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How to Choose Your First Guppies

Jana worked in animal welfare with abused and unwanted pets. She loves sharing her hands-on experience regarding domestic and wild critters.

Let's get our guppy facts straight.

Let's get our guppy facts straight.

Are Guppies a Pet or Show Champion?

There are two main reasons people buy guppies. The most common is to keep them as pets. It's satisfying even for the casual keeper—especially the live births and raising their own fish. Guppies add colour and sleekness to aquariums and are easy to care for. Even kids can keep them.

Secondly, guppies are bred for the show circuit. Some are so gorgeous, and they drop jaws all over the place. They come in endless colours (even metallic) and fin shapes. Some fins look like bridal veils, arrows or ribbons. The end goal is to create a strain that breeds true. In other words, two identical parents produce fry that look just like them. Incredible gems have been created this way.

What You'll Learn About Guppies

  • Understanding your motives
  • Where to buy them
  • What to look for in new guppies
  • Problems you might encounter
  • How to prevent travel-stress in guppies
The amazing ability to adopt countless colours truly makes the guppy a fish breeder's dream.

The amazing ability to adopt countless colours truly makes the guppy a fish breeder's dream.

Show Fish Require Research

Nothing fancy, you just need to know your facts. Pet guppies can be purchased at a pet store or a local seller. However, when the purpose is to breed a show strain, it's more prudent to start with the best fish you can afford. Suddenly, one must search for available strains, but who offers them and are they reliable? Look for authentic reviews about a seller's service, fish quality and prices. At the end of the day, unlike the pet variety, one cannot find great show guppies in a pet store. Often, it takes visiting a reputable breeder or ordering fish online.

Finally, be clear about your breeding goals. Show fish can get pricey. There's nothing worse than realizing you'd rather breed gold guppies than the expensive blue creatures you bought yesterday. Decide on colour, perhaps a combination of shades, fin shapes and so forth. When sure, hunt for fish that most closely resemble the guppy you wish to design.

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Don't Get Scammed

The pet industry is rife with scams. Purebred puppies and kittens are sold online and never delivered (they never even existed). If you're looking for pet guppies, there's little chance of running into a con artist. Just visit the local pet store, friend or seller. Although, when going to a stranger's house, take several friends or family with.

The more expensive the fish—or good-looking—the higher the chances of a scam. Once again, research is the best policy. Local or online guppy clubs should have a list of trustworthy breeders.

Check List for New Guppies

  • If it swims funny (wobbles, keels to one side or drifts on its head), it's sick. Look for energetic, zippy fish with smooth, flat scales and fins that are intact.
  • What is the condition of the seller's tank? Make sure the water is clean, filtered and doesn't have a bad smell.
  • It's normal for females to be pregnant and often. This is considered a buyer's bonus—pay for the female, get her fry for free. Many beginners enjoy purchasing these “lucky dips” from pet stores because you never know what the babies will look like!
  • Ask the breeder what diet the fish was raised on. They'll adapt quicker to their new home if they get fed the same food.
  • Don't get pushed into a sale. There is a certain pressure to buy when visiting a private breeder. If you're not happy with what you see, you are allowed to leave without purchasing anything.
  • When you buy online, and fish gets mailed, be aware that security scans can render them sterile.

Male and Female

The genders are easy to tell apart. The male (top) is smaller and more colourful. The female is larger and more bulky.

The genders are easy to tell apart. The male (top) is smaller and more colourful. The female is larger and more bulky.

Preventing Travel Stress

There's not much you can do until you have your hands on the baggies containing your new fish. Keep the trip home as short as possible, and avoid bouncy roads. If you're driving, it's a good idea to let a passenger hold the bag. If it's a hot day and the drive is long, turn on the vehicle's air conditioning. Thankfully, guppies are hardy fish and should survive the trip just fine.

The real problem is water shock. A beginner's mistake is to free the new fish directly into a tank with water that's different from the baggies. All fish species need to adapt to new water. You can add a little of the tank's water to the bag, tie it shut again, then let it float in the tank; this is to equalize the temperature. If the fish seems fine after about 15 minutes, add a little more tank water and so forth. However, don't drag the process out for too long, since confinement is also very stressful for guppies.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2019 Jana Louise Smit

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