Breeding bettas can be a tricky business, and both male and female bettas are important for the breeding process.
Interestingly enough, male bettas do most of the work!
Most betta fish breed using male-made bubble nests, but did you know that betta eggs can hatch without them?
In fact, some male bettas — mouthbrooders like the Betta mandor — do not use bubble nests at all but rather hatch their eggs in their mouths.
Still, the bubble nest is important for the majority of betta breeding.
Keep reading to learn more.
Importance of the Bubble Nest
First of all, a good bubble nest can help a male betta attract a mate. Secondly, betta babies (fry) need the air, moisture, and nutrients within the bubble nest to survive.
In other words, a betta egg can hatch without a bubble nest, but the resulting fry won’t live long.
Fortunately, male bettas that mate using bubble nests are dedicated fathers who do everything they can to keep fertilized eggs and fry happy, healthy, and within their nests.
Of course, raising kids can be stressful for anyone, and it may take a few attempts for your fishy friend to get fatherhood right.
To learn more about your betta and its relationship to bubble nests, please read our blog: “Betta Bubble Nest: What Does It Mean?”
To learn how you can help your betta survive parenthood, read on!
Why Are the Eggs Kept in a Bubble Nest?
In the wild, bubble nests protect betta fish eggs from predators, but this shouldn’t be a problem in your betta fish tank, especially because most breeders use separate tanks for breeding.
Bubble nests also offer moisture, oxygen, and nutrients to developing eggs and fry. They consist of water, oxygen, and the male betta’s saliva, which help eggs and newborn betta stay moist, develop their labyrinth organs and get the nutrients they need to grow.
You can almost think of it as eggs hatching into bigger eggs.
Can a Betta Fish Lay Eggs Without a Bubble Nest?
Yes. Just like male bettas can build bubble nests without a female present, female bettas can lay eggs without a male present. Nevertheless, the eggs will not be fertilized without one or more mating embraces and the male betta’s “milt” (sperm).
Laying eggs without a male or bubble nest present is totally normal behavior for a female betta. Female chickens lay eggs and female women menstruate whether they are having babies or not. The process is totally natural, and chances are, your female betta has laid eggs before… you just haven’t noticed!
Usually, female betta fish either reabsorb their eggs without releasing them or release and eat their unfertilized eggs before their owners notice.
If you do notice unfertilized eggs at the bottom of your betta tank, clean them up promptly because otherwise they can rot and affect the water conditions in your tank environment.
Sometimes, female betta fish will make their own bubble nests and try to raise unfertilized eggs, but you should still remove them from the tank before they rot.
If you are breeding your betta and there’s a male in the tank, do not remove eggs from the floor! The eggs could still be fertilized… and they might need some help to hatch!
Artificial Hatching Betta Fish Eggs
Human beings have been artificially incubating poultry eggs since 400 B.C., according to Oklahoma State University and the writings of Aristotle.
Turns out, betta fish eggs aren’t too different and can be artificially hatched, as well.
You, too, can incubate fish eggs by artificially mirroring the bubble nest technique and/or ensuring the water conditions are good enough for the eggs to hatch on the floor.
What Should I Do If the Eggs Hatch on the Floor?
If your male betta does not make a bubble nest and/or leaves eggs on the floor, you can take steps to help the eggs hatch.
First, make sure the eggs are fertilized. Male bettas will sometimes leave eggs on the floor because they are not fertilized. They sometimes eat unfertilized eggs, as well, and can also eat fertilized eggs if they are stressed.
(Note: to prevent stress in your male betta, remove the female betta from the tank after breeding. You should also remove your male betta if he is eating fertilized eggs or otherwise behaving like fatherhood is too overwhelming for him).
Remember that your betta fish eggs will not hatch — on the floor or anywhere else — if they are not fertilized. Betta fish eggs are tiny, but they will have even smaller grey dots if they are fertilized.
To save yourself a headache, check for fertilization before you start artificially incubating your betta fish eggs!
Once you have confirmed your betta fish eggs are fertilized, create a new floor! If you need to hatch eggs without a male betta or ensure eggs hatch without a bubble nest, you can do so using shallow water. This is because baby bettas have a labyrinth organ and need some air to survive.
Do not leave the betta eggs on the floor of the tank. Instead, carefully scoop them up and put them in a makeshift nest of your own — a glass bowl with a tiny amount of water in it or damp craft foam.
Using a Glass Bowl
You can mimic the oxygen/rich water combo of your betta’s bubble nest by placing the betta eggs into a glass bowl and floating it at the top of your tank.
Keep the water shallow but not too shallow or else mold will attack the eggs.
Also, keep in mind that the eggs will take slightly longer to hatch because the water in the glass bowl will be cooler than the water in the main tank.
Using Moist Craft Foam
Another way to copy your betta’s bubble nest is with craft foam or a sponge. Some breeders have had success with 1/16-inch black craft foam.
With this technique, each egg gets its own “divot,” in the foam and gets a good blend of oxygen and air. The eggs are easy to keep an eye on against the black foam, as well.
The tricky part is keeping the foam consistently moist without using too much water. If an egg dries out, it will die, but if it doesn’t get the oxygen it needs, it can drown, too, so this technique can be very challenging.
Leaving the Eggs Where They Are
The techniques described above can be difficult, and 63-year-old betta breeder Wayne Schmidt describes his trials and tribulations with each one, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes yourself. This ambitious breeder has even tried importing bubble nests from other bettas to help new fathers out.
In some cases, leaving the eggs where they are can be the best technique. Before leaving your eggs at the bottom of the tank, however, you must make sure that your water is clean with ideal conditions (pH, hardness, etc.) — and that there are no other fish in the tank.
Sometimes, the male betta can stay to care for his young but not if he is stressed or eating the eggs.
Once the tank conditions are ideal, you can use a few different strategies to introduce oxygen into the air. You can…
- Get rid of some of the water in your tank to maintain a shallow space for your betta babies,
- Add an air pump or filter to your tank, and/or
- Introduce an air stone at the bottom of the tank (and as far away from the betta eggs as possible).
Keep in mind that the increased airflow in your tank can disturb fragile betta eggs. In some situations, the best thing you can do is maintain ideal water conditions in a small amount of water and hope for the best.
At the end of the day, not every egg will hatch, and you may even have an unsuccessful breeding session. This happens to even the most experienced betta breeders, so please don’t fret.
Don’t Give Up
Whatever you do, do not give up. Betta breeding can be difficult, and one breeder says his best advice is to “keep trying and eventually you will succeed.”
When breeding bettas and trying to hatch eggs without a bubble nest, remember to:
- Let the male and female betta spend some time together and embrace multiple times. Betta fish eggs cannot become betta babies without the female’s eggs and the male’s milt.
- Don’t try to raise unfertilized eggs or let your female betta try to raise eggs without a male (take the eggs out of the tank so they don’t rot and produce ammonia).
- Remove the female after breeding, so the male can focus on fatherhood without getting stressed out.
- Give the male betta a chance to do his own thing (sometimes it will take him a minute to figure out being a parent).
- Keep an eye on the male’s behavior and remove him if he seems stressed or is eating fertilized eggs.
- If the male isn’t a good dad (it happens and sometimes it takes male bettas a few breeding cycles to learn), try to mirror the bubble nest technique with a glass bowl, craft foam, or the water you already have in your tank.
Remember, not every attempt at betta breeding is successful, so if your eggs didn’t hatch this time, don’t be afraid to try again. Eventually, you or your betta fish will get it right.
If you need help with betta breeding, please check out our other articles on the topic:
- Betta Breeding
- Acquiring Breeding Stock
- Pregnant Betta Fish: Facts, Myths, and How You Can Help Them Breed
- Outbreeding Betta Fish
- Marble Betta Fish: The Art of Breeding Marbles
Thank you for reading and good luck with your breeding endeavors!