I have the R2 Fish School. My husband just gave it to me for Christmas. It's awesome! I also got a 10 gallon tank for my male CT, Valentine, so I have room to train him there though I do have to take all his ornaments out before training and put them all in afterward.
Valentine is taking to it amazingly. He learned to associate the feeder wand with food right away and when I introduced the first trick, swimming through a hoop, he got it on the first try. We're still working on refining the hoop to be smaller and for him to go through it from a distance.
The kit is very good. It has everything you need, with both a booklet and a DVD covering training instructions. Those instructions are admirably self-explanatory and very basic, assuming you know nothing and are beginning from scratch. If your betta tends to be curious and interactive with you, ie following your finger when you draw it across the front of the tank, he will be a really good candidate, though I expect almost any betta could learn with enough persistence on your part.
I think the hardest thing about making your own would be duplicating the feeder wand. It's a long, well, wand which has a plunger on the top. When you depress it, the "food chamber" extends from the bottom. It's just a little pocket where you can put a pellet or such. It's composed of a long plastic insert with the food chamber, which is inside a plastic shell that covers the food chamber until the plunger is depressed. The idea is that the fish learns the food comes out of the end of the wand in one precise location, and follows that spot waiting for food. In this way, you can use the wand to lead or lure the fish.
For example, for hoop training, you hold the feeding wand in front of the hoop, and when the fish swims up to it, you quick move the wand to the back of the hoop. Fish swims through chasing wand. Then you slowly decrease the size of the hoop and the distance of the hoop, until your fish learns to associate swimming through the hoop with food, and as soon as the hoop is introduced, will swim right through it.
The hoop would be easy to make. The kit has a weighted base with a shaft. It has a adjustable hoop that you can stick into the shaft (base will also hold other trick things.) But you could, for instance, get some of those rings that are meant for birds and dangle it into the tank from above. I wouldn't recommend leaving non-aquarium things in the tank as they might leach, but the kit stresses highly that you're not supposed to leave your training equipment in the tank anyway between sessions, as if the fish gets used to it, they might ignore it when you're trying to get them to perform.
You could use PVC pipe for the tunnel trick. The sports-related tricks would be harder to make equipment for.
But that feeder wand...I can't think of any easy substitutes. You couldn't just put food on a popsicle stick or toothpick because it has to be underwater and move around a lot without floating away. It also has to be unreachable by the fish until you're ready to release the reward. I guess you could mess around with molding plastic or wood carvings, but at that point the kit is cheaper and easier. Maybe if you hung the bird ring from the top such that it was not completely submerged and used a toothpick/popsicle/finger to lure along the surface? I guess you could do that with a PVC pipe for the tunnel trick that was also right at the surface and only partially full of water?
The kit is only about $30. Honestly, I'd recommend saving up for it. It really is a sweet little kit.
Yeah unfortunately for me, I'd have to order it. Camrose is lame x.x which is another 10-40 dollars, depending who, where, etc lol. Geesh I'm in a bad spot >:( I might just do what I did for Spartan and build trust with one (or more) of my bettas. I've usually used something they follow (stick, fish food spoon, etc) and eventually they register "follow = food" :)
I tried amazon lol. USA only x.x Canada Amazon doesn't have it :o nor does ebay o_O Actually most places I find anything I want/need is USA or high shipping xD Like you remember :p still the same (if not, worse!) I'll probably keep an eye out. But, I think once Conan stops with his bitey stage he may be the one easiest to train for "trust" factor, like Spartan did.
This may be your definition of trust, but I think what counts for a good training candidate is their willingness to focus on you. Also of course food motivation: the little piggies will do great because they'll do anything for the prospect of food! If your betta watches you all the time, comes to the front of the glass to make eye contact when you're visiting, follows your finger across the glass, comes to the surface when you open the hood...you've got a great little candidate.
I think when you say trust, you're summing all that into one word though.
He does that I can have my hand in the water next to him, and he could care less. He watches me, and actually prefers high traffic areas x.x He doesn't shy from me, like Dally or Shadow does either =D
Except with Spartan, his trust went so far to allow me to "cup" him with my hand, and even close my hands around him briefly without getting scared. He didn't care for me doing that lol!! Anyone else, he'd spaz out if they got too close to him o.o
I just won't do that with Conan because he is in the biting stage where he is more interested in attacking then learning