Top 5 Easy Fish Breeding Ideas for your Next 20-Gallon Aquarium

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 years of experience with fish tanks and fish rooms of all sizes, Cory still enjoys breeding fish in his 20-gallon aquarium. This is both the long and high version. Here are his top five favorite fish and invertebrates, which are easy to spawn in a colony environment.


1. Mouth-Brooding Bettas

Betta albimarginata

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. Some of the mouth-brooding Betta species can be kept together in a 20 gallon breeding set. We have had great success keeping the strawberry betta, B. albimarginata, and Penang Betta (B. pugnax), however there are many other species such as the snakehead and rubra bettas (B. channoides). To break up the line of sight and create hiding places for future fry, we like to plant the aquarium densely and add tall hardscape. A tight-fitting lid is recommended to increase humidity and prevent fish from jumping out. To break up aggression, you can add small dither fish such as neon tetras. Most of these bettas prefer acidic, tannin-stained water, so don’t forget to add catappa leaves and 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

Neocaridina davidi

Dwarf shrimp is a good choice for breeding something that is in high demand and easy sell. There are many species available, including Caridina crystal shrimp, Neocaridina cherry shrimp and Sulawesi shrimp. Make sure to select one that is compatible with your tap water. Dwarf shrimp love to eat all the gunk and mulm in an aquarium. They do well in a tank that has been in good condition for several months. 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. However, if you want a livelier aquarium, then you could add other nano fish like chili rasboras and green neon tetras. 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. For more ideas, read our article on the top 12 tank mates to keep with dwarf shrimp.

3. Fancy Guppies

Poecilia reticulata

Fancy guppies are another aquatic animal that is very popular and easy to breed. Like most livebearers, just provide good water and food and they’ll reproduce like rabbits. If the parents are not available to care for their children, you can add more plants, such as Pogostemon Stellatus ‘octopus’ and water sprite, so that the babies have cover and the adults can reach them. You can choose to breed a tank full of random, mixed colors or try to work on a single, pure stain. 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

Tanichthys albonubes

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 easy to keep and can be kept outdoors in small ponds during warmer months. 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. Learn more about how to care for them and what color variations they have.

5. Desert Gobies

Chlamydogobius eremius

You may feel that you have bred every species of fish you see after a few years of fishkeeping. What kind of oddball fish can you find that is still easy to reproduce? The desert goby is your friend. While it’s not the most colorful fish out there, we love their unusual appearance and unique behaviors. 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. You should provide plenty of hides for subdominant adults as they have large mouths. A 0.5-inch (1.35 cm) PVC pipe can be added to encourage breeding. Watch them lay eggs inside. When they hatch, you will see tiny fry crawling on the ground. Although they don’t produce as much as livebearers, they can be a great fish to play with.

Best of 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. You can find more helpful tips in our article on how to breed aquarium fish.