Rant on Velvet
The species that make up the coccina complex of bettas, are among my favourite species of fish to keep. However, they seem to possess one annoying trait that can make long-term keeping (at least in my experience) a challenge.
That is, their seeming susceptibility to the pesky parasite, Oodinium or 'velvet'.
I like to think of myself as a dutiful and dedicated fishkeeper. I am careful with my parameters, mindful of my fishes' needs and only share equipment between one or two tanks. When I kept splendens, I had velvet once, and that was because it was brought in by an outside fish after I didn't quarantine.
Anyone who has dealt with velvet knows it is nasty. I have had fish develop quite severe infections around the head and gill area due to the irritation caused by the parasites. The medication and treatments used for velvet can also be hard on fish, particularly on the fry and juveniles that seem especially vulnerable.
Some sources say to avoid velvet, you should not remove fry from the parent tank. However, in some cases it seemed to be that my fry ended up with velvet anyway and then passed it onto their parents! Very frustrating to say the least.
Also, due to the natural iridescence of these species, I find it to be very difficult to make a diagnosis early on. Usually the first place I notice signs of infection, is the fin membrane and around the gills. Therefore, the parasite usually has a firm foothold by the time treatment has started.
I have read that leaving a copper wire in the tank can help prevent velvet in susceptible species. However, I was always under the assumption that copper is much more toxic in a low pH environment, and I am more afraid of losing my stock to copper poisoning than to velvet.
Oddly enough, it is the two wild-caught pairs of fish I own that are the only ones in my fish room that have not suffered through this disease at some point. I would have thought they would be more sensitive than the captive bred fish, but it seems the reverse is true.
Hopefully in the future I can clear this out of my fish room for good. Having this crop up again and again is probably the one thing that is going to burn me out of the hobby.
Species Spotlight - Betta Brownorum
B. brownorum (named in reference to Allan and Barbara Brown the first collectors of this species), is one of the most recognisable members of the coccina complex, thanks to its trademark green, lateral blotch.
The size, shape and even presence of this blotch can vary greatly between individuals. While there are some brownorum with quite large lateral markings, there are others with only a small area of green, and sometimes even fish with no markings at all.Mouthbrooding B. brownorum
While Seriouslyfish.com has its maximum standard length at a conservative 2-3cm, I tend to side more with the 6cm listed by the IBC SMP (Species Maintenance Program) site. I have found B. brownorum to be one of the bigger species of this complex if kept on a high-quality diet.
Like with all species of betta, aggression levels vary wildly between individuals.
My original group of B. brownorum, were very placid. There was an obvious dominant pair, but I rarely witnessed any violent interactions between this pair and the others in the tank. On the other hand, my current wild-caught pair can be extremely aggressive at times and it is not uncommon for the female to emerge with damaged fins and missing scales.
However, with that said, a 30x30x30cm tank is more than big enough to house a pair of B. brownorum, provided there is adequate cover. However, to house a group of these fish (particularly multiple males) I would be looking at tanks in the 45-60cm range.
One remarkable characteristic of this species, is that certain males are able to switch between mouthbrooding and the more traditional method of bubblenesting.
The trigger for this unusual behaviour is unknown, although it has been suggested that particular strains are more liable to mouthbrood than others.
Product Review - Supa Chlor
Today I am going to be reviewing Supa Chlor, a brand of water conditioner I only recently started to use for my water changes.
To give some background, Melbourne tap water is generally considered one of the cleanest in the world. It is very soft and my wild bettas thrive in it. I think the levels of chlorine/chloramines are relatively low and I have never had a reading of ammonia straight from the tap. Basically all I do is condition my tap water and add it to all my tanks.
In the past I used Seachem Prime water conditioner. I have never had any issues at all with this brand, and I think it is good to have on hand if you are doing a fish-in cycle where ammonia and nitrites pose a real risk to livestock.
The only downside to Prime is its price. In Australia, a 500ml bottle of Seachem Prime seems to hover around the $25 - $40 mark. If you find it cheaper online, the added shipping cost generally means you might as well pay full price for it at your nearest brick and mortar stockist.
Lately, I have been short of funds, and so when my Prime ran out, I decided to see if I could find a cheaper but equally concentrated replacement.
This is when I found out about Supa Chlor ‘Town or Tank’. Below is a basic summary of what Supa Chlor claims to do:
Removes Heavy Metals
Removes Hydrated Lime
Does not contain Formaldehyde
Only has a dosage rate of 5ml per 200L
Being the average hobbyist, I can’t really verify some of these claims as I don’t have the necessary equipment. However, I can generally gauge the quality of a product by how my fish respond to its use.
Basically I have seen no difference the behaviour or health of my fish since using Supa Chlor in my tanks. The only difference has been to my bank account as I can currently purchase a 1L bottle of Supa Chlor for $21.95 from Tech Den (wonderful folks) with a flat rate of $7.50 shipping.
At a dosage rate of 0.25ml per 1L that would be enough to last me an extremely long time.
One big benefit to using Supa Chlor is that it is an Australian made product. I like to support Australian business as much as I can, and when a product made in Australia is cheaper and of equal quality to an overseas competitor, I feel it is worth supporting them.
Removes both fluoride and hydrated lime
Concentrated product on par with Seachem Prime
Has only a slightly unpleasant odour
Mostly sold through online stockists
Packaging isn’t as ‘flash’ as other established brands
Doesn’t have any slime coat additives*
Overall, I would recommend Supa Chlor as a water conditioner for Australian hobbyists. I am not a person that believes in using a cocktail of chemicals or additives in my tanks, and so for me, Supa Chlor ticked all of the right boxes. It doesn’t promise me the world in a bottle or make claims of grandeur. I just need a product that can make my tap water safe for my fish and I found that Supa Chlor is perfect for the role.
*I am not a big fan of slime coat additives so this is not actually a con for me personally. I feel a healthy fish should have a healthy slime coat whether you use additives or not.
Mouthbrooding in Coccina Complex Species
Most people label the coccina complex species as bubblenesters. However, there is an oddity within this complex, in which certain species (specifically brownorum and rutilans) have been known to moutbrood either in combination with nesting, or as an exclusive means of rearing fry.
My first species of wild betta, was B. Rutilans ‘green’. It differs from the standard form of rutilans by the iridescent green scales that cover most of its body. In the 'Betta Handbook', Goldstein writes:
"There is no information about its hypural plates or its origin, but Ralph Tran believes that it was collected in the same waters with the standard B. rutilans, that it may be a mouthbrooder , and that it probably represents an unnamed species."
Standard form of B. rutilans
Based on two years of personal experience, this has been exactly the case. Each time my rutilans pair would spawn, the male would hold the eggs until the fry hatched (usually after 48-72 hours). These fry then remained in the hollowed out log that they were conceived in, until they became free-swimming.
I am interested in attempting to isolate a sibling pair of B. rutilans to see whether mouthbrooding is isolated to only a few individuals, or is passed down onto the offspring of these fish.
I start all of my fry off on freshly hatched BBS and microworms. However, I do not like to rely too much on microworms due to issues with ventral fin development, and I find the daily ritual of hatching and harvesting BBS to be something of a hassle.
This is where grindal worms come into their own.
I culture soil-less grindal worms, and I have found them to be extremely low maintenance in terms of care and harvesting.
This is all I use to culture soil-less grindal worms:
To set up a culture, all I do is take two kitchen scourers and place them one on top of the other in the plastic container. I then add enough water until the bottom scourer is completely covered but only the bottom part of the top scourer is wet.
Then basically all you have to do is put your starter culture onto the top pad and you're done.
Instead of poking air holes into the lid, I like to cut a small rectangle out of the plastic, and cover it with a coffee filter. I find this not only provides more ventilation for the worms, but also prevents anything from getting into your culture (I had a big problem with insects in the past).
If I notice that the water is getting too low, I simply top it up. I feed my grindal worm cultures two-three pieces of dried cat food every day. I find that feeding them regularly is best if you are heavily harvesting from your cultures.
I know some people use things like glass or craft mesh to harvest their grindal worms. Personally, I use either a pair of long tweezers to get worms off the scourer, or my finger if the worms are on the sides of the container.
I try and transition my fry over to grindal worms as soon as possible as I think they give me a better growth rate than microworms or BBS.
Grindal worms do not survive indefinitely under water, so do not feed to excess as they can foul the water.
I find grindal worms make an ideal transitional food for fry that are getting too old for BBS, but are not yet big enough to take white worms or blackworms.
Species Spotlight - Betta burdigala
A native of Indonesia, Betta burdigala is part of the coccina complex of betta species. According to SeriouslyFish.com, its name is derived from the Latin term for "The French city of Bordeaux which is famous for its red wines".
It is a truly striking species, very near in appearance to the closely-related Betta uberis, with its high dorsal and rich colouring.
Like all coccina complex species, Betta burdigala thrives in blackwater conditions with a water temperature in the mid twenties (°C). With all of these species, I have found that a liberal use of tannins in the water will result in the best colouration.
A tank measuring 30 x 30 cm is suitable for housing a pair of Betta burdigala. However, a larger footprint may be necessary if housing a group of these fish, as the dominant pair or male, may become aggressive towards lower ranking conspecifics.
Based on my experiences, the Betta burdigala is quite a prolific species. While individual spawns are not particularly large (especially when compared to bubblenesters from the splendens complex) the frequency with which they spawn more than makes up for it. It is not uncommon for my pairs to spawn once or sometimes even twice, a week.
In most cases fry can be successfully reared alongside their parents. However, predation may occur amongst sibilings. Therefore, it is best to remove any fry that may be big enough to cause problems. I have found that a single juvenile is capable of wiping out an entire spawn of newly free-swimming fry.
With an IUCN Red List species status of vulnerable, it is important that hobbyists continue to maintain this species in captivity. I have found it to be a a very easy fish to work with, and would advise any enthusiast of the 'clarets' to give this species a go.
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, I currently keep and breed a number of species from the coccina complex.