Fish Guide

List Of Fish That Care For Their Young

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There exists a common stereotypical belief among people that fish aren’t good parents. This is true for most of the fish, but we cannot claim this as a universal truth because there are fish that will hurt their fries, and there are fish that will protect their fries, keeping their own life at stake. Sometimes a fish species that we have categorized as good parents can also attack their young while under stress. So, child care among fish is unpredictable, up to some extent.

While fish like silver dollars leave their fries on their own after birth and fish like guppy fish eat their babies straight after birth, there are some fish like cichlids that look after their eggs and care for their fries. Some fish take parental care to such an extreme level that they carry fries around inside their mouth. These fish are called moth brooders.

Sometimes it gets hard to differentiate when the fish is protecting or attacking its fries. But after reading his article, you will know about the caring style of various fishes and will help you in the future.

Fish That Care For Their Young

In this section, I am going to list some of the excellent parents in the fish-keeping world. You will learn about how they care for their fries and some exciting facts. After reading this, you will not be confused over whether your fish is protecting the fries or attacking them.

Some of the excellent parents in the fish-keeping world are:

Discus Cichlids (Symphysodon)

Advantage of fishkeeping

Discus are popular fish of cichlid family and are native to South America near the Amazon basin. These fish get their name from their disc-like appearance.

In an aquarium, aquarists categorize them as finicky fish to keep, and only experienced fish-keeper keep them.

Discus are excellent parents and resemble parenting like mammals. The young discus feed on the mucus that the mother cichlid secrets from the surface of her body. The nutritional property of this mucus changes as the young grows to juvenile. Both the parents secret the mucus. Male discus is more likely to look after their young; so after the birth, a female is separated from the fries.

The male not only feeds the fries but also protects them from any kind of threats and fights for them.

Blood Parrot Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus x Paraneetroplus synspilus.)

Blood Parrot

Parrotfish is a member of the cichlid family and is native to the freshwater system of central America. These fish should not be confused with parrot-fish, which is saltwater fish of another family.

Among fish keepers, blood parrots are considered hardy by intermediate fish-keepers, but a beginner must not keep them.

Blood Parrot Cichlid makes excellent parents as they take care of their young while they are still inside the eggs. After laying the eggs, the female entirely dedicates all of her time looking after the eggs. She carries the eggs from one place to a safer place is she senses any danger. If any eggs are infertile, then they will develop fungus, and the female will stop the fungus from spreading by eating the infertile eggs.

After the eggs hatch, the female will protect the fries from big fishes until they are about 1 inch, and then they are on their own.

Jawfish (Opistognathidae)

Yello Barred Jaw Fish

Opistognathidae or jawfish are native to warmer areas of Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans. Due to the presence of a yellow spot on their head, they are called yellow head jawfish also.

Jawfish are saltwater fish, so your regular freshwater fish won’t do, and they are difficult to take care of.

Jawfish are mouthbrooders, meaning they will carry the eggs in their mouth, and the eggs will hatch inside the mouth, which prevents the fries from predators. Out of the two, the male takes the responsibility of brooding the eggs. The male keeps the egg inside the mouth for several days and doesn’t even eat for those days. Jawfish take parenting quite very seriously as they will defend the eggs at any cost, but they won’t look after their fries for a very long time.

After the eggs are hatched, the fries swim away and are on their own. Then the male will finally start feeding itself and preparing for the next breeding.

Another interesting fact about these fishes is that they don’t swim around in the tank. They live inside a burrow or a tunnel that they dig through the substrate to protect themselves from other predators. These fish defend the opening of the tunnel and defend their fries and eggs.

Zebra Cichlid (Amatitlania nigrofasciata)

Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid

Zebra cichlid or convict cichlid or zebra convict is a fish of cichlid family that is native to the water system of central America. These are popular aquarium fish, and biologists have used them to study fish behavior. The name is derived from the black and white vertical stripes present on its body, which resembles a zebra or prison uniform in Britain.

Convicts have been used to study fish parenting because they are excellent parents. Both males and females take good care of the young and can work hand in hand or independently in taking care of the eggs and fries. Usually, parents distribute the parenting responsibility as the female guards the eggs and male patrols around fighting intruders.

After the eggs hatch, the female remains with the fries, whereas the male chases off any intruders. If no intruders are present around, then both the mates act as single parents and look after the young independently. If the only male is present with the fries and an intruder is introduced, then it will leave the fries and start chasing off the intruders.

To sum up, we can say, male doesn’t stay with the fries, and the female doesn’t chase the intruder when other is absent. This behavior of Zebra Cichlids generalizes the parenting behavior of most of the cichlid.

German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi)

Female Blue Ram

This peaceful and colorful dwarf cichlid originates from Venezuela and Colombia. If you want to add color to your tank, then we surely recommend these fish. These are extremely easy to care for, and due to their excellent parenting behavior, most of the fries make it up to adulthood.

After the female lays the eggs, you should not separate even one of them from the eggs because Rams practice biparental brood care, which means that both parents work together in caring for the eggs and fries. The parents will cycle freshwater around the eggs so that they don’t develop any fungus. These fish will eat any unfertile eggs so as not to attract pathogens.

The eggs usually hatch after 40 hours, but the fries will be able to swim freely only after 5 to 6 days. After the eggs have hatched, fries will form a tight school around their parents. The female will shift the fries to safer places, and the male will fight away intruders.

Although these are excellent parents, first-time parents may eat their fries, but it is not a thing to worry about because they are learning. Usually, parents eat fries due to distress in the tank. You must find the reason behind this distress and resolve it immediately.

Banggai Cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni)

Banggai CardinalFish

The Banggai Cardinalfish is a tropical water endangered fish that is native to the Banggai Islands of Indonesia. It is an attractive looking fish that will surely grab your attention if you see one. Today the population of these is just a few millions, and aquarists breed them in captivity for reserve purpose.

This fish is an excellent mouthbrooder and takes mouth brooding to an ultimate level. The male keeps the eggs in its mouth for around 30 days. During this time, he doesn’t eat anything and remains completely hungry. The male has the ability to detect and release unfertile or dead eggs from the mouth. The female’s duty is to chase away any intruders while the male is brooding the eggs in its mouth.

The male releases juveniles after some days, and they start swimming and living on their own. The juveniles form a dense school around corals and plants, and they can take care of themselves.

Yellow Lab Fish (Labidochromis caeruleus)

Electric Yello Lab Cichlid

These are extraordinary fish species of family cichlid that are native to lake Malawi in central Africa. These fish are timid as compared to other African cichlids but can get aggressive and territorial when it comes to food and mate.

When it comes to parenting, these fish are very patient and take care of the eggs and fries very sincerely. The female carries the egg in her mouth after the male fertilizes them. The female carries the eggs for around 40 days, and during this time, the female doesn’t eat anything.

After the eggs have hatched, they emerge from the female’s mouth, both the parents protect the egg. The parents are very possessive regarding their fries and will defend them from intruders and big predators.

Most of the fish keepers tend to separate the parents from the fries, and this might be ok from the fries’ point of view, but it gives mental stress to the parents. Fries can easily survive in a tank with warmer temperatures and no predators.

Arowana (Osteoglossidae)

Snow Arowana | arowana fish diseases and treatment

Sometimes referred to as Dragonfish, Arowana is exotic, large, and probably the dream of every fish-keeper all around the world. They are a large beast, and different variant originates from different parts of the world, including Asia, America, Africa, Australia, etc. and can length up to 4 feet.

Arowanas are excellent parents as they are mouthbrooders, and the male takes the responsibility of keeping the orange marble-like eggs in its mouth for several days until they hatch. The eggs take around 60 days to hatch inside the male’s mouth, and the male might swallow some of them accidentally. The male doesn’t release the fries until the fries don’t absorb the yolk sacs.

However, the female acts violently towards the male and the eggs. First, she eats the egg that the male cant brood in the mouth. Then she will chase away the male violently to show a territorial behavior. This violent chase off between the pair leads to some accidental swallowing of the eggs by the male. So, after laying eggs, you should separate the male and female immediately.

Though Arowana is considered hardy fish, they sometimes get infected by some nasty diseases too. You can check out some common diseases they get in our article “Arowana Fish Diseases And Treatments“.


I think I have discussed most, if not all, of the common fishes that, as a fish-keeper, you might stumble upon one day. After reading this, you will surely not be mistaken whether your fish is attacking the fries or protecting it. Also, the fries of the fish that I have mentioned above don’t require much care as their parents look after them.

You should just make sure that there are no threats from bigger animals, and the temperature is a bit warmer than usual. Therefore, I suggest you go through this article one more time and know about how different kinds of fish care for their young ones.


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