8 Fast Start Tropical Fish Breeding Tips

Whether you’re a novice or a pro fish breeder I don’t have to tell you that fish reproduction is about as natural an event as you can get.  The key word there is natural.  Successful freshwater tropical fish breeding is all about creating the perfect natural environment.  Once your fish are comfortable in this natural environment, spawning will quickly follow.  Breeding fish isn’t really that difficult.  These simple tips will help you kick start the process.

1. Fish Breeding Quarantine Tank

A breeding tank separates your fish from the general population and allows them to get comfortable.  This quarantine tank also protects your fry (baby fish) and/or eggs from predators.

2. The Perfect Water Conditions

Water temperatures must be optimal for the fish you are breeding.  Your tank water should be kept very clean.  Water chemistry should be optimal for the species.  Some species require higher or lower alkalinity for example.  The idea is to find your species perfect habitat.  High levels of ammonia, nitrites or nitrates can bring things to a halt so keep a close eye on these levels

3. Choose the Right Parents

Sexing your fish seems like a silly thing to mention, but with some species it’s not easy to distinguish between males and females.  You may want to add a couple of males and females to your breeding tank to be certain you have a pair.  Choose mates that have the best markings and are healthy.  Try to steer clear of cross breeding species.  Many times this results in ugly fish, even if you start with two beauties.

4. A Place to Hide

Many spawning fish like to have hiding places.  If they are shy, this makes them more comfortable.  Add some plants, a castle or rock to your breeding tank.

5. Get a Target Fish

A target fish can be added to slow moving fish breeding tanks.  This is an aggressive fish that’s added to the breeding tank to get things going.  The idea is to get the fish you are trying to breed will step up and fight for their mate.  The bond between pairs can also be strengthened as they work together to fight off this third party predator.  Be careful to not choose a target fish that is overly aggressive and could harm your fish.

6. Try a Dither Fish

If your fish won’t come out of their shell, so to speak you just might need to try a dither fish.  Some fish are too jumpy and just won’t come out from hiding in the plants or rocks.  A dither fish is a slow moving calming type fish that lets your breeding fish know things are safe.  After watching the dither fish swim about safely for awhile, they know things are OK.  This just might be what they need to come out from hiding.

7. Change up Food

Stepping up the food quality is a good idea when breeding fish.  Fish breeders call this is called conditioning.  Live or fresh frozen foods are suggested.

8. Make it Rain

Many fish species breed during the rainy season in their natural habitat.  5%-10% water changes every day or two with cooler water can simulate the in-pour of rain water in nature.  It’s the temperature change that many times stimulates spawning.

What experience have you had with breeding?

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29 Responses to 8 Fast Start Tropical Fish Breeding Tips

  1. Kevin September 6, 2007 at 10:58 am #

    Hey ur tips r really kool………bt i want to ask u a question wich is far different frm dis topic……i have a fish tank…..i mean nt xactly a fish tank bt juz a container kinda……around 1 gallon….i’ve been givin sum powdered food to them…n alrealy 3 of them hve died frm the past three days……can u please tell me the cause for this……n i also wanted to ask wat r the basic requirements for a fish tank n wat kinda fish shld i strt my nue fish tank wid??……please i’d be very happy if u do reply..

  2. Eric September 15, 2007 at 10:58 pm #

    Hello Kevin,

    It could be a number of things. You might want to start by reading up on cycling. Check out this article. http://www.fishtanktutor.com/aquarium-cycling-without-killing-your-fish
    You might also want to spend a few buck on a fish tank test kit. My fist guess is that your ammonia is off the charts.

  3. zak March 4, 2008 at 8:28 pm #

    i wus just wondering what types of fish are nice have a low price and are fast to breed.or a fish(s) that are fast breeding and look fine.
    p.s i have had ALOT of experince with fish but havent quite mastered all the stuff that experts know

  4. Eric March 6, 2008 at 7:38 am #

    Hey Zak,
    Guppy’s come to mind as probably the easiest fish to breed. They aren’t too expensive and many are nice looking as well.

  5. munaf May 12, 2008 at 7:04 am #


    I was wondering if it’s possible to breed fish without separating them into an isolation tank (cos I just don’t have one). I’ve got say, 9 fish, 3 of which are neons, and I’d like the neons to breed (if at all possible). it is possible to set up some sort of improvisation within the tank to allow them to breed? (maybe like a net separating them or some extra rocks or a feature?)

  6. Eric May 13, 2008 at 5:58 am #

    Hello Munaf,
    Yeah, it is possible to breed without an isolation tank but it may take longer to happen. Your fish just get a chance to get more comfortable. It also gives you a way to protect the fry from being eaten by other fish.

    I don’t think the rocks will work to well but you an get acrylic tank dividers. They have small holes to allow water flow. The only problem is that your fry can get through the holes. It will at probably speed up your breeding though.

  7. Basinji12 June 23, 2008 at 7:23 pm #

    I was just wondering my neighbor is giving me fish. He is giving me 4 fish and a male and a female guppie. I just want to know what to do. Can they just have babies in the tank and hide behind the grass and plants. The other fish are red wg tail platies can they breed just in the tank to. Please help!!!!!!!!!!! REPLY PLEASSSSEE!!!

  8. Eric June 25, 2008 at 6:23 am #

    They sure could. Guppies are some of the easiest fish to breed. The chances are really depending on the conditions. The key is they have to feel safe, have enough room to hide and that sort of thing. The safer they feel, the more likely it is to happen.

  9. hammy June 29, 2008 at 10:43 am #

    Hello I was just wondering if you could help me please. My guppy is pregnant but she always swims to the top of the tank and stops swimming and stays there. I put my fingers outside the tank where she is and she swims away and then does it all over. What is the matter with her is going to have her babies soon will she die. PPPLEASSEEEEE HHHELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Sam June 29, 2008 at 5:56 pm #

    HI. I am more of a fish expert, i’ve been working with fishes since i was 10. I’m 14 right now, and I currently have a 20 gallon tank, with 9 stacks of plants, so its a good foresty location, 1 large nice entrance drift wood, fake cave, another small fake cave.

    Heres the special part, this is impressive:
    I started out with goldfish, like many other low budgeters, and worked my way up.

    Now I have filters, air pumps, etc. My tank has a hood and a fluorcent light.
    I have 2 Goldfish, (Which are really nice!) AND, TROPICAL FISH. I have 2 zebra danios, 2 clouds, and 2 longfinned danios. There doing very well and love the tank, and get along with my beautiful goldfish.

    I am extremely happy about my fish, and you got to admit, keeping exact nitrate levels and having a very natrual take is pretty impresssive.

    Ok, now that the braggings over, I have a question about breeding, haha.

    So, I want to breed my tropical fish or goldfish. I can’t tell if there female or male, i know you have to look at the anal or something of the goldfish to tell if its female or male, but i just want these fish to breed.

    What do you advise? My tanks really good i feel.. but its might not be good ednuogh.

    I think i might add another driftwood too, i buy the drift wood INTANK ALREADY GROWN BACTERIA at petco. Its really nice stuff!

  11. Eric July 2, 2008 at 5:50 am #

    Hi Hammy,
    It sounds like she is ready to give birth. Most of the time they hide, but it is also natural to stay around the top of the tank where there is extra oxygen. You’ll want to just test your water and look at her closely for signs of anything else. If all else checks out, I wouldn’t worry.

  12. Eric July 2, 2008 at 6:01 am #

    Hi there Sam,
    Very impressive! It’s great to see someone so young that has really gotten in to this hobby.

    I suggest trying to breed your Zebra Danio’s. Goldfish are tough to breed all around.

    Typically male Zebra’s have deeper, brighter colors and are skinnier. Females are more dull in color and are fatter.

    Also, once you are pretty certain of sex, you should just go down the list above in this post. They are really the most popular and effective techniques for getting your fish in the mood.

  13. munaf July 2, 2008 at 8:16 am #


    Posted here before, happy with this site. very cool. have 50L tank, about 20 small fish (8 neon tetras, 2 spotted catfish, 1 smaller pinkish (funny looking) catfish, 4 tiger barbs, 1 guarami (huge) and a few guppies (black and orange)) and lots of ornaments but no real plants.

    Almost every week I notice a few fish with bulging bellies – obviously pregnant females – but I never see any fry. I know i need to separate them into an isolation tank, but I just don’t have one just yet. what can I do to help them give birth? add more shrubs? hiding places?

    I want to get a bigger tank and use my current tank as an isolation tank,but big tanks are more expensive….. how small does the isolation tank need to be? and does it have to be kit out with all the elements of the larger tank?



  14. Sam July 2, 2008 at 2:45 pm #

    Hey. Thanks for teh zebra Info.

    I just bought a new filter for my 20 gallon (long) with 8 live plants i planted, its the maarineland penguin sponge filter Heres the link: http://petco.com/product/5543/Marineland-Penguin-Power-Sponge-Filter.aspx
    I bought it from petsmart for 40$.

    Do you think I should return it? Petsmart’s refund policy lets me return it any time (i even talked to the manager, he said i can)

    The reason why i’m asking this is the filters going to be my main one soon, and it says it has biological filtration, but the only thing that i see that comes iwth it that is the “filter” part of it is the sponge. Is that biological filtration, alteast for the fish?

    Should I keep it? It seemed to make my water really clean after about 30 minutes.. but that might just be my water, its a little strong, 170gph, but i can use it if its required of course.

  15. Eric July 2, 2008 at 9:55 pm #

    Hi there Munaf,
    A 10 gallon quarantine tank would do the trick. Nothing fancy. There are a bunch of tips here.
    That’s really your best bet.

  16. Sam July 2, 2008 at 9:57 pm #

    Also, I am planning on buying the tahiton white moon sand from the petsmart store (20 lb bag, “safe for freshwater and marine”

    Can I simply lay the sand and take out only a quarter of the gravel i have in the tank? I want the bacteria to live iwth the gravel still


  17. Eric July 2, 2008 at 10:01 pm #

    Hello Sam,
    Your sponge filter will develop as a bio filter. A bio filter isn’t really any sort of mechanism. It’s basically good bacteria that builds up and balances out your aquarium. I would suggest a wet/dry bio wheel type of filter though as one of the most productive in your same price range.

    Take a look here for a few more filter tips.

  18. Sam July 2, 2008 at 10:20 pm #

    I would get an external filter like the bio wheel marineland filter, but my tank is only 1.5 inches away from the wall, so the best external one i could POSSIBLY get is like a 10 gallon filter.. yeah, i know, it sucks… >.>

    So I’m looking at different filters.

  19. Sam July 2, 2008 at 10:48 pm #

    heres what the sand is, and heres the link for the one i’m buying, a 20 lb bag, probably gonna use like 10-15lb

    please read my previous post about the sand:
    thats the link for the sand
    i’m getting moonlight white sand
    its very fine sand, but i heard it works

  20. Sam July 2, 2008 at 11:01 pm #

    I also have live plants, will they grow in this sand still?

  21. Eric July 3, 2008 at 8:58 pm #

    You can grow plants in sand. You’ll also want to use root tabs plant fertilizer. Your sand will work fine. As for changing over to the sand, it sounds like you have the right idea. It’s safest to change out 1/4 of your gravel for sand, once a week until your fully switched over.

  22. Sam July 3, 2008 at 10:16 pm #

    I plan on exchanging my HUGE Sponge filter, for the DUETTO DJ100.
    Heres a link to do it:
    The DJ100 is okay for the maximum of 20 gallon aquariums.
    It cost 30$ in store in petco
    Also, it is around 7.5 inchs by 3.5 inches by 1.5 inchs (the width of it)
    IS it good for a planted fish tank with drif twood?
    I also plan on buying 1 or 2 more pieces of drift wood.



    PS: I Quit on the sand idea, I heard its a pain because you have to stir the sand every week or it will create and harden or something and kill the fish ??

    PS.2. I will post a pic up of my fish tank next week on thursday or friday to show what it looks like! I would really appreciate your opinion.

    I plan on getting possibly 1 or 2 more schooling fish.

    Have a nice day!

  23. Eric July 5, 2008 at 8:40 am #

    The filter you chose should work fine for your needs.

    Sand is a little more work.

    Also, remember schooling fish prefer to be kept in 3+ of the same species.

  24. john July 22, 2008 at 12:57 pm #

    hi i have a 10gal tank with 4 guppies and a cory catfish. I was thinking of getting a dither fish because my 2 females are already pregnant can you recommend 1? Plus is a 1-2gal (im not sure) big enough to house both the females until birth?
    I’d transfer them back to the 10 gal after. Also i was thinking of getting some plants, can you recommend some? thanks man

  25. john July 22, 2008 at 1:01 pm #

    PLus i keep hearing all these people say feed your guppies live or frozen food. I dont know what frozen foods they eat, im just feeding them flakes for now. can you recommend some? thx

  26. Eric July 25, 2008 at 6:03 am #

    Hey there John,
    With the number of fish you have, and the number you could have shortly, I wouldn’t recommend a dither fish. The popular choices would all be schooling fish and your tank just won’t be able to handle that many fish very well. The good would be outweighed by the bad. The 1-2 gallon would be fine for a short time. Brine shrimp are probably the most popular live or frozen food for guppies.

  27. Tristan July 27, 2008 at 2:24 pm #

    I have 3 tanks, two 20 gals, and one 55gals. One of the 20 gal tanks I have 6 crayfish and 5 goldfish in. The other 20 gallon I have 50 goldfish in. Then the 55 gal tank I have 5 angels and some other fish approx 10-15 fish. i want babie what do i do?

  28. Tristan July 27, 2008 at 2:25 pm #

    I want to breed the angel fish. what do I do. I have 5 of them

  29. Eric July 29, 2008 at 6:05 am #

    There are some Angelfish breeding ideals here:
    The tips above are the biggies. Getting your Angels into one tank by themselves, with some combination of your tanks is a good idea. Make sure they have a place to hide and pair off.