Betta persephone is the smallest species of the Coccina complex, but do not think for a one second its small size makes it a pushover. In fact, it is the feistiest species out of the complex, and was often referred to as the problem child among wild Betta keepers when it first turned up in the hobby in the 80s.
Betta persephone is named after the Greek goddess Persephone, the daughter of Demeter and Zeus, and queen of the Underworld. Persephone became ruler of the Underworld after being kidnapped by Hades and later tricked into marrying him. This infuriated Demeter who threatened to drive the world into drought if her daughter Persephone was not returned to her.
Zeus settled things between Hades and Demeter by making the decision that Persephone would spend half of the year in the underworld with Hades, and the other half in Olympus with her mother.
Like the goddess Persephone, Betta persephone spends its life between two realms, water and land. The species will live its life in the water, however, as the dry season takes effect and water becomes scarce, Persephone will bury itself amongst damp leaf litter waiting for the next downpour.
This is the true reason why Betta persephone was named after the goddess because of its environment adaptability, and not because of the male's black colouring which is a common misconception.
Surprisingly, this survival trait is not exclusive to Betta persephone, but common among the Bettas of the Coccina complex. We would often find Betta rutilans and Betta livida buried amongst moist leaf litter for similar reasons on our wild Betta collecting trips.
Betta Persephone Care Summary
Betta persephone SCHALLER, 1986
Named after the Greek goddess Persephone, due to its capacity to leave water and survive amid damp leaf litter during periods of drought.
Batman Betta, Black Small Fighter
Malaysia and Indonesia (Riau).
2.5cm (1 ").
Bubble Nest Builder.
Males have a pointed dorsal whereas females are rounded. Females are more of a brown colour and males are a blackish colour.
Food & Diet:
Live, frozen and dried foods.
22°C - 28°C (71-82.4 deg F).
4.5 - 6.0 Prefers acidic water.
General Hardness (GH):
18 -54 ppm (1 dGH) - (3 dGH).
Carbonate Hardness (KH):
0-3 dKH (0-53 ppm).
Minimum 15 US gallons for a group of 5.
Aggressive to each other in a too small of an aquarium. Peaceful with other species.
Betta persephone was thought to be endemic to forests around the towns of Ayer Hitam, Muar, and Kluang in southwestern Johor state, Peninsular Malaysia. However, remarkably, a population of the species was recently discovered in Riau, Indonesia. Like its cousin Betta livida, Betta persephone has been driven to near extinction due to its natural habitat being destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations.
In 2018, I went on a collection trip to Malaysia to find Betta persephone for breed and release projects. Our destination was a spot I would visit every year as it was a known spot for Betta persephone. However, when we arrived, my heart sank as the beautiful forest and its swamps where complete destroyed to make way for palm trees.
A time before good camera phones, a once thriving Betta persephone habitat was destroyed to make way for a new bypass.
When I returned to Malaysia in 2019, the devastation to Persephones' habitat in the surrounding areas where I used to collect the species was horrifying. When I spoke to the local Betta collectors in the area they were convinced Betta persephone was already gone for good. On that trip, we searched every day for 2 weeks and did not find a single specimen. At that point, I feared they were right.
Thankfully, through the efforts of breed and release programs, and the virus shutting industry progress down for over a year, it has allowed the native population of Persephone to slightly recover.
Now, with the added numbers of the newly found population of Betta persephone in Indonesia, the species has gone from critically endangered to endangered. Persephone, still has a long way to go to ensure its survival but it is a step in the right direction.
The natural habitat of Betta persephone varies in acidity with a pH ranging from 3.8 to 6.5. The species can be found in forest swamps or stagnant waterways thick with submerged leaf litter and forest debris.
Betta persephone typically lives in the shallow areas of their habitat, and can be found in as little as 4cm of water, or on occasions no water at all.
CONSERVATION: As of 2017, the Castle Dawn Aquatics Betta Rescue program has returned over 320 Betta persephone back into the wild through joint breed and release efforts.
Betta Persephone Care
The general rule of thumb when it comes to keeping Betta from the Coccina complex is 1 pair to 5-6 (US) gallons of water. Even though Betta persephone is the smallest of the Coccina complex, it can be a bit of a spitfire. So, the 5-6 (US) gallon rule still applies to keep the peace.
Cover the aquarium floor with leaf litter, aquarium wood and a selection of small to medium-sized aquarium botanicals. The species is not as shy as its cousins but it will need plenty of hiding spots to feel secure.
Castle Dawn Aquatics natural aquarium botanical pack will help you recreate Betta persephone's natural environment.
In addition to providing hiding places in the aquarium, the leaf litter and aquarium botanicals will help keep the aquarium water soft and tannin-rich, similar to the Betta persephones' native environment.
Plant the aquarium with soft water-loving species such as Java fern (Microsorium sp.), Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana), and dwarf Sagittaria (Sagittaria subulata). Floating plants in the aquarium such as Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum), Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalicotoides) and Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) will provide additional cover, shade and potential spawning spots.
NOTE: Betta persephone can adapt to tannin free water. Before Persephones' habitat and population shrunk due to plantation progression, you would occasionally find them in clear but muddy water.
The species are typically found in shallow water, and from experience the length of the aquarium is more important than depth, an aquarium depth of about 15cm is more than enough for Persephone, especially if breeding is to be encouraged.
PRO TIP: If you want to keep a group of Persephone, the aquarium should be at least 15 gallons (US) and 60cm long, to allow enough space for males and females to retreat when aggression arises.
Betta persephone in the aquarium is content with a pH between 5.0 – 6.0, a little higher than some of the other Bettas in the Coccina complex. The general hardness (GH) should be between 18 -54 ppm (1 dGH) - (3 dGH) and the Carbonated hardness (KH) between 0-3 dKH (0-53 ppm).
We recommend using aquarium botanicals, leaf litter or products like our aquarium peat filter media to make the water parameters ideal for Betta persephone naturally.
If your goal is to breed the species then the pH of the aquarium needs to be much lower between 3.8 and 4.5. Bringing the pH down to these levels requires constant monitoring and is not recommended for beginners.
At these pH levels, the nitrogen cycle will have ceased and will take a bit of knowledge to maintain the aquarium's water parameters to prevent the loss of your Betta persephone.
BEGINNERS NOTE: Do not use Co2 in blackwater aquariums with a low pH as it can drive the pH down which could result in a pH crash, killing the aquarium inhabitants.
Small air-driven filters are ideal for Betta persephone which loves aquariums with little to no flow. Water tends to stay still or even stagnant in its natural habitat. Persephone would soon exhaust themselves and die if they were subjected to a strong power filter.
We offer a vast range of air driven filters perfect for wild Betta species.
As Betta persephone are bubble nest builders, choose a sponge filter that will not cause much surface disruption. I have noticed in keeping the species even the slightest movement on the water surface seems to discourage the males to build a bubble nest.
In the aquarium, Betta persephone is happy in temperatures between 22°C - 28°C (71-82.4 deg F).
Betta persephone can be picky eaters, and will not switch over to frozen or dried foods so easily, especially if they are wild-caught. They will happily accept freshly hatched brine shrimp, but the food of choice is worm-like foods, such as white worm, tubifex and bloodworm.
PRO TIP: Try adding frozen bloodworm in with live bloodworm increasing the ratio in favour of the frozen. This is how we typically get Betta persephone to switch to frozen foods.
Betta persephone is best kept in a species only aquarium. Usually, I would recommend alternative tank mates for Betta species. Nevertheless, this species is so rare that if you intend in keeping it, it should be for breeding to help increase its captive-bred numbers in the hobby. So, to ensure maximum survival of fry the species needs to be kept alone.
Male and female Betta persephone. The colour differences are clear between male and female Betta persephone.
Male Betta persephone have a notable pointed dorsal fin and are blacker in colour compare to the female. The females colour will consist of brown and reddish tones.
PRO TIP: Do not rely on the egg spot to tell the sexes apart, which is a common method used for Bettas in other complexes such as Splendens. It is not uncommon for both the male and female species in the Coccina complex to display the egg spot.
Setup and Mating:
Breeding Betta persephone can be a little troublesome as it takes a lower pH between 3.8 and 4.5 (As mentioned in water parameters) for the species to take interest in spawning. That being said, there are many fishkeepers who have had success in getting the species to breed at a higher pH.
Carved out lotus seed pods make ideal structures for bubble nest building, floating or submerged.
Introduce pipes into the aquarium of about 1-inch in diameter and cut into 2-inch lengths. Place the pipes at the surface and at the front of the aquarium for easy viewing. Large botanicals like coconut shell halves or gorged out lotus seed pods will also make excellent natural structures for bubble nest building.
Lower the water level to about half and cover the aquarium. Some aquarists use clingfilm ( saran wrap to all our American readers) or glass panels to create a humid layer in the aquarium.
The humid layer is essential for the development of the labyrinth organ. Lowering the water level will also allow you to gradually add a little bit of prepared freshwater to the aquarium till the fry are strong enough to handle a standard water change.
In my experience, lowering the water level encourages spawning in Betta persephone. The males seem to prefer to manage the bubble nest from a distance, hiding in nearby leaf litter, and going up to the bubble nest periodically to maintain it. Lowering the water level to around 8cm has always been my go-to method for breeding Persephone, and works even with the most stubborn of pairs.
As the male Persephone builds his bubble nest he will typically not accept the female in the proximity until it is finished. When he is ready, he will lure the female to his nest with a display of movements.
The mating itself generally occurs below the nest in an osphronemid embrace, with the male wrapping himself around the female. Milt and a couple of eggs are expelled, which the female then catches between her pelvic fins and body. The male will deposit the eggs in the bubble nest while the female actively collects any he has missed.
After mating, the female Persephone will leave and the male will remain with the nest. The courting process can be drawn out over a couple of days resulting in 10-30 eggs. The eggs will hatch within 48 hours after mating, and they fry will remain in the nest for up to 4 days. As the fry becomes free-swimming the male will lose interest and go on his way.
It is best to leave the fry with the parents for around three weeks. This will limit the possibility of the fry developing velvet if moved to another aquarium too soon. The parents will rarely cannibalise the fry, however, it is worth noting that if the aquarium does contain multiple broods, sub-adults will happily eat the newborn fry.
VERY IMPORTANT: Water hardness (GH) should not be more than 6 dGH or eggs will not develop.
NOTE: Age severely affects the breeding of Betta persephone. Over a year old and they will struggle to produce a healthy spawn, and eventually, they will stop spawning as they progress. If you are struggling to get your Betta persephone to breed, it may just be they are too old.
After the consumption of the egg sack, Betta persephone fry will eat Microworms or infusoria for the first 3 weeks. From there they will happily accept freshly hatched brine shrimp or even powdered dried foods.
As mentioned above, Betta persephone fry are prone to velvet like all Betta species, thus it is critical to remove any uneaten food and maintain the water quality. We commonly use Catappa Indian almond leaves or Logan leaves as natural prevention of velvet and fungus in fry tanks.
Betta Persephone Conclusion
Betta persephone is a small Betta packed full of character and curiosity which is not for beginners. Keeping Betta persephone comes with great responsibility. The aquarist (you) must do your part to ensure the species' survival. 95% of the Betta persephone in the hobby are wild-caught, and the numbers in the wild can no longer support the aquarium trade.
Only purchase Betta persephone if your goal is to breed the species, and help increase the circulation of captive-bred specimens in our hobby. The more availability of captive-bred Persephone less the need to import wild specimens.
We hope you enjoyed and found this article useful. If you have any further questions about Betta persephone care please leave them in the comment section and we will get back to you.
The article was written based on personal knowledge and experience in keeping the species. It may differ from your own experience or opinions of the species.
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