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Breeding for education inquiry


Dancing Matt
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Hi everybody, I am working on becoming a biology teacher (just finishing my associated of science now). I was thinking about running a breeding project in class to help get kids invested and to use as visual/tactile teaching examples (ecosystems, natural selection, anatomy, reproduction, etc.).

My thought was to have the class chose what traits we are trying to breed for, selectively breed, and keep record of each generation to see how close to the "goal" we get by the end. I do not yet have experience breeding fish (about one year into the hobby) and was wondering is this possible? I was first thinking guppies but in looking found sources saying that female guppy reach sexual maturity at 3 months, this would mean only three generations in a school year which I am concerned would be not enough to notice change from parent generation (i was hoping for 5? maybe that would be enough?). Would three generations be enough?

I saw some articles saying Nothobranchius furzeri reached sexual maturity in a few weeks but would you be able to selectively breed them for traits enough to see a different result?

I love the life in biology and would hope to share some of that passion through this... it would also allow me to "play" with fish for work 🙂 I would likely try and run this at home before I start teaching to help work out the kinks.

-Thanks

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I would go for the guppies. What you could lose in generations, you will gain in durability and activity.

Would this be high school?

You can see why fruit flies are so popular, what with all the generations and all the traits you can get in a short period of time.

Two other liverbearers that breed just as fast as guppies are Platys and Swordtails. They have interesting variable traits and a multi-factor sexual selection system that may add that extra zing you are looking for.

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Also @WhitecloudDynasty has an on going breeding project that involves white clouds, an easy to keep, easy to breed aquarium fish. He might have some good input.

And here is a link to the Aquarist Podcast where @Randy has an interesting discussion about swordtails, platys and the genetics of sex in those 2 species.

 

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Love the idea!

White cloud are way more hardier than guppies, but guppy will give you more generation within the few month you are with your students. I would work with wild guppy. They are smaller..less waste, less food, and smaller aquarium. The only problem i see is that you can choose your male, but who knows what the female may carry.

With the shorter life in guppies you'll get a mature male sooner, white cloud hits their prime around 18month and can life up to 6 year.

If you end up choosing white cloud pm me and ill send you some stock to play with. 

 

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I would say guppies for the breeding project but I agree with @WhitecloudDynasty guppies are not very hardy in my opinion even though I absolute love them. They would be a lot better than white clouds for a project. What size tank are you doing? If you are doing a 30 or maybe a 20 I think mollies would be nice. They are like guppies they breed like rabbits. Hope your project goes well.

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@Dancing Mattcongrats on finishing up your associates and pursuing teaching! I wish I’d had that much freedom as a biology teacher. In New York State we spent the whole year teaching to the regents test. 😛

This study is claiming to get significant color selection after just three generations of guppies:

https://bmcresnotes.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13104-020-4909-5

If you’re really committed, you may try to breed some virgin females over the summer. That way you’re guaranteed to know who the daddy is. Though it also might be really neat for the kids to try to guess which fry came from their male fish and which might have come from a different one. I’m not sure how you feel about lying to your kids for the sake of drama, but you could find some paternity test data and say it was from the fish, and have the kids read it to see which babies belong to their father fish. 

Or, if you live near a university with an ecology department, you may be able to convince someone there to do real paternity tests on the fish for you, which would be super awesome.

Regardless of whether you do paternity tests, you could definitely get some punnet square material out of them. It sounds like guppy background color is autosomal recessive. Though it looks like guppies have sex-linked traits where the genes are on both X and Y chromosomes, which is definitely more advanced than we got into in honors bio. Here’s a nice article on guppy genetics:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/266733422_Colour_genes_of_the_ornamental_guppies_of_Singapore

This sounds like so much fun!!

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Ken Burke is onto something with the summer tub idea. So, we set up a tank in a 5th grade class each year and in a 12th grade bio class. It’s a small private school that has been able to continue in-person classes even this year. We stocked the 33-gal long tank in the  5th grade class with guppies, red cherry  shrimp, and several bristlenose Plecos. The 55-gal up in the high school we set up with Buenos Aires tetras, electric blue Acara, firemouth cichlids, a couple bristlenose Plecos, and a single female convict. The guppies have all dropped lots of fry. And the Firemouths have also had fry. We treat it like a “living laboratory.” Our focus is more broadly about the entire ecosystem. Students learn about everything concerning the nitrogen cycle, water testing, behavioral observation, plant life and factors affecting plant health, ecosystem relationships, etc. The idea of focusing in on genetic traits is interesting! But you can probably accomplish a lot along the way. If you push guppy temperature up just a tad once fry are dropped, and feed well / clean water well, their metabolism may push their development forward a bit, and you’ll get them to mature a bit quicker. You could set up several tanks with this in mind. We put fry in a small tank down under the 33-gal to get them to grow without being predated on. 
 

Here’s a couple videos of the 5th grade set up:

 

 

Here’s a video of the 12th grade set up:
 

 

 

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Thanks everybody for all the great info and ideas, it is a perfect starting point. 

@Hobbit I understand your dilemma. I still have a couple years before I am ready to teach, I hope to work on this project during that time, but the school I currently work at would most likely not approve this project. A good school but different focus. My hope is to find a school more like Fish Folk or have all the data/curriculum built so that it could be readily or well received.

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