Guppy Love

When I “surrendered” the goldfish, I asked about special-ordering guppies. He took my name and number for the person responsible for ordering to call me. He still hasn’t called.

I wanted three pairs and expected to pay $25 per pair, plush shipping. Special ordering via the pet store would likely reduce or eliminate shipping. Back in the day, shipping live fish was expensive. Direct shipping wasn’t even possible. Orders had to be picked up at the nearest airport.

Days passed without a call. The first site I visited online offered a wide selection of guppies with detailed information about each variety. Some descriptions indicated the offspring would in no way resemble the parents. No thanks. If I didn’t care about the offspring, I could get guppies at any pet store in town.

After several generations, the offspring of fancy guppies revert to wild. Throwbacks may even appear in the firs generation. Over time, the percentage of wild-looking guppies increases. Mixing varieties the way most pet stores do hastens the process. I’m curious to see how long a pure strain will persist.

Among the few varieties whose offspring would be similar, ‘Red Cobra’ guppies ($12/pair) caught my eye. Overnight shipping, including $10 for a Styrofoam box, cost almost as much as the fish. The total was still less than I’d expected to pay for just the fish.

A day after placing the order, I got an email indicating my guppies were on the way. They arrived at 10 the following morning. The plastic bag containing the fish was wrapped with newspaper and nestled into the Styrofoam box with an envelope of warm crystals.

The guppies were smaller than expected–so much so I worried Maude (the swordtail) might eat them. After floating the bag for a while, I took a deep breath and released the newcomers into the green algae bloom, then at its peak.

Maude chased the guppies into the plants but didn’t eat any. An hour or two later, she looked on as the male guppies gathered in the middle of the tank to display for the females.

Thanks in no small part to the algae bloom, the guppies have grown fast. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find babies at any time. In the past, I’d isolate pregnant females and strive to save every single fry. This time, it’s survival of the fittest in a well-planted tank free of more aggressive predators.

Guppies are extremely prolific. Females have 20 to 40 live babies at a time and may well have another brood a few days later. Some, perhaps even most, will perish. The tiny fry are most vulnerable at birth. The odds of reaching adulthood increase with each passing day.

Spotting babies is a challenge, even for those with 20-20 vision. I use the camera on my phone at high magnification to scan likely hiding spots. It will be interesting to see what happens next. As always, I’ll keep you posted.