Guppies have an elaborate mating ritual where the male dances and jiggles around the female for several hours. At the end of this ritual, the male fertilizes the female by transferring sperm through an external organ called the gonopodium. One such encounter helps to produce several batches of fry.
Let us explore the mating process of this fish in closer detail.
A Closer Look At The Mating Process Of Guppies
Guppies are very fertile fish. The males reach sexual maturity at seven weeks.
Females can reproduce at two to three months of age.
This fish is polyandrous, which means that a female will mate with many male guppies.
As prolific livebearers, guppies produce large broods of live fish frequently.
When the conditions are right, the female guppy gives birth in twenty-one to thirty days. They can have up to two hundred babies at a time.
If you observe your fish tank regularly, you cannot miss the mating ritual of guppies.
The male will exhibit unusual and weird behavior at the time. If you see it dancing, flaring, and chasing the female for hours at a stretch, he is performing the mating ritual.
Male guppies will flex their bodies and vibrate rapidly to indicate their physical strength and flexibility to the female.
This incessant courting will continue for a long time, and mating will happen only at the end of it.
When there are many male guppies, the female tends to evaluate her options.
Females usually prefer brightly colored males as it indicates that the male is healthy, which means that the offspring will be stronger.
The dance ritual ends when the female guppy indicates her approval. Then, the male fertilizes the female by contact.
The male has a channel-like structure called the gonopodium behind the ventral fin.
It uses this organ to transfer its sperm to the female urogenital pore. The entire process is over in a matter of seconds.
Interestingly, a single such encounter is enough for a female guppy to obtain enough sperm for several batches of offspring.
The females store the sperm in their ovaries and ducts and use it for up to eight months.
What Happens After Guppies Mate?
The gestation period of guppies depends on various factors like how healthy the female is, water parameters, and the availability of food.
Under optimal conditions, a healthy female guppy will drop fry in less than a month of being fertilized.
However, if the environmental conditions are not ideal or the fish is stressed, the pregnancy may last longer.
Stress can also lead to spontaneous abortion of the fry.
By creating a favorable environment, you can improve the chances of guppy breeding.
But the first step is to recognize when a guppy is pregnant. So, let us look at how to do that.
How To Identify A Pregnant Guppy?
If you see a mating dance in your aquarium, you can expect the female guppy to display signs of pregnancy soon.
It will give you enough time to prepare for the arrival of guppy fry in a few weeks.
However, in case you miss observing the mating ritual in the tank, you can still identify if a female guppy is pregnant.
A pregnant female guppy will have a bulging belly. But a bigger belly can also be caused by bloating.
So, look for other symptoms as well.
A “gravid spot” near the base of the anal fin is a good indicator of pregnancy.
It is a dark spot caused by stretching of the skin to accommodate the incubating eggs.
Closer to the time of delivery, the gravid spot enlarges, and the bulge below the gills takes on a square shape.
If you want to prevent the fry from being eaten by adult guppies, this is the time to move the female to another enclosure until she gives birth.
Other signs of pregnancy are reduced appetite and the female rubbing her body against the walls of the tank.
How To Create Optimal Conditions For Guppy Gestation
Since the gestation period of guppies depends on the environmental conditions, you can speed it along in a few ways.
Firstly, recreate the natural breeding conditions in the wild by increasing the aquarium temperature.
Do this gradually but consistently for several days. This will trigger breeding instincts in the fish.
Simultaneously, improve the quality of nutrition.
A protein-rich diet with live foods like brine shrimp, micro worms, and vinegar eels will help.
Make sure that the conditions in the aquarium do not stress the guppy.
Avoid introducing new fish or changing their feeding routine.
Keep an eye on the other inmates of the tank to make sure that they do not trouble the female.
Protecting Baby Guppies After Birth
Guppies have a reputation for being bad parents. They do not look after their fry and even eat them if they get the chance.
If you want the fry to survive, separate them from the adults soon after birth.
The best way to ensure this is to move the female guppy to another space before she drops the fry.
Guppy fry is perfectly formed at birth and can survive on its own.
In just a few hours after birth, they will start foraging for food.
They thrive on a protein-rich diet and grow well when fed brine shrimp, micro worms, and other live food.
Adult fish are the main threat to their existence.
Although young guppies are adept at finding hiding places in a community tank, adults may still find them and eat them.
So, place them in another tank until they grow to a reasonable size.
Once they are large enough, introduce them into the same tank as their parents.
Will guppies breed with other fish? Guppies belong to the family Poeciliidae. When the opposite sex is unavailable, guppies will crossbreed with other fish from the same family. Common breeding companions for guppies are mollies. However, the fry of this combination is usually not viable. When the offspring survive, they will most likely be infertile and unable to reproduce.
How many male and female guppies can live together in a tank? Male guppies will continuously chase and try to impregnate female guppies. So, it is ideal to have more female guppies in the tank to avoid harassment by the males. A ratio of 1 male for 3 females is perfect. One male for two females will also work. However, when keeping guppies of both sexes, you should prepare to deal with the explosion in guppy population in your tank. If you do not find ways to control breeding, it will only be a matter of time before the tank becomes overcrowded. The existing resources and space will be insufficient for your growing pet population.