The most effective way to prevent guppies from eating their babies is to separate the female before birth. Either use a breeding box in the tank or move the female to another tank just before she gives birth. Another way is to keep live plants in the tank. They will offer hiding places to the fry.
Before we look at each of these options in greater detail, let us look at why guppies eat their young in the first place.
Why Do Guppies Eat Their Fry?
Most animals are protective of their offspring. However, some animals deviate from this norm.
Cuckoo birds, lizards, and snakes abandon their eggs. Some animals take it a step further.
They do not give their children a chance to live because the parents will itself eat them up.
The tendency of animals to eat their young is called filial cannibalism.
It is common in fish. Apart from guppies, mollies and platies also exhibit filial cannibalism.
Interestingly, the cause of filial cannibalism is not exactly known. It could be triggered by self-preservation instincts.
It could also be nature’s way of population control and ensuring the survival of the fittest.
Regardless of the reason, a fish owner who looks forward to having new guppies in his aquarium can be appalled by this weird behavior.
Fortunately, you do not have to settle for what nature intended.
Three Ways To Stop Guppies From Eating Their Babies
Here are a few ways in which you can prevent your guppies from devouring their babies.
1. Separate The Guppy Female When She Is Pregnant
Guppy fry have a smaller chance of surviving when there are many adult fish in the tank.
Apart from the mother, other adult guppies may also eat the fry.
To prevent this tragedy, move the pregnant female from the aquarium when she is ready to give birth.
But for this, you should be able to recognize when a pregnant guppy is about to give birth.
Look out for the following signs that indicate pregnancy in guppies.
- Guppies have an elaborate mating ritual that takes several hours. During this time, the male dances and chases the female. If you see this activity happening in your tank, the female will most likely become pregnant. You can expect to have guppy babies in the tank in a month.
- When pregnant, the female guppy develops a dark patch on the backside of the stomach. This gravid patch increases in size as the pregnancy progresses. The guppy will also appear fat or bloated in the days leading up to the birth.
- The appetite of the fish will change during pregnancy. It will eat more or less than usual.
- The stomach area of the female fish will look almost square and bloated.
- The fish will restrict itself and perform all its activities in a specific area of the tank.
Once you confirm that a guppy female is pregnant, keep observing it for signs that it will soon drop the fry.
Move the guppy to a separate tank only when she is ready to give birth.
Avoid isolating the female too early as it can be stressful for her and cause spontaneous abortion.
If she doesn’t drop the fry within 24 hours of being separated, return her to the original aquarium.
Continue to observe the female so that you can transfer her when she shows signs of giving birth.
When moving the female to a separate tank, make sure that the environmental conditions are just like the original tank.
If there is a drastic difference in temperature, pH, or other parameters, the fish will experience stress.
2. Use A Breeding Box Or Net
The breeding box or net is essentially a hatchery that you can place within the community tank.
It creates a physical separation for the female guppy when she is about to give birth.
By using a breeding box or net, you can keep the female guppy away from her tank mates.
It will allow you to monitor the birth and keep the newborn fry safe.
The main advantage of the breeding box or net is that the same water in the aquarium will flow through it.
So, the female guppy will be at home in this enclosure.
Meanwhile, the physical separation will enable you to confine the fry.
Not only will this make it easy for you to look after the fry, but it also makes it easy for guppy fry to adjust to the aquarium environment.
Although a breeding box protects the fry from other adult fish, the mother may herself devour the babies.
Hence, you should remove the mother from the breeding box and return her to the community tank after she gives birth.
The breeding box is an ideal solution to keep guppy fry safe in a big and spacious aquarium.
You do not have to worry about setting up a separate space for the birth. However, it is a temporary solution for the fish.
Do not keep guppy fry in a breeding box for too long as it can stunt their growth.
Release them from the breeding box in about two weeks.
3. Provide Hiding Places By Growing Plants Or Using Tank Decorations
Separating the guppy fry from adults is the ideal way to ensure their survival.
However, if you cannot do this, you can improve their chances of survival by using a planted tank.
When there are plenty of plants and decorations, these tiny creatures can find hiding places.
It will help them stay away from the adult fish.
Nonetheless, this method is not as effective as the first two.
Although plants give the fry places to hide from the adults, they can still run into adults.
If you are keen on successfully breeding guppies and bringing up the fry, it is best to separate them from the adults.
How often do baby guppies need to eat? Baby guppies need food more frequently than adults. They grow rapidly in the first four weeks after birth. You can feed them up to five times a day during this time to ensure proper growth. Protein-rich foods like baby brine shrimp and crumbled fish flakes are ideal.
When can you recognize the sex of guppy fry? Male and female guppies look the same till they are at least four weeks old. By the four-week mark, male guppies will develop their anal fin or gonopodium. It will be long, narrow, and slightly pointed. Meanwhile, female guppies will be rounder with bigger bodies. The anal fin in female guppy fish is much small and triangular. Another factor to look for is the gravid spot in females. It is a dark area on the underside of the female fish. Male guppies will also have more colorful tails as they grow bigger.