Chances are you’ve been bitten by the fish bug. Now you are thinking about breeding some fish of your own. After all, if they fish are breeding, you can justify that bigger tank you’ve been eying. Or perhaps you have accidentally stumbled on babies one morning when you went in to greet your fish. Well, either way, let’s learn about raising baby fish!

There are two common types of breeding behavior in fish. Some lay eggs, and some give birth to live babies. We’ll be looking at one of each type. Some fish are harder to breed and raise than others, so we’ll get you started with easy ones.

First, live bearers. There are many types and colors of fish that have live babies. Most live bearer moms have from 10-80 babies every month. If you have mollies, swordtails, guppies or moons, it’s likely you have already had babies born in your tank with knowing it. The biggest challenge with live bearer babies is that they get eaten. Even mom will eat her young. So, start with a group containing one male and several females. You need at least to females so one can rest while the male courts the other one. When you see a female looking fatter than normal you’ll need to place her in a breeding trap. These are little plastic or net boxes that float in your main tank. When her babies are born in the trap you’ll want to put mom back in the tank. You can now raise the babies in the trap, or move them to another tank. (This is where that other tank we mentioned comes in). When born they are tiny, so they need a tiny food created especially for baby fish, or you can also use flake food which has been crushed up smaller than normal flake size. Feed the babies small amounts often, much like a baby human, cat, or dog they need to eat often. The more often you feed them and change their water the faster they’ll grow up. After about two weeks they can switch to normal size flake food. At about ¾ inch long they can go back into your main tank. Watching them grow up is very fun, especially for kids.

Now, egg layers are different. Some, including the ones we’ll be starting with actually care for their babies. Convict cichlids are very easy to raise, and are fascinating to watch as both parents care for their brood. Convicts come in several colors, all easily sexed. The different colors will breed with each other, so get ones you like, even if the are different colors. We need to give them a place to dig a nest. Any cave that mom can fit in will do the trick. Coconut huts sold for hermit crabs work really well, or perhaps a castle. Mom will move the gravel around until her nest suits her. She’ll lay eggs, and stay in the nest fanning them with her fins, while Dad is on perimeter guard. He’ll get quite rough keeping other fish away, so you may want to keep them in a tank alone. The first few days after the babies hatch they can’t swim and don’t eat. Mom will move them around the tank by picking them up in her mouth and carrying them to a safer spot. Once you see them swimming you can start with your baby food, just like the live bearers. Watching Mom and Dad swim around with a cloud of tiny fish following them is an experience I highly recommend. At about ¾ inch they can go to new homes.

So, whether on purpose or by accident, raising your own fish is an easy hobby that I’m sure you’ll find rewarding. Plus you can sometimes even trade in your babies for store credit! I think it’s time for that bigger tank now, don’t you?

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