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Seeking practical advice and experience with selective breeding?


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I'm pondering a selective breeding project to try to develop some interesting variations in coloring/finage scarlet badis.

I've never done anything like this before, and I'm curious about two things:

  1. What experiences other people have had:  How many generations did it take to see some results?  How challenging/frustrating was it?  How large a breeding population did you have to maintain?
  2. Resources (like a book rather than blog post) about genetics with respect to selective breeding.


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I have been a non-serious, though regular breeder for a few years now. Others can be more helpful, but I like your question.

”Selective breeding” may or may not be a technical term. At a very basic level, you can start a colony and opt to either (1) “selectively preserve” desired traits by _culling_ undesired fish, or (2) “selectively remove” fish with desired traits to separste breeding tanks. Either way, you are separating desired fish from undesired ones, and seeking to propagate certain traits. At the most elementary level, this is what potentially begins to happen every time a hobbyist chooses the “best / desired” fish at a pet store, leaving behind less-desired species. More developed is when a group of brooders is bought, best adults spawn, and best fry are carefully preserved.

”Selective breeding” can imply some iteration of “line breeding” where a line of fish descended from brooders with desirable traits gets carefully bred together. The tendency is (a) for desirable traits to statistically increase, but also (b) for health problems to statistically increase due to inbreeding. To help resolve this, breeders will set up multiple lines from separate brooder source stock, and then _cross_ them a couple generations in to keep genetic variation sufficient to maintain desirable traits, but avoid poor genetic health overall.

A simple, low-tech way for thinking about genetics is to make Punnett squares (Mendellian genetics, HS biology). Choose a trait desired, and start breeding. You’ll find that there are dominant traits and weak traits. Let’s say you’re going for color. Maybe brown is dominant (B) and red is non-dominant (r). If you start with a Red male but a brown female, the 1st generation fry might all look brown like mom. But the 2nd generation in as those fry spawn with each other may show 25% red like granddad. Selectively cross those red ones, and you’ll get a supermajority that are all red. But every time you multiply desirable traits (e.g. fin size, body shape, etc) you also make the Punnett square multiply  — like 3D chess (sort of…) so it usually is easier to just select the best, and leave the rest.

I could go on and on, but let’s start there!

Edited by Fish Folk
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On 9/30/2023 at 11:02 AM, TheSwissAquarist said:

but I’ve never heard of selective Badis breeding

The nearest parallel seems to me to be selective breeding in bettas.   There are some similarities:

  1. Dramatic sexual dimorphism which seems like it might complicate things since it's hard to tell what genes the female is carrying
  2. The males might need to be raised separately.  Not so much due to aggression, but to let them fully develop their coloring.
  3. Colony breeding doesn't really seam viable (although I have heard of baby's just appearing in some badis tanks, Im not sure how efficient it would be).

it also seems like there would be a reasonable market for fancy badis.  I'm shocked at how many my LFS seems to go through.


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On 10/1/2023 at 1:56 PM, TheSwissAquarist said:

@Guppysnail has/had some Badis and also bred them (as usual) 😅

My Badis badis are my breeders. I saw my Scarlet badis breed but never had fry. My panda cory vacuum cleaners made swift work of any eggs. That’s why I gave them to a girl who had a dedicated tank and time to collect and hatch eggs. 

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On 10/1/2023 at 3:07 PM, memorywrangler said:

I’ve been curious about those too.  How are they going for you?

I think they are amazing fish. As juveniles they are always out hunting. Come right up to the coral feeder to eat from it. Very personable. Once they hit sexual maturity they live in caves and under roots. Unless I look with a flash light I only catch glimpses at feeding time. 
Their colors change so drastically I can Tell immediately if they are attracting a mate, guarding fry, territory dispute or just hanging out. 
They each poke their head out at feeding time and still snag various worms from the coral feeder. I never tried to transition them to commercial food since I prefer feeding live food so I don’t know how eat they take to it. 
I have them with my honey gourami so there are visible fish in the tank. 

My scarlets were always visible. 

I classify them as a niche fish. Very few folks would enjoy needing to Keep multiple live food cultures for a fish they would rarely see. That’s why I don’t actively pull eggs or wigglers when I see them. Just seeing 1 or 2 fry here and there is enough for me. 


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On 9/29/2023 at 10:52 PM, memorywrangler said:

Resources (like a book rather than blog post) about genetics with respect to selective breeding.

I highly recommend you check out this blog by Charles.  He is an actual geneticists by training and he breeds fish strains for a living.


They also have youtube videos which go along with some of the articles, but he is much more of a writer.

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scarlet badis ...interesting.

I'm not a professional or anything but this is how i would approach this.


Set large goal to hit yearly or very few years and set mini goals to hit very few months. 

• yearly/multi years goals.. what i would work on is strengthening what the fish already have. If the fish is red make your family more red..bring the max out of your fish. I would raise the highest number of fish you can so you can select future breeder from. 

• mini goals ... what I would work on everyday/weekly/monthly? I would keep the feeding/maintenance the same in every aquarium. Every set of fry will be kept separate with their birthdate so every fry gets judged the same. For example, it's not fair to cull a younger fish at 4 months vs. a more mature fish at 7 months. 

make sure you can house all the growing fry and the all the breeder and future breeders.

As for scarlet badis I'm not 100% how well they can handle inbreeding. For example Xiphophorus can handle inbreeding for multiple generation without and issue. White cloud can handle inbreeding for 4-5 generation before they need to be crossed out, and 8-10 generation on linebreeding if you know how to do it.

Inbreeding isn't the same as linebreeding, inbreeding could be siblings or another random relative fish without reason. Linebreeding is very controlled. You'll have to name breeders and keep record. Linebreeding is where you hug one side of the family either sire or dam. 

if you have plenty of space I would recommend starting 2 family at the same time, itll give you something to cross to. Chances are you wouldn't want to cross you family back into a normal badis. 

I recommend you cull hard and always keep the most healthy fish over the most colorful fish, itll be worth it in the long run. Making your family of fish more colorful is easy, making your family of fish healthier is way harder.

Consistency in size, healthy, color, and temperament is what I look for.

last and not least enjoying the results, i love going back to old photos and seeing my family changes over time.

Edited by WhitecloudDynasty
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