The Cost of Raising a Betta Spawn: A breakdown of what you'll need and how much it will cost

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As a minimum, you'll need a 10-gallon tank ($10), a thermometer ($3), a 25-watt heater ($12-$30), an air pump ($12), some plastic plants for the female to hide in during the spawn ($5) a cover for the tank ($10 to nothing if you can scrounge a piece of plastic or glass the right size. Even plastic wrap will work. All the cover has to do it cover enough of the top, but not all, so that the tank doesn't lose too much heat from evaporation), a small filter ($5-$10), and half of a plastic butter tub or a foam cup for the male to build his bubble nest under (free). The cheapest source for these items would be Wal-Mart or Kmart. Pets Mart stores are also inexpensive.

You'll also need some AmQuel ($10, to get rid of chlorine) and NovAqua ($10 to protect the betta's skin), activated carbon ($5) and some filter medium ($5.)

Okay, now let's start the spawn and see what other expenses turn up. Assume you've been giving the male and female a little extra food everyday for a week or so to build up their strength and that they've been eating well. Set up the ten gallon tank and tape the half-butter tub at the water line to provide a protected area for the male to build his bubble nest and throw, well... place, the male in the tank. Add the female and place her in a plastic jar that floats so that the male can't get at her. The top of the jar needs to be open to the air so she can breathe. A large peanut butter jar should do. (I use a glass tube from a hurricane lamp, which runs about $8.)

After three days like this, release the female. She may be ready to spawn right away or she may need a little more time so make sure the plastic plants (usually free-floating) are there for her to hide in. If everything goes well, they should spawn in 1-3 days and you'll have a nest full of eggs.

Two to three days later the eggs hatch. For the next three days after that they live off their yoke sack, but after that they need food. I recommend vinegar eels but many other breeders prefer microworms. Either way you'll need to start a culture a couple of months ahead of the date you plan to spawn your fish. (The Bug Farm is a good place to purchase a wide variety of live food cultures.) Figure about $10. The eels or worms are only good for fry for 2-3 days and in case of emergencies when your brine shrimp hatchery fails. They aren't very nutritious. By the end of the first week you'll need to be hatching baby brine shrimp. There are many different hatchery set-ups and you'll have to figure out for yourself which you prefer. Most of the equipment can be scrounged for free. The eggs are another matter. By the time the fry are 6 weeks old they'll eat every day all the shrimp that can be hatched from two teaspoons of eggs. The cheapest source I've found for the eggs is Pets Mart: $3.50 for a small tube holding 4 teaspoons of eggs. I kept all the tubes from my current spawn and I ended up using twelve, that's $42.00.

By the time the fry are six weeks old, they need to be transitioned to a larger food. I prefer Grindal worms. A culture cost $5. Throw in $3 for a shoe-box size plastic tube and $2 for potting soil for them to live in and $4 for some flaked baby cereal to feed them and it comes to $14. That holds the fish until they are ten weeks old when they can be transitioned to blackworms or dry food.

At the eight-week point the fry can start to nip each other and you have to decide how many of the fry you want to raise until they look like the mature fish you see in stores (4-5 months old.) If you want to do that to all of them, you'll need the equivalent of at least two more ten-gallon grow-out tanks to avoid overcrowding (another $100) and enough jars to hold the males after the eight to ten-week age. The jars should be at least 3/4 gallon each. The cheapest source are the jars mentioned on MY LIVING ROOM BETTA DISPLAY CASE page, about $1.50 each. Assuming you have a normal spawn of 150 fish and half of them are males, you'll need 75 jars ($112.50.) Figure another $10 for food. If you only want to raise the best-looking half-dozen fish, you can make cheap dividers for your ten gallon tank out of plastic needlepoint mesh ($3.)

You'll need also some aquarium salt ($5), some algae killer ($5) and typically $6 for medicine (Bacterial infections are common. I treat it with Kanacyn.)

I think that adds up to $170 or $400 depending on the number of fish you want to raise to maturity. Prices vary with location so these should only be considered as ballpark estimates. Once you have all the hardware in place, I'd estimate the next spawn, requiring only consumables, would cost around $50 for a spawn raising only 6-10 fish and $60 for one where all the fish are raised to the full-fin stage.

The above assumes you already have the fish. If not, add $7-$10 for a pair purchased from Wal-Mart or pet store or $50-$120 for a high-quality pair purchased from a breeder like Faith at the Betta Talk site. For award-winning, IBC-champion fish, costs can easily run to several hundred dollars... per fish.

There's another cost you might want to consider: time. Figure at least ten hours getting everything ready for the spawn. Once you have fry, it takes two hours a day cleaning the tank, the filter, raising live food, feeding the fry, and so on. This goes on for 2-3 months. During this time you cannot be away from the tank for more than 12 hours. The fry need feeding at least twice a day.

Prices vary greatly so the costs I state should only be taken as guidelines. With some ingenuity and careful shopping, it may be possible to significantly reduce them. I hope this helps anyone considering beginning their first spawn.

All of the costs mentioned are in 2003 dollars. If you are reading this page in the distant future you'll need to correct for inflation.


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