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Breeding Livebearers- Mollies Platies and Guppies - By William

Most people's first fish to breed are livebearers simply because it's almost impossible to not get them to breed! To get started with whatever fish you decide you'll usualy need a pair or a trio -2males 1 female or 1 male 1 female (identification techniques later on). Livebearers- mollies, guppies and platies, do not lay eggs like most fish but instead give birth to young free swimming fry. When you get most female livebearers they are pregnant and should give birth to babies every 3 or 4 weeks.

If you want to have a few baby livebearers, get two or three fat female you can tell they are females due to their fan shaped anal fin unlike the males elongated gonopodium- see pictures the male (platy) is on the left and the female platy is on the right.
male platyfemale platy


It is obvious to tell which female guppies are pregnant as they will have an obvious black "gravid" spot which is the fry's eyes forming inside the mother, this will form just in front of her anal fin. For platies and mollies the only way to tell how far into the pregnancy the fish is, is by seeing how fat they are, platies and mollies which are about to spawn will seem almost square from the back view and will be very swollen in the middle. Below is a picture of a guppy about 2 and a half weeks into the pregnancy note the gravid spot.
pregnant female guppy

Be sure to keep your aquarium clean and change about 25% of the water in your aquarium at least once a week. Feed your livebearers plenty of floating flakes and some live food as well to supplement their diet and give them larger and more healthy offspring. As always remove any uneaten food after 5 minutes.

When your female livebearer is big and looks like she’s about to (burst) release babies there is the option to move her into another aquarium or put her into a net breeder protect her babies when they spawn, it should be noted that the mother for approximately 12 hours after releasing the babies has a surge of a hormone which results in her not being hungry. While this is an option the difficulty is that often I have found that if I move the female too early she will abort the pregnancy due to stress, the same may happen if you buy a heavily pregnant fish from the fish store and yet you find no babies in your tank. For this reason I have found - perhaps because fry especially from livebears are no longer unusual or special I just leave the adults in my community tank which has a planted corner. I have found that even without removing the babies into an external aquarium/net breeder you'll get some babies which make it to adult hood... unless you've got some really evil fish in there! I have also found the use of large marbles on the floor of the tank to be superb as hiding places for the fry, even so if I wish to save some interesting colour fry or need more fry then I follow the following procedure.

Aid the Fry: A net breeder is a must if you wish to save large numbers of fry. Simply place it in a corner of the tank when one of the females has already spawned or place the female in it just before she spawns. Either way ensure the fry are the only fish inside the net. As a rough guide, a young female platy/guppy/molly usually releases 12 to 30 babies in her first batch of young. In comparison a large molly may be able to release up to 100 babies! I highly recommend you to purchase a "net breeder" made out of mesh rather than a plastic one as I have heard too many bad reports about them and my net breeder has worked flawlessly for me (plastic ones babies escape/get eaten or trapped!) The net breeder has a frame made of plastic and is covered in fine net to separate the fry inside the net from the larger fish swimming around in the aquarium.

A few of common problems people have is that they have bought store bought fish which the store said were pregnant and yet you don't have any babies. If this is the case, and you are sure that you have both females and males in your tank preferably at the ratio 2 females to 1 male livebearer then you can do a couple of things to enhance your chances.
1) Change 20% of the water in the aquarium each day replacing it with dechlorinated water which is as close to the temperature already in the water as possible, remembering any differences will result in stress to the fish and more chance of your livebearer aborting her pregnancy.
2) Supplement your livebearers diet with vegetables which form an integral part of a livebearers diet in the wild I would reccomend blanched zucchini (courgette) or cucumber, flakes are only so good and try to add to the meaty part of your livebearers diet with blood worms or adult brine shrimp.
3) This should probably be number 1 as it is the most important... Patience! there is nothing to stop your livebearer giving birth and the odds are stacked in her favour if you have followed the procedures already mentioned.

Now you've got the fry leave them in the net breeder or their own aquarium, feed them little and often - 3 times a day for maximum growth- with finely crushed flake food (as fine as you can crush it, use your fingers and rub them together really grinding it up very finely because any large bits will remain uneaten and will rot polluting your tank). When your baby fish have grown to about one inch which will take between two and four months you can release them back into the aquarium with their parents or this is also the size when fish stores will be willing to buy livebearer fry off you. Growth will vary on quality of food and also of tank temperature, 79 degrees fahrenheit is about the maximum recommended and at this temperature the fry will grow faster than at a lower temperature. Not recommended if you have other fish in the tank though and step up the temperature increase slowly.
If everything goes well you should have lots of fry which will look like this:


To download a video of a mother guppy giving birth to her babies, check out the following clips both contain one real fry and one real mother:
The Birth of a Guppy 1/2 mb
The Birth of a Guppy Reloaded 1/2 mb
No fish were harmed in the making of these productions.

(Note: you might need to install Intel's Indeo Driver for Windows 95/98/NT. Click the link to download (iv5setup.exe). ftp://ftp.fluidlight.com/pub/nospin_files/IV5SETUP.EXE .)
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