Do Mollies Eat Their Babies?

It’s common for some fish to care for their babies. But, it’s the habit for others to eat the babies. Are mollies among them? Do mollies eat their babies?

Mollies are known to eat their babies right after they’re born. These fish eat whatever is smaller than their mouths; including their babies. Lack of food and the stress of pregnancy also contribute to that cannibalistic behavior.

If you’d like to know more on why mollies eat their babies, or even how to prevent it, then stick with us.

Why Do Mollies Eat Their Babies?

Mollies tend to eat anything that can fit inside their mouths. Their babies aren’t an exception.

A pregnant molly can give birth to anywhere between 40 and 100 fries. For that many babies to come out of one fish, they have to be very small. This is when things can get a bit messy. Mollies don’t hate their babies or intentionally chase them, but their small size makes the adult mollies mistake them for food.

Additionally, other fish in the aquarium might feed on baby mollies. Their tiny size makes them prey to just about any fish lying around.

If you don’t have the intention of breeding your mollies, then you shouldn’t worry about this cannibalistic behavior.

In fact, this behavior still won’t limit the fast reproduction of mollies. The baby mollies will no longer become prey once their size becomes bigger than their parents’ mouths.

Typically, 10 – 20 mollies will survive long enough to avoid being eaten by other fish. You’ll still have to give away some fish for your original mollies to live comfortably, but you can’t rely on their cannibalistic behavior to save you from the hassle of giving them away.

On the other hand, if you like to give away or sell baby mollies, then you’d want to keep as many fries as possible.

We’ll give you some tips to save the babies, but all of them will depend on intervening right before the mothers give birth. So first, we need to know when they’re about to give birth.

Group of Yellow Mollies

How to Know When Mollies Will Give Birth

There are three main signs to tell that your molly is about to give birth:

Slowed Movement

If you’ve been keeping an eye out for the usual movement and speed of your fish, you’ll notice when one of them has significantly slowed down.

Additionally, you can simply compare the movement speed between the pregnant fish and her tank mates.

Hiding and Aggression

A molly that’s about to give birth is often stressed out. She would avoid other tank mates and go hide on her own.

If other fish try to approach her, she’ll usually be aggressive towards them.

Eggs Have Hatched in Belly

Sure, a molly who’s about to give birth exhibits a large belly.

But, to know when she’s about to give birth, you have to see the eyes of the babies in her belly. Seeing the eyes means that the eggs have hatched.

Use a strong light on your molly to see her belly.

How to Save Baby Mollies

There’s no way to directly stop the adults from eating their babies, but you have multiple methods to prevent it from happening.

Use a Breeding Box

A breeding box is a simple but effective idea. It stops the mother from eating her babies by letting them escape, but keeps her locked up!

Don’t let the word “locked up” intimidate you, we’ll explain how it works to show that no harm comes to the mother while she gives birth. Breeding boxes are like grills that go inside your tank. You should scoop the mother and place her inside that box.

Then you wait until she starts giving birth. The grills are big enough for the babies to escape but narrow enough to keep the mother from reaching them. The reason why the lock-up isn’t dangerous is simple. Once the mother is done giving birth, you’ll only have to remove her from the box and place her in a separate tank.

Watch this video to know how to set up a breeding box for your Mollies.

Use a Separate Tank

Before the mother starts giving birth, scoop her out and place her in a separate tank.

The mother could take up to a whole day to give birth to all the fries. She might eat a few of them during that time, so always provide her with food to keep that from happening.

You could also use a breeding box in the separate tank to guarantee the safety of all the fries. Then return the mother to her tank once she’s done.

If you don’t have a spare tank, you could use a bucket instead. Fill it with water from the tank and cover it. The cover is important because the mother might get stressed and jump out.

The cover also needs to have some holes in it for air and light to go inside.

Provide Hiding Places

If you don’t want the hassle of using breeding boxes or separate tanks, you could help the babies hide by providing them with hidden spots.

Bushy aquatic plants, rocky structures, and tank pebbles are ideal for fries to hide in. They would only come out when it’s food time then go back into hiding.

This method is not ideal to keep a large number of fries. But you’ll have more surviving babies than if you don’t provide hiding places at all.

However, they’ll still be fewer than if you use a breeding box or a separate tank.

Final Thoughts

You can’t teach mollies not to eat their babies, but you could stop it using separate tanks and breeding boxes.

Keep in mind that whether you intervene to stop the cannibalistic behavior or not, you’ll still have a large number of extra fish in the end.

You should already have a plan for the babies. That’s for their sake, and the sake of the fish you already have in the aquarium.