Breeding Fancy Guppies
(A Heathen who is a Freysgodhi, not surprisingly, does a bit of "Urban Farming")
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I've been raising guppies almost constantly since around 1993. I stopped for a year and a half but fortunately was able to get breeding stock of my strain back from a friend. This is yet another reason to share your fish! Don't let the Heathen links in the subtitle of this article spook you none; I'm glad to give guppy advice to church folks too!
I started out with two little 5 gallon tanks that were gifts from a friend who was moving and needed to get rid of some things. Store guppies almost literally fell apart. I raised ONE baby in nearly a year after buying a half dozen pairs. Wal-Mart in my experience is little more than a concentration camp for fish. I personally prefer established independent mom and pop stores. Good chain pet stores are OK too.
After all that futile trying, I went to see a friend who had guppies from a population her mother had raised for years. First she had red-tailed tuxedos. All but one male died when a tank broke. She saved him, got another tank and another pair (not sure which variety), and had sort of a mixed strain. I hear imported guppies are fed hormones and suchlike, making them weak and poor breeders. Locally raised strains do much better I have found.
I had 3 tanks for years once I got going good.. One 5 gallon tank for blond-bodied guppies (1 of the two pregnant females I talked my friend out of was blond), one 5 gallon one for babies up to size where they weren't likely to be eaten, and one 20 gallon aquarium for the dark-bodied ones. Hatched brine shrimp and everything, sold a LOT of guppies. When I got back into this this time, I just got one 10 gallon tank. I feed quality flake food with some algae wafer, shrimp pellets, and freeze dried tubifex worms. I still raise a LOT of good fantail guppies. You do NOT save anything on cheap fish food. You can, however, often find good bulk foods and brine shrimp eggs for sail by mail on the Internet.
With 1 tank it is hard but I am selecting for two types: the red tuxedos (fortunately females w/ this trait have black on bodies making it easy to cull out and give away the non-tuxedos; and also I am selecting for a larger percentage of golds. When I get more, I'll start culling non-tuxedo gold males. The female golds don't show whether they carry the tuxedo trait or not, so it will take time. Blond body is controlled by one pair of recessive genes. Breed a blond to a blonde and you should get a whole litter of blonds.
I know females can have several litters from one mating, but if you re-mate her to a different male, almost all the next batch will be from his sperm, which is fresher. Cull ruthlessly. If you can't kill; don't breed. I am careful to cull out back deformities and the occasional male who doesn't grow a fantail. They must go at all costs; they swim fast and will breed most of your females! If reproduction slows, add new compatible "blood." The only oddities I let live were a Siamese twin male (not genetic) and a hermaphrodite or feminized male (large, fat, light colored). Actually, those were my brothers' but I talked him out of culling them. The she-male was very popular with the guy guppies!
I carry a bit more than 1 tsp. non-iodized salt per gallon of water. I find they love molly bright and Stress Coat, which are both water additives. The easy balance in the yellow bottle works wonders for me. Healthy fish, much less tank-cleaning. Watch out for tap water additives. "Aging" water does NOT clear chloramines, which have replaced chlorine in many areas. Check with a reputable local pet shop.
I run a warm (77-78 degree) tank. I plant one end very well. Some plastic plants with bases, topped by floating plastic plants, and finally live floating plants on top of all that. Change your light bulbs yearly. I'm raising a lot of very pretty but not show-quality I'm sure delta-tail guppies in my 10-gal. tank. I'm guessing a couple of hundred per year. Plus I have raised HUGE lyre-tail mollies with big dorsal fins there too. I have to keep giving them away like crazy at a month or so old so they don't crowd out the guppies, my personal favorites. I have a trio of platies I doubt will breed. Haven't had much luck with those.
I have some adolescent green swordtails too. I'll only keep a trio when they are grown. I have great luck putting livebearers out in a little kiddie wading pool, well-planted and in a partly sunny area. They go out in mid May to early June, depending on the temperature that year, and come in late Sept. to mid Oct. They grow a bit slower due to lower water temp. but seem super healthy and have a MUCH higher baby survival rate. Early on turn loose a male and several ready-to-pop females in the pool. Sometimes the females die soon after delivery but w/ 50 babies born in the pool and thus acclimated there...I usually do platies and/or swordtails, usually from stock bought at stores. I haven't tried guppies; they breed fine for me indoors with good baby survival. I've thought about mollies, but I expect it would be a tad cold for them.
Speaking of which, I do well with baby mollies and above all guppies indoors, but even when I can tell a female has delivered, I'm lucky to get one baby platy or swordtail. Someone told me that while the guppy and molly babies swim up into my planted tank corner, platies and swordtails go down and get eaten. I've concentrated my plastic bottom plants into a smaller area and am hoping for better results. Plus, I am starting a clump of Java moss in another corner. I've got it tied to a little statue of a goblin in a stump so it won't disperse. Has anyone else heard about baby platies and swordtails going to the bottom of the tank?
I use an outside filter. I change the cartridge weekly. If it gets dirty before, take it to your bathtub and turn the hot and cold water taps on running out the spigot (not the shower). Blast the gunk off. Rub it with your fingers if necessary. Repeat as needed. If that stops working, leave about a 1/4 to 1/3 in. space between cartridge bottom and filter bottom to avoid overflow out of the tube side. Make sure that your filter sits well down in the tank to avoid leakage. Cut away part of the tank hood if necessary.
Jungle fungus eliminator has worked well for me. I discovered it just in time to save a final 10% of my fish from the Great Plague. $600 worth of fish lost in a week. I cried. Of course, with that level of crowding and an undergravel filter only, I did gravel vacuuming and 80% water changes weekly. With the current setup, vacuuming once every month or two and a 50% water change suffices. Those big fizzie parasite eliminators do well for me. Maracyn one and two have worked well for me with bacterial infections. I euthanize sick fish in an otherwise healthy tank. The garbage disposal is also the guppy euthanizer!
I am a convert to the 100% snail-free position. I like keeping a pleco but get a tiny one and trade it out for another little bitty one every few months. You don't want most of your biomass in your guppy tank being pleco! In really crowded tanks they have been known to eat sleeping fish on the bottom at night. I'm against goldfish in tropical tanks. Sometimes they eat fish and they'll eat the h**l out of your plants so your babies have no where to hide and get eaten in turn. Goldfish don't cause a problem in my pool though.
As you can see, a great deal can be done with a very small tank and no live foods. My fish are large, bright and have gorgeous fins and tails. They'd get bigger but I tend to give away big females before they age and keep the most likely young ones. Ditto for the males too. You want breeder males who are obviously going to have full delta tales, but the older, huge-tailed males, while gorgeous to look at (I keep some for just that reason) are going to be slower and thus lose at the game of guppy love. They need not to have younger, faster competition if you want them to do the breeding! This is how having a bunch of tanks gets started. I'm staying away from that for now.
last modified 04/28/2007