By Stephen Kwartler
1. When starting out, only acquire one or two trios of the same line. To maintain a single strain and keeping it pure, you will need about 8 to 10 tanks. It is better to use smaller 5 gal tanks for breeders and fry. Guppies can live in a wide range of water conditions. The ideal water chemistry is a pH of 7.2 and moderate hardness but they will adapt to water that is between 6.4 to 8.6 if acclimated properly. The first thing to do is place your newly acquired breeding stock into a clean (do not use soap) container that is large enough to hold each trio, plus large enough so you can add an equal amount of water from their new tank. DO NOT FLOAT UNOPENED BAGS. After placing your trio into this container, let them settle down for a short time.
After a short time (app. 15 minutes) start adding about 3 - 4 ounces of water slowly into the container. Do this slowly over a period of about one hour, until you have almost doubled the volume of water. Do not rush this important acclimation process. Make sure the fish cannot jump out of container. When you are done and they fish have settled down, carefully pour them into their new tank. DO NOT FEED THEM. Observe them and be patient. After about an hour you may feed them ever so slightly, a little baby brine shrimp or a pinch of dry food is plenty. Do not feed again until the following day. In about a month you should start having fry. Be prepared to have tank space available to raise each drop of babies. After 3 - 4 weeks you must begin to separate virgin females from among the fry for your future breeders.
2. Keeping the fry in the smaller tanks allows them to find food much easier without burning up too much energy. If your litters are over 60 fry it is better to raise them in 10 gallon tanks.
3. Daily feedings of newly hatched brine shrimp to your newborn babies up to the time they are at least 4 months old is necessary for good growth.
4. Inside box filters are all that are necessary and are the choice of most of the top breeders. A layer of polyester cotton with some marbles or gravel is all that you will need for your filter material. I use dolomite gravel as it helps buffer the water. Dolomite can be found in most pet stores that sell salt water fish. another alternative to dolomite is oyster shells. Sponge filters are another type of filter that works equally well when used correctly. Sponge filters must be rinsed on occasion without destroying the living bacteria.
5. Water changes: 30-50% weekly or bi-weekly water changes are mandatory for development and size. Always siphon your tanks from the bottom. Avoid adding water to tanks that have lost water through evaporation. It is important to purchase a reliable water test kit to know what your tap and tank water conditions are. Test kits for pH, hardness and ammonia are easy to use. First time fish keepers should understand principals of water chemistry and the effect it has on tropical fish keeping.
6. Small periodic feedings are the best way to feed fancy guppies. Overfeeding is probably the number one killer of tropical fish. Small pinches of a good quality crushed flaked food is best if fed every hour or so. Avoid feeding freeze dried foods as guppies have difficulty digesting this type of food. If the fish are not aggressively looking for food do not feed them.
7. At 4 to 5 weeks, fry should be separated by sex. Remove or isolate only enough females that you will need to set up your next set of breeders. Females are easily distinguished from males as they will exhibit a dark area just above the anal fins where fertilization takes place. This area is also referred to as the "gravid spot". Cull out (discard) any inferior fish. If you were able to acquire a top quality strain, there should be little culling required. If you find yourself culling more than 20% of a litter you are probably working with a strain that is not pure.
8. Keeping your tanks bare makes it easier to control maintenance and helps avoid problems caused by gravel and plants. Most guppy books explain the guppy's life cycle. If you have never raised livebearers I suggest you purchase a good book on basic tropical fish or one especially on guppies. Female guppies once impregnated will become fatter and more rounded in appearance. Just prior to the female having birth they take on a squared-off appearance. The area just above the anal fins, called the "gravid spot" will also become darker.
9. Keep your breeders and fry at temperatures between 76 and 82 degrees. Older guppies may be kept at lower temperatures between 72 to 76 degrees.
10. Do not overwhelm yourself in the beginning by starting out with too many fish. Remember that healthy guppies have litters every 28 to 35 days and it is a good idea not to mix different litters (even of the same strain) together until they are at least 3 months of age. You may pay more for your breeding stock than you expect, but starting with young, top quality breeding stock can save you a great deal of money if purchased from a reputable guppy breeder.