How do I get started in breeding marine fish?

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Want to breed marine fish, but don't know where to start? Matt Pedersen offers a few tips.

Start by keeping more than one fish of the same species! Ten to 20 years ago, putting something like two Pygmy angelfish of the same species in the same tank would have been shocking.

While not advocating haphazard additions, aquarists have learned more about social and reproductive strategies of fish, so the concept of one per tank is now antiquated.

Many reef fishes we keep can be spawned readily in a regular aquarium and heavy feeding and a clean environment often get mature fish spawning.

Beyond needing broodstock, you will need at least one or two extra aquariums for larval rearing. You’ll also need to establish cultures of live foods, typically including rotifers and phytoplanton as base feeds.

Too often hobbyists wait until their fish start breeding before establishing food culture and have to scramble. Start learning and culturing before you actually need them.  

If seriously interested in breeding, research your preferred species. You may also find the information necessary to pair them up.

Among the best beginner fish are Banggai cardinals, some clownfish, seahorses with benthic larvae, Bristletail filefish, Green wolf eels, Convict eel goby/blennies, Neon gobies and some dottybacks. These have very manageable rearing protocols and have short or no pelagic larval phase.  

Research with books, magazines and online. Planning ahead is the best advice I can give — that and be willing to withstand failures as it’s not often you get it right first time!

This item first appeared in the December 2009 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.