In order to breed garra rufa fish, you will need to be able to distinguish the sexes and to be able to recreate natural conditions to stimulate spawning. We recommend to always record your successes and failings in a notebook.

Sexing garra rufa fish

Determining the sex of the garra rufa fish is an important step in knowing whether one has a pair. Most fish can be classified as sexually dimorphic or sexually isomorphic. In sexually dimorphic species, the sexes can be easily distinguished by primary (shape of sex organs) and secondary differences (size, shape, color [sexual dichromatism, finnage). Males are frequently more colourful, larger, and have more elaborate finnage. In sexually isomorphic species like the garra rufa fish, there are minute apparent sexual differences. The only way to distinguish between the sexes is the shape of the genital papilla, which is only visible around spawning times. With Garra Rufa fish, the males are slightly larger and the females are slightly rounder in the belly.

Selecting the parent garra rufa fish

Once males and females have been distinguished, a suitable pair or spawning group should be chosen. There are several important traits to seek in choosing the parent fish.

  1. Choose garra rufa fish that display good markings and colour, that should produce attractive young.
  2. Only use mature, healthy garra rufa fish for spawning because unhealthy fish, if they will spawn, may produce unhealthy or deformed young.
  3. Make sure that the pair are both of the same species because hybrids are sterile.


Garra rufa fish are egg-layers with external fertilization. Egg-layers can be divided into five groups: egg-scatterers, egg-depositors, egg-burriers, mouth-brooders, and nest-builders. The Garra Rufa fish are egg-scatterers and simply scatter their adhesive or non-adhesive eggs to fall to the substrate, into plants, or float to the surface. The Garra Rufa fish do not look after their brood and even eat their own eggs.

Conditioning the parent fish

Before placing the parent garra rufa fish together for spawning, they should be conditioned. Conditioning is feeding the garra rufa fish a variety of healthy foods to get them into top condition for spawning. The garra rufa fish should be conditioned on live foods such as brine shrimp, insect larvae, and flying insects. The parent fish can be fed while conditioning. This way, when the parent fish are reintroduced, they are eager to spawn again.

Spawning tank

Garra rufa fish readily spawn in the aquarium but the eggs or fry often do not survive because of predatory parents or other garra rufa fish. Because of this; the garra rufa fish should be bred using a separate spawning tank. The spawning tank should be like a hospital tank with protected heater so the garra rufa fish are not burned; a slow-moving filter (sponge filter), so the eggs are not sucked up; and good aeration. A 5-10 gallon tank is sufficient for spawning..

For egg scatterers like the garra rufa fish, the spawning tank can be furnished with a substrate consisting of two layers of marbles or a nylon netting just above the tank floor. As the eggs are laid, they fall through the marbles or the netting out of the reach of the parents. After spawning is over, the eggs or the parents can be removed.

Stimulating spawning

One of the best ways to induce garra rufa fish to spawn is to simulate natural conditions. Among factors that encourage garra rufa fish to spawn are the environment, the food, and the rainy season.

The right water conditions are among the most basic requirements in spawning garra rufa fish. Thus the water conditions should be similar to those in the natural environment of the species. Another important environmental condition is the right tank set-up including hiding places, spawning sites, lighting and water current.

The right foods are important to encourage spawning. Without proper foods, natural conditions cannot be entirely recreated. Live foods that can make a difference in spawning success are mosquito larvae and fruit flies.

By simulating the rainy season in the aquarium, garra rufa fish can be induced to spawn. Rains affect the water chemistry, the water height, and the water temperature. In order to simulate rainy conditions, the tank level should be reduced to half its normal height. Each day add 5% of the tank volume. The water added should be very soft and slightly cooler than the tank temperature. To simulate the rain, use a drip system or spray bar for several hours a day and simulate storms by flashing light in a dark room. Thunder can be created by playing a recording of a storm, a recording of music with bass, or a recording of rattling thin metal cake pans. The process can be repeated until the garra rufa fish show signs of spawning preparation. In addition to the “storms,” the fish should be fed heavily with mosquito larvae, shrimp, and flying insects.

“Target fish” can be used to help strengthen the bond between a arra rufa fish pair. Target fish can be another of the same species or a similar species that is placed in the tank with the breeding pair. This third fish will serve as an object of the aggression of the pair. The pair will work together to chase off the target fish and not fight between themselves. Only use the target fish method in a large tank with plenty of hiding places, so that the target fish is not harmed.

The rearing tank

A rearing tank can be the same tank as the spawning tank as long as the parents are removed. The rearing tank should have a protected heater, a sponge filter or a filter with a sponge on the intake, and plastic or live plants. In addition, three of the tank sides should be covered with black paper, because a light can encourage fungal infections and cause discomfort for the fry. The water in the rearing tank should be similar to the water used for spawning.

Raising the fish

The fry develop in a number of days. When the eggs hatch, the larvae that emerge look nothing like the parent fish. Instead, the larvae have a large, yellow yolk sac and are barely able to move, let alone swim. The larvae will feed off the egg sac until all the yolk is gone. Once the yolk sac is gone, the hungry fry will begin to look for food. The fry of small garra rufa fish can be first fed infusoria, “green water,” or egg yolk. Later these fry can be fed larger foods like whiteworms, Daphnia, Artemia nauplii, and ground flakes. Once the fish grow larger, larger foods like brine shrimp, larger Daphnia, flakes, insect larvae, and chopped Tubifex worms are accepted.

25-50% of the water in the rearing tank should be changed daily. Be sure that the “new” water added has characteristics like the water taken out, because fry are sensitive to sudden changes in the water chemistry. The fry should be fed several times a day. The garra rufa fish need periodic sorting by size, so that larger fish do not cannibalize the smaller fish. With favorable water conditions, regular water changes, and generous feeding, the fry should grow quickly. Cull unhealthy and deformed fish. Click here to buy garra rufa fish,

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