Can Pet Fish Have Babies?

It can be fascinating to see the numbers of your aquarium fish increase. If you’re keeping livebearers, you could witness a new generation in the fish family every year! And since they breed so quickly, you could even experiment by mixing different coloured adults to create babies of mixed coloured varieties.

Most species of aquarium fish do not breed in the aquarium. However, there are some species that can be bred with a little work and others that breed completely on their own.

Different Ways in Which Fish Breed

Some species are livebearers, meaning they gave birth directly to live young. Babies of livebearers are like miniature versions of their parents and are able to search and eat their food and hide from predators from the moment they are born. However, most aquarium species are egg layers.

To get fish ready to breed, they need to be provided with temperatures within a certain range, clear water, plenty of different kinds of food and a safe spot in the aquarium.

If you intend to breed your fish, it is best to try and create an environment similar to their natural habitat in the aquarium.

Some species Like the Zebra Danios and Tiger barbs are egg scatterers. Egg scatterers lay their eggs directly on the aquarium floor. The eggs may or may not be laid under decoration or plants.

Some species like the Discus lay eggs that stick to vertical surfaces such as decorations and rocks.

Some species even carry their eggs around in their mouths and after they hatch, even carry the babies in their mouths! These kinds of fish are called mouthbrooders. Several species of African cichlids are mouthbrooders.

Killifish bury their eggs in the substrate.

Bettas make nests out of bubbles for their eggs to be laid in.

Do Parent Fish Care for Their Babies?

Most Cichlid species take good care of their eggs and babies. Both the parents guard the eggs from the other fish in the aquarium. They tend to get a lot more aggressive than normal and will even chase away larger fish.


Mouthbrooding species keep their eggs in their mouths as soon as they are fertilised. Examples are Arowana and Mbuna Cichlids. They keep the eggs in their mouths until they hatch. During this period, they typically don’t eat anything and lose weight as a result.

The ‘mouth brooding’ continues even after the eggs hatch. The fish fry are kept inside the parent’s mouth for a few days. The fry venture outside to feed while the parent keeps an eye on them.

If it notices any threat, it signals the babies and they immediately return inside the parent’s mouth for safety. In some species, the mother takes care of the babies in this way, while in others, the father does.

Mouthbrooders have far fewer offspring per clutch than some other species. However, their extensive care ensures that a lot of the babies survive their first weeks of life.

Mucus feeders

Some species of fish secrete mucus to feed their young. Discus are notable for their unique way of caring for their babies.

Once the eggs hatch, the babies feed on mucus that is secreted from both the parents’ bodies. Like mammalian milk, the nutritional properties of the mucus change as the babies grow older. This behaviour continues for about 4 weeks after the babies hatch.

For most of the first 3 weeks of their lives, the babies constantly follow their parents. During the 4th week, the babies start spending some time away from the parents.


Once Livebearers give birth, they do not care for their young at all. The babies are left to find food and fend for themselves. Livebearers even eat babies, even if they are from the same species!

They are also the easiest to breed, and will breed in almost any water conditions (within their suitable range)!

Syed Baseeruddin Hyder

I’ve been keeping fish and invertebrates in aquariums for over 5 years. Over the years, I’ve kept more than 15 different species of fish and invertebrates. Through, I hope to guide new and experienced fish keepers alike with as detailed information as I can get.

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