I started my tropical fishkeeping with black mollies and angelfish. From there, every time I visited a local pet shop, I could not resist admiring such a uniquely small fish with so many good traits. As it is a relatively fast and graceful swimmer, one will be fascinated because of one of its very distinct features: a wide, colorful, “wagging” tail. I remember catching wild guppies from “canals” on main roads with my elementary school classmates before going home from school. Male guppies are colorful, and females are plain and dull. This is the guppy fish.

Scientific name: Poecilia reticulate. It is more commonly known as the “million fish” and “rainbow fish.” They are experimented on for mosquito control from South America and are now available all over the world.

According to Wikipedia, guppies may “…demonstrate sexual dimorphism. This is a condition in which the two sexes of the same species exhibit different YAPcharacteristics beyond the differences in their sexual organs. Differences may include size, color, markings, and behavioral differences that may be subtle or exaggerated.”

The evolution of guppies is remarkable. When I was just starting in the 70s, guppies had different names, including:

  • German guppies – associated with the tuxedo guppies
  • Delta guppies – referred to as “V-shaped guppies”
  • Singaporean guppies – because it was in Singapore that they introduced this variety, based on big-bodied males with a short, high angle and a rounded tail
  • Chopsuey guppies – their name is derived from that of a Chinese dish in which an assortment of vegetables is stir-fried. “Chopsuey guppies” have mixed traits, such as tail size and color. Normally, every guppy is unique since harem breeding is being used on them. They are popular in pet shops because of their variety of colors and low price.

In the past, females were not sold because their colors were duller and they did not have the fancy tails of the male guppy. Today, females are much more expensive for the hobbyist because of the popularity of breeding pure strains and developing new ones.

One major reason for the guppy’s popularity among hobbyists is the short time between the fish being a newborn to reaching adulthood, unlike kois and discus which have a long maturity period. This makes genetic breeding for strain development faster. Sexual maturity is around 3 months. Guppies are ovoviparous, meaning the male’s sperm internally inside the female fertilizes their eggs. According to, “…the mother guppy gives birth to live, fully formed young in broods that average between 20 and 40 young. Guppy fry are ready to fend for themselves directly upon birth, and they begin swimming, feeding and living without the protection of their mother.” Gestation period takes an average of 30 days.

Other reasons for the popularity of guppies are:

  1. They can thrive in wide range of tank sizes:
  • Bottles
  • Fish bowls
  • Small tanks
  • Ponds
  • Big tanks
  1. Versatility
  • Planted tank – gives life to a green plated set-up because of its graceful swimming and various colors
  • Community fish – thrives well with peaceful fish such as goldfish, corydoras, platy, small tetras, and many more. Avoid territorial and fin nipping fishes.
  1. Like koi and goldfish, they have several categories for quality into which they are classified:
  • Feeders
  • Pet shop quality
  • Hobbyist collection
  • Show quality



  • Black – Solid color with sharp intensity. It represents the black molly and black swordtail, and is emphasized by the guppy’s tail as it gracefully swims. Hobbyist aim to have this kind of guppy be completely black with no secondary color. Three-fourths black guppies became popular because they do not sacrifice size that can sometimes happen when one has a full black
  • Green – A sought-after color by hobbyists.
  • Red – Flamingos, albino full red, and full red are the most popular strains.


These have black bodies and another color in the tail. Well-liked are those whose tails are a solid color

  • Red
  • Blue
  • Yellow


These exhibit different colors, irregular patches, or streaks


The front and back halves of the body are two different colors. The light upper body color and the darker lower body color are evocative of a tuxedo suit. They are popular on half black red guppies


This is a fine, web-like tail pattern


Their pattern is rosette-like, a chain-link pattern displayed across the base color


Vertical barring is the main distinction of this pattern, as well as rosettes


The pattern covers the fin in a series of spots


This pattern is finer than that of the leopard


Their pattern is made up of spots that connect to one another. This creates irregular patterns.


Getting into guppies is easy. A decent looking guppy will cost around R30 and a show quality pair can reach up to R1,000. A small-planted tank, community, or large tank of pure strains or mixed breeds can be set up. A tank full of guppies is a sight to behold. I encourage anyone, from beginners to advanced fish hobbyists, to jump in and experience taking care of guppies. You will take pleasure in a new experience.


This appeared in Animal Scene’s March 2017 issue.