Breeding The Pastels (Whites)

by Dave Polunas, South Jersey Guppy Group

I’ve been breeding the pastels (not H/B, but light bodied) for over 15 years now and I still enjoy working with them. They certainly can be a challenge at times.

I first received the pastels as a yellow strain from Vic Piteo back around 1982. Although they were certainly a small fish they were fairly well proportioned with exception of a smaller dorsal than required for the delta class and a slightly narrow caudal. Vic had won the Yellow class Championship with this strain for several years before I received them and with this strain I won or placed in the Yellow class annual awards for the next three years.

From the beginning these fish started losing their yellow color in my water and turned whiter and whiter with each succeeding generation in my tanks. As you can guess, they started to get disqualified in the Yellow class at that time and I was struggling to get the color back. I dumped at least 80% of each batch and kept only the best yellow males for breeding, but it was a losing proposition.

I don’t really know why the yellow kept getting whiter and was never able to reverse the trend . My water and Vic’s were very different and I suspect this caused the color change. Vic had soft (0-10 ppm) New York City water in his tanks that I believe had a pH of 6.5-6.8. My water on the otherhand, came from my own well and was fairly hard ( 300-370 ppm) with a pH of 7.4-7.8. I later found out that the only other breeder I knew raising yellows with decent color also had very soft slightly acid water.

Anyway, I was disgusted with the yellows and I had invited a fellow club member, Frank Schulterbrandt, over to see the fish room and my problems. He said ," Don’t throw out those fish, enter them in the AOC class (now the Pastel class). They have better shape and are larger than the yellows." Since that time I’ve either won or have placed in the annual pastel class when I was showing the fish.

The best way to keep the pastels clean and white is to line breed them. I keep at least 2 or more lines of pastels, but if you have the room keep a third. Breed brother to sister for 3 generations and then cross the lines to start 2 new lines of pastels. If you don’t cross the F3 generation, both size and vigor of the fish decrease rapidly. In one line that I bred to the 7th generation the fish lost considerable size and sterility occurred.

With this strain and others I have tried breeding first cousins instead of brother to sister crosses as is often suggested by some of today's best guppy breeders. However, the results I have observed were poor. The fish lost uniformity in both size and shape and the strain started to go downhill. I was lucky to get good pastels back from a fellow club member for a cross back into my stock. Always make sure that someone else in your club or another breeder has the fish so the strain is not lost due to any of the problems we can run into like disease or using the wrong females. For pastels I now stick with line breeding which gives far superior results for me.

Selection of breeders is done in the normal fashion. At 3 to 4 months of age, the males in the best batch from a particular line are put in a large specimen container ( of course culling the males has been ruthless since the age of 1 month) . Next the males with poor shape, poor color, smallest size, or thinner caudals (transparent or striated) are returned to their tank until 3 to 4 males remain. At this point I will select the best color, most active medium sized male as my breeder. I do not use the largest males as my breeders because often they are less fertile and less short in body/caudal proportion to the medium sized males. Do not use a male with 10% or more clear in the dorsal. The clear will be dominant in all the fry from this male even if they don’t display it in the F1and will show up in subsequent generations.

Females are selected by larger size, good overall shape, thicker peduncles, and widest caudal spread paying no attention to any white versus clear area in the caudal.

My breeders are always set up in 2 gallon tanks and I normally set up 1 or 2 males to 4 females. In the confined space, the slower males can easily catch the females. I use pre hit females and let them drop once in the tank before I will take any fry. I always wait a minimum of 30 days before taking any fry to ensure the selected breeder males are the fathers. Also observe the fish during the 30 days and if the male is not actively chasing the females, then select another male as your breeder.

For taking fry the females are moved to a 5 gallon take equipped with an 8 inch spawning trap containing a Hagen spawning grass strip. Do not put females in a trap with a V bottom ever, or a flat slotted bottom trap without spawning grass or they will lay on the bottom and die. Use only the best looking 2 females for taking fry and only take 1 to 2 batches from each . You can’t improve your lines by taking too many fry from a single female.

The fry are raised in 5 gallon tanks for 4 to 6 weeks and then transferred to a 10 gallon tank keeping only half of the females. They spend the rest of their lives in these same tanks under going constant culling until only the best remain. At show age usually their are 6 to 10 males in the tanks with 3 to 4 females. Fry that are dropped in the tank are not kept. Show size is obtained at 5 to 7 months.

Next we will talk about what a great fish the pastel is for crossing into other strains, but that will be the subject for my next article.

For more information: email
Dave Polunas at