The Guppy, Tropical Fish of Infinite Color + Variety.
By Thomas R. Reich PhD Ichthyology
Of all the species of fish aquarium enthusiasts breed, the Guppy, without a doubt, is the most popular, most admired, and the prized favorite of breeders, both beginner, advanced and commercial. No aquarium fish has as much literature written about it. No fish in captivity has been bred so successfully from a plain olive gray, unremarkable fish, in its wild state, to the hundreds of exotic colored and fancy tail species existing today as the noble guppy.
Many hobbyists have started out breeding guppies just for the fun of it, and have found themselves completely entranced and fascinated that, through selective breeding, they have developed an entirely unique fancy variety!
The male Guppy measures about 1-1/8” in its wild state and up to 2 inches in extreme high-bred varieties. He is admired for his brilliant coloring and unique activity as he darts about the tank in search of food and breeding partners. In a tank of Guppies, all colors, shades and hues can be seen. Remember, though you may buy the exact male and female that you want to breed, but sometimes their offspring will not breed true, some will look like the parents some vastly different.
It is the guppy fri that are different which can be your unique finds. Unlike the male of other species, there is no uniformity of coloring. It is this spectrum of variation that allows the breeder to pick and choose among his collection for the perfect male to be singled out for mating. It has been said by many that no other fish can afford the breeder as much selection, power, fun, satisfaction and pride as this small freshwater tropical fish.
The female Guppy measures 2-1/4” in length in its wild state. The female is not as beautiful or colorful as the male; in fact she is quite drab. However, serious breeders and commercial breeders have improved many strains until many females can be found sporting luminously colored fins and exotic fancy tails, many times mimicking the beautiful colors of her fancy male counterpart but never actually approaching the male guppies’ stunning beauty.
There are many reasons that the beginner would be wise to choose the Guppy as a starter fish for his breeding experiments. One reason the guppy is most favored by the breeder is because the female bares living young. She is a rapid easy breeder, and requires only to be well fed.
However, being a very sturdy fish, more than most other fish, the guppy can manage even when feeding is irregular and conditions are far less than optimal. Additionally the Guppy can tolerate a wide range of temperature, and have been bred as successfully in a jar or goldfish bowl, as they performed in a large 10 or 20 gallon fully equipped aquarium. The Guppy also thrives in outside summer ponds as long as the water temperature does not fall below 60 degrees F
A female Guppy is ready to spawn at the early age of three months (some as early as 8 weeks) and has a new litter about every three – four weeks. Inbreeding has no adverse affect on the Guppy; in fact, it is through this very process that new strains are developed. Most species of fish (especially egg-layers) have to be paired and pampered to induce breeding. Not so with the Guppy. One random male placed in a tank with one or even a large number of females can successfully fertilize most if not all the female guppy in a very short period of time (one or two days!).
The Guppy can be high-bred or strained to produce a stock with a definite shade, a particularly beautiful body color, a long flowing tail, or any characteristic that you detect and establish as your particular goal. The following is a method for establishing a unique strain or high-bred.
The way to distinguish the young male is to watch for the development of the anal fin which begins to become noticeably pointed, in many cases even before the male guppy begin to get their color. From a tank of young Guppies, select the males which show the strongest indications of the dominant characteristic you wish to develop (color, fin shape or size for example). When your selections have been made, it is wise to separate those males from the tank, because your purpose is to mate these males with a choice crop of female guppy.
It is then important to separate all the large healthy females and isolate them before they can be inseminated by a less desirable male guppy. Remember, one mating can produce up to 8 broods, so you only want virgin females.
When you decide which male guppy to be the father of your unique new variation, you can introduce him to untouched females. It sounds harsh, but you must eliminate the undesirable males as they develop. Allow them to mature long enough to make sure which are undesirable in color, shape or size. You can give these less desirable males and females to friends, after all, most guppies are pretty in their own way — these just do not have the characteristics exact you are looking for. Or use the guppy rejects as feeders for your larger fish, or my personal recommendation is to use these guppy rejects to control the mosquito population in your outdoor pond or fountain!
Do not expect your first batch to produce the desired result. If your goal is a fancy tail breed, it will be necessary to continuously repeat the above procedure for some time, each generation, pocking only the very best guppy to breed back into the breed. After every new batch of young, always select the best females of the last crop to be mated with the best male. The sire (male) of a batch can be mated back to his daughter, and even to his granddaughter, if he is the perfect male for your goals, to obtain the desired result.
Following this general course, you can expect to have a nice tank full of potential prize winning guppy in as little as four or five months, or as long as a lifetime, it’s up to you! At least you will be well on your way to obtaining your individual fancy breed.
For further information and more detailed methods of hybridization, there are many booked specifically written on the subject. To really get into guppy breeding, get involved in your local Tropical Fish Association, networking is a wonderful thing!