How To Breed The Perfect Guppies?

Most novice guppy owners consider breeding their guppies as a straightforward process. There’s no nuance, thought, or effort put into it. They will mostly allow guppies to do their thing and whatever happens, happens.

But if you’re planning on getting the perfect guppy specimens, this laid-back approach doesn’t work anymore. You will need a more systematic strategy and resort to selective breeding, allowing you to differentiate between good, bad, and mediocre genes.

Selective breeding requires a comprehensive approach which includes:

  • Monitoring the tank settings carefully to prevent poor oxygenation, ammonia build-up, or toxins
  • Monitor guppies for signs of parasites, stress, or weak immune system
  • Provide a healthy and varied diet for optimal nutritional intake, etc.

There’s a lot going into it, but the results can be astounding. There are also a variety of things that can go wrong.

Today’s article will dive into selective breeding, helping you understand the mechanism behind it and what to expect long-term.

How To Select The Best Guppy Pair?

Everything begins with selecting the best guppy pair you can find. The goal here is to provide the next generation of guppies with the best gene pool, top coloring, unique color patterns, and strong immune systems.

The first problem you will encounter is sourcing the guppies. Your everyday fish shops only offer subpar specimens that don’t live to the high standards you’re looking for. I wouldn’t even trust guppy-specific shops marketing their guppies as top-of-the-line.

These shops are more interested in making fast money than building a reputation as trustworthy providers.

To get quality guppies bred selectively, you need to contact private guppy breeders. You want to discuss with expert and experienced breeders who have been in the selective breeding business for a long time.

They will not only provide you with the best specimens for the right price but might also throw in some advice for a change. As a novice guppy breeder, you will need all the information you can get, and who’s more qualified to provide that other than experienced breeders?

I suggest getting at least 2 males and 3 or more females. Make sure that, when you choose them, you select specimens that show different physical characteristics. This will provide you with a larger gene pool to select from.

After getting the preferred specimens, select specific pairs to breed, depending on the desired physical characteristics. Selecting the pair beforehand will get you there, whether you want brighter colors, a specific coloring pattern, or a given fin and tail length and shapes.

When it comes to breeding techniques, there are 3 major methods that most breeders will use:

Line Breeding

Line breeding refers to breeding guppies related by blood. This method is the most successful at passing on desirable genes, but only when applying it selectively.

Not all family members can reproduce successfully and safely. In many cases, the offspring will display altered features, leading to opposing results. Selective breeding minimizes those risks, ensuring that the best genes have the highest chance of transmitting.

One popular technique helping with that is only breeding female guppies with their father. This method is the most effective at ensuring the success of selective breeding. Pairing male guppies with mothers isn’t nearly as successful. Even more, studies have observed that this approach can actually deliver results instead of what’s expected.

The problem with line breeding is that it has a high chance of producing deformities and genetic faults, including bent spine syndrome. It is a natural effect of inbreeding that’s present in all animal species.

Out Crossing

This method eliminates the risks of line breeding since it relies on mixing unrelated guppies.

The concept behind the procedure is similar to that of line breeding. You simply select the pair of your choosing with the most impressive physical characteristics and separate it from the rest. The nature will soon follow its course, hopefully providing you with some unique specimens.

Out Crossing is safer overall since it no longer involves the risk of harmful genetic mutations and deformities. Most breeders recommend performing this breeding technique every couple of generations to keep your guppy population healthy and genetically diverse.

Otherwise, first-generation guppies will breed among each other, increasing the risk of disorders like the bent spine syndrome.

Back Crossing

You must be aware that not all selective breeding can deliver optimal results, even when the pair is in mint condition. Sometimes, genetic irregularities may appear, destroying otherwise perfect traits. This can be heartbreaking since you may only find those specific traits in that specific pair.

To see the offspring being born with none of them or a deformed version can be discouraging. Fortunately, you can fix the situation via Back Crossing. The technique refers to breeding the parent with the desirable genes to one of its offspring.

You may have to redo this procedure several times to have the desirable effect. This will eventually correct the problem, providing you with the features you’ve been looking for.

This genetic uncertainty shows why selective breeding isn’t always an exact science and why unique specimens are so expensive.

Removing Unwanted Guppies From The Gene Pool – Culling

Culling refers to eliminating subpar guppies from the genetic pool. These specimens have physical deformities like the bent spine syndrome, weaker immune systems, unfit physical characteristics, etc.

Many of these are the result of line breeding, which comes with high risks of genetic deformities. Out Crossing is necessary to refresh the population where line breeding occurs, but even that might not suffice.

However, genetic abnormalities may occur, at which point your main concern should be eliminating them from the gene pool. This will prevent the spread of unwanted and even harmful genes that could affect your guppy population.

How you perform the culling is up to you. You can either euthanize the fish, give them away, or sell them if anybody’s interested in having them.

How Much Do High-Quality Guppies Cost?

If you’re aiming to buy some high-end guppy pairs with outstanding genetics, consider the price of a normal pair – somewhere around $10 to $60. It’s difficult to assess the exact price of more unique pairs due to the many variables involved.

Some factors will influence the cost of a guppy pair, like:

  • Scarcity – No matter how exquisite the fish’s physical characteristics are, the price will remain low if they are common occurrences. That’s because of the competition; why should you buy one guy’s expensive pair when you can get the exact one cheaper from someone else. On the other hand, scarcity won’t necessarily increase the price. Just because a feature is very difficult to come by doesn’t mean it’s also desirable. You need a combination of scarcity, uniqueness, and desirability for the price to increase accordingly.
  • The uniqueness of the characteristics – Many characteristics can vary from one guppy to the next. Selective breeding can sometimes result in breathtaking characteristics that could give birth to an entire lineage. We include here the size, coloring, color patterns, fin and tail shape, and size, etc. These are the most sought-after specimens that will also come at spicey prices.
  • The fish’s health – A beautiful and unique fish will be worth close to nothing if it doesn’t have the immune system to back it off. If the fish is sick or prone to illness due to a weak immune system, it will be worth close to nothing.
  • How difficult it was to obtain those features – Not all selective breeding is successful. Many endeavors fail to capture the desired features, requiring many failed trials to achieve success. This effort may also influence the costs, especially when the result is special.

That being said, you will most likely find some guppy pairs in the hundreds of dollars or maybe even thousands, albeit rather unlikely. It all depends on how much you are willing to spend.

Do I Need Multiple Tanks for Selective Breeding?

Yes, you do. On average, you will need at least 7 tanks to obtain the best results and control the breeding process effectively. You should use the tanks to separate the guppy population like so:

  • 1 tank for the original pair – This pair will begin the lineage, providing the necessary initial genetic material you need. Keeping it separate will allow you to control the breeding process, ensuring no foreign genes ‘poison’ the pool.
  • 2 tanks for the first-generation offspring – These tanks will house the pair’s first set of offspring. You need 2 tanks because you will keep the males and females separate. You want controlled breeding, and mixing males and females will lead to uncontrolled gene mixing, defeating the purpose.
  • 2 tanks for the second-generation offspring – You will use specimens from the first generation to create a second generation pursuing specific traits.
  • 2 tanks for the chosen males and females – These 2 tanks will house the best second-generation specimens that you may deem worthy of preserving and breeding.

This setup is only an example. More prolific breeders have multiple tanks, holding impressive guppy populations and accessing a larger gene pool. This will allow them to produce unique characteristics faster via the trial-and-error tactic.

There’s no doubt that selective breeding will involve significant costs, depending on the project’s size and overarching scope.

I suggest taking it slow and experimenting with first-generation-only guppies. This will give you a taste of the amplitude of selective breeding and the results to expect.

How To Keep Track of Your Guppies?

The main problem I see many novice breeders face is the lack of data control. When it comes to selective breeding, not keeping track of your guppies can spell disaster. After all, you want to preserve the best genes that the guppy population offers, which means highlighting specific individuals.

If you don’t keep track of your guppies, you might lose track of the most valuable specimens. Being more thorough in your work will allow you a higher level of control and, hence, better results.

Here’s how to structure your work to avoid confusion and keep track of the results. You mark each tack with:

  • Guppy identification marks – You should assign a number or a letter to each guppy, separating parents from offspring and keeping track of each lineage.
  • Identify family relationships – You need to keep track of every guppy to know which parents it came from. This will help you avoid unfortunate gene mixing that could result in unfit offspring. As is the case with breeding male guppies with their mothers, for instance.
  • Note important physical characteristics – Your goal should be to separate guppies by physical characteristics as well. That’s because not all guppies will pass the genetic test, and you need to know which is which. Write down characteristics like coloring, tail size, and shape, color patterns, size, etc.
  • Note the breeding dates – Keeping track of the breeding and delivery dates will help you.
  • Note your progress and program details – Keep a notebook to remember the breeding programs you’ve used, the results, and the techniques that got you there. This will help you record your progress and allow you to tweak the program as you wish.
  • Keep pictures of your favorite specimens – Having visual input will help you a lot in the selection process. Keep detailed pictures of your most successful specimens and even the strings that provided the best results. You should also associate relevant information to each picture to help you go through the data easier.

You absolutely need to abide by these recommendations, especially if you have multiple tanks and keeping track of several lineages. The process of selective breeding can quickly become confusing and complicated as you have to deal with dozens of guppies at once.

How To Feed Guppies During Selective Breeding?

This is another problem to solve since you will have multiple tanks with a lot of guppies. And these are not regular guppies either. They carry superior genes that you aim to protect and enhance.

There’s also another aspect to remember. Guppy fry have slightly different diet requirements and feeding behavior. Unlike adults, who only eat once or twice per day, the fry may require up to 4-5 meals to stay healthy and grow.

Guppies are also omnivores and require a varied diet to get all the necessary nutrients. This means that we will skip commercial fish food for today.

So, what are the other options?

Live Food

Live food mimics guppies’ natural food, providing the fish with the much-needed blend of protein and fat.

You can purchase live food from fish stores, but I suggest an even better and more cost-effective alternative – live food cultures.

If you think it’s too much of a headache to set up a live food culture, you’re already in the guppy breeding business. You are used to headaches. Not to mention, having live food readily available for your guppies around the clock is an invaluable asset.

Here are some live food options to consider:

  • Brine shrimp – A brine shrimp hatchery is a must since it makes up for a large portion of your guppies’ diet. Brine shrimp comes with 60% proteins and 25% fats and carbs, making for a delicious and nutritious meal, especially for the fry.
  • Daphnia cultures – Daphnia feeds on algae and bacteria, and it’s easy to keep and maintain. This little creature makes for the perfect meal for guppies due to its protein and fat content. It also comes with significant amounts of vitamin A and D that your guppies need to remain healthy and grow fast.
  • Vinegar eels – Yet another protein-rich source that comes with a variety of other nutrients. The problem is that vinegar eel cultures will emanate a rather powerful odor, so you might want to keep them outdoors.
  • Microworms – You can grow these in sealed containers, chop them, and feed them to your guppies as they are. Or you can turn them into a protein paste along with vegetables and other protein-based foods.

Homemade Food Options

I agree that keeping cultures of live food can be annoying and take up a lot of space, time, and work. If this isn’t your thing, you can rely on homemade foods instead. They are easier to prepare and can feed your guppies for days on end.

Here are several homemade food recipes to consider for your guppies:

  • Egg yolk paste – Boiled egg yolk is highly nutritious, but it’s more fitting for guppy fry. It has a high-fat content, which can affect your adult guppies in the long run. The fry could use the extra fat, however, make sure you don’t overfeed them. Egg yolk will pollute the waters with ease, raising the ammonia level and potentially poisoning guppies.
  • Beef heartBeef heart comes with a mix of protein and fat, again making it ideal for guppy fry. You only need to boil it, chop it into smaller pieces, and feed some to your guppy fry occasionally.
  • Protein paste – Everything goes here. You can mix beef heart with egg yolk, daphnia, blood worms, brine shrimp, and whatever comes to mind. You can then cook and freeze the paste so you can use it whenever you need it.
  • Veggie paste – Guppies also require veggies due to the vitamins and minerals that they couldn’t otherwise get from animal-based foods. The paste can contain a variety of veggies, including spirulina, algae, carrots, spinach, broccoli, zucchini, etc.

Conclusion

Selective breeding isn’t too difficult if you know what you’re doing. To summarize:

  • Only get your guppies from experienced breeders who can ensure top genetic quality
  • Keep track of different guppies, lineages, and note your progress
  • Have different tanks to separate the different guppy generations and preserve the valuable genes and character
  • Separate parents from the offspring to prevent unwanted inbreeding
  • Ensure healthy and well-rounded diets to boost your guppy fry’s growth rate

If you still need advice on guppy diets, breeding techniques, or any other aspect, check out the other articles I’ve written about this fish species.

Guppies   Updated: November 21, 2022
avatar I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets.
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