On second thought, how about switching to a prepared dry food like Hikari's First Bites, a micro-pellet food that's small enough for even the tiniest fry to eat. While I've heard that swimming live food encourages fine development because the fry have to chase their food, this doesn't make a lot of sense because they only chase food for at most 15 minutes out of every day. The rest of the time they're swimming around anyway. Going to a prepared food completely eliminates all the hassles of hatching and maintaining live cultures. I plan to give one of these prepared foods, probably the Hikari, for my next spawn.

Besides simplifying the entire feeding routine, this would also train the fish to accept pelleted food from the first bite, which means there might not be so many problems weaning them off live food and onto Betta Biogold pellets.

Another advantage of going to a prepared food is that I could use one of the electric, automated feeders and thereby eliminate another repetitive chore.

The question is: Which fry food to use? I've located five:

Decapsulated brine shrimp eggs (available on-line very inexpensively)
Microwaved decapsulated shrimp eggs (one source says fry eat these more readily.)
Liquifry #1
Mike Reed's No B.S. (No Brine Shrimp) powdered food
Hikari First Bites powdered food

The last two state that they have feeding attractors that cause the fry to eat much more than they normally would, the implication being that the more they eat the faster they grow. I intend dividing the fry from my next spawn into five equal batches and using them to test these food and see which works best and how they compare to my recorded results for fry raised on 100 percent freshly hatched baby brine shrimp.

 
Keeping Both a Betta Collection and an Active Spawn Takes to Much Time:

The Cure: At least it is for me, mainly because I regularly commit the greatest of all human follies: having more than one hobby at a time. My solution is to focus on spawning. The 16 fish I used to have in my collection, all donated to betta lovers, took many hours to take care of each week. Focusing only on spawning means I'll have this extra time and eliminate the hassles and mess associated with it.

 
I Hate the Hassle of Washing and Changing Activated Carbon in My Filters:

It's dusty and the dust stains my Corian sink. It also eliminates any medications I put in the water.

My Filter System Is too Hard to Clean:

There are too many nooks and crannies where disease can hide.

Filter Systems Are Too Expensive and Complicated:

The Cure to the Above Three Problems: Design a new system that provides super-fine filtration without carbon, is easy to clean, and inexpensive to replace the filter element. Would you believe six layers of tissue paper laid in a wire strainer? Once the tissue paper (I found Kleenex uncolored and unscented works the best) is wetted it matts down into a solid layer that provides excellent filtration as good as the best micropore filter I've been able to find. Even clear water has trouble getting through it. It's so cheap and easy to change that I can do so every week. If it doesn't get the water crystal clear I'll used a little coagulant to help clear the tank.

 
I Hate Having "Stuff' in the Spawning Tank Because it Makes it Hard to Clean:

The Cure: Heaters, thermometers, bubblers, etc... they all provide places for disease germs to hide even from the most diligent cleaning. By placing the tanks in a heated room I eliminate the heaters. Switching to outside-mounted flat strip thermometers gets them out of the tank. Loose the bubblers. I read a mathematical analysis that showed that they add very little dissolved air to the tank compared to the surface area of the water in the tank. (Too bad though, a stream of fine bubbles is attractive.)

What about carrying this idea of simplification to the limit? How about a absolutely bare tank: no bubblers, filters, pumps, or inside thermometers? Most breeders suggest having a filter running of some type but at such low speeds that the amount of cleaning they provide is insignificant compared to the regular water changes that result from siphoning. Even my high-volume fry safe filter running at 50 gallons per hour didn't stop waste, uneaten food and dust from settling to the bottom of the tank so siphoning is a necessity. Using these siphonings as water changes would, if say 1/4 of the water in the tank were changed every day, provide as much filtration as a mini filter set on low and probably much more. Since I like to siphon a fry tank everyday to prevent decaying food from spawning fungal and bacterial diseases, this isn't any added work.

The simplification and reduced expense of such a bare-tank system is so significant that I intend trying it on my next spawn.

Many people state that a bubbler is necessary because it breaks the surface tension layer on the water so the fry can breath air. I think they may be both wrong and right. First, betta fry don't start breathing air until they are five weeks old. Second, surface tension is the result of individual water molecules attracting each other and no amount of agitation is going to prevent it. But, what can happen is that oils and floating debris can build up on the surface of the water in a microscopically thin layer that can slow the diffusion of oxygen into the water and CO/2 out of the water. Also, the oils in this layer, deposited there from your skin when you touch the water, make it flexible, which could be difficult for fry just starting to breath to break through. It's like there's a layer of plastic floating on the surface. I'm hoping that by keeping my fingers, and anything my hands come in contact with, out of the water the oil layer will be kept to a minimum. Also, the daily siphonings will help break up this layer and the water changes will help refresh the water. I could be 100 percent wrong, but that's what this experiment is going to determine.

Another advantage to no filter system is that the complete lack of currents in the tank should cause more complete settling of particulate matter, making siphoning even more effective.

 
I Hate the Hassle and Mess of Raising Baby Brine Shrimp:

The Cure: This is going to be a tough one to solve because the simple fact is that fry need at least twice daily feedings of freshly hatched baby brine shrimp. Fresh is important because that's when brine shrimp are at their nutritional best. Much of the mess will be reduced by placing the hatchery in the small heated shower stall near the sink. No carrying water of spent cultures for dumping. No need for a separate heated water bath for the individual hatcheries. Going to a sharp, cone-shaped hatching cell will improve circulation over the jars I was using and placing them in an easy-access holder at eye level will make handling and collecting easier. I'm considering an automated system that does everything except siphon them out. That'll take some tricky design work.

Please see my Hikari First Bites comments a few paragraphs above.

 
It Takes Too Much Time to Siphon all the Individual Betta Jars:

The Cure: Once a spawn gets to the eight week point, it's possible that you may have many dozens of jars that need daily siphoning and frequent water changes. Saving a few seconds on each jar can add up to saving hours every day. My solution will be to construct high-tech jars, which will have a square upper living section and a cone-shaped lower section where all waste and uneaten food will fall. At the end of the cone will be a small valve. A simple and quick open and closing will send all the debris and dirtiest water down the drain. These will be a little expensive and time consuming to build, but I think in the long run the investment in effort will pay off.

I don't like drip filters that maintain many jars at once because I'm afraid disease can be transferred from one fish to many others through such systems. Besides, the new jars I have in mind will be so easy to change that frequent 100-percent water exchanges, which are better than recycled water, will be so easy that I'll do them more often.

 
I Hate it When Disease Attacks a Spawn:

The Cure: Attack the diseases before they get started by inoculating the spawning tank with anti-algae, and-fungus, and anti-bacterial medications before the spawn begins and maintain the medications for the first four weeks. I have some concern that the medications may effect the fry's growth, but not as much as the diseases themselves. I seem to have a knack for causing bacterial infections no matter how clean I keep the tank so in the long run this may actually be healthier for them.

 
I Hate the "buzz" air pumps make: I have never found a truly silent pump.

The Cure: Put the pumps outside or up in the attic where I can't hear them and run air lines into the fish room.

 

Sterilizing all the fittings, lines, heaters, etc that go into the spawning tank: I always worry that I'm not getting every nook and cranny thoroughly sterilized.

The Cure: Place as little as possible in contact with the water and make as much as possible of what is in the water cheap enough to be disposable.

 
I Hate how stubborn bettas can be in refusing to switch over from worms to betta biogold pellets: I can't blame them. The pellets don't look, act, feel, or taste like what they are used to eating.

The Cure: Assuming big part of the problem is that the pellets don't taste like anything, I'll try grinding up some of the worms the bettas are used to eating and soak the pellets in them.

Another trick would be to turn on a flashing light every time they are fed as fry to train them to associate food with the light. Then, when weaning them off live food and onto pellets, the flashing light would cue them to know the pellets are food.

 
I Dislike having to bend over to look at and work on tanks at different levels: While stacking tanks saves floor space, it's a hassle and uncomfortable to bend or stoop to get to them.

The Cure: Place all the tanks and jars in the fish room at a comfortable level when standing. This will spread things out a bit but my desire is only to work on one spawn at a time so this isn't a major issue.

Since temperature in a heated room increases with height, having all the tanks at the same level ensures that they will all be the same temperature.

 
It's a hassle washing a tank because the kitchen sink isn't large enough to hold it:

The Cure: Hardware stores sell large washing room plastic sinks that are 24 inches on a side. I'll put one of these in the fish room and it's be big enough to handle any washing job that comes along.

 
STEP 2: Let Things Simmer for a While:

I want to take time to work on these possible solutions and see how they will or won't work. I'll post any results on this page when I have them so please check back from time to time.

 
THE FINAL QUESTION: What to Spawn?

After looking through many betta pictures the variety that intrigues me the most is the Satin Flame strain developed by Faith at the Betta Talk site.

(This picture was borrowed from the Betta Talk site. Visitors
wishing to purchase fish from this strain can do so on that site,
which is where I will obtain mine.)

 

Another fish that interests me is an extended red betta with the blonde gene mutation. These bettas, as shown in the photo below, have a lighter orange-red color than the normal dark cherry-red of most extended reds.

(Photo of an excellent single tail, halfmoon, extended red betta with the blonde gene.
Borrowed from http://vanriel.myadsl.nl/BT-AABcolorgenetics.htm,
an outstanding page about betta genetics.)

Knowing what a type of betta looks like in reality is always difficult when all you have to go on are pictures on the Internet, but these blonde/red bettas are attractive to me because they don't seem to have the black ticking on the scales around the head that most non-blonde bettas have.

It would even be interesting to see if I could somehow introduce the blonde gene into Faith's Satin Flame line to produce fish with a brighter red color in their fins.

 

 
(Click on Bettas to return to my main betta page or on mainpage to browse 80 different topics: everything from telescopes and Knitting Nancies to the strange world of lucid dreaming.)