Betta picta get their Latin name from their distinct colouration and markings, the word “picta” depicting painted. Their markings comprise of three horizontal bars which are not solid but are made of from a series of dark dots. Their main body colouration is a greyish/brown with the males displaying coloured margins on their fins.
They reach an adult size of just over two inches and in the wild they inhabit fast flowing waters which have high oxygen levels. They are to be found Sumatra, Java and Indonesia with the earliest imports reaching our aquariums in the 1930’s.
They do have a timid disposition and may hide away when first added to your aquarium but after a few days, if they have hiding places they can retreat to, they should start to become more adventurous exploring larger areas of the aquarium.
Caring for Betta picta
Betta picta do not require a large aquarium due to their small size, 2’x1’ (60cmx30cm) is large enough as long as the tank is not overcrowded. Planted tank or not is your choice but you must add hiding places by the addition of wood, piping or rocks. Dimmed lighting is preferred so some floating plants can help to diffuse the lighting.
Betta picta do prefer acidic water which is soft, a pH range of 5.5-7.0 is ideal, the addition of blackwater extract to provide tannins can help with this. The temperature range should be set between 24-28 degC and provide a medium water current by careful positioning of the outlet nozzles on the filtration system. As mentioned in the above section they do like oxygen in the water so aiming the outlet nozzle of the filter towards the water surface should help with gaseous exchange.
Always make sure that the aquarium is fully cycled before adding any Betta species to the aquarium as they will not tolerate large swings in the water parameters, regular water changes will also be required - at least 10% weekly.
It has been mentioned that Betta picta are a timid species and easily made to feel skittish if threatened by other tank mates. This will result in them hiding constantly and can affect their overall health. Always keep this fish with other peaceful species that are suitable for the same water parameters. Most species of loaches are fine to add as bottom dwellers as are rasboras but always do your research first.
One good feature of the more peaceful nature of these species is that a pair can be housed together or even a small group as long as the aquarium is large enough to allow the fish space.
Feeding your Betta picta
Like nearly all of the Betta species, Betta picta can be fussy eaters when first introduced to the aquarium, tank bred specimens will take commercial foods more readily but be patient if they are refused initially, it will not take them long to appreciate all foods offered and consume them readily. While settling in the aquarium feed the fish live or frozen foods and gradually introduce commercial flakes or very small pellets. Brine shrimp and Daphnia are ideal, if offering blood worms feed these sparingly as they can block the digestive system if offered on too much of a regular basis.
Only offer small foods to give the Betta picta time to digest the food properly, it is far better to offer two small meals per day rather that one large sitting.
Any uneaten food should be syphoned out of the aquarium on a regular basis or it can decay and spoil the quality of the water which will in turn lead to health problems.
Breeding Betta picta
Betta picta are not too difficult to breed as long as the breeding tank has been set up properly giving them the correct conditions to want to spawn. Betta picta are not bubble nest builders but rather prefer to mouth brood their offspring but the parental care is taken on by the male parent who will brood the eggs and care for the fry until they are large enough to look after themselves.
To gain more chance of success it is best to set up a separate breeding tank, this eliminates any distractions or threats to the breeding pair allowing them to concentrate on producing healthy batches of young fry.
As with most breeding tanks it is best to use air driven sponge filters for ease of maintenance and the ability to control the water flow much easier than using mains powered filters. Keep the tank simple to further aid cleaning and always use a tight fitting lid or even cling film to create a humid atmosphere above the water level.
The parent fish should be conditioned on live or frozen foods for a couple of weeks prior to commencing the breeding project, this will build up the strength of the fish as the spawning process is a very stressful time.
When introduced to the breeding tank, the male and female should darken in colouration and begin to swim closely, it may take a few days before serious courtship begins but be patient and they should swim closer in time. When spawning is imminent they will embrace by swimming really closely and eventually entwining with each other, at this stage the female is very close to releasing her eggs.
When she does release her eggs the male will fertilise them instantly by releasing his milt, he will then catch the eggs between his anal fin allowing the female to scoop the eggs into her mouth.
She will spit the eggs into the water allowing the male to catch the eggs into his mouth ready for brooding, all of the eggs will not be released at the same time so the whole process may take a few hours to complete.
Once the male has all of the eggs in his mouth the role of the female is complete and the female can be removed if required but some males may tolerate the presence of the female in the same tank. The brooding period can take up to 12 days but during this time make sure that the male parent fish is not startled or stressed in anyway as this can lead to premature spitting of the eggs and the loss of the brood.
When the fry are free swimming the male will release them from his mouth for short periods initially, once he knows they are safe they are released for longer periods. The fry can be fed on newly hatched brine shrimp or microworms until they are large enough to accept the same diet as their parents. Keep the meals small, it is best to feed several times per day rather than two meals per day and any uneaten food should be syphoned from the tank before it decays spoiling the water quality. Do small water changes once per 24 hours making sure that no fry are syphoned from the tank.
Common Diseases and Parasites Associated with Betta picta
As any experienced fish keeper will tell you, keeping your favourite fish species and caring for them does not always run smoothly. There are times when the water quality may take an unexpected drop in its quality and your fish will show symptoms of contracting an infection or hosting parasites for no known reason despite all your care. Sometimes it can be difficult to treat your fish especially if the symptoms are spotted when the problem has had time to set in for a few days so initially you should always check your fish on a daily basis. You will get to know your fish over a period of time and should soon spot quite quickly if they are swimming abnormally, hiding away or generally looking distressed. When you learn to recognise symptoms associated with the various diseases that your Betta may contract you may not be able to pick up the required medication from your local pet store, some remedies may need to be ordered online and delivery may take a few days to arrive meaning the problem with your Betta will take a stronger hold before you get the chance to treat your fish to help them recover. Keeping a “first aid kit” on hand means that you will always have the medication required at hand and can treat the condition much earlier which should give you quicker results and bring your Betta back to top health sooner.
Many common conditions that may occur during your Betta care will include whitespot, finrot, velvet, bloat, or even popeye so keeping the medications makes sense so you can act quickly.
White spot is a parasitic infection so add to your first aid kit treatments such as malachite green or medications that contain formalin, raise the water temperature by a couple of degrees and follow the instructions supplied with the treatment for the full course.
Fin rot can also be quite common so in this case simple treatments such as aquarium salt added in small doses makes another great addition to the kit, the salt should also be backed up with large water changes to raise the quality.
Velvet (Oodinium) which is sometimes mistaken for whitespot is another problem that can be treated with medications such as Methylene blue, velvet can be seen as a white powdery coating on the Betta rather than the actual white spots associated with Ich.
If your Betta appears to be swimming sluggishly or hides away a lot then this means there may be problems with your fish, check that they eat as normal and if they refuse food this is another sign of problems as Betta fish are extremely greedy fish.
If you build up your little treatment kit this will help enormously, it doesn’t have to be too large with every treatment available but the basics will see you through many of the common problems associated with Betta fish species.
About the Author
Jan Hvizdak keeps fish for over 20 years and owns a database of tropical fish which is available in English, French, German and Slovak at https://www.aqua-fish.net.