A Guide for Surprised Fish Parents: What to Do When Your Fish Have Babies

Feb 29, 2024

A Guide for Surprised Fish Parents: What to Do When Your Fish Have Babies

Table of contents:

  1. Don’t Panic! Observe
  2. Separate the Fry
  3. Adjust Your Tank Setup
  4. Feed Appropriately
  5. Perform Regular Water Changes
  6. Monitor Growth and Health
  7. Plan for the Future
  8. Learn and Enjoy
  9. Conclusion

A Guide for Surprised Fish Parents: What to Do When Your Fish Have Babies

Discovering that your fish have had babies can be both an exciting and bewildering experience. As a new fish parent, you might be wondering how to ensure the health and safety of the newborn fry. This guide will walk you through the essential steps to take care of your unexpected tiny aquatic family members.

Don’t Panic! Observe

First and foremost, resist the urge to immediately interfere. Take some time to observe the situation. Many fish species are known to eat their fry, so it’s crucial to determine if the babies are in immediate danger from their parents or other tank mates.

Separate the Fry

To ensure the fry’s survival, you might need to separate them from the adults. You can use a breeding box or a separate tank for this purpose. A breeding box is a small, transparent container that hangs inside your main aquarium, allowing water flow while keeping the fry safely contained. If you have a larger number of fry or need a long-term solution, setting up a nursery tank is advisable.

Adjust Your Tank Setup

Fry are extremely delicate and require a stable environment. Ensure your tank’s water conditions are optimal—check the temperature, pH, and ammonia levels. It’s also important to provide plenty of hiding spots for the fry to feel secure. Plants, either artificial or live, can serve this purpose well.

For more information on checking your tanks water quality see our guide to aquarium maintenance here.

Feed Appropriately

Newborn fry have tiny mouths, requiring food much smaller than what you feed adult fish. Infusoria, baby brine shrimp, or commercially available liquid fry food are excellent choices. Feed the fry small amounts several times a day to avoid overfeeding and polluting the water.

You can find more information about feeding options in our guide here.

Perform Regular Water Changes

Clean water is crucial for the health of fish fry. Perform small, frequent water changes to maintain water quality without causing drastic shifts in the tank environment. A siphon hose can help remove waste from the bottom of the tank, but be very careful not to suck up the tiny fry.

Monitor Growth and Health

Keep an eye on your fry as they grow, looking out for signs of disease or stress. As they get bigger, you can gradually introduce them to finer crushed flakes or pellets before eventually transitioning them to the same diet as the adult fish.

Plan for the Future

As your fry grow, consider whether your current setup can accommodate them all. If you find yourself with more fish than you can house, you might need to find them new homes. Reach out to local fish stores, aquarium clubs, or online communities for assistance.

Learn and Enjoy

Use this experience as an opportunity to learn more about your fish’s species and their breeding behaviors. Every species has unique requirements and behaviors, so understanding your specific fish can make future breeding efforts (intentional or accidental) more manageable and enjoyable.


Unexpected fish fry can seem like a daunting challenge, but with the right knowledge and preparation, you can ensure their survival and health. Remember, patience and careful observation are your best tools in adapting to your new role as a fish parent. Enjoy the journey of watching your tiny charges grow into beautiful, healthy fish!

By following these steps, you’re well on your way to successfully raising your fish fry. Remember, every fish species is different, so it’s always a good idea to do species-specific research. Congratulations on your new aquatic family members, and happy fishkeeping!

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