Tropical fish breeding is a really interesting part of the fish keeping hobby. It allows fish keepers to learn a vast amount about the fish they breed. One of the things which always amazes me about the way tropical fish breed is the diversity of breeding behaviour between different types of fish. For some fish keepers they love the challenge of breeding really difficult or rare fish. While for other hobbyists they devote their whole fish keeping career to creating new strains or enhancing existing stains of a particular fish. A good example of this is Guppy and Discus breeders, there are competitions and exhibitions designed to find the best breeder. You could liken this to Crufts, the well-known dog show.
If you’ve never bred fish before you may have a lot of unanswered questions. Or, if like many new fish keepers you may have accidently bred some fish and are now panicking about what to do with the fry (baby fish). If either of those sentences applies to you have come to the right place.
Fish breeding techniques are very specific to the individual type of fish, so what I will do is give you general advice on breeding tropical fish. What this page won’t do is give you a step by step guide to breeding all of topical fish available, that would take too long and it would probably end up being a little boring to read, this is because a lot of advice would be similar for each fish. If you like more specific information about breeding a particular fish, you should read the relevant profile page.
Before we get down to tips and techniques I would like to make sure you know what you are letting yourself in for. Breeding fish is a great rewarding experience, but if you’re unprepared or inexperienced it can turn into a nightmare.
While it is true some people do make money out of breeding tropical fish; there are a lot of costs which you need to cover before you can sell your fish. These costs include; additional aquariums; several months food for the fry and breeding aids such as special plants or breeding cones. If you just have a community tank and cannot foresee being able to acquire more tanks, it is perhaps best postpone breeding for a while. You will need a least one additional tank, maybe more.
As I have mentioned above you will need to set up at least one additional tank, possible more depending on the fish. Do you have enough space in your home to do this?
Do you know where the fry will go once they are big enough? Have you approached your local aquatic shop? Do you have friends you would be willing to take the fry off your hands? Unless you plan on keeping all the fry yourself you will need to have a re homing plan before you start breeding. This is important given some fish lay up 500 eggs in one spawning session.
In order to breed your fish will need to be sexually mature. How long it takes for fish to mature will vary, plus in most cases you cannot be sure how old the fish were when you bought them. For egg laying fish the females will be more rounded bellied when they are ready to mate. The rounded belly is due it being filled with eggs. Some species also display different markings when they are ready. Most of the time trying to breed your fish too early will just mean you have wasted your time and energy, but in other cases such as Siamese Fighting Fish trying to breed too early can result in the male becoming very aggressive with the female and possibly hurting her.
When you want to start breeding your fish you should condition them with live food such brine shrimp and blood. If you can’t manage live food, many aquatic shops and garden centres now sell frozen fish food which is also beneficial to fish.
You are going to need to set up a breeding tank. Some fish do breed in the community aquarium, most commonly these are Guppies, but if you want to successfully raise as many of the fish as possible you will need to set up a separate tank or the fry will get eaten. The size of aquarium needed will depend on the specific fish and how many fry there will be. Some egg layers can lay up to 800 eggs in one spawning session. It is unlikely all the fry will survive, but you need to be prepared just in case. If you’re a bit rusty on the basics of setting up a tank, please check out the beginners section and specially the information on cycling an aquarium. For a breeding / fry tank in would advise you use a foam filter. Foam filers are great for fry as they is nowhere for them to get sucked into.
To increase the changes of successfully breeding you should try to match your conditions in the breeding as closely as possible to the fish’s natural environment. Some fish may not spawn if the conditions are not right, while other will spawn but the eggs may not hatch. I was had a pair of Angelfish which kept spawning but the eggs never hatched because the pH of the water was too high.