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Pickle’s Guide to Breeding Clowns


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Pickle’s Guide to Breeding Clowns

What works for me…




You are welcome to place a link to this guide on another website or forum, however, do not place the actual article itself on your forum or website with out my permission. Your link must direct traffic to it's original form here on nano-reef.com.


My intention is to outline how I breed clowns as plainly and clearly as possible, but only what works for me. You see, like anything else in life there is more than one way to do it and I’m not even going to suggest that this is the only or best way to do it, but it works for me.


Your challenge is to find what works best for you… but before you decide to give this venture a try - remember that it takes commitment, determination and money. You can keep your costs down if you are working with a budget but like anything else in reef or salt water keeping it can run up. This is also very time consuming and know that you will need to do maintenance of some sort every day and night.


Throughout this guide I will cover the following topics which address the majority of questions I see from new breeders:


Finding the Right Pair

Pairing Clowns

When is a Pair Ready to Spawn

Brood Stock Tanks

Brood Stock Conditions

Brood Stock Diet

Culturing Rotifers

Storing Rotifer Feed

Prepping for Hatch

Hatch Night

Feeding the Fry

Maintaining the Fry tank

Grow Out


I am by no means a complete authority on the subject of breeding clowns but I am fortunate enough to belong to community that shares its information readily. You can follow my progress and get input by posting here:


Pickle's N-R Breeders Lounge


Other N-R Breeders threads:


Lani's Clownfish Breeding Thread

Breeding Snocassos,Onyx,Nakeds, ora picasso/bnw pair


Raising Some Clownfish

Show off your breeding setups


And how could I forget that Hyperboy the S'mores master had a thread!!!


Other useful links:










Before we start know that the licensing requirements for breeding Marine Ornamentals vary by state. Check with your local fish and game department and know what the requirements are.


I do not culture my own phytoplankton yet - but am interested in doing it in the future.


Here is a link to a write up on doing it on Melvsreef - Culturing Phyto on Melvsreef

Edited by Pickle010
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Finding the right pair:


Many people become interested in breeding when their clowns lay eggs. Now, just because they lay it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are right for breeding. Like breeding anything else you should do so with the intent of bettering or preserving the breed.


You should know as much about the pair as possible and examine the pair closely for any type of defects that you would not want to pass to offspring. Disfigured clowns or those having undesirable physical traits should not be bred. For example a serious under bite would disqualify a clown for me. However a misbar or clown with incomplete stripes will not necessarily pass the missbar to its offspring. Misbars are most often a result of water quality.


In most cases I wouldn’t be concerned with inbreeding. You will see clown generations noted as F1, F2, F3 and so on. F1 being a mated pair that knowingly came from 2 different sets of brood stock. F2 would be that pairs offspring, F3 the offspring of those offspring and so on. I’ve read that clowns from the same reef may all be genetically related and there haven’t been any studies to prove that a genetic diversity is important. Many say that you can breed all the way down to F10. Personally I’m not comfortable with that and prefer to match my pairs from what I know or at least believe are different clutches.


There are a couple of ways to get your brood stock started. You can pick your fish individually and wait for them to bond, age and become a mated pair or you can buy a pair that’s already known as being a mated pair. For me it was simply waiting. I had a pair of Ocellaris clowns in my home aquarium which one day decided to spawn. It’s not always that easy. Anyhow, those clowns sparked my interest in breeding and that’s where the craziness began. Now 2 clowns in a tank are simply 2 clowns in a tank. If the 2 form a bond which is exhibited by the two of them swimming together, possibly sleeping together and even one submitting to the other (doing a little sideways dance or shake of submission) then you have a “Pair.” They are not considered a “Matted Pair” until they produce a clutch. So be careful when you are buying clowns from someone else that are said to be mated. Many people will call a pair of clowns a mated pair even if they have yet to spawn, so ask questions and make sure you are getting what you think you are getting especially since there is a substantial difference in cost for a pair of clowns versus a matted pair.


Pairing Clowns




If you are going to select individual clowns to pair from separate sources there are some things you should understand. First of all you should know that all clowns are born gender neutral. If they stay together the most dominant clown will become the female and next most dominant will become a male. The remainder will stay gender neutral.


So how do you know what you have? When separating a known pair of clowns the larger is the female. If you are going to place her with a different male it’s recommended that you find a mate that is smaller and most likely has not made the transition to female. This is important because as a clowns change sexes it is a one way street, meaning that once a clown is male it will never be neutral again and once it becomes a female it cannot revert to male. So putting two females together in a tank together will most likely result in a fight to the finish. Also if you buy a mate that is too close in size to the female it may challenge the female resulting in one of them being killed.


I’ve also read that if a clown is left alone long enough and has no others to challenge it, the clown will make the transition to male then female on its own. So the safest bet is to get a known smaller male or at least select a mate from a group of clowns as it’s less likely to have started any transitions yet.


Introducing the pair can be tricky. Some pairs do very well when first introduced and nothing else is needed to be done, while others can give you a much harder time. It’s always easier to introduce the two in neutral territory or a tank that neither perceives as its own. They are much less likely to be aggressive if they think they are in someone else’s territory. If that’s not possible and the female is aggressive when you add the male, you can try to remove them both, rearrange the tank to make it seem like a different tank, then add the male followed by the female.


A good sign when pairing clowns is when the male roles to his side and shakes. This is his way of showing his submissiveness to the female. If he does his dance and she doesn’t seem put off by him you are on your way.


Sometimes more drastic measures are needed. There are other things you can do to attempt to pair the two but keep in mind that it is not always possible.




When is a Pair Ready to Spawn


At this point you have your established pair and want to know when they will spawn. The truth is that in normal marine aquariums they may never lay. People do get lucky and it does happen where in a normal reef tank and without the owner doing anything special a pair will spawn. If you have no intention of raising the fry, there isn’t a need to remove the eggs from the tank. When the eggs hatch the larvae will most likely be consumed by the pair or other tank inhabitants.


A female generally needs to be over 2 years of age and 2.5 inches in length before she is considered mature enough to lay eggs. I’ve read that males can fertilize at the age of 6 months. My Ocellaris where at least 4 years of age when they began to spawn for me. Most recently when pairing a Snowflake male with a known laying female, my snowflake was a year of age when the two began to spawn.


Your clowns will exhibit some signs that they may be ready – now remember they are clowns and they do strange things anyhow, but often a pair of clowns will prepare a nest. It will usually be someplace they deem safe and often near a host. You may find the two cleaning a piece of rock or a section of glass followed by the male making dry runs over the area as if he was fertilizing eggs. It always gave me the impression that he was demonstrating his ability to fertilize eggs to the female. Again, I don’t have anything to base that off of except for my own observations and impressions. However, when you start to witness that behavior it could be a sign that your pair may be ready.




Brood Stock Tanks


Once you decide that you are going to attempt to raise fry I highly recommend that you transfer your pair to a dedicated tank or system, this is known as a brood stock system. In order to produce viable eggs and healthy fry the pair should have the proper conditions and be fed very well. Most often those conditions are not optimal in a reef tank and more easily controlled in a separate system.


The tanks housing your pair or pairs of clowns do not need to be large if they are plumbed into a good size sump. Water quality is important so if you do not have a sump I recommend going with no smaller than a 20 gallon tank. If you do have a sump a smaller tank or space is fine. Consider the species you are breeding though, a pair of Percula clowns would not have the same space needs as a pair of Maroons. The pair should have room to swim and place to spawn – a clay pot or simple tiles work best. When using a clay pot I prefer to cut the back of the pot off, this is easy to do with a Dremel and diamond cutting wheel. For my Ocellaris I use a 4” clay pot and for my Maroons I use a 6” clay pot purely because of the size of the clowns. I do not recommend that you keep anything else in the tank with your pairs.


Many breeders do keep anemones or live rock in the tank but I would avoid it if possible. If your tank is not plumbed, some live rock is critical to maintain water quality but keep in mind that your pair may prefer to spawn on the rock and not in the pot. I’ve also had anemones walk over clutches of eggs only to watch the pair eat the eggs afterwards, most likely because they believe the eggs had been compromised in some way. The tank should be bare bottom – this will make maintaining it much easier.


If your tank is not plumbed be ready to do some serious maintenance. You will be feeding heavily so the tanks will develop algae and cyano bacteria can become a constant battle. While it’s not important to remove all the algae it is important to keep the water quality as good as possible. I only use RO/DI water and do water changes at least twice a week. I make sure to vacuum the floor of the tank very well to get any uneaten food or debris that may collect at the bottom.


Also in a stand alone tank remember you will need to provide flow and individual heaters in the tanks. In a 20h, I used approximately 15lb of rock and a koralia 2 for flow.


In a plumbed system, the larger volume will make maintaining the water quality much easier but you should still make sure to vacuum out the tanks and clean your filter socks often. I also recommend that you grow macro algae such as cheato in your sump. If your system is not plumbed you can keep some in the tank with the pair. It will only benefit the tank.


Lighting for brood stock tanks does not need to be anything specific – the pair does not need the light for their health, you are only creating a day and night cycle.



Many breeders recommend using a UV system on the brood stock tanks as it will kill bacteria in the water and reduce the risk of fungus affecting the eggs. I haven’t used one yet – but I could see the benefit of one. For the most part the pair does a great job of caring for the eggs and keeping them clean.




Brood Stock Conditions


Supplying your pair with the right conditions can trigger the instinct to spawn. The way it was explained to me was that I was trying to recreate the spawning season in the wild. Clowns are found in tropical areas and not far from shore. The spawning season is in the late spring and summer. So I try to create those types of conditions in my tanks. In the spring it rains a lot and rivers draining into oceans will reduce the salinity of that water. I keep mine at 1.020. The days will get longer so I simulate this with a longer photoperiod usually 16 hours per day. As the days get longer, the temperature rises, so I increase my tank temperatures to approximately 84 degrees.


It is important that you monitor your salinity and temperatures closely and I wouldn’t allow the system to vary much from the parameters I outlined above. Once the pair starts to spawn I may even reduce my temperatures slightly.


Another condition in the spawning season is the abundance of food. The pair needs to be well fed and they need to perceive that there will be food for the fry. As I mentioned earlier you will deal with algae and cyano bacteria. I do not worry so much about the regular green algae. I let that build up on the sides, I don’t know if it helps trigger the breeding instinct or not but my pairs seem to start spawning when the algae begins to show on the sides of the tank. I don’t know if they perceive it be phytoplankton but it works so I let it be. I only focus on keeping the front pane of glass clean for viewing the pairs.



Brood Stock Diet


Diet is critical for the breeding process. You should feed a variety of foods and often. Well fed brood stock produce stronger and more viable fry. I don’t even know how many clutches I’ve lost because I’ve backed off of feeding and the fry where just simply not strong enough when hatched.


Before a pair is spawning you will want to feed 4 – 5 times per day and feed as much as the pair will eat. Once they start to spawn you will want to continue feeding at least a couple of times per day with quality foods. Some argue that once the pair is spawning that feeding often only fowls the water conditions but if you don’t feed enough you will not have quality eggs and fry. I currently feed my spawning pairs 3 times a day to ensure they get what they need. It does cause some extra tank maintenance but well worth it.


I feed the following foods:


Omega One – Pellets, Flake and Veggie Flake

New Life Spectrum Pellets

Ocean Nutrition – Prime Reef and Formula Two


Cyclop-eeze – I prefer the freeze dried.

Mysis on occasion

My own blended and frozen mix of fresh uncooked sea foods purchased at my local market.


I’m careful not to add too much shrimp to the diet as shrimp has been said to make the eggs harden and sometimes too hard for the fry to break out of the eggs on hatch night.



Culturing Rotifers


Culturing rotifers seems a lot harder then it really is. In the end it boils down to your ability to be consistent. You must feed regularly and perform regular water changes and maintenance on the rots.


Here is what you will need:


2 / 5 gallon buckets

Air Pump

Air Line

Air Valves

T Fitting

Rigid air line


Here is my process for keeping the rotifers:


I use a 5 gallon bucket. For the first 3 days you do not want to harvest. You want to just feed twice per day or every 12 hours to let the count build up.


When I started, on the 4th day I split my rots into 2 / 5 gallon buckets and fed for 3 more days just to have a back up. I simply used the same airline and split it with a “T” fitting to give me 2 separate lines for the buckets and add a Air Valve after the “T” fitting on each line to control the amount of air running to the buckets.


I've never used a heater - room temp is fine. I've had the water the rots are in get very cold over the winter - it does not bother them. If it does slow down the production of rots it hasn’t been enough for me to notice.


Make sure the air is not boiling the water - just enough to have the bubbles break at the surface and give you some water movement. A rigid line works best or can use a flexible line weighed down in a pinch. You do not want an air stone on that line, just open air line.




I use all 5 gallons of my bucket - I top off to an inch of the rim.


I pull 2 32 oz cups of water every evening to keep the rotifers count in check. Failure to remove some rotifers every night can lead to over crowding of the rots and it could ruin the culture.


A good way to get an idea of the count of your rots is to use one of the 5 ml test vials that comes with a test kit. I add 2 ml of water using a 1 ml pipette and mark the height with a piece of electrical tape. Then I add 1 more ml of water and mark the top of the water line with another piece of tape. In the end what you get is a vial with a 1 ml viewing window between the bands of tape.


You can then fill the vial with water from your rotifer bucket and see the approximate number of rotifers per ml of water. You may need a magnifying glass to get a good look. Some books state that you should shoot for approximately 15 per ml – My counts have been slightly higher and lower and it has not been an issue.


You’ll find after a while that the actual number of rots becomes irrelevant as you learn to maintain a healthy balanced system.


You want to add enough feed to get the water tinted green and to have a light tint by your next feeding.


I feed at 7 am and 8 pm - the feed I'm using now Rotigrow Plus from Reeds takes about 3/4 of a pipette or 15 - 20 drops to get it where I want it. The amount of feed you use will depend on the food you are using. I’ve used other feeds and some are thicker and it doesn’t take as much to tint the water. The feed I’m using now is thinner and it takes a little more. What you ultimately want is enough feed in the bucket to tint the water and to hold a light green tint to your next feeding.


You must feed your rotifers twice per day – not enough feed and they will starve and die. I’ve done the opposite and overfed my rotifers the very first time and lost them as well.


The rotifer feed is critical as the rotifers aren't providing the fry with much nutrition - it's what you are feeding the rotifers that the fry are benefiting from. Quality feed is important.


In addition - I change my buckets 2 times a week and when I do I replace about 1/4 of the bucket with fresh salt water mixed to 1.018. This is key - they seem to multiply fastest at that salinity. Also when you are changing buckets - clean the air line tubing as well. You'll be surprised how much accumulates on them.


You may also want to buy some Prime if you don't have any already - I add @ 10 drops every couple of nights between bucket changes.


I purchase my rotifers and rotifer food from Reed Mariculture. They have several types of feeds and some great information on caring for the rots on their site as well.


If ever you need to travel or are going to be away for a period of time and cannot feed your rotifers you can store some in the refrigerator. I use 1 gallon water bottles and tint the water a little darker than I normally would. Then place the bottle in the refrigerator with cap on loose. I’ve read that they can keep for up to two weeks that way and once you return you simply put them back into a 5 gallon bucket and start the process as if from day 1 again.


If you haven’t already – purchase a rotifer sieve. You can find them on sites like Florida Aqua Farms and even on E bay. You will want a 53 micron sieve. If you’d like you can also purchase a 200 micron sieve to pre-filter the rotifers before they are collected in the 53 micron sieve. You can try the coffee filter method – I didn’t like it. It was difficult to collect the rots and transferring them to the fry tank was harder as well. The sieve is quick and easy. It also allows you to ensure you are not transferring any of the rotifer water to the fry tank later on.



Storing Rotifer Feed


Your feed will most likely come in a 1 liter bag or quart sized bottle which unless you have several pairs and hatches going at once will spoil if not properly stored.


I use small 8oz water bottles like you might buy for a child’s school lunch. I make sure the bottles are clean and set them upside down on a paper towel overnight to dry. Make sure you do this BEFORE your feed arrives.


When the feed does arrive I add approximately 3oz of feed per water bottle. 1 bottle goes into the refrigerator and the rest go into the freezer. Once the bottle in the refrigerator starts to get low, I pull the next bottle from the freezer and move it to the refrigerator to thaw and use. This guarantees me that my rotifer food is always fresh.


It’s also important to remember not to let yourself get distracted when you have the food out. You do not want to forget to return the bottle to the refrigerator – rotifer feed is by no means inexpensive and you don’t want to waste any. Also know how many bottles you have so you do not run out. Once you start hatching fry the feed will go faster and you do not want to find yourself without any. I typically reorder about half way through my second to last bottle.





Prepping for Hatch


You will want to take good notes of when your pair spawns and the conditions of the tank – temps, lighting, parameters and anything else you’d like to track. As conditions change in the tank it can affect how often your pair spawns and even when your eggs will hatch. Every thing will be as consistent as you are, meaning that if you maintain your tank consistently and keep your temperatures stable your pair will get into a regular and predictable spawning cycle.


Currently my Ocellaris pair is on a 9 day cycle – 7 days after spawn the eggs will hatch and 2 days later they will lay another nest. Your pair’s cycle might not be the same and your eggs may take longer to hatch if your temps and conditions are not the same.


This also varies by species – for example my Maroons are on a 6 day cycle. The fry will hatch 5 days after spawn and the pair will lay a new clutch of eggs on the 6th day.


You will want to research the average hatch cycle for your type of clown so that you are ready when the time comes.


You will also get familiar with the development of your pairs eggs. You will see the eggs change color as they mature and eventually you will even be able to see the eyes of the fry still in the eggs. Do not rely on site alone – keep a log and track your spawn dates and hatch dates.


Photo's courtesy of Lalani:








The photos above show the transition of the eggs as they develop.



I prepare for my hatch at least 3 days before the expected hatch date. You will need:


A hatch tank – I use a 10g tank.

Air pump, 4” air stone and a small air stone

Stable / reliable heater


A lamp or tank light that you can control the amount of light.


First you must prep the hatch tank.


I paint 3 sides of my tank black and the bottom of the tank white. Make sure the tank is clean. If you’ve had a clutch in the tank before it will most likely have algae one the sides and it’s important to clean it out well. You can use bleach when cleaning the tank and equipment but be sure to neutralize the bleach with vinegar before using it for the hatch. I don’t use bleach at all any more – I use hot water to clean the tank and paper towels to make sure I get everything out. Then I just use vinegar and give the tank a good thorough cleaning. I rinse it one last time and it’s ready to go.




*Also be sure to clean your heater and air line.


I use black construction paper to black out the last side of the tank that was not painted.


On the day before the hatch I pull approximately 4 gallons of water from the parent tank and add it to the hatch tank. I also add about 2 gallons of fresh mixed salt water to the hatch tank as well. I set my heater to maintain between 81.5 – 82 degrees then set the flow rate on my air line and 4” air stone. The flow rate should be enough to make the eggs sway but not so much that it is violent or beats the eggs.


I used to pull the water and set everything immediately before the hatch. What I found was that I was rushing and often the heater or something needed to be adjusted. By doing it the day before I have plenty of time to make sure everything is set right and stable.


I like the 4” air stone because it will give you a good spread of air over the eggs and the bubbles are not too fine. If the bubbles are too fine they will get trapped between the eggs and they will not hatch.


The air stones from Petco and Petsmart work just fine. Another breeder turned me on to the cheap plastic blue air stones at Walmart. For whatever reason if you place it in the pot upside down it seems to have the best coverage.


A good heater is important – I use 100w heaters in my 10g tanks mostly because I do not want any temperature fluctuation. The fry do not like to get cold and are more susceptible to disease if the temps fluctuate too much.


My preference for lighting is a desk lamp. I like using the lamp because I can adjust the amount of light the fry are getting easily. Also it does not light the entire tank so the fry can move to a darker part of the tank if they choose to. The lighting comes on after the hatch and after I’ve tinted the water and fed the rotifers and stays on through Meta.




Hatch Night


On the night of the hatch I pull my pot in the evening just before the tank lights normally go out. I set the pot in the hatch tank with the eggs positioned at the top of the pot. Then set my 4 inch air stone in the pot so that the spread of air is covering the eggs. I’ve read that it’s fine if the air doesn’t hit the eggs directly – it’s the water flow passing by the eggs that keeps them clean. My best hatches though have been with the air directly hitting the eggs.


Black out the tank and wait.


The fry will begin to hatch about an hour and half after the lights go out. I typically wait a couple of hours and check on the fry. If it appears as though most of the eggs have hatched, I pull the pot, tint the water with rotifer feed and add rotifers that I strained through a 53 micron sieve. Some breeders wait until morning to tint the water and feed the fry. The fry are born with enough food in their systems to get them through the first 24 hours.


Tinting the water is important. It feeds the rotifers and it gives the fry protection from the light. Not enough tint and to much light may cause the fry to stick to the bottom of the tank. It could possibly kill the fry as they can die from SFS or Sudden Fright Syndrome. Yes, they can literally scare themselves to death.


How much rotifers I add to the fry tank depends on the size of the hatch. For a small hatch I would strain 1 32oz cup of water through the sieve and for a larger hatch I would strain 2 32oz cups of rotifers water through the sieve.


Essentially what you are doing is creating a balance of rotifers to fry. You want enough rotifers in the tank so that the fry can easily find food but you don’t want so many that they compete with the fry for oxygen. Throughout the first ten days or so I monitor the rot density in the fry tank very closely. You can get a good estimate of the rot density by simply shining a flash light into the water – you will see the rots in the light. Based on the density I will add or strain rotifers from the hatch tank.


If the fry do not hatch I leave the pot in the hatching tank with the bubbles on the eggs. The longest I’ve gone and still had a hatch was with the air stone on the eggs for 3 days. That was by no means on purpose – I crossed my dates and pulled the pot too soon. I would not intentionally pull a pot that early.


You will want to be careful leaving any un-hatched eggs in fry tank for too long. If the eggs do not hatch they can spoil the water and harm the fry as well. A quick way to tell if the eggs are still viable is simply look at them. If they look normal they are most likely fine. But if the eggs have turned white – they will not hatch and should be removed.


Once you remove the pot you will want to change the 4” air stone with a standard small air stone. Leaving the large one in the tank with the fry can cause problems. I prefer to use a small air stone and just hang it in the water so it doesn’t touch the bottom. As for the amount of flow I set the air to a medium flow not too hard but not soft either. I try top place the air stone at the dark end of the tank. The brighter area is where the fry will feed and I do not want them to have to compete with the flow of the air stone for food.


Last I will turn on the desk lamp - again, not to bright, just enough to light up a section of the surface of the water. Once this light is on it will stay on until the fry hit meta or metamorphosis somewhere around day 10.


If your pair spawns on a rock or another object that is inconvenient to pull on hatch night you may have to let the eggs hatch in the brood stock tank. This makes things a little more complicated as you will not have the luxury of completely setting up your water before hand.


In order to gather the fry you will need to shine a flash light in a corner of the tank and wait for the fry to swim to the surface. Once at the top you can use a cup to gently pull the fry from the brood stock tank and transfer them with their water to a hatch tank. The tank would be set up the same way – just start with the smaller air stone right away.


Do not use a net to try to catch the fry. They are extremely small and fragile at this point and a net is likely to harm them. The photo below gives you a good idea of how small the fry really are.


Photos courtesy of Lalani:




Feeding the Fry




For the first two weeks and until the fry are through meta they are most sensitive. You will want to keep their conditions stable and feed regularly and often. Some breeders transition the fry from rotifers to baby brine shrimp then to dry foods. I’ve never used BBS and have done very well going directly from rotifers to dry. The dry food that I use is called Otohime and is available at Reed Mariculture. It is available in different sizes which are denoted by a letter / number grade such as A, B1, B2, C1 and so on. A being the smallest at 250m. I use the A and B1, the B1 size is 200m to 360m.


Day 1 I feed only rots.

On day two – I check my rotifers count and adjust accordingly and introduce Oto A

I continue to monitor rots and feed the Oto A to around day 10. Otohime is fed to fry about 3 times per day.

On about day 7 I start to introduce Oto B while still feeding the Oto A. You want to transition the fry from one food to the next by overlapping the food.

By day 10 the fry are off the rotifers completely and relying on dry foods.

At around day 14 I introduce the fry to crushed foods. The crushed foods consist of pellets, flakes and cyclopeeze that I grind to a fine powder using a mortar and pestle.

At around a month or when I feel the fry are large enough I introduce them to flake food that is crushed between my fingers. If they do well with that I wean them off the Otohime completely and only feed the flake foods and possibly some cyclop-eeeze.


When feeding it’s important to remember that Otohime goes a long way and it doesn’t take much to feed a tank of fry. Just a feed enough to let them all eat for a couple of minutes.


Maintaining the Fry Tank


While the fry are in the earliest stages there isn’t any filtration in the tank. It’s important to maintain the tank regularly to ensure proper water quality.


On day 3, I typically do my first water change. I might not pull water at this point I may just pull a gallon of water from the parent tank and drip that in to the fry tank. I found a cheap container from the dollar store works just fine for this along with a short piece of air line with a valve.


I fill the container and set it on top of the fry tank. Then start the siphon at a very slow drip rate.


By the end of the first week you will want to vacuum the fry tank. The rotifers and their feed can be messy. By vacuuming out the debris that they leave behind you greatly improve the water conditions. You can use a gravel vacuum or Florida Aqua Farms has a vacuum available that they specifically designed for cleaning fry tanks. I find that the gravel vacuum pulls the water too fast and you are more likely to end up with a lot of fry in the bucket that you will be trying to rescue later.


• Always use a clean bucket to drain the fry tank water into. If you do catch some fry in the bucket you will be able to get them out and back in the fry tank. If you use a dirty bucket the fry are a loss.


After Meta I add a seasoned sponge filter to the fry tank. This helps combat the bacteria and ammonia that will start building up. I purchased sponge filters rated at higher tank volumes – the one I use now is rated for a 40 gallon tank. The sponge is seasoned by floating it in the brood stock tank for at least a week prior to use in the fry tank. You can also use products such as Seachem’s Prime which will detoxify ammonia. I start using the Prime as early as day 3.


Ammonia badges are a very helpful tool – they stick to the glass and change color as ammonia builds.


You will want to continue doing regular water changes until the fry are old enough to be moved to a grow out system.



Grow Out

A quality grow out system is important. Sometime between 15 and 20 days of age the fry will be ready to move to a larger tank to grow out. I recommend you use a good size tank – 30 gallons minimum and it should be plumbed with a sump that has ample live rock and preferably a skimmer. The more water volume you have the easier it is to maintain.


If you leave the fry in the hatch tank for too long you will not be able to combat the ammonia and at some point you will start to have losses.


I’ve been told that misbars are due to poor water quality and I assumed that referred to the quality in the hatch tank through meta – but it’s related to quality of the water through the fry’s entire development.


With fry that I’ve left in hatch tanks for almost 30 days I had a very high percentage of misbars. The fry that had been moved to grow out on around day 17 had a very low percentage of misbars.


You will want to monitor your water quality in your grow out system and perform regular maintenance as needed.


The photo below is Lalani's grow out system in the works:




That’s all I have for now… I will update this thread if I have any changes or find a better way… that works for me.




Good Luck!


***Special thanks to everyone that's encouraged me and helped me out over the last year and thanks to Lalani for allowing me to use some of her photo's for this guide.

Edited by Pickle010
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you deserve a sticky



Thanks Adin... honestly, I was trying to organize the info in my breeders thread and this was easier.

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I have a question, how does Lani's g/o system work? I see two g/o tanks and then 2 sumps, I think :unsure: is it all plumed? lights? just very curious sorry for the questions

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Awesome thread, you deserve more than just a sticky. :flower: What do you test for in your broodstock system?



Thank you! You would treat a grow out system just like a FOWLR system - I test for mainly for pH, Ammonia and check my specific gravity and temps often. On occasion I'll test for NO2 and NO3.




I have a question, how does Lani's g/o system work? I see two g/o tanks and then 2 sumps, I think :unsure: is it all plumed? lights? just very curious sorry for the questions


Mini - she has one sump and it's the black round tub at the bottom. She has two what I believe are 30g tanks at the top, 3 in the middle and yes they are plumbed. For lighting she is using a combination of t5's and fluorescent lights. The grow out doesn't have any specific lighting needs.

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Thank you! You would treat a grow out system just like a FOWLR system - I test for mainly for pH, Ammonia and check my specific gravity and temps often. On occasion I'll test for NO2 and NO3.






Mini - she has one sump and it's the black round tub at the bottom. She has two what I believe are 30g tanks at the top, 3 in the middle and yes they are plumbed. For lighting she is using a combination of t5's and fluorescent lights. The grow out doesn't have any specific lighting needs.

Ok thanks pickle! I was juat curious cause I may want tk breed my Onyx pair when the time is right ;$

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Awesome thread, Mike! :D

MD - Ya, 4 30gal square tanks (one is leaky so empty) are plumbed into the 40gal tub. Those 10gal tanks on the left are broodstock tanks that I'll eventually plumb into the purple tub. I've actually switched out bulbs in that big t5 fixture so that only 2 are running for now. Thinking about raising the salinity in the growout to keep BTAs in there with the babies and prop them. :)

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wish i had this when i started breeding. hehe i had 60 pages of your thread to go thru. this is a perfect simple startup guide that will benefit anyone who has a question on breeding.

awesome write up. i actually took some notes and i have it taped to my wall by the setup so i can refer to it when i forgot something.


i am adding a few pick of my broodstock setup. its a custom 48x14x14 acrylic tank each chamber has an overflow and a return line. the sump is 36x18x14 acrylic also. i have a reef octopus skimmer rated for 200g and a coralife 18wUV, ran by a quietone (700gph) pump. the return is a mag18 cause i wanted alot of turnover for the skimmer. i do use a RKE to control the heaters and lights and all the pumps etc.

i also use the RKE to control the heaters on my hatch tanks.

i do have another tank ordered just like the first so i can house 8 pairs in 2 tanks. i am also switching to a 75g sump.





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I am so happy you set up this thread! Do you feed your babies otohime? Is it necessary to have a permit, just to breed the fish?

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I am so happy you set up this thread! Do you feed your babies otohime? Is it necessary to have a permit, just to breed the fish?



I think I addressed that in the tread. Permits vary by state - check with your local fish and game dept.


Awesome thread. Will definitely be referring back to it.



Thanks Igreen!

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wish i had this when i started breeding. hehe i had 60 pages of your thread to go thru. this is a perfect simple startup guide that will benefit anyone who has a question on breeding.

awesome write up. i actually took some notes and i have it taped to my wall by the setup so i can refer to it when i forgot something.


i am adding a few pick of my broodstock setup. its a custom 48x14x14 acrylic tank each chamber has an overflow and a return line. the sump is 36x18x14 acrylic also. i have a reef octopus skimmer rated for 200g and a coralife 18wUV, ran by a quietone (700gph) pump. the return is a mag18 cause i wanted alot of turnover for the skimmer. i do use a RKE to control the heaters and lights and all the pumps etc.

i also use the RKE to control the heaters on my hatch tanks.

i do have another tank ordered just like the first so i can house 8 pairs in 2 tanks. i am also switching to a 75g sump.






when you order this can you let me know the dimensions i am looking into the same thing. i know you said you did not like the overflows height. did you fix that in the new setup.

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I think I addressed that in the tread. Permits vary by state - check with your local fish and game dept.





Thanks Igreen!

Ok. I will check with Florida FWC.

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I just happened to notice tonight that my clowns made their second attempt at laying eggs sometime in the last 24-48 hours. Unlike the first batch, in which the eggs were all eaten/blown away with in the first couple hours, it appears somewhere around 15-25 eggs are attached and being tended to by the male. I'm not sure how far along they are, but I can see black dots w/ a goldish/silvery ring developing in the eggs. The eggs them self are no longer orange, but are sort of darkish/clear.


I'm having a difficult time getting pictures of the eggs, but here is a pic:




They are hard to see, but they are towards the top left, kind of maroonish looking in this pic, and the clown is staring right up at them.


I'm not expecting this batch to survive as I'm not ready to even think about attempting to raise them, but now that I'm seeing a more successful attempt, I may start reading up a bit more on raising them.


Here's a video of their first attempt at laying eggs if anyone is interested:


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Pickle, great thread and very well written. You get an A+!!!!


lgreen, from what I can see of your eggs and your description of the black dots for eyes, I'd say they are around day 4. At least that's what my snowflake eggs look like at that time.

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Seems as if spring is in the air! ha.


Good news from my spot. Noticed last night the male and female(mainly the male) hosting my GSP. This is the first to happen in the 6+ months they've been paired. Got home today from work, just observing the tank and notice both the male and female 'prepping' an area. Both taking turns picking at the rock cleaning it. The female would do 'dry runs' and the spin around. Male is following suit and doing his runs. It lasted for around 5-10 minutes. They eventually stopped but I'm assuming this is a positive sign of breeding soon to ensue?

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