For those that don’t have much experience with fish they may be horrified to know that guppies eat their babies. They may be even more surprised to know that this is very common among fish, which is why if you wanted to breed them, they should always be separated. Why do guppies eat their babies?
Guppies don’t care for their offspring and as a result it is common for them to eat their babies for a few reasons such as its a easy meal, Self-preservation, Recoup wasted energy and many more reasons
Why do guppies eat their fry?
Called, filial cannibalism, it is where animals eat their young and it’s very common among not just fish but in other animals too. Baby fish are called fry and they are particularly vulnerable until they reach the stage of adult maturity.
Here we look at some of the possible reasons why guppies eat their babies.
Food – It’s a simple purpose but one of the reasons could be to get the nutrition they need. Fish need energy and young fry are a good source. Whether guppy simply mistake them for food or not is unclear.
Recoup wasted energy – If the reproductive conditions aren’t great then guppy are known to eat their fry and wait for a better time to breed. If tank conditions are better and they are well fed then they are less likely to eat their fry.
Quicker development – There is a line of thinking that some animals will eat weaker babies to put pressure on the rest of the brood to develop more quickly.
Getting rid of the weakest – Aquariums can be competitive environments and if a guppy thinks that they are overproduced, they may get rid of the weaker ones to give the stronger fry a better chance of being able to thrive.
Self-preservation – Having a brood of fish may promote stress factors in guppy. This could then mean their self-preservation instincts kick in and they feel they need to kill off competitors.
As with a lot of animal behavior, it’s hard to know exactly why certain actions are taken. It may seem incredible to us but for a lot of the animal kingdom, this type of behavior is normal. This can cause a huge issue to any tank owner who wants to be able to breed guppy.
Thankfully there are many things you can do to protect those baby guppies before reintroducing them into the main tank.
Using a separate tank
To protect guppy fry they need to be separated from the adults in the tank. One of the most obvious ways of doing this is breeding guppy is to use a separate tank. This should be done just as the female is preparing to give birth.
There are a few signs that will indicate that your female guppy is just about to give birth. The most obvious one is that she has a rounded abdomen that has started to swell. Along with this, they may also start to become reclusive.
Some breeders are hesitant to do this method due to the extra cost. Along with a new tank you also need the set-up to go with it. If you’re serious about breeding fish then having an extra tank could well be seen as a price worth paying.
You also have to be careful with the transfer of the female to the breeding tank and then also back again. You need to match the exact water conditions and this includes getting the right pH level, water hardness and also temperature.
Once you have the right conditions then you can place the female in the breeding tank. As soon as she gives birth, you can then place her back into the main tank to prevent her from eating her young. Once the fry have grown to be big enough after two weeks or more, then they can also be moved to the main tank.
Using a breeding box
Another way of separating fry from the adult guppy is to use a breeding box. This will be placed into your main aquarium and will give the fry a safe place in which to thrive.
The best way to do this is by placing the female behind the mesh/holes and removing her once she has given birth. The breeding box will have holes that are not big enough for any fish to get in or out but will still allow water to flow freely.
Breeding boxes can be quite large and therefore you need to ensure that your current aquarium is big enough to host one. You will only need to keep this in your tank for around two weeks as any time after that you risk stunting the growth of the baby guppy.
A great advantage to using a breeding box is that you don’t have to worry about getting two separate tanks to have the exact same conditions, which can make introducing them to the main tank more difficult. Using a breeding box is a tried and trusted method.
Give them hiding spots
If you don’t want to create a separate tank or use a breeding box but do want to give the fry a good chance to survival, then you can give them plenty of hiding spots. One of the best way to go this is by having plenty of live plants for cover.
Live plants are a good idea for a guppy tank anyway as they help to keep the water safe, provide a food source and also promote the growth of soft algae that guppy like to eat. It’s not a failsafe method for breeding but it will give them a chance.
This is not good method for those who want to breed guppy professionally as you’re still going to lose some guppy fry.
It may sound horrible that a mother eats her own children but that’s the way of the world when it comes to guppy. As we have seen here they do it for a wide variety of different reasons that are all based around survival. Thankfully there are things that can be done. If you follow the steps that we have stated then you can your guppy fry can thrive.