Cobra Guppy Fish – Care Guides And More!

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Very few people associate tiny, harmless guppy fish with cobra snakes – one of the deadliest creatures on the planet. But have you ever heard of the cobra guppy fish? With its spotted, bespeckled body and distinctive tail, the cobra guppy clearly got its name and appearance from the king of snakes.

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about cobra guppy fish, including their habitat, diet, and care requirements. By the end, you’ll know whether or not these fish are the right pet for you!


Common Name (species)

Cobra Guppy Fish, Poecilia Reticulata




South America


Completely Omnivore

Care Level



Playful, docile


1 – 3 years


Calm and non-aggressive

Tank Level


Minimum Tank Size

10 gallons (for a school of 3)

Temperature Range

72 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit

Water Hardness

8-12 dGH

pH Range


Filtration/Flow Rate





Most fish of similar size and temperament

OK, for Planted Tanks?

Good with most plants

Activity Level/Temperament

In many ways, guppies are the perfect community fish. This extends to cobra guppies, generally peaceful, non-aggressive fish that do well in small and large groups. They are playful by nature, and will often swim with other fish in their tank. Cobra guppies are also relatively active fish, and will explore every nook and cranny of their tank in search of food.

While they are not typically aggressive, cobra guppies can become territorial with other members of their species. They are unlikely to fight each other to the death, but you may see some chasing and nipping if two males are vying for the attention of a female. If you have multiple cobra guppies, keeping them in ratios of 1 male to 2 females will minimize the odds of territorial disputes.


Because cobra guppies are generally peaceful, they do well in community tanks with fish of similar size and temperament. Good tank mates for cobra guppies include mollies, platies, swordtails, and other small, peaceful fish. Fry in general are not good tank mates for cobra guppies, as the adults may see them as food.

cobra guppy tankmates
Image Source:

If you’re hoping to get a little more creative with your fish tank, you can also keep cobra guppies with invertebrates like shrimp and snails. These critters will help to keep your tank clean, and the cobra guppies are unlikely to bother them.

Above all, be sure to house cobra guppies with each other. These fish feel most at ease in a school with other members of their species. You could opt for any guppy – common, fancy, or cobra – but we think these spotted beauties are best kept together.


What to Feed

Hailing from the streams of South America, cobra guppies are used to a diet of algae, plants, and small insects. In the wild, these fish mostly feed on microscopic organisms like bacteria and algae. They will also nibble on plants, small invertebrates, and the occasional fish fry.

In captivity, cobra guppies should be fed a diet that mimics their natural diet as closely as possible. This can be accomplished with a combination of live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods. A high-quality flake or pellet food can also be used, as long as it contains plenty of plant matter.

Some good foods to feed cobra guppies include:

  • Live brine shrimp
  • Freeze-dried bloodworms
  • Live daphnia
  • Frozen mysis shrimp
  • Blanched vegetables like zucchini and spinach

How Much to Feed

Cobra guppies are not big eaters and will do just fine on 1-2 small meals per day. Overfeeding these fish is easy to do, as they will eat just about anything you put in their tank. Be sure to keep an eye on your fish, and only feed them as much as they can eat in a minute or two.

Heap of dry complete multi-ingredient flake food for daily feeding of all ornamental fish

It’s also important to note that baby guppies grow quickly, and will need more food than their adult counterparts. Feed your fry 2-3 times per day, giving them as much food as they can eat in a few minutes. As they grow, you can slowly reduce the frequency of feedings.

What Not To Feed

While cobra guppies will eat just about anything you put in their tank, there are some foods that you should avoid feeding them. These include animal-based foods that are high in protein, as these can cause health problems down the road.

Some foods to avoid feeding cobra guppies include:

  • Live feeder fish
  • Beef
  • Live crickets
  • Bread and/or crackers

These foods can cause health problems like obesity and swim bladder disease, so it’s best to avoid them altogether.

Tank Requirements

Tank Size

Many people make the mistake of assuming that because guppies are small, they can be kept in small tanks. This simply isn’t true – these fish do best in spacious tanks that give them plenty of room to swim and explore.

large aquarium

As a general rule, you should aim for a tank that is at least 20 gallons in size for a school of 5-6. If you plan on starting a community tank with other fish, you’ll need an even larger tank. A 30 gallon tank is a good starting point for community tanks with cobra guppies.

Tank Set-Up

To set up a proper home for your cobra guppies, you’ll need to start with a good quality fish tank. These fish are not particularly fussy, and will do well in most types of tanks. That said, we recommend opting for a glass or acrylic tank, as these materials are much easier to clean than plastic. Other than that, you’ll need the following:

  • A good filter
  • Tank heater
  • Aquarium salt
  • Live plants (optional)
  • Water conditioner

Step 1: Choose a location for your tank. This should be a place that is out of direct sunlight, and where the temperature remains relatively stable.

Step 2: Set up your tank. Start by adding the gravel, plants, and decorations of your choice. Be sure to leave plenty of open swimming space for your fish.

Step 3: Install the filter and heaters. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Step 4: Fill your tank with water. Use a water conditioner to remove harmful chemicals from the water. You can also add aquarium salt to the water, which will help to keep your fish healthy.

Step 5: Let the tank cycle for 2-3 weeks before adding any fish. This will give the beneficial bacteria in your tank time to build up and will help to keep your fish healthy.

Setting up a proper home for your cobra guppies is important, as these fish are not particularly hardy. By following these steps, you can be sure that your fish will have a safe and comfortable place to call home.

Habitat Requirements

Despite their widespread popularity, cobra guppies can actually be somewhat finicky when it comes to their habitat. In the wild, these fish are found in slow-moving rivers and streams with plenty of vegetation. As such, they prefer tanks that mimic their natural environment. Here’s a quick overview of some of their habitat requirements:

Water Requirements

Cobra guppies are rather particular when it comes to the pH of their water. In the wild, these fish are found in waters with a neutral pH of 7.0. As such, they should be kept in similar conditions in the home aquarium. Water hardness is not as important for these fish, but they do prefer soft to medium hardness levels. A water hardness of 5-15 dGH is ideal for cobra guppies.

Above all, these fish need to be kept in high-quality water conditions. Ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates should all be kept at 0 ppm. To achieve these water conditions, we recommend using a high-quality filter and performing regular water changes. Use a testing kit to keep track of your water parameters, and be sure to adjust your care routine as needed.

Filtration Requirements

A filter can be an important part of any fish tank, but it is absolutely essential for a cobra guppy tank. These fish are very sensitive to water quality, and even the slightest change can wreak havoc on their health. As such, we recommend using a high-quality filter that is rated for at least 4 times the size of your tank.

Aquarium filter

For example, if you have a 20 gallon tank, you should use a filter that is rated for at least 80 gallons. Be sure to clean or replace your filter media on a regular basis, and keep an eye on your water quality. Regular water changes are also important for keeping your fish healthy.

Heat and Lighting Requirements

Cobra guppies are tropical fish, and as such, they require warm water to thrive. In their natural habitat, these fish are found in waters with a temperature of 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. In captivity, you should aim to keep the water in your tank between 76-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

We recommend using a quality aquarium heater to maintain a consistent water temperature. These devices are relatively inexpensive, and will help to keep your fish healthy and happy. You can also use a thermometer to monitor the water temperature in your tank.

As for lighting, cobra guppies do best in tanks that are dimly lit. These fish are not particularly sensitive to light, but they do prefer low to moderate lighting levels. If you are using live plants in your tank, be sure to provide them with enough light to stay healthy. Consider a timer, as this will help with maintaining a consistent light cycle.

Plants and Decor

There’s a reason why live plants are often recommended for fish tanks – they provide a more natural environment for your fish, and can help to keep the water quality in your tank high. That being said, not all plants are suitable for a cobra guppy tank. These fish prefer plants that are soft and have plenty of hiding places.

Fish Tank Plants Decor

Some good options include java moss, hornwort, and anubias. These plants are relatively easy to care for, and will provide your fish with the cover they need. If you want to add some color to your tank, consider adding some red or green plants.

As for decorations, it’s best to keep things simple. Too many decorations can make it difficult for your fish to find food, and can also increase the chances of water quality issues. A few rocks or driftwood pieces should be enough to provide your fish with the hiding places they need.

Habitat Maintenance

A good tank maintenance routine is essential for keeping your cobra guppies healthy. These fish are very sensitive to water quality, and even the slightest change can lead to health problems. As such, we recommend performing a partial water change of 10-15% every week.

Be sure to use a siphon to remove debris from the bottom of your tank, and clean or replace your filter media on a regular basis. It’s also a good idea to vacuum the gravel in your tank to remove any built-up waste. Keep an eye on your water parameters, and adjust your care routine as needed.

Common Health Issues and Treatment

Despite their hardy reputation, guppies are actually quite sensitive to poor water conditions. If your fish are not kept in high-quality water, they will be more susceptible to disease and illness. The most common health issues that affect these fish include:

Health Issue

Symptoms or Causes

Suggested Action

Fungal infections

Causes: Poor water quality, stress

Symptoms: White or gray patches on the skin, lethargy, loss of appetite

Quarantine affected fish and treat them with a commercially available anti-fungal medication.

Bacterial infections

Causes: Poor water quality, stress

Symptoms: Open sores, redness on the skin, lethargy, loss of appetite

Administer a course of antibiotics.

Protozoan infections

Causes: Poor water quality, stress

Symptoms: Flashing or rubbing against objects, lethargy, loss of appetite

Treat with a commercially available anti-parasitic medication.

Health Issue

Symptoms or Causes

Ich is a very common disease that’s caused by an aquatic protozoan parasite. 
Fish infected with Ich develop a sprinkling of tiny white spots on their fins, gill covers, and bodies. They also flash against the gravel and other solid objects in the aquarium.

Suggested Action

Raise the water temperature to 82o F for three days. Use an OTC  White Spot Disease medication to treat the tank.

Health Issue


Symptoms or Causes

Flukes is the term used to describe various types of external fish parasites. These macroparasites can often be seen with the naked eye attached to the fish’s skin or gills.

Suggested Action

Treat the fish tank with an OTC antiparasitic medication.

Health Issue

Fungal infections

Symptoms or Causes

White fluffy growths on the fish’s body, mouth, and head.

Suggested Action

Quarantine infected fish, and treat with an antifungal medication.

Health Issue

Bacterial infections

Symptoms or Causes

Sores and ulcers on the body and head, ragged, bloody fins.

Suggested Action

Treat the tank with OTC antibacterial treatment.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your fish, it’s important to take action immediately. The sooner you start treatment, the better the chances of your fish making a full recovery.


Cobra guppies are easy to breed in captivity and will often do so without any help from their owners. These fish are livebearers, meaning that they give birth to live young rather than laying eggs. To promote breeding, all you need to do is provide your fish with high-quality water and plenty of food. Adding a spawning net to your tank can also help.

If tank conditions are ideal, your male and female fish will mate, and the female will give birth to anywhere from 5 to 30 fry (baby fish). The fry will be born fully formed and independent, and will quickly start searching for food. Be sure to provide them with plenty of live foods, such as brine shrimp or daphnia, to ensure they grow up healthy and strong.

Product Recommendations

Understanding the needs of your cobra guppy fish is the key to success. By providing them with the proper care, you can ensure they stay healthy and thrive in captivity. Here are a few products we recommend to help you get started:

Though not exhaustive, this list should give you a good starting point for setting up your tank.

The Takeaway

Cobra guppies are a beautiful and hardy addition to any freshwater aquarium. These fish are easy to care for, and will thrive in most tanks with proper maintenance. Be sure to provide your fish with high-quality water and plenty of food, and they will reward you with years of enjoyment. Thanks for reading!

Wanda is a second-generation aquarist from the sunny tropics of Malaysia. She has been helping her father with his freshwater tanks since she was a toddler, and has fallen in love with the hobby ever since. A perpetual nomad, Wanda does her best to integrate fish-keeping with her lifestyle, and has taken care of fish in three different continents. She loves how it provides a nice break from the hustle and bustle of life.

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