March 23, 2023

Daddy Dearest: A Look at Fish Fathers

Being a dad isn’t easy – even when you’re a fish! Fish fathers have an important role to fill when it comes to reproduction and caring for their offspring.

Some of the greatest paternal caregivers of the animal world live in the water, and more times than not, they have an integral part of caring and raising their young.

Perhaps the best known aquatic daddy is the seahorse. It happens to be one of the few male creatures in the world that carries their babies to term, instead of the mother. In seahorses, the female deposits up to 1,500 eggs into dad’s pouch, where he carries them for nearly two months. Once the babies are mature, they will emerge from the pouch, completely developed.

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Paternal mouth brooders carry fertilized eggs in the buccal cavity located in the mouth/chin area. These dads skip meal and stay hidden to avoid predators in order to make sure their tiny prodigies grow to a suitable size. Paternal mouth brooders include cichlids, wild bettas, hardheaded sea catfish, and cardinal fish. These fathers make a lot of sacrifices to raise their babies. How many dads do you know who would give up eating for over a month to raise babies?

Other dads in the fish world are simply over-protective. Angelfish lay their eggs on a surface and then guard them against predators. They have been known to draw blood on the hands of their owners when reaching into the tank. Angelfish are known to mate for life, so it makes sense that they would fiercely guard the young they share with their partner. These dads may not carry the young in a pouch or their mouth, but they exhibit amazing fatherly qualities none the less.

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Some parents would give everything they have just to ensure their young grow up big and strong. Take the discus parents, for example. Once discus fry are free swimming, they attach to one of their parents to feed off of their slime coat. Mom or dad will let these tiny guys ride around while the fry eat parts of their parents. Ummm, thanks dad?

Fish are amazing parents, and oftentimes the fathers are more active with the fry than the mothers. This is amazing, considering that with other species in the wild, the father does little more than help create babies before moving on. It seems it really is a whole other world beneath the surface of the water.

summerSummer Davis is the mom of three kids, four dogs, and several tanks of fish. She boasts a passion for all animals, whether they are in the water or on land. This fish aficionado has kept many different species in her time, but holds a special place in her heart for wild and domestic bettas. When she’s not talking about fish, Summer “spins” her extra time as the director of a baton twirling organization.