Do Guppies Eat Their Babies? (& How To Prevent It)

Guppies are a popular variety of fish around the world. These colorful little bundles of joy are easy to look after and are also pretty peaceful. If you’re considering buying a small aquarium, guppies are ideal fish to start with. They’re generally pretty peaceful, and unlike many other breeds, guppies easily reproduce 

When your guppies are beginning to expand their family, things tend to get a bit nasty and even horrifying. Have you ever wondered, do guppies eat their babies? It may sound unbelievable, but this phenomenon is 100% real. But before you shy away from these apparently monstrous creatures, please read the guide below. Guppies are loved by many for a reason. They can be trained, and you can protect their fry. 

Do Guppies Eat Their Babies?  

Yes, they do. Though guppies are one of the calmest breeds and are generally pretty peaceful, they often end up eating their fry. This weird and disturbing activity is termed as filial cannibalism. What makes it even more puzzling is that you normally don’t expect nonviolent fish like guppies to behave this way. 

However, a large number of guppy-loving pet owners regularly report that their adult guppies have swallowed down their fry. Guppies may not eat every single fry, but they do eat at least a few. With their static facial features, these fish sometimes give off the vibes of a remorseless serial killer. It’s a gruesome experience, but it’s there. You’d normally expect bigger breeds with sharper teeth to kill their babies, but the animal kingdom is brimming with bizarreness.  

Why Do Guppies Eat their Babies? 

So, the question arises. Why do guppies eat their babies? Sadly, there’s no explanation that you can single out. We don’t have one explanation that reasons rationally and satisfyingly. There may be multiple factors and conditions involved. Years have passed on, and marine scientists are still trying to find out why guppies kill their babies. 

For starters, scientists are still struggling to get hold of some concrete reasoning behind filial cannibalism. It appears to be a random decision and is found across a wide variety of animal species. Here are some plausible causes of why guppies eat their babies: 

They Look Similar to Fish Food 

The most common reason is that guppy babies are almost ad miniature as regular fish food. Therefore, the adults often mistake between actual food and the babies and end up eating the latter. 

(Here are some of the most common things your guppies will eat.)

To Cope With Psychological Stress 

Similar to postpartum depression in human females, adult guppies tend to remain in denial regarding the birth of their offspring. Since guppies can give birth to a number of fry at once, they may feel utterly surprised or even mad at themselves or their babies. 

To lessen their psychological stress, guppies may eat their children. The adult guppies, therefore, enhance their self-preservation instinct and even feel less burdened. 

To Weed Out the Weaker Babies 

Guppies can lay anywhere between 10-120 guppy fry in a matter of hours. Moreover, they also have rapid mating tendencies and can reproduce almost every month. During these times, it’s not rare to find a guppy baby that’s struggling to survive. Therefore, adult guppies sometimes consume these weaker offspring to conserve more energy for further fry development. 

In essence, the adult guppies that pass on genetic disorders eat their weak offspring. This way, the disorder doesn’t carry on, and the entire species has healthy, active guppies. The guppy babies that adult guppies eat are the ones that: 

  • Can’t defend themselves. 
  • Are too weak to swim, eat, and grow healthily. 
  • Don’t have basic survival characteristics. 

(Find out more about how to selectively breed guppies, and how long guppies take to grow.)

To Retain Fat Storage 

After giving birth, female guppies hunt for means to recover their lost energy and fat storage. Eating their weak babies becomes a source of healthy fat for them.  

A Food Source When They’re Hungry 

While it’s somewhat clear why female guppies eat their own babies, it’s difficult to explain this trend in male guppies. A fairly acceptable reason for filial cannibalism in guppies is that it is a nutrition-packed meal. When food is scarce in your aquarium, it may put the fry at risk. Adult guppies, overcome with hunger, may end up eating their young ones.  

While these reasons may seem rational and understandable, there’s sometimes no explainable reason as to why guppies eat their fry. Even if they’re well-fed, healthy, and peaceful, you can’t leave guppies unsupervised with their babies. Here’s how to stop guppies from eating their babies. 

How to Stop Guppies Eating Their Babies? 

Fortunately, if your guppies are eating their babies, there are a few things you can do to stop it from happening. If you want to keep your guppy fry are alive then follow the steps below:

Keep Your Pregnant Guppy In a Breeding Box 

If there’s one thing guppies are always ready for, it’s mating. Guppies are fast breeders, and their fry are born within 3-4 weeks. To check if a female guppy is pregnant, look for the following indications: 

  • It looks discolored and faded. 
  • It is bloated and fat, just like human pregnancy. 
  • It has a dark discoloration near the butt, from where the fry will be released. 
  • It prefers warm water and heated sides of the aquarium. 
  • It prefers the dark. Pregnant guppies often hide in toy houses, castles, and underplant shade.  

Keep an active check on the pregnancy timeline. A couple of days prior to the expected labor, place your pregnant guppy separate from other adult guppies. A breeding box is a mesh container that is ideal for keeping the fry safe and sound. 

(How to know if your guppy is pregnant.)

Separate the Newborn Fry 

However, keeping your guppy isolated can stress it severely. This stress and frustration from the pregnancy can manifest in the consumption of the offspring. 

Therefore, make sure you get alerted when the fry gets released. While the guppy is delivering its babies, keep them in a smaller aquarium. Set up this aquarium in advance so that the fry instantly gets a safe place to live in. Once your female guppy has delivered all its babies, you can remove it from the mesh breeding box.  

It’s important to keep the guppy and the babies well fed. Get high-quality special diets for the young fry so that all their nutritional requirements are met.  

When you get your newborn guppies, here’s how you can make sure they don’t have any deformities: 

  • Keep the water clean and chemically nutritious. 
  • Feed them often. Consult a vet who can recommend a diet plan for guppy babies. 
  • Provide your young guppies with sufficient light. You can keep your fry’s fish tank in a room that gets sunlight around the day. If that’s not possible, you can also fit an aquarium light inside the tank. 

Wait for Them to Grow Bigger 

You can introduce the offspring to the main tank when you feel that the babies have grown enough. They must be able to swim fast and should be large enough to not fit the adults’ mouths.  

Once the guppies are placed together, always try to keep the tank filled with some fish food. You can also keep plants and mini props inside so that the young ones can escape whenever an elder guppy is coming after them. 

(Find out how long it takes guppies to grow.)

Conclusion 

Guppy parents are forgetful of their offspring. Once the babies are born, they’re entirely dependent on the mercy of their adults. There’s no element of love or protection. It’s up to you to look after the young guppy babies and identify how you can keep them safe. 

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