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Designing Your System

Having a plan is the best way to achieve success. 
There are many ways to set up a successful breeding system.

Things to keep in mind:
Available space
Common sense
Species requirements

When designing your system it is important to keep in mind that it will have different requirements than a reef tank. Since your breeding pairs require heavy feeding the filtration that is used needs to be able to handle that. The same can be said for the grow out system, due to the large quantities of juvenile fish that you'll be dealing with.

Although it is possible to plumb both systems together, I have chosen to make the two system separate. Both my broodstock and grow out systems are essentially the same but they are not connected. This helps to avoid a total system crash in case of infection.

In the photos below you can see that I have my broodstock pairs on the top level, the juveniles on the middle level, and the sumps for both systems on the bottom level. The hatching tanks are located next to the main area.

Each system overflows down to the sump via connected drain lines. The water first goes through a filter sock and then into a bucket of "bio-balls". A protein skimmer is located in this section. From there it travels through a refugium with live rock and macroalgae, and then back up to the broodstock or grow out tanks.

I chose to place the drain pipes in the front of the tanks due to my lack of space. Having the plumbing in front also allows for easy access if there is a problem. 

After countless hours of research, this is what I came up with:




The broodstock and grow-out systems are mirror images of each other. In the photo above you can see that the broodstock system drains to the left, into the sump. The grow out system drains to the right into the other sump.


The "hatching" station consists of stand alone 10 gallon tanks.  Each with a heater and airstone.  As the larvae mature, the airstone is replaced with a sponge filter until they are large enough to be transfered to the grow out tank.

For culturing phytoplankton and rotifers, as well as for additional workspace I use a metal rack with adjustable shelving. These racks also have wheels so they are easy to move around if needed.


You can find a detailed thread on how the room came together here: 

Be warned, this is a long thread but there are many helpful details within.

Equipment List:

This is a basic list of materials that are needed to build your own captive breeding system.


  • Aquariums (10 and 20 gallon tanks work well for broodstock and grow out.  50 gallons, or larger, for the sump.)
  • Heaters
  • Lights (Simple "shop" lights work fine.)
  • Thermometers (I've gone back to using simple glass thermometers after finding that the simple digital ones can be rather inaccurate.)
  • Nets (For collecting juveniles.)
  • Protein Skimmer
  • Return Pump (Depending on configuration of your system.)
  • Dry Erase Board (This is a great thing to have to easily keep track of what's going on in the system, see below)
  • Spreadsheet (For keeping more detailed records of spawning, hatching, cleaning, etc.)
  • PVC (Pipes, fittings and adhesive. It's best to plan the system out before buying.)

Dry Erase Board

I have one of these on the wall in my fish room and it's extremely helpful for keeping track of things at a glance.

The different colored "dots" represent each pair that I'm working with. The "dots" are little magnetic plastic spheres and can be moved around as needed to show when a particular pair spawns and when the eggs hatch. At the end of the month I transfer the information to a spreadsheet so I have a record of everything that happened during the month. I also record water changes, detritus removal and other periodic chores on this board.

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