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Aquaculture, 51 (1985) 49-63

Elsevier Science Publishers B.V., Amsterdam - Printed in The Netherlands

CULTURE OF THE GUPPY, POECILIA

A.A. FERNANDO
Department
(Accepted

RETICULATA,

49

IN SINGAPORE

and V.P.E. PHANG

of Zoology, National University of Singapore, Kent Ridge, 0511 (Singapore)


17 September 1985)

ABSTRACT
Fernando, A.A. and Phang, V.P.E., 1985.
in Singapore. Aquaculture, 51: 49-63.

Culture of the guppy, Poecilia

reticulata,

Singapore is known internationally as a breeding centre for the guppy, Poecilia reticulata. About 30 domesticated colour pattern and tail shape varieties are reared, mainly
for export. The culture of these varieties at two rural and eight resettled farms is described. All farms are small family concerns. The resettled farms practise monoculture
of guppies while the rural ones integrated farming. Guppies are reared in large, shallow,
outdoor, cement tanks and nylon cage-nets suspended in ponds. Water in aquaria and
ponds has salinities from 0.5 to 9.0%,, at neutral or alkaline pH of 7.0 to 8.3. The
sizes and stocking densities of aquaria and nets vary within and between farms. In breeding tanks, a male to female sex ratio of 1:3, 1:4 or 1:lO is maintained. Newborn fry
are collected daily and placed in nursery aquaria. After 3 weeks, these fry are sexed:
young males are transferred to grow-out cement tanks, and females to grow-out cagenets. Each farm has at least two ponds, one for water storage and the others for cagenet culture. Strains are cultured separately to maintain pure lines. Farmers improve
colour patterns, size and fin shapes of the strains by continued mass selection. Fourto 6-month-old guppies are selected as brookstock and the rest which meet export quality
are held in stocking aquaria and sold when demand arises.
Each farmer prepares his own formulated diet for the fish. Supplemental foods like
live tubificiids, commercial dried fish flakes, or floating pellets may be given to adults,
and water fleas to fry. The rural farms add pig manure to fertilise the tanks.
To remain viable in the future, farmers need to increase productivity by mechanising
cleaning, draining, and filling tanks and ponds, feeding, and harvesting of the fish. This
will cut down on labour and its increasing cost. Understanding the genetics of economically important characters will also help farmers produce higher quality and more
exotic strains.

INTRODUCTION

The wild-type guppy, Poecilia reticulata, is a polymorphic cyprinodont


native to Trinidad, Barbados, Venezuela, Guyana, and parts of Brazil (Goodrich et al., 1934). The history of domestication and artificial selection
of colour-pattern and tail-shape varieties of the guppy from wild populations
is poorly documented, although it was reported to have started in the

0044-8486/85/$03.30

o 1985 Elsevier Science Publishers B.V.

50

JOHORE

CHOA

CHU

STRAITS

KANG

Km

103150E

Fig. 1. Map of Singapore to show the locations of rural guppy farms at Sembawang,
Choa Chu Kang, and Yishun, and resettled farms at the Tampines Fish Breeding Centre
(TFBC) at Tampines, and the Aquarium Fish Export Centre at Jalan Kayu.

early 1930s in the United States (Whitem, 1962). Some of the early mutant
strains derived from domesticated wild stocks were spear-tails, pintails,
swordtails, and veiltails. In 1941, some albino fish arose from an inbred line
(Axelrod and Whiter-n, 1965). Wild populations of P.reticzduta were introduced into Singapore before 1937 for mosquito control (Herre, 1940), and
are now well established in streams, monsoon drains, and canals (Johnson
and Soong, 1963). From the late 1950s a number of colour-pattern and
fin-shape varieties of guppy were developed by local guppy hobbyists through
intensive artificial selection of spontaneous mutant genes affecting body
and fin coloration, shape and size, followed by inbreeding and hybridization,
At present, 18 guppy farms are registered with the Primary Production
Department of Singapore (PPD). Before 1979, farms rearing guppies were
situated in various rural areas like Choa Chu Kang, Sembawang and Yishun,
with the greatest concentration at Sembawang (Fig. 1). These rural farms
practised integrated farming where, in addition to fish, poultry, pigs, vegetables, fruits, and orchids were cultivated. From 1979 land in some rural
districts was acquired by the authorities. Fish farms affected by land acquisition were given the option to resettle at Tampines Fish Breeding Centre
(TFBC). These resettled farms at TFBC now practise monoculture of guppies.
To promote the ornamental fish industry, the PPD set up the Aquarium
Fish Export Centre in Jalan Kayu in 1980, on land formerly used for

51

pig farming. This Export Centre has 30 plots, each 0.2 ha in size, for rental
on long lease to exporters of ornamental fish. So far 20 aquarium fish
exporters have been allotted sites at this Centre and five have completed
their facilities and started operation (Singapore, 1984). The guppy is the
predominant freshwater ornamental fish exported from Singapore (Singapore
External Trade Statistics, 1963-1983).
Other species of importance include
the angel fish (Pterophyllum
sculure), mollies (P. Zutipinna and P. sphenops),
swordtails (Xiphophorus
helleri), platies (X. mucukxtus),
barbs, tetras,
and gouramis .
There is little information on commercial culture of ornamental fish,
and as Singapore is well known as a guppy breeding centre, the aim of
this study is to describe culture activities there.
MATERIALS

AND METHODS

Farm survey and water quality analysis


All guppy farms were visited but data from eight farms at the TFBC
and two from Sembawang were included in this study. During visits to
each farm the layout, the total number, size, and stocking densities of
each type of aquarium and cage-net, the farm management, fish diets,
and packaging procedures were recorded on survey forms designed by
the authors. Salinity and temperature of water were measured 15-20
cm below the surface, with a salinometer (Yellow Springs Instrument Co.,
Model 33) with an attached thermometer. Readings were taken between
11.00 h and 12.00 h from five randomly-selected tanks for each type of
aquarium and from five cage-nets. The pH of water from these tanks and
cage-nets was determined with the Lovibond Comparator.
Feed composition
The ingredients of formulated diets for guppies were recorded. The
food composition of these feeds as well as that of live and commercial
foods was analysed. The moisture level was determined after heating overnight in a furnace at 105C. Crude fat and protein levels were determined
by the Soxhlet and Kjeldahl methods, respectively. The ash content was
determined after 48 h in a furnace at 55OC, and the nitrogen-free extract
(NFE) was calculated after all the other values had been obtained, and
subtracted from 100%.
RESULTS

AND DISCUSSION

Farm layout and management


The eight farms at TFBC which practise monoculture

of guppies range

52

TABLE 1
Number of aquaria, cage-nets, ponds, plots/pond, and average number of cage-nets/plot
at two rural (A and B) and eight resettled farms (C-J)

Farm

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J

Farm
area
(ha)

Aquaria

1.618
1.291
0.563
0.615
0.676
0.558
0.781
0.671
0.627
0.652

1000
1293
508
420
1303
305
894
916
423
302

Ponds
Cage-nets

400
360
90
192
135
80
195
160
160
160

Water
storage

Cagenets

2
3
1
1
1
1
2
2
2
1

2
2
1
4
1
1
2
1
1
1

Plots/
pond for
cage-nets

Av. no.
of
cage-nets/
plot

8
8
2
6
4
8
6
4
4
2

50
45
45
32
34
10
32
40
40
80

in size from 0.558 to 0.781 ha, with an average of 0.643 ha (Table 1).
The two integrated farms at Sembawang were larger, with areas of 1.618
ha and 1.291 ha. These have, since 1979, been relocated to TFBC due to
resettlement by the authorities. The layout of guppy-rearing facilities is
similar in all farms in that the aquaria are aggregated in zones, although
it was less orderly at the Sembawang farms (Fig. 2). The total number
of tanks and cage-nets varied depending on the size of the farms (Table 1).
The largest farm A, in Sembawang, had 1000 aquaria and 400 cage-nets
while the smallest farm F, at TFBC has 305 aquaria and 80 cage-nets. The
tanks are used for breeding, nurseries, grow-out of males, stocking and
conditioning the fish. Each farm has at least two ponds, one for water
storage and the others for cage-net culture of female guppies.
All farms are small family concerns. Food preparation, feeding, draining,
cleaning, and filling tanks and ponds, transferring, grading, and packing
fish for export are carried out in the mornings and late afternoons. In
the afternoon, the workers manually separate the male and female juveniles,
and sort adult fish for sale.
Aquaria culture
Large, shallow, cement tanks are used for breeding, grow-out of fry
and young males and stocking. These tanks are built in rows end-to-end
with two rows adjoining. These are separated from the next two rows
by an aisle, 0.5-1.0 m wide (Fig. 2). Some farms use glass tanks for stocking
and conditioning. The size of each type of tank depends on the discretion
of the farmer, and the area and shape of the farm, and they are specially
constructed for each farm. Thus there is variation in tank and cage-net

WATER

STREAM

EMBANKMENT

l-----l
RESIDENCE

ENTRANCE

Fig. 2. Schematic diagram of the layout of a resettled guppy farm (farm G) at the Tampines Fish Breeding Centre. Key: A = breeding tanks; B = nursery tanks; C = grow-out
tanks; D = stocking tanks; E = multi-purpose shed; F = cage-nets in pond; G = conditioning
area; P = motorised pump shed; SPl-10 = small cement ponds.

54

sizes both within and between farms (Table 2). No artificial aeration is
used for guppy culture. The aquaria are devoid of aquatic plants and are
partially covered by galvanized zinc roofing. About two-thirds of the water
in the tanks is siphoned out and replaced every l-3 days. Every 3-4 months
the cement aquaria are completely drained and a, powerful water jet is
used to flush out the algae and dirt from the sides and bottom. Conditioning tanks are housed in sheds where packaging, sexing, sorting, and
grading fish, and feed preparation are also carried out. These multi-purpose
sheds are built close to the farm-house for convenience (Fig. 2). All the
aquaria and ponds are covered with 2 mm2 nylon netting to exclude birds
such as kingfisher, Ceryle rudis, and the cormorant, Phabcrocorux
carbo
sinensia.
1. Breeding

aquaria

Four- to 6-month-old males selected from grow-out tanks, and females


from cage-nets, are used as broodstock. The male to female ratio of breeders
per tank varies between farms and may be 1:3, 1:4 or 1:lO. Each batch
of broodstock is used to produce 4-6 broods before they are replaced
by a younger batch. A single female can produce a brood every 26-28
days. The brood size ranges from 30 to 80 depending on the age and size
of the females. A coconut leaf is placed in each breeding tank at nine farms,
while a banana leaf is used in one farm, to provide shelter for the newborn
fry as the adults are carnivorous.
Breeding tanks vary in length and width but have a uniform height of
0.46 m. The water level in these tanks is about 0.30 m. The stocking densities of breeding tanks are lower than those of nursery and grow-out tanks,
and, depending on tank size, vary from 115 to 180 broodstock fish/m3
water (Table 2). The smallest of these tanks, 1.22 X 0.91 X 0.46 m with
0.33 m3 water, holds 40-50 breeders. The largest breeding tanks (2.13
X 1.83 X 0.46 m) with 1.17 m3 water contain 170-200 breeders. The
practice of using high male to female ratios, together with the relatively
high stocking densities in breeding tanks is to help to reduce the effects
of inbreeding. Newborn fry are collected at least twice daily. Fry of the
same variety are first placed temporarily together in a plastic or metal
basin, which is left floating in one corner of a tank, and later in the day
transferred to a nursery tank. Fry of different colour varieties are raised
in separate nursery tanks.
2. Nursery

aquaria

The nursery aquaria are usually larger than the breeding aquaria (Table
2). Stocking densities range from 140 to 300 fry/m3 water. Fry of the same
strain, with l-5 days age difference, are reared in a nursery tank for 17-21
days. By that time the juveniles are about 15 mm long and the sexes can
be separated. The farmer uses a plastic Chinese soup spoon to scoop up
the fry, one at time from a net suspended in a tank and scrutinises it. Fe-

TABLE

The sizes of tanks and cage-nets,

Aquaria

Size (m)
Length x width

and their stocking

x height

densities

at the 10 farms

Vol. of water/
tank (m3/tank)

Stocking density
(No. of fish/m
water per tank)

Total no. of
fish/tank

Breeding

2.13
1.83
1.52
1.22
1.22

x
x
x
x
x

1.83
1.22
1.52
1.07
0.91

x
x
x
x
x

0.46
0.46
0.46
0.46
0.46

1.17
0.67
0.69
0.39
0.33

145-l
70
120-180
115-145
130-180
120-150

170-200
80-120
80-100
5070
4050

qursery

3.05
2.74
2.44
1.83
1.83
1.22

x
x
x
x
x
x

3.05
1.83
1.83
1.52
1.22
0.91

x
x
x
x
x
x

0.46
0.46
0.46
0.61
0.46
0.46

2.79
1.50
1.34
1.28
0.67
0.33

280-300
180-230
200-260
140-170
150-220
180-240

500-650
270-350
270-350
180-220
100-150
6080

Cage-nets

3.05
2.74
2.44

x 0.91
x 1.83
x 1.83

x 0.91
x 1.22
x 1.83

2.11
4.56
5.45

250-400
400-550
400-600

120-180
70-120
70-110

Grow-out

3.66
3.05
2.74
2.44
2.13
2.13

x
x
x
x
x
x

x
x
x
x
x
x

0.46
0.46
0.46
0.46
0.46
0.46

2.34
1.67
1.50
1.34
1.17
0.88

280-300
200-320
200-300
200-300
160-180
160-180

400-550
330-530
300-450
270400
190-210
140-145

Stocking

0.91
0.61

x 0.46
x 0.46

x 0.30
x 0.30

0.08
0.06

140-200
100-150

2015-

Conditioning

1.07
0.91
0.91

x 0.61
x 0.61
x 0.46

x 0.46
x 0.46
x 0.46

0.20
0.17
0.13

340-500
300-400
220-320

70-100
5070
3040

2.13
1.83
1.83
1.83
1.83
1.37

30
20

males are distinguished from males by the presence of the dark gravid
spot at the urogenital opening. Young males also appear more streamlined
than the females when viewed dorsally.
3. Grow-out aquaria
After sexing, the male and female juveniles of a variety are reared in
separate grow-out tanks to prevent indiscriminate mating, maintain pure
breeds, and to achieve faster growth (C.L. Lim, personal communication,
1980). When females are about 2 months old, they are transferred to cagenets suspended in a pond where they are left to grow for another 2 months.
In farm G, 10 small cement ponds (2 X 10 X 2 m) are used for grow-out
of female guppies. Males remain in the grow-out aquaria till they are 3-4

56

months old. Of the different types of aquaria, those used for grow-out
are the largest. The largest of these tanks measured 3.66 X 2.13 X 0.46
m and stocked 400-550
males or females. Stocking density shows considerable variation, from 160 to 320/tank (Table 2).
Broodstock are selected from 4-6 month-old fish in the grow-out aquaria
and cage-nets. Breeder males are selected for large and streamlined body,
large dorsal fin, fan or delta-shaped caudal fin, and, most importantly,
for uniformity and vividness of colour patterns. Colour variants, if any,
are selected at this stage and are greatly valued for production of new
strains. Female breeders are chosen for large size, vigour, and expression
of colour on tails.
The remaining males which meet export quality for uniform and bright
colours, undamaged fins of appropriate shape and size, and freedom from
disease are transferred to stocking tanks. Fewer females are sold because
of their drab coloration. The rejects, mostly females, are sold to local aquarium retailers where the better ones may be bought by fish hobbyists
and the rest sold as live food for economically important carnivorous fish
such as oscars (Astronotus
sp.), marble goby (Oxyeleotris mapnoruta), and
the golden dragon (Scleropages forrnosus).
4. Stocking aquaria
Four- to 6-month-old males selected for sale are held in glass or cement
stocking tanks at densities of 100 to 200 males/m3 water. The different
varieties are usually kept in separate stocking tanks. The stocking period
varies from a few days to a few weeks. The turnover rate in the stocking
tanks is higher from September to March when there is greater demand
for ornamental fish from temperate countries of the northern hemisphere.
5. Conditioning

aquaria

When orders for fish are received, males from stocking tanks, and females
from cage-nets, are transferred to conditioning aquaria where they are
held for l-3 days to ensure that they are disease-free before being packed.
During this period the fish are not fed. Glass or cement conditioning tanks
are small, for example 0.91 X 0.46 X 0.46 m (Table 2). Other containers,
such as plastic or aluminium basins and Styrofoam boxes, may also be
used. The stocking densities in these tanks are higher than for all other
types of aquaria (220 to 500 fish/m3 water). For convenience, conditioning
is carried out in multi-purpose sheds, where the fish are graded and packed.
Cage-net

culture

In view of increasing demand for ornamental fish, coupled with heavy


and rising capital investment costs (on land, construction of ponds, and
cement aquaria), operating costs and severe labour shortage, a more efficient and less expensive system for mass cultivation has become neces-

57

sary for long-term survival of the guppy industry. In response, each farm
has at least one pond for cage-net culture (Table 1). This system of farming
has long been practised in Indonesia, Cambodia and Thailand for food
fish but has been introduced to Singapore only in recent years for ornamental fish culture (Tay, 1977). In guppy farms 2-month-old females from growout aquaria are reared in cage-nets for 2 months.
The ponds for cage-nets are subdivided into 2-8 plots with vertical
poles. Each plot contains at least two rows of nylon cage-nets which are
partially submerged in water. Wooden planks serving as catwalks are constructed between rows of cage-nets. These catwalks provide access to nets
for feeding, stocking and harvesting the fish, as well as for installation
and removal of nets. Cage-nets do not vary much in size between farms
and usually have the following dimensions; 3.05 X 0.91 X 0.91 m, 2.74 X
1.83 X 1.22 m, or 2.44 X 1.83 X 1.83 m. The nets are fastened to the
catwalks by nylon ropes and are weighted down by stones or sandbags. Each
nylon cage-net costs about S$20 and lasts for about one year.
Cage-net culture has several advantages over aquarium culture; the
capital outlay is lower, cost of food is reduced since the fish can feed on
natural organisms in the water, water does not need frequent replacement,
and conditions in the pond are more stable. However, in the tropics, the
nets rapidly get clogged up with a thick layer of algal growth which is
difficult to remove. This impedes the free flow of water between cages.
As a result the nets have to be dismantled and removed from the pond
monthly and the algae flushed out with a powerful jet of water.
Water storage ponds
Ponds for water storage and collection of rain water have earth bottoms
with low, narrow embankments, and are not treated with chemicals nor
fertilised after excavation. In some farms coconut trees are grown along
the embankments to supply the leaves required for the breeding tanks.
Size of ponds varies from 20 X 15 m to 40 X 15 m with depth of about
5 m, and they are usually shallower at the ends. Ponds are rectangular
in shape for ease of operation, such as dredging, and removal of pest fish
with seine-nets. The water storage ponds are excavated close to a brackish
water stream or river estuary. Brackish water from these sources which
is not filtered or chemically treated is pumped in to fill about l/3 of the
ponds capacity. Fine-mesh screens over water inlets help to prevent enti&F
of eggs and fry of pest fish such as Oreochromis mossambicus (tilapia),
Gambusia affinis (mosquito fish), wild P. reticulata and P. sphenops (molly).
Despite this measure, some pest fish are found in the ponds and have to
be removed periodically.
Water q uatity
There were no significant differences

in water quality between rural

58

and resettled farms. In a.ll farms, guppies were raised in outdoor tanks or
cage-nets filled with brackish water diluted two-thirds with rain water,
and salinities ranged from 0.5 to 9.0/ oo. As a euryhaline species, the guppy
can also tolerate low salinity (0.0-3.0/oo) in conditioning tanks which
are filled with standing tap water with addition of some rough salt. The
pH of the water was in the neutral or alkaline range, with very little variation.
Water temperatures ranged from 24 to 32C.
Feeds and feeding regime
In its natural habitat the guppy feeds on small invertebrates, aquatic
insect larvae, algae, and other plant material (Nayudu, 1975; Dussault
and Kramer, 1981). They are voracious and indiscrimate feeders. The farmers prepare formulated feeds for the guppies because of escalating prices
of commercial dried fish foods and the unsuitability of some of them. PreTABLE 3
Formulated diets and supplemental foods for guppy adults and fry
Farm

C
D
E

F
G
H

I
J

Formulated diets

Skimmed milk powder, ground


wheat bran, fish meal, or
hard boiled egg yolk, or
ground dried shrimp
Skimmed milk powder,
ground wheat bran, and
minced beef or ground
dried shrimp
Skimmed milk powder, ground
wheat bran, and fish meal
Skimmed milk powder, ground
oats, and wheat flour
Buttermilk powder, ground
wheat bran, and poultry
starter crumbles
Buttermilk powder, ground
wheat bran, and fiih meal
Buttermilk powder, wheat
flour, and fish meal
Skimmed milk powder, ground
wheat bran, wheat flour,
and fiih meal
Skimmed milk powder, soyabean flour, wheat flour,
and fish meal
Skimmed milk powder, ground
wheat bran, and fish meal

Supplemental foods
Adults

Fry

Nil

Water fleas

Tubificiids

Water fleas

Tubificiids

Water fleas

Tubificiids
Food flakes
Tubificiids
Floating pellets

Nil

Tubificiids
Food flakes
Tubificiids

Nil

Tubificiids

Nil

Tubificiids

Nil

Tubificiids

Nil

Water fleas

Nil

59

pared diets from the 10 farms are quite similar (Table 3). Skimmed milk
or buttermilk is used as the protein source. Ground wheat bran or wheat
flour is used to supply carbohydrates and fibre, and to act as the binding
agent. Usually equal proportions of these two ingredients are mixed together.
To increase protein content, fish meal is included in the diets at 7 farms,
minced beef or ground dried shrimps in farm B, and hard-boiled egg yolk
or ground dried shrimps at farm A. Soyabean flour is included in the diet
at farm I. No vitamin or mineral supplements are used. The fish feed is
prepared each morning by mixing the ingredients together into a fine paste
by gradual addition of water. It is then cooked or steamed in a large pan
to form a semi-solid cake. When cooled, lumps of food are scooped by
hand and fed to the fish.
The diets of adult fish at two farms are supplemented with imported
food flakes (Wardley and Aqua&e) and at another with floating pellets
from Japan (Table 3). In all farms except farm A, breeders are also given
live Tubifex worms. The fry are fed with water fleas (Daphnia spp. and
Moina spp.) in some farms, once a day at about 09.00 h. Formula feeds
are given twice daily, at noon and 16.00-18.00
h till fry are about 3 weeks
old (Table 4). Adults are fed 2-3 times daily, at about 09.00 h, 12.00 h,
and 16.00-18.00
h. Live foods are obtained once every few days from
farms which specialise in their culture.
In the two rural farms, pig manure was added as fertilizer to the cement
aquaria and cage-net ponds to enhance the growth of natural food organisms.
In these farms water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) and water convolvulus
(Ipomea aquatica) were grown in water storage ponds to be fed to pigs.
Phang and Lee (1985) reported similar fertilization of ponds with chicken
or pig manure for culture of sailfin mollies (P. Zutipinna) in Singapore.
TABLE 4
Frequency and times of feeding of the formulated
adult gunnies in 10 farms

diets, and supplemental

Frequency and times of feeding of


Farm

Formulated diet

A
I3
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J

Twice; 09.00 h,
Once; 12.00 h
Once; 09.00 h
Twice; 12.00 h,
Twice; 10.00 h,
Twice; 12.00 h,
Twice; 12.00 h,
Twice; 10.00 h,
Twice; 10.00 h,
Once; 12.00 h

Supplemented foods
17.00 h

18.00
17.00
16.00
16.00
18.00
18.00

h
h
h
h
h
h

Nil
Occasionally; 09.00 h
Once; 09.00 h
Once; 09.00 h
Once; 09.00 h
Once; 09.00 h
Once; 10.00 h
Occasionally; 12.00 h
Once; 12.00 h
Occasionally; 09.00 h

foods of

60
TABLE

Nutritional
values of
nitrogen free extract)

the

formulated

diets,

and

live and commercial

food

of

the

guppy

(NFE:

(% in dry matter)
Crude fat

NFE

Ash

Moisture

Dry matter

Crude protein

72.83
68.59
74.48
75.81
76.39
53.28
73.83
69.68
69.00
67.72

27.17
31.41
25.52
24.19
23.61
46.72
26.17
30.32
31.00
32.28

29.70
23.11
19.99
15.78
15.08
31.64
22.16
32.96
33.94
25.84

4.62
5.60
7.11
4.01
6.73
6.99
4.68
3.41
3.40
4.22

59.06
64.47
67.69
77.41
74.38
48.28
65.24
47.02
47.50
62.60

6.62
6.82
5.21
2.80
3.81
13.09
7.92
16.61
15.16
7.34

Commercial
dried food
Floating pellets
Food flakes (Wardley)

11.20
10.70

88.80
89.30

30.26
52.88

8.56
6.98

50.78
34.19

10.40
5.95

Live food
Tubificiids
Water fleas

83.20
90.73

16.80
9.27

71.20
62.50

5.44
10.42

19.80
15.44

3.56
11.64

Formulated

diets at farm

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J

This method of integrated farming was introduced to South-East Asia


by the early Chinese immigrants from the southeastern provinces of China,
especially Kwangtung and Fukien (Chen and Sim, 1967). Prior to relocation
to TFBC, the rural farms practised this traditional method of farming.
There is scant information on the nutrient requirements of the guppy.
A recent study by Chua (1983) showed that 6- to l&week-old female
guppies (variety Tuxedo) required a 30% protein level for optimal growth
and food conversion efficiency. Crude protein levels of formulated diets
ranged from 15.08 to 33.94% of dry matter (Table 5). The protein levels
in formulated feeds at farms D and E were low because they did not include
fish meal or other high protein ingredients (Table 3). In contrast, live foods
and commercial food flakes contain more than 50% protein. Due to high
costs, only breeders and fry are given live food. The nitrogen free extract
(NFE) values of formulated feeds were high (47.02 to 77.41%). Fat levels
in live, commercial, and formulated feeds were comparable, ranging from
3.40 to 10.42/00. Live foods had the highest moisture content, 83.20%
. . ..
for tublficnds and 90.73% for water fleas; flakes and pellets had the lowest
values, 10.70% and 11.20% respectively; while formulated feeds had intermediate values of 53.28 to 76.39%.
Packing for export

For export by air freight, 4-6-month-old


guppies after conditioning
are placed in plastic bags, 67 X 25 cm or 70 X 25 cm, Each bag contains
2-3 1 of standing tap water with rock salt added, bringing salinities to

61

8-12/oo. The stocking density per bag is 50-75 fish/l water. The antibiotic tetracycline at concentrations of about 200 mg/l water is added.
The bags are inflated with 4-6 1 of oxygen and the open end tied tightly
with rubber bands. These bags of fish are delivered by pick-up lorry to
exporters or they may be collected by brokers who in turn supply to exporters. The fish are repacked by the exporters into oxygenated plastic bags,
placed in Styrofoam boxes (38 X 38 X 26 cm), and delivered to the airport.
Marketing

Ornamental fish exported from Singapore are locally produced or imported from countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong,
Taiwan, and Japan (Singapore External Trade Statistics, 1963-1983).
Total export increased from S$O.7 million in 1963 to about S$31 million
in 1983 (Table 6). The bulk of the rise in export is due to increases in
local production although imports have also been increasing but at a slower
rate. Of the 200 species of ornamental fish exported from Singapore, the
guppy is the most important. The major international export markets
for freshwater ornamental fish are the United States, Federal Republic
of Germany, United Kingdom, France, and Italy. Prices of guppies depend
on the variety, time of the year, sex and size. The demand rises from September to March during the autumn and winter months of the northern
hemisphere, with the peak from December to February. More males are
sold and they fetch higher prices because of their attractive colours and
varied fin shapes. Males of common local varieties (like Red Tail, Blue
Tail and Tuxedo) are sold for S$0.20-0,40/fish.
Males of newer varieties
(like Neon and Rainbow) may fetch up to S$l/fish. Females are much
cheaper, selling for S$O.O5-0.12 each. Smaller fish cost less,
TABLE 6
Quantity and value (thousand S$) of the import and export of ornamental fish for the years 1963
to 1983, at 4-yearly intervals. Statistics obtained from the Singapore External Trade Statistics 19631983 (Jan. to Dec.)
Import
(CIF)

Domestic export
(FOB)

Quantity

Value

1967
1971
1975
1979
1983

24
125
357
335
709
504

287
1 385
1855
3 084
6 115
6 840

CIF
S$
Export

not available
Freight On Board
Cost + Insurance + Freight
Singapore dollar
Domestic export + reexport

1963

644.51
491.80
909.66
339
453
018

Quantity
264
190
529
472
809
000

Export
(FOB)
Value

Quantity

Value

13 292 936
33 690 551
30 538 000

59
214
687
1 243
1441
1588

782
2 671
7 591
14 413
34 538
30 846

n.a.
n.a.
na.
1 777 063
1402 216
1 555 606

of imported fish.

750 80
238.96
045.61
310
308
066

174
106
172
070
300
000

62
CONCLUSION

Although Singapore is only 629.2 km2 in area, her strategic geographic


location and excellent network of air connections with major world markets,
coupled with the ingenuity and dedication of farmers, have led to the
growth and success of the ornamental fish industry. In recent years the
acute land shortage has been keenly felt because of the need for land for
other purposes such as industrial development, public housing and amenities.
As a result many farms have been affected by land acquisition. Some farms,
including A and B, have been resettled from their scattered rural locations
to the TFBC. However, a number of smaller ones have given up operations
because of insufficient capital and expertise to start anew. Other difficulties
faced by guppy farmers are shortage and high cost of labour, partly due
to the tendency for young workers to shun employment in the agricultural
sector for work in the city and factories. In order for these farms to remain
viable they need to mechanise cleaning, draining and filling tanks and ponds,
and feeding and harvesting the fish, so as to reduce manpower costs. In
guppy farming the most laborious and time-consuming task is that of
sexing juveniles individually. A possible way of overcoming this problem
is to produce all-male progeny by genetic or hormonal methods, which
has been successfully carried out for tilapia (Guerrero, 1979; Hulata et al.,
1981).
The ingredients of the formula feeds for guppies are imported, and the
cost is increasing. To reduce costs, farmers could select for fast growing
fish using cheaper alternative food sources. Understanding the genetics
of economically important characters of the guppy valued by fish hobbyists
would help to produce new and more exotic varieties. This is essential
to sustain the interests of guppy fanciers.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The authors thank the guppy farmers, especially Mr. and Mrs. Tony
Toh, Mr. and Mrs. C.L. Lim, Mr. B.C. Leow, and Mr. B.K. Toh, for their
cooperation and help. We appreciate the generous assistance of Mr. George
Tay, Head, Freshwater Fisheries Laborato_ry, Sembawang Field Experimental
Station, Primary Production Department. We thank Mrs. J. Mui for typing
the manuscript, Mr. K.J. Goh for special assistance, Mr. H.K. Yip for preparing the prints for the figures, Mrs. O.Y. Yap for drawing Fig. 1, and
Mr. W.L. Chua for the food analyses. This work was funded by a grant,
RP 3/76, from the National University of Singapore to V.P.E. Phang.

63
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