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Handsome and bullied

The first mentions of cockerels (Betta splendens Regan, 1909) belong to Theodor Kantor and dates from 1849. The fishes didn’t have great beauty, but they quickly got used to amateur aquariums, multiplied in large numbers and soon would surely become commonplace, if they would have disappeared altogether, but ...
But this did not happen. The high color variability of the males caused great interest among aquarists, breeders who seriously took this fish "in turn": they changed the shape of the hull, lengthened the fins, revealed and emphasized the most attractive shades of color.
It is said that if a modern aquarist was shown the “source material” - those wild cockerels that were once caught in small, shallow, heavily overgrown reservoirs of East Asia, then most likely he would not have recognized them.
But the change in shape and color had no effect on the character of the cockerels - the males of Siamese fighting fish remained coarse tournament fighters.
And fighting at roosters uncompromising. At first, everything looks quite innocent. Fishes approach each other and begin to make various pirouettes, smoothing out the fins and almost perpendicularly protruding the gill covers. At this stage, looking at cockerels is a pleasure. But then the most common scuffle begins: opponents brutally beat each other with a snout, cut off the rays of the fins, knock down the scales. Sometimes, clinging their mouths, the fish enter the clinch. At the same time, they freeze and turn their belly up. The winner is the fighter who has more air.
Fortunately, the indecisiveness of males has, as a rule, a “narrow departmental” character: in relation to other fish, cockerels behave quite loyally. This is probably due not to their peacefulness, but to a noticeable lethargy in their movements: they simply cannot cause significant harm to a more or less mobile small fish.
It is impossible to describe the coloring of cockerels - the number of variations is practically beyond accounting. But one thing is certain: there are not a lot of aquarium fish that can compete with cocks in their richness and variety of colors.
Nevertheless, cockerels can hardly be recommended as the ideal inhabitants of a large decorative aquarium. Despite the bright color, they are just lost there. You will only occasionally see their solemn “appearances” during feeding and occasionally observe how they bypass the stems of plants and obstacles on the ground with smooth serpentine movements of the hull and fins. The only more or less constant entertainment for you is to watch the fish scurry along the glass of the aquarium, where, seeing their reflection, they are irresistibly striving to fight it.
It is almost impossible to compensate for the low visibility of cockerels in a spacious reservoir due to an increase in their number. After a "friendly" meeting between two males instead of fine-looking, smart fish, you will have a pair of disheveled tired rivals, still ready to present to females what is no longer - their beauty. In case of a big difference in strength, the problem of the subsequent confrontation is solved simply - by the death of the weakest.
In principle, 2 - 3 males can live simultaneously in one large (at least 100 liters) aquarium. But it is unlikely it will give you pleasure: only the leader will be visible. His movements are comfortably calm and graceful, he occupies the most advantageous territory, for example, near the feeders. The rest fearfully huddle in the corners and dense thickets, moving with constant alertness and readiness at any moment to get away from the winner. True, in the presence of their less fortunate rivals, the dominant male looks more attractive, as he has to constantly keep himself in the proper "sports form".
If you want to have several full-fledged couples at the same time, the output is one - there should be a separate capacity for each male. And since the fish do not need a spacious room, it is quite possible to use even a liter jar to keep them.
Considering the endurance and pickiness of cockerels, as well as their “domestication” (they recognize the owner, they can feed from the hands, and even allow themselves to be ironed), these fish can be recommended to beginner aquarists.
Like all anabantis, cockerels have a labyrinth organ and therefore do not need oxygen-rich water. The only thing you need is cleanliness and regular feeding. So compared to other aquarium fish in this case requires a minimum of hassle. There is no need for constant aeration and filtration of water, tight control over its hydrochemical parameters and temperature (acceptable range is from 20 to 30 degrees C, if only there were no sharp drops), etc.
But from the regular replacement of water (20 - 30 percent once a week) still should not be abandoned. You will immediately notice how much more alive your fish have become after this procedure. However, do not overdo it, the excess amount of tap water, especially with excessive chlorine, can lead to disastrous results.
Decorating an aquarium with cockerels is also not very difficult. Do not abuse the hardwood plants and various ornaments with sharp edges. The fins of cockerels (mainly for males, especially for voile forms) are quite fragile and break easily when hooked. True, they recover relatively quickly (millimeters 2–3 per week), but for some time the fish will look sloppy; besides, there is no guarantee that there will be no losses again in the future.
Strictly speaking, with the maintenance of cockerels, you can generally abandon the soil, rooting plants and various decorations. In this case, the appearance of the fish will probably remain intact, but the decorativeness of the aquarium will suffer. So think for yourself.
As for feed, in this respect, cockerels are not at all capricious. The only problem is that they do not always move quickly from one type of food to another. Sometimes it takes 2 - 3 days to the fish thoroughly hungry and agreed to receive a "new dish". Therefore, such transitions should be carried out gradually, with the inclusion of a small amount of new feed in the traditional set.
Not bad, if you buy fish, you learn from the former owner, what he fed his pets, and at first try not to change anything.
If we talk about the usual diet, it is the most traditional: bloodworm, tubule, pottery worms, crustaceans, scraped lean meat and fish, that is, live (preferably), frozen and dried (possible as an insignificant additive to the basic diet) feed.
The rooster meat is very fond of meat. To treat them to this delicacy, it is necessary to crush the shell and extract the flesh. When using pond snails, pulp is boiled before feeding. The males can also cope with the fizzy, coils and others cultivated in an aquarium. According to my observations, they use two tactics of hunting: in one case, they freeze near the snail and, when it releases the foot, with a sharp jerk they seize on it; in the second, they knock the cochlea off the substrate and finish with it while it falls to the bottom.
Fish do not need a very large variety of feed, but have an excellent appetite and are ready to eat at any time of the day. Without knowing the sense of proportion, they can quickly become fat, which negatively affects their condition and readiness for spawning. In this regard, the number of specified feed must be limited. Do not feed the fish once a day and very copiously. It is better to give food in smaller quantities, but more often - 2 - 3 times a day. In this case, the diet can be varied, using in each reception a different food.
The males are available to everyone also because they are very easy to breed. Fishes early, in 3 - 4 months, become mature and start spawning. When keeping in pairs in separate containers, no additional effort is required from the amateur. Usually, to stimulate spawning, the temperature is raised by 3 - 4 degrees C. As a rule, this is quite enough, and the male proceeds to build his air "castle". For a greater guarantee, I recommend adding fresh water, preferably boiled or slightly softened.
If the fish are kept in the general aquarium, they are best planted in a small spawning tank and gradually raise the temperature to 27 - 30 degrees C. In principle, the roosters are able to spawn even in a liter jar, but in each case this issue is solved individually.
The most important factor is the relationship of the male and female. If there is a “mutual understanding” between producers and you do not expect any tricks, then the spawning volume may be minimal. If the male or female is too willful and irritable, it is better to give the fish more space so that the female can hide from her overly obsessive boyfriend (the contrast between the slow, smooth movements of the fish in the ordinary life and the rapid throws during the rut is quite striking). At the same time, it must be borne in mind that in an overly spacious spawner, the male will have to spend more strength on adjusting the female to the nest and, accordingly, less will remain on the spawning itself. So the volume of the otsadnik is a debatable question.
There is no need to equip spawning tanks with separator nets, grottoes, caves, aerators and filters. No need and bright light, cockerels do not like it. And when spawning, the lighting is even harmful, since the air is dried above the water surface, contributing to the destruction of the nest and the death of the eggs. Some authors generally recommend breeding roosters in tanks with opaque walls. But if there are none, it’s not scary, just don’t put powerful windows on the spawning ground. So the choice is yours: either you have the opportunity to consider different episodes of spawning well, or give the males the opportunity to spawn in favorable conditions.
By the way, if the air in the room is very dry or too cold, it is better to cover the spawn with glass in order to keep the microclimate favorable in temperature and humidity in its internal air. In a dry atmosphere, the foam nest quickly collapses and the male most of the time is engaged in its restoration.
Thick thickets of floating plants are also not needed. The male still chooses to build a nest free space on the surface of the water, and in the nest itself uses very few plant elements. Only the presence of water flow in the aquarium forces the male to strengthen the nest with particles of plants (the more intense the current, the more green is used).
So, the male proceeds to build a nest. Usually this happens either in the early morning hours, or in the evening, when there is a twilight in the spawn. Having chosen a suitable place, he begins to make rhythmic movements, swallowing air from the surface of the water and then releasing in the form of bubbles with a diameter of about 1 millimeter. In this case, the rear part of the body remains almost stationary, and only the head moves. turn in one direction - the air is swallowed, turn in the other - the bubble is released. Once or twice, once or twice, once or twice ... The cycle takes about 2 to 3 seconds. Then, with the expansion of the "foundation" of the nest, the male still has to budge. Yes, and he now puts the bubbles, not as haphazardly, but according to some rule of his own.
But the construction of the nest is finished. However, the male doesn’t have time to rest: it’s time to invite the female (until that moment she was at a respectful distance).
Sometimes the female immediately responds to the calls of the partner, sometimes it makes him chase after herself for a long time. These games can last from an hour to a day. If they are not clearly aggressive in nature, then there is nothing terrible. If the male is brought to the point that he is ready to kill the female, it is better to isolate the producers from each other (perhaps they are at different stages of readiness for spawning or simply experience “psychological incompatibility”). The control time is 2 - 3 days. If during this time of spawning did not occur, it is better to replace one of the partners, and maybe both.
With a successful course of events, the female eventually ends up under the nest and the fish start spawning. Having come together in half-corpus with each other, the roosters bend in an arc, clasp the partner and form a not very dense ring; then, turning over under the nest, the female freezes and the female releases a portion of 5 to 10 eggs.
Sometimes one of the partners, not yet spawned, falls out of this ring, but remains motionless, keeping the crooked pose. Then straightens and moves aside. After a while, everything repeats again.
Vymetannye eggs are heavier than water, but their proportion is not the same, so some are drowning faster, others are slower. Some of them even manage to reach the bottom. The male slowly gathers caviar and places it in the nest. In order not to impede the male search for eggs, one should not overload the spawning body with unnecessary elements and above all with thick thickets and close groups of large stones on the ground (it is even better to do without soil). This is especially important if the producers are in good shape and for one litter the female throws a large amount of caviar. Then the male is simply not able to collect the eggs all at once, and a significant part of them is at the bottom.
As practice shows, a more or less short stay of eggs outside the nest, including at the bottom of the spawning ground, does not cause them any visible harm. Therefore, do not try to help the male to collect caviar, rely on his parental instinct and he will do everything himself.
In the end, in the nest can be from a few tens to several hundred eggs, usually there are 150 - 200 pieces.
At the end of spawning, the presence of the female, apparently, begins to annoy the male: he is constantly distracted from the nest, trying to expel the former girlfriend out of sight. Here you can and should even help the male by setting the female into another container. Otherwise, either the caviar will be eaten, or the female will be killed, and maybe you will lose both.
Caviar with a diameter of about a millimeter develops in the nest within 24 hours or a little more under the watchful eye of the parent. In shape, it resembles a lemon. Very delicate transparent shell breaks easily. The core is rich milky white. Unfertilized eggs do not become covered by fungus and do not grow cloudy for several hours.
The period from the end of spawning to hatching of larvae (approximately 24–28 hours at a temperature of 27–28 degrees C) is relatively calm for the male. He needs only to monitor the safety of the foam nest. This moment is most favorable in order to feed the fish (feed should be only fresh and in small quantities).
But when the larvae start to appear from the calf, a very tense time comes again. If you hatch friendly, it resembles snowfall. The larvae do not stick to the surface and drown, and the male tries to quickly return them to the nest. However, with a small level of water (5 - 10 centimeters), they quite easily get to the surface of the water on their own.
The male sinking or lying on the bottom of the larvae takes into the mouth (one by one, and sometimes several) and spits out into the nest. As a rule, the larvae are fixed in it from the first time (apparently sticking to the bubbles), but in some cases the male has to repeat his attempt repeatedly. With very "stubborn" larvae who do not want to be kept on the surface, he comes in a rather original way: he takes them in his mouth, swallows air and "mixes" all this. Usually such an operation brings results, and the larva reliably settles into the nest.
In rare moments of calm, the male does not sit idle. He vigilantly monitors the integrity of the nest (reconstruction and modernization of the building is a permanent process for the rooster; sometimes, during the development of eggs and larvae, the nest even increases in size), and also drifts near the bottom under the nest, looking for those fugitives who were not picked up in the confusion.
During the first day the larvae hang between the air bubbles or under the nest of a more or less dense pile, tails down. Periodically, they make clumsy attempts to leave their native lands, but this is radically suppressed by a caring father.
During this period, it is possible to feed the male little by little, but the remnants of food must be cleaned in time. It is necessary to ensure that due to feeding the interest of the male to the offspring does not weaken - it is better to leave him hungry.
After one and a half - two days, the yolk sac in the larvae dissolves and they proceed to independent living. A sign of readiness of the young to move into a new life phase is the normal - horizontal - body position.
Now it's time to remove the male from the spawning ground. He has already played his role, let him recuperate for the next spawning, which may follow in two weeks (in principle, the roosters are ready to spawn almost constantly, but this exhausts the fish and leads to premature aging and death).
As soon as the young go on to an active lifestyle, they need food. It is best to start with ciliates, rotifers, Nauplii Artemia. It is necessary to feed as often as possible, in small doses. It is better to remove not eaten residues immediately so that they do not spoil the water. The task is quite painstaking, because along with the feed, part of the fry is usually removed. Я отсасываю часть воды в широкую неглубокую миску, откуда потом ложкой или с помощью пипетки с оплавленными краями возвращаю заблудившихся мальков на прежнее место.
Присутствие грязи в нерестовике крайне нежелательно, поскольку мальки очень восприимчивы к различным недугам. А как известно, предупредить болезнь легче, чем лечить. В частности, поэтому не следует использовать в качестве стартового корма желток сваренного куриного яйца, его остатки очень быстро портят воду.
По мере роста мальков следует переводить на более питательные и крупные корма. Предпочтение отдаётся подвижным (но не слишком) организмам. Видимо, мальки любят охотиться, но быстро устают. К тому же, как и взрослые рыбы, они не отличаются большой резвостью и могут целый час оставаться почти неподвижными, шевеля лишь грудными плавниками.
Молодь, так же как и взрослые рыбы, избегает яркого света, поэтому в нерестовике надо устраивать полумрак. Уровень воды поднимают постепенно. Поскольку вода в нерестовике должна быть чистой, а эффективная фильтрация на этом этапе ещё невозможна, надо регулярно её заменять. Попутно этим достигается и аэрация воды.
Подросших мальков следует переводить в более просторный аквариум либо рассортировывать по нескольким мелким. Принцип "в тесноте, да не в обиде" в данном случае не подходит: при чрезмерно высокой плотности посадки развитие мальков резко замедляется, и если не принять мер, они навсегда останутся затянутыми.
Пока ещё можно держать их стайкой, без учёта пола. Но как только молодь начнёт "петушиться", нужна дополнительная сортировка по половому признаку.
При переводе мальков из одного аквариума в другой необходимо соблюдать два очень простых правила. Первое - вода в ёмкостях должна иметь одни и те же параметры; второе - мальков надо переносить вместе с водой, а не в сачке (особенно, если в квартире очень холодно или, наоборот, слишком тепло).
На ваше заботливое участие потомство петушков ответит быстрым ростом и развитием, а через 3 - 4 месяца - и собственным нерестом.
В принципе, петушков нельзя назвать долгожителями. В нормальных условиях они живут не более 2 - 3 лет. Встречаются, правда, и "реликты". Например, W.Maurus (1987) сообщал о нескольких девятилетних петушках-самцах, живущих в лаборатории одного из университетов США, причём рыбы сохраняли способность к воспроизводству. Но это, конечно, редкий случай. В общем же, если петушки живут у вас больше трёх лет, можете считать, что вы сделали для них всё, что могли. Большего не смогла бы и сама Природа.

В. Гариков г. Москва Аквариум № 3, 1996 г.