How to Raise Baby Fish Fry in Your Aquarium
One of the most thrilling parts of the aquarium hobby is getting your fish to breed. If you are taking good care of your fish and feeding them well, one day you may spot a tiny baby darting around the tank. Accidental fry can be exciting but there are many ways to increase their survival rate and boost your profits if you intend on selling them.
1. Protect the Eggs from the Parent
Many fish don’t show parental care and will happily eat the eggs they’ve just laid. First, save the eggs! Use one of the following methods based on the species and their egg-laying behavior:
– If the eggs are sticky, you can provide sites for the eggs to be laid, such as yarn spawning mops, dense plants (like java moss or frogbit), ceramic tiles, or spawning cones. You can move the egg spawning location to a safer spot once the eggs are laid. You can also remove sticky eggs from aquarium glass and other immovable objects if they are on the aquarium glass. Another method is to manually collect the eggs by rolling them off with your fingers or using a plastic credit card. If the eggs are not sticking to the substrate, you can layer layers of marbles to give them a place to fall between the cracks. A mesh screen from a craft store can be placed above the aquarium floor for eggs to fall through. As an extra protection measure, some breeders place mosses and other bushy plants under the mesh.
Some fish like discus prefer to use spawning cones or tiles to lay their eggs on vertical surfaces.
Cave-spawning fish such as plecos or dwarf cichlids are excellent at protecting their eggs. However, parents often allow their children to eat the eggs. If you wish to hatch the eggs yourself, use an appropriate-sized pleco cave, coconut hut, Apistogramma cave, or PVC pipe for the fish to spawn, and then take away the cave as soon as the eggs are laid. Some African cichlid species have mouth brooders which protect their eggs and fry in their mouths. Some breeders will remove the eggs or fry from the female to protect them from being swallowed accidentally, to stop the fry being released into the main tank, and to give the mother time to recuperate from her duties. This is a complicated topic, so make sure to do some research on stripping eggs and the best method for you.
After the eggs are isolated, it is time for them to be hatched. Unfertilized eggs are more susceptible to fungus growth, which can rapidly spread and destroy entire clutches. Larger eggs that belong to African cichlids, plecos, peacock gudgeons, and the like can be placed in an egg tumbler that constantly blows fresh, oxygenated water onto the eggs and discourages fungal infections. A second option is to place the eggs into a small container of water. This will allow for circulation. The eggs can then be kept warm by being placed in an aquarium or by being clipped to the tank wall. A few drops of methyleneblue (until it turns slightly blue) can be added to the eggs. After the eggs hatch, it is possible to do a few 50% water changes in your container. To remove eggs with fungal growth, you can use either one of these methods.
2. The Fry should be removed
The baby fish are still in danger even after the eggs hatch. Separating fry from adults will not only keep them from being eaten but also allow them to grow larger and faster due to less competition for food. The best thing for the babies is to be kept in a smaller container. This will allow them to spend less energy swimming to reach their food. A net breeder or breeder box with a clump of moss for shelter is ideal because it allows the fry to live in the same tank and water conditions as the parents. If livebearers prefer to bear young eggs rather than lay eggs, the female can be placed in the box during her pregnancy. The mother can then be removed after all fry have arrived.
A breeder box is a way to keep your fry safe from predators and allows you to raise them in the same aquarium with the adults.
If the baby fry become stronger and bigger, it is time to move them to larger grow-out tanks to allow them more space. To prevent cannibalism or reduce competition for food, it is possible to separate fry by size and place them in multiple aquariums. This is a great opportunity to remove sickly fry and prevent them from spreading to other aquariums.
3. Provide Lots of Cover
For people who do not have the room for an extra grow-out aquarium, you can try colony breeding instead, in which the parents and young are raised in the same fish tank. Although this method may not produce the most offspring, it is much more efficient in terms of space, time, and cost. To increase the fry survival rate, the key is to provide tons of little nooks and crannies where the babies can escape into but the adults cannot fit inside. Breeders will often create DIY fish fry traps from floating pond plants baskets or craft mesh that is rolled up into a long cylinder with zip ties. This allows you to either place a pregnant livebearer inside the trap so that the fry can escape out the holes, or vice versa where the parents are outside the trap and the fry can swim inside for safety. A giant wad of Easter basket grass is also used by breeders to create a dense mass that only the tiniest babies can swim in between.
A thick jungle of live aquarium plants can be used to shelter your animals if you prefer something more natural. Our favorites for colony breeding include java moss, Pogosteman stellatus ‘octopus’, water sprite, and floating plants with bushy roots (like dwarf water lettuce and frogbit). Some species prefer a pile of rocks with small gaps in between for the youngest fish to squeeze past. Aquarium decorations and small artificial caves are great options for hiding from predators.
To hide your baby fish, add many aquarium plants.
4. Make sure you have good water quality
Baby fish are less resistant than adult fish, and can become more sensitive to toxic substances or other waste. Regular maintenance of the filter is essential to ensure it does not become clogged with fish poop. If you’re using a hang-on-back (HOB) or other filter with an intake tube, cover the intake with a pre-filter sponge to prevent little ones from getting sucked into the motor.
Since you will be feeding the fry a lot, consider doing daily or multiple water changes per week at first. This can be stressful as no one wants to accidentally vacuum-up any babies. A turkey baster can be used to remove small amounts of water from a small container or breeder net. You can also make a siphon aquarium using lengths of airline tubing. Attach one end of the tubing to a chopstick with rubber bands, and then place that end into the aquarium water. The chopstick allows you to easily maneuver the siphon and avoid the baby fish. Use your mouth to suck on the other end of the tubing to start water flowing through the tiny siphon, and then place that end into a white bucket for collecting dirty water. The white bucket makes it easier to see any fry that might have accidentally escaped so you can retrieve them with a turkey baster, or small shrimp net. You can also pipe the siphoned water into a fish or breeder net that is attached to the bucket. This will capture any fry that escape.
Make your own DIY fry siphon using tubing, chopsticks, and rubber bands.
5. Multiply your small food intake multiple times per day
Fry have tiny mouths and tiny stomachs, and just like human babies, they must constantly eat all throughout the day. Newly hatched fish come with a yolk sac that feeds them until they are strong enough to freely swim and look for food. They will then require small meals every day, preferably 3-5 times. You can set alarms for your phone, or use an automatic feeder to feed larger fish. The smallest newborns (e.g., rainbowfish and tetras) should be fed nearly microscopic foods like green water, infusoria, fry powder, and vinegar eels. Larger fish, such as African cichlids and livebearers, can eat small fish food, Repashy gel foods, Easy Fry, and crushed flakes almost immediately.
Hatching live brine shrimp to give to your fish fry is the best method to increase their growth.
However, the #1 fry food that every veteran fish keeper and fish farm knows will bring out the best growth and numbers in your breeding projects is live baby brine shrimp. These shrimp are packed with healthy fats and nutritious proteins. They also actively swim in water columns, activating your baby fish’s hunting instincts. If you haven’t tried hatching your own baby brine shrimp, check out our step-by-step tutorial and give it a try.