Breeding your fish is in my opinion one of the most satisfying and rewarding things to do in the aquarium hobby. Seeing the baby fish grow up is simply amazing. But what species of fish are available that are easy to breed in your aquarium at home? Here are 11 different kind of fish that you might consider when you are looking for a fish to breed.
The first and foremost species of fish that is super easy to breed are the guppies. They are live bearers which means that they do not lay eggs, as the babies are born alive. In the right conditions the female will give birth every month.
To start, make sure the ratio of male to female fish is about 1 : 3. If the ratio is lower, for example one male together with one female, the male fish might become aggressive towards the female. This is something that can be easily avoided, so make sure you have the right ratio.
Make sure to house your guppies the right way by giving them a tank that is 10 – 20 gallons (40 to 80 L) or more. They do need a heater to maintain the aquarium temperature (around 24 Celsius / 75 Fahrenheit) and a filter that is not too strong. If the filter is too aggressive, the baby fish (from now on we call them fry), might get sucked in the intake of the filter. I have always used an intake sponge, and you can also use pantyhose to cover the intake to make sure the fry do not get sucked up and die.
Guppies do not make ideal parents, as they have the temptation to eat their children when they are born. This is not ideal, so make sure you give the fry enough places to hide. A perfect way to do this is by using java moss.
When the fry is born you can remove the parents to eliminate the chance of the fry getting eaten, but I have found that it is also perfectly possible to raise the fry in the same tank while risking the chance that a couple do get eaten. To make sure the fry is healthy you can do daily water changes, this is recommended on various websites. I however do not want to do big daily water changes because it increases the risk that the water parameters change too much and I want to keep them as stable as possible. I stick to my weekly 25% water changes.
When the fry is born they immediately start eating, as they have already used their yolk sacs during their mother’s pregnancy. They feed of algae, and you can feed them hatched brine shrimp and crushed flake food as well. There is also dedicated fry food on the market that they also enjoy.
Mollies are similar to guppies in a lot of ways and their requirements are similar. These fish are also live bearers, giving birth to live babies instead of laying eggs.
When selecting your breeding pair in the fish store, you can recognize female mollies by their round bellies. They are almost always pregnant. Make sure to buy a ratio of one male to three females. This is a desired ratio for almost all live bearers, and will help in distributing the interest of the male fish over the 3 others. If the ratio is one to one, the male might become aggressive towards the female.
To prepare your tank, the mollies like a tank of about 20 gallons (80 L) that has a water temperature of about 70 – 85 F (24 – 30 C). If you want them to breed make sure to provide a lot of hiding spaces by using moss or other live plants, these will make sure the molly parents will have a harder time eating their babies, as they do have a tendency to do so.
The aquarium also needs a filter, but make sure to cover the intake with a sponge or pantyhose in order to prevent the fry from getting sucked up.
When the fry have been born you have the option to remove the parents so they will not eat their babies anymore. You can also let them be, as the chances are that most of the fry will survive.
As soon as the fry is born they start eating. They feed on algae, but there is also the possibility to feed them hatched brine shrimp, crushed flakes or dedicated commercial fry food.
Platies (one platy two platies) are live bearers that are perfect for beginners because they are hardy fish that are very suitable for beginner tanks. They require a ratio of one male with 3 females in order to spread the aggression of the male fish.
The tank should be 20 gallons or bigger, where bigger is definitely better. It is easier to establish a balance in a bigger aquarium and there will be more room for the fry to grow to their full size.
To prepare the tank, make sure to introduce enough hiding spaces to the tank, where the fry can be safe and hide from its parents. The parents sometimes eat their newborns, but this can be prevented by adding moss and other live plants to the tank. The temperature of the tank should be between 70 – 77 F (21 – 25 C) and you should add a filter to your tank that will not suck the fry through its intake.
The last live bearers that I put on this list are swordtails, who are awesome to breed! The desired ratio of one male to three female fish remains, again in order to disperse the anger to prevent the female fish from passing away from stress.
When these fish are settled in your aquarium they will start breeding without much further effort, similar to guppies, mollies and platies. I recommend a tank size of about 20 gallons (80 L) or more, that will give your swordtails enough space. They desire a heater to keep the temperature stable between 64 – 82 F (18 – 28 C), which is a very broad range. The most important thing is that the parameters are stable, as fish do not like them changing. Make sure that you put in a filter, but be cautious that the filter does not suck in the fry so cover the intake with a sponge or a pantyhose.
Make sure to add a lot of live plants and moss to serve as hiding places for the fry. You can raise the fry in the same tank as the parents. They will immediately start eating, and can survive of the algae in an established tank. You can also feed them hatched brineshrimp, microworms and other small foods such as crushed flakes or dedicated commercial fry food.
Corydoras, often called Cory Catfish are awesome fish that live on the bottom of your tank. They are egg layers and stick their eggs around the tank. There are a lot of varieties and they come in different sizes. I myself have the salt and petter (habrosus) corydoras.
When you want to breed your corydoras, you ideally want 2 male fish for every female fish. Because corydoras are hard to sex when they are not fully matured you can introduce a group of 5 – 7 corydoras into your tank. With these numbers it is super likely that you have at least one female and one male.
Some people put their group in a seperate bare bottom tank where they can lay their eggs, but I like to keep them in my main tank. The strategy is to first feed a lot of food with a lot of nutrients like blood worms and brine shrimp combined with pallets. If you feed them multiple times per day they will know there is enough food available for their fry, which helps them spawn. After feeding your corydoras this diet for a couple of days you should do a water with a water temperature that is a couple of degrees lower than your regular water. This simulates rain season and will cause your fish to lay their eggs. They stick their eggs throughout the aquarium, most of the times on the glass.
When the eggs are on the glass, gently scrape them off using a razor blade, credit card of even your finger. It will sometimes happen that your will burst an egg, but after some practice you will become better at it. You should put these eggs in a separate tank where the eggs can hatch. Make sure to put them in a small net and put an air stone in the tank.
When the eggs have hatched you do not have to feed them the first couple of days because they still have their egg sack attached which they consume first. After that you should feed them sinking food in small portions, and when they are a couple of centimeters (3/4 – 1 inch) big you can transfer them back to the main tank.
6. Angel Fish
Angelfish are popular aquarium fish and have been for a long time. If you have a pair in your community tank they usually will start breeding. You can encourage this by feeding them protein rich food and keeping the water conditions pristine.
If your angels lay eggs in your community tank, chances are high that the parents will eat their eggs the first couple of times. They have to get good at it, and their training takes a couple of tries. After a couple of times the parents will take care of the eggs and raise their fry.
If you have other fish in your community tank together with the angels they will most likely eat the eggs, and will definitely eat the fry as soon as they are free swimming. If you have a tank with just your angel pair, your fry will be fine. You can set up a breeding tank where you put in your angel pair separately to circumvent this issue. If you do so, make sure you put your pair in a tank that is at least 20 gallon (80 L) at a temperature that matches their original tank (26 C – 79 F) with a pH that is slightly acidic, just like their natural habitat (pH = 6.9).
Overall angels are awesome to keep and ultimately breed, but if you want to breed them in the community tank that they are already in, chances are very high that the other fish will eat the fry.
7. Bristlenose Catfish (Ancistrus)
Ancistrus, often called bushynose or bristlenose catfish, are super easy to breed! They require an aquarium of at least 25 gallon (100 L) for a pair. This can be one male, which you can recognize because of the bristles on its head, and one female, which is bigger than the male and has not spikes.
In your local pet store you can buy small tunnels for your bristlenose catfish in which they can put their eggs. I have one of those in my aquariums where I keep them.
To make them lay eggs all you have to do is keep your parameters stable and feed them often. Make sure you do not over feed, because this will affect your water quality and water quality should always be your number one priority. You might encourage them to spawn by doing a 25% water change with water that is slightly cooler (1 – 2 degrees) than the aquarium water. This simulates a lot of rain in a rainy season, which is when fish naturally spawn.
After laying eggs, the male ancistrus will take care of the eggs for you! This is awesome to watch. He will lay at the entrance of the tunnel guarding the eggs and waving its fins to constantly refresh the water that surround the eggs. The eggs itself are orange, and you can take a peek every once in a while by shining a light in the tunnel if you have the entrance laying facing the aquarium glass. After a couple of weeks the eggs will have hatched and the fry will start swimming through your aquarium freely.
8. Convict “Zebra” Cychlids
Convict cichlid, often called zebra cichlids for obvious reasons, are extremely well suited for beginners. They are beautiful fish and when settled will breed very quickly. They require a smooth surface to spawn, for example river rocks or a clay pot. Also provide a lot of places where the fish can hide so they can not see each other all the time. This can be caves or bigger rocks/wood. Most plants will not survive the convicts because they will pull them out the substrate.
A breeding convict cichlid pair is extremely aggressive towards intruders, so it is best to keep them in their separate tank. The size of the tank for one pair has to be 20 gallon (80 L) at minimum, ideally you have a 40 gallon (150 L) breeder which allows for enough space for the parents and their fry to grow to be bigger. Because a lot of fry is going to be born and live in your tank, the bioload will keep increasing. Make sure to set up proper filtration that can handle the bioload increase.
9. Rainbow Kribensis
Rainbow Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher) are gorgeous fish that are rather easy to breed. They will lay eggs and guard them afterwards. They will also raise the fry to a certain size by guarding them and making sure they do not swim too far away from the parents.
A pair of rainbow kribs can be housed in an aquarium with a size of 15 gallons or more where bigger is always better for your fish and for the balance in your aquarium. They need a temperature of around 27 C (80 F) is perfect, and a neutral pH is fine.
To prepare the tank for spawning, you should add a cave for the pair of kribs to house in. These can be bought at your local fish store.
If all their conditions are met, they do not need an incentive to start spawning. Spawning takes place inside the cave, and the female will remain inside the cave until the fry have hatched an can start to swim freely. The male fish will swim around the cave to protect it and to chase away all intruders.
In about one week the fry will be able to leave the cave together, and they will stay really close to their parents. This is super cute to watch, because the parents take good care of the tiny fry. When one swims away too far the father or mother picks him up in the mouth and puts them back with the rest.
When the fry are swimming outside of the cave, you have to start feeding them. A good option for this is live brine shrimp or finely crushed flakes. Make sure to feed small quantities more often than you are used to. To keep your water quality pristine you should do water changes, you can do them daily of about 25%. If the fry are big enough the parents will stop caring for them and focus on breeding again. If you have the space you can move the fry to a separate tank. This can be a bare bottom tank with just a filter and a heater to allow the fry to grow more. The advantage is that you do not risk the parents eating the fry.
9. German Blue Rams
German Blue Rams are super beautiful and can be bred rather easily when all their requirements are met. This fish is in the list because I absolute adore this fish, and I am sure other people will be as well. They are rather peaceful cichlids, however you should not put 2 males in the same tank because they will fight. One male and one female fish is a good combination.
As of size, they need a 20 gallon (80 L) tank or bigger. Their ideal temperature is 30 C (86 F) which is rather high for a lot of fish. This is also the reason that they do not do so well in a community tank that is not designed for this fish especially. The pH range is from 6.0 to 7.5.
They like dim light, so a way to create this is by adding floating plants that will diffuse the light. If you keep only a part of the tank covered with floating plants they can choose in how much light they would like to be.
The like just a slight current, but nothing strong! This is especially important for the fry tank (if you have one) to make sure that the fry can not get dragged away by the current. If you do not have a dedicated fry/spawning tank and would rather have your fish spawn in the community tank, you have to make sure there are no other fish that will eat the fry.
A smooth surface like a smooth river rock or a terracotta plate should be available to the fish, because the female will spawn her eggs on there.
When the pair has successfully laid eggs the parents will guard and take care of the eggs. After the eggs have hatched usually the female will dig a small hole in the substrate where they guard their fry.
It can happen that you wake up one morning and look at your tank, only to see that the eggs you had last night before you went to sleep are gone. This can happen, and they are eaten by their parents. This can be caused by stress or changes in water parameters.
There loads of people that love their aquarium shrimp, and there are many different color variations that you can find in your fish store. Popular ones are cherry shrimp and fresh water ghost shrimp. I myself keep orange sakura shrimp, which are orange shrimp. Another popular species is Amano shrimp, but their eggs will only hatch in brackish water while salt kills the parents so they on the other hand are extremely hard to breed.
Both the commonly sold red cherry shrimp and the orange sakura shrimp are both different morphs of the Neocaridina davidi, which is a freshwater shrimp from Taiwan. The cool thing is that there are a lot of different color versions such as blue, red, yellow, orange, green, violet and black. Like I just said, your local fish store will probably have the red cherry shrimp for sale, and they might even have more colors to give you a choice. The Neocaridina shrimp prefers a pH between 6.5 and 8, a temperature between 14 – 29 C (57 – 84 F) and ideally prefer their temperature to be around 22 C (72 F). As you can see that is extremely tolerant to different parameters, just make sure they remain stable.
Make sure you add moss in your aquarium because the shrimp love it! The baby shrimp will stay in there where they have a place to hide from possible other fish in the aquarium. If you have fish that will most likely eat the babies your shrimp population will grow much slower compared to a dedicated shrimp only aquarium.
Freshwater Ghost Shrimp
The fresh water ghost shrimp are also very popular amongst aquarium hobbyists. They can be kept to breed just like the shrimps we just talked about. If you keep them in a shrimp only tank, their numbers will definitely increase steadily. If you however keep them in tanks with other fish, these fish will probably eat the young baby shrimp.
Some people see snails as pest creatures in their aquarium but I am definitely on the other team, I love them! There are so many different kind of snails that you can start an entire snail collection. Snails that do not breed in freshwater tanks are nerite snails. These snails are very pretty and will lay eggs (read here how you should react when your snails has laid eggs), however these eggs will only hatch in brackish water.
Clea Helena Snail
All of these snails will breed in your aquarium, and their population will slowly grow. They do not have strict requirements, as long as they are feeling well in your tank they will thrive.
The Clea Helena snail is also called the assassin snail and it is capable of killing snails that are way bigger that itself. Therefore it is highly recommended to not add these snails to tanks with other snails, unless these are tiny pest snails that you would rather not have in your aquarium.
Apple snails are there in many different sizes, but they have an interesting way of reproducing. They lay their eggs outside of the aquarium, so if you want to breed them make sure to lower your tank water just a couple of cm / inches so the snails have some space at the top of the water to stick their eggs against the glass. This makes them perfect snails because it is easy to control their population. If you do not want them to reproduce you can simply remove the eggs.
Guppy image – Author: Per Harald Olsen Licensed: CC3.0
Endler guppy image – Author: Dornenwolf Licensed: CC2.0
Molly image – Author: Gerardeen92 Licensed: CC4.0
Platy image – Author:Dornenwolf Licensed: CC2.0
Swordtail image – Author: Bernat Arlandis Licensed: CC2.0
Angel fish image – Author: Laura Wolf Licensed: CC2.0
Bristlenose catfish image – Owned: sannse Licensed: CC3.0
Convict Cichlid image – Owned: Deanpemberton Licensed: CC3.0
Rainbow Kribensis image – Owned: Anandarajkumar Licensed: CC3.0
German blue Ram image – Owned: LEONARDO DASILVA Licensed: CC2.0
Red Cherry Shrimp image – Owned: uzilday licensed: Pixabay license
Snail image – Author: Efraimstochter licensed: Pixabay license
Ramshorn snail image – Author: Kong of Lasers Licensed: CC3.0
Apple snail image – Author: Chapulines Licensed: CC4.0
Clea Helena Snail image – Author: RSX Licensed: CC3.0
Trumpet Snail image – Author: Dennis L. Licensed: CC2.0