Guppies are a common fixture in most home fresh water aquariums because they are easy to care for, colorful and just plain fun to watch. However, one pregnant guppy can quickly provide you with more fish than you might want to handle. There's a reason why this fish species is nicknamed, "The Million Fish."
Learning how to identify a pregnant guppy and care for her will help improve the health and the survival rate of the babies, aka fry, as well as the mother.
How to Identify a Pregnant Guppy Fish
The easiest way to identify a pregnant guppy is to look for a dark spot under her tail toward the backside of the stomach. This dark spot is called a gravid patch and as the babies grow, this spot will increase in size while also becoming darker. In the final stages of pregnancy, this spot will become black and the guppy will look very bloated or fat.
Other signs of pregnancy include:
- The fish's coloring will fade.
- The gills will remain partly opened.
- The fish will have an arched back and will appear to be pushing.
- The fish's eating habits will change, either eating voraciously or not at all.
- The fish will remain in or around one spot in the aquarium, often around the heater.
- The fish may become more aggressive or skittish.
- The stomach of the fish may take on an almost square appearance.
Caring for a Pregnant Guppy
A pregnant guppy needs good nutrition to sustain herself as well as her developing fry. Unfortunately, she's unable to eat very much at a time due to the space the fry take up. So, it's important to feed three to five small meals throughout the day so you don't overload her. Just give her a small pinch so there's not a lot of leftover food to foul the tank. It's a good idea to offer her live or frozen brine shrimp on a daily basis along with a high quality flake food, some spirulina flakes and even some freeze-dried bloodworms. Variety helps ensure good nutrition.
It is recommended that a pregnant guppy be removed from the community tank, or isolated in a part of it, in order to give birth to her fry. Actually, two separation tanks should be prepared - the one the fry will remain in after they are birthed, and a second tank you can move mom into so she can recover for couple of days following delivery before she returns to the community tank. Having a tank soley for the fry ensures that they won't be eaten by their mother or the other fish in the community aquarium, and it makes it easier to care for them during the first few weeks of development. As soon as you notice that one of your guppies is pregnant, you have about a month to get ready for the birth.
If you are anticipating the birth and it doesn't occur within 24 hours of the mother being placed in isolation, return her to the community tank. Keeping a pregnant fish in isolation for more than two days can inhibit the maturation of the fry. If you return the fish to the tank, try turning the heat up slightly in the aquarium to help the maturation process of the fry, and then watch for signs she is getting ready to give birth. If so, gently move her to the isolation tank once again. After she gives birth, slowly return the water temperature to normal. Watching an actual birth on video will really help you understand what to expect.
After the birthing is finished, keep her in isolation for a minimum of 24 to 48 hours to recover. It is also important to feed her well during this period since she will be very hungry after giving birth.
Length of Average Delivery
In most normal circumstances, the guppy birthing process takes between two and six hours, but if the mother is having difficulty, it can take up to 12 hours for all of the fry to be delivered. In some cases, the mother will deliver a few fry and then stop the delivery only to resume in a few days.
Caring for the Fry
After the fry are born, it is critical to feed them often. Many experts agree that feeding them as many as five times a day is good practice since the first four weeks of life are when they go through their greatest growth. When the fry are fed well, they are ultimately healthier, hardier fish. Due to their size, the fry require extremely small food. This can include pulverized flakes, Liquifry No. 2 and freshly hatched brine shrimp.
Keep in mind that the guppy fry develop their gender at the four-week mark, and they become sexually active at the six-week mark, so it is important to separate the males from the females between these two points to prevent breeding.
In order to tell the males from the females, you are going to have to take each fry out of the tank individually and place it in a clear container. Use a magnifying glass to determine if the fish has a gravid spot; if it does, place it in the female tank. Evetually, the fry mature and you can sell them or give them away.
The Miracle of Life
Guppies require a certain amount of care to ensure their good health, and a pregnant guppy requires a little extra care to ensure that she and her fry fare well throughout pregnancy, birth and beyond. Follow the care info outlined here, and you'll be off to a great start.