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. A tiny baby may be spotted if you take care of your fish and are feeding them well. Although accidental fry are always fun, there are ways to improve their survival rate or increase your profit margin if they are sold for profit.
1. Protect the Eggs from the Parent
Many fish don’t show parental care and will happily eat the eggs they’ve just laid. Therefore, the first step is to save the eggs from being gobbled up. 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. After the eggs have been laid, you can move them to a safer place. 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 not sticking to the substrate, you can layer layers of marbles to give them a place to fall between the cracks. A mesh screen from a craft store can be placed above the aquarium floor for eggs to fall through. Some breeders like to put mosses or other bushy plants underneath the mesh as additional protection.
Some fish such as discus prefer to lay their eggs vertically on spawning tiles or cones, like the discus.
– Most cave-spawning fish (like plecos and dwarf cichlids) are good at guarding their eggs, but new parents are often prone to eating 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. Some African cichlid species have mouth brooders which protect their eggs and fry in 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 a complicated topic, so make sure to do some research on stripping eggs and the best method 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. An egg tumbler can be used to place larger eggs, such as those belonging to African cichlids and plecos. It continuously blows fresh, oxygenated air onto eggs, which discourages fungal infections. A second option is to place the eggs into a small container of water. This will allow for circulation. The eggs can then be kept warm by being placed in an aquarium or by being clipped to the tank wall. Add a few drops methylene blue to the water until it turns slightly blue, or add some alder cones for a mild fungicide. Once the eggs hatch, you can do a few water changes at 50%. To remove eggs with fungal growth, you can use either one of these methods.
2. Remove the Fry
Even though the eggs have been hatched, baby fish remain in the danger zone. Separating fry from adults will not only keep them from being eaten but also allow them to grow larger and faster due to less competition for food. 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. The ideal shelter for fry is a net or breeder box that has a clump moss cover. This allows them to share the same tank and water conditions with their parents. If livebearers prefer to bear young eggs rather than lay eggs, the female can be placed in the box during her pregnancy. The mother can then be removed after all fry have arrived.
A breeder box allows you to raise fry in the same aquarium as the adults while protecting them from predation.
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. You may have to separate the fry according to size so that they are not competing for food. If necessary, you can also cull sick fry to stop defective genes spreading and avoid selling customers unhealthy fish.
3. Offer lots of cover
Colony breeding can be used if you do not have the space to install an extra grow-out tank. This allows the parents and their young to be raised in the same aquarium. Although this method may not produce the most offspring, it is much more efficient in terms of space, time, and cost. 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 will often create DIY fish fry traps from floating pond plants baskets or craft mesh that is rolled up into a long cylinder with 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. 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.
If you prefer a more natural-looking form of shelter, a thick jungle of live aquarium plants also serves the same purpose. Our favorites for colony breeding include java moss, Pogosteman stellatus ‘octopus’, water sprite, and floating plants with bushy roots (like dwarf water lettuce and frogbit). Some species prefer a pile of rocks with small gaps in between for the youngest fish to squeeze past. 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. Maintain good water quality
Baby fish are more susceptible to toxins and excess waste than adults, so they are less resilient than adult fish. Regular maintenance of the filter is essential to ensure it does not become clogged with fish poop. 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.
You will likely be feeding the fry many times per week so it is worth doing several water changes per day. 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. A length of airline tubing can be used to create an aquarium siphon for grow-out tanks. Attach one end to a rubber band-attached chopstick, then place the other in the aquarium water. The chopstick makes it easy to maneuver the siphon without causing damage to the baby fish. 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. 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 from tubing, a chopstick and rubber bands to clean grow-out tanks.
5. Eat Tiny Foods Multiple times a Day
Fry are tiny and have tiny stomachs. They must eat throughout the day, just like humans. 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. Even the smallest of newborns (e.g. rainbowfish and Tetras), should be fed microscopic foods such as green water, infusoria or fry powder. Larger fish, such as African cichlids and livebearers, can eat small fish food, Repashy gel foods, Easy Fry, and crushed flakes almost immediately.
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. These shrimp are packed with healthy fats and nutritious proteins. They also actively swim in water columns, activating your baby fish’s hunting instincts. You can learn how to hatch your own baby brine shrimp by following our step-by-step instructions.