If you want to start breeding fish, here are a few pointers to help you along…
1. Provide sheltered nesting spots. Parents-to-be need to feel safe in order to breed. Give them a spot to call home and defend that is behind visual barriers and safe from dominant fish that will impede their mating. This may mean giving the pair their own tank, but sometimes one or more dither fish are required so that the pair unite and and put their combined aggression into defending their nest together, rather than fighting amongst themselves.
2. Mimic natural conditions. Egg-laying fish tend to breed in pits they dig themselves, in caves they can seal off or on inclined surfaces. Provide the appropriate medium for your particular fish (sand, gravel, rocks, clay, plant leaves, floating roots, etc.). Some may require warm, acidic water, where others require cool, basic water. Some prefer still water, where others will insist upon heavy currents.
3. Provide environmental triggers. Spawning season in nature is sometimes triggered by a sudden change in water conditions – melting snow, spring rains, surface runoff, etc. Sometimes a water change is all it takes, but you may have to monitor and carefully-control your water parameters to provide ideal mating conditions.
4. Condition the parents. Addition of high-protein foods will encourage fish to come into breeding condition. Blood/glass/earth worms, shrimp, smaller fish, etc. all help to condition your mating pair.
5. A watched pot never boils – have patience! Fish will often breed when you aren’t looking, don’t want them to or least expect it. Go play Sudoku, have a cup o’ tea and come back later.