Easiest Aquarium Freshwater Fish to Breed

Updated on November 19, 2020 by

Breeding freshwater aquarium fish

If you’ve kept an aquarium for any length of time you’ve probably thought plenty of times about breeding your fish. This is simply one of those aspects of the hobby that we all eventually want to dive into at some point.

Shall we breed the aquarium freshwater fish?

It is important to keep in mind that breeding the fish, means at some point you might run out of tank space and you mind need a new one, or even sell the fish.

Below, we made a list of what we think are the easiest aquarium freshwater species to breed. They all come with their specific tank needs, tank mates or not, ideal food, etc. So it’s important to have a good grasp of these aspects, prior to diving into fish breeding.

1. Guppies

This is something that we can certainly share with 100% confidence that every conversation that’s ever been had about the easiest fish to breed there’s been talk about the Guppies.

They are simply one of the cutest little fish in the aquarium hobby but they’re also one of the easiest fish to breed.

Now, one may wonder why and how? Well, that’s simple: because you pretty much have to do nothing at all. What you need are males and females in the same tank

Poecilia reticulata - Guppy

They’re easy enough to differentiate because the males have the big full fins and the females fins will be smaller and not so colored. As they grow, the females’ bodies also get significantly larger than the males.

The easiest way to breed Guppies is to have a group of one male to two – three females and put them in the tank – that’s it. If there’s males and females together in water, before you know it you’ll have a tank full of Guppy fry.

2. Endler’s Livebearers

Endler’s livebearers are nearly identical to Guppies – they look very similar and they breed just the same way as Guppies. 

The best thing about breeding Endler’s livebearers is that they won’t need a big tank, and just like Guppies, you don’t need to be an expert to have them breed. 

You just have to put a group of them in a 5 to 10 gallon tank preferably with a 1:3 male to female ratio. Maintain clean water and wait for things to happen.

Poecilia reticulata - Guppy

Besides a good water quality, you only have to consider their tank mates. The Endler’s fry are very small and could easily become a snack for other larger fish if you keep them in a community tank.

So if you plan on breeding Endler’s and keeping the fry, then better just keep them alone in a tank and before you know it, you’ll have lots and lots of Endler’s.

3. Swordtails and Platies

You’ve probably seen these brightly colored fish with awesome tails in almost every pet store or aquarium fish supplier you’ve entered.

They are simply the perfect – beautiful and easy to breed fish for any beginner fish keeper. They are live bearers and come in a wide variety of colors.

There are no special tricks to breed Platies and Swordtails, just keep them in a clean water tank with females outnumbering the males.

Xiphophorus helleri

They prefer a little bit of a higher pH ranging from 6.8 – 8.0 and harder water. They are adaptable and will do okay in slightly different parameters, but these are just the optimal ones, and you’ll have them breed a lot.

Keep them in a well planted 10 gallons tank at least, feed them good quality flake foods, and before you know it, there’ll be lots of baby Platies swimming around.

4. Mollies

Mollies are livebearers just like several species already mentioned here, so if you have males and females together you’re almost assured to get them to breed.

Mollies are another one of those species like Guppies and Platies that are super easy to find and super cheap so it might not seem very tempting to start a whole Mollies breeding project but the thing is breeding fish is that next level in our hobby that we all want to achieve.

Poecilia latipinna black sailfin

That awesome special feeling when you walk by the aquarium and see a bunch of fish in there that you raised up from tiny fry is simply priceless. That’s just something that fish keepers have to experience for themselves to truly understand this feeling.

Mollies are not terribly fussy about the water parameters, they just need a 15-20 gallons aquarium with a sponge filter. Maintain clean water, feed them heartily to keep them happy, and before you know it you’ll have plenty of Mollies.

5. Shrimp

Shrimp are super popular in the aquarium hobby for quite a while now. You can easily find tons of different shrimp varieties out there and there’s even specialty shrimp that can go up to thousands of dollars in price.

But luckily there’s tons of shrimp out there that are amazing and they only cost a few dollars each. 

Freshwater Shrimp

Shrimp definitely fall into the same category as Guppies for instance: just add water and a group of them in a 5-gallon tank, and before you know it you’re gonna have an army of tiny shrimp swimming around. Plenty of people out there also just breed shrimp to use them as food for other fish.

6. White Cloud Minnows

The White Cloud Minnows are just the best white clouds, easiest to breed and super small so they don’t need to have a big tank. 

They’re also extremely hardy so keeping them is really really easy. Being such a small fish though, can be a bit difficult to differentiate them between males and females, but that’s fine. 

The best thing to do is to buy a group of about 10 of them and let them do their thing. 

Tanichthys albonubes

Don’t worry about any specific ratio of males and females as opposed to Guppies and Platies for instance.

Being egg scatterers they will basically throw eggs all over the tank so it’s important to allow a safe net for those eggs to be laid down, otherwise they’ll be eaten by other fish or even other White Clouds. The best thing to do is to have some kind of net or mop on the tank’s bottom or substrate allowing the eggs to fall in there and sit safely waiting to hatch.

7. Danios

To have Danios breed is actually the same process as with breeding White Clouds.

An important addition though, for both these species is that clean water flow is of great importance to have.

The right filtration for egg scatters is mandatory because you don’t want the eggs to get swept up by the filters, and that’s why sponge filters are a great option when breeding these types of fish.

Danio rerio

Sponge filters are super cheap, efficient and with the bubbles going out in an upwards direction, the right surface level movement is created, allowing gas exchange without creating any strong currents on the tank’s bottom. Like this, the eggs lean on the substrate and stay there safely until the fry hatch. 

Next to the water quality, a good diet is important when breeding Danios and White Clouds.

So to sum up, it’s important to provide them with good clean water in a 10-20 gallons tank, and a nutritious diet to promote spawning. Keeping the water clean is a simple process with plenty of water changes when needed. Just one thing – be careful not to suck up the eggs during water changes, so the substrate should be left alone.

8. Angelfish

I’m pretty sure you’ve already heard often about Angelfish in plenty of similar freshwater aquarium fish posts. And that’s normal since Angels are such a favorite species among fish keepers, they are quite hardy and adaptable to a wide range of water parameters. 

Angels might not be as easy to breed as Guppies but you definitely don’t have to be an expert to get them to breed. Of course, the first thing you’ll need is the actual pair of Angels.

To get the breeding pair of Angelfish, the best thing to do is simply keep a group of about 6-8 in the tank and let them pair off naturally.

Angelfish - Pterophyllum scalare

A breeding pair of Angelfish will stay and breed forever well as long as they’re of breeding age. At some point, they, of course, do get old and quit breeding after a while. There’s another way to get yourself one Angelfish breeding couple and that’s to actually buy a proven breeding pair from a breeder. That cost a bit more money but for some, this could be just the easiest way to get the right Angelfish pair.

Keep in mind though when buying more juveniles and let me pair off, you’ll end up having more pairs and each pair will need its own tank.

Angelfish are vertical egg layers which means they’ll lay their eggs on a large leaf, on the filter, on a stone leaning up against the glass, or even on the tank glass itself. The parents will typically take care of the eggs and the fry. Once the fry start hatching it’s a lot of fun to watch and it’s a very rewarding experience.

9. Mbuna African Cichlids

A lot of people get into the aquarium hobby directly with African Cichlids because of their bright colors that honestly rival the beauty of marine fish.

But unlike saltwater environments, setting up the right tank for African Cichlids is not that much of a headache.

Among Mbuna African Cichlids, the most commonly seen ones in the hobby are: the Electric yellows (Labidochromis caeruleus), Red zebras (Maylandia estherae), and Demasoni (Pseudotropheus demasoni). These have vibrant yellow, red-orange, and blue colors.

Electric Yellow Cichlid pic

Now when it comes to breeding them, they are typically kept in about 2 males and 6 females ratios. Breeding African cichlids is totally different from any other fish listed here, but the way they do it is absolutely fascinating and it’s not that difficult as it might seem.

Making the difference between males and females of some Mbunas can be tricky because they look quite similar but the best thing you can do is simply buy a breeding group from a trusted supplier. On many aquarium fish sellers’ websites, it will be specified they have males and females so that’s easy to make the right choice.

The males will typically cost a little bit more because of their brighter colors, but if you want to breed them, this will be totally worth it.

10. Peacock African Cichlids

Next to the Mbunas, the Peacock Cichlids (a bit larger than Mbunas) breed exactly the same way. African Cichlids have such a different breeding process compared to all the other fish on this list.

They’re not vertical egg layers, they’re not egg, scatterers or livebearers, by any means, the African Cichlids are known as: maternal mouth brooders.

This means the females will lay eggs, the males will fertilize them and then the eggs are picked up by the female in her mouth and kept there, until they hatch into fry.

vibrant blue peacock cichlid

She will hold the fry for about 20 days and then she’ll release them as free-swimming fry. This is absolutely fascinating to watch. This is not all actually, as for the first few days the mother will actually protect her fry and if something happens that scares the fish or whatever else, you’ll see the entire school of fry going back into her mouth.

A significant difference when keeping African Cichlids, unlike most of the other fish on this list is the tank size they need. An ideal 75 gallons tank should be provided for the African Cichlids – yes they can be kept in a smaller one, but taking into account how nasty can African Cichlids be, the extra room is very beneficial.

As spectacular as this sounds, it isn’t difficult at all, as you just need to put the entire cichlids group in a 75-gallon tank and keep up their water clean with one or even two top-notch canister filters. Keeping them well fed shouldn’t be a challenge as there are plenty of cichlids food pellets available in most stores nowadays.

Have a happy fish keeping! And should you have any questions, concerns, etc – don’t hesitate to ask & share ideas below in the comments section.