8 Aquarium Fish That Give Live Birth (Freshwater Aquarium)

Just like many other people I fell in love with my aquarium because I got to see my guppies get babies that grew to be adults. It was just so interesting that I wanted to know what other fish or aquatic creatures gave live birth. Therefore I made a list consisting of 7 fish and 1 beautiful type of snail that give birth to live babies.

1. Guppies

The guppy needs to be on top of this list for sure, because its hands down the most popular livebearer and possibly even aquarium fish available. They come in many different colors which is what makes them so interesting. Some have long fins while others have short ones. 

Regular guppies are affordable fish but there are also fancy guppies that are sought after, making them more expensive. Next time you visit your local pet store, keep an eye out for guppies and see how cute and energetic they are.

2. Mollies

Mollies, one molly two mollies, are livebearer fish that share a lot of care requirements with guppies. They come in different colors, as well as balloon mollies and high-fin mollies. With all these varieties chances are you are dependent on what fish your local store has in stock. 

When you are buying livebearer fish like guppies, mollies and even the next to fish on this list (I won’t spoil it just yet) you need to make sure you are buying the right ratio of male to female fish. Why is this? When you buy too many males for too little females, the males will keep harassing the female fish, which causes a lot of stress. 

The females can eventually die from the potential stress, so buy at least 1 male with 3 females. The 1:3 ratio is important.

3. Platies

Third on the list are platies! A platy fish looks pretty similar to mollies but also a little like goldfish. They come in different colors, and when you breed these fish you can even create new color varieties based on the colors of the parents.

Don’t forget the 1:3 ratio of male to female fish to prevent a stress overload. Also, you should add enough hiding spaces in tanks with livebearers. Generally speaking livebearer fish are not great at the whole parenting thing. Adults have a tendency to eat their fry. Guppy fry usually survives, but mollies and platies have a smaller survival rate. To increase this, add hiding spaces or even remove the parents when they have given birth.

Platies are very strong fish that are perfect for beginners. This means that they can survive a variety of different water parameters and can live in water conditions that are not that great. If you are looking to get started with platies you can keep about 4 platies in a 10 gallon aquarium. They are perfect for breeding.

4. Swordtails

Swordtails are a special variety of platy fish that is extremely popular throughout the hobby. If you’ve seen these little guys swim in your local fish store you will immediately know why they are called swordtails. They have this beautiful long recognisable “sword” on the bottom of their body.

Swordtails are more sensitive compared to regular platies and therefore need better water parameters, but still strong suitable beginner fish. They are often kept in an aquarium that’s too small for them, because they grow to be up to 4 inches (10cm). Therefore, make sure you keep these in an aquarium of at least 15 to 20 gallons for a group of 4 fish. 

Male swordtails are generally a little smaller than females, and females have a rounded fin. Make sure to ask the store employee that’s going to be helping you to catch the right gender ratio.

5. Endlers

Just like swordtails are a variety of platy fish, endlers essentially are guppies. However, I would still classify them as their own number because there is a considerable difference. I’ve kept black bar endlers for many years and I love these fish because they have the same colors as in the wild. Guppies are bred in many excotic colors but most of them are not realistic with nature.

Also I would say endlers are better livebearers for anyone who wants to keep fish in the same tank and breed them. The adults in my experience are unlikely to eat the fry, even less likely than other guppies. 

The male endlers are really pretty and way smaller than the females. The females are brown, which is pretty boring, I must admit. One benefit that other guppies have over endler guppies is that the female fish are way prettier.

6. Rabbit snails

Not a fish! True, rabbit snails are no fish species, but they do give birth to live babies. I’ve kept rabbit snails and I still do, and they are rather easy to breed. The problem is that they are slow growers so adult rabbit snails are quite expensive. 

If you want to go ahead with these beautiful snails make sure you give them enough space because they grow quite large. Keep the water clean and you will be fine. I feed them some algae tablets and have had many babies since.

7. Stingrays

While I don’t come close to the amount of space and money one would need to breed these beauties, we can not forget (freshwater) stingrays. People like Joey from The King of DIY owns stingrays and he has been keeping them for many years. He has this old video from 2015 that I can highly recommend, so I’ll embed it here.

8. Mosquito fish

Last on the list is a rather rare fish that you do not often see in our beautiful hobby. It’s called the mosquito fish and it’s a small livebearer fish that can be kept in a tank sized 10 gallon or more. It’s way more difficult to breed compared to the first half a dozen livebearers on this list, but it can be done.

Once you’ve sexed the fish and made sure she’s pregnant, she will usually give birth to a handful fish. The adults sometimes eat the fry so make sure to remove the mother once she’s done giving birth. 

Although these fish are difficult to get a hold of as most fish stores don’t have any in store, they are one of the few fish that are native to North America. Originally it was found in the Mississippi river. I personally do not have any experience with these little fish, but I’ve found an extensive and well-written article on a website called www.aquariumtidings.com which you can check out here if you want more details about the mosquito fish.

How to protect your baby fish in your aquarium

To prevent unnecessary cannibalism we can take some simple precautions to give our fry the biggest chance of survival. First of all, you should make sure there are many hiding spaces throughout your tank. This way the baby aquarium fish can hide and avoid the bigger fish. These hiding spaces are easy to add, a great example is a bunch of java moss. 

Java moss is often used in aquaria to decorate, but it’s also used a lot when breeding fish. To add some moss, simply attach it to a piece of driftwood or a rock using fishing line, or a small cable tie. 

Another plant you can add that will give a lot of protection for your fish are floating plants like water lettuce or amazon frogbit. The roots of the floating plants are perfect for the tiny fry to hide in. In my experience the fry will start their lives near the substrate where I often have plants like java moss. Later on when their swimming has improved they move to the top of the aquarium near the water surface. 

If you want to give your baby fish the biggest chance of survival you should remove the parents as soon as the mother has given birth. If you’re really paying attention it’s possible to move the mother to a breeding tank when she’s really pregnant and about to give birth. Than you can place the mother back in the original tank and grow out the fry until they are big enough.

What to do with all the fry

If you’re just doing your initial research this question might sound silly. What do I mean “do with all the fry”? Well, if you’re feeding a protein rich diet and keeping your aquarium water pristine, adult live bearers like guppies, mollies and platies can give birth every single month. I’ve had one endler guppy give birth to 40 babies, but have heard of people that got up to 75 babies in one go. If all these grow to be adults within a couple of months you will have no clue where to take all your fish.

My tip: don’t give them away for free to your local fish store. They will sell them as feeder fish for people with giant fish, and this is not something many people want when they do not know about it. If you’re fine with this then by all means go ahead.

Instead, you could sell the fish to your local fish store. I’ve sold endler guppies to my store and received up to 1 buck per fish in store credit. That’s convenient as I’m spending money there anyways. Stores almost never buy fish and pay with cash, so expect to get store credit. 

You can also give them away to other fish keeping enthusiasts or trade them for something else with them.

Bart Sprenkels

I have been keeping multiple aquariums since I was 18 years old. Just like many of you, I started with two goldfish but quickly learned they were not suitable for aquariums. Later, I switched to a tropical community tank and I also have two pet musk-turtles in a bigger aquarium. You can read more about me here.

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