Aquarium Fish

Guppy Breeding

By Christian B. Homrich Jr.
Breeder's Award Program Article SouthWestern Michigan Aquarium Society. From SWAM, March/April 2004 Issue

When you start talking with beginner fish hobbyist about breeding guppies the first thing you hear is, "That's not hard to do. Just get a small tank and add water, and insert guppies. Wait a few days and you have them bred." Well for the most part this is a simplified version of what I intend to talk about in this article. But, there is more.

A five-gallon tank will work for a trio of one male and two female guppies, but if you want more, than I would say use a ten-gallon tank so that you can have two males and up to ten females. The latter of the two is what people that raise show quality guppies do to increase their chances of seeing all the traits in just a single fish that they are looking for. Make sure the water is cycled to avoid any ammonia or nitrite spikes. One tablespoon of aquarium salt should be added for each ten-gallons of water. Guppies do much better in water that has a little salt added to it. Floating fake plants are used quite often, but another thing I like to use is a weighted spawning mop made from a dark green or dark blue colored yarn. These mops give great refuge for the fry, so that the other adult fish do not eat them before you have a chance to move the adults to another tank. And yes, I said move the adults. It's much easier to catch up to twelve adult fish that are at least an inch long or larger, than it is to catch up to one hundred very tiny guppy fry.

As far as what to feed the guppies to condition them for breeding, I suggest black worms, half a cube of frozen bloodworms, half a cube of frozen brine shrimp, and/or a few good quality flake foods such as foods made for guppies, or plankton/krill/spirulina flakes, and some occasional liver flakes, etc. The best advice I can give about feeding your fish is to vary the diet, and do not feed them the same thing each and every day. Your fish will thank you for doing this by growing faster, looking better, and being healthier in the long run.

There is much more to breeding guppies, some of which not everyone will decide to follow. A lot of people see a nice Cobra Delta-tailed Guppy at the store and decide that's the fish they wish to breed, so in that process that same person either buys a female or two at the same store or they visit a different store to purchase the female or males, which ever the case may be. Meanwhile, there are other fish hobbyist that do some researching and locate a specific color and/or fin strain that they wish to breed. These strains may cost up to, if not more than $85 for a trio (one male and two females). But, keep in mind that the breeder that has these fish for sale has been working on this strain for quite some time using a process of "line-breeding" to keep the strain as nice looking and pure as possible. These are the potential breeders of a show quality guppy. Don't get me wrong, some breeders have taken the average guppy from a local shop and through line breeding have developed some very beautiful show guppies. Neither of the two ways that you get your guppies will produce a show quality guppy rightaway; this generally takes a bit of time, sometimes over 5 years. It all depends on what you are looking for in the guppies, and how devoted to the objective you are.

Currently I am working with some store bought guppies, one of my males has a green colored body with a snake skin pattern that starts right behind the gill plates and carries on back to the beginning of the tail, hence its name "green snake skin". The fins of this fish are what's called a "delta-tail." This is a tail fin that is about three times as tall from top to bottom as the fish's body is from bottom of belly to the top of its back. And the dorsal fin is long and floats through the water like the tail of a common Crowntail Betta. Both the tail fin and the dorsal fin have matching yellow/green/black dotted patterns. This male is being bred to similar looking females. And since these fish are not related genetically (at least not to my knowledge) this is known as selective breeding. Selective breeding is when you buy your fish and you look for the traits you wish to have in the offspring in the breeding stock you are planning to purchase. Line breeding is when you take the offspring from this group of breeders and mate them back to the original breeding group. For example, you would take the female offspring and mate them back to the male of the original group (father to daughter), or you take a pair of males and breed them back to the original female that they came from (very accurate record keeping is needed for this method of breeding sons back to mother). But, many of the top guppy breeders in the world will tell you, it is much better to breed the daughters back to the father than it is to breed the mother back to the sons.

By breeding the daughters back to the father you have a much higher chance of seeing the desired traits. From this point on you will be doing some very heavy culling of the unwanted offspring to keep just the traits you are looking for. When I say culling the offspring I am talking about pulling the slower growing or less colorful males and females from the group and keeping only the best looking fish. You also pull out any deformed fish as well since these would not make for good breeding stock in the future. There are a few different ways to get rid of the culled fish, but please, never just flush them down a toilet. The fish do not die right away and end up suffering from breathing in toxins that no one should have to breathe in, or swim in for that matter. Instead either feed them to a larger fish (not everyone likes this method either), or place them in a small bag with water and place them in the freezer. By freezing them they just slowly start to hibernate like they would during a winter season and finally just stop living altogether. This is said to be the most humane way to do this. And of course there are people that do not agree that the previously mentioned method is actually humane either. So, you are left picking and choosing your battle so to speak.

Once you are happy with some of the guppies you have been able to produce throughout all this time, you can now consider locating an International Fancy Guppy Association sanctioned fish show and enter your fish in the show. At this point I would suggest competition in the Novice category since it can be really disappointing to be in competition against some of the breeders that have been entering shows for many years and then not place well, or you may hear some remarks about how your fish should not be in that category. I have been to a few of the shows and heard a lot of bad talking about other hobbyist fish, and sometimes its not pretty language either. Or you could even start by showing your fish in your local club's "Bowl Show" (just a gentle hint to the members of the club I am a member of). It's always a good feeling to enter your fish and take the chance of winning some form of an award, such as but not limited to, a first, second, or third place ribbon. The prize is not as important as how the hobbyist feels when he/she sees their fish on display with one of those ribbons near it.

And there is always a chance that you will be able to produce a new color variant or strain and it will be seen at a local or larger fish show. You too will be able to sell some of your quality offspring to other hobbyists that have chosen to follow in the same direction as you have.

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