One fish, two fish, red fish blue fish, together there’s a new purple fish – or so logic would dictate, but in the guppy world creating a purple baby is much more difficult than that. No, it does not involve test tubes, incubators or candlelight. What it does involve is genetics, math, science, art and a dose of luck. Perkins has been lucky. Two years, and several trial and error tests later, there is a purple guppy residing on campus.
The elusive purple guppy was spotted in a Perkins tank!
It all began in the warmth of summer two years ago, according to math teacher Wendy Rock. “We had discovered that fish tanks were very soothing in a classroom, particularly for anxiety,” Wendy said. “We thought it would be fun to have them on campus so I contacted Greg Billings, former principal and science teacher of the Luther Burbank School in Lancaster, to learn more. Today, he is the Vice President of the New England Guppy Association.”
Through Wendy’s connections with Greg, she was able to get many supplies donated – including a 55 gallon tank. “We started with the tank outside that first summer,” she said. “The maintenance crew helped us set it up and care for it, but it was more or less self sufficient. The mosquitoes would lay their eggs in the tank, and the fish would eat the eggs thereby solving the food problem. The kids also spent some time that summer looking at the water under a microscope and learning the basics about guppies.”
Little did Wendy know that this was to be the beginning of what is now an 11 tank program throughout the school. “We now have seven fully established tanks and four new ones. An established tank is conducive to life and has the water’s PH levels and ammonia and nitrate levels in a good range – a new tank is still in the beginning stages and may see some death before all is figured out.” As the tanks became more established Davian, a freshmen at Janeway, has become the fish expert along with sophomore Jason.
“Making the purple fish took a lot of trial and error,” Davian said. “I spent a lot of time working on testing the water and graphing my results to make sure that the tanks are safe for the fish. I got involved with the fish because I love all animals and I had fish with my dad and brother when I was younger. It is now my job to set up the new tanks. The most important thing is to make sure a new fish gets acclimated to a tank before you put it in. If you just dump it in, it might die.”
Jayson is in charge of feeding the fish and making their tanks aesthetically pleasing. “I use colored rocks and driftwood on the bottom to make it look good,” he said. “In art, the second graders drew an under the sea scene that we taped to the back of one of the tanks,” Wendy added.
The ultimate goal of Perkins Purple Guppy Program is to create a purple guppy worthy of being shown in the annual New England Guppy Association Bowl Show held at the Luther Burbank School across the street. “Since we are Perkins and we are purple, we think it would be fun to ultimately have lots of purple guppies and enter one at a bowl show. This guy isn’t show worthy – unfortunately – because he has a spot of green on him.”
Hope is not lost. There is a plan. The current male – the females show very little colors–is hoping to meet up with the purple female in the Janeway library tank in the hopes of getting a genetically perfect purple fish. “It’s taken us two years to get this far,” Wendy said. “With time and a male and female purple fish, we are bound to get a show quality purple guppy eventually.”
Our Perkins guppy project was covered in the recent issue of The Guppy Gazette, The monthly newsletter of the New England Fancy Guppy Association.