Guppies: The Guppy
GUPPIES! The big question that everyone wants to be answered is, what exactly are guppies? Although this fish family is not well known outside of Florida, they have been a widespread freshwater fish in homes here for decades. Originally from the islands off the coast of Venezuela, guppies have made a home in many aquariums across America and the rest of the world. Their adaptability to virtually any water condition makes them an exciting and popular choice among saltwater aquarium enthusiasts.
The guppy, sometimes called pink eye and thousand fish, is one of the smallest and most harmless freshwater fish species globally. It is a member of the genus Poecilurus and, like all American members of this family, is only live-bearing when born. However, it will develop a tail when it is about 4.5 inches in length – hence the name guppy. The bottom is used as a swimming aid in some species, particularly the rainbow smelt, and may entice males to mate with females. The female will then lay several eggs in a spiral shape, which will hatch into baby guppies.
Unlike much other marine fish, guppies are relatively maintenance-free. They don’t need much food or water and don’t need to be fed periodically. They don’t have appetites to kill and usually eat peacefully alongside their fellows. They even enjoy being hand-fed by owners who find the process fascinating – somewhat like a cat’s way of relating to its food.
There are three recognized types of guppy – blue, red, and white – with the latter two differing slightly in looks. However, the red and white varieties are the most common. Blue guppies, which are native to tropical waters, occur in blues and whites that range from dark blue to light blue and generally look like a cross between a heart and a flame.
Red guppies, which are native to the eastern seas and rivers, have white and somewhat rubbery flesh. These fish are generally silver or gold and are very popular among aquarium hobbyists. They do not usually occur naturally but have been introduced into the wild from Asia and Europe. These red guppies can range from bright orange to a deep pink or even black colour, depending on the number of different strain lines stocked.
The male of this species is called the ram. He will reach a maximum size of about fourteen inches when fully mature. The guppy’s head will remain relatively small, reaching up to seven or eight inches in length – although this will become larger as the fish ages. Its chest, neck, fins and tail are also very flat; the colour of these features may change with age and range from white, red, purple or even black. The female guppy will reach a maximum size of eleven inches when fully mature.
Guppies do not like a lot of food to eat, either pellets, flakes or algae. They are relatively quick eaters; their feeding habits tend to be rapid rather than the long term. They will accept a varied diet, including blood-worms, brine shrimp, and catfish – although they will avoid eating baby guppies. These fish are trendy additions to community aquariums, where they provide the vibrant colours that are so often lacking in home aquariums.
Male guppies should be separated from females before breeding, as the tendency is for the female to take over the males’ territory and reproduce on her own. This has led to the development of two distinct subspecies in the hobby – the northern pike and the grey pike. Although there is no clear evidence that fish is the right breed, it is generally agreed that the northern pike is the real pike and the grey pike is the true guppy. Guppies are very hardy fish, making them an excellent choice for new aquarists. However, this should not be the basis for picking a fish to include in your first guppy tank.