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. You might see a baby fish if you take good care of them and feed them well. While accidental fry are always exciting, there are several ways you can increase their survival rate or boost your numbers if you plan on selling them for profit.
1. Parents, protect the eggs
Many fish will happily eat eggs they have just laid and show no parental care to their offspring. 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. If sticky eggs have been placed on aquarium glass or any other immovable object, the parents can be removed from the tank. The eggs can be manually collected by rolling them with your fingers, or using a plastic creditcard. – If the eggs are freely scattered around and don’t stick to things, you can use layers of marbles as substrate to allow eggs to fall in between the cracks where the parents can’t reach them. To allow eggs to fall through, you can also place a mesh screen or plastic net from the craft shop just above the aquarium’s bottom. As an extra protection measure, some breeders place mosses and other bushy plants under the mesh.
Some fish such as discus prefer to lay their eggs vertically on spawning tiles or cones, like the discus.
Plucking eggs from cave-spawning fish like dwarf cichlids and plecos is a skill that most fish are very good at protecting. However, new parents can be tempted to eat them. If you want to hatch the eggs yourself use a suitable-sized Apistogramma, Apistogramma, coconut hut or PVC pipe to allow the fish to spawn. Once the eggs are laid, remove the cave. Certain species of African cichlids have mouth brooders, which keep their eggs and fry safe inside their mouths. However, some breeders choose to strip the female of the eggs (or fry) to prevent the babies from being accidentally swallowed, stop the fry from being released into the main tank, and give the mother more time to recover from her duties. This is an in-depth topic that extends beyond the scope of this article, so do your research to learn more about stripping eggs and which method works best for you.
After the eggs are isolated, it is time for them to be hatched. Eggs, especially unfertilized ones, are prone to growing fungus, which can quickly spread and ruin an entire clutch. You can place larger eggs belonging to African cichlids or plecos in an egg tumbler. This will constantly circulate fresh, oxygenated water and discourage fungal infections. You can also place the eggs in small plastic containers of water that have an air stone to circulate the egg. Keep the eggs warm by putting them in an aquarium, or simply clipping the container 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. You can remove eggs with fungal growth using either of these techniques.
2. Take out the Fry
After the eggs have hatched, the baby fish still aren’t out of the danger zone. Separating fry from adults is a good idea to keep them safe and allow them to grow faster as there is less food competition. 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. For livebearers that bear live young instead of laying eggs, you can place the pregnant female in the breeder box when she’s about to give birth and then remove the mother after all the 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.
To give your baby fry more space to swim, you can move them to a bigger grow-out tank when they are stronger and larger. If some fry are growing faster than others, you may need to separate them out by size into multiple aquariums to prevent cannibalism and lessen competition for food. This is a great opportunity to remove sickly fry and prevent them from spreading to other aquariums.
3. Make sure you have plenty of coverage
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. This method is not the best, but it will produce more offspring than you would expect. The key to increasing fry survival is to create lots of tiny spaces for babies that are safe and secure. For example, breeders often make DIY fish fry traps using floating pond plant baskets or craft mesh rolled into a tall cylinder using zip ties. You can either place a pregnant livebearer in the trap to allow the fry to escape from the holes or vice versa, where the parents can be outside and the fry can swim within the trap. Breeders also use a giant wad of Easter Basket grass to create a dense mass where only the very smallest babies can swim between it.
If you prefer a more natural-looking form of shelter, a thick jungle of live aquarium plants also serves the same purpose. For colony breeding, our favorite plants are java moss (or Pogosteman stellatus “octopus”), water sprite and floating plants with bushy root systems (such as dwarf water lettuce or frogbit). For young fish to get past, some species prefer small gaps between rocks. Finally, aquarium decorations and small artificial caves can provide additional hiding places for fry to dart behind if being chased.
For colony breeding, you can add lots of aquarium plants to hide your baby fish.
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. You should use gentle filtration such as a sponge filter and maintain the filter regularly to prevent fish poop from building up. To prevent small fish from getting into your motor, use a hang-on back (HOB), or any other filter that has an intake tube.
You will likely be feeding the fry many times per week so it is worth doing several water changes per day. This is a time-consuming part that can cause stress as it is possible to accidentally vacuum up 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. To start the water flowing through the siphon, use your mouth to suck on the tubing. Then place the tube into a bucket to collect the dirty water. You can see the white bucket better so you can find any fry that have escaped. 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 a DIY fry siphon out of tubing, a chopstick, and rubber bands for cleaning grow-out tanks.
5. Multiply your small food intake multiple times per day
Fry have small mouths and tiny stomachs. Just like human babies, they need to eat every day. The yolk sac is a food source for newly hatched fish until they can swim freely and search for food. They then need small meals up to 3 times per day. 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 newborn fish (e.g., livebearers and African cichlids) can almost immediately eat crushed flakes, Repashy gel food, and Easy Fry and Small Fish Food.
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. They are full of healthy fats and nutrients, as well as active swimming in the water column. This triggers your baby fish’s hunting instincts to produce delicious pink crustaceans. You can learn how to hatch your own baby brine shrimp by following our step-by-step instructions.