What to feed baby fish fry

How to Raise Baby Fish Fry in Aquariums (and Increase Survival Rate) – Aquarium Co-Op

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Home· Freshwater Aquarium Blog·How to Raise Baby Fish Fry in Your Aquarium

One of the most thrilling parts of the aquarium hobby is getting your fish to breed. If you are taking good care of your fish and feeding them well, one day you may spot a tiny baby darting around the tank. While accidental fry are always exciting, there are several ways you can increase their survival rate or boost your numbers if you plan on selling them for profit.

1. Protect the Eggs from the Parents

Many fish do not show any parental care towards their offspring and will happily eat their own eggs that they just laid a few seconds ago. Therefore, the first step is to save the eggs from being gobbled up. Use one of the following methods based on the species and their egg-laying behavior:

  • If the eggs are sticky, you can provide sites for the eggs to be laid, such as yarn spawning mops, dense plants (like java moss or frogbit), ceramic tiles, or spawning cones. Once the eggs are laid, you can move the spawning site to a safer location.
  • If the sticky eggs are laid on the aquarium glass or other immovable objects, you can remove the parents from the tank. Another method is to manually collect the eggs by rolling them off with your fingers or using a plastic credit card.
  • If the eggs are freely scattered around and don’t stick to things, you can use layers of marbles as substrate to allow eggs to fall in between the cracks where the parents can’t reach them. Another similar technique is to place a mesh screen or plastic mesh from the craft store just above the bottom of the aquarium floor to let the eggs fall through. Some breeders like to put mosses or other bushy plants underneath the mesh as additional protection.

Some fish like discus prefer to use spawning cones or tiles to lay their eggs on vertical surfaces.

  • Most cave-spawning fish (like plecos and dwarf cichlids) are good at guarding their eggs, but new parents are often prone to eating them. If you wish to hatch the eggs yourself, use an appropriate-sized pleco cave, coconut hut, Apistogramma cave, or PVC pipe for the fish to spawn, and then take away the cave as soon as the eggs are laid.
  • Certain African cichlid species are mouth brooders that protectively hold their eggs and fry inside their mouths. However, some breeders choose to strip the female of the eggs (or fry) to prevent the babies from being accidentally swallowed, stop the fry from being released into the main tank, and give the mother more time to recover from her duties. This is an in-depth topic that extends beyond the scope of this article, so do your research to learn more about stripping eggs and which method works best for you.

Once the eggs have been isolated, now it is time to hatch them. Eggs, especially unfertilized ones, are prone to growing fungus, which can quickly spread and ruin an entire clutch. Larger eggs that belong to African cichlids, plecos, peacock gudgeons, and the like can be placed in an egg tumbler that constantly blows fresh, oxygenated water onto the eggs and discourages fungal infections. Another method is to place the eggs in a small, plastic container of water with an air stone for circulation, and keep the eggs warm by floating the container in an aquarium or clipping it to the side of the tank wall. You can add a few drops of methylene blue (until the water turns slightly blue) or some alder cones as a gentle fungicide, and then do a couple of 50% water changes in the container once the eggs hatch. With both techniques, use a turkey baster to remove any eggs that have fungal growth.

2. Remove the Fry

After the eggs have hatched, the baby fish still aren’t out of the danger zone. Separating the fry from the adults not only prevents them from being eaten, but it also allows them to grow bigger and faster because there is less competition for food. Additionally, it is best to keep the newborns in a smaller container so that they don’t have to expend as much energy swimming to reach their meals. A net breeder or breeder box with a clump of moss for shelter is ideal because it allows the fry to live in the same tank and water conditions as the parents. For livebearers that bear live young instead of laying eggs, you can place the pregnant female in the breeder box when she’s about to give birth and then remove the mother after all the fry have arrived.

A breeder box allows you to raise fry in the same aquarium as the adults while protecting them from predation.

When the baby fry are bigger and stronger, move them to a larger grow-out tank to give them more room to swim around. If some fry are growing faster than others, you may need to separate them out by size into multiple aquariums to prevent cannibalism and lessen competition for food. This sorting process is also an opportunity to cull any sickly fry if needed to prevent defective genes from spreading and to avoid giving customers unhealthy fish.

3. Provide Lots of Cover

For people who do not have the room for an extra grow-out aquarium, you can try colony breeding instead, in which the parents and young are raised in the same fish tank. While this approach may not yield the highest number of offspring, it is certainly easier in terms of time, cost, and space. To increase the fry survival rate, the key is to provide tons of little nooks and crannies where the babies can escape into but the adults cannot fit inside. For example, breeders often make DIY fish fry traps using floating pond plant baskets or craft mesh rolled into a tall cylinder using zip ties. This allows you to either place a pregnant livebearer inside the trap so that the fry can escape out the holes, or vice versa where the parents are outside the trap and the fry can swim inside for safety. A giant wad of Easter basket grass is also used by breeders to create a dense mass that only the tiniest babies can swim in between.

If you prefer a more natural-looking form of shelter, a thick jungle of live aquarium plants also serves the same purpose. Our favorites for colony breeding include java moss, Pogosteman stellatus ‘octopus’, water sprite, and floating plants with bushy roots (like dwarf water lettuce and frogbit). Some species prefer a pile of rocks with small gaps in between for the youngest fish to squeeze past. Finally, aquarium decorations and small artificial caves can provide additional hiding places for fry to dart behind if being chased.

For colony breeding, adding lots of aquarium plants can help hide your baby fish.

4. Keep Good Water Quality

Baby fish are less hardy than adult fish and therefore can be more sensitive to any toxins or excess waste in the water. Make sure to include gentle filtration like a sponge filter, and regularly maintenance the filter so that it doesn’t become clogged up with fish poop. If you’re using a hang-on-back (HOB) or other filter with an intake tube, cover the intake with a pre-filter sponge to prevent little ones from getting sucked into the motor.

Since you will be feeding the fry a lot, consider doing daily or multiple water changes per week at first. This part can be a little stressful because no one wants to accidentally vacuum up any babies. When cleaning a breeder net or small container, a turkey baster is a nifty tool for carefully removing small amounts of water. For grow-out tanks, you can also create a tiny aquarium siphon using a length of airline tubing. Attach one end of the tubing to a chopstick with rubber bands, and then place that end into the aquarium water. The chopstick allows you to easily maneuver the siphon and avoid the baby fish. Use your mouth to suck on the other end of the tubing to start water flowing through the tiny siphon, and then place that end into a white bucket for collecting dirty water. The white bucket allows you to more easily see any fry that accidentally escape so that you can retrieve them using a turkey baster or little shrimp net. You can also have the siphoned water stream into a fish net or breeder net clipped to the side of the bucket, which will then collect any fry that escape.

Make a DIY fry siphon out of tubing, a chopstick, and rubber bands for cleaning grow-out tanks.

5. Feed Tiny Foods Multiple Times a Day

Fry have tiny mouths and tiny stomachs, and just like human babies, they must constantly eat all throughout the day. Newly hatched fish come with a yolk sac that feeds them until they are strong enough to freely swim and look for food. Then they require multiple small meals, up to 3-5 times a day if possible. You can set alarms on your phone or even use a automatic fish feeder for larger foods. The smallest newborns (e.g., rainbowfish and tetras) should be fed nearly microscopic foods like green water, infusoria, fry powder, and vinegar eels. Larger newborn fish (e.g., livebearers and African cichlids) can almost immediately eat crushed flakes, Repashy gel food, and Easy Fry and Small Fish Food.

Hatching live baby brine shrimp to feed your fish fry is the best way to increase their growth and health.

However, the #1 fry food that every veteran fish keeper and fish farm knows will bring out the best growth and numbers in your breeding projects is live baby brine shrimp. Not only are they packed with highly nutritious proteins and healthy fats, but they also actively swim in the water column, triggering your baby fish’s hunting instincts so that their bellies become filled with delicious, pink crustaceans. If you haven’t tried hatching your own baby brine shrimp, check out our step-by-step tutorial and give it a try.

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How to Feed Aquarium Fish Fry


Shirlie Sharpe

Shirlie Sharpe

Shirlie Sharpe is an aquatic expert and writer with over three decades of experience keeping and raising ornamental fish. She has consulted with The Minnesota Zoo and the National Aquarium. Shirlie has also authored a book on setting up aquariums.

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Updated on 12/02/19

Reviewed by

Nick Saint-Erne

Reviewed by Nick Saint-Erne

Dr. Nick Saint-Erne, DVM, is a highly accomplished veterinarian and writer who has treated zoo animals and exotic pets for more than 35 years. He has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve pet store animal care among other endeavors. Dr. Saint-Erne is part of The Spruce Pets' veterinary review board.

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Kai Schreiber / Flickr / CC By 2.0

The key factors to keeping the fry alive and healthy are keeping the water and environment clean, protecting the fry from adult fish, and providing proper nutrition. Most fish owners already know how to take care of the first two, but feeding fry is often the stumbling block that new breeders run into. Newborn fish cannot eat the same foods as the parents, so the challenge is providing the proper food until the fry grow large enough to eat standard foods.

Fry Type

Keep in mind that young fish will eat different foods at different stages of their development. Likewise, different species of fish have somewhat different needs. For instance, newly hatched Discus fry feed off their parents' slime coat for the first few days of life and therefore do not need to be fed until they have grown past that stage. It is wise to study the species of fish you are breeding to determine if the fry have special feeding requirements.

Taking a broader view, there are two general types of fry, those that are hatched from eggs and those that are born live. Fry that are born live are larger and have developed more fully than those hatched from eggs. Consequently, these live-born fry have a larger mouth than the typical fry hatched from an egg, and can, therefore, eat larger foods from the start. It is quite common for live-born fry to eat a finely ground version of the same foods as parent fish.

Fry from egglaying fish are smaller when they hatch and often are not free swimming for the first few days. In these cases they remain at the site where the egg was attached, feeding off their yolk-sac until they begin to swim free on their own.

Feeding Stages

Fry that are freshly hatched have very tiny bodies, and can only eat the smallest of foods. However, they are growing rapidly, and have demanding nutritional needs. This stage is particularly critical, as newly hatched fry can starve to death quickly. Some of the best foods at this stage are infusoria, freshly hatched brine shrimp, and green water. These foods must be available immediately when the fry hatch, as they cannot wait even one day for foods to be prepared. If the previously described foods are not available at the time the fry hatch, egg yolk preparations, and commercially prepared fry foods are good alternatives that don't require a lot of time to prepare.

Once the fry have passed the first week or two of life, they are generally large enough to eat similar foods as the parents, just in smaller portions. Virtually all purchased foods, either flake, pelleted, or freeze-dried, can be ground to a fine size that fry can eat. This article describes simple steps for creating your fry foods, using simple tools that you probably have on hand. As the fry grow larger, you can make the food particles larger until they can eat the same size food as the parent fish. Keep in mind that although the fry may now be eating the same foods as the parents, they need to be fed more often due to the small size of their stomachs.

Fry Foods

There are several basic high-quality foods that most fry will do well on. As previously mentioned, these foods must be on hand at the time the fry hatch, and the supply must be continuous until they can eat traditional foods. So prepare ahead of time to ensure you have what you need. Aquarium clubs come in handy when rearing fry, as there are often members who can help you in a pinch. If you want to breed and raise fish, consider finding a local club for support.

  • Infusoria: Infusoria grows naturally in most tanks, particularly those with live plants. However, there may not be sufficient quantities to sustain the full hatching of fry. Therefore, it is helpful to culture your own infusoria to ensure having an adequate amount. This infusoria article from your Guide gives plenty of tips for growing your own culture.
  • Brine shrimp: Few things can rival the nutritional value of freshly hatched brine shrimp or the appeal it has to virtually all fish. If you choose to raise it yourself, you will have to start the culture before the fry hatch and keep it going for a while to ensure the fry have sufficient quantities. Another option that owners use is a commercially prepared live brine shrimp preparation, or frozen baby brine shrimp.
  • Green water: Green water is exactly what it sounds like, water with microscopic algae growth that turns it green. It makes excellent first food for young fry and is easy to grow. Simply take a gallon jar and fill it with aquarium water, scrape some algae out of your tank and add to the jar (if you have no algae, a bit of grass will suffice). Add a few drops of plant fertilizer, then leave the jar in full sun. Within a matter of days, the water should be green and teeming with microscopic nutrients that are ideal for your fry. Take a few ounces out of the jar for each fry feeding, and replace it with treated freshwater.
  • Egg yolk: Egg yolk is a power-packed food that is easy to make into preparation for newly hatched fry. Hard boil an egg, take the yolk and wrap in a small piece of gauze, compressing it so small portions protrude through the cloth. Hang it in the tank and the fry will feed off it. Remove and replace daily for the first several days.
  • DIY fry food: Live born fry, or fry that are a week or more old can usually eat finely ground foods, that you can prepare yourself.
  • Purchased fry food: Commercially prepared fry foods.

Live-Bearer Development Period Inside Female and as Fry

Feed for aquarium fish fry, how and what to feed?

Food for aquarium fish fry

In this article, we will talk about starter food for fish fry. Nowadays, it is not difficult to raise the fry of any aquarium fish. The range includes excellent dry food for juvenile fish. For example, TetraMin Baby is a complete micro-flake food that combines high quality and functional ingredients. A complete diet for the daily nutrition of ornamental fish fry up to 1 cm in length, which allows for healthy growth in the early stages of development. nine0003

We also note that virtually any "adult" food, rubbed with fingers into dust, is suitable for feeding fry.

Food for aquarium fish fry

At the same time, if you have the opportunity or raise elite fish fry, it is best to feed them live food. This is due to the fact that fry of many fish species eat only live prey, mainly because they do not perceive immobile food as food at all, at least at first. However, in some cases, fry can learn to associate the approach of an aquarist with food, and then, they will try everything that is offered to them. Suitable small live foods for rearing fry are ciliates, Artemia nauplii and microworms. nine0003

Infusoria (microorganisms) are essential as the very first food for tiny fry. Old aquariums overgrown with algae may contain a fair amount of naturally occurring microorganisms. But in spawning grounds, where conditions are usually more sterile, there are no ciliates and they have to be bred artificially. To do this, put some vegetable matter (usually crushed lettuce leaves) in a jar of water and place in a warm, sunny place, such as a windowsill. The water for culture of infusoria needs to be dechlorinated, it can be water from an aquarium, otherwise it is dangerous for the life of ciliates. When the water becomes cloudy, it should be added in small portions to the aquarium with fry using a pipette. Read more about this in article 9.0005 "Living Dust".

Aquarium fish fry food

Artemia nauplii is a very suitable first food for many fry or a second food for juvenile fry that can only feed on microorganisms in the first stage. Artemia have the dual advantage of being mobile in open water, highly visible and attractive, and their orange coloration usually showing through the transparent belly of the fry that have eaten them, indicating that these fry are getting enough food. nine0003

Aquarists usually breed Artemia nauplii themselves from eggs, which are available in pet stores. This process takes place in a container of salt water - it can be a large jar, a plastic lemonade bottle, or a specially purchased incubator. The required salt concentration may vary depending on the origin of the population (see package instructions). The culture needs intensive aeration for constant circulation of larvae. The container must be kept in a warm place at a temperature of 18.5-26.0 °C. The period of release of nauplii from eggs depends on temperature, but usually it is 36-72 hours. nine0003

To collect nauplii, turn off the aeration and place the light source as close as possible to the container at about half its height. The shrimp will congregate closer to the light, while the nauplius eggs and shed shells usually float on the surface of the water or sink and sink to the bottom. Thanks to this, the shrimp can be separated with a pipette or simply drained. Otherwise, some fry may swallow the shell or eggs and die. Water with nauplii should be filtered using a special sieve for live food or a small net with small cells, and then rinse the nauplii in clean water. Never pour the shrimp into the aquarium along with the water in which they were bred, as salt water can kill the fry. After harvesting the shrimp, aeration should be turned on again. The brine shrimp culture will provide food for two to five days depending on how much is required. A continuous succession of crops is necessary to ensure sufficient feed. nine0003

Note: Some aquarists suggest feeding the fry with a frozen cube of adult brine shrimp.

Food for aquarium fish fry

Microworms is a suitable food for fry and can be fed alongside or instead of Artemia nauplii. Breeding microworms is much more profitable than brine shrimp, since this culture is cheap and easy to propagate, representing an always available supply of food. Starter cultures can be obtained from other aquarists. The only drawback of these worms is that they cannot swim and sink, albeit slowly. True, the fry for the most part grab them immediately or swim to the bottom after them. For fry of bottom species, microworms are more suitable than brine shrimp nauplii. nine0003

Microworms are usually bred in a plastic container (margarine or mayonnaise box is suitable). A layer of oatmeal 1 cm thick is poured into the container, then moistened with boiling water to form a thick dough. Do not mix the dough, otherwise it will smear on the walls of the container, and they should be kept clean. When the porridge has cooled, add the microworm starter culture there. Close the container with a lid so that the culture does not dry out, but at the same time air can enter, and place it in a warm place (for example, on the lid of an aquarium). After a few days, the worms will multiply to such an extent that they will begin to crawl along the plastic walls of the container, not stained with porridge, and they can be collected from there with a finger, cotton swab or brush, and then rinsed with water into the aquarium. nine0003

Aquarium fish fry food

The microworm culture can remain active for three to six weeks, but after about ten to twelve days it begins to emit an unpleasant odor. Therefore, it is better to establish a new culture before the old culture reaches the stage of bad smell, because oats are cheap and divorce is expensive! This time, you can just use a tablespoon of the old culture as a starter culture. If a lot of fry came out of the eggs, then it is better to keep two or more cultures of microworms at the same time. nine0003

At the end of the article, remember that fry need to be fed frequently (some 8-10 times a day), but in small portions. So that in the spawning aquarium there are no food residues and, as a result, the growth of nitrogenous compounds .

Feed for fry and fish video review

See also:


How to feed goldfish

Homemade fish food recipes
Oak leaves, almonds, alder cones in the aquarium
Use of tea in the aquarium. Tricks!

Automatic fish feeders. Which is better?

Live fish food

Fish food species, recommendations

Category: Aquarium articles / Fish breeding | Views: 27 934 | Date: 27-11-2018, 17:12 | Comments (0)

How to properly feed fish fry

  • Proper feeding of fry is the key to successful fish rearing.

    In nature, the appearance of fry occurs at certain periods of time, when water bodies are saturated with organic substances. These substances stimulate the growth of many organisms and serve as food for fish and their offspring. When breeding fish in aquariums, the main condition for their rearing is the constant provision of fry with a sufficient amount of food. nine0003

    Frequency of fry feeding

    A few hours after spawning, fry become quite independent, their first meal is various microorganisms living in the water column. However, it is absolutely necessary to take care of the balanced diet of the fish that have appeared, since it is the nutrition in the first weeks that determines what the adults will be like.

    The feeding of fry differs from the feeding of adult fish by the constant presence of food in the aquarium. It is important not to feed too much at one time, but to distribute them in small portions throughout the day. In the first days, the fry are fed every 3 hours, gradually increasing the interval between feedings. By four weeks of age, feed up to three times a day. nine0003

    Feed for fry

    Feed for fry should not only be plentiful, but also sufficiently varied, containing the necessary amount of substances of plant and animal origin, vitamins, etc. It is preferable to start feeding live food to fry from the first days. They can be finely chopped bloodworms, ciliates, rotifers, brine shrimp. Surveys of aquarists show that brine shrimp nauplii are considered the best food for fry, but this food is not suitable for all newborn fish "in size". nine0087 To replace live food, it is desirable to use dry food of industrial production, which are sold in pet stores. The recipes of these feeds are made taking into account the necessary nutrients for the growth and development of fish, and the manufacturing process includes processing with ultraviolet rays. MicroMin and SeraMicron feed mixtures can be used already from the first days of fry life, and in a later period it is recommended to add TetraOvin mixture to the diet.
    Sometimes egg yolks, curdled milk or powdered milk are used as a substitute for live food. A piece of yolk from a boiled egg is ground in a small amount of aquarium water and poured into the aquarium. Fry eat yolk food well, but water is quickly polluted from such food, so it is better to use this method of feeding in cases where other food is not available. nine0003

    Unlike egg yolk, curdled milk does not damage the aquatic environment of the aquarium. To prepare food from yogurt, a small amount of it is poured with boiling water to curdle the milk protein. The resulting clot is caught with a net and washed with water, after which the net is lowered into the aquarium and shaken until a cloud of small food particles forms in the water.

    For fry, milk powder is a nutritious protein food that is easy to prepare at home. The cooking process consists in placing a plate of milk on a boiling pot. After evaporation, a powder is obtained that does not dissolve in water for several hours and is completely eaten by the fry. nine0003

    In conclusion, it should be noted that it is desirable to rotate the food for fry, and the remains of food should be removed, as this is a favorable environment for the reproduction of microbes and bacteria. It is also very important to regularly change the water in the aquarium with fry. Water, saturated with the waste products of fish, makes it difficult for their bodies to exchange substances and inhibits the development of fry.

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