One of the most popular groups of freshwater aquarium fish, particularly among novice aquarium hobbyists, is the livebearers. Included in this group are guppies, mollies, platies and swordtails – all of which are some of the most colorful species of freshwater aquarium fish. This group of fish was so named because, rather than laying eggs like many species, they produce live young. The fry produced by livebearers are often larger than the fry of egg-laying species just after birth and they tend to grow very quickly if fed properly. If you plan to breed the livebearers in your tank, take the time to read these tips and tricks.
Conditioning Tips for Fish
Before you can expect your livebearers to breed you need to properly condition them. The process of conditioning fish for breeding involves feeding them a healthy, varied diet – typically one that is high in protein. In addition to their traditional diet of commercial flakes or pellets, offer your fish small amounts of fresh, frozen and freeze-dried foods. Over time, you should notice the color of your fish becoming more vibrant. Males of livebearing species often develop intense color when they are ready for breeding and females may exhibit similar behavior. To increase your chances of success, condition the males and females in separate tanks and do not introduce them into the breeding tank until they are ready to spawn.
Tips for Encouraging Spawning
Once your fish are properly conditioned you can introduce them to the breeding tank. The breeding tank should be set up to match the conditions of the main tank, having the same water chemistry so your fish can make the transition seamlessly. You may also want to keep the bottom of the tank bare to facilitate easier cleanings and to make it easier to spot the fry once your fish have spawned. In many cases, fish that have been properly conditioned will mate very quickly after being introduced into the breeding tank. If your fish need a little encouragement, however, you might try raising the temperature in the tank by a degree or two. You may also find it helpful to provide two or three females for every male of a given species – this will reduce aggression between males and increase your chances of achieving a successful spawning.
Raising the Young
Once spawning has occurred it is wise to remove the parent fish from the tank so they do not eat their young. While some egg-laying species of fish exhibit parental care, livebearers typically do not so it is best to raise the fry on their own. Because fry are very small when they are first born they will not be able to accept traditional flake foods. Start your fry off on a diet of very small live foods like infusoria and brine shrimp nauplii. Offer the fry several small feedings per day to encourage quick growth during their first few days of life. After two weeks, begin performing weekly 25% water changes to keep the tank clean. As the fry grow you will be able to transition into larger foods like daphnia and eventually finely crushed flake foods.
One of the most important aspects of breeding aquarium fish is maintaining high water quality. If the water quality in your tank declines, not only are your fish likely to become stressed but they are also less likely to breed. In order to ensure success in breeding your livebearers, consider adding an EcoBio-Stone to your tank. EcoBio-Stones are made from porous volcanic cement and they are infused with beneficial bacteria. These bacteria will rapidly multiply in your tank, working to maintain the nitrogen cycle which will help to keep the water in your tank clean and clear. The cleaner the water is in your breeding tank, the more likely you are to be successful in breeding your livebearers.