Molly fish are a strikingly beautiful freshwater fish variety for your aquarium. There are many types of Molly fish, such as black, sailfin, Dalmatian, balloon, and lyretail. These fish are adaptable and peaceful, making them a great addition to any fish tank. Molly fish are also easy to breed and are usually already pregnant when purchased.
If you have a pregnant Molly fish in your aquarium, you may wonder how long Molly fish stay pregnant. You will also need to know how to care for your pregnant Molly and her fries, so keep reading.
How Long Do Molly Fish Remain Pregnant?
These tropical fish generally stay pregnant for 60 to 70 days before giving birth to 10 to 60 fries. Like Guppies, Mollies are livebearers that retain the eggs inside the body and give birth to live fish. Mollies are ideal if you want a live-bearing fish for a community tank. A single Molly can sometimes birth more than one hundred babies, called fries, in a single pregnancy.
How Molly Fish Breed
It is best to have multiple female Mollies with a single male Molly fish. Typically female Molly fish only breed with a single male with larger fins and bold colors. Male Molly fish are aggressive to other males, so it is best to have at least two to three females per male in your tank. Amorous males looking to breed can also stress female Mollies with their constant demands. For this reason, it is always better to have more females than males in your fish tank.
The fish copulate with the male under the female fish. Successful mating leads to pregnancy and eventually the birth of the fries.
How To Tell If Your Molly Fish Is Pregnant
A pregnant Molly fish isn’t hard to identify, and there are clear, visible signs.
Pregnant Molly fish require special care and attention, mainly because they will eat their fry. The three main ways you can tell if your Molly fish is pregnant are:
Your Molly fish will develop a bulky, boxy appearance rather than her usual soft, rounded body. If it is early in the pregnancy, you might not notice it easily. However, towards the end of her pregnancy, your Molly will have a distinct square-like shape to her belly. The abdomen can grow significantly since Molly fish can carry up to 120 babies in one pregnancy. The more babies your Molly will have, the larger and boxier her body will appear.
It is not uncommon for fish to grow bigger from eating, so the best way to distinguish between growth due to diet or pregnancy is through the gravid spot. The gravid spot is a dark triangular mark under your fish’s belly. When Molly fish are pregnant, you will notice the gravid spot near their anal cavity.
This dark spot is the cluster of fry contained within her. As your Molly fish reaches the end of her pregnancy, you can see the babies within her belly. The eyes of the fry are large and prominent and become apparent during the later stages of the pregnancy. Finding the gravid spot is more difficult in black mollies, but the lighter the Molly, the easier to see her gravid spot.
Pregnant Molly fish will also show changes in behavior, such as aggression towards other fish. Not that your pregnant Molly will attack other fish, but they will take an aggressive posture when bothered. They will also try to avoid other fish as much as possible and find hiding spots within the tank. Since the male Molly fish are always looking to mate, a pregnant Molly will often hide to avoid feeling stressed by their pursuit. If two Molly fish breed successfully, these signs can show a week after.
Similar to other animals, a pregnant Molly fish will eat more. While fish are generally hungry and look for opportunities to overfeed, a pregnant Molly needs more food. They need to provide for the fry they are carrying inside. It is best to feed your Molly fish high-quality fish food while she is pregnant. Avoid feeding food that contains too much air or filler. During this time, a balanced diet is essential for the health of your pregnant Molly fish and her babies.
When Molly fish are pregnant, they will look for warm spots in the aquarium. You will notice them lingering by the tank’s heater or temperature stabilizer. If you have a UV light in your tank, a pregnant Molly fish may even hover near the surface for the warmth created by the light near the water’s surface.
Pregnant fish prefer to maintain a higher temperature during gestation, and a warmer tank helps speed your Molly’s pregnancy along.
Molly Fish Pregnancy Stages
Molly fish pregnancy occurs in two stages: fertilization and gestation. When the gestation period is over, Molly fish gives birth to many fries. These are live fish instead of eggs like other species.
1. Fertilization Stage
In most types of fish, the female lays eggs in the water, and the males will fertilize them with their sperm. With some species, fertilization occurs within the fish’s body, and the eggs are laid after. These eggs hatch and new fish are born. However, Molly fish fertilize and carry the fertilized eggs within their bodies.
Molly fish can also store the male’s sperm within their body for months so they can fertilize their eggs again after a time interval to give birth to new fry. Most Molly fish can fertilize their eggs every 30 days to stay pregnant for the long term.
2. Gestation Stage
The gestation stage is when the eggs or embryos develop within the mother’s body. The fertilized eggs develop into fish babies called fry within the Molly fish mother. The gestation stage generally lasts 20 to 40 days among most Molly fish. However, some Molly fish, like the Dalmatian Molly, gestate for 60 days. If your Molly fish is young or it is her first pregnancy, she will probably give birth to fewer fries than a mature fish.
Your Molly fish will get ready to give birth near the end of her pregnancy. Fully developed fries with large eyes are visible through the mother’s belly. If Mollies feel unsafe or uncomfortable, they can stay pregnant for longer and avoid giving birth. It is best to separate your Molly from the other fish when she is about to give birth. A safe, warm tank with enough hiding spots is ideal.
Signs Your Molly Is About To Give Birth
Knowing if your Molly is ready to give birth is important to ensure she has a comfortable delivery with no complications. When your Molly is near the end of her pregnancy and about to give birth, you will notice the following signs:
Gravid Spot Visibility
The gravid spot becomes highly visible as the end of your fish’s pregnancy approaches. The spot is the most visible when your fish is ready to give birth. It is near the anal vent and too large and dark for you to miss.
Molly fish close to giving birth will look for hiding spots in the tank. You rarely see them swimming out in the open with other fish—preferring a cozy, warm hiding spot near the heater to give birth. It’s a good idea to separate your pregnant Molly from the other fish in the tank because the fries are small enough to be eaten by the mother and other fish. Separating the mother is ideal if you want all the fries to survive.
How To Separate Your Pregnant Molly Fish
You should take water from the main tank and add it to a new tank for your pregnant Molly. If you don’t want to make an effort to set up an entire tank with its heater and filter, you can also opt for a breeder net that can separate the pregnant Molly and her babies. You can also DIY a breeder box for your fries.
After your fish has given birth, you should move her back into the main tank. If not, she will eat the fry she has given birth to due to their small size. You should separate the Molly fries for at least two weeks. Feed them a high-quality diet to encourage their growth and development during this time. If fed well, your fries will be large enough to move to the main tank after two weeks, when they are too large to be eaten by other fish in the tank.
Your Molly fish’s appetite will decrease when she is about to give birth. Typically, fish swim to the surface when you feed them. If you notice that your pregnant Molly is hiding and does not swim up to eat, it can indicate that she is ready to give birth.
How To Care For A Pregnant Molly Fish
Comfort and safety are important for a Molly fish to give birth successfully. Here are some tips and tricks to care for your Molly fish when she is pregnant:
- Feed your pregnant fish a high-quality diet. Both the mother and the babies need high-quality food.
- Make sure your Molly fish stays warm throughout her pregnancy. Increase the temperature of the tank by one or two degrees, especially important near the end of her pregnancy.
- If you can not afford to move your pregnant Molly fish to a separate tank, ensure there are enough hiding spots to avoid persistent males that will try to mate with her despite being pregnant.
- Ideally, you should move your pregnant Molly to a separate tank. She will need a safe, comfortable, warm environment to give birth. A separate tank is much better for birthing than installing a breeder net.