What If Spawning Doesn't Go To Plan?

You've followed all the instructions to the letter, but nothing happens. What next?

Small fiberglass ponds are ideal for spawning Goldfish in.Small fiberglass pond ideal for spawning Goldfish in.

Do We Know For Certain The Age and Health Of Our Breeders?

We have to be sure of certain facts:

  • Are the fish old enough to spawn?  By purchasing them in early spring you are safe to assume they are last seasons fry (unless they have been stunted).  By breeding them the following year their age should be ideal for breeding.
  • Are the fish too old to spawn?  If you purchased larger fish to avoid having to grow them to adulthood, they may be too old to spawn.  Has the male got tubercles?  Is the female looking plump, or is her anal opening protruding?  If it isn’t “she” may be a “he” or she is too old to spawn.
  • Are the fish healthy? 

As you get more experienced you will be able to merely glance at a fish to know its health, but obvious signs of illness to look for are:

  • Ragged edges or blood red patches on fins
  • Fins being held close to the body
  • Lack of activity and/or loss of appetite 
  • Patches of slime or redness on the body
  • Lack of body condition (thin).

Were the breeders in good condition after winter?  If not it is too late to get them into breeding condition now.

Have you been feeding your fish live food since the start of spring?

Some other possible problems are:

  • Has the water turned green?  Too much algae in the water will delay spawning.
  • Is the pool or aquarium not receiving natural light early enough in the morning because it is in the shade?
  • Is the spawning vessel too small?  Crowding the breeders into too small a water volume leads to rapid increases in carbon dioxide levels which will suppress breeding urges.
  • Has the female already dropped her eggs without you noticing?  (This is why you remove plants and similar objects from her pool or aquarium).
  • Has there been a sudden drop in temperature?
  • Do the fish appear nervous?  If your fish aren’t used to humans because they live in a large pool they may be spooked in unfamiliar surroundings.
  • Unfortunately, the more highly developed varieties are often the most reluctant to spawn. 

Are Your Fish  Receiving Enough Natural Light?

We know goldfish get into breeding condition because of two triggers:

  1. Water temperature
  2. Lengthening daylight hours.

If you know your Goldfish are old enough to spawn, are in excellent health and conditions, are being fed live food or Repashy's Super Food, but the males don't develop tubercles and the female doesn't plump up with eggs, not enough natural light may be the cause.

This is seldom a problem with fish kept outdoors, even when the pond is quite shaded.  It can be a problem with fish kept indoors.

It appears that the quality of the light is the problem, not the length of time the aquarium is lit.

Many breeders condition their fish outdoors, and then bring them indoors for breeding.  Fish kept outdoors tend to spawn more readily than those kept indoors throughout the year.

If fish are in excellent condition, I have found it takes about three weeks for them to get into breeding condition once they have been moved outside.

What To Try Next

If you suspect the female may have dropped her eggs, which would be indicated by the fish looking a lot slimmer, separate the fish for two weeks and feed them heavily with live food before trying again.

If Goldfish have been conditioned properly in the autumn, they will spawn multiple times in a season.  Depending on temperature the interval can be as short as 6 days between spawns.

I tend to put them back together after no more than 14 days to avoid the female dropping her eggs prematurely.

If you are fairly sure the female hasn’t dropped her eggs, try a 25% water change in the afternoon.  Keep doing this daily to see if it has the desired affect.

This is especially effective if the water temperatures are starting to get close to 80oF (27oC) when Goldfish start to lose interest in spawning.

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