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 in keeping fish tanks and fish rooms, Cory still loves to breed fish in his 20-gallon aquarium. He has both the long and the high 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
Most people know about Betta splendens with their large and colorful fins, but breeding them can be hassle since the male juveniles are too territorial to cohabitate and must be raised in individual jars until they reach a sellable 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 have personally kept and had great success with strawberry bettas (B. albimarginata and Penang bettas) but there are other species like snakehead bettas and B. rubra. We like to cover the aquarium with thick hardscape and plant densely to create a break in the line of sight for future fry. To increase humidity and stop fish jumping out, a tight fitting lid is recommended. 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. The male will let the babies swim once they have hatched. Baby brine shrimp is a superfood that can help fry grow quickly and powerfully. Just know that the male cannot eat while he is holding eggs, so to prevent him from losing too much weight, put the female into a separate tank or breeder box until he has time to regain his mass before breeding them again. As the tank becomes more crowded, remove the juveniles to make room for the next brood and prevent territorial disputes.
2. Dwarf Shrimp
Dwarf shrimp is a good choice for breeding something that is in high demand and easy sell. 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. Use a sponge filter that has gentle flow or put a prefilter sponge on your canister filter to keep any babies from getting sucked up.
If you want to grow as many shrimp as possible, keep an aquarium that is only for your species and no tank mates. If you are looking for a more lively aquarium, you can add nano fish such as chili rasboras or green neon tetras. You can feed them a lot to make sure they don’t eat too much and give the babies shrimp more places to escape. For more ideas, read our article on the top 12 tank mates to keep with dwarf shrimp.
3. Fancy Guppies
Another aquatic animal that is super popular and easy to breed is fancy guppies. As with most livebearers they need good water and food to reproduce. Parents will predate on their young so add plenty of plants such as water sprite or Pogostemon.stellatus “octopus” to increase the number. The babies can hide and adults have a harder job reaching them. Either you want to breed a tank with random colors or a single pure color. Be prepared to cull and remove deformed or undesirable traits from the fry in both cases. Read the entire article for more information on colony breeding livebearers, such as guppies.
4. White Cloud Mountain Minnows
Hobbyists tend to think that egg layers are more difficult to raise than livebearers. White cloud minnows, however, can be a great way to start if you have never tried it. Because they are sold as feeder fish, Cory originally bought a group of them for cheap and then was surprised when he accidentally bred a ton of them. His success encouraged him to start the “White Cloud Race” at the local fish club. Contestants would start with six mininows and see how many can they make in the summer season. This fish is very easy to care for and can be kept outside in mini-ponds during the summer. You can raise the fry in the same colony as the adults, provided you don’t have any snails or fish. To increase survival rates, add lots of fluffy, dense plants to shelter the fry and keep them away from the older juveniles. Our care guide provides more information about the breeds and their handling.
5. Desert Gobies
You may feel that you have bred every species of fish you see after a few years of fishkeeping. Is there an oddball fish you can find that is easy to reproduce? Meet the desert goby. We love the unique behavior and colorful appearance of this fish. 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. Their large mouths can make them territorial and they will need lots of hiding places during the spawning season. You can encourage breeding by adding a PVC pipe measuring 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) and watching them lay eggs in it. Once they hatch out, you’ll spot little fry scooting around on the ground. They don’t yield as many eggs as livebearers and won’t be able to grow large colonies. However, they are an interesting fish that many people have never tried.
Good 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. For more tips and tricks, check out our favorite articles on breeding aquarium fish.