On a whim, we bought a pair of Betta fish at the pet store two weeks ago. This would be a Thursday afternoon, and buying pets on a whim is something that I am opposed to philisophically, spiritually, and logically. I think I either had a mental breakdown in Petsmart, which is a strong possibility, supported by the evidence that I even attempted to go into Petsmart with my four kids. Or maybe they play Muzac with backwards hidden messages that bamboozled me. Anyhoo…
The idea that we came up with on the spot was to add some low maintenance fish to the aquarium where our little aquatic frog lives. I’m all about low maintenance pets. Ziggy the frog was sort of lonely looking in there with just his snails to keep him company, so we brought home a beautiful crowntail male Betta, and a lovely deep blue female to the tank that evening. I did a bit of reading about their care and how to condition them to their new home, and we were up and running with a nice collection of class pets.
The kids worked on naming them all afternoon, and we finally decided that Mr. Darcy and Miss Lizzy would be appropriate. Male Bettas are known for their aggressive behavior, so there was the strong possibility that some sparks might fly, and altercations would arise between them. Boy, we had no idea.
The next morning, we awoke to discover that the water appeared to be foaming one corner of the tank. Mr. Darcy was busily preparing and guarding what is called a ‘bubble nest.’
evening, till his manners gave a disgust which tuned the tide
of his popularity” -Pride and Prejudice
Ziggy (playing the part of annoying Mr. Collins) had also chosen that corner to play in, and was popping holes in the nest, so he was moved into a holding tank so Mr. Darcy could have some peace.
We thought it was a little odd that Darcy was behaving aggressively toward Lizzy, and had bitten off part of her tail. Naughty, naughty Mr. Darcy!
Lizzy was wisely hiding in the plants, but as his nest neared completion, she emerged and boldly trespassed onto his estate.
We were surprised to see that Lizzy was now sporting vertical stripes!
“Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed
at his gallantry” ~Pride & Prejudice, ch.10
The pair began circling and dancing together; the mating dance had begun! They swirled, and circled tightly, and then Mr. Darcy wrapped himself around her, and clasped her tightly between his body and tail…
We grabbed the camera and did some (rather poor quality…sorry) video, to share with you all. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy gave us quite an educational experience, as this continued for several hours. We watched in amazement as they danced, courted, and mated over and over.
When Lizzy was released each time, she would be slightly stunned for a few moments. The newly released eggs would slowly fall down into the tank like little snowfakes, and Mr. Darcy would dart down and collect as many eggs as he could in his mouth. You can see this in the video. He would then carry them back up to the bubbles, and deposit them safely. As soon as Lizzy came to, she would swiftly dart down and gobble up any eggs that he hadn’t collected. Here is an overhead view of the bubble nest with clusters of white eggs in it!
As we neared the 3 hour mark, Lizzy was releasing fewer and fewer eggs, and Mr. Darcy became increasingly annoyed with her. She retreated to the plants, and we rescued her and moved her to a nice little ‘condo’ so that she could enjoy some alone time. The males can become so aggressive while guarding the nest, that they can kill the female…so it was time for her to take a holiday.
One of the really neat things we discovered in reading and talking to the Petsmart folks is that this is a VERY rare occurrence. Betta don’t just breed casually like this, so we feel very privileged to have had this opportunity and to share it with you.
My daughter confessed that she prayed that they’d have babies on the way home from Petsmart after buying them. She has been banned from praying for pet reproduction without express permission from her parents. And we’ve got her praying for some infertile couples instead.
Here is the promised video…sorry about the quality. We were really taken by surprise that this was unfolding before us, so it’s a pretty shabby job, but an amazing event nonetheless.
Stay tuned for part II…the legacy of Pemberley continues <que dramatic music>