A BAP Report
By David Fischer (reprinted from the December 2006 issue of Tank Talk)
There probably isn't an aquarium fish in the world that is more popular than the guppy. A recent Google of the word "guppy" produced more than five million hits. The multitude of colour varieties and the flaring shape of the delta tail probably gave rise to the scientific nomenclature for this fish: Poecilia (many coloured) reticulata (net-like). This fish, commonly found in the West Indies and Central and South America, received its better known name after the Reverend Robert John Lechmere Guppy (1836-1916), one of the first persons to discover this fish while on an expedition in Trinidad. The guppy's popularity has grown exponentially since the Reverend's discovery.
There are many reasons for the guppy's wide appeal. First, it is an eager, easy, and prolific breeder. Having had to work hard to succeed in spawning some of the egg laying fishes, it was a refreshing experience for me to acquire some beautiful specimens of this fish and let them do what they do best: procreate. This fish is so prolific that it is sometimes called the "millions fish" and with good reason. This species is typically ready to breed at 3 months of age and, true to form, the two trios I had acquired at auction began to breed at that time. For several months the females continued to drop fry regularly at about 30 day intervals.
A second reason for their prevalence is the apparently unlimited number of colour and shape combinations that hobbyists can produce with these fish. The fish I purchased were beautiful half black reds. They wear a dark black coat on the lower half of the body and sport a lovely red tail. Guppies are also found in various shades of blue, green, yellow, purple, as well as in various colour combinations. Tails come in a variety of shapes as well: delta, fan, lyre, double-bottom-top sword. Again, the ability of the guppy to take on so many shapes and colours is appealing.
A third reason the guppy is truly great is that it is a hardy fish. They withstand a wide range of water conditions, temperatures, and tank mates. When healthy, guppies are constantly in motion, either searching for food, or in the case of males, trying to copulate with the nearest female. My unprincipled males even tried their luck with some female neon swordtails.
Despite the ease with which one can keep guppies, producing the best looking fish or a new strain is a demanding task. One must select only the males and females with the best traits of size, colour, and shape in order to maintain the integrity of the strain or produce something new. Left on their own, continuously breeding guppies will soon begin to look like their wild ancestors. They begin to lose the depth and uniformity of their colour and the robustness of their size. At the end of the day, however, whether one is a top breeder (like Doug White or Larry Shank) or simply someone who enjoys beautiful fish, the guppy is a winning choice.