I have three wild-caught Betta livida. Two males and a female (was supposed to be two pairs but my female died in quarantine). One male is more dominant than the other and this is the male I have paired up with the female. He is pictured below. I did try my second male with the female but she attacked him so badly I had to remove him for his own safety. Perhaps if I can get some fry from my breeding pair, I will use him as a cross on an F1 female.
Unlike my pair of Betta rutilans and Betta coccina who came in at the same time, my Betta livida have been most reluctant to spawn. The only interactions between the pair are either complete disinterest or outright hostility. I've been trying to figure out the trigger to get them to spawn. Thus far, I've tried everything in my arsenal to persuade them to spawn, but they are defiant in their refusal to give me even a single fry. It's fortunate that they are such beautiful fish and such a rare gem from this complex that they are welcome to stay and remain unproductive.
Currently, I'm housing my second male in a 1.5L plastic container inside the breeding tank to see if his presence stirs up some territorial aggression in my breeding male and encourages him to build a nest. Unfortunately, my second male appears to be highly submissive and doesn't really engage with his 'rival' in a particularly aggressive manner. In fact the entire time I've owned him, I've never seen him fully coloured up. In fact you can see in the photo below how he compares to my breeding male.
Betta livida remains the only described species from this complex I haven't bred. I was hoping that these fish would prove as easy to spawn as the other species I have, but of course being the last, they are undoubtedly going to be all but impossible.
If there was one thing I could completely eradicate from the fishkeeping world, it would be this pesky parasite. If you trawl back through this blog, you will see velvet is unequivocally, the bane of my entire fishkeeping existence. I simply cannot understand why when on one hand I can have such incredible success with keeping and breeding these fish, and then on the other hand, have to continue to have this parasite plague my tanks.
Anyone who has seen my fish in person, knows that they are the vision of good health. Apart from the odd missing scale or torn fin, they are always spectacularly coloured (can be a challenge with this complex), active, and brimming with vigour. It doesn't seem likely that the cause for this problem lies with my water conditions. Surely, if they were incompatible with keeping these species, I would not be able to coax as many successful spawns as I have out of my breeding pairs. Compared to some breeders who may struggle with this complex, it's not unusual for my pairs to spawn up to twice a week for month after month with resulting fry thriving. Surely, if it was my water that was the problem, I would not have such resounding success?
At the end of last year, I finally got rid of velvet out of all my tanks through treatment, culling, and disinfection. Only one group of fish had been previously affected by the parasite at that point, and they were kept properly isolated from the rest. I was meticulous in ensuring that there was no possible cross-contamination going on, but still, after months of actually being able to enjoy the hobby again, velvet was back in my fish room with a vengeance.
There seems no rhyme or reason as to why it shows up in some tanks and not others. I thought perhaps stress due to aggression was the biggest contributing factor, but I have tanks that house some highly aggressive individuals and they have avoided being infected. Is it just some individuals have a weaker immune system than others and even a small amount of stress is enough to cause an infection? Or is it that particular individuals are more susceptible than others?
One difficulty, is making sure I pick up an infection early enough that I avoid spreading it to other tanks. Early on, it can be very hard to diagnose. Normally the first thing I notice is a change in behaviour: my fish will hide more or clamp their fins. Signs of visible irritation are usually quick to follow, and if I use a bright torch, I will start to see the tell-tale spots on the pectoral fins and the grey/gold dust starting to cover the body. I try my best not to share anything between tanks, but I am only human and it just takes one lapse in concentration for me to have spread the parasite from one tank to another.
I often think that my continued postings on this topic makes me sound like a piss poor fishkeeper. Constantly dealing with sick fish certainly makes me feel like one. But I've never faced this issue with any other species of fish I've kept. At this point, I've kept everything from Australian natives to guppies, and it seems that velvet only chooses to run riot through my wild betta tanks. I just wish I knew the root cause of these outbreaks so that I could address it. It is a horrible feeling to watch your fish sicken and suffer when you have no idea how to prevent it from happening.
My goal has always been to successfully spawn as many species from the coccina complex as I could - both described and otherwise. Earlier this week, I have come close, with my pair of Betta rutilans and my pair of Betta coccina both giving me successful first spawns.
Then this morning, my pair of Betta coccina provided me with further cause for celebration, by spawning again before their first group of fry had even become free-swimming.
Both males have proven to be attentive fathers, and it doesn't look like there will be any issues with things such as filial cannibalism or egg eating. Fatherhood is the only job required of my males, and so I won't use a male in my breeding program who shows poor paternal instincts.
Right now, the only species from this complex that I haven't yet bred, is Betta livida. However, I'm hopeful my pair will allow me to achieve my goal before the end of 2014.
My pair of Betta uberis, along with their first group of fry were infected with velvet earlier this year. I suspect its cause was either temperature related or stress, but I can't be sure.
While I lost the fry, the pair have seemingly made a complete recovery. Good news when for a while there, I was concerned I was going to lose them both.
The two of them were meant to be separated, as the male is highly aggressive and spends most of his time chasing the female. However, yesterday he made a daring escape from the breeder box, and has spent today on his best behaviour.
Unfortunately, the above photo isn't great (its hard to get these two to stay still long enough to get a decent shot), but it does show off his stunning dorsal and anal fins. I swear they just seem to get longer each time I look at them.
I recently purchased several wild-caught pairs from Joty, and another seller based in Thailand. They came across in the October shipment, and apart from the unfortunate death of one half of my Betta sp. apiapi pair, it seems that the remaining fish survived the arduous shipping and quarantine process.
They are to be released from quarantine today and will most likely be sent out tomorrow. There's just this final journey from Queensland to Melbourne to get through, and then they will home in their new tanks.
The remaining fish are a Betta rutilans female (I think this is about the fourth attempt at importing one successfully), a pair of Betta coccina, two pairs of Betta livida, and my Betta sp. apiapi male. I'm particularly excited about the Betta livida as this species has proved difficult to acquire in the past few years.
Tanks were filled earlier this week, so now all that's left to do is hope they have a safe trip down.
I honestly think the below legislation may herald the death of the wild betta hobby within Australia. At this point in time, I really don't know if I am going to be able to continue to import wild-caught stock from smaller suppliers and breeders overseas without prohibitive costs, or the risk of my fish being killed for batch testing.
I don't want my selection to be limited to Australian bred stock, or wholesale fish of doubtful purity and health. Australia already seems to have some of the toughest regulations in the world, regarding the importation of ornamental fish. Because of this, the hobby is a costly one, and I am wondering just how this is going to impact smaller aquariums in Australia.
For me personally, I am going to be working with only a select few species from within the coccina complex. It often costs close to one-hundred dollars to purchase and import a pair of wild bettas into the country. I wish I had the finances and space to make it feasible to import 2-3 pairs of each coccina complex species into Australia. Sadly, I don't, and choices have to be made. Therefore, I will be trying to import pairs of Betta brownorum, Betta hendra, Betta sp. apiapi, Betta persephone, and Betta sp. cf. rutilans green before March of next year.
I can only hope that this policy does not completely destroy a hobby that I enjoy so greatly.