Before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ayyappa Das, a native of Kerala’s Ernakulam district, was a busy carpenter. But when the lockdown began, he was one of the millions of people who were forced to stay at home without any income.
But today, Ayyappa’s story reads differently — he’s a successful ornamental fish seller.
“During the lockdown, I browsed through various web portals and noticed many new businesses that people had launched from home. Some were into pickle sales and some into lotus cultivation, among many more. Because I already had a small collection of guppy fish at home, I decided to try my hands at starting a business of selling them,” he tells The Better India.
Guppies, also known as million fish, rainbow fish and poecilia reticulata (latin), are one of the world’s most widely distributed tropical fish, and one of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish species. They are differentiated by sizes, colours, patterns and tail shapes.
Ayyappa began by posting pictures of young guppies from his collection on his Facebook page, which led to his friends and relatives placing orders. This, in turn, helped him understand how in demand the fish usually is, and he purchased two new fish tanks, as well as two pairs of guppies for Rs 250, from a shop nearby. These were two months old, and both male and female. He placed them in two different bowls for almost two months.
“Guppies can breed when they turn four months old. So once that time period was over, I transferred them into a single bowl so they could breed. Within three months, they began giving birth to babies,” he says.
“In the first instance, there were 10-25 babies, but in the second, the fish gave birth to around 80. They can birth at least five times, but babies born after that won’t be healthy enough,” the 39-year-old explains.
Ayyappa sells the two-month-old babies to customers, as they’re more healthy than the mother guppies. He says that the mother may eat some of the babies after delivery, so one must keep the tank well-fed and with lots of hiding spots. If not, the mother should be moved from the tank immediately after delivery.
“If you want a variety of guppies in your tank, keep two to three female ones for each male one. The male has a tendency to stress the females out by chasing them around the tank,” he adds. He also says that as the guppies are an average of 2 inches long, three can be kept in a 5-gallon tank. But in the long run, a tank of 10-20 gallons would be better.
Ayyappa has over 1,500 guppies in his house, of 18 varieties including platinum red, chilly red, albino red, and red dragon. He earns over Rs 25,000 a month from selling these fish, and till date, has sold over 5,000. His family, which includes a wife, three kids, and his parents, help Ayyappa’s venture by feeding the fish and cleaning the tank. “Taking care of guppies is easy, and if I’m not available at home, my kids take care of them,” he says.
He adds that one can care for guppies even if they have a full-time job. The fish only require to be fed, and their tank is to be cleaned on a daily basis. Ayyappa often conducts lessons that impart similar tips on how to care for the fish.
He tells The Better India a few things to remember before you start breeding guppies at home:
Check the ratio of fresh water: He recommends that the tank should be cleaned every week. The ratio of fresh water to old water should be 60:40. Otherwise, the fish may die, because they cannot tolerate 100% fresh water.
Observe: If you find a fish floating at the bottom of the tank for a long period, this may indicate unhealthy or poor water conditions. The water should be changed immediately.
Fresh air: If the fish naturally has access to fresh air, a filter is not required. If not, one should try to arrange for a sponge filter, as any other would harm the tiny fish.
Food: Ayyappa feeds his fish twice a day. In the morning, he gives them feeding flakes, which are powdered so the fish can consume them easily. In the evening, he provides live food, Moina. He also breeds a Moina culture in his home. He says an interesting fact about guppies is that they can survive without food for a week.
Dead fish: If you see a dead fish, take it out from the tank immediately to avoid infection. You will be able to spot them easily, as they float on top.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)