This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 26, 2009 7:50 PM. The previous post in this blog was Peaceful coexistence. The next post in this blog is Rock candy and a great big Fourth of July. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Moving day

Over the summer we posted a couple of times about the population growth issue in our fish tank. Our guppies were breeding with gusto. We had adopted a no-flush policy, and had additionally segregated the newborns from the adults so that the little ones would not become tasty snacks for the big ones. But all this solicitude for the babies meant that their numbers were outstripping the room we had to house them all.

We tried various means to stop the fish from breeding. We banned the playing of all Marvin Gaye tunes within 25 feet of the tank. We hovered over the fish, hoping that parental supervision might limit the mating activity to heavy petting. On several nights, I rehearsed lectures about tax law right next to the tank, hoping to blunt the male fish's sex drive. Nothing worked.

And so gradually we adopted new policies. As the bowls of fry grew up a bit, we added them back in with the adult population, and as new batches of babies came along, we adopted a don't-ask-don't-tell policy about cannibalism. Although we had three teenage boys chasing around dozens of females, all day long, the numbers have pretty much leveled off, at least temporarily.

As a longer-range solution, we have decided to segregate the males and the females. The guys are now in a new, smaller tank in my office, where manly things tend to happen; the far more numerous gals have been left in the big tank off the kitchen. (Talk about your gender stereotypes.) Here are the fellas in their transitional plastic bag, which is sitting in their new tank waiting for the water temperatures to even out:

We'll be watching the females now for new offspring, of which there will doubtlessly be some, given the frenetic activity of the males in recent days. We may even resume saving the newborns from their fate as Mom's lunch, since we've got only the three boys and so many more females -- we could use more guys. (Although now I feel like the Communist Chinese.) In any event, if our overall population starts to sag, there will always be opportunities for conjugal visits.

Comments (6)

A few drops of Mercurochrome in the tank will make the fish sterile.

I raised guppies for years when I was young. The females can have multiple litters from just mating once. Even though you are separating the males and females, you can still look forward to months worth of newborns. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

Yes, I know. But at least we've stopped the casanovas from doing it again.

I trust you've read Beverly Cleary's Henry Huggins story Gallons of Guppies, Jack?

You know, you are the second reader who has suggested that. I plan to get the story and read it -- no spoilers, please.

Ummm...you know that female guppies can bear young via parthenogenesis, right? The fry will all be clones of the mother, but every once in a while, the genes flip and one of the females will become male. (When you take a look at the various reproduction strategies among fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds, I'm always amazed that mammals did as well as we did. For instance, I'm always in awe of the realization that fully one-third of the world's population of Thanksgiving turkeys are products of parthenogenesis. You're eating Turkey Jesus!)

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