Guppies are a staple in tropical aquariums notably kept by beginner and experienced hobbyists alike. Also called million fish, the guppies popularity is courtesy of their widespread outside their natural range in Northeast South America.
There is also the feeling that guppies are a hardy fish, which will flourish even when neglected.
As such, this fame has also caught up with breeders who develop and market guppies as easy to keep fish for first-time aquarium owners. Plus , together with bettas, tetras, and danios, guppies are also sold as ideal fish pets for kids.
So, are guppies hard to breed?
Guppies are livebearers that breed rather freely, meaning you can quite easily and quickly go from a pair to dozens of pet guppies. The females can give birth to around 30 or even 40 fry every month.
However, because of the ease of and prolific breeding, the fish have been victims of overbreeding and inbreeding which results in a myriad of health issues.
For that reason, I made this article to help you understand how to breed a healthy and colorful stock without much hassle and gamble.
Please read on
What is The Fastest (Easiest) Way to Breed Guppies?
Guppies are livebearers, and a female can give birth to a considerably large number of babies, which is quite easy and fast to achieve. However, most breeders lose many of their fry to adult guppies, which are notorious for feeding on their youngs.
Hence separating an adult from the young is the fastest and easiest way to ensure you get the most out of your breeding guppies. To keep them from each other, consider breeding them in a breeder box.
A breeding box, also called a breeder box or a breeding net is essentially a small container that sits in a fish tank, and isolates a pregnant female guppy from the rest of your community.
Usually, the female is put in the box when she is close to giving birth. Once she delivers, the live babies will fall into a small chamber where the mother can’t reach them. This way, they will remain safe until the breeder can extract the adult guppy.
Another easy and quick way to ensure success, in case you do not want to use a breeding box, is to breed your guppy fish in an aquarium with loads of hiding spots. You can either use live or fake plants like guppy grass to create safe spaces.
I also recommend having two or three females for each male guppy you have instead of a single pair. This way, while one of the females is pregnant, the male will breed with the other female.
This will then give the pregnant guppy an easy time in the tank without the male chasing her trying to mate again.
Also, when you have fry in your tank, add a sponge filter in your aquarium.
A sponge filter will develop healthy bacteria fast and easy, and small food pieces will stick on the sponge, and your fry can feed on it.
One other advantage of a sponge filter is that your fry won’t get sucked in hence a large number will survive and get to adulthood.
How Long Does it Take to Breed Guppies
Although it’s pretty easy to breed guppy fish, how long it takes before your guppies can start, and the time it takes between one breeding cycle and the other, is determined by the fish’s natural reproductive cycle.
Typically, the gestation period of a guppy is anywhere from 21 to 36 days, with the average being 28 days. Moreover, female guppies can become pregnant again immediately after giving birth, which then means you can have a group of newborns every month, and more when you breed more than a single female.
Once you put your male and female guppy in a breeding tank, you can expect the female to get pregnant a day after, but may take up to three (3) days with a male that has not bred before.
Usually, the breeding is quick but happens numerous time to ensure the female gets pregnant.
What is a Guppy Fish Breeding Age?
Most female guppies first produce young ones at between 10 to 20 weeks of age, while males can mate and breed at seven (7) weeks.
After the first breeding, your guppies can reproduce after every 30 days and continue reproducing up to around 20 months of age, which closely coincide with guppies average lifespan.
A guppies age also correlates with its body size with males typically growing to between 0.6 and 1.4 inches long, while females are 1.2 to 2.4 inches in length. Generally, the fishes attain this size at around 6 months, at which point, they are already fully developed adult and can breed.
How Do Guppies Mate?
The mating process in guppy fish is pretty straightforward, though it happens quite fast several times a day.
While mating, the male guppy extends his reproductive organ called the gonopodium towards the female anal vent (the female reproductive organ).
Basically, the gonopodium is a modified anal fin that appears narrow and is somewhat longer than a female’s anal fin and is somewhere behind the ventral fin.
For the male to mate, three modified fins swing forward together and make a temporary tube through which sperm are transferred.
Fertilization occurs when the male passes sperm packets into the oviduct of the female fish. Interestingly, the female guppy can store the sperm in its ovaries for up to six (6) months and use them at a later date.
Guppy Mating Behavior
Guppies breeding behavior is characterized by a courtship period, which culminates with the male fertilizing the female. Usually, the male guppy displays his suitability by maintaining a courtship dance, called sigmoid display, in which the fish flexes into an S-shape and vibrates rapidly.
Male guppies use this display to show off their color to potential mates, with the brightest and the male with the most impressive body patterns been considered as the best mating partner by female guppies.
While the females will prefer the male fish with vivid colors, they also go for large males than the smaller ones for mating partners. The females are also more attracted to the male with more orange spots on the flank.
The reason for this preference is mostly premised on the idea that brighter colors and large overall body size are an indication of physical fitness and sexual maturity.
Consequently, male guppies evolve to have more ornamentation across generations than females, especially in the wild.
If the conditions in your aquarium are right for mating, your male guppy will try to approach a female after the sigmoid display with a goal to mate. Even so, the female fish rarely remains still for the activity and will dart away then a chase ensues.
However, you will notice your female showing a preference for a particular male if you have more than one in your tank. This is because female guppies generally choose the male to mate with, though the female guppy can still mate with more than one male
When the female guppy is ready to mate, she will let a male extend his gonopodium towards her anal vent and deliver packets of sperm. This process is quick taking less than a second, you may not think much of it if you have not bred guppies before.
Pregnant guppy fish—How Do You Know Your Guppy is Pregnant?
After fertilization, your female guppy will either get pregnant or store the sperm in her ovaries for use at a later date. If she does get pregnant, your guppy will exhibit some physical changes throughout the gestation period.
That said, it can be challenging to tell if she is pregnant in the first few days, but gradually, clear signs will start to show.
First, a pregnant guppy female gravid spot will darken and enlarge.
A gravid patch, also called a gravid spot, is a dark spotting under the tail of a female guppy fish towards the backside of her stomach. Usually, it is triangular in shape but is only perfectly visible in a pregnant guppy.
Away from the gavid spot, the fish will also grow larger looking stockier than usual with the stomach taking an almost square shape, though this sign will sometimes fail to appear until the latter stages of the gestation period.
The female will also have an arched back and appear to be pushing, and may even have some difficulty swimming.
Because most pregnant guppies have faded colors, the fry eyes may be visible through the mother’s translucent belly skin. The eyes are mostly concentrated around the gravid patch causing the spot to look almost black.
Other common signs that your female guppy is pregnant include:
- A pregnant guppy may remain in one or around the same spot in the tank often around the heater.
- The fish may become more aggressive or skittish depending on the other demeanor of other species in the tank.
- Your fish may start feeding more than usual, though some females tend to cut back eating less than the normal amount.
- The gills on a pregnant female guppy mostly remain partly closed.
How long is a guppy fish pregnant
The average gestation period (period of pregnancy) is usually anywhere from 20 days, but the pregnancy can last up to 32 days depending on the condition of your fish and the health of the fish.
Usually, the average is between 26 and 28 days.
How many babies does a guppy fish have at one go?
On average, guppies give birth to between 20 and 30 young, though some will have even 40. However, it is quite uncommon to get less than 20, but it’s not entirely impossible. Generally, the larger the female, the bigger the brood.
How Do You Set Up a Guppy Breeding Tank?
Guppies are hardy and able to live in a wide range of water conditions, but when breeding them, you will need to set up a separate aquarium with the right conditions for a breeding guppy pair.
A tank that is anywhere from 10 gallons is Ok for a pair or trio.
However, a 20-gallon aquarium is better and more recommended because it has enough space for the fish should the female or male get aggressive.
The tank should have a filter and heater at the very least, but a few plants (fake or live) are a good idea for hiding spots for the pregnant female and fry, especially if you do not intend to breed your guppies in a breeder box.
Java moss (spawning moss) or guppy grass provide particularly nice hiding spots for guppy fry, and the babies can eat of the moss the microorganisms that stick on there.
Also, add a lot of low floating plants for cover because guppy babies tend to sink.
As for the filter, a gentle unit like a sponge filter is more desirable because power filters tend to suck-in baby guppies. Moreover, healthy bacteria will develop faster in a sponge filter, plus small pieces of food that stick on the foam are a good source of nutrition for guppy fry.
However, if you already have a powerful filter unit, you do not have to change it, instead, cover its opening with a pair of pantyhose to keep your fry safe.
A substrate is not a must in a guppy breeding tank. A bare bottom tank is actually better because it’s easier to clean, and you can estimate how many fry you have.
Temperature and nutrition is a major part of breeding guppies, with the health and size of your brood highly depend on the two conditions. For that reason, set the temperature in your aquarium to around 77°F to 79°F before placing your mating pair in the tank.
Breeding guppies like the water hard with the ph anywhere from lows of six (6) up to 7.4, though they will still reproduce with reading as far up as eight (8).
To further condition your guppies and promote healthy breeding, feed your fish food with high nutritional value. High-quality flake food will provide all necessary vitamins and minerals, but meaty foods are also recommended since guppies are omnivores.
Breeding Guppies in a Community Tank
A common question asked by guppy fish keepers is whether they can breed their fish in a community tank, this especially when the aquarium owner is only a hobbyist and not a breeder.
Well, YES, you can breed guppies in a community aquarium, albeit the need for a breeder box. The fish species is not fussy and is pretty durable, able to adapt to a wide range of aquarium conditions.
Moreover, guppies are pretty prolific breeders that can reproduce regardless of whether you want them to or not. When you add a mature female and male guppy in a tank together, there is always a chance the fish will breed.
The only challenge you may encounter when breeding guppies in a community tank, is the lose of fry because a majority of tropical fish in the average community will prey on them.
For this reason, if you cannot breed your fish in a separate tank, I would like to suggest using a breeder box inside your fish tank to keep your guppy babies safe.
An alternative with less than desirable results is to breed the fishes in a heavily planted aquarium, especially one with loads of floating species, both low and high.
Another rule of thumb is to only breed guppies in a fully cycled community aquarium with a proper filtration system and a heater.
Regarding the fish you maintain with your breeding guppies, only go with non-aggressive species that can stand a temperature between 77°F to 79°F during the guppies gestation period.
Will guppy fry survive in a community tank?
Yes, guppy fry will survive in a community tank, but the caveat is that you must have a breeding box in your fish tank to achieve any reasonable success.
As well, please note that breeding guppy fish in a separate breeding tank is the safest bet and the only way to make sure most of your fry survive.
Can Guppies Breed with Other Fish?
Guppies can breed with most of the other livebearers, albeit rarely. Most importantly, they will reproduce with other guppies species, but cannot, breed with egg layers.
That said, when guppies breed with other livebearers, the fry usually die right after birth, during birth, or are stillborn. The few babies that make it to adulthood are sterile, meaning they won’t reproduce.
Thus breeding guppies with other fish, even if the theory makes sense, is not practical and is at best a fool’s errand.