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Nature Finds A Way: What is most important condition for a fish species to breed?

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Full disclosure: I am no expert at fish keeping and always pushing myself to learn from my tanks and others to improve myself and my abilities with aquariums. I have had some success in 35 years in the hobby first with my dad then as solo over the past 5 years or so but like us all have learned when things went wrong and when things went perfect. Recently I have been wondered if parameters of native habitats were actually a deal breaker for most fish to reproduce or if stable conditions generally within the ballpark of their natural habitat along with some fluctuation to trigger spawning are more important. Nature finding a way seems to occur for me more often than not.

Do you find that there any parameters which when different from the natural environment of a species is a deal breaker to getting a species to spawn successfully? More importantly are those conditions more detrimental to being able to raise fry to adulthood? 

I have had plenty of learning experiences over the years when things did not work out but have also managed to set the stage right for a few species to reproduce with my setups over the years  

Goodeids:  Characodon lateralis, and Zoogoneticus tequila;

Other livebearers: platies, swordtails, and guppies; 

Mouthbrooders : Strawberry betta, betta macrostoma ( was awesome to learn from but fry did not survive due to an equipment issue), and golden mbuna (my first non livebearer way back when);  

Miscellaneous unintentional success panda corydoras, flag fish (guarded eggs like sunfish), and Khuli loach

Current projects: Gold Stripe Panaque (3yr old colony); Hairy Puffer (1.5 year old group); Dwarf Pike Regani (1.5 year old pair from group); Dwarf Chain Loach (1 year old group)

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It is always good to start off with a male and female. I have had success with discus and angelfish, but they are very hard to sex and I usually just take a group of juveniles and let them sort it out.

Once I tried to breed Heckel discus (which at that point in time had never been done in captivity). I setup a 500 gallon aquarium on a commercial RO system with a Blackstone automatic dosing system to dose phosphoric acid so that I could keep the pH at a stable 5-ish. They were fed an appropriate diet but I was never successful despite a strong attempt to match their wild water parameters.

In the end I have concluded water parameters are a secondary issue at best, and definitely not a deal breaker. And not because of the Heckels. It is because healthy fish that want to breed don't care a lot about water parameters for the most part.

The 3 most important issues for me are

  • Young, but mature healthy fish
  • Comfortable setup for the breeders
  • A large amount of nutritious food readily available, typically some sort of live food

Yes, clean water is a given, but it doesn't necessarily have to match their home waters.

I don't think I have encountered breeding conditions that were detrimental to raising the fry. Unless you count green water. Often I will breed the adults in seasoned but not opaque green water. But after tiny fry hatch, like gourami fry, I will switch the fry tank over to a green water tank until the fry are large enough to eat baby brine shrimp, or cyclops, or baby Daphnia.

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