Breeding is rewarding

Carrie Circosta

Student discovers love for fish breeding while living in dorms

Sophomore nursing major Heather Malloy now has six adult beta fish in result of trying to breed the species. LESLIE CUSANO | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

The only pets allowed in the residences halls are fish. Instead of seeing it as a restriction, sophomore nursing major Heather Malloy saw it as an opportunity to do something interesting and fun.

The idea of breeding came to her after she purchased her first betta fish, Fiji, last year.

“I felt that Fiji was lonely, so I got him a girlfriend, Meeka,” Malloy said. “Then I got a book how to take care of them and breeding sounded easy, but it’s a lot of work.”

Malloy now has six adult betta fish in result of trying to breed the species. In her case, the fifth time is the charm, because that’s when she successfully got a male betta she calls Bubbles and a female betta she calls Glitz to breed.

Malloy said she started the process with a ten-gallon fish tank filled halfway with water. She then put half of a Styrofoam cup in the corner of the tank. The male betta made a nest of sticky bubbles under the Styrofoam piece.

After placing Glitz in a glass jar, she puts her in the tank so Bubbles can see her, but can’t touch her. This is a way of teasing Bubbles, resulting in him making a bigger nest.

“When the nest gets bigger, I let her out in the tank,” Malloy said. “She’s going to hide and he’s going to chase her for hours. When they finally get under the nest, they intertwine and he squeezes her for a couple of seconds. At first she looks dead because she’s just floating there. When she’s floating, anywhere from three to 20 eggs come out. The dad grabs the eggs and spits them up to the bubbles.”

Malloy said the eggs hatched between 48 to 72 hours later. When they hatched, the nest looked like hairy, black dots.

“They have the egg sack to eat off of for a couple of days,” Malloy said. “Then I feed them microworms put in a mixture of milk and oatmeal. When it cultures, I wipe off the edge of the container – it’s the smallest thing they can eat. It’s pretty much micro bacteria. At five weeks, I then use a fine powder that’s mixed with water for a paste substance. At 10 weeks, I started feeding them frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp. I wear gloves to grade the bloodworms and thaw and cut the brine shrimp into small pieces.”

After starting with more than 200 babies, Malloy now has 11 fish that are 14 weeks old.

“Some had deformities, like four eyes and two heads,” Malloy said. “Some had deformities that didn’t affect them until they got older. Some didn’t make it to 10 weeks. I had 40 at the beginning of school. When my mom brought them up during the third week into the semester, I was down to 11. Plus if one fish is sick, you should expect to lose a lot.”

Malloy said the betta fish would be fully grown at 11 months.

“If anyone wanted to try (breeding), they need to expect to fail the first couple of times because every time I tried, I found I needed to change something,” Malloy said. “You need to give them the natural conditions as much as possible. I’ve spent a lot of money, but it’s so rewarding and fun.”

Meghan MacIntyre, sophomore nursing major and Malloy’s roommate, doesn’t mind the betta fish in the room.

“It’s actually very interesting,” MacIntyre said. “I’m excited. I can’t wait to see them get big.”

Malloy said there are different kinds of betta fish, all with different personalities. She said she would recommend buying betta fish from PetSmart because they take good care of their fish.

“We provide care guides online and in the stores,” Michelle Friedman, a spokeswoman for PetSmart, said. “The PetSmart employees are trained in taking care of fish. They are an excellent source for information.”

According to PetSmart’s online betta fish care guide, fish are screened for optimum health prior to sending them to the stores. The aquariums are also medicated before the betta fish are placed in them. Plus, the water conditions are checked two times a day to make sure the aquariums are in good condition.

“If I did it (bred) more often, I would sell them,” Malloy said. “I have friends I’m going to give them to, but when they get full grown, it would just be hard to say goodbye.”

Contact features correspondent Carrie Circosta at [email protected].


• Betta fish are surface breathers, meaning they come up for air. They are capable of jumping out of the tank and can survive for a couple of hours.

• The males can’t be in the same tank. Females can hide behind plants if they’re in the same tank.

• Go to, which has been

featured on Animal Planet, for more information.

– Heather Malloy