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Guppy Pregnancy Stages: A Full Guide With Pictures

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Growing a pregnant guppy can be pretty exciting. I remember the first time I did it and the anticipation I had. However, I wasn’t familiar with the guppy pregnancy stages, so I had no idea what to expect. Fortunately, as years passed, I gained some experience in this field.

These are the guppy fish pregnancy stages:

  1. The female guppy reaches sexual maturity at the age of six weeks.
  2. The male guppy inseminates the female, which fertilizes the eggs.
  3. The guppy will remain pregnant for 21 to 31 days.
  4. The female will go into labor, breathing heavily and hiding.
  5. The guppy will give birth to 5 to 80 fry.

As we move forward, I will share some beautiful pictures that will help you identify the stage of your pregnant guppy fish. Then, I’ll share two videos that show how a guppy getting into labor behaves and how it eventually gives birth to healthy fry.

Still curious? Feel free to check my complete guide on pregnant guppy fish. There, I discussed how to care for pregnant guppies, how long they remain pregnant, how to identify signs of pregnancy, and a lot more.

Guppy Fish Pregnancy Stages

Even though guppies breed easily, you must take steps to protect their offspring. Otherwise, their parents or the other adult fish in the community aquarium will eat them.

But you can’t do this unless you gain a better understanding of a guppy’s pregnancy stages. This allows you to identify the perfect time to move the guppy to a separate tank.

Fortunately, a guppy’s pregnancy is relatively straightforward:

Stage 1: Before Conception

Guppies will start breeding the moment they mature sexually. This happens at the age of six weeks. They should begin breeding within three months. But you require both genders for successful breeding to occur.

Female guppies have a dark mark called a gravid spot. You will find it near the anal fin. The gravid spot is technically present from birth, but it becomes more prominent as the female fish matures. Male guppies do not have gravid spots.

It is worth noting that female guppies can store sperm, using it to fertilize their eggs in the absence of a male fish for the next ten or so months.

But the female has to mate with a male guppy before it can store sperm. If your females were born in the tank, they don’t have any stored sperm.

Sexually mature males will perform a dance to draw the attention of the females.[1] They may bend their spines and flare. The males have brighter colors than the females.[2] They will show these colors off during this period.

A receptive female will approach the male in question. Male guppies have a gonopodium, an organ near the anus that injects sperm into the female. This can occur several times a day.

Because of the passion brought to the table by the males, you should add as many females as possible. Otherwise, the male will overwhelm the female with attention. The stress may kill the female.

Stage 2: The Gestation Period

Once the male guppy inseminates the female, the gravid spot is the first sign you will notice. This mark will grow larger and darker.

This is because the eggs in the creature’s womb are developing and hatching. As the babies mature, the gravid spot will continue to darken and enlarge.

  • Here is a guppy in the early days of pregnancy (approximately 1 to 7). You can see that the gravid spot is still pretty bright:
  • As the guppy approaches the 10th day of pregnancy, the gravid spot will turn darker, and the belly will become slightly swollen:

When the gravid spot starts enlarging, you will notice that the guppy’s belly is distending as well. Unlike a bloated guppy, the pregnant guppy will continue to expand in size. Eventually, the fish will take on a boxy shape.[3]

  • Here is a guppy that has been pregnant for 10 to 18 days. You can see that the gravid spot is already deep dark, and the belly becomes round:
  • This guppy has been pregnant for 18 to 25 days. The belly takes on a square shape and seems quite distended:

Many aquarists prefer to separate the guppy at this stage because it cannot swim quite as effectively. This puts the creature in a vulnerable position.

Because its weakened state will not prevent the males from mating with it, aquarists will place the female in a separate tank where it can give birth peacefully.

Eventually, if you look at the guppy’s belly, you will see the eyes of the babies. By this stage, the gravid spot is entirely black. This is because the fry are blocking the light, even though the fish has translucent skin.

  • This guppy has been pregnant for 25 to 31 days. These are the final days of pregnancy, in which you can easily see the fry eyes (given that your guppy’s skin is relatively transparent):

Stage 3: Approaching Labor

If you can see the eyes of the babies, you can confidently conclude that the fish has entered the final leg of its pregnancy. If the guppy’s due date is imminent, it will hide in an isolated location where it can give birth safely.

This behavior stands out because guppies are active fish that spend a lot of time out in the open. Therefore, hiding guppies are not that difficult to spot.

Once the fish starts hiding, it will either eat very little or stop eating altogether. These symptoms (hiding and appetite loss) manifest three weeks after impregnation.[4]

The creature’s behavioral changes will become more drastic as the gravid spot expands and darkens. When the gravid spot is at its darkest, the guppy will start spending most of its time in hiding.

When there isn’t a sufficient amount of hiding places, your guppy is likely to spend most of its time swimming at the top. These areas are also more oxygen-riched.

People that haven’t separated the guppies yet tend to do so at this point when labor is imminent. However, I personally suggest using a divider. Moving the pregnant guppy may end up with abortion and possibly death.

Stage 4: Giving Birth

The babies should arrive within 21 to 31 days from conception. You can expect anywhere between 5 to 80 babies at one time. During the period your guppy starts giving birth, you’ll notice unusual behavior.

Some aquarists have seen guppies rub their bodies against plants and decorations shortly before labor. They may respond anxiously or aggressively to fish that invade their breeding area during this period. During labor, the fish may also shake and shiver.[5]

Some guppies give birth within three hours. For others, labor may last twelve hours, but this is extreme. Extended periods of labor rarely produce healthy fry. Even if the mother pushes them out successfully, few babies will survive.

Because the creature gives birth to live fry, they are strong enough to swim. This is a great way to judge their viability. Healthy fry will swim upward, and stillborn offspring will sink to the bottom. The unhealthy fry will struggle to swim.

But that doesn’t mean they are destined to die. If you place them in a clean tank with the correct parameters, you will increase their survival chances, especially if they have a nutrient-rich diet.

For some guppies, labor will exceed the 12-hour mark. Once this happens, the guppy may extend its pregnancy for a few more days.

In some situations, a mother will push out its fry in batches, taking a break in between. Some guppies will abort the fry because of diseases or stressful conditions in the breeding tank.

Stage 5: Reinsemination

Even though the birthing process is stressful, a female guppy can conceive mere hours after giving birth. In other words, the gestation period will restart almost immediately.

Female guppies that just gave birth are too tired to accommodate the attention of a male guppy. Rather than moving the creature back to the community tank, you should keep it in a separate container for a day or two.

Once it recovers, you can move it back to the main tank. However, even if the mother is too tired to mate with a male guppy hours after giving birth, it can still use the sperm it stored to fertilize its eggs.

Therefore, in many cases, the female guppy is already pregnant when it returns to the main tank. The species is incredibly fertile.

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Conclusions

Guppies are typically pregnant for 21 to 31 days. The gravid spot will gradually turn black in the early stages, and the belly will be slightly swollen. This is true for days 1 to 10.

As the fish approaches the 18th day of pregnancy, you’ll see a deep dark gravid spot with a round belly. During the next week, the belly will take on a square shape and become distended.

Ultimately, after 25 to 31 days, you may see the fry eyes. At this point, the creature is likely to hide a lot and breathe heavily. This means that the guppy is in labor and will soon start giving birth.

References

  1. https://guppyexpert.com/guppies-mating-behavior/
  2. https://www.wikihow.com/Identify-Male-and-Female-Guppies
  3. https://small-pets.lovetoknow.com/gestation-period-guppies
  4. https://www.buildyouraquarium.com/pregnant-guppy/
  5. https://aquariumfishcity.com/freshwater/livebearers/guppies/pregnant/