How to Take Care of Baby Fish – Step By Step Guide

Source: Tristan Ferne

Sometimes, I feel like a parent having fish. They grow up, you worry about them and you do what you have to do for your fish. You probably will feel like a grandparent someday when your babies get children.

How do I take care of baby fry? Be sure to have the right water parameters such as temperature for the fry to spawn. Be sure especially if you have a community tank to remove the baby to another fish tank and let it grow with sufficient food supply.

Some fish are cruel toward the small hatchlings. Even their mother could be! Now we will go through how to give the small babies the best chance to survive and have the best start possible of their lives.

Water parameters

To start with, you need to have the right water parameters for the type of fish you will breed or want to have babies for. It could even be that you don’t try to get baby fish and you still get it.

The main water parameter is the temperature of the water. A lot of fish want a little higher temperature while others are able to breed in the temperature you have in your fish tank normally.

Other parameters to be aware of is the salt content in the water. None of the freshwater fish you keep in a freshwater fish tank is breeding in saltwater, that would be silly! But some are only breeding in brackish water.

Brackish water has more salt content than freshwater but not as much as salt water does. Brackish water is containing 0,05-3 percent salt.

Some fish that are sold as freshwater fish are actually living in brackish water in their natural habitat. Common fish such as Molly and Guppies are actually living in brackish water naturally but are able to live and breed in saltwater.

The condition of the water is important too. Not just for the fish to breed but for the babies to have the best possible living conditions. The baby fish are fragile, just like a newborn human, and you don’t want to do things hard for yourself and for the baby by having bad water parameters such as high nitrate or wring pH.

Some species are requiring a specific pH to be able to breed.

If you want to breed fish, read about what temperature, pH, salt content that specific fish want to be able to breed. If you got babies without even trying you probably have a species that easily breed. Also, be sure to have at least one male and one female fish of the same species for them to do the magic of spawning new fish.

Be aware when your fish is ready

If you want to breed fish, it’s important to be aware of when they are going to breed. That’s for you to be ready to take care of the babies when they hatch.

Different species of fish breeds different. Well, fish lay eggs when they breed but it could look like they do it different and that’s because it differs how they do with their eggs.

It’s most common for a fish to lay visible eggs. Some put it everywhere and some are digging them down. Some even put it in a special bubble nest.

Be sure to read how the fish you are breeding are reproducing and make sure the environment is optimal for that type of breeding.

When the environment is optimal, keep an eye out for any activity around that part of the fish tank. For example, if the fish is building a bubble nest it’s a sign the fish is ready to breed and you might be a grandparent.

It’s not sure the fish will bread in that state. They are just ready to do their work. Almost all male fish are doing some sort of dance to the female fish when they want to breed. That’s a sign for you to be more ready to take care of the baby because now it’s not long for the fish to breed.

Since a lot of fish are eating baby fish and fish eggs, not only their own but others too, it could be a good idea to have a spawning box ready to put the pregnant female into. You have a central chamber where you put the female and when the spawns the eggs or fry, the babies will swim or fall through small holes into another outer chamber. These holes are too small for the female to get through and eat her children.

Be sure the spawning box is big enough to not stress the female. If the female is stressed, she will not release her eggs and you could ruin your chances at that time.

You should put the female into the spawn box about one week prior to birth date.

Remove them

Since a lot of fish eat their and other children you should remove the babies when they are born. You can decide if you want to remove the bigger fish or the fry.

When removing the bigger fish, you just use the net to move them, just like you normally do. It’s more common to remove the baby fish to a small er tank though. Then you need to be very careful. These little creatures are fragile, be sure not to hurt them during the move.

Make sure the fish tank you move the babies to is large enough. Even though the fry is small now, they will grow and you need to move the baby fish to the main tank when they are about 1 inch (3 cm) in size. Be sure to have the size for the baby fish to get to that size.

In the baby tank, be sure to do regular and big water changes. The baby fish are fragile and you need to be sure the baby fish are healthy with these regular water changes.

How the fish tank is optimal for baby fish

For the main tank be sure the water is suited for breeding. It’s a good idea to have a lot of plants and furniture for the small fish to hide in. Some fish even need caves to put their eggs in. You should not have too much flow on the surface of the water. Especially if you have fish building bubble nests.

That’s right, some fish make a bubble nest to put their eggs in. If the fish you want to breed makes a bubble nest, be sure to have a lot of floating plants for them to build their nest in. Also, don’t have too much water flow. Otherwise, the flow will destroy the nest.

The fish breeding in caves is probably the easiest to have a suitable environment for. Just put in some flower pots halfway buried in the substrate or put in a cave that you can buy at any pet store into your fish tank. Just be sure, as with everything, that the cave or pot you put in isn’t toxic for the life in your fish tank.

To make the environment suitable for the fish digging their eggs in the substrate, you just need to be sure the substrate is soft, like soil for example.

For the fry, in the main tank and in the temporary tank where you put them when they have spawned, it’s a good idea to have a sponge filter. You keep the fish tank in balance much easier and the fry is, with that kind of filter, not as likely to be sucked into the air pump and possibly damage your air pump.

Have plants in the baby tank for the fry to feel safe and be able to hide. It’s not necessary to put in too much though. You will remove the babies sooner or later anyway.

Sufficient food

Baby fish is small when they are born. They also grow fast. To be able to grow they need a lot of energy. That energy comes from the food you give them.

You could, but is not recommended, give them crushed flake food. by crushing the food you will make the pieces small enough for the small mouths of the babies.

The good thing with flake food is that they contain a lot of energy. Be sure it’s the right kind of flake food for your fish. While it contains a lot of energy they might contain other stuff which is not something your fish might be able to use, energy-wise. To read more about choosing the right food, I have written an article about choosing the right kind of fish food.

This food is more suitable for the little bigger fry and not for the smallest fry. I would say it’s a worst-case scenario food-wise. It’s not the best food for the sensitive fry.

What is a better alternative to provide the babies with the energy they need is to give them special food for fry. The most common is infusoria which is single-celled organisms packed with energy for your fry.

Other suitable food for the fish fry is brine shrimp, micro worms and other small living organisms.

Just be sure to read on what are your specific species fry needs. Some baby fish require a specific kind of food. Then you need to be providing them that specific food!

No matter what you feed your baby fish, be sure to feed small quantities every time. You should also feed the fry more times a day that you normally do. With a larger amount of food at once, you run the risk of the water quality going bad due to uneaten food. The smallest change in water quality could kill all your fry in an instant!

So, be sure to give them the right amount of food but portioned out during the day in a lot of smaller portions. That way you lower the risk of something going wrong.

Some are easier than others

Some fish are easier than others to breed. Two fish that are easily bred in a community tank (where you have a lot of different species) are Molly and Guppy.

There is not uncommon that you have a community tank with these fish and all of a sudden you see small baby fish. In a community tank, the baby fish will probably be eaten if you are not ready to take them out when they are born.

Guppy is very common to breed and then sell to a fish store for some money. It’s not something you will be rich on since the profit will be small. But it’s easy to make them breed and it could cover some of the costs of your hobby if you have a beautiful breed.

Some fish are easy to breed if provided with a lot of females. Like the Cockatoo Cichlid (Apistogramma cacatuoides). It’s a harem breeder which means the male will breed with multiple females at once. And since they are living such a short life (about 1,5-2 years) they are easy to breed. They are a cave breeder so be sure to provide them with caves to reproduce in.

Others are harder to breed. The neon tetra is probably the most common fish but is hard to get breeding. If you are able to get them wanting to breed, their eggs will probably not survive in a community tank due to the eggs are sensitive to light. If you want to breed neon tetra, be sure to have a breeding tank specific to breed neon tetras.

That way you are able to control the light making the eggs survive when the neon tetra lay their eggs if they do.


Whether you breeding for profit or you found baby fish in your community tank and wanting the fry to survive you need to know how to take care of that specific species.

You need to have the tank to put the babies in to protect them from the other fish. You need to provide them with the right kind of food and the right amount.

There is a lot to think about when keeping fish fry but the reward is so satisfying. When you sell your fish for someone else to buy or when you put in your own fish which you helped growing up into your community fish tank you get this satisfaction.

You will feel proud to have accomplished helping giving life to another creature and I would recommend you to try breed fish.


I have been a fish keeper a big part of my life. During the years I have gathered and searched a lot of information about fish keeping and here, on the website, is where I share that information to help you with your fish keeping. I want to provide the information that I didn't get when I had a question about my fish tank.

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