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Betta edithae - a Pseudo Betta?
By Yohan Fernando

Betta edithae is named in honor of Ms. Edith Korthaus who, together with Dr. Foersch (B. foerschi is named after him), collected these fish in swamps in Kalimantan (South Borneo) in 1979. When B. edithae was first introduced, there was some confusion as to whether this was a new specie or if it was the same as Betta taeniata. It was later confirmed that B. edithae was indeed a new species and different from Betta taeniata. Betta edithae falls into the class of mouthbrooding Bettas, which some call the "Pseudo Bettas." Some experts state that the mouthbrooding Bettas evolved from the bubblenest building species. Since most mouthbrooding Bettas are found in fast flowing streams, it is believed that their tendency to mouthbrood their eggs is an adaptation to their environment where bubblenests would not hold together.

Betta edithae have a light brown body with iridescent speckling on the fins and the body. The adult males grow to about 2 ½ to 2 ¾ inches and the females grow to about 1 ¾ to 2 ½ inches. The male's fins are slightly longer than the female's and also more colorful. This is a peaceful fish and will co-habituate in a species tank or community tank.

Like all Bettas, B. edithae thrives on a varied diet of live foods. Mine are fed a combination of adult brine shrimp, mosquito larvae (in the warmer months), whiteworms, black worms and grindal worms as well as frozen beef heart and flake food - the latter which they eat reluctantly. These fish tend to be shy and feel comfortable in a tank that has an abundance of hiding places and plants. My tanks have a surface cover of duckweed which helps cut down the light entering the tank. Java fern and java moss as well as broken up clay pots provide décor and hiding places for the fish.

Betta edithae will spawn in a community tank as well as in a tank set up especially for breeding. The spawning sequence of the edithae is similar to that displayed by most mouthbrooding Bettas. Unlike the bubblenest builders who embrace close to the water surface, all activity takes place at the bottom of the tank. The female is usually the more aggressive of the two and initiates the spawning. She begins by nudging the male on the side gently and then tilting her body in a "U" shape. After some encouraging, the male responds by engaging in the embrace initiated by the female. The first few embraces generally are dry runs and do not release any eggs. But after several false starts, each embrace releases about 8-12 eggs. The female is the first to recover from the embrace and while the male remains stunned for about 4-6 seconds following the embrace, the female busies herself by collecting the eggs with her mouth from the male's anal fin and body. After a few minutes, the female releases a few eggs and then quickly snaps them up before the male could get them. The female continues to tease the male by repeating this exercise several times. After a while, the female releases the eggs and allows the male to collect them in his mouth. This pattern continues for about six hours. During this time, if the spawning takes place in a community tank, the spawning female becomes very protective of the male and will repeatedly chase away any other fish that approach the spawning site. Once the spawning is completed, the male, with his distended throat full of eggs, will retire to a hiding place to brood. An average spawn yields about 130-150 eggs. The female usually stands guard close by. Occasionally, she would dart at an approaching fish.

Ideally, the male will brood the eggs for the next 10-11 days and then release the fry once they are free swimming. However, more often than not, you will be disappointed because mouthbrooding male Bettas have a tendency to eat their eggs during the incubation period. This is true with most young males. Some males will eventually develop into responsible adults and will hold the eggs during the entire incubation period and release fry after they're developed to the free-swimming stage. Others will continue to make a meal out of their hard work.

To encourage a male to "hold" the eggs for the entire incubation period, it is best to give the brooding male a tank for himself. The brooding male should not be fed during this time, either. The introduction of food to the tank will tempt the male to abandon his brooding duties and answer the call of hunger. I also recommend lowering the light that enters the tank. I believe that the less distractions he has, the more apt he will be at carrying out his brooding responsibilities.

If one is plagued with a male or males that refuse to "hold", then one may consider using alternative methods of raising the eggs and getting fry. To do so, one must first get the eggs out of the male's mouth. Some males will spit out the eggs as soon as you catch him in the net. Others will require slightly more drastic action - they will have to be "stripped." Some breeders use modified egg-tumblers. I prefer to use a very basic hatchery made from a ½ gallon specimen container, a 4-inch fine mesh fish net, a gang valve and an airstone.

I fill the specimen container with water from the breeding tank and hook an airstone to it. The airflow needs to be adjusted to ensure an even and constant flow of air throughout the entire specimen container. I then take a four-inch fish net, made from very fine and smooth netting and place it on the specimen container. The net is dipped about one inch in the water. Steps must be taken to protect the eggs from any outside light. It is best to add an appropriate dosage of an anti-fungal agent such as Methylene Blue, Maroxy, Acriflavine or other to the specimen container. Then I pour the eggs into the net.

Usually on the third day, the eggs will discolor. On the fourth day or so, one will be able to see visible development of the eggs. Any eggs that fungus should promptly be removed. Ten to eleven days after the spawning, the fry are free-swimming and should be removed from the hatchery and put in a different container. I prefer to put them in a 2 ½ gallon tank. Once they are free-swimming, they will readily eat microworms and newly hatched brine shrimp. Within 2-3 months, the fry will reach one inch in size and will begin to display some of the features of their parents.

Betta edithae is not a fussy fish and will readily spawn. With some effort and patience, one will be able to raise more B. edithae than one will ever need.

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