Guppies are such prolific breeders that learning about their mating and breeding behavior is an absolute necessity. Whether you like it or not, you will deal with that behavior every month. Especially in mixed-sex tanks where you have both males and females.
And I use the word ‘especially’ there because the males’ presence isn’t necessary for the female to produce offspring. Female guppies are known to store the sperm of one or more males for 10 to 12 months in some cases.
They will use the sperm deposits to self-impregnate every month. So, they can easily produce offspring even when there are no males around.
This situation is more common when purchasing guppies from loosely-regulated fish shops. These places don’t have the strictest quality-control regulations in place. Fish are usually kept in subpar conditions and in mixed tanks, where males and females are free to mate whenever they wish.
This can lead to unpleasant scenarios where you create a female-only tank just to have them give birth to fry every month.
Aside from this interesting aspect, there are many more intriguing facts about guppy breeding that will help you understand this species better. Let’s check them out.
Why do Guppies Give Birth at Night?
Guppies prefer to give birth at night since it offers them extra protection against predators. Although guppies aren’t model parents, since they provide no protection or parental guidance once the fry are born, the female is protective during gravidity. The guppy female will actively look for hidden areas around plants, rocks, or crevices when labor sets in.
Doing so will minimize its profile and hide it from other fish, including other guppies, which will increase the fry’s survival rates. After all, guppies are known to eat their own fry soon after hatching.
The same reasoning applies to the females going into labor when the sun sets. The nighttime offers extra protection against other fish looking for an easy protein snack. Or several hundreds of them, given that guppy females can sometimes produce more than 200 fry.
However, giving birth at night won’t always guarantee the fry’s safety. If you want to keep your fry, you should relocate the female into a nursing tank until all the fry have been delivered.
How Do I Know When Guppy Will Give Birth?
Guppies will showcase foretelling signs of their impending labor. You can identify these pretty easily if you know what you’re looking for. Some hints to help you out include:
- The presence of the gravid spot – Gravid guppy females will showcase the trademark gravid spot, which is a darker area in the lower-back abdominal area near the tail. This dark spot is formed by the fry’s bodies maturing and getting ready to pop. The gravid spot will grow in size and color intensity over several days. Once it gets completely black and clearly visible, you know labor is about to set soon, usually in a matter of days or hours.
- Lack of appetite – The female will refuse to eat several hours or even more than a day prior to labor. This is a clear sign that the guppy is ready to deliver. You shouldn’t worry about its lack of appetite since it’s normal at this stage. This behavior is only a reason for concern if the guppy displays other signs of sickness on the side.
- Hiding behavior – As the female gets into labor, she will try to find a fitting spot to deliver the fry. It’s common to see the female lurking around the substrate, hiding around various decorations and plants, and generally swimming in place calmly. This is a good hint that labor has set in.
- Visible convulsions – The process of labor is similar in guppies and pretty much all creatures that experience it. The fish will undergo some pain and visible contractions that could last for hours. You should see the fish’s body shivering, displaying rapid tail and fin movement, along with visible tremors. This means that the guppy female is already in the process of delivering the fry.
Once you observe these signs, relocate the guppy female into a nursing tank. Ideally, you should have the tank already prepared by the time the labor sets in. Make sure the temperature is slightly higher than usual, around 80-82 F since this will keep the fry more comfortable.
You should also reduce the lighting and add a variety of plants to the fry’s environment. They are more sensitive to lighting than adults since it stresses them out.
Do Guppies Give Birth All at Once?
No, guppies don’t give birth to all of the fry at once. Since guppies are livebearers, they will produce the fry one by one, sometimes in rapid succession with some pauses in between. This makes the birthing process quite exhausting, especially if the guppy female is at its first birth.
As the guppy grows older, the female will produce more offspring, but the birthing process will also shorten.
How Long it Takes for Guppy to Finish Giving Birth?
The timeframe necessary for the guppy to complete the birth differs. However, expect the birthing process to last more than 24 hours. Some even go through a 48-hour grueling delivery session, during which they can produce up to 200 fry. Sometimes more.
Typically, older and more experienced guppy females that have already gone through several births will have shorter birthing sessions. Even so, expect those to last at least several hours.
How to Help a Guppy Give Birth?
You can help your guppy give birth by providing it with the ideal environmental conditions. You would think that guppies don’t need any help in this sense.
After all, they have bred for hundreds of years, or even more, without any human assistance, right? Right, but these are domesticated guppies, kept in close systems and artificial conditions, however similar they might be to their natural environment.
So, they could use some assistance to ensure the process is smooth and devoid of complications. To assist them, consider:
- Moving the female into a nursing tank – Doing so will remove the female from a potentially stressful environment and distracting factors. Guppy males are known to be extremely pushy and persistent when it comes to mating. Oftentimes, they will try to mate with pregnant females that are no longer interested in them. This will stress the females, which could cause them to miscarriage. A nursing tank will eliminate this issue.
- Increase water temperature – This will set the female into the right mood, allowing it to feel more comfortable and relaxed. The higher water temperature will also assist the resulting fry, allowing them to adapt to their environment easier.
- Dim lights and more plants – The female needs to be in the right mindset to experience a fruitful birthing. A lot of plants and dimmer lights will create a natural-looking environment, helping the female feel safe and peaceful during the process.
After the birthing process completes, you should relocate the female into the main tank. Guppy females offer no support to their young and will even eat them if given the chance.
Then, you’re left with the task of caring for the fry, which is a topic for another article.
To close it out:
- Guppies give birth mostly at night
- The female will display visible signs when going into labor
- A nursing tank will help the female with the delivery process and increase the fry’s survival rates
Guppies are excellent breeding machines, and you can easily multiply their numbers by providing optimal breeding conditions. This article is a great start in that sense.