My Attempts at Spawning Betta pi

By Gerald Griffin

For those that are not Bettaphiles Betta pi is one of the large yellow mouthbrooders of the waseri complex.  It is a large stocky species that reaches a length of about 5 inches with males being more slender then females.  They are sexually dimorphic (which means you can tell male from female).  Males have longer pelvic fins, a pointed caudal fin and longer lips.  Females have a rounded abdomen and shorter fins.  The species obtained its name from the Pi shaped mark on its bottom lip that resembles the Greek letter Pi and was formally named Dr. Tan in 1998.

Betta pi pair, male right, female left.  Photo by Gerald Griffin

I obtained my Betta pi from Victorea Earnest a little over a year ago as juveniles from her successful spawn.  They do grow moderately and reach full adult size in about a year.  At adult size they do begin to spawn but spawning is the easy part.  For reasons still unknown the male tends to swallow the eggs at day three.  Research has shown that at day three the eggs hatch and turn into wigglers and the males are hyper sensitive and almost everything spooks them to where they swallow the brood.  If they do brood successfully then the male can brood for as long as 28 days.  It has also been noted that wild caught males tend to brood better then captive born males.  The reasons for this are still unclear.

As mentioned earlier getting Betta pi  to spawn is not a problem, the problem was obtaining fry from these fish.  I tried several times to obtain fry with no success at all.  The rule in my fish room is that when everything seems to fail, give up and let the fish do what comes naturally and this usually works and I am rewarded with fry as was the case with Betta pi.

My first attempts were with four pair in a thirty gallon flat tank with fake plants and lots of broken flower pots.  Water conditions were pH 7.6 and 160 ppm total hardness.  The pairs paired off and spawned and all of the males were holding.  I thought finally I would have success.  Three days later all of the males had swallowed except for one which swallowed the next day.  For the next few months this was the pattern, every ten days they would spawn and within three to four days all the males had swallowed.

Betta pi Pair, female foreground, male behind.  Photo by Gerald Griffin

My second set of attempts were placing pairs in standard 20 gallon tanks with HOB filters.  For the first few times I would let the pair stay together and again the males would swallow their brood between days three to four.  I tried removing the female on day two, males still swallowed, removing females after the spawn, males still swallowed.  I tried covering the tanks after removing females and the males swallowed, covering the tanks leaving the females in and the males still swallowed.  It was at this point that I decided to give it a rest and put them back into their colony tank.

My non attempt was placing them back into their 30 gallon flat tank but this time I added a lot of java moss, java fern and boiled peat moss to their tank.  The water turned a nice amber brown and the water conditions changed to pH 6.4 and 120 ppm hardness.  During my Oklahoma Aquarium Association meeting that I conducted at my place I pointed out the Betta pi to my fellow aquarists and for some reason a number of them were in awe of this species.  I have talked about wild bettas for years but everyone seems to focus on the flashy smaller species.  Yes there was some oowing at the albimarginata tank when the males were flaring with each other but some of them their astonishment at the Betta pi struck me and when I questioned them about it the response was “They are so big!”.  For the few die hards like Pam, Victorea and I know that the waseri complex are the most intelligent and curious of the wild bettas.

Betta pi is not shy by any means.  In fact they kind of remind me of aquatic puppy dogs.  They are active and curious and in a human way they seem to play and explore.  The activities I have seen resemble the activities of some of the smarter cichlids.  Betta pi also seem to know who feeds them and when I approach their tank they are all in the front of the tank eagerly taking food and they can be hand fed and petted.  As far a pet fish go Betta pi can be near the top of the list.

One day as I was cleaning their tank I noticed fry.  It was hard to count but there was not many, only a dozen.  When they were a quarter inch long they stayed clear of the adults and would snatch food after the adults were done eating.  The adults did notice the fry but never once went after them or made an attempt to eat them.  By the time the fry reached a size of half an inch they were right up there with the adults eating food and have remained there since.  I have not noticed any further batches of fry and have noticed that the adults do not eat the fry but I am sure the juveniles will eat fry so that is probably the reason I do not have any more fry.  I will shortly remove these fry for auction at the Atlanta Area Aquarium Associations February meeting which I will be speaking at.  After I remove these fry I would expect to see more fry but might not so I will keep everyone posted.

Betta pi fry at 3 months  Photo by Gerald Griffin

 So where did the fry come from?  There are two possibilities there.  One is that a male did hold to term that I did not notice or that some eggs were not picked up by the female when they spawned and those eggs developed in the peat and upon hatching fed upon the organisms in the java moss until they became big enough to eat the flake food.  Either way I did obtain fry and I will keep them in this setup as it is yielding results.