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Can Betta Fish Lay Eggs Without A Mate? Will They Hatch?

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Betta fish are fascinating creatures, particularly when it comes to reproduction. When I was still new to this field, one of the first questions I had was whether female betta fish could lay eggs without a mate. And if they can, will the eggs hatch?

Female betta fish can lay eggs without a mate. First, the female will push unfertilized eggs out. Once they are released, the male will secrete its sperm, fertilizing the eggs. Therefore, the eggs can be laid without a mate, but they won’t hatch without a male.

As we move forward, I will elaborate on what can happen to the eggs if no male is present in the tank. Then, I’ll discuss whether bettas can store sperm like livebearers and possibly reproduce in a female-only tank.

Still curious? Feel free to check my complete guide on betta fish eggs. There, I discussed how to care for betta eggs, what they look like, how long it takes for them to hatch, what equipment to use, and much more.

Can Betta Fish Lay Eggs Without A Mate?

Yes, betta fish can lay eggs without a mate. This question won’t make sense to some aquarists. After all, female bettas do not fall pregnant.

Livebearers are a different case. A female livebearer has to mate with its male counterpart before you can get baby fish. But egg layers don’t have that limitation. Their eggs are fertilized outside the female’s body after it pushes them out.

What would prevent the betta from laying eggs? The answer to that question becomes apparent once you understand the breeding process associated with bettas. Consider the following:

1. How Mating Occurs

Mating among bettas is an exciting concept. The females make the eggs, and the males fertilize them. The male bettas will create bubble nests to signify their desire to mate.

They do this by blowing air out and wrapping it in saliva, giving the air bubbles a sticky texture that keeps them together.[1]

The bubble nest lets the female know that the male fish wants to mate. The mother is already full of eggs by this point. This is where things get interesting.

What does the mating process actually entail if the female has already made the eggs? In other species, the female pushes the eggs out, and then the father fertilizes them.

But that doesn’t happen here. The male betta wraps its body around the female and squeezes, forcing the eggs out. The eggs then emerge from a tiny spot called the ovipositor tube that looks like a grain of salt:[2]

This is the most puzzling aspect of betta fish mating. If a male fish has to squeeze the eggs out of a female betta’s body, what happens in a tank that doesn’t have any male fish?

Can the mother push the eggs out without any assistance? If it can’t, what happens to the eggs? Do they simply rot? Can they fall out on their own?

2. What Happens To Pregnant Females Without A Mate

Well, it depends. The possibilities are more wide-ranging than you realize:

  • Reabsorbing The Eggs

Experienced aquarists do not expect female bettas to lay eggs without a mate. They noticed that even though the creatures are gravid every few weeks, they will wait until a viable mate enters the picture before releasing the eggs.

What if their tank doesn’t have male bettas? Well, sometimes, the mother will reabsorb the eggs. This practice is not harmful to the mother. It occurs all the time among bettas that live in hostile conditions.

Livebearers do the same thing. They will reabsorb the fry if their environment is not conducive for their offspring.

  • Laying The Eggs

Female bettas can lay eggs without a male. Some professionals in the industry dispute this claim because they have never seen a female betta lay eggs in the absence of a male.

But other aquarists have witnessed this occurrence. Even though the aquarium doesn’t have male bettas, their female bettas routinely release eggs.

They think that conditioning is the key. If you create a friendly environment in the tank with the appropriate parameters, the female betta is more likely to lay its eggs despite the absence of a mate.

This is particularly true for females that receive a healthy diet rich in protein. Young bettas may hesitate because they are inexperienced.

But if your females have spawned successfully on numerous occasions, they are more likely to lay eggs in a female-only tank.

  • The Issue Of Cannibalism

Many people assume that female bettas cannot lay eggs without a male fish because they have never seen betta eggs in a female-only tank. However, it is pretty commonplace for female bettas to eat the eggs they just pushed out.

If you have a sizable sorority of female fish, they will eat all the eggs they produce among them before you even notice.

Can Betta Eggs Hatch Without A Male?

In a betta fish tank, the female fish makes the eggs while the male betta fertilizes and cares for them. This is why aquarists remove the mother, but they keep the father in the aquarium.

However, because male bettas will occasionally eat their children before they hatch, some aquarists will remove both the father and mother.

If you have the experience, there are ways to care for betta fish eggs without a male betta until they hatch. That includes placing the eggs on 1/6-inch craft foam with shallow water.

However, a male betta has to fertilize the eggs before you can attempt to care for them without the father’s assistance.

If you don’t have any males, the female betta can still lay the eggs. However, they will eventually rot, causing the ammonia concentration to spike.[3]

Some female bettas are resourceful. In an ideal environment, the male fish will keep the eggs in the bubble nest he created. If an egg falls out of the nest, the father will retrieve it.

But if you don’t have male bettas, the mother can step in, creating the bubble nest and caring for the eggs. This is so rare that some aquarists are convinced that female bettas cannot create bubble nests. They have never seen it.

However, even if your female betta is intelligent enough to make a bubble nest and watch over the eggs until they hatch, the eggs will still rot because they need a male betta to fertilize them.

Fertilized eggs have grey spots. You will also notice a slight change in their size over the next few hours and days.[4] The eggs should hatch after three days.

If you have a male betta, but you removed it before it could do its work, the eggs won’t develop any spots. Instead, you will notice fuzzy growths on their surface because they have fallen prey to fungus. This makes bettas tricky.

You can prevent livebearers from giving birth by separating the genders. After all, the male has to mate with the female before she can give birth. But with bettas, separating the genders won’t necessarily keep the mother from laying eggs.

Fortunately, if you have enough females, they will eat the eggs before they can become a nuisance. Unlike the males, multiple female bettas can coexist peacefully in the same aquatic space.

Can Female Bettas Store Sperm?

Many livebearer female fish can store sperm, allowing them to get pregnant without a male. This typically happens in guppies and mollies. Some of them can keep the sperm in their bellies for several months.[5]

But that isn’t the case with female betta fish, as they are not livebearers. Since fertilization occurs after the female betta pushes out the eggs, there is no point or means to store the sperm as guppies or mollies do.

For that reason, if your female betta laid a clutch of eggs and even built a bubble nest, but there is no male present, the eggs won’t hatch. There is no point in waiting, and you should take the eggs out before they rot and ruin the water chemistry.

To ensure this hasn’t happened already, I highly suggest getting the API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT (link to Amazon). This bundle will accurately measure your pH, which should be around 7.0. The ammonia, nitrties, and nitrates should be kept at 0 ppm.

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Conclusions

Female bettas can lay eggs without a mate as they are not livebearers. However, the eggs won’t be fertilized and will eventually rot. If there is no male in the tank, there are two main courses the female can take.

If the water conditions are suitable and the female is experienced, she will probably lay her eggs. But if your female is still young or the environment is a bit stressful, she will most likely reabsorb the eggs and won’t lay them in the first place.

Female bettas cannot store sperm, so you shouldn’t hope for the eggs to be fertilized if there is no male present. Unfertilized eggs will eventually develop fungus. 

Then, they will produce ammonia and ruin the water chemistry. Therefore, I highly suggest that you remove the eggs in a female-only tank. There is no reason to wait until they hatch because they won’t.

References

  1. https://expertaquarist.com/can-betta-eggs-hatch-without-bubble-nest/
  2. https://home.adelphi.edu/~ve21375/Female%20Betta%20Fish.html
  3. https://aquariumfishcity.com/betta-fish-eggs/
  4. https://lifeoffish.com/how-to-tell-if-betta-eggs-are-fertilized-12-unheard-facts/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC27698/