Feeding and Breeding Livebearers
by Ruby Bayan
How to Feed Livebearers
Guppies, mollies, platies, and swordtails are all omnivorous. They eat live, frozen, and freeze-dried food, as well as plants and algae. They will be the first to snap at food still floating on the water surface, though they will also chase after food floating beneath the surface, and pick on those that have sunk to the bottom.
Since guppies are quite small and have tiny stomachs, they get full quickly; and then want to feed again in less than an hour. Swordtails and mollies are also known to be almost non-stop eaters; they seem to be hungry all day. You can feed them small meals more frequently or, because they also have a fondness for plants and algae, you can let them pick on the greens in between flake and live food meals.
Be sure to provide a variety of foods, preferably live ones, because a nutritious, complete diet will enhance their colors and ensure good health. Keep in mind that they will eat their young if given the chance.
Speaking of the young, the best food for livebearersí fry are: powdered food, freshly hatched brine shrimp, crushed hard-boiled egg yolk, cultured microworms, and infusoria (green water). Observe the fry carefully. As soon as they have completely absorbed the nourishment from their attached yolk sacs, introduce the food. After a few days, gradually convert to adult food (like mashed flakes or tablets), making sure the particles will fit in their mouths.
How to Breed Livebearers
You will notice that adult male livebearers, even during mealtimes, are preoccupied with fertilizing the female. This is why plants that serve as hideaways are important to the "sanity" of the females in a community tank predominantly occupied by livebearers. When populating your tank, be sure to always have more females than males. Given the male's natural inclination to mate, a solo female will tend to be harassed if there are too many males.
Once fertilized, female livebearers will have no qualms about giving birth to their fry as often as once a month in a community aquarium. The sad thing is, being very small, the fry will be easy prey for other fish, including their "parents." Plants with fine leaves that reach up to the surface will offer good hiding places for the little ones. However, only a few will be tough enough to reach adulthood.
When she's almost ready to drop her fry, it is best to transfer the female into a breeding aquarium rigged with traps to separate and safeguard the young. Plastic breeding traps are commercially available. After she delivers her brood, return the female to the community tank and care for the fry separately.
Note that some females, especially the swordtails, grow too large to be comfortable in the common plastic breeding traps. Be ready to substitute appropriate devices such as nets or converted aquariums for this purpose.
See also: FAQ on Breeding Livebearers