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 Parents
Many fish do not show any parental care towards their offspring and will happily eat their own eggs that they just laid a few seconds ago. First, save the eggs! One of the following methods can be used depending on the species and the 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 eggs are scattered and won’t stick to anything, you can place layers of marbles on top to let them fall between cracks so parents don’t have to reach them. 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. – Certain African cichlid species are mouth brooders that protectively hold their eggs and fry inside their mouths. To prevent babies from getting swallowed or to allow the fry to be released into the main tank without being discarded, some breeders may choose to remove the egg (or fry) from the mother. This allows the mother to rest and recover. 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. 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. 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. You can add a few drops of methylene blue (until the water turns slightly blue) or some alder cones as a gentle fungicide, and then do a couple of 50% water changes in the container once the eggs hatch. With both techniques, use a turkey baster to remove any eggs that have fungal growth.
2. The Fry should be removed
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. It is best to keep your newborns in a smaller container, so they don’t need to swim as far to get to their food. Because the fry can live in the same water and tank conditions as their parents, a net breeder or a breeder box with a bunch of moss is ideal. Livebearers who prefer to live young rather than laying eggs can place the pregnant female in the box as she is about to give birth, and then take the mother out after the fry are born.
A breeding box lets you raise fry in the aquarium with the adults, while protecting them against predation.
When the baby fry are bigger and stronger, move them to a larger grow-out tank to give them more room to swim around. 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. If necessary, you can also cull sick fry to stop defective genes spreading and avoid selling customers unhealthy fish.
3. Provide Lots of Cover
If you don’t have enough space for an additional grow-out tank, colony breeding is an option. In this method, the parents and the young are raised in one fish tank. This method is not the best, but it will produce more offspring than you would expect. It is important to have plenty of small spaces that the babies can fit into, but not the adults, in order to increase fry survival rates. Breeders make DIY fish fry traps by using craft mesh or floating pond plant baskets. They also use zip ties to attach the mesh to a tall cylindrical. This allows you to place a pregnant livingbearer inside the trap, so the fry can escape through the holes. Or vice versa. 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. 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). Some species prefer a pile of rocks with small gaps in between for the youngest fish to squeeze past. If the fish are being pursued, decorations for aquariums and artificial caves may provide extra hiding spots.
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 hardy than adult fish and therefore can be more sensitive to any toxins or excess waste in the water. You should use gentle filtration such as a sponge filter and maintain the filter regularly to prevent fish poop from building up. 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.
Consider doing multiple water changes each week, or daily, to start feeding your fry. This part can be a little stressful because no one wants to accidentally vacuum up any babies. When cleaning a breeder net or small container, a turkey baster is a nifty tool for carefully removing small amounts of water. You can also make a siphon aquarium using lengths of airline tubing. Attach the other end of the tubing with rubber bands to a chopstick and place it in the aquarium water. You can maneuver the siphon easily and avoid getting in the way of the baby fish by using the chopstick. You can use your mouth and suck the tubing’s other end to get water flowing through it. After that, you can place the end in a white bucket to collect any 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 have the siphoned water stream into a fish net or breeder net clipped to the side of the bucket, which will then collect any fry that escape.
Make a DIY fry siphon from tubing, a chopstick and rubber bands to clean grow-out tanks.
5. Feed Tiny Foods Multiple Times a Day
Fry have tiny mouths and tiny stomachs, and just like human babies, they must constantly eat all throughout the 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. For larger foods, you can use an automatic fish feeder or set alarms on your smartphone. 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. Not only are they packed with highly nutritious proteins and healthy fats, but they also actively swim in the water column, triggering your baby fish’s hunting instincts so that their bellies become filled with delicious, pink crustaceans. Check out our step by step tutorial to learn how you can hatch your own baby salt shrimp.