wife and I were doing our usual Friday night thing: water changes in
our fish room, when she asked, "If you were a Betta, which would you
be?" Like many Betta enthusiasts, I had a fascination with black Betta
splendens and Betta macrostoma. After seemingly hundreds of spawns
yielded only ten black Betta splendens, I decided to look elsewhere for
my perfect Betta. The search led me to Betta macrostoma and as many of
you know, this fish is more elusive than six winning lottery ticket
numbers. Fortunately my profession lend itself to travelling abroad and
that's where I met 'fishkeeper extraordinaire' Andrew Smith. (Sorry
Andrew, I couldn't resist- ref. Jan./Feb. 1996 'Flare' article, 'Wild
types'.) Andrew presented me with several interesting fish of the Betta
coccina group, however I could not keep my eyes off a small, slender
black fish with a hint of green on the dorsal, caudal and anal fins.
The fish I am referring to, is Betta persephone.
is named from Greek mythology, after the daughter of Demeter and Zeus,
'the daughter of darkness'. The fish is indigenous to the southern part
of the Malay peninsular where expansion-minded Homo sapiens have placed
much stress on the natural habitat of this exquisite fish. Therefore,
the purpose of this essay is to spark interest in order to sustain a
The fish favour very soft
and highly acidic waters, preferring to live quiet and sedentary lives
between roots, underneath leaves and foliage. As previously mentioned,
the male is black with just a trace of green on the dorsal, caudal and
anal fins. The female's colouration is identical, except that her body
is more greyish-black. In my experience, the male's anal fin is
slightly larger and somewhat pointed as it approaches the caudal fin.
The slim pelvic fins are black with white tips. The male is
approximately 1 1/4" long with about 30 lateral scales and the female
about 1 1/8" long with about 27 lateral scales. The easiest way that
I've found to determine gender, is by chasing the fish around the tank
with a net. The male will retain darker colouration, while the female
turns noticeably greyer.
B.persephone are kept in dimly-lit, ten gallon tanks, housing only 3
pairs at a time. The water has a temperature of 76°F, a pH of 5.3 and
hardness of 3 or 4 ppm. I achieve this by boiling 1 lb. of Canadian
peat moss and then placing it in a 30 gallon drum containing 27 galls.
of distilled water and 3 galls. of tap water. I let this settle for
three days, resulting in tea-colour water with the aforementioned pH
and hardness. Filtration is by means of an undergravel filter and a
sponge filter, which I keep at a very low setting of a bubble per
second! I provide many hiding places and the fish spend much of their
times under oak leaves which also serve to lower the pH.
a day, I feed my B.persephone either live blackworm, live brine shrimp,
live Tubifex or live Daphnia. Live is the key word here. Every week or
so, I neglect to feed the fish for two days, resulting in hungry fish
which would not otherwise eat vitamin flake. It is enjoyable to drop
food into a seemingly empty tank and watch fish dart out from
underneath every leaf, devour their food and disappear. Talk about
eating and running!
proper conditions, breeding B.persephone is quite simple. It is
imperative t remove the breeding pair from the community tank and place
in a smaller, isolated tank. A 2 1/2 gallon tank with similar water
conditions, Java moss and oak leaves has worked well for me. The only
difference from the larger tank is a temperature of 78°F and 1 1/2"
wide by 2" long piece of floating PVC tube, which serves as a nest site.
techniques which have helped induce spawning are partial water changes
with cooler water, lowering the water level to about 2" and leaving it
like that until a falling barometer, then replacing with water
containing added blackwater extract.
spawning is initiated by male flaring and body gyration, producing
water pressure patterns which entice the female into the nest. The
embrace is different from B.splendens due to the fact that the female
is vertical while the male is horizontally embracing her. Only five or
six eggs are released pr embrace and it is interesting to note that,
after each embrace, the female gives token effort in retrieving eggs
and seems more concerned to stand guard over the nest, while the male
gathers the eggs. I have witnessed he female come to the side of the
tank and flare at me, as if to say, "You wouldn't like it if I
watched!" At this point, I grant the fish their privacy and return a
couple of hours later. I usually find the female resting comfortably
under an oak leaf and the male carefully tending his brood. In my
opinion, the male B.persephone exhibits the best parental care of any
fish that I have kept to date. The fry can be kept with the parents for
some time, however I prefer to remove them just after they become free
swimming. I've found that less fry in a tank induce more frequent
spawning. It is also important to note that the fry which are kept with
parents grow quicker than those which are moved to a separate tank.
Spawn sizes range from 20-75 eggs, averaging 30-35.
eggs hatch in about 36 h and hang from the bubble nest for another 24
h. Fry are fed infusoria for 3 days and afterward are fed newly-hatched
brine shrimp, twice daily. The babies grow rapidly and can take chopped
blackworm and Tubifex in about one month's time. Care must be taken,
since I've lost more than one fry from choking.
is important not to overcrowd the rearing tank, not so much because of
fighting, but because of disease. Velvet can be a problem, if weekly
water changes are not carried out. I have found that aquarisol, 75%
water changes, and most recently, UV sterilisation, to be effective
remedies. Cloudy eye is another problem that I've experienced with
B.persephone. This was cured by a 50% water change and covering the
tank with a towel - basically, a little peace and quiet.
keeping and breeding B.persephone is comparatively easy and very
enjoyable. This species has served as a good transition from
B.splendens to the so-called 'wild types' for me. In closing, I'd like
to thank my wife Dianna, without whose patience and encouragement, much
of this would still be in the dark.