Care and breeding of Betta balunga Herre 1940

by Jan Rehwinkel

Betta balunga is a mouthbrooding fighting fish and one of the wider circle related toB.pugnax within the narrower circle of theB.akarensis group. It occurs in the NE region of Borneo. The location of the fish shown is known as '32 km east-Tawau' or ' East Tawau Semborna' but apparently this refers to only one location. Within this group of fish there are 4 species,- B.akarensis, B.climacura, B.chini and B. balunga. The relations within this group have yet to be definitely established.

In my opinion, it is possible to distinguishB.balunga from B.akarensis, if only because of its small (6cm) size. At this time as well as B.balunga, I have young fish of B.chini and have noticed some differences in body build and colouration. here one has to mention that the locations of these fish are partly separated by mountains which act as watersheds and these might be seen as arguments against classing these fish as one very variable species.

However, instead of talking about the uncertain classification of this group, I wish instead to go into the care and breeding. The male of B.balunga reaches a length of 12 cm, the female is 10 cm. The sexes can be differentiated when mature without difficulty as the male has extended dorsal, caudal, anal and pelvic fins. The caudal, especially in the male is decorated with a pretty net pattern and the anal has a dark blue edge and above it, a light blue one. The white pelvic fin, when folded can be half as long as the anal. On the grey-brown body there are several lustrous spots. During aggressive and particularly courting encounters, the females have stripes; 2 dark lines on a light background, one on the back, the other in the middle of the body. depending on its mood, B.balunga displays an attractive facial mask. On a light background, a dark line runs through the eye and a second runs diagonally up to the eye, there it bends and sometimes continues a little further. B. balunga has red eyes.

To keep this fish, one should preferably use at least an 80 l aquarium. A thick cover of floating plants should be used to diffuse and subdue the light which helps the well-being of the fish. A good growth of plants is recommended but these have to be plants which need little light, such as Cryptocoryne affinis. In my aquarium, I also have a big root on which grow Java fern.

The water should be soft and acid. It is also important to have a good filter and keep the water clean. There is no problem if you wish to keep other species, for example B.edithae, in the same aquarium. A temperature of 23C is sufficient. I feed my animals with white and black mosquito larvae (not with red - because of my allergy!), with mature Artemia, Daphnia and sometimes, but fairly rarely, withDrosophila.

If one compares B.balunga with other mouthbrooding fighters, such asB.dimidiata, it presents no greater problems except for being a little disease-prone.

Under these conditions, you should expect that the fish will son reproduce. During courtship, the female will exhibit the stripes that I have already described. The male does not change in the same way. He displays lustrous spots on a brown background. The fins and their edges are especially clearly coloured. If the male displays in front of another fish he first lifts the caudal fin peduncle, with the fin folded and then suddenly spreads the fin out. As a spawning site, all pairs chose a location above sandy substrate under the root, bout 12 cm from the base. Pairing near the water surface only occurs if another pair already has the place under the root. In this area a small hollow appears, probably from the swimming activities of the female.

Another thing I noticed during spawning was that during the embrace, the male bent his tail to an angle of about 90, this angle becoming smaller at the end of the embrace. This behaviour means that the female has a better chance to free herself earlier from the embrace and catch the eggs quicker and more efficiently in her mouth., which makes spawning in running water possible. This seems to be a pointer to the spitting out of the eggs. usually about 8 eggs are spat out by the female when the male is about 3 cm away. So it can happen that an egg can be carried away by a slight flow of water at the spawning site and then land somewhere where it cannot be found (- or possibly aBetta edithae eats it!). Only rarely does the female spit just one egg at the male but it can happen. As far as I could see, the female does not defend the male any further after spawning. After spawning, the male usually stays near the surface of the water, among the floating vegetation.

After about 14 days, the young fish are released from the mouth. If the male is still carrying the larvae in his mouth after 10 days, one can assume he is not going to eat the brood. At this point, I put the male into a smaller aquarium. To do this, I wait until the male positions himself near one of the glass side-panels. I then remove the cover carefully and put a 2.5 l Plexiglas basin in the water behind the male and then push it against the side panel. I have now caught the male and can transfer him without him spitting out the young.

The rearing tank should be similar to the breeding aquarium and it should have plenty of hiding places. Once the male has spat out the young, he can go back into the main aquarium. There can be as many as 100 young which can be fed immediately on Artemia larvae. If the young are raised in good conditions there should be no problems except that they are sometimes prone to illness.


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