‘Guppy Primer’ by Ruth McIlroy


Beautiful Guppies don’t just happen.
The secret is “sweat”, and attention to detail.
Treat them to good live food when you pass them from the left,
and siphon off 10% of their water when you pass them from the right.
Replace the water with aged good water, such as Bronx, NY
tap water, which has a pH of 6.8.

Be sure to throw away the bad males, and before long
you’ll have a tank of beautiful Guppies.

Learn to watch out for unscrupulous dealers
who sell fancy males with common females.
Look out for babies hiding among the plants.
Guppies drop babies every 28 days or so.
Put them immediately in the breeding trap you bought
in anticipation of the Blessed Event.

(The best reason for providing a breeding trap is illustrated
by this photograph showing a female Guppy eating her young.)

Your purpose here is to end up with some virgin females;
try to keep your babies sorted out according to sex.
Some of the females can go back in with their parents
to breed with their father or uncle, or be crossed
with their brothers in separate miniature jars.
Keep inbreeding your fish for a few generations;
this is the way new varieties spring up.

Breed those fish you like the best
with the virgin females.

But check the virgins first.


I have seen the same Guppy sold
by four different people under four different names.
Hahnel’s red Guppies, for example:

Flamingo Guppies; Flame Guppies;
Redtail Guppies; Fire Guppies;
Red Ruby Guppies; Whore Guppies.
Leopard Guppies; Green Guppies;
Swordtail Guppies; Veiltail Guppies;
English Golden Lacetail Guppies.

Beautiful Guppies don’t just happen.

(published in The Rialto Summer 2012).

Ruth McIlroy and family live in Sheffield, where she works as an NHS Psychological Therapist and also has a private psychotherapy practice. She’s had poems published in various places including the 2013 Templar anthology, Peloton.