Whether you’re just starting out or have been an aquarist for years there’s nothing more fun and exciting than breeding tropical fish successfully.  Although this may not be the easiest of things to accomplish there are many things you can do to help encourage breeding along the way.  With the right tools and a bit of patience anyone can enjoy the fun and satisfaction of watching your own baby fish grow up.

Credit: Lloyd Robert Photography

Although it may seem easy ensuring you have both male and female fish is not as easy as it sounds.  Most breeders keep the female fish and sell males to the pet stores so it can take time and a bit of trial and error to find female fish.  Do some research and find out the differences between the male and female fish you want to breed, some fish are easier to sex than others as they have particular physical characteristics identifying them.  In some fish there are egg spots on the anal fin of males or females have shorter more rounded fins.  Depending on the fish you are looking to breed it may be nearly impossible to find distinguishing characteristics of male or female such as with the datnoid.

Environment and tank set-up is key, it’s important to know how your fish breed, do they lay eggs or are they mouth brooders?  Do they lay eggs on a flat surface or spread them out on many surfaces?  It’s very important to set your tank décor as if it was their own natural habitat as best you can.  If the fish is a mouth brooder providing caves or places the female can hide while she has the eggs in her mouth is important as the other fish may begin to pester her as the eggs come close to hatching.  For fish that lay eggs on surfaces it’s ideal to provide multiple surfaces and textures depending on what they like such as rocks, wood and clay pots tend to work well.

While providing the ideal environment is important ensuring the water quality, pH, and temperature are just as important.  Most city water does not have the ideal balance of chemicals for fish and checking your pH balance regularly is important.  Each time you do a water change you may need to adjust the chemical balance depending how large the change was.  Adjusting your pH level to match what the fish would experience in nature is very important, it helps reduce their stress level, keeps them more colourful, and helps encourage breeding by providing a more natural living space.  Typically fresh water fish enjoy a pH between 5.5 and 7.5 depending where they originate.  In addition to balancing your water keeping it at a temperature the fish is used to will help to maintain their optimal health and encourage breeding.

It may take time to find the right balance of fish, environment and water quality before your fish will successfully breed but with a bit of patience it will pay off.  There are many online forums that can be beneficial to connect with while working to set up an optimal breeding environment as they may be able to provide tips and tricks they’ve learned only after years of experience.  Whether it’s small fish or large fish, you’re a beginner or experienced, the first steps to breeding fish begin with the environment.

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