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
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 cover the aquarium with thick hardscape and plant densely to create a break in the line of sight for future fry. It is recommended that you use a tight-fitting lid to keep fish from jumping out. For aggression-free swimming, small dither fish can be added to the tank such as neon Tetras. These bettas love acidic, tannin-stained waters so make sure to include catappa leaves and other botanicals.
The male will care for the brood for the next 1.5-3 week after the female has borne eggs and the eggs have been fertilized. 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. Baby brine shrimp is a superfood that can help fry grow quickly and powerfully. 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. As the tank becomes more crowded, remove the juveniles to make room for the next brood and prevent territorial disputes.
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 you can choose from, such as Caridina Crystal shrimp, Neocaridina cherry Shrimp, and even Sulawesi Shrimp. You should select the one that will work best in your normal tap water. 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. You can find more ideas in our article about the best 12 tank mates for dwarf shrimp.
3. Fancy Guppies
Another aquatic animal that is super popular and easy to breed is fancy guppies. They reproduce just like other livebearers if they are given good food and water. The parents will predate on their own young, so to increase your numbers, add lots of plants like water sprite and Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’ where the small babies can take cover and the adults have a harder time 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. The full article explains how to breed colonies for 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 initially bought a bunch of them as feeder fish. He was then surprised to discover that he had accidentally bred over a hundred of them. Encouraged by his success, he went on to run the “White Cloud Race” at his local fish club where contestants would start with six minnows and see how many they could make over the summer season. This fish is very easy to care for and can be kept outside in mini-ponds during the summer. The fry can be raised together with the adults as long as there aren’t too many fish or snails. It’s the older juveniles that will sometimes prey on their younger siblings, so add plenty of dense, fluffy plants for shelter and keep moving out the teenagers to increase the fry survival rate. 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 kind of oddball fish can you find that is still easy to reproduce? The desert goby is your friend. Although it isn’t the most colorful fish, we love their unique appearance and unusual behaviors. They can be kept in community aquariums, but the majority of them will end up being food. Therefore, we prefer to keep them in a specific species-only facility for 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. You’ll see little fry crawling around the ground once they hatch. 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.
We wish you all the best with your next 20-gallon breeding endeavor. Although we do not ship live fish, you may browse our stocking lists at the preferred online retailers to view what they have. Check out our top articles about breeding aquarium fish for more information.