The Fancy Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)

The Fancy Guppy (Poecilia reticulata) is also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the rainbowfish, missionary fish, millionfish, or mosquito fish.   Although it is widely distributed throughout the world and is arguably one of the most popular freshwater fish of all time, it’s natural range is in northeast South America

The Common Guppy (Poecilia reticulata) has two other relatives in the Poeciliidae family; Poecilia wingei (the Endler guppy), and Micropoecilia picta, the smallest member of the guppy family that is found in brackish waters.

Wild Guppies can be found in the wild in Antigua, Barbados, Brazil, Guyana, Jamaica, the Netherlands Antilles, Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Venezuela and have been introduced into many different countries for the purpose of mosquito control, hence the name mosquito fish.

The common Guppy is a highly adaptable species that can survive and thrive in a variety of relatively “harsh” environments.  They are found in almost every freshwater body of water accessible to them, but prefer smaller streams and still pools rather than large, deep, or fast flowing rivers. Because of their high tolerance to salt water, they have also populated brackish water Estuaries.

In their natural environment, common Guppies feed on both animal and vegetable matter; primarily small insect larvae, small crustaceans, and benthic algae.

Male guppies are always much smaller than females, however their dorsal, anal, and caudal fins are usually much longer and colorful.  Female guppies are usually much larger, drab in color, and lack the ornamental fins that adorn the males.  Wild caught Guppies are much less colorful than their domestically bred counterparts however, through selective breeding, many unique color strains, body color patterns, and caudal fin types have been developed over the years to provide tropical fish keeping enthusiasts a plethora of choices for stocking peaceful community aquarium.  These strains are generically called Fancy Guppies.

Fancy Guppies are available in every color combination of the rainbow, as well as different body patterns and tail types.   Guppy breeders are constantly working on creating new varieties, and because of the limitless variations that can be bred, it is practically impossible to describe every variety here.   Instead we will try to identify some of the more popular varieties available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.

 

Types Of Guppies

Types Of Guppies

Three characteristics are used to distinguish Fancy Guppy strains.

  • Color (Body and fins which are often different)
  • Pattern (Body and tail patterns frequently vary)
  • Fin types (Delta, Round, Lyretail, etc.)

Fancy Guppies are bred in every conceivable color of the rainbow including albino, iridescent, and metallic varieties.  Their colors can be solid, split on the upper and lower portions, split on the front and rear portions, or mixed.   Except for the albino, gold, and platinum strains, the head and main body colors are usually lighter and in many strains, the posterior portions of the body closer to the caudal fin, is sometimes differently colored.

Fancy Guppy body patterns can be broken down to three or four types.

Cobra body patterns exhibit rosettes as well as some vertical barring.
Snakeskin body patterns have a chain like look across the base body color. Some strains have rosettes.
Tuxedo body patterns have the front half of the body one color, and the rear half a different color. Light colored upper bodies and a darker lower body color also distinguish Tuxedo strains.
Solid body color strains are also available and except for true albinos, are actually more difficult to obtain.

Fancy Guppy caudal fins can be a solid color, or patterned.  The most common patterns are Grass, Lace, Leopard, and Mosaic.

Grass pattern tails are made up of a series of fine dots that cover the base color and are said to resemble grass seeds.
Lace pattern tails have a web like appearance.
Leopard pattern tails cover the fin with a series of spots that vaguely resemble those of a leopard.
Mosaic pattern tails are made up of an irregular pattern of connected spots.

Guppy breeders have developed several different tail types over the years, most of which are listed below:

Bottom swordtail
Cofer Tail (Spade Tail)
Delta Tail (Triangle Tail)
Double sword Tail
Fantail
Lyretail
Pintail (Needle Tail)
Ribbon
Roundtail
Scarf Tail (Flag Tail)
Speartail
Swallow
Top swordtail
Veiltail

The above tail types often go by different names in different areas of the world, which can lend to some confusion in identification.   The pictures however are self explanatory.

Most Fancy Guppies have black eyes however, there are two types that have red eyes.  The true albino guppies that lack melanin and have paler red eyes, and the so called Real Red Eye guppies which are colored normally, but have red eyes.  The latter are usually smaller than the strains with normal colored eyes.

If you think about all the possibilities when you mix these characteristics, you can understand why it is impossible to describe all the strains available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts and why only a small fraction of fancy guppy varieties are ever sold in tropical fish shops.

As you might guess, Guppies are highly prolific breeders and one of the easiest to breed species; perfect for beginning tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.   These colorful fish are live bearers and can be bred in a community tank or in the case of Fancy Guppies, in separate tanks to create a new strain or keep an existing strain pure.

Although they are hardy, quite adaptable, and can breed in almost any type of water conditions, the breeding tank water should be kept between 74 and 82°F.

When a well conditioned pair or trio is placed together and ready to spawn.   A male will approach the female from below, extend his gonopodium, and inseminates the female.   If mating is successful, the female guppy can store the sperm from a single male for up to 3 months and give birth to up to three spawns from one coupling.   This is important if the breeder is trying to develop a new strain or maintain the current strain.

If a new color strain, body pattern, or fin type is trying to be developed, the female should be kept isolated for at least 3 spawns to allow all the sperm to be used up before introducing another male.

When the female is pregnant, her belly will become rounded and quite large.   A dark gravid spot will appear on her belly near the anal vent which is actually the fry developing.  Immediately before birth, the tiny eyes of the fry can be seen through the skin of the female’s body.  During this period she should be left alone to reduce any stress which could cause her to either absorb the fry or have a premature birth; either of which could kill the fry.

When birthing occurs, individual fry are dropped in sequence over a period of up to eight hours.

Although the gestation period for the common guppy is usually around 28 days, they can give birth anywhere from 20 and 40 days after mating.   And, depending on the size and age of the female, anywhere from 20 to 200 fry can be produced per spawn.

After the female gives birth, the fry should be provided with plenty of Java Moss, Water Sprite, Water Wisteria, Duckweed, or other dense cover for them to hide and escape from being eaten.  Although, well fed adults seldom eat their young, it’s a good idea to remove the parents from the breeding tank after spawning.

The fry can be fed newly hatched baby brine shrimp, liquid fry food, microworms, infusoria, vinegar eels, finely crushed or powdered flake food, or Daphnia almost immediately after being born.   Avoid overfeeding and make frequent 25% water changes to keep pollution in the tank to a minimum.

Guppy fry grow quickly and only take about three to four months to reach maturity.  Within a couple of months you should be able to determine the sex of the fry.

The Fancy Guppy (Poecilia reticulata) has been successfully hybridized with various molly species (Poecilia latipinna or Poecilia velifera) using a male guppy and a female molly, however, the hybrids are always infertile males.   Guppies have also been hybridized with the Endler’s livebearer (Poecilia wingei) which produce fertile offspring.

Guppies are the perfect “starter fish” for beginning tropical fish keeping enthusiasts the world over.   They are peaceful, colorful, inexpensive, easy to keep, and tolerant of varied water conditions.   Although they prefer a hard water aquarium, temperatures between 78 and 82 °F, and a salt level equivalent to one tablespoon per 5 gallons of fresh water, they are able to tolerate salt levels up to 150% of normal seawater.

In the wild, Guppies are usually collected from large groups or shoals and should not be kept alone in an aquarium environment.   They lend towards nipping the fins of fish with long flowing fins and with other males, but they normally don’t do much damage.  In general, they make a colorful addition to any peaceful well planted community tank.

Adult Guppies are easy to feed and should be provided with a mixed diet of live, frozen, or freeze dried Daphnia, brine shrimp, tubifex, or bloodworms along with a quality flake food.

A plethora of Fancy Guppies varieties are readily available online from wholesalers, importers, breeders and at almost every tropical fish keeping retailer in the country.  Prices can vary greatly and are dependent on color strain, body and fin pattern, quality, rarity, etc.

 

3 Responses to “The Fancy Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)”

  1. Sonchai says:

    The Guppy featured in the image is a Fancy Guppy. The acuatl image is not of a fish we own, but since as you stated it was a beautiful specimen we wanted to feature it. Have you enjoyed keeping and breeding guppies and would you have an words of advice to new fish owners interested in keeping them?

    • Fishkeeper says:

      I have bred guppies in the past with mixed success,and have kept several smaller tanks with mixed fancy guppies as “show” tanks. They are generally easy to keep and breed at will when conditions are favorable.
      The biggest problem I have experienced is keeping fancy guppies in a community environment with larger fish. The larger fish tend to become fin nippers and eventually the guppy population suffers.
      For the same reason, it’s not a good idea keeping male Bettas with a tank full of guppies.
      The best advice I can suggest when setting up a new tank is to place the fish in an “aged” system that has been planted and in use for some time. This dramatically increases the fish’s survivability.
      Enjoy

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