Can You Make Money Breeding Aquarium Fish? (a surprising answer!)

Can you make money breeding aquarium fish? It is possible to make money by breeding aquarium fish. The trick is to breed the right fish. Choosing colorful, popular, easy to breed, quick-growing fish is the secret to turning a profit and making some money

Eating Daphnia
Eating Daphnia

I first started keeping fish around 30 years ago, and it wasn’t long before I bred my first fish. From that moment on, I was hooked on breeding fish. Over the years I have bred fish for fun, for competitions, and for profit. Selling fish to my local fish store has paid for the majority of tanks and equipment in my fish room.

What Fish Should You Breed For Profit?

Choosing which fish to breed if you are looking to make a profit is probably the single most important decision you will have to make.

Firstly, what is your skill set? If you have only been in the hobby for a short while, and you currently have limited experience of keeping and breeding tropical fish, consider something which is naturally easier to breed.

Livebearers tend to be easier to breed than egg-laying species. Some members of the Cichlid family are fantastic parents who will tend their eggs and raise their babies. Some fish even keep the babies safely in their mouths until they are older enough to swim freely in the aquarium.



Fish to breed for newcomers to the hobby:

  • Guppies
  • Platies
  • Bristlenose Plecos
  • Mollies
  • Kribensis

Guppies are a staple of the freshwater fish keeping hobby. They are easy to breed, easy to care for and they come in a kaleidoscope of colors. These little livebearing fish will produce 40 to 100 babies every month like clockwork. They don’t sell for much, but you should be able to sell in a decent quantity.

If you are thinking of breeding guppies, you will want to make sure the babies grow quickly, so why not check out this article I wrote titled How to Make Guppy Fry Grow Quicker.

Platies are another livebearing species that are fairly easy to breed and are very popular in the hobby at the moment. Platies come in a variety of colors including orange, yellow and blue. Platies produce 30-40 babies each time and will give birth every 30 to 45 days.

Bristlenose Plecos are an egg-laying species of fish, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to breed them for profit. The old adage goes ’add water, will breed’ and that isn’t far off. Providing you have at least one male and one female and a couple of caves for them to live in, Bristlenose Plecos will almost certainly breed for you.

Mollies are very similar to Platies, although they get a little larger. Black, white, gold, or dalmatian, Mollies sell extremely well and are always in demand from local fish stores. Keep a tank of 1 male to 3 or 4 females and you will have a constant supply of fish to sell.

Kribensis are really popular and are relatively easy to breed. Providing you have a pair and a couple of potential caves for the adults to spawn in, you should be able to produce 4 to 6 batches of Kribensis a year.

The real bonus of breeding Kribensis is, the parents do all the hard work. From egg to juvenile fish, Kribensis take really good care of their offspring.

Fish to breed for those who are more experienced

  • Angelfish
  • German Blue Rams
  • Discus
  • Panda Corydoras

Angelfish are one of the most instantly recognizable fish in the freshwater hobby. Angelfish are relatively easy to breed, providing you set them up correctly, and you have a bonded pair. Angelfish are best bred in a dedicated aquarium. Set your spawning tank up with a piece of slate standing at 45 ° and an upturned clay flower pot or breeding cone and your Angelfish will soon start cleaning their chosen site.

German Blue Rams are another fish that are prized for their magnificent rainbow coloration. You can breed German Blue Rams in pairs, or using a harem setup with one male servicing 3 or 4 females. If you can breed and then raise German Blue Rams, you will never be short of buyers.



Discus are actually surprisingly easy to breed, the skill comes in raising a group of young discus, to the point where the adults pair off and spawn. When you have a bonded pair, set them up in an aquarium with a sponge filter, a breeding cone, and a piece of slate. When they are ready the Discus will choose a spot and lay eggs on it.

Panda Corydoras .are a small bottom-dwelling catfish which is very easy to breed. To Breed for profit, you will need a dedicated setup. Essentially, get yourself a group of 6 to 10 Panda Corydoras, feed them well on live or frozen foods. When you are ready to spawn them, carry out a large water change, refilling with slightly cooler water and the Pandas will spawn for you, possibly laying 50 to 80 eggs from each female.



What Equipment Do You Need To Breed Fish For Profit?

The trick to breeding fish for profit is, don’t spend a fortune on equipment. Clearly, you will need something to hold water. An old fish tank or a plastic tote will do just as well, you will also need a filter, a light, and probably a heater, but that is it.

When breeding for profit, remember you are not setting up a display tank. Many breeders, both small scale and industrial farms use troughs or tubs rather than tanks. Fish tanks tend to be small, expensive and fragile. You can buy a 30 gallon tote from Home Depot for less than $10. The fish don’t care if it’s a 30 gallon aquarium or tote.

For filtration, a sponge filter is just fine. You’ll need an air pump too. Most aquarists have an air pump or two kicking around. If you don’t, look on Freecycle or contact members at your local club, you’ll probably find someone happy to give one away. The same is true for an aquarium heater.

Unless you plan to grow live plants in the breeding tank, either for profit, or because it benefits the species of fish you are trying to spawn, just use a regular desk lamp to provide some light to your breeding tank.

The less you spend setting up your breeding tank, the sooner you will turn a profit. If from the start you set out and buy all new equipment, there is a good chance you will end up creating a display tank rather than a breeding tank and you won’t make any money.

How Do You Set Up A Breeding For Profit Aquarium?

Exactly how you set up your breeding aquarium will depend on the species of fish you have chosen to breed. For a live-bearing species, lots of places for the fry to hide are essential. That might mean piles of rocks laid out to create plenty of nocks for the fry to hide in or masses of live plants like Java moss. Baby fish are tasty, and out of sight means out of mind.

If you are breeding a cave spawner, like Kribensis or Bristlenose Plecos, make sure you provide ample caves. Most fish like a choice, rather than being forced to choose the one and only cave in the aquarium

Why not have a look at the article I wrote about How to Set Up a Guppy Breeding Tank

Who Can I Sell The Fish I Breed To?

There are 3 main avenues to sell the fish you breed.

  • Local Fish Stores: Local fish stores are often keen to buy the fish hobbyist breed, providing they are either cheaper than a wholesaler or better quality. If the fish you breed aren’t better or cheaper, or both, there is no reason for a local fish store to buy your fish. The advantages of selling to your local store are that they will usually buy in bulk, maybe 50 or 100 at a time. The disadvantage of selling to your local fish store is that you will get fewer dollars per fish than some other routes.

  • Fish Club Auction: Selling at your local fish club auction is an excellent way to sell fish. There is a high chance someone attending will be looking for the fish you are selling, and, if your club auction is well attended, you may be able to sell several lots in one night. A downside of selling at a club auction is that you can’t set your price. If a bag of fish worth $50 sells for just $5, you probably won’t be able to stop it.

  • CraigsList: CraigsList is a great way to connect buyers and sellers. With CraigsList you can set your price and advertise your wares to a wide audience. The problem when it comes to selling on CraigsList, is everyone who comes to your home to buy fish will want to look at all your tanks and you can easily end up spending an hour or two just chatting about fish. 2 hours of your life to make $10 is not a great way to make a profit.

Whichever method you choose to sell your fish, way up the price you get per fish with the amount of time it takes to complete the transaction. Generally, Local fish store = low price but low effort, CraigsList = high price but high effort.

How Much Should I Sell The Fish I Breed For?

The price you will get for your fish varies so widely, not only by species but also your location, the age of the fish you are selling etc. There are a lot of variables.

If you are selling to a local fish store, the chances are you want to be asking about 1/3 the price the store sells them for. If they sell for $10, you will probably be able to sell to the store for between $3 and $4.

If you plan to sell directly on CraigsList, check the current price of the fish in your local fish store, then try to gauge from there, are your fish bigger or better or are you selling in sexed pairs? Gauge where the price of your fish lies compared to others for sale.

So How Much Money Can You Make Breeding Fish?

How much money you can make varies wildly. We have found it is possible to make $1,000 to $5,000 a year if you choose the right species to breed. We have an extremely popular ebook ‘Breeding Tropical Fish For Profit’ which goes into more detail about how to maximize the amount of money you can make breeding fish for profit.


About the Author

I’ve been keeping, breeding, and showing tropical fish for nearly 30 years. Over that time I’ve done it all! I’ve had great success and I’ve made some really foolish mistakes (like the time I bought an Asain Walking Catfish). Read more…
Richard James
Editor

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