Top 5 Easy Fish Breeding Ideas for Your Next 20-Gallon Aquarium
When our founder Cory first got into fishkeeping, funds were tight, so he started breeding fish to help with his hobby expenses. After many years of experience in keeping fish tanks and fish rooms, Cory still loves to breed fish in his 20-gallon aquarium. He has both the long and the high versions. Find out his 5 top favorite fish and invertebrates to spawn and raise in a colony setting.
1. Mouth-Brooding Bettas
Betta splendens is well-known for their colorful fins. However, breeding them can be difficult as the male juveniles are territorial and cannot cohabit. They must be kept in separate jars until they reach an acceptable size. Some mouth-brooding Betta species, however, are more peaceful and can be kept together in 20-gallon breeding sets. We’ve personally kept and had success with the strawberry betta (B. albimarginata) and Penang betta (B. pugnax), but there are several other species to try like the snakehead betta (B. channoides) and B. rubra. To break up the line of sight and create hiding places for future fry, we like to plant the aquarium densely and add tall hardscape. To increase humidity and stop fish jumping out, a tight fitting lid is recommended. To break up aggression, you can add small dither fish such as neon tetras. Most of these bettas prefer acidic, tannin-stained water, so don’t forget to add catappa leaves and other botanicals.
The male will care for the brood for the next 1.5-3 week after the female has borne eggs and the eggs have been fertilized. After the babies are born and have begun swimming freely, the male will dispose of them and leave them to fend for their own good. Baby brine shrimp is a superfood that can help fry grow quickly and powerfully. Keep in mind that the male can’t eat eggs while they are still holding them. To prevent him from becoming too heavy, place the female in a separate tank until he regains his mass before breeding again. To make space for the next generation of brood, you can remove the juveniles from the tank.
2. Dwarf Shrimp
If you want to breed something that’s in high demand and easy to sell, then dwarf shrimp are the way to go. There are many species available, including Caridina crystal shrimp, Neocaridina cherry shrimp and Sulawesi shrimp. Make sure to select one that is compatible with your tap water. Dwarf shrimp are great scavengers and will eat any gunk or mulm that is left in your tank. Although it is nice to have them in a planted aquascape, they will be happy eating the algae-filled food. For filtration, use a sponge filter with gentle flow (or put a pre-filter sponge on the intake of your hang-on-back or canister filter) to prevent any tiny babies from being sucked up.
If your goal is to produce as many shrimp as possible, then keep a species-only aquarium with no other tank mates. However, if you want a livelier aquarium, then you could add other nano fish like chili rasboras and green neon tetras. They will be more likely to eat the colony, and they will also need to be fed heavily to provide safe places for baby shrimp to escape. Find out more about our top 12 tank mates that dwarf shrimp should keep.
3. Fancy Guppies
Fancy guppies, another popular aquatic animal, are easy to breed. They reproduce just like other livebearers if they are given good food and water. Parents will predate on their young so add plenty of plants such as water sprite or Pogostemon.stellatus “octopus” to increase the number. The babies can hide and adults have a harder job reaching them. You can choose to breed a tank full of random, mixed colors or try to work on a single, pure stain. In both cases, be prepared to cull the fry and remove any young that show deformities or throw undesirable features that would mess up your line breeding efforts. The full article explains how to breed colonies for livebearers such as guppies.
4. White Cloud Mountain Minnows
Most hobbyists think of egg layers as much harder to breed and raise compared to livebearers, so if you’ve never tried it before, white cloud minnows are a great entry-level fish. Cory bought a few of these fish as feeder fish and was shocked when he accidentally bred several. Encouraged by his success, he went on to run the “White Cloud Race” at his local fish club where contestants would start with six minnows and see how many they could make over the summer season. This beginner-friendly fish is quite hardy and can even be kept outside in mini ponds during the warmer months. You can raise the fry in the same colony as the adults, provided you don’t have any snails or fish. To increase survival rates, add lots of fluffy, dense plants to shelter the fry and keep them away from the older juveniles. To learn more about their husbandry and the different color variants, read our care guide.
5. Desert Gobies
You may feel that you have bred every species of fish you see after a few years of fishkeeping. Is there an oddball fish you can find that is easy to reproduce? Enter the desert goby. We love the unique behavior and colorful appearance of this fish. Although they can be kept in community tanks, most of their babies will end up as food. We prefer to keep them in a species only setup for breeding purposes. Their large mouths can make them territorial and they will need lots of hiding places during the spawning season. To encourage breeding, add a 0.5-inch (1.3 cm) PVC pipe and watch them lay eggs inside. You’ll see little fry crawling around the ground once they hatch. Although they don’t produce as much as livebearers, they can be a great fish to play with.
Best of luck with your next 20-gallon breeding project. While we don’t ship live fish, you can browse the stocking lists of our preferred online retailers to see what they have available. You can find more helpful tips in our article on how to breed aquarium fish.