Some Retro/Vintage Guppy Snapshots


My brother dropped off a few boxes I had stored at my parent’s house a few weeks ago. I opened one of these boxes and sitting on the top was a small book called Aquarium Fishes in Color (J.M. Madsen, Macmillan Color Series, Copyright 1975). It’s a general tropical fish book rather than a guppy book, but there are two pages of guppy illustrations that had a profound effect on my interest in this particular fish. With guppies you have a lot of color, a lot of possible pattern and a lot of shape. You can’t say the same with a neon tetra. I probably bought this book around the year 1980. And you can see the notes I made directly on the book as a teenager. The ridiculous part is that here I am all these years later, and I currently have fish that are very similar to many of these illustrated, or I have had fish like them.

At the time, I thought the artist had possibly gone a little too far into the fantasy world with these illustrations. Because I’d never seen a guppy with a huge tail like what I called the “triangle” tail before (HB red below). Also note the top sword below looks very similar to the bottom sword in the photo further down in this post. The artist did an amazing job at not only illustrating these, but also doing enough research to divide these up into the various classes of guppies.


A few years ago I bought a vintage book called Guppy Handbook on eBay (C.W. Emmons,TFH Publications, 1970). A week or two ago I was flipping through old books because I wanted to check out the brands of the old-fashioned box filters. (Basically, that’s what everyone got back then if they had an aquarium. They got the job done, cheaply.) The reason these photos are interesting is because in the late 1960s, when this book was probably under production, the deltas look pretty ragged. If I saw one of those deltas in my tanks, I’d probably cull it immediately. We’ve come so far with delta tail guppies that it’s almost unbelievable. However, I was surprised at photos I was seeing of swordtails, female tails, and alternate shape tails. What I was surprised about was how great these fish looked 50+ years ago, and just how far we HAVEN’T come since then! Some of those fish were good enough back then to clean up with a cross or two, and be IFGA show ready.

A few months ago I was on a mission to locate some pintail guppies (A very “traditional” type guppy, which can’t be entered in most IFGA shows because there is no available class.) I was checking with breeders all over the world. I couldn’t find a single person who had a line of these, let alone willing to sell them to me. There might be someone in Germany who has a tank of these, but he isn’t talking.

While the delta tail is great, it’s sort of consumed the hobby to the point nothing else really matters. (That might be changing.) I think if the fish lines below had been as aggressively developed as the delta, we might have some very dramatic show stoppers these days.

It makes me wonder if some of these very traditional, but now “outsider” types of guppies were brought back into development by talented IFGA breeders, they actually could build a following. Sometimes people just need to see great examples of these types of fish in person to appreciate them.








One thought on “Some Retro/Vintage Guppy Snapshots

  1. Thanks for posting the Aquarium Fishes in Color (J.M. Madsen, Macmillan Color Series, Copyright 1975) plates. Don’t remember seeing these…

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