Hopefully this will be stickied:
Since I can't sleep (it's 2:30 AM right now...) I decided to browse some interviews from top breeders. These people are the real deal and have some great things to say about starting to breed these wonderful fish.
"Select your breeding stock from reputable breeders. Don't pay too much money on breeding stock. Good finnages Halfmoon genotype is as good as a perfect halfmoon with perfect finnages. They will produce almost the same amount of halfmoon offsprings if you feed them with good food , good condition of water in community tank. The main factor is to try to keep your offspring survive to adult size as much as possible. You may encounter problem and success at the same time, but your experiences will help your fowllowing betta hobbyists beginners."
"My advice for new betta breeders is to become thoroughly aware of their water conditions first. Then breed several pairs for a six month period to become acquainted with the spawning and fry raising procedures. Then get some high quality betta pairs that are brother and sister from reputable breeders that can give you a three year background of the genetic history to assist you in your objective."
"Please understand the commitment you are making & make sure you can follow through. Betta breeding is one of the most labor intensive hobbies that I know of. If you cannot devote many hours each week to caring for your fish you will surely fail to produce top quality Bettas. Also specialize in only 2 colors (or types) with only very occasional extracurricular spawnings."
"Start with one color and establish 2 or 3 lines. You have more fish to pick from for show and for your breeding.
When you can handle it may go to two colors. To work with many colors burns you out. I know it is hard to resist all the colors out there. I started with two color greens and steels. I outcrossed and got blues and had 3 colors to show."
Guy Delaval (we owe halfmoons to this man...):
"Try to obtain Halfmoons right away."
"Get the best fish you can and talk to other breeders. Keep an open mind but stick to your objectives. Culling separates good breeders from also rans. It is my favorite activity in the fish room. It keeps me focused on what I want to accomplish and allows me to spend more time with promising fish. I don't look for good fish, I look for what I dont want. When I cant find a bad fish I quit and come back in a few days and do it again. When this process is finished I sometimes jar. Few fish ever make it to a jar."
Now before I quote her I would like to say that Faith is my corner stone in this hobby. Everyday I search her site for anything I have yet to learn. Not only did her amazing fish fascinate me but they inspired me to start spawning bettas. Now I wish I had started off right and actually bought some nice fish and did things correctly... But now she continues to be an amazing inspiration to me.
"Read my website www.bettatalk.com
!!!! Focus, focus, focus. Breed only quality fish and stay away from pet store bettas. Oh and did I mention: READ MY WEBSITE !! (and memorize it) LOL."
Again my second inspiration and foundation to bettas. Throughout middle school I got in trouble for reading my dozens of print outs of her wonderful website. I now own her book and it is amazing to read over every few days to keep my knowledge fresh.
"Don't be discouraged by failure. In the beginning, most of us get more failures than successes, but everything is a learning experience. Don't put too much stake into what you read from other breeders, because everyone's circumstances are different. Once you have the basics down, you should experiment a bit and find what works best for your program and your local water source. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to breed bettas. If they are spawning - good job! I also firmly believe that there is no "right" or "wrong" color cross. If you want to breed a red fish to a blue one, don't let anyone tell you you can't. Keep accurate records of spawns, and reference them often. This will make it easier to learn from your experiments as you go. Most of all, this is a hobby. It's supposed to be fun! If it stops being fun for you, put it aside for awhile."
"I have much advice for novices. Please allow me to unload:
I feel there should be thousands of people in every country of the world breeding and showing these fish... but where are they? Many start, but only a handful ever show their fish. Betta keeping should be FUN!
I believe that there are two things that keep novices from having fun... 1. lack of success at spawning these fish and... 2. diseases.
1. LIGHT is the number one reason for poor spawning attempts... pure and simple bettas need only 12 hours of light a day... period... photoperiod control is everything. After working all day novices want to enjoy their fish in the evening and they then keep their fish up way too late. Darkening the room completely and using a number of lights on timers to sequentially brighten the room would be the solution... 12 hours of light max. and shizzam your fish will spawn!
The dark 12 hours, however, must be completely dark. Even a street light shining through a window can throw them off.
2. DISEASES: It is so sad that even established, show breeders are unethically selling diseased fish to novices. There is nothing more discouraging than picking out dead fry and breeders all of the time. Of course, tuberculosis or mycobacterium is THE worst. It hides so well in drip and flow-through systems. The flowing or dripping systems are the CURSE of the betta hobby. It is difficult to figure out why everyone wants a drip system. It is like it is some rite-of-passage or something. These systems are so complicated and prone to failure, but most of all they all harbour diseases.
What every novice needs is a set-up in which the water from one fish container goes down the drain and never gets used again in any other jar. ABSOLUTELY NO CONTACT OF ANY SORT BETWEEN FISH except at spawning time. Please click here for details on building a simple set-up.
What people don't know about these systems is the abject failure of ultra-violet sterilizers to purify the re-use water of pathogens. At best, these devices are only 95% effective. That means 5% of bacteria and even higher rates of parasites are getting through. They re-colonize in the pipes very quickly downstream from the light bulbs. I know because I have cultured the bacteria 1 foot distance along in those pipes many times and counted the colonies to estimate abundance... and it is no different that the levels in the water going into the sterilizer.
The sad part about mycobacterium is that even humans can catch it! I bet there are lots of betta keepers who have had this painful disease and never even known that they caught it from the fish that someone else sent them!
Anyways, I feel quite strongly about this as you might have gathered and I spend quite a bit of time on it in the disease section of my website, please click here.
The second thing in this regard is a strict protocol of tank, jar and net sanitation between generations. This is also covered in the Fish Health page of my website.
Also, I feel novices should join Betta Associations and try to show their fish as soon as possible. The International Betta Congress(IBC) is an example of a top-notch organization and they do an excellent job of making peoples' first attempt at showing their fish very easy.
The final bit of advice I would give to novices is to spend some time convincing their local pet store to look after their bettas more responsibly and help them to show them off in the way that brings out the best in them. If everyone did this then I believe many more people would appreciate these amazing fish for what they are.
I have finally had some success in convincing one top-notch tropical fish store in Montreal named Aquarius to allow me to assist them in setting up such a display and they are selling halfmoons. The method of displaying bettas that we are using there is explained on my website, please click here."
"Read read and read some more, there is a lot of information posted on the internet, second get to a show as soon as you possibly can."
AND my advice (please keep in mind I am no betta god, I am simply a teenager who enjoys breeding these fish and I have learned a lot):
Save yourself the regret of a failed spawn and start right. Spend the cash and get a good set up going. Read and read and read. Talk to a local breeder, and obtain only the best bettas you can get. Don't complain. Just stay focused and work hard towards your goal. Set small goals at first and then work your way up. Start with one spawn at a time and then work towards adding strains here and there as your expertise builds up.