If you want to breed fish for profit, the best place to start is in your own fish tank.
Whether you are just getting into fishkeeping or you are well into the aquarium hobby, you can start breeding and selling your fish to make your existing tanks profitable.
When you’re ready to expand, consider the following species:
Guppies are some of the most popular fish in the trade, which means pet stores are always buying, and breeders are always selling. Unfortunately, guppies don’t sell for very much.
Still, if you manage to sell 1,000 or more guppies every month, you can definitely support your fish-keeping hobby. You may even be able to turn a profit.
While 1,000 guppies may sound like a lot, guppies breed easily, and female guppies produce lots of babies.
Breeding angelfish is easy because they are such good parents. Unlike other fish, who eat their eggs and babies (fry), angelfish protect and raise their young.
Nevertheless, you will want to separate angelfish from their babies every six to eight weeks, so they will be inspired to spawn again.
Angelfish sell for about $10 a pop and are the easiest fish to breed within the cichlid family.
When possible, it’s best to keep breeding pairs in tanks that can hold more than one species. For example, you can keep angelfish with dwarf cichlids.
While angelfish will happily breed on a slate rock or a piece of terra cotta, dwarf cichlids will spawn in a cave in the same tank.
This means you can sell both angelfish and dwarf cichlids to your local aquarium.
Dwarf cichlids are lucrative and sell for $25 to $50 per fish.
Other Cichlids of Note
Kribensis (kribs) are easy-to-breed cichlids that will lay eggs in caves and raise their fry until they can school together. They are very protective, so you won’t have to do much work, and they sell for $10 to $20 per fish.
Neolamprologus multifasciatus, known as Neos or multies, are shell-dwelling cichlids with lots of personality. They raise their babies in shells, and once you catch them, you can sell them for $15 to $20 apiece.
Corydoras or cory catfish can also be kept in a community tank with angelfish and dwarf cichlids.
These bottom-dwellers have a different breeding process. So, a tank with breeding angelfish, dwarf cichlids, and corydoras could be highly lucrative.
For example, imagine you get 50 angelfish, ten dwarf cichlids, and ten corydoras from a single breeding session.
If you can sell all these fish, you could make more than $500 with every breeding cycle.
Breeding popular fish, like fancy goldfish, is always a good idea, as people will buy them! Still, breeding and raising goldfish takes a long time.
If you want to sell your goldfish for a good price, you will have to hold onto them for a while and make sure they grow big and strong.
Over time, you could develop a reputation as a reliable goldfish breeder and start turning a profit, but goldfish breeding is not as easy as it sounds.
On the other hand, Molly babies grow quickly and will be ready to sell in just a few months. Mollies are live-bearing fish, so you won’t have to worry about eggs.
With mollies, make sure you keep three to four females for every male. Otherwise, the male could literally love the female to death.
With the proper ratio, mollies will mate constantly. They sell for $2 to $4 apiece, so you could create a reliable side hustle.
Bristlenose plecos are extremely easy to breed. Simply place one female and two males in a tank with some caves, and you won’t have to worry about anything else.
The fish will breed and raise their young entirely inside of their caves, and males guard their babies fiercely.
When you see baby plecos emerge from their caves, you can simply scoop them up, let them grow a little bigger in a separate breeding tank, and sell them for about $8 each.
More Than Fish
Maximizing every tank you own is the best way to profit from breeding fish.
This means breeding fish that go well together (tank mates like dwarf cichlids, angelfish, and cory catfish) and also producing more than just fish.
Red Cherry Shrimp
Red cherry shrimp make great tank mates for most fish, and they sell for $3 to $5 each.
You’ll also have difficulty stopping a male-female pair from breeding, so you’ll always have shrimp to sell.
Java moss is helpful for breeding all sorts of fish, and you can produce and sell java moss while you’re at it!
All you have to do is cut off part of the plant (two inches, to be exact) and affix it to a surface where you want it to grow.
We recommend growing the moss on a wire, so you can easily transport it when it’s time to make a sale.
By the way, a 4-ounce cup sells for about $5.
When you’re not using your breeding tanks to breed fish or raise fry, you can use them to grow live food for your fish. This can save you plenty of money on fish food — and live food triggers breeding in many of the species on this list!
If you grow too much, don’t worry! Hobbyists and pet stores will not hesitate to buy live food, like brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, and bloodworms.
Is There Money in Breeding Fish?
Yes and no. There is money in breeding fish, but it’s usually not enough for a full-time job. Fortunately, breeding fish usually brings in just enough to support your hobby — plus a little extra pocket money.
For many breeders, their fish breeding business is their passion project. They would do it even if they weren’t making any money.
We do not recommend getting into fish breeding unless you already enjoy fishkeeping as a hobby.
How Much Do Fish Breeders Make a Year
Amateur fish breeders usually make about $1,000 per tank per year. This is usually just enough money to maintain their tanks due to the high cost of breeding.
Fishkeeping is expensive, so many people breed fish to help support it. Even professional fish breeders don’t make that much.
According to the job site, Comparably, “The salaries of Tropical Fish Breeders in the US range from $36,330 to $52,109, with a median salary of $41,020.”
Which Fish Is Best for Breeding?
The best fish for breeding are hardy, colorful fish that breed frequently. For example, guppies fit this description perfectly.
Choose a Fish that Fits Your Strategy
Ultimately, you will need to choose a breeding strategy. You may wish to breed crowd pleasers, like guppies and goldfish, because they will almost always sell. Or, you can specialize in difficult-to-breed species, like discus fish.
Discus fish are notoriously hard to breed but sell for up to $200.
Some breeders also enjoy breeding “oddball” fish that are easy to breed but hard to find. Examples of oddballs include blind cave tetras and Malaysian trumpet snails.
Instead of breeding popular or rare fish, you can keep lucrative tanks with many breeding species, like corydoras, angelfish, and dwarf cichlids.
No matter what you decide, consistency is key.
Buyers want a consistent supply of the same fish, so pick a strategy, choose a fish (or three) that fits your strategy, and stick with it.
How Do I Start a Fish Breeding Business?
To start a fish breeding business, think small. Use the tanks you already have to practice breeding and form relationships with local pet stores.
Do not be afraid to give your first batch of fish away as samples; if you’re doing well, do not be afraid to scale up when the time comes. Some successful breeders start with one tank in their office and end up with an entire pond in their backyard.
It’s difficult to profit from fish breeding, so try not to bite off more than you can chew.
What Is the Best Fish to Breed for Beginners?
The best fish to breed is whatever fish you have on hand! This way, all you have to do is buy one breeding tank, do some research, and convince your fish to breed.
If you have a hard-to-breed fish species (like an aggressive betta fish), or you don’t have any fish, we recommend starting with guppies or zebrafish.
Zebrafish are biomedical models because they are so easy to breed and study. If you want to learn from scratch and aren’t worried about making a profit, you truly cannot go wrong with a school of zebrafish.
In a worst-case scenario, you may be able to sell them to a local lab.