Breed: Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)
Cost: $3 – $5
Lifespan: 12 months
Recommended for: Beginners to experienced fish breeders
Appearance: Adult guppies can be up to 6cm (2.4″) in length, although males are usually only 3.5cm (1.4″) long. Guppies have single dorsal, caudal (tail) and anal fins. In the wild, the guppy is dark olive green, but in domesticated populations colours vary, including silver, green, brown, blue, red and black. Female guppies are usually duller in colour than males, but through selective breeding, they have become more appealing.
In addition to colour and pattern variations, there are 12 fin shapes available, including ‘delta’ (wide triangular), ‘fan’ (small triangular), ‘veil’ (wide), ‘ribbon’, ‘double sword’ and ‘lace’. Some patterns presently available include ‘mosaic’ (irregular blotches of colour), ‘cobra’ (snakeskin) and ‘tuxedo’ (half black).
Temperament: An excellent community fish, the guppy is not aggressive to other species. It is a willing breeder and will survive in large numbers in a small tank.
Health & lifespan: The guppy lifespan is 12 months. The fish is hardy, but its small size means that if they are to contract a problem they can rapidly deteriorate and die. When a fish does develop a disease then other fish in the same water will also be exposed to it.
Feeding: Adult guppies are omnivorous: they will snatch live food that alights on the surface of the water, as well as eat plant matter. Young guppies rely on a diet high in live food, and use the protein to grow quickly. You can feed your guppy in a range of forms – flake, tablet, powdered, liquid, freeze-dried, frozen, fresh and live. Beware of overfeeding. Uneaten food must be removed from the tank.
Breeding: Males can breed from four weeks and females from 12 weeks. Guppies are easy to breed but need to be separated from their parents to ensure that they are neither eaten, nor interbred with their parents.
Guppies are a live bearing species, and gestation is 28 days. This means that the fertilised eggs are retained in the female body until hatched. The fry live off the yolk of the eggs but also get some nourishment directly from the mother.
The fry appear as small replicas of their parents. The first brood usually numbers 10 fry, with numbers increasing with successive broods. The average brood is about 30. At five to nine weeks their colour begins to develop, and a guppy is at its most beautiful at 10 to 26 weeks.
Cost and set up: Guppies cost from $3 to $5, although rare varieties have sold at auction for $500. A 45cm (18″) tank will hold six to eight fish, and will cost about $30. In addition, a basic set up will require an air pump ($12.50), a filter ($16.95), a 50 watt heater to regulate water temperature ($63.95), a dechlorinator ($4.50), gravel ($4.00) and rocks, plants and fish food. Total cost: about $150.
Aquariums & maintenance: In the wild guppies inhabit fresh or brackish lakes, shallow rivers, and lagoons. They require an average water pH of 6.8 to 7.4, which is about the range of domestic tap water. The pH level changes depending on the temperature, type of gravel and oxygen content of the water. Tank water needs to be partially changed regularly. Breeders recommend changing over one-fifth of the water every fortnight. Tank temperature needs to be between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius. Avoid positioning the tank in draughts and in very sunny positions.
Ideal owner: Guppies are popular with beginners and hobbyists, as they tend to be prolific breeders. The first-time guppy owner can enjoy watching their pets increase in number, while the enthusiast can try to develop new colours and mutations.
History: Guppies are among the most popular aquarium fish in Australia. Also known as ‘Millions Fish’ because of their prolific breeding habits, guppies are well-suited to the backyard breeder and pet owner, as well as the fish enthusiast.
Originally from South America, the guppy was named for the English naturalist John Lechmere Guppy, who was incorrectly credited as being the discoverer of the species. Guppies were collected and named, Lebistes poeciloides by the Spaniard, De Filippi and were earlier named Poecilia reticulata by a German zoologist. In the 1920s guppies started to gain popularity as pets in Europe, and by the 1950s efforts had been made to breed colour variants. Forty years on there is an extensive range of colours and fin shapes, with exotic new variations becoming available all the time.
Guppies can be purchased from good aquarium and pet shops throughout Australia.