Guppies are adaptable to most water hardness, but hard water of approximately 7.8 pH is ideal for raising guppies. Ideal water temperature is 76 to 78 degrees F, though guppies are known to be able to withstand 65 to 82 degrees F. It is important to note that extreme temperature drops can cause stress on the fish and result in illness. Tanks should be bare bottom with filtration. Filtration should be efficient enough to keep ammonia and nitrate levels down to a healthy level to accommodate the amount of guppies and feedings for the tank. Water changes should be 10% to 25% weekly. Water conditioners should used to neutralize any chlorine, chloramines, or other metals that maybe in your tap water. Water should be just as warm or slightly warmer than the tank's water. An alternate drip system can be implemented instead of manual water changes.
It is ideal to feed the guppies 3 or more times a day. The amount of food fed is the amount that the fish can finish in 5 minutes. Left over food that is not eaten will dissolve and pollute the water and hurt the health of the fish. At about 5 to 6 months the male guppy is close to full maturity and food intake should be reduced to avoid a fatty liver and to promote a longer life. The amount to be reduce at mature age is about 50%, but the hobbyist needs to observe the fish to make the right decision.
Newly born guppies have the best started with live food. Live, newly hatched baby brine shrimp is the most common first food. This can be supplemented with finely ground dry food.
After 3 months of age the fish do not have to be fed till they are full of baby brine shrimp and usually fed once a day with live baby brine shrimp throughout the guppy's life with additional feedings from a high protein, vitamin balanced dry food. For pregnant females the general rule is that the higher the amount of nutrition consumed, the higher the egg production. Females vary in their maximum egg production. They can range from producing about 20 to over 200 babies.
Maintaining A Quality Strain Of Guppies
Sexes are separated before they are sexually mature. At the age of 4 to 6 weeks is the ideal time to separate the sexes. It is important to do this to practice selective breeding to maintain and improve the strain. If possible, keeping each female drop separate will enable the hobbyist to choose the females from the best drop for the next generation. This is decided by choosing the best female from the sisters of drop that has the best males.
The young juvenile male maybe just starting to color up and at the base of the abdomen just a small dot (the anus) is visible. The anal fin will also start to narrow and will eventually break away to form the gonopodium.
The 4 week old male above shows no gravid spot at the base of the abdomen and the anal fin is just starting to form a gonopodium. He is also starting to show body and tail color development. Below shows a young male from the same drop showing no gravid spot and the anal fin has not changed yet. He is a purple pheontype where the picture above is green.
The young 4 week old juvenile females shown below are showing a small gravid spot at the base of the abdomen. This clear window to the female guppy's reproductive area will eventually expand and show light pink unfertilized eggs and show small eyes when fertilized.
The age for selecting breeders varies with the strain of guppies. The general age range is between 10 and 18 weeks. Some strains go infertile early in age and are bred at 10 to 12 weeks. Early infertility is common among many lines that carry the snakeskin trait or half black body trait. Fast maturing strains can develop tail fins early and need to be bred early before the tail becomes a deterrent to swim properly to breed. With all of these cautions taken into consideration it is best to wait as long as possible to know what the young male will turn out to be. Color, tail shape, and dorsal shape can change with age.
Males should be selected with the fins and body with the desired color, shape, and size. Females are selected for good body shape, desired tail color, and good tail shape. Both sexes should have thick peduncles to hold the large tails well. It is advisable to talk to breeders who are experts with the color strain of interest to understand its special breeding practices.
Common breeding set up is 2 males to 3 females. Having more than one male creates competition and assures fertility. To avoid females from becoming stressed due to being chased, it is advisable to have more females than males.
Another method of breeding guppies is raising a drop of babies together to maturity. Inferior males and females are culled out as they mature. After the final cull, drops are not taken until a few months later since the most recent breeding will eventually take over on following drops. This method requires many tanks to take a large amount of babies to make sure that the baby drops taken are from the desired breeding.
Invigorating A Strain of Guppies
A strain of guppies is often separated into two or more sub-lines. Each sub-line is kept separate and bred within that line only. Some breeders will breed the lines with different characteristic emphasis such as different color shades, size, and finnage. This creates more genetic diversity. After 3 or more inbred generations the sub-lines are crossed with each other and then split into separate sub-lines again. Usually virgin females are exchange to implement this, but other combinations can be used to accomplish this. This method maintains the quality of the strain while revitalizing the lines by crossing within each other.
Cross a line of guppies with a distant related line with the same or similar color characteristics. Often breeders with do this to improve the line with characteristic that their line does not have. First generation cross may produce vigorous large fish with the desired color or it can produce vigorous large fish with undesired color. For example sometimes a crossed between two lines with the same solid color will produce off colored or variegated fish. If the color result is not what is desired, a second generation sibling cross will result in some males with desired color. Careful selections of females with hues of the desired color need special attention for breeding. The first generation cross can also be crossed back to the original strain to bring back the desired color.
Some breeders will use guppies with the same color but different body color characteristics. Examples are Blue to Half-black Blue, Gold Red to Grey Red, Albino Red to Grey Red, and Solid Blue Snake to Blue female. A second generation brother to sister breeding is often required to bring out or to get rid of recessive traits.
If there are no available lines with similar color as mentioned in method two, a breeder may resort to breeding to a completely different color type. This method will take extensive inbreeding, breeding back to the original line and careful selection of breeders to return back to the desired color. The benefits are improving the strain with traits not existent in the original line or a creation of a new color type. An exciting way to breed but very labor intensive.
For more detailed information on guppy culture please consider purchasing "Breeding Show Guppies" that goes into deeper techniques in breeding and developing guppies.