A school of brightly colored fancy guppies flitting around a well-decorated fish tank is a beautiful sight to behold!
But did you ever wonder when guppies get their colors? And what influences those unique patterns and dazzling hues? Guppies are prolific breeders, so can you create wonderful new color combinations by crossbreeding your guppies?
So, most of the guppy fry color development happens during their first 10 days of life.
Read this guide to learn more about the fascinating process of color development in guppy fish.
When Do Guppy Fry Get Their Color?
The guppy fry stage of the life cycle lasts up to two months, but the bulk of body color development takes place during the first 10 days. During this time, guppies are born without any coloration and gradually begin to take on their adult coloration. Let’s take a closer look at the color development timeline.
Congratulations on bringing a healthy group of baby guppies into the world! The average guppy is completely transparent during the first three days, save for the eyes and a few organs. In other words, they’re virtually colorless! Think of their bodies like glass, reflecting the colors of whatever they pass through. But don’t be fooled – the color development process is already kicking in, even if you can’t see it yet.
By the latter half of the first week, observant guppy owners will begin to notice a slight yellow tint to the fry. This is a healthy and normal part of guppy fry growth! Their bodies have begun to produce pigment, and the yellow color is the first sign of color development.
Welcome to the most exciting part! Between days 8-10, you’ll notice the early stages of color development. Your guppy babies will start developing patches of red, subtle specks of blue, or even an iridescent shimmer. Though they may not look like their adult counterparts, you can rest assured knowing everything is on track and going according to plan!
By the end of the first month, your guppies should have gotten most of their colors. Depending on what the parents look like, some guppies may have even started to look like miniature adults! However, it’s important to note that some guppies may take longer than others to develop their full coloration. Don’t be alarmed if you have some stragglers – just be patient and enjoy the process!
Factors Affecting Guppy Coloration
Now that we have a general idea of when guppies develop their colors, it’s natural to wonder if there’s anything we can do to influence the process. Save for a few niche hobbyists who prefer a neutral look, most guppy owners want to know how they can get the most vibrant colors out of their guppies. In this section, we’ll discuss some of the most important factors impacting color development.
It sounds almost trite at this point, but providing your guppies with lots of fresh, clean water is essential for their health and coloration. Even the slightest issue with water quality will cause your guppies to become stressed, which will stunt their coloration. To avoid this, be sure to keep improper water conditions at bay by performing frequent water changes and tests.
The water chemistry in your tank can also directly impact the coloration of your guppies. Most guppies do best in water with a pH between 7.0 and 7.5, or in water that is slightly alkaline. It goes without saying, but your water should also be free of chloramine, chlorine, and ammonia. If you’re using water from a municipal source, be sure to use a water conditioner to remove these toxins.
Last but not least, the water temperature in your tank is also an important factor to consider. Guppies lack the ability to regulate their own body temperature, and guppy fry are especially in need of a stable environment. We recommend keeping your tank between 72-82°F for optimal health and coloration. Do invest in a reliable heater that you can use to maintain a consistent temperature.
As much as we’d like to control the process, the truth is that your guppies’ coloration is largely determined by their genetics. The type of guppy you choose to form the breeding pair will have a greater impact on the coloration of your fry than anything else. The apple truly does not fall far from the tree in this case, so be sure to choose healthy, beautiful fish when starting a breeding program.
Be that as it may, you should also be responsible for the pairing of your guppies. A lot of inbreeding takes place to produce the most colorful fish, but this will lead to health problems down the line. As is the case with most fish species, it’s best to opt for a diverse gene pool when breeding guppies. This makes for guppies with a stronger immune system.
Ultimately, you should never make tradeoffs between health and coloration when selecting a breeding pair. Always aim to produce the healthiest baby guppies you can, and the coloration will take care of itself. Genetics may be important, but they are far from the only factor at play. Healthy guppies raised with the right environment will be more vibrant than those that weren’t.
Quality of Food
The bright color in guppies comes from pigments in their skin known as carotenoids. You may have heard of carotenoids before – they are the same pigments that give fruits and vegetables their bright yellow, orange, and red hues. Naturally, guppies that are fed a high-quality diet with plenty of carotenoid-rich foods will be more vibrant than those that don’t.
So, what should you feed your guppies? Well, it depends on how old they are. Newborn fry should be fed high-quality liquid fry food. As they get older, you can start introducing live protein sources such as baby brine shrimp and daphnia into their diets. These foods support healthy growth and development, and will also stimulate pigment production in the skin. The end result? More colorful guppies!
Of course, commercial food can also be a great aid in the coloration process. Some brands include carotenoids and other color-enhancing ingredients in their formulas. However, you should do your research before investing in a particular brand. Read the ingredients list to make sure the food you’re giving your guppies is high-quality and nutritionally balanced.
Yes, you read that right – the gender of your guppies can have an impact on their coloration! This gender-based color difference is actually rather consistent across species – think of peacocks, for example. The males have brightly colored, blue-green feathers, while females are typically a duller brown. This is true of guppies as well – males tend to be more colorful than their female counterparts.
Why is this the case? Well, males generally need to work a little harder to attract a mate. Having bright, flashy colors allows them to stand out in a sea of suitors. Over years of natural selection, this has resulted in male guppies being more colorful than females. On the other hand, female guppies need to hide from predators when they are pregnant, so they tend to be less colorful.
No matter what the gender of your guppies is, you should still aim for high standards when it comes to coloration. Though females may not be as colorful as males, that doesn’t mean they can ignore water quality and diet requirements! As we discussed earlier in this article, a healthy environment will always lead to more vibrant colors than an unhealthy one regardless of sex or species.
Type of Light
The final factor we’ll explore is the type of light in your tank. Yes – we all know that the type of light you use can influence how your fish APPEAR, but some people believe it can also influence their actual coloration! Anecdotally speaking, many professional breeders favor fluorescent lights. There haven’t been any scientific studies conducted on the subject, but they swear it leads to more vibrant colors!
To counter this, some hobbyists recommend LED lighting instead. They argue that the evolution of guppies took place in natural light, not fluorescent or LED. Again, this has yet to be scientifically tested, but you can experiment with different types of lights to see what works best for your guppies.
When I kept guppies and ran a breeding program, I used standard LED lights in my tank. I found that the fish preferred relatively subdued lighting conditions, so I used lots of floating plants to create dappled shade. The guppy fry took advantage of the shelter provided by the plants’ leaves and trailing filamentous roots, keeping them safe from larger fish that might try to eat the vulnerable babies.
Ultimately, the coloration of guppies will have more to do with how they’re raised. The type of light you use may have an impact, but your focus should primarily be on providing them with their basic needs such as clean water and high-quality food. As long as these are taken care of, the coloration of your guppies will come naturally!
Do Brighter Colors Indicate Healthier Guppies?
By now, we’ve established that guppies that are well cared for tend to display brighter colors. But are brighter colors indicative of health in guppies? In other words, can we assume that the brightest guppies in our aquarium are the healthiest? And are dull-colored guppies the most unhealthy of the lot? Surprising as it may be, the answer is no. Bright colors in guppies are the result of the guppy’s genetics. In the fishkeeping hobby, guppy breeders selectively breed guppies that display the most vibrant colors so they can be sold or collected.
Think of it this way – a breeder will choose the brightest male and female guppies, and then breed them together. This produces babies that are even more colorful than their parents. But this practice has a downside. Unfortunately, the process of selective breeding results in weaker and less hardy guppies. Over time, their genetics can become weak and unreliable if too much inbreeding occurs within a strain. This, in turn, leads to a decrease in immunity, disease susceptibility and other health issues that can be detrimental to their survival chances.
So while bright colors are eye-catching, they do not necessarily indicate health in guppies. In fact, many wild guppies are dull in color and more resilient than their captive-bred counterparts! While we’re not suggesting that you avoid purchasing colorful guppies, we just want to remind you that health should always be the primary factor when selecting guppies for your aquarium.
To circle back to the question we raised at the beginning of this article, guppies get their colors in the first 2 weeks of life. They develop a slight yellow tint that gradually morphs into the colors they possess as adults. By the time they turn one month old, they will have gotten most of their colors.
Though guppy coloration is primarily determined by genetic factors, their environment can also play a role. Things like maintaining perfect water quality and offering nutritious food can all affect their coloration. None of these things will override their genes, but they can still be beneficial in helping to bring out the best in their coloration.
We hope this article gave you a comprehensive overview of when guppies get their color! Remember, the health of your fish should always come first, though it’s great to appreciate their beautiful colors! Thanks for reading, and please share this article with someone who might find it insightful! We appreciate your support!