Breeding Guppies - An Overview

Guppy breeding has it's own specific requirements, but before moving on to those we need to understand that many of the factors to insure success are no different than would be needed to breed any type of fish, not just guppies or fancy guppies. While guppies are very forgiving of less than optimal water conditions, as a guppy keeper it's your responsibility to make every effort to provide your guppies with the best of everything. While almost anyone can successfully keep guppies, it takes a dedicated fishkeeper to excel at being a successful guppy breeder or farmer. Yes, I said, "Farmer," which is more than likely a term that you have never heard in relation to keeping or breeding fancy guppies, but for the most ambitious among you that are contemplating raising  guppies or fancy guppies on a commercial scale, this term is one that will have relevance for you. We'll discuss this in greater detail another article.

There are some basic tenets to keeping and breeding fancy guppies, successfully. These include, but are not limited to - excellent water conditions, the highest-quality foods, appropriate tank size, proper filtration, an optimal lighting regimen, proper plant usage and careful observation of your fish. Implementing all of these techniques will assure you many years of enjoyable fishkeeping and being rewarded by successful guppy breeding.

It's a fact that guppies will spawn without any attention paid to them, but this random spawning will usually result in a continuous degradation of each successive generation of guppy fry. If your guppy breeding efforts are not combined with a detailed breeding regimen, eventually you will wind-up with what are commonly referred to as 'feeder' or pet-shop' guppies.

A rapid maturity rate, combined with incessant spawning are two reasons why guppies are one of the most popular fish for beginners to hone their breeding skills on. Although these traits are shared with most livebearers, guppies are the most common fish tackled by the neophyte fish breeder.

Guppies are ovoviviparous and fertilize their eggs and with their young developing internally. Guppy fry are born fully formed and although they do face a few challenges immediately after birth, they are able to fend for themselves and the parents do not contribute to their needs afterwards. That said, the adult guppies, including the female giving birth are the most dangerous obstacle the guppy fry face since a female guppy will devour her young as quickly as she 'drops' them. This lack of parental rearing has absolutely no effect on the fry, should they be successful in escaping predation. Within minutes of birth the guppy fry will eagerly feed on their own as they rapidly grow toward maturity.

In a matter of weeks you will be able to distinguish the male guppy fry from the females as the males will begin to show an alteration of the anal fins as they develop into the gonopodium, the male guppy's sexual organ. At this point you should begin to separate the sexes, being extremely careful as you do so.

Male Guppy's Gonopodium  •  Photo by Frank Falcone  •  Copyright 2018

Once you have separated the sexes you will be able to observe them closely. Be sure to not mix guppy fry from different births, especially closely, time wise as you will not be able to tell which fish are growing the fastest which you would want to consider for your next breeding group.

In no time at all you will have your next breeding groups ready to set up and repeat the process, all over again. If you are applying rigorous genetic controls, your guppies should regularly and uniformly display all of the specific traits that you are breeding for such as color, finnage or size.

Breeding guppies for fun is simple and requires very little in the way of planning or equipment. Breeding fancy guppies, especially for competition or for profit requires much more exacting attention to detail and the precise following of well established rules, developed and tested over decades in order to achieve maximum success, either on the judge's bench or in the marketplace.

I have been breeding fancy guppies for over 60 years and much of that time was spent doing so as a commercial venture. I take tremendous pride in the fancy guppies and other species of tropical fish that I have raised and sold. It is my hope that I will be able to impart to you, the techniques that I have used to achieve my personal goals as a fancy guppy breeder. Rarely will you see me offer a point and say that it is the 'only' way to do something. I cannot tell you what is the only way to raise fancy guppies. I can only tell you the methods that I have used. There is no reason why they would not be as successful for you as they have been for me, as nothing I will put forth, is as they say, 'rocket-science.'

I wish you tremendous success at breeding your fancy guppies and I hope that the methods that I put forth will make it easier for you to achieve that success for many, many years to come. I welcome you to the world of the fancy guppy breeder. Good luck!