Just as the name implies, livebearers are fish that give birth to live, free-swimming young. However, in the aquarium hobby, the term livebearer is commonly used to refer to a specific group of fish belonging to the family Poeciliidae, which is a group of freshwater fish that includes perennial aquarium favorites such as mollies, guppies, and platies.
Caring for Livebearers
Livebearers can thrive in a variety of water conditions and do well in planted aquariums. Although they are generally peaceful, it is a good idea to keep several pairs of the same species in order to eliminate any potential aggression. Livebearers are omnivores and require both algae- based foods as well as meat-based foods. A varied diet including algae- based flake food, freeze-dried bloodworms, and brine shrimp will offer proper nutrition to a range of different livebearer species. Livebearers have an average life expectancy between 5 and 7 years, allowing owners many opportunities to witness the birth of several generations.
Birth of Livebearers
For most people, their first experience with baby fish, referred to as fry, is often through livebearers. Surprisingly, you may discover that the livebearers you brought home have given birth to a small brood. Depending on certain conditions, such as water specifications, temperature, and diet, some livebearers can reproduce as often as every four to eight weeks. You can tell if a female is ready to give birth by her enlarged abdomen or a dark spot located near her anal fin that turns darker as the delivery date nears.
In some cases, certain fish will attempt to make a meal of newly hatched fish. To prevent this from happening, place the pregnant female in a smaller, separate tank until the fish are born. The nursery should also have the same features as any standard aquarium, such as a filtration system, heater and tank decorations. Plants should be left to float because babies will hide at the surface when first born; also, substrate isn't necessary in the nursery tank. After all of the fry have been released, the mother should be removed and returned to the main aquarium.
Raising the Young
The offspring should be fed several times a day using quality food, such as baby brine shrimp, baby fish food or quality flake food that is finely ground. Water quality is important, and changes should occur regularly. After 4 to 6 weeks or when the fry are larger than the mouths of adult fish, they can be moved to the main aquarium. Acclimation can be achieved by using water from the established aquarium.
Livebearers are a great type of fish to keep because they provide depth and dimension to fish keeping, provide a fantastic learning experience for both children and adults, and nurture a life-long appreciation for the aquarium hobby.