Basics Of Breeding Show Guppies
Welcome to the world of Fancy Guppies. This portion of the International Fancy Guppy Association (IFGA) site is provided as help to those new to fancy guppies. It is not intended to be a complete guide to the breeding of show Guppies. It is intended, however, to give the beginner a start in the right direction. You are urged to contact either an affiliated club or an experienced breeder if you have any questions or need help. You will find that as you become involved in this hobby, there are no secrets among "Guppy People." So, if you need information, it is always available from fellow hobbyists. Through the Clubs page of this site, you will find a complete list of affiliated clubs and the point of contact for each club.
CONGRATULATIONS! If you are reading this because you are thinking about breeding FANCY GUPPIES. You are sure to enjoy the hobby and the experience. Hopefully, you have researched the wide variety of color strains that are available and have contacted a reputable IFGA breeder for breeding stock.
Do not make the mistake that most beginners make. You go to a breeder and see many beautiful strains that you would like to keep and purchase several strains. The number of strains that you can keep is determined by your tank space.Though you can maintain a strain with just a few tanks, it takes 8 to 10 tanks to properly keep a strain. Don't take home more strains than you can handle as even experienced breeders fall into this trap. It is best to start with one good strain. Get experience and if possible, expand and enjoy yourself. The fish you should be looking to purchase should be young and healthy and about 3-4 months of age. Fish at this age ship better and acclimate easier than mature fish. What's more, you will reap the benefit of having them during their peak breeding period, which runs from about three to seven months of age. The next few paragraphs will address your equipment and setup. It is very important that you prepare for the arrival of your new fish. Last minute rushing around and stop gap preparations usually lead to disappointment and failure.
The first thing to do is to place your newly acquired breeding stock in a clean drum bowl or specimen tank using the water in which they were shipped. Then every 15-30 minutes add a little water from the aged breeding tank that you previously set up. When the container is 3/4 full, remove about 1/2 the water and replace it with water from the seasoned tank. Do this 2 to 3 times over the period of about an hour. At this point, you can release your guppies into their new permanent breeding tank. Do not be alarmed if your fish hide or act frightened. If the fish seem to be panicky, do not feed them for 24 - 48 hours. If the fish do not seem to be eating, don't keep adding food. This will quickly polute the water. This is normal and can take up to a week before they are swimming and acting as guppies should. Just remember to have patience . . . the first 3-4 days are critical in getting your new stock established in your tanks.
The First Batch
Within 4-6 weeks the fun should begin. By this time your females should be ready to drop fry. It is better to remove the pregnant female to a tank of her own. You can add spawning grass, or new unrolled plastic pot scrubbers to the tank to give the newly born fry a safe place to hide from the mother. Another method commonly used is to place the female in a large breeder trap in a 10 gallon tank to give the fry more room to grow. Many breeders keep their fry in small tanks for the first few weeks. The theory is that when you feed these young fish they are surrounded by food instead of having to go searching for it. Remember to keep the expectant female well fed during this period. This will reduce the chance of cannibalism. After the fry are born, remove the female and place her back with the male.
Breeders And Show Fish
At this point, it is probably a good idea to become a member of the IFGA if you have not previously. In the member's section you will find the Judging Book from the IFGA. It describes in detail the requirements for all strains, and is very valuable in allowing you to recognize good show fish.
When you buy a trio of two females and one male, you can establish two parallel lines. Keep the young from each female separated. These young are half brothers and sisters. After a few generations, there will be sufficient difference between the two lines so that you can cross the two lines to keep your strain strong. Every guppy breeder needs to learn how to pick fish in order to breed and raise good fish. Leaving all the fish together to breed causes rapid deterioration of the strain. The smaller, more active males impregnate the females first.
At about three to six weeks, the time has come to separate males from the females. At this age you can recognize the females by the appearance of the gravid spot. Males will not show any darkness in the gravid area. If not already done, cull all deformed and weak fish too. Furthermore, do not keep more than 10-20 young in a 10 gallon tank. At two months, the tank should contain no more than one fish per gallon to get maximum growth. Maximum growth also requires you to maintain a proper feeding schedule, and whatever tank maintenance that is necessary. The age for picking breeders or show guppies will depend on the rate of maturity of the particular strain you are working with. Some strains grow quicker than others. For example, reds, greens and blues grow rapidly and can be selected at 3 months. On the other hand, albinos, yellows and pastel colored guppies will require that you wait for 4 to 5 months, since they mature very slowly.
Selecting is easy once you "know your strain." There are four easy steps that you can use to select males:
1) Pick out the largest fish of the drop. Make sure they sport thick caudal peduncles so they can carry large tails.
2) Look for a wide, triangular caudal shape. By now dorsals should show signs of elongation (parallelogram shape with smooth edges).
3) Caudal and dorsal should match in color and pattern.
4) Eliminate any fish with curved spines, flat heads or which does not show a good intense color.
By eliminating fish in each of the steps, you will end up with the best fish for breeders or show fish. Remember. .. don't crowd... one fish per gallon.
Females should be selected and bred at 2 to 4 months of age. The steps used to pick females are:
1) Pick the largest of the drop with the thickest caudal peduncle. Females of this type tend to throw the best show males.
2) Look for the largest and widest caudals possible with dorsals to match.
3) If some show the desired color, use them for breeding.
Pick your best 2 females and your best male and place them in a 2 or 5 gallon tank. Some breeders prefer several males to several females. Using one male allows you to observe the characteristics that this fish will pass on to his sons. If the females do not become pregnant in two months, add an additional male (brother) to the tank. Smaller tanks are typically the choice for breeders in order to allow the male to catch the females.
Breeding A Pure Strain
The best advice is to obtain the best fish you can afford. Get a strain that is already established and does not need much work to begin with. These can be purchased from reputable breeders in the IFGA. Avoid pet shop guppies. They are useless and you will be wasting your time and money. Guppies are normally sold in trios: one male and two females. Three techniques are used when breeding guppies:
INBREEDING: Mating close relatives such as brother to sister, mother to son, father to daughter, etc.
LINE BREEDING: Breeding two separate lines branching from the original trio with eventual backcrossing or the breeding of distant relatives such as half siblings, cousins to cousins, etc.
OUT CROSSING: Mating two different pure strains which are compatible. This could mean fish of the same color that are obtained from two different breeders.
One of the most important disciplines needed when working with any livestock is to keep good records. You should be able to tell where the fish came from and what they produced several generations back. Keeping records now will be useful in future generations. Record keeping is simple and helps to keep track of the progress of a particular strain. For each drop you should keep track of the number of young, the number of males/females, how may culls, etc. This way, you will know which fish throws the show guppies that you want. Accurate records will allow you to trace back through generations to see what steps you took to achieve your ultimate goal.
We hope that this beginners guide will help to get you started on the right foot in our hobby. It is to your advantage to become a member of the IFGA and put into practice all of the techniques that have been mentioned in this section. In addition, try to join one of the sanctioned clubs. You will find that the interaction with other guppy enthusiasts will make this a more rewarding hobby. If you have any further questions or problems, contact one of the IFGA Officers or one of the club contacts of an IFGA Sanctioned Club. All of this info can be found through by following the links at the top of this page.