By Stephen Kwartler
There must be one strict rule to follow when one decides to breed show guppies. If you decide that you really want to breed and produce the best quality show fish, you must obtain your 'seeds' from the best source possible. there are no shortcuts to quality. I recommend starting with at least two trios from the same strain from the same breeder. The reason I suggest two trios is this will almost guarantee you at least several broods of fry born about the same time. Set up your newly acquired fish and watch to see when the females become "loaded". It is a good idea to separate each female just prior to delievery time. By doing this you will be certain that all babies born are kept as brothers and sisters rather than being of mixed broods. This becomes very important in future generations. After the female appears empty of her fry she can be returned to her original tank. Now you have your first drop of guppies. Make certain you label them and record all information in a record book.
Feed your babies well with plenty of baby brine, as well as a variety of powdered flake foods. I crush all my flake foods in a plastic bag by forcing out the air and then squeezing the food until it becomes a fine powder. Make certain you follow your maintenance schedule and do your weekly water changes. Within a month it will be time to sex your fry. I generally remove between six to ten similiar looking females and keep them separate from all other fish until needed. The remaining fish can be culled down if necessary I raise all my sexed fry in ten gallon tanks. If all goes well within three months you should have several tanks with young juveniles. From these tanks will come your next set of breeders. If you are limited to a certain number of tanks you may have to discard your original breeders you purchased to make room for the new breeders. Assuming these fish are at least equal to their parents you will now have to select which way you wish to breed them. There are several directions you can go. Most fish breeders usually start breeding brother to sister, or inbreeding. Some others will use a form of line breeding, which is breeding the same strain but not brother to sister. this is why record keeping is so important. Some breeders will breed father to daughter and vice versa, but this method is for the advanced breeders. I suggest for the beginner to first try breeding brother to sister for a generation or two as well as breeding males from one litter to females of another litter [same strain]. I recommend selecting the best overall males that are similiar in color and shape to use as breeders. If you always pick only the largest fish for breeders you will eventually end up with only large fish. It is better to select similiar looking males and females since we want to develop our strain to produce similiar looking fish.
If you are going to inbreed you will see some changes after several generations. You must pay attention to these changes as they can be very slight to severe. You may notice a change in body size, caudal shape, dorsal length, etc. Observation is very important. You will have to learn when to stop inbreeding before it is too late. If you notice your fish are improving from the original fish obtained you can continue to inbreed.
Line breeding can also produce quality guppies and generally most good breeders use a form of line breeding and continue to produce the same strain year after year. There are many variations to line breeding. Again it depends on the amount of tanks available. By breeding cousins the regressive effects of inbreeding can be avoided. Again I stress the importance of keeping accurate records. This will always allow you to keep track of all lineage of all your stock and allow you to change or repeat any step in your breeding program. If you are fortunate to have forty or more tanks you will be able to line breed as well as inbreed. You will also be able to cross your inbred line with your line bred line and make what I refer to as a back cross. As you can see the combinations are endless. By sticking to a specific program and staying with one color variety you to will be able to produce show quality guppies.
I have been breeding several lines of half black varigated guppies for the past five years. I am always trying to produce better fish year after year. I maintain over two hundred tanks, with half being used for my half blacks. I have been able to develop three parallel lines that are slightly varied and I can cross these lines as frequently as need be. I have found this to have many benefits. If one line looses some size yet has a good pattern I will cross these smaller males to females from one of the other lines. I then look for the offspring that have the pattern desired and breed these males back to the original line. This method affords me the advantage of continuing my lines and maintaining their patterns.
Remember to try to stick to one type of breeding program if you are a beginner. Don't become impatient as fish breeding takes some time until you see the results. Obtain the best stock available. Observe your guppies often and make certain not to get away from doing your water changes. Try to attend a sanctioned guppy show so you can see what is winning as well as being able to see the vast amount of color classes recognized for showing. Also ask as many questions as is necessary and write down certain information so you do not forget.