Small Hatchery Setup

Small Hatchery Setup


By Jim E. Quarles

Sooner or later almost everyone who gets involved with either angelfish or discus fish wants to expand into a small to moderate size hatchery. Some think they can make money breeding and selling these fish to the local fish store or aquarium shop.


If that is your motivation you need not waste your time or any funds on such a project! ( Because it's not going to happen. ) Another false hope is that you will be able to sell your fish to other hobbyist's at a profit.
(That's not going to happen either!)

Now that were dealing in reality we can go on to setting up a nice fish room to breed and develop the fish we all have come to love.

Sometimes when you're real lucky you can sell enough fish to almost break even on expenses, if you count your labour as free in the operation. Breeding discus and angels should only be done for the love of doing it. Not for gain.

I have seen just about every kind of tank and fish breeding arrangement the twisted human mind can think up over the past fifty years. Some are very neat well planned and developed. Others are totally haphazard and random. It ranges from fish tanks all over the house to a dedicated fish room or a combination of all the above.

When starting out on such a project there are a lot of things that need to be taken into consideration. I can only point out the highlights and basic requirements since every physical location is going to be different. The space you might have will also play a very important part in your hatchery development.


  1. How much space do you have in square feet?
  2. The location of your water supply in consideration of how it will need to be used.
  3. The method of getting rid of your waste or dumped water.
  4. Holding and storage of treated water supplies if needed.( Most people require this )
  5. What is the total aim of the fish room development or perhaps best described as what is the intended ( scope of the project. )
  6. How do you plan to transport your water to and away from the tanks? What kind of filter system will you want to build in to the fish room. ( This subject alone needs lots of planning.) Will you want central filters? And if so how many, how may tanks per single central filter cell?
  7. Will your breeder tanks operate on individual filters or centrals?
  8. What size grow-out- tanks do you plan to use?
  9. How many? What is the best physical location for all the above.

So you can see from the above, building a fish room is a little more involved then just adding a few tanks if you plan to do a Semi-professional job. Just remember; the smaller the area you have, the more details of planning are required.

Physical Tank Layouts

I have found that breeding tanks work best if they are placed with the bottom of the tank at your eye level. In this way the fish can look downward toward any movement and are not as easily frightened by human movement when working the fish room. The placement of grow-out tanks generally is of secondary importance since you can fit them in lower in the order of tanks in the fish room. If you plan to have very large show tanks ( 100 gallons & up ) these should be centrally located in the room or space you have. Also you should have enough clearance room between rows to allow easy movement for yourself as you work the tanks. I know it is tempting to crowd the working room, but this really makes the management of the fish room a very uncomfortable affair, and if you short yourself on working space you will regret it later.

Tank Alignment

If you have the space, full face viewing of tanks is nice, but if your space is limited ( most of us face that problem ) then you might consider aligning the tanks so that only the narrow end shows to be viewed.

In my hatchery all my twenty gallon breeder tanks are aligned butt end out. This allows many more tanks to be place in the same space that only a few full face would allow.

Also I paint the surface of the sides and the back butt end so that the pairs can not see each other. I simply use water based yellow or blue paint for this and as any need arises the paint can be easily removed with a razor blade and hot water.

Next if you have the space for a work table in the fish room, this makes a great addition to the project. I have always provided for a work area large enough near a built-in sink so that daily chores can be done with the easy use of running water from the sink. If you can pipe in hot water so much the better. It makes your work a lot easier and faster.

One other thing since space is limited in most cases, a larger work table close to but not in the fish room is desirable as well. This area can be used for cutting glass and building or repairing broken tanks. There always seems to be tanks that need repair or re-sealing around a hatchery.

It goes without saying that if you plan to use central filters tank drilling will be required. This is quite easy to do with the right tools, but can be a disaster with out them. I have always found it cheaper in the long run to take the tanks to a glass shop and have them drilled as needed or order them pre-drilled at the time of purchase.

Next Subject P.V.C- Pipes And Fittings.

I have found that using thin wall or schedule 20 pvc works quite well for most fish room applications: ( water return lines from filters ) or other low pressure plumbing. If you are using pvc on the tap water line by all means use schedule 40 or thick wall pipe. I have used a wide range of sizes to meet different needs, but found that the use of 3/4 inch works better in most cases. P.V.C is cheap and easy to use. There are all kinds of special and common fittings that can be used to hook up just about anything you can think up.

The only thing I found expensive was the plastic ball valves needed by the double hand full it seems. These are not cheap but work best for fish room applications.

Always use a cleaner compound before using the pvc cement. If you don't you will experience failures at the worst possible time.

I am sure there are many other factors that should be considered in building a fish room. But let me state just two others.

Room Heating And Humidity.

The type of heat you use will also have to be considered. Gas room heat is best. It is easier to install and maintain. It offers uniform heat with simple heat control thermostats. It also provides clean heat.

Oil burning heat works almost as well but will cause a slight oil coating to be deposited on the waters surface in your tanks.

The major factor is the room Humidity that will result in any fish room. If this is not controlled you will find yourself fighting dry rot in the building wood work sooner or later. Plus a condition of molding can and will occur between the sheet rock and the outside wall. This also will be costly to repair.

I recommend a heat exchanger for the fish room to be used at all times. This allows humid air to be expelled yet retains the heat. It also allows a slight room pressure to build that will keep outside air form entering the room and carrying in dust and unwanted particles, lint, etc.

Last but not least plan your lighting in such a way that outside direct sunlight does not enter the fish room if it falls on fish tanks in use.

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