the summer of 1991, a small, 3 cm, wine-red Betta was collected in the
north Selangor area of Malaysia and was duly named, 'livida', after its
green eyes, meaning 'jealous'. This fish was another of the Betta coccina group and differed from the others in that it had green-tipped ventrals, (white inB.tussyae and black in B.coccina) and a green spot on the flank of both sexes. The spot differentiates it from B.tussyae (also from Malaysia) and B.ruttilans (from Kalimantan) which has none, but shares a similarity with B.tussyae due to the presence of two, vertical gold bars on the operculum.
was a species that I first encountered at an AAGB Members' Weekend a
year or two ago and was pleased to bring four young fish back with me.
Having been reasonably successful in the maintenance and breeding of
B.tussyae, I set up my tank for the B.livida in much the same way. This
is a basic set-up, no gravel, no aeration or filtration. The water was
rainwater that had been left in a bucket of boiled peat and a few oak
leaves for a fortnight and heated to 74°F. The water depth was only
about 1" in a 12"x8"x8" tank. Other decor included a small clump of
Java moss and some dried oak leaves. I also always add a couple of
plastic floating tubes, even with very young/small fish. If the
facility is there for them to breed, they will often take the chance
soon after arrival, despite their age/size.
fish were acclimatised and left to their own devices for a few days.
Initially they were shy and hid for most of the time under leaves or in
the pipes. I fed them on live brine shrimp, both at baby and full-grown
size, as well as daphnia and bloodworms. As the weather warmed, I was
able to collect mosquito larvae from the water butts, which is a great
conditioning food and often a trigger for spawning. As the weeks
passed, the water was gradually topped up to a depth of 3 1/2 ". The
fish were still shy, but I did notice in one of the pipes, a collection
of bubbles but, try as I might, I couldn't ascertain which was which,
with regard to the sexes. Just as one fish appeared to be male, all the
others appeared to show the same differences, as it were. I had one
option left open to me which was to try each fish with the other and
watch for results.
My task was made a
little easier, for the wrong reason, as when I went to catch the first
two fish in the trial, I found a rather perished corpse, tangled in the
Java moss. So two fish were selected and placed in one of my small
spawning tanks (12"x5"x5"), in two inches of water with two floating
pipes and a few oak leaves. The water was really brown from the peat
steeping and when the fish were at the back of the tank, (to get them
all in, they are placed 'end-on') I could barely see them.
pipes were placed at the front of the tank, so that I could look into
them but every morning when I went into the shed, sure enough, they
were facing the other way. I put black paper along the two sides of the
tank so the pair are not continuously sparring with fish in the
adjacent tanks. A couple of weeks passed and I was now convinced that I
was trying to spawn two males - no nests and constant antagonism led me
to believe this.
The less dominant fish
was caught and replaced by the remaining fish which, to all intents and
purposes, looked the same. three days later, I was proved wrong, the
male had blown a nest in the tube and was courting what was surely a
female. During the day, this courtship remained as spreading finnage
and beating movements of the body, causing currents of water to waft at
each other. At this time, both fish were extremely colourful, a very
deep, wine-red, which enhanced the green flecking in the unpaired fins
and the tips of the ventrals. In these displays, it was the male that
initiated the pose and the female that responded.
only way that I had of distinguishing the two, was that the male was
slightly larger - no finnage differences were evident. The male claimed
the nest site for his own and the female was not allowed in. The nest
started out as something which would have barely covered a 10p coin but
progressed to take up the roof of a 2" long-pipe, with several clusters
of bubbles spilling out of the ends.
The spawning commenced in the evening. Both fishes swam into the same pipe and circled each other. The embrace differs fromBetta spp such as B.imbellis andB.smaragdina in
that the female is turned so her head points straight down to the base
of the tank and her tail is usually brushing or actually in, the nest.
The male is wrapped around her, upside down. The embrace lasts around
20 seconds and is broken when the eggs start to spill out and sink.
These eggs are white and slightly elongated. The following day, I
looked into the pipe to find no nest and no eggs. Under the sunken oak
laves sat two rather well-fed B.livida - they'd eaten the lot! I was, shall we say, disappointed.
or three weeks later, the pair spawned again and this time I removed
the eggs into a shallow tray, where they promptly fungused, so I
thought it best to let nature take its course in future. After another
two weeks, they spawned again. This time the nest disappeared but only
because the male had built another nest in another pipe. he then moved
it again- to a surface nest in one corner of the tank and then finally
back into a pipe. All this happened before the fr> aatched out,
after a couple of days.
The fry hung,
tail downward, in the nest for three days and then began to look as
though they would free swim. At this point, when I have a nest with fry
in it, I employ the following method. Take a tub and gently slid it
under the nest (or the pipe, in this case). The current will pull the
nest into the tub with enough water. Often the male will come with it
and you can catch him later but don't be surprised, when you return him
to the breeding tank, if he spits out 6 or 7 young that he carries in
his mouth. This trait also occurs in B.tussyae (see my article in Labyrinth 78) and B. spec. affin. coccina.
tub is put on a shelf where the temperature is equal to the breeding
tank, with an open air-line gently running as well as a few pieces of
floating plant, to allow the fry to settle on something. This set-up is
where they stay for the first three or four weeks of their lives and
they are fed 'Liquifry' after a day free-swimming. The tiniest amount
of baby brine shrimp is added four days later and this amount is
stepped up each day after.
spare rearing tank is set up with a sponge filter slowly running. The
tub with the fry is placed in this tank and the filter outlet is
allowed to gently dribble freshwater over the sides. It takes a
surprisingly short time for the tub to overflow but the fry are not
released for a day or so in this set-up. They are released by gently
tipping the tub on its side and letting the fry swim out in their own
For the next weeks, they are fed
on brine shrimp and grindal worm and water changes are affected by
topping up the tank. On horror with this species is Velvet, not in fry
or adults, but in the 'young fish' stage where they resemble their
parents and have their colours but are still small. One such attack
happened as we were about to leave for the USA. I added a concentrated
treatment and had to hope for the best and, although they looked like
they had really been 'through the mill' when we returne ,fthere were
only a few casualties. Even so, one brood was velvet free for less than
half the time. It seems that water changes are at a premium when the
young are at their most formative stages. The only other problem which
I notice is that the brood do tend to squabble when they are at a
higher temperature, say 76-80°F, lowers 70s, sees a drop in aggression.
takes the young to b about half adult size for them to get the spot on
their sides and this then fades with age. Both sexes have the spot and
both lose it, neither seeming to do so quicker than the other.
Tank-bred specimens also seem to adapt better to the more convenient
pHs that we can provide which will lessen the chance of velvet-type
diseases taking hold. Incidentally, I raised 15 young with their
parents in a 12"x8"x8" with no filter and aeration, just fairly regular
water changes, and I didn't encounter one fight or any disease.