All credit goes to interviewer Joep Van Esch and Faith Granger.
1. Why and when did you start with Betta splendens?
In 1997 I battled some serious health problems and bettas were incidental in getting me on the road to recovery: I accidentlly wandered inside a pet store and saw a very pretty butterfly betta. I decided to buy it to lift my spirits up a bit. Soon I decided he was probably feeling quite lonely and bought him a female friend . Then I thought it might be fun to attempt another betta spawn (especially since I hate failure LOL). While buying a spawning tank and supplies at a local fish store the owner and I talked and he mentioned he did tank maintenance for a top betta breeder who lived locally. I immediately jumped on the opportunity and asked if he would introduce me. That is how I met veteran breeder Patrick Ciccone. Patrick was very nice and let me visit his fishroom, tought me the basics and sent me home with two pairs of top bettas. And so I set-up a small fish room (well at the time it was more like a "fish corner"LOL) and with the help of his pointers (and especially now having the right fry food in my possesion) I experienced tremendous success at getting the pairs to spawn and the fry to live. Patrick then introduced me to Betta Queen Bonnie McKinley. She tought me so many many things and I learned many betta secrets from this awesome lady! Her bettas were the corner stone of my current strains. Meanwhile in my excitement I started forgetting I was actually quite sick. Bettas were theraputic and as I took my focus off my illness and placed it on this exciting new hobby, I found myself becoming stronger and healthier each day and soon (well, about 6 months later) I was well! Well enough to tackle over 30 tanks, including spawning tanks, grow out tanks, oh and let's not forget the many jars, too! In short, bettas healed me. I decided to honor them by building a small site for them on the internet. I was so hooked I kept adding more pages to it and soon my site was 50 pages and people started finding it and visiting it and emailing me, asking if they could buy some fish from me (?? cooool). And that is how I accidentally started selling bettas and creating what is today the most formidable betta website worldwide. Today www.bettatalk.com is 500 pages, ranks #1 on all search engines and attracts about 2000 visitors a DAY! I just celebrated 1 million and a half hits . And all because of one little pet store betta! Soon Animal Planet sent a camera crew and producer to film the fishroom, bettas and interview me, followed by BBC London and I was propulsed to the forefront of the betta frontlines via national and international television exposure. There, I battle each day to promote betta & betta health awareness, help betta hobbyists, encourage and hopefully inspire many to take on this wonderful hobby.
Animal Planet producer, TV crew and Faith on the day of shoot.
2. What color strains are you currently working on?
Although I have worked with just about any and all strains, I have found over the years that it becomes necessary to focus if one is to get results. And focussing with bettas is near impossible, cause there are so many strains to play with! So many strains, so little time. How can anyone choose?? . My solution to this was to create affiliations with other top breeders and work together so that each of us focusses on a few strains and that together, we can offer the largest selection of top bettas at any given time. Some of our affiliated breeders work with oranges, black oranges, & marbles, while others focus on giants, crowntails, coppers. Others specialize in halfmoon reds and yellows, or in green/yellow butterflies and it goes on and on. I decided to concentrate on my all time favorite strains: The double tail opaques (Holy Grails), the red piebald marbled Butterflies (Apaches) and the pastel marbles butterflies (Satin Flames). On the side I also spawn marbles, marbled crowntails, opaque crowntails and blue or green cambodians and whater else may strike my fancy that month LOL.
Faith's most reknown strain, called "Apache"
3. How does your ideal betta look like?
It has a killer pattern, strong contrast and gorgeous finnage, which stays erect even when he is not flaring. He has a spark in his eyes. He has "spunk". Active, curious, interactive and always majestic. I love double tails with huge tail lobes and huge dorsals. And then of course, there are the halfmoons. Lately I have also really fallen in love with the crowntail type finnage, so I will be working on creating a crowntail variation to my Apaches, Satin Flames and Holy Grail double tail (but don't hold your breath LOL).
Faith and her betta club "Los Angeles Betta Society" (LABS) put on a betta exhibit last fall.
4. What characteristics do you look for in your breeders?
Traits. They have to show the traits I am looking for and also they have to balance each other. It is not enough to know how to pick a nice male. Picking the perfect other half of the genetic puzlle is what is going to make or break a spawn. If a male has a strong point but also a weak point, then the female should bring to the table strength in the area the male is lacking. For exemple: Say you are working with Satin Flames. You have a male with great finnage and the butterfly pattern, but he lacks red in his fins. In a case like this you would not want to select a perfect BF female (which one might think would be their best breeder), but rather a solid finned female caryring BF. She has solid red fins, so she will balance his lack of red in his red/white BF (for exemple) and the offspring will come out with more red. I also look for personality. Matching the personality of the male and female is essential. It might be necessary to try as many as 4 females, until the right chemistry is there and the spawn will soon follow . I avoid real aggressive males or females and also avoid real passive ones. Whenever presented with the choice, I favor an active male who courts and flares but does not act too aggressive. And if I am stuck with an aggressive male (say he was the only one that came out with the traits I am after) then I match him up with an EQUAL, as in a real aggressive female that can keep up with him and fight back.
6. How often do you perform a spawn?
I don't. The bettas do!! LOL As soon as a tank gets freed up, I set up a spawn.
After many months of hard work Faith was able to bring back Double Tail opaques from extinction.
6. What do you feed your fry?
2 feeding of microworms to 1 feeding of live baby brine shrimp. I never get any belly sliders that way. May grow a little slower but come out a lot healthier . Good things come to those who know how to wait a little .
7. At what age do you jar the first males?
It is not an age factor it is a behavior factor. Whenever the males start nipping, I jar. Some start real early while others get along together for a long time. You may see males (brothers) with already long fins swimming together in the grow out tank. I don't like to push it too far though because they might get along fine for weeks and then one day you come home and find 10 of them with torn fins. With experience I now can look at bettas and sense it is time to pull them out (before it is too late .
8. At what age can you usually see if a fish has good show characteristics?
Finnage potential will show first. The true quality of color and pattern however can take a lot more time to show. For exemple patterned fish may take up to 6 months to show their true pattern. Some Satin Flames start all white. So you think, Agh, I got no butterflies in my spawn!! Then 3 months later all of them start getting a red ban and blossom into gorgeous red/white BFs!! The same is true of color flaws for solid colored fish that may get red or grey washes as they mature. People who show will hurry and send them out to the show before the flaws starts becoming noticeable. In a way a show is like a photo. A snapshot if you will. Someone can look great on a photo at age 17 but look at another photo taken 10 years later and they may now be fat, or bald, etc LOL! In short, since I do not show, my focus is on a fish that exhibits and RETAINS his quality over time. Not one that looks great today (show winner) but will go bad in 2 months (red washes, etc). Before I select my breeders I take the time to allow them to grow, mature and blossom (like a good wine) so that by the time I pick my keepers, I am SURE of what they REALLY look like and what their true potential is.