TYNK7 is a Bettas splendens enthusiast who has been keeping Bettas for 28 years and breeding them for 20 years. This self titled “backyard breeder with a conscience” represents many of use who have an interest breeding quality bettas but who haven’t gotten involved in fish shows or large scale commercial breeding. I was fortunate to run into TYNK in an online community newsgroup a couple of years ago where we have had countless discussions and debates about the aquarium hobby and Betta care specifically. When I expanded Nippyfish: A Betta Blog a few weeks ago to include interviews, glossary terms and reviews, TYNK agreed to share her knowledge on breeding these beautiful fish in my very first interview.
As many of you know I have a great interest in Betta health and fish care but deal very little with genetics and the breeding side of things. As more and more readers wrote in with their Betta breeding questions I felt it was about time to learn first hand, starting of course, with research. In my interview with TYNK we talked a little about how she started in the hobby, breeding challenges and ethical issues.
Thanks so much to TYNK for her time and invaluable advice.
NF: When did you first get involved with breeding Bettas? What inspired you to get involved at the beginning?
TYNK7: When I was a kid, My Auntie Helen got her first Betta. We all lived in a typical Chicago, IL home, where there are 2 separate homes in one house.
We were a close family, and her being another critter lover I spent a lot of time with her. I was a weird kid, as I spent a lot of my free time not playing with other kids, but spending time at Van Oak’s Pet shop on Harlem Ave.. The owner was great and let me hang around. I learned a lot from him, but then again I knew more about certain fish than many of the folks in their buying fish.
My Auntie Helen had trained her Betta to jump out of her community tank and grab food. She would also cup her hand under the surface and he would swim right into it and just hang out (in her hand).
I was fascinated with this fish and his beauty. So started my total addiction.
I had my first, very own tank when I was 11. I had a pair of black Mollies, one Angelfish and a male Betta. That was in 1978.
I believe it was 1986 when I had my first Betta spawn. Nothing much to brag about, as the fry didn’t survive.
As time went on I learned as I went.
This is why I try to help folks out before they attempt it.
If my trials and failures can help somebody, I feel it’s worth the effort. Plus, knowing the fry and adults have a better chance of making it with the help of somebody who has been there before.
NF: Most breeders either tend to take an interest in either color or finnage. Did you focus on one over the other?
TYNK7: Back when I was kid all we had were veils. The generic blues, reds, blue/reds and teals.
Oh to think of what was to come. If only I had visited a Gypsy back then with a crystal ball! = )
NF: Pretending you had a crystal ball then, is there any one type of betta you would have loved to have bred back in the day that may not have existed then?
TYNK7: I would have had to have a line of White Opaque CT’s, Jet black CT’s, and an Extended red CT line. Now that would have had to of been the CT Halfmoons or nearly HM, considered still a Delta.
NF: What strains were popular when you first started and what strains did you focus on throughout the years you bred?
TYNK7: Again, veils. That was all there was and now I have been trying to get a Crowntail line going but each time I try, something has gone awry.
Either the eggs didn’t get fertilized, the female or male ate them or possibly the male was infertile. The last time I couldn’t get the male to spawn with the proper female. I refuse to just spawn an unworthy pair.
That doesn’t mean I won’t stop trying!
Several years back I had 2 pairs of Bonnie McKinnley White Opaques.
I had one worthy pair out of them, and the male refused to spawn. He didn’t have a clue! The female even rammed his side trying to get him to embrace, but nope. They ended up being costly pet Bettas. I loved them though, as they were gorgeous.
NF: How did you learn about the genetics and Betta breeding? Did you have a mentor or were you involved with a local Betta club like the IBC?
TYNK7: Well, I was strictly a hobbyist who had ethics in breeding. I knew what I liked and what I didn’t. However, breeding veils that weren’t from a fixed line was like opening up Christmas presents….you never knew what you’d get.
Now a days it’s so much easier to track a breeding line, unless it’s a mass bred pet store Betta. Then it’s pot luck.
NF: Did you ever get involved with showing Bettas? Please elaborate.
TYNK7: Nope. Not at all. No interest in it either.
Strictly a hobby and for the love of the fish.
NF: Tell us a little about your set up when you were at the height of your Betta breeding. Tell us about your spawning tanks and grow out tanks. Did you use barracks, jars, etc.?
TYNK7: Well I never was at a height of breeding, as I was strictly a hobbyist that had good ethics. If that makes any sense. Like a back yard breeder with a conscience.
I preferred small spawns (easier to handle) and used 2 1/2 gallon standard tanks (rectangle shaped) tp spawn. Grow out tanks were 10-20g’s and for juvie males…anything that I could get my hands on. Mayo jars, pickle jars, etc…
Lately I still spawn in the 2 1/2g’s, but raise the females and juvie males that are not sparring yet in 20gH’s.
NF: A “backyard breeder with a conscience” is a great _expression and probably represents a lot Betta breeders. Breeding ethics is a subject you hear a lot about from small home breeders and large scale breeders alike. In your opinion, what can we do to maintain an ethical breeding practice?
TYNK7: You need to know what a good body or what the proper fin shapes are. Possibly even an oddball trait that you might want to fix, just like the CT’s, Combtails, Rosetails, etc., were all oddball freaks that a spawn tossed out. Somebody said wow…I have got to keep that going.
Never breed just to do it. That’s how we get weak, ugly strains out there. Also, I wouldn’t breed an overly aggressive male or female, as I don’t want that passed down. I don’t breed fighters, I breed for the beauty of the fish. If you have 2 magnificent specimens, then go for it.
If you have one and a so so mate..don’t. That’s where that “backyard breeder with a conscience” part comes into play. Also, make sure you have the time to devote to seeing it through from start to finish, and have a place for the fry to go to when they’re ready for their new homes. Call your local shops ahead of time and ask them…if I had a spawn during X month, would you be willing to buy them from me. Knowing this ahead of time is a major key/ There are only so many friends and family members that will take them from you.
Sometimes you get a small spawn, sometimes you have hundreds of fish you need to find homes for. Knowing ahead of time what you are going to do with them is very important before jumping in.
NF: Did you condition your fish to get them ready to spawn? If yes, what did you feed? What water parameters did you aim for? Did you add anything special to your breeding tanks? (almond leaves, antifungal medicine, etc.)
TYNK7: Back then I used to pump the Brine Shrimp to condition them. Water was strictly Chicago tap…boy do I long for that now, as I have liquid rock for water here where I live now.
I would also add Black water tonic…although I believe they call it Black water extract now.
NF: Have you been able to breed successfully in the hard water you have now? Do you have to do anything to soften it or do you find it doesn’t greatly affect the fish?
TYNK7: I had to monkey with my liquid rock for water. Otherwise I end up with midget Bettas.
I have to cut it with R.O. water and I always add Black Water Extract made by Tetra.
I have tried dried Oak leaves, as I heard it works in the same manor as dried Almond leaves, but it didn’t seem to make a difference.
In hard water the bubbles tend to pop faster, and the male has to work harder to keep the nest up. I have found I have smaller hatch rate with it too. Completely different when I spawn Angelfish in it. They do pretty well if they are born and raised in it. If they aren’t, they do not grow and I would have to cut it a lot with R.O. water.
NF: What were the greatest challenges you faced with your spawns? Were you able to overcome them and how?
TYNK7: The greatest challenge is when you have a spectacular pair and one doesn’t care for the other. These fish have likes and dislikes, just like we humans do. We have to be able to understand that. That’s hard to overcome.
NF: In your opinion, what is the most important thing to do to ensure a healthy grow out of fry?
TYNK7: RESEARCH FIRST! I cannot stress that enough.
You must be fully armed with the knowledge before trying to spawn Bettas, and then you must be fully set up with everything ready before you start. You must have a good source of fry food too.
NF: What are you using for fry food these days?
TYNK7: I still like to add a few drops of the Liquifry right after the spawning takes place. This starts the growth of infusoria in the tank, or so I was told many years ago. First foods are still boiled egg yolk (be careful, as it can foul a tank quickly if over done or left overs not being promptly cleaned up, and newly hatched Brine..either live or frozen. I had a microworm culture going at one time, but it got nasty on me and I haven’t had a spawn since. I have also heard that Hikari has a dry food called “First Bites” that according to their rep on the phone it’s small enough for Betta fry to eat. However, I have no experience in trying this. I do,however, have a package in my tank cabinet just in case.
All this talk of spawning is giving me the itch!
NF: What do you think about many of the newer strains developed today? (metallics, half moon plakats, rosetails & extreme rosetails, dragons, etc.)
TYNK7: I am in awe of them. At first I didn’t care for the Crowntails, as they looked raggedy to me. As the strain got better, I fell in love [with] them.
The White Opaque’s are so beautiful, as are the deep blacks.
I have had a Copper male, and a red Rosetail. I never did find a compatible female for the Copper, and the Rosetail was nearly killed by the worthy female I had. He survived, but he never grew out his fins. They healed, but that was it. I have never seen that before in a Betta, but I had been told by others who have had Halfmoons that they don’t grow back their fins like they were.
Being used to hardy veils, I was shocked at his appearance after several months of healing. He still looks like he was in a blender. Poor little dude.
NF: What advice can you give to people just starting out breeding bettas
TYNK7: Do the much needed research first.
Get the much needed experience in keeping Bettas, getting to know how their heads work, and being prepared first.
There is much to learn about Bettas. These are thinking fish. They are aware of their surroundings outside their tanks. That wiggle dance isn’t just for food. It’s for your attention!
They have likes and dislikes, just like people do.
Learn their body language! That is SO important.
Especially when spawning the Cambodian strains, which are white or pink bodied. You cannot see their barring, either vertical or horizontal, so you must reply on body language alone.
You must also know that horizontal barring isn’t just fear. It’s probably 90% submission coloring, 5% fear, and 5% illness. It’s up to the keeper to understand which.
Males can also show vertical barring from just excitement, so be able to tell the difference between readiness to spawn and excitement.
And lastly, pronounce our lovely fish’s name properly. It’s “bet-uh”, not “bait-uh”.
Both TYNK and myself can be found semi-regularly on The Freshwater Aquarium newsgroup at Google Groups.