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Picture 8Creative Commons License courtesy of Bremer Kid - This and That

Pregnancy in live bearing fish is much different and less traumatic than the same process in mammals. Fertilized eggs develop inside the female fish without a placental connection, and they have no parenting instinct. In fact, live bearing parents will eat their unprotected fry.

Most livebearing female fish drop fry about once in every 28 days, and they can deliver up to three batches after only one contact with a male. As a result, mature females remain pregnant so long as they are healthy. Right before dropping fry, the gravid area near her vent becomes flattened.

In normal circumstances, live bearing fry enter the world, often at night, as fully formed individuals capable of living on their own. Their first instinct is to swim to the water surface. A large raft of fast growing plants at the water surface will provide the fry a refuge as well as some microorganisms to eat. Plants like hornwort, water sprite and anacharis also improve water quality by ingesting toxic nitrogen compounds.

A female live bearing fish placed in a breeding trap or moved to another aquarium is likely to suffer stress. This in turn can lead to premature delivery, and fry are born with yolk sacs not yet fully consumed. Often they fall to the bottom and drown. Dense floating plants eliminate the need to inflict stress on the female.

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment or give me a


  • ZachAttack: Very informative, my one female has been delivering fry ever since october without any contact with the male.
  • ziggy_h: another grate blog on M.A.C i know everything know because of blogs like this on this site
  • arnabbar: wow great information.i really looking for like this block for a long time....really helpful.
  • ScottG: Great blog there seem to be alot of people asking about mollies reacently!
    i myself have become a molly dad for the second time in 3 weeks and i have left my females in the comunity tank all through her pregnancy i then catch the fry and place them in a breeding net for about two weeks before moving them to my nurseary tank untill they are big enough not to be eaten by the other fish or move on to other people i currently have 34 fry 25 born 2 days and 9 from a previous batch a few weeks ago that i didnt see until most were already eaten.
    i noow have 25 black mollies and 9 white mollies. All born in the comunity tank in long bushy pants that go all the way to the surface of the water.
  • meetamol: Very useful John....
  • Diane: I have a black molly who is currently trying to give birth. She is still in the pond outside with the other fish - has lots of plants - she has been swimming around all day with what looks like half a fry nearly out but not quite. Mum Molly is huge and is having trouble swimming. Is it normal to be in labor for so long...? If I put her in a tank she will stress but I don’t know if I should take her out and try and pull the fry out, hoping that this may help the others come out? Just seems to be an awfully long time to be swimming around with half the fry half in and half out... I’m new at this so was hoping someone could advise me :)
  • thea: Diane
    I will not comment on the stuck fry as I do not keep mollies but if you post this question on the forums I am sure someone will be able to help you and you will get an answer quicker. My gut says leave the mom to do her thing...trying to extract the fry may hurt her but I may be wrong as I have no experience in these things.
  • Diane: Thanks Thea, appreciate you quick response. I will wait and see how she is in the morning.
  • fish keeper101: that is great information!
  • Snarggle: How soon after giving birth can a female guppie become pregnant again? Also, can guppies suffer from inbreeding problems?
  • johnarthur: They usually stay pregnant, because live bearing female fish can deliver up to three batches of fry after only one contact with a male.
  • Snarggle: We are going to need a bigger tank....this batch yielded 8 fry...and the male is going after the female allready....doing his little tail dance and bumping the female.....
  • LEIGHZ77: Great advice thanks,needed this too as I’ve got female endlers due to drop anytime soon!
  • niks007s: Great info. Now ready to start a breeding tank.
  • Snarggle: I need some validation of the info I got at the LFS...they said if you put a group of guppies in a tank the dominate female will turn into a male...and that the guppy fry can be born pregnant...I know this is true for some insects and jelly fish....but those are much simpler creatures...the lady at the store did have a really long pinky nail, so I take the info with a grain of sand......thanks
  • johnarthur: If it’s true it’s a surprise to me. Live bearing fish do, in rare cases, appear to change gender. Female guppy fry become impregnated early in their lives and usually stay that way.
  • Snarggle: So I’m doomed...I gave my 2 males away(to my sister) after the second batch of fry poped now my 5 are 18 in a month or so
  • johnarthur: Female live bearing fish can deliver up to three batches of fry after only one contact with a male. Fry will survive if you float lots of hornwort.
  • Snarggle: this morning i woke up to 5 more fry bringing my total to a month and a half....Think i need a turtle
  • Natasha: Fantastic blog, i had no idea that putting them in a breeding box before she is ready will make her prematurely give birth. Thank you for this :)
  • Bonnietaylor: great info
  • myhorsebelle: I love your blogs, they are so informative. I only hope that someday I can be as knowledgeable as you are about all phases of aquarium keeping. My guppies have had fry 3 times now. The first time they dispeared the first day, the second time I have 3 fry that have survived and gotten some size to them, and then this last time I have managed to keep 6 of the fry. I had them in my 10 gallon, which is my quartine/hospital tank and I had put an Angel in there before I saw that we had new babies. Before I could get them out, he managed to have a good meal! I have been dealing with baby Kribs the past few weeks. Of course they are not livebearers, Mom and Dad are excellent parents and even though they are in a community tank with Angels, Gourmais etc, I still have about 40/50 babies getting some size. They are starting to swim out of their swarm and the parents protection so I guess we will see how many survive. Baby fish are allot of fun. Keep up the good work.
  • Miriam: Thank you that helped so I will not put my fish in a net let her go naturally, so she won’t get stressed.
  • Miriam: Question I set the tank up I added this liquid the pet store told me to API Quick Start , what else should I purchase sorry to bother I just don’t know this was a gift for my sons graduation he wanted fishes.
  • Miriam: Helpful thanks again
  • Sova: "live bearing fry enter the world, often at night" _ I think this is not correct_ last week i.e. 17.6.13_ My black molly give fry at day, i watch it,.. she ate 2, but i save more than 30 little fry.
  • briantheref7: As the blog says "most often at night". We have had 3 batches of fry, 2 batches born during the night. the 3rd batch, we are still catching the fry 2 days later.
  • Miriam: Great bog, my Mickie platypus had 15 frays during the day not sure if there were more but that’s what I got how will I know she’s done

    Thank you for the information, very helpful

  • Help me please: Hello johnArthur!
    one of my guppies dropped 3 fry’s last night if more they were eaten however,their tummies are still fat and their entire gavid spot is black my question is will it be dropping more today or tonight since this is the 30th day,when I saw the fry’s they all were on the bottom.
    johnArthur one thing concerns me the fry stay on the side where all the fish spend a lot of time and most of them sleep on that side at night.Should I have the pet shop to put some hornworth together to float and what can I do for the bottom of the tank as to hiding spots for them.
    I’m happy knowing the green peas helps constipation in fish,my experience was my female platy&female dalmation poop would be thick round and long it’s been a while I let one meal be green peas last wk.the platy had the longest poop I’ve ever seen it was nearly four inches long now the platy and all the fish poop isn’t long and looks thin as a peace of thread.
    one more question I put a peace of lettuces in the aquariam hoping to have many snails to do away with there was only seven,I don’t mine having some just don’t want the tank over crowded what should I do.
    Enjoy your week.
  • johnarthur: Livebearing females uaually but not always drop all of their fry at the same time. Since fry instinctively swim to the water surface, a large float of hornwort or other bushy plant will protect them. Here are a couple links that should help answer your questions:
    If you post questions in one of the topic catagories, you will probably get more answers than you will posting them as part of a blog. The linked materials should at least get you started.
  • jess: This was a really easy to read and informative post, I have a balloon molly due any day now I moved her into her own maternity tank half way through the pregnancy and scooped her it with a cup instead of a net as not to stress her, it seemed to have worked as she stayed really relaxed and continued with the pregnancy :D
  • Agnoble: Please how will I know my guppy has finished having her fries. I came from work and noticed 8 fries and one 1 dead fry. I have taking the mama out of the trap thank to put others that look likely to give birth. I am not sure if the first mama has finished delivering. I have waited 6 hours though nothing more
  • KMAC5: Great info for the beginning breeder.
  • skyprincess: How long does it take for a guppy to drop? She looks like shes going to pop and has had "pink plug" coming out for three days now.
  • Abhishake: Thank you so much sir,for your help.
  • vanessavelez6: really helpful and informative.
  • Abhinab: IT HELPED ME A LOT....THNK U....
  • babymollys: she dosent have a gravld spot but the lady at the petstore sald she was and she very fat and she has all the syptoms of a pregnet flsh thats ready to drop fry anythlng l can do or feed her to lnduce the labor
  • debcc: babymollys: not all fish will have an obvious gravid spot — a lot depends on their color. There is nothing you can, or should, do to try to hurry her along. Let nature take its course. If you stress her out by trying to hurry her along, the results could be very bad.
  • Jacquie: Hi,I have three guppies two yellow cobra females and a blue tuxedo male I have been wondering this forever I hope someone can help my two females have looked pregnant forever they have been in tanks with other males and they both have gravid spots so I am wondering if they are pregnant please respond to me as soon as possible
  • johnarthur: If they are healthy, the female guppies are pregnant. They often drop their fry at night then join tankmates in eating them. Thus you may never know the fry were born. A large, dense raft of floating plants will provide a refuge for the fry.
  • SumthingsFishie: Good read. I breed live bearers and have tried breeding nets and traps vs none. I always have way better luck with them when they are not confined which stresses them and I’ve seen them EAT babies before they had a chance to reach safety in the traps. I no longer use traps or nets.
    Instead, I use heavily planted tanks where the fry can hide. When I know mom’s getting ready to give birth, I shut off the lights to reduce her stress and so she won’t chase fry and eat them.
    I feed mom heavily with high protein foods like frozen/freeze dried black worms, blood worms and Repashy foods.
    It works!
  • MyFish: How do I tell if Tetras, or Dalmatian Mollys are pregnant?
  • johnarthur: Tetras don’t get pregnant, because their eggs must be externally fertilized. Pregnant Dalmatian mollies will have the same indicators as other livebearing female fish. However, the balloon molly does not occur naturally and is the result of selective breeding, inbreeding and culling programs. Their unusual shape makes pregnancy difficult or impossible to detect.
  • Ilovemyfish13: Ok thank you so much.
  • Jacquie: So yesterday evening i was feeding my fish and noticed a baby fish so i began looking for fry I found a few and i had to go to bed,the next morning i looked and saw allot i caught what babies i could but i had to go to school. When I came home I removed the adult fish and placed them in containers and continued looking for baby fish I caught 23 fry not counting one that had gotten squished I cannot figure out who is the mother as I have alot of females one of my cobra guppys is allot smaller though.How can I take care of the fry and what should I do? I have hikari first bites for them is that enough? Do I have a good number of fry? please answer my questions as they are needed for the life and well being of my fish
  • guppy man: love it.
  • Tamar: when I put my pregnant placy in a trap she got really stressed and all the fry drowned or were yolks. I find it easier to put more plants in when females are due and let them birth on their own accord
  • johnarthur: Unless it’s done very carefully, moving a pregnant livebearing fish into a trap or different aquarium can be very stressful for her. Stress, in turn, often causes the premature delivery of fry that can’t fend for themselves. Such fry usually have yolk sac remaining and are thus unable to swim.
  • SeaTea161: Nice Blog
  • Vicky Sauer: Okay, this is the only way I can get it out for this by making a topic
  • johnarthur: Hi Vicky: It’s OK if you write another blog on a similar topic, or you can just add your comments here.
  • MJTom: Thanks for a good info.
    My platy dropped her fry 2 wks ago. Her tummy is still big.
    Like she’s still very pregnant.
    It looks like there’s still orangey round thing inside still.
    Could she still be pregnant?
    You said they carry for 28 days,
    I don’t think she dropped any since then.
    My other platy who dropped her fry 5 wks ago had a small tummy after giving birth. Like it’s been emptied.
  • johnarthur: Livebearing female fish do not always drop all their fry in a short period. Some can spread it out for several days.
  • Amanda: Thank you! This was incredibly helpful!
  • paige.waddell: good job

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