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 keeping fish rooms and tanks of all sizes, he still loves breeding fish at home in the versatile 20-gallon aquarium (both the high and long versions). Learn about his top 5 favorite fish and invertebrates that are easy to spawn and raise up 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. However, some of the mouth-brooding Betta species are a little more peaceful where males and females can be kept together in a 20-gallon breeding setup. 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. We like to densely plant the aquarium and add tall hardscape to break up line of sight and provide hiding spots for the future fry. A tight-fitting lid is recommended to increase humidity and prevent fish from jumping out. For aggression-free swimming, small dither fish can be added to the tank such as neon Tetras. This species prefers acidic, tannin-stained water so add catappa leaves or other botanicals.
After the eggs are fertilized and the female has borne their offspring, the male must keep the brood alive for the next 1.5-3 months. 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. The fry can usually eat baby brine shrimp immediately after hatching. This superfood will allow them to grow fast and is extremely nutritious. 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 to choose from – such as Neocaridina cherry shrimp, Caridina crystal shrimp, and even Sulawesi shrimp – so select a type that works best with your normal tap water’s parameters. Dwarf shrimp are great scavengers and will eat any gunk or mulm that is left in your tank. While it’s nice to keep them in a beautiful planted aquascape, they would be just as happy in an algae-filled setup because of all the free food to graze on. To prevent tiny babies being taken in, you can use a gentle flow sponge filter or a prefilter sponge to filter the water.
If you want to grow as many shrimp as possible, keep an aquarium that is only for your species and no tank mates. You can also add green neon tetras and chili rasboras to make your aquarium more active. Feed them heavily so they’ll be less likely to munch on the colony and add more hiding spots for the baby shrimp to escape. Find out more about our top 12 tank mates that dwarf shrimp should keep.
3. Fancy Guppies
Fancy guppies are another aquatic animal that is very popular and easy to breed. Like most livebearers, just provide good water and food and they’ll reproduce like rabbits. If the parents are not available to care for their children, you can add more plants, such as Pogostemon Stellatus ‘octopus’ and water sprite, so that the babies have cover and the adults can reach them. Either you want to breed a tank with random colors or a single pure color. 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. Read the entire article for more information on colony breeding 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. He was inspired by his success and started the “White Cloud Race”, a contest where contestants would start off with six minnows to see how many they could produce over the course of the summer season. This fish is easy to keep and can be kept outdoors in small ponds during warmer months. As long as you don’t have too many snails or other fish with them, the fry can be raised up with the adults in the same colony. The older juveniles will often prey on the younger ones, so make sure to have plenty of shelter, and move the teens out. To learn more about their husbandry and the different color variants, read our care guide.
5. Desert Gobies
After several years in the fishkeeping hobby, you may get to the point where you feel like you’ve already bred all the common species, like guppies and shrimp. What oddball fish are you able to breed that is still reproducible? Meet the desert goby. Although it isn’t the most colorful fish, we love their unique appearance and unusual behaviors. They can go in community tanks but most of the babies will probably end up as food, so we like to keep them in a species-only setup for the purposes of breeding. You should provide plenty of hides for subdominant adults as they have large mouths. A 0.5-inch (1.35 cm) PVC pipe can be added to encourage breeding. Watch them lay eggs inside. Once they hatch out, you’ll spot little fry scooting around on the ground. They aren’t as high-yielding as livebearers so don’t expect to build a huge colony, but they are a really cool fish that many people haven’t played with before.
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.