Did You Know?
After breeding with a male, female guppies can store sperm in their ovaries and gonoducts, which can continue to fertilize ova up to eight months. Once inseminated, for the next few months, they don't need a male to impregnate them. Even if a male dies, the female can give birth to his offspring. This explains why female guppies are almost always pregnant.
The guppy fish was named after 'Robert John Lechmere Guppy' who first discovered this species near Trinidad. The scientific name of the species is Poecilia reticulata
. The fish, native to northeast South America, has been introduced to different habitats and is now found all over the world. As guppies consume mosquito larvae, they have been introduced to many regions in an effort to curb mosquito growth. This has particularly helped control malaria in various parts of the world. Because of their small size, beautiful appearance, exceptional reproductive capacity, and easy living habitat, guppies are one of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish.
Three guppy pairs can be housed in a 10-gallon tank, or you can house 5 - 6 guppy pairs in a 20-gallon tank. Guppies are tropical fish, so the temperature of the water should be maintained between 74 - 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The 'water conditioner', when added to water, makes regular water safe for the fish. The light in the tank should be turned on and off at a specific time everyday. If you want, you may install a 'timer' for this. Real plants and artificial decor help create hiding places for the fish. Wild guppy diet includes benthic algae, algal remains, diatoms, invertebrates, plant fragments, mineral particles, and aquatic insect larvae.
How to Identify Male and Female Guppies
Male guppies have a modified anal fin called gonopodium, which is located behind the ventral fin. The anal fin in males is long and pointed, while in females, it is short and triangular in shape. Males are smaller than females but they are brighter in color. They have attractive caudal and dorsal fins that have splashes, spots, or stripes of different colors. Females are mostly gray or silver, duller in color. Males can be 1.5 - 3.5 centimeters (0.6 - 1.4 in) long, while females can be 3 - 6 centimeters (1.2 - 2.4 in) long. No two guppies have same coloration or design. Breeders have successfully produced several guppy strains. Males and females of many domestic strains usually are larger and much more colorful than their wild counterparts. It has been observed that domestic female guppies are attracted to males that are active and brightly colored. Given an option, females prefer males with orange spots on the flanks. It has been noticed that males with orange spots can swim longer in strong currents. Thus, these spots indicate better physical fitness. During courtship display, males vibrate their body rapidly, twisting it into a 'S' shape. This dance is known as 'sigmoid display.' In the wild, under high predation pressure, the size, appearance, and the habits of male and female guppies can be completely different.
How to Tell if a Guppy is Pregnant
You can tell whether a female fish is pregnant or not, just by looking at it. A pregnant female will have a dark mark on her abdomen, near the anal vent. The mark is called a gravid spot. It becomes darker when the eggs are fertilized. It is an easily noticeable sign of pregnancy. Towards the end of the gestation period, the stomach of the female guppy and the gravid spot would appear very large. Rather than becoming rounder, the stomach would become squarish. An albino or blond pregnant guppy would have a dark maroon-colored spot on her stomach. In the area of the gravid spot only, you would be able to see the eyes of fry through the translucent skin of the mother guppy, just before the birth of the babies.
How to Tell if a Guppy is Going into Labor
A guppy going into labor may remain very still or may start shivering due to contractions. The female will seclude herself and might stop eating or may spit her food out. With careful observation, you would be able to notice the change in her appetite. It is essential to know these signs because you are supposed to remove the mother guppy from the tank once she gives birth to babies, otherwise she would eat her babies. Plants and other decorative objects in the tank can provide the fry enough space to hide. Once labor sets in, due to excessive internal pressure from contractions, the vent area (the opening in front of the anal fin) of the fish will drop down a bit. This will facilitate dropping the baby guppies.
Pregnant Guppy Fish Behavior
The pregnant guppy can often be found sitting by the heater. She may preferably sit in a corner of the tank, or hide herself behind a plant, trying to avoid the company of other fish. To blend in with the background, the color of her body would change. It would be lighter gray. In absence of other fish, she might swim all over the tank. Sometimes, she would behave aggressively, nipping the fins, pushing others away from her. She might stop eating or might eat voraciously.
How to Care for Pregnant Guppy Fish
See to it that the female guppy has enough room and enough food in the tank. Check the water temperature. Adverse conditions can stress the fish and can be the reason behind the 'weird behavior' of the fish. The fish should have a few places to hide too. Supply of nutritious food is essential if you want to have healthy fish and fry. If the females are well fed, they may not eat their offspring, although it is better to provide safe zones for the fry. You can buy a specially designed livebearer birthing tank, and keep it suspended inside the aquarium. These tanks not only protect the pregnant female from the males, but they also help protect the newborn from their mother. Sometimes, males attack the females while they are giving birth. However, you have to be careful about the timing. Putting a female in the breeder box too early may lead to a miscarriage.
Interesting Facts about Guppy Reproduction
Guppies are quite fertile. They are described as 'livebearers' as they give birth to live, free-swimming young baby guppies. They retain eggs inside the body. The gestation period is of 26 - 31 days. Guppy fry can survive on their own. No parental care is required. Reproduction continues throughout the year. After giving birth to baby guppies, the female becomes ready for conception again. She can give birth to 30 - 60 babies at a time, over a period of one to six hours. The fry of a weak or older female may contain less babies. Young and strong females can give birth to even 200 babies at a time. Offspring are dropped individually, one at a time.
Guppy fish, also known as 'rainbow fish' or 'million fish' (because of quick reproduction), have cute faces. They are gentle, they rarely behave aggressively. Moreover, they have a smaller bioload than many other fish. The amount of waste they produce is very small. Thus, they are easy to take care of.