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Secrets to Breeding Halfbeaks

These unusual livebearers have a lot to offer intermediate aquarists.

By Neale Monks |

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Halfbeaks may be livebearers, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to keep or breed. Adult halfbeaks are sensitive to rapid changes in water chemistry and fussy about their food, so simply keeping them alive can be tricky. Moreover, halfbeaks are shy but territorial fish that fight among themselves, and they also are easily bullied by larger or more aggressive species. While they mate just as readily as other livebearers, females are prone to miscarry their broods, and the fry can be difficult to feed. The bottom line is that halfbeaks have a reputation for being difficult fish best attempted by the prepared aquarist.

In reality, once you accommodate their little idiosyncrasies, you’ll discover that halfbeaks are adaptable fish that will tolerate a wide range of water chemistry parameters (as long as the chemistry stays consistent) and get along with most community fish. Breeding them is a challenge, but once the fry are feeding well, they’re hardy and grow quickly.

Want to read the full story? Pick up the August 2010 issue of Aquarium Fish International today.

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Reader Comments

jess    Harrisburg, PA

2/19/2015 8:44:35 PM

I've never had trouble keeping halfbeaks. Right now I have 3 of them and they are doing great.

Karen    Allentown, PA

5/12/2014 8:15:37 AM

Either your half beak can store sperm like some other live bearing fish or she was pregnant when you bought her and it took this long for the babies to develop and be born.

Francisco    International

12/7/2013 7:56:12 PM

I bought a female wrestling halfbeak last june, and she quickly became the surface boss, actually she got control over three swordtails and two crossocheilus, with whom she competed during the feeding time. She's not shy al all. In september I bought two juveniles, a male and a female, the female is growing so fast she is almost the size of the first one. The male is significantly smaller, but he behaves just as a stallion. In the last Dec. 4th. morning (three days ago)I found two new baby halfbeaks, which I immediately put into a small cage in order to protect them from being eaten. Up to this moment, they seem to be doing great. Very lively and are now going quickly for food at feeding time. I actually made the rutine wáter change to the tank yesterday (two days old of age for them) and nothing happened to them (changed about 12-15% of the water instead of the regular 25-30%). My halfbeaks are the masters of the surface in my 15 gal community tank, in which I keep a crazy mixture of fishes: 3 swordtails (2 females and 1 male), 2 crossocheilus, 1 otocinclus, 3 male zebras, 2 bumblebee gobies, 1 panda catfish, 1 pristella, 1 pipefish, 2 apple snails, and now the 2 halfbeak babies).

Rachel    International

12/21/2012 5:07:03 PM

On December 4th, I woke up and checked on my fish as usual and happened to notice 8 baby halfbeaks. I was told it was a Celebes Halfbeak when I purchased it, but someone told me they thought it was a Wrestling Halfbeak instead . Well, this was quite strange to me since I only had one halfbeak. I started doing a lot of research online and in no instance did I see that a halfbeak could be hermaphroditic. (or impregnate themselves if that is not the correct terminology. When I purchased her, about 3 months ago, she was the only halfbeak in the aquarium as well. The previous owner used to work at the fish store, and they sold her along with two knight gobies to me and I brought them home to be buddies with my young green-spotted puffer (so far they all get along!). So you can imagine my surprise that she gave birth when (from what I understand) she has never been around another halfbeak. I am quite diligent about maintaining excellent water conditions and giving my fish a healthy, natural and very varied diet. Since the birth, I purchased another aquarium and the babies (sadly now only 6 because 2 got eaten on the first day) are quite happy in their own aquarium with some ghost shrimp.
Anyway, I guess the whole point is, not only do I think that this may never have been documented in captivity, I was hoping to hear from someone who may know a lot more than I do and have better information than just Google. Also, a lot of the behaviors that are typically not associated with the halfbeaks have been quite common with mine. My original swims the whole tank and is actually a bit bossy towards the other fish (even my puffer). The babies are also all over the place (they do spend most of their resting time at the top, though except for one who seems to love the bottom). Another thing I noticed about the mother, since she gave birth, is that she now has some orange tinges on her belly and fins (was definitely not there before). Does any of this sound more normal to you, than it does to me?

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