Many fishkeepers shy away from breeding under the assumption that it’s difficult and complicated. This is not necessarily so, indeed fish in the community aquarium often breed on and off, you may even have spotted the eggs on occasion, only to see them disappear overnight as a result of them being eaten by other fish.
It’s quite by accident that some fishkeepers start off on their breeding experiences. Maybe a hobbyist keeping livebearers was able to spot young being born, and net them out of the community aquarium in time, before any cannibalism took place, from then on he/she became “hooked”, if you’ll pardon the expression. Cichlids have a tendency to mate in the community aquarium, and in so doing cause bedlam as they tear up plants and try to dig their way out of the tank, so introducing their keeper to the delights of breeding.
Every fishkeeper must be thrilled by his/her first successful experience of breeding their favourite fish and seeing it surrounded by healthy fry. For many serious fishkeepers breeding their favourite species is a challenge they can’t resist. Lots of beginners too will be thinking about breeding their fishes as a focal point of their hobby.
Careful consideration should be given towards the results of breeding your fishes beforehand, i.e. do you have the necessary space, spare time, and extra equipment? This will be needed not only for breeding purposes, but also for housing the offspring (possibly hundreds) afterwards. Do you have future homes for the young fishes, or the assurance that a dealer would take them off your hands? If not, what might be the fate of these young fishes?
Inbreeding is a particular problem; this results in deformed fish, and other defects that have been inherited from poor parentage. Never breed from deformed fish; this will stop defects being passed on to subsequent generations. When choosing potential breeding fish, choose fish with good colour, perfect erect fins, and in general a good-looking robust body. If possible try to breed fish from different dealers, i.e. the male from one dealer and the female from another, this will illuminate the risk of any inbred defects. However, there is an exception to this precaution, and that is when you are involved with cultivated fish, such as Platies, Guppies, Mollies, and Swordtails. Here you should work with a breeder of these species and ask his advice on how to manage their genetics when breeding them yourself.
An important point that is often overlooked is that adults should be brought into condition before attempting to spawn them. Keeping the male and female apart, ideally in separate aquariums, is the best way to achieve this.
Correct feeding is essential to health and growth, today’s dry foods are of exceptional quality and can sustain adult fishes for a lifetime. The feeding of breeding stock however, needs to be regularly supplemented with good live food. When the fry are born they too need the protein and goodness from live food that is essential to health and growth.
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Conservation and the Aquarist
The majority of fish in aquaria today are in consequence of captive breeding from the many fish farms around the world. However, there is still a significant number of species that are collected from the wild. The Amazon Basin is a typical example; millions of species such as, Catfish, Discus, and Tetras are exported from that region alone. It has become clear in recent years that there is some decline in wild stocks because of over fishing, with some species having been all but depleted.
If you care to look at this hobby of ours from a different angle for a moment, you may see that the millions of fish that are being bred by aquarists in the hobby has become a support to the conservation of fish stocks in the wild. As long as fish are being bred in captivity, whether it is commercial or hobbyist, the lesser the pressure will be on wild stocks. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if there are species in aquaria that have actually become extinct in the wild. Indeed I have heard somewhere that Cherry Barbs are in serious decline in the wild, even though there are millions of them around the world, in home aquariums.