How Do Guppies Give Birth?

How Do Guppies Give Birth?7 mins read

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How do guppies give birth?
Image from Flickr

If you are wondering ‘how do guppies give birth?’ remember that these fish are livebearers. This unique and remarkable trait is something that makes them appealing to aquarists the world over.

Otherwise, Guppies are friendly, social, and active fish that have earned their way to the top with their color strains, variations, patterns, and even tail shapes.

Many individuals breed with certain colors and variations of guppies to get even more diverse colors and strains. Guppies are keen breeders, and you are sure to find a few surviving fry every now and again in any tank where males and females are kept together. This article will cover tips for guppies giving birth in captivity as well as how to know when a guppy is finished giving birth, effective pregnancy care, and more.

How Do Guppies Give Birth?

Guppies give birth to live young, but what does this process actually look like?

Guppies are very prolific live-bearing fish. Their gestation period usually takes between 25 to 35 days. Though, depending on environmental factors it can vary between anything from 20 to 60 days.

Reproduction will take place throughout the year, and female guppies can become fertile again very fast after birth. It is recommended to keep temperatures in the breeding tank between 25 to 27 ̊ C, (77 – 81 ̊C).

The following signs will indicate Guppies Giving Birth:

  • The female’s stomach will be very large and the gravid spot will become a deep black, or dark maroon in your lighter-colored guppies.
  • The stomach will have a more squared-off form rather than a round form.
  • The female will be still, and secluded in behavior.
  • The female will also hang around the heater mostly.
  • She may refuse to eat or spit out her food.
  • Generally, guppies giving birth start shivering, which indicates contractions.

With contractions your Guppy will start pushing out small fry, this may take anything from 6 to 18 hours for her to give birth to all the fry. The small fry will be active and independent immediately after birth.

If you’re wondering how to know when a guppy is finished giving birth, this is relatively easy. However first, it’s important to know what to do with the fry.

Once all the fry have been born it is vital to remove the female from the breeding tank. Even though it may seem cruel, guppies will become cannibalistic and eat their own young. The fry will similarly be fully able to take care of themselves once born. If you cannot be present during birthing, ensure that the small fry has plenty of plants and smaller hiding places. This will prevent the female from getting to them in the meantime.

How To Know When A Guppy Is Finished Giving Birth

guppy breathing end of life
Your female guppy will be relaxed and calm, swimming more regularly, consequently, she can now be safely returned to her original tank.

Guppies undergo contractions and relaxation when giving birth. This can place strain on them to the point that many females die after giving birth. That is why post-delivery care for your guppy is vital.

You can look at these telltale signs to see when your guppy has finished giving birth;

  • No More Contractions – It takes around an hour to deliver a single fry. Remember, most guppies give birth to over 20 fry. When contractions stop and your guppy becomes calm with no shivering, she is done.
  • The Gravid Spot is Gone – The dark Gravid spot on the belly of your female guppy will fade until it camouflages with the rest of the colors of your fish.
  • Normal Swimming – Your female guppy will be relaxed and calm. She will swim more regularly, so you can return her to her original tank now.
  • Her Belly Appears Normal – The tummy will flatten more, and not have the box shape.

Return your guppy female to her tank. After all this, guppies giving birth will have tired themselves out. Now, you can feed her specialized foods to improve her immune system and help her to get her strength back.

Caring For The Fry

Caring for the guppy fry
Feed your fry twice a day, and not too much as they are still quite small. Image from Flickr

Caring for the young fry is an entertaining experience. It’s delightful to watch them grow and mature into their full colors. You may notice after birth that the stronger, more developed fry will swim upward. On the other hand, smaller, weaker fry, may drop to the bottom to gain their strength.

Baby Guppy Care Guidelines:

  • Keep your tank at a temperature of 78 degrees F (25.5 degrees C.).
  • Do regular water changes of at least 40% of the tank when it gets dirty.
  • Feed your guppy fry baby brine shrimp, micro worms, or powdered flakes that are designed for guppy fry. You can also feed vegetable flakes and meat-based, standard flakes.
  • Feed your fry twice a day, and not too much as they are still quite small.
  • Feed your Newborn fry brine shrimp that is recently hatched for better growth potential.
  • For a treat, you can place small amounts of boiled spinach in the tank.
  • Keep track of dead fry as a high amount may indicate water quality issues or foods you may be feeding.

When your fry are about a month or two old at a healthy size, you can remove them from the breeding tank. Then, introduce them to the communal tank, as they will be able to fend for themselves.

Keep in mind that you will have to follow the procedure for adding any new fish to the tank, to acclimate them.

You can choose to keep the fry, give them as a gift to a friend or sell them to local pet stores, whichever your reason for breeding may be. However, to get to this stage, you first need to know how to breed guppies.

Breeding Guppies

Breeding of guppies
Guppies are Live bearing fish that give birth to their babies, rather than laying eggs.

Now you’re confident you’ll know what to do in the instance of pregnancy, how do guppies actually breed? if you want to breed your guppies, this is an important process to know. However, you may find often they mate by themselves!

As we’ve laid out, guppies are live-bearing fish that give birth to their babies, rather than laying eggs. In the mating system, they are polyandrous fish. This means that one female will mate with several males in a single mating season. It’s best to keep at least two to three females per guppy male to give the females a break from the males chasing them.

The Breeding Tank

First of all, if left to their own devices guppies will breed over, and over again in their communal tank, and eat most of their young. Thus, if you would like to breed your guppies it is best to have a separate breeding tank. A 10 to 20-gallon tank is suitable, with a heater and very gentle filter. This is so that the baby guppies, or fry do not get sucked into the filter. Temperatures between 77-80 degrees Fahrenheit (25 to 26.66 C) are ideal in the breeding tank.

Selecting Breeding Pairs

Firstly you will need one male for two to three females to make the process less stressful for the females. Keep in mind how many fish you want to breed. Also make note of the colors and tail shapes that you want the fry to have. Choose fish that have the same color patterns and tail shapes, if you want your fry to look the same. Otherwise, you can mix and match to get different color variations and patterns.


Mating of guppies
A courtship behavior where males will dance and flex their bodies, vibrating rapidly to indicate their physical attributes.

One very interesting fact about Guppy mating is that the female choice plays the most important role. Ultimately she has to choose a male, depending on three factors:

  • Bright Colors – Females prefer males with bright colors, especially those that have an orange spot on the flank. This indicates better stamina and physical fitness in the males.
  • Sigmoid Display – A courtship behavior where males will dance and flex their bodies. Here, they vibrate rapidly to indicate their physical attributes.
  • “Taken” Males – Female guppies may watch males courting or mating with other females. Then they will perceive these males as more attractive, watching them in the act.

When the female is receptive the male will mate with her. In some cases he forces the copulation, and he will sneak in quickly. Your female guppy has a dark mark on her belly, called the Gravid Spot. This becomes significantly darker after her eggs have been inseminated.

Did you know that after insemination the female guppies can store sperm inside their ovaries? They can use these gonoducts to continue fertilizing their ova for up to eight months. This means they can give birth without mating! Now that you have a pregnant guppy female, you can remove the male from the breeding tank.

Now you have read on up on the guppy mating and birthing process, remember that healthy fish have healthy offspring.

Breed Overview

OriginSouth America.
Lifespan1-3 years, 5-year maximum.
SizeMales 1.5– 3.5cm (0.6 – 1.4 Inches), Females 3–6 cm (1.2–2.4 Inches).
ColorsAlbino, White, Black, Blue, Red, Yellow, Orange, Golden, Green, Bronze, Purple.
Tank Size10 – 20 Gallons.
TemperamentActive, Peaceful, Shoaling, Friendly.
Water TypeFreshwater and Saltwater.
Water Temperature78–82°F (25.5–27.8°C).
Water pH5 – 8.5 Brackish Water.
Difficulty LevelBeginner, Easy.

Species Information

Guppies are freshwater tropical fish, native to South America, and found all over the world today. They are Live Bearing fish that give birth to their babies and do not lay eggs. Unfortunately, they are also not good parents and tend to eat their young after birth. Guppies are mostly omnivores that feed on meat and plant-based foods.

They are friendly shoaling fish with a peaceful nature and are easy to keep and very hardy. They prefer colder water conditions with more Brackish water. Additionally, they can survive in a marine tank, though it is not ideal.

Guppies are small fish around 1.5– 3.5cm (0.6 – 1.4 Inches for males), and 3–6 cm (1.2–2.4 Inches) for females. They have a lifespan of 1-3 years, and 5 years maximum, and will get along well with other smaller peaceful fish.

Caring For Guppies In General

Caring for guppies in general
Guppies need a tank of 10- 20 gallons for a group of three or a pair, and 5 gallons extra per guppy or small companion fish.

To care for guppies is relatively easy and entertaining. They are active and social and provide many hours of theatrics to watch with their enthusiastic swimming. This section introduces the care basics of Guppies, though you can follow any of our “Guppy Care Guides” for more information.

  • Tank Set-Up

Guppies need a tank of 10- 20 gallons for a group of three or a pair of guppies, and 5 gallons extra per guppy or small companion fish. In addition, they require water temperatures around 78–82°F (25.5–27.8°C), and pH levels of around 6.5 – 8.5, which is slightly brackish, so you will need to add a tablespoon of salt per 5 gallons. Otherwise, guppies enjoy entertaining tank décor and plenty of hiding spaces, as well as an area for swimming. They also do well with most live plants. If you’re struggling to choose, hanging plants and moss make great hiding spaces for small fry. Gravel, crushed coral, and aqua soil make the best substrate to use.

  • Adding New Fish

You will need to acclimate your new fish by letting them float in the tank in their bag for around 20 minutes. Then you can replace the water from the bag one cup at a time. Do this with water from the tank at intervals of every 15 minutes for another 30 minutes. Then you can introduce your new fish to the tank.

  • Tank Mates

Guppies will get along peacefully, especially shoaling fish that are similar in size and smaller shrimp species. Smaller Pleco and Corydora catfish species are ideal, and help to keep the tank clean. Other smaller breeds you can keep with guppies are: Rasbora, Tetras, Mollys, peacock Gudgeons, White Cloud Minnows, and Endler’s Livebearers.

  • Feeding

Guppies should be fed a varied diet of flakes and granules, meat-based foods, and vegetables. You can feed Bloodworms, Brine shrimp, and insect larvae as a protein, and include green leafy vegetables that have been blanched as plant matter, along with algae, or algae wafers.

  • Health Issues

Guppies are hardy fish that seldomly get sick, though they may be prone to the following common conditions; White Spot Disease/Ich, Fin And Tail Rot, Swim Bladder Disorder / Dropsy, Columnaris & Mouth Fungus, and Gill Flukes. Though if you feed them a balanced diet, and have a healthy environment, they should be in peak condition. A good idea is to quarantine new plants or fish before adding them to the communal tank, as they may carry parasites and diseases. “Guppy Behavior Before Death” is an outstanding source to follow for information on pests and diseases in guppies.

Tank Maintenance

To keep your tank well maintained you will need to do some maintenance. Make sure to remove dead plant matter, and to keep the tank décor clean. You will also need to do a weekly water replacement, removing at least 25% of the tank water from the bottom, and replacing it with new conditioned and properly heated water. You can follow the step-by-step methods on Wikipedia.

Final Thoughts

A cute Guppy
Your guppies will breed in their initial tank if there are males and females, eventually, and regularly however the fry may not be well protected, and the water temperatures may be slightly low for young fry.

As you can see breeding guppies is a relatively easy course, provided that you have a suitable breeding tank and breeding pairs. Your guppies will breed in their initial tank if there are males and females, eventually, and regularly however the fry may not be well protected, and the water temperatures may be slightly low for young fry.

If you choose to end breeding, you should rather keep only females, keeping only males can be done but it is quite risky.

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Tal Halperin

Tal is an avid fish keeper and has been raising ornamental fish for decades. As a little boy, he drove his father crazy to buy him an aquarium with all the necessary equipment. Now, after a career in the field, he has set up Your Aquarium Place to offer the most comprehensive guide to ornamental fish keeping available and share his passion for the different species he has looked after.