Breeding Aquarium Fish, Basic Breeding Questions For Beginners

various fish in tanks
Thomas R. Reich PhD

 Everyone in the aquarium hobby should be able to enjoy the wonder of seeing a pair of fish they select - mate, produce fry, and raise those fry to maturity and entering. There is no better feeling of accomplishment to be had in the aquarium hobby. As a bonus, it gives you extra fish you have raised to share with others in the hobby as well! 

Which time of year is the best season for a breeding aquarium? 

By reproducing an environment as near to the environment that the pair of fish you have chosen comes from and providing both the male and the female abundant food high in protein, you are creating an environment close to the natural season they would breed in nature. The reason we go into such elaborate explanations of aquarium setups, plant types, and the foods that are best on each and every fish we discuss is for this reason. Many books do not go into detail that is deep enough to truly make you successful in your efforts, follow any of the suggested courses of action described by Dr. Reich and you will be successful. 

The easiest time to find specimens in your local aquarium store that are conditioned and ready to breed is in the late winter and early spring. On fish farms, where they come from in Florida, it is made to feel like spring, and all fish are enticed to breed in the spring. They have had sufficient live foods in the ponds in which they are raised, and you may be lucky enough to find a great pair ready to breed right in your local store if you time your visit the day their newest shipment arrives!

What should I look for when selecting a breeding pair of tropical fish?

Select the pair that has the best color, size, and vigor overall. Try to find a Tropical Fish Professional who can assist you in this if possible. Find someone who is excited about the hobby and wants to help you succeed!

How should I care for the fish when I get home?

Provide them with an abundance of high protein nourishing food, more often than you would feed your community aquarium fish. You are preparing them for breeding, so they must produce many extra things in their bodies for this task. Feed both the male and the female live brine shrimp if possible. If not available, frozen will do. Separate the males from the females, preferably by means of a glass partition so that they are in view of each other at all times, but cannot get to each other, this increases the need to breed when given the chance. During this period of conditioning, raise the temperature about 10 F over what your community aquarium usually is kept.

All these things being done together cause the female to become loaded with an extra large amount of spawn or eggs, and it conserves the male's sperm until her spawn is ripe and fully ready. During this period of conditioning, it is also important to bring the Ph and water hardness to the levels prescribed in the breeding article if this has been mentioned as an important factor and maintain those levels steady.

What is meant by "Ph value"?

Ph value is the degree of acidity or alkalinity of water, which can be readily determined by means of the comparator sets offered for sale in Aquarium Stores. It is generally understood that a somewhat acid condition in the water of the aquarium is rather desirable. Depending on the area of the world you are in, this will just happen out of the tap, or you will have to work at it.

If I chose egg layers that need infusoria to feed the fry, how can that be produced?

The majority of aquarists favor the preparation of infusoria by causing vegetable matter to decompose, such as filling a jar with water, throwing banana skins or lettuce leaves into it, and letting it stand for several days until the water is swarming with life. This preparation, however, is usually full of other animal life pernicious to the fish fry – for which reason the culture has to be strained through cheesecloth when feeding it. Very often, when using this method you will notice a very offensive smell to the water the culture is being produced in.

Place a lettuce leaf in the tank as soon as the adult fish finish spawning and are taken out of the aquarium. The leaf will decompose and create sufficient infusoria for the first week or so at which time another leaf can be placed, to be followed a week later by feeding any of the finely powdered prepared foods for sale in the aquarium store.

Another method is to take an ordinary metal tea ball, place some powdered dried lettuce leaves in it and suspend it over a jar full of water. Once or twice daily immerse the tea ball in the aquarium and sufficient infusoria will be liberated to properly feed the fry. This is not gospel, just another little trick from an old breeder that really works!

What are other fry foods that can be used?

Later on, the fry may also be fed by taking the yolk of a hardboiled egg and putting it into a bag made of cheesecloth. Immerse the bag in the water for a few seconds once or twice daily. As the fry grow, boiled oatmeal, tubifex worms, and flake fish food ground up between your fingers may be added to the diet. There are lots of things to feed them once they start taking whatever you feed them, but just remember with fry the most important thing is to keep their bellies full at all times for fastest growth. This means feeding them at least 6 times or more per day minimum. You can quickly starve fry to death if you miss even one day of feeding.

If I only have room for 1 breeding tank, what size is best?

We find that the 10-gallon aquarium is both inexpensive, easy to store, easy to get supplies for and is enough room for you to breed almost any beginner project. As you get deeper into the hobby you may need taller tanks for depth or longer tanks for fish whose breeding habits require them to run at high speeds. A common 10-gallon aquarium, with an air pump, a sponge filter, a heater of sufficient wattage and a good lighting system will both do the trick and not break the bank.

The added bonus is that a 10-gallon aquarium is big enough to keep fish in, raise the fry, or, when the project is over, store easily in a closet with all its supplies tucked neatly inside as if it were its own box!