Everyone loves the sight of colorful fish darting around a fish tank, and guppies are perhaps the most prolific and well-known of them all. Hailing from the tropical waters of South America, these hardy, gorgeous fish have been a popular choice in the aquarium hobby for decades. And with their astounding array of colors and patterns, guppies most certainly add personality and pizzazz to any fish tank!
Guppies are peaceful, relatively easy to care for and make great beginner fish. However, like all pets, they do require some basic knowledge and care in order to thrive. In this article, we will go over everything you need to know about guppy care, including their lifespan, diet, tank requirements, and more. Ready to learn all about these fascinating little fish? Let’s get started!
Common Name (species)
Millionfish, Guppies, Rainbowfish
Easy to Medium
Playful, friendly, and curious about their surroundings
Peaceful fish (Well-suited for community tanks)
Minimum Tank Size
Will get along with other peaceful fish
OK, for Planted Tanks?
Yes — A heavily planted tank will even encourage breeding
Given the guppy’s brilliant colors and tail shapes, it’s no wonder they are such a popular fish in the aquarium trade. These traits, however, come with a price – guppies have been selectively bred for generations and, as a result, have become increasingly fragile. In the wild, guppies have a lifespan of about 2-3 years, but in captivity, they often only live for 6-12 months.
You can do a few things to help your guppies live a long and healthy life, including providing them with a clean and properly-sized tank, feeding them a nutritious diet, and avoiding stress (more on these later). Additionally, purchasing guppies from a reputable breeder or pet store can also help ensure that your fish are healthy and genetically diverse.
Guppies are extremely friendly fish that enjoy being around other fish and humans alike. They are relatively active fish and will often swim near the top of the tank where they can interact with their tank mates and observe their surroundings. Guppies are also very curious by nature and will often approach plants, tank decorations, and even their owners to investigate.
One of the things that guppies are most well-known for is their peaceful temperament. They often stick to themselves and generally do not bother other fish in the tank. As a result, they make great community fish and can be kept with a variety of different species.
Guppies get along best with other peaceful fish, such as bristlenose plecos, neon tetras, danios, and mollies. They can also be kept with other livebearers, such as platies and swordtails. You’ll also want to make sure that you only opt for tropical fish that enjoy the same water parameters as guppies.
You could even keep guppies with invertebrates for a more unique tank, such as snails and shrimp. Ghost shrimps and Amano shrimp make particularly good tank mates for guppies, as they are both peaceful and beneficial to the aquarium. As for snails, we recommend nerite snails, as they are less likely to eat your plants.
As for fish to avoid, you’ll want to stay away from anything that is too large or aggressive, as they may bully or even eat your guppies. Many aggressive fish are agitated by the sight of guppies’ long flowing fins, which further increases the likelihood of aggression. Good examples of fish to avoid include tiger barbs, angels, and most cichlids.
Choosing the right tankmates may be important, but feeding your guppies a nutritious diet is even more critical to their health and longevity. Here’s a quick overview of what guppies like to eat:
What to Feed
Guppies are not picky eaters and thrive on a diet with diverse food. As omnivores, they require a balanced diet consisting of both plant and animal matter. Many hobbyists elect to feed their guppies a diet of live food, such as brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, and bloodworms.
Live food is highly nutritious, so this is a great option if your local pet stores have it available.
However, freeze-dried and frozen foods work just as well and are much more convenient. Some of our favorite options include frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, and even earthworm flakes! Specialist pet supply stores will typically stock a wide variety of easily-digestible frozen and freeze-dried foods that are perfect for guppies.
Plant matter is also an important part of a guppy’s diet. It can be easily provided as algae wafers, blanched vegetables, or as part of pellets designed for omnivorous fish. These pellets often have the ideal ratio of plant to animal matter, so they make great all-around food for guppies.
How Much to Feed
As a general rule of thumb, you should feed your guppies 2-3 meals daily, using only as much food as they can consume in 2 minutes or less. Once they appear full, you can remove any remaining food from the tank. This will keep your water clean, and also prevent overfeeding, which can lead to health problems down the road.
Guppies have small stomachs, so they cannot eat large meals. We know you love your fish, but please be careful not to overdo it!
What Not to Feed
While guppies are not picky eaters, there are still some things that you should avoid feeding them. For one, guppies should not be fed mammalian meat, such as beef heart or chicken. Though mammalian meat may be good protein sources, guppies are not evolutionarily equipped to digest them properly.
Additionally, guppies should not be fed processed food, such as chips or crackers. Not only are these foods nutritionally inadequate, but they can also expand in your guppy’s stomach and cause serious health problems.
Now that we’ve covered what guppies like to eat and their ideal tank mates, it’s time to talk about where they like to live. Here’s what you need to know about setting up a guppy tank:
People often default to a 5 or 10-gallon tank as the recommended minimum size for guppies. And this is a valid recommendation – you can keep three guppies in a 5-gallon tank, and 6-7 in a 10-gallon one. However, although these tanks can house a tiny school of guppies, it’s important to keep two things in mind: guppies are prolific breeders and grow relatively quickly.
Because of this, we recommend a larger aquarium if you intend on creating a dedicated guppy tank. A 20-gallon aquarium is a good size for a small school of guppies to start with, and will comfortably accommodate any fry that they produce.
Of course, you can always purchase a larger aquarium if you have the space and budget for it! A 50-gallon aquarium is ideal for a guppy tank, as it will allow plenty of room to swim and grow your fish.
After you’ve chosen the perfect tank, it’s time to set it up! Guppies are not particularly demanding when it comes to water conditions, but there are a few things you’ll need to take care of before adding your fish.
You will need:
- An air pump and airline tubing
- A filter
- Gravel or sand
- Live, plastic, or silk plants
- Driftwood or plastic caves
- A heater and thermometer
Step 1: Clean the tank and all of its components thoroughly with warm, soapy water. Rinse everything several times to remove any soap residue, as this can be harmful to fish.
Step 2: Fill the tank with dechlorinated water and set up your filter, air pump, and heater according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 3: Once the tank is set up, you can add gravel or sand. Rinse the gravel thoroughly before adding it to the tank to remove any dust or debris. You can also boil it in a pot of water for 10 minutes to sterilize it.
Step 4: Now you can add your plants, driftwood, or other decorations. Remember to create tons of hiding spots for your guppies – they will feel much more comfortable and secure if they have places to hide.
Step 5: Once you’ve added your decor, allow the nitrogen cycle to establish itself before adding any fish to the tank. This process can take anywhere from 2-8 weeks, depending on the size of your tank and the efficiency of your filtration system.
Step 6: You will know the nitrogen cycle is complete when you no longer see ammonia or nitrite in your water tests. At this point, the tank is ready for occupancy and you can add your guppies! Be sure to acclimate your guppies slowly, over the course of an hour or more, to prevent shock.
Step 7: Sit back, relax, and enjoy your beautiful new guppy tank!
Congrats on setting up your new guppy tank! Now that your fish have a happy and healthy home, it’s important to understand their basic habitat requirements so that you can keep them comfortable and stress-free.
Guppies are tropical fish, which means they prefer warm water temperatures. In their natural habitats, guppies typically inhabit slow-moving streams and rivers with water conditions that hover between 74 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. They also enjoy a hardness level of 8-12 dGH, and a pH level between 6.8 and 7.8.
All these numbers may cause you to assume that guppies thrive in a relatively wide range of conditions, but that’s not necessarily the case. Guppies are quite sensitive to environmental changes; even a small change in water conditions can cause stress and lead to illness. For this reason, it’s important to maintain stable water conditions in your guppy tank.
The most accurate way of measuring water conditions is with a digital aquarium test kit. We recommend testing your water at least once a week. Also, if you use tap water as your source water, be sure to use a conditioner to remove chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals before adding it to the tank. Dechlorinated water serves as the best source of water for guppy tanks.
It almost goes without saying at this point, but keeping your water clean is one of the most important aspects of keeping your guppies healthy. Yes, these may be hardy fish, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to the effects of poor water quality. In fact, guppies are particularly sensitive to ammonia and nitrites, which can quickly lead to illness and death if left unchecked.
For this reason, we recommend using a high-quality filtration system that can remove excess food and waste from the tank water. A canister or hang-on-back filter will work well for guppy tanks. Sponge filters are also a popular option, although they may need to be replaced more frequently than other types of filters.
If you’re not sure which filtration system to choose, we recommend talking to your local fish store or an experienced aquarist for advice.
Heat and Lighting Requirements
Why do guppies need a heater? Guppies are tropical fish, which means they prefer warm water temperatures. A good heater will help maintain a consistent water temperature in your tank, which is crucial for guppy health and comfort.
As for lighting, we recommend exposing your guppies to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness per day. This can be accomplished using artificial lights if your tank is located in a room that doesn’t get much natural light. However, even if your room gets some natural light, we recommend keeping the tank away from direct sunlight, as this can cause the water to overheat.
If you choose to use artificial lights, we recommend using full-spectrum bulbs that emit a natural-looking light. These bulbs will not only help your fish feel more comfortable, but they’ll also make your tank look beautiful!
Plants and Decorations
The average freshwater fish enjoys aquarium plants because they provide hiding places, oxygenate the water, and create a natural environment. Guppies are no different! These fish will feel more comfortable in a heavily planted tank, so we recommend using lots of live plants when setting up your guppy tank.
That being said, the importance of plants goes beyond mere comfort and aesthetics for guppies. Dense plants actually encourage breeding because they provide lots of hiding spaces for the fry. When sexually mature guppies decide whether or not to mate, one of the things they look for is a safe environment for their unborn fry.
So, if you’re looking to breed guppies, we recommend using lots of live plants in your tank. Some good plant choices for guppy tanks include java moss, hornwort, and anacharis. As for decorations, we recommend using natural-looking items such as driftwood and rocks. Brightly colored decorations can actually stress guppies, so it’s best to stick with more muted colors and patterns.
Last but not least, it’s important to perform regular maintenance on your guppy tank. This includes cleaning the glass, vacuuming the gravel, and replacing the filter media. We recommend performing a partial water change (about 20%) once every two weeks to remove any build-up of toxins in the water.
In addition to the regular water changes we described, you should also test your water quality on a weekly basis. This will help you keep an eye on things like ammonia, nitrites, and pH levels. If any of these parameters start to get out of whack, it could be a sign that something is wrong with your tank.
Regular maintenance and water quality tests can help ensure that your guppies stay healthy and happy for years to come!
So we’ve covered a lot of the basics when it comes to guppy care. But what does a healthy guppy actually look like?
Signs of Health
Well, for starters, a healthy guppy should have bright and vibrant colors. You should also be able to see their fins waving back and forth as they swim. If you notice that your guppy’s fins are clamped down or their colors are dull, this could be a sign of stress or illness.
In addition to bright colors and healthy fins, a healthy guppy will also have a full torso. We’re not talking about a distended belly, which could signify bloating. Instead, you should look for a guppy with a rounded body shape and no visible bones or ribs.
Finally, a healthy guppy will behave normally. This means they’ll be active and swim around the tank with the other fish. If you notice that your guppy is hanging out at the bottom of the tank or hiding a lot, this could be a sign that something is wrong.
Common Health Issues and Treatment
Unfortunately, guppies are susceptible to a number of health problems. Some of the most common issues include:
Symptoms or Causes
Flashing, rubbing against objects, clamped fins, cloudy eyes, lethargy
Metronidazole or other anti-parasitic medication. Move infected fish to a hospital tank before administering treatment.
Cloudy eyes, open sores, bloated belly, lethargy
Swim Bladder Disorder
Floating upside down, sinking to the bottom of the tank
Feed small meals more frequently, avoid overfeeding, fast fish for a few days
Ich (White Spot Disease)
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.
Raise the water temperature to 82o F for three days. Use an OTC White Spot Disease medication to treat the tank.
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.
Treat the fish tank with an OTC antiparasitic medication.
Symptoms or Causes
White fluffy growths on the fish’s body, mouth, and head.
Quarantine infected fish, and treat with an antifungal medication.
Symptoms or Causes
Sores and ulcers on the body and head, ragged, bloody fins.
Treat the tank with OTC antibacterial treatment.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your guppy, we recommend taking them to a veterinarian or a fish specialist for treatment. With prompt and proper treatment, most guppies will make a full recovery.
Assuming that you’ve taken all the necessary steps to care for your guppies, you might wonder how to breed them. Well, the good news is that breeding guppies is a relatively simple endeavor.
- First and foremost, select your guppy breeding stock. The female guppy should have a visible dark spot known as the gravid spot, indicating that she’s ready to breed. The male guppy, on the other hand, should have large and vibrant fins.
- Once you’ve selected your breeding stock, you’ll need to place them in the breeding tank. The male will do most of the work here, chasing the female around and attempting to mate with her. If all goes well, the fish will embrace, and the male will insert his gonopodium into the female’s vent.
- The female then carries her babies in her belly for the entirety of the gestation period. When guppy fry are born, they’re incredibly small (usually around 2 mm). These newborn fish are also extremely vulnerable to predators, so it’s important to keep them in a safe place.
Assuming all goes well, your guppy fry will grow quickly and be ready to breed in just a few months!
Before we wrap things up, we wanted to share a few of our favorite guppy products. Here are a few items that we think every guppy keeper should have on hand:
- Guppy Food: Hikari Usa Tropical Fancy Guppy for Pet Health
- Heater: Aqueon Preset Heater
- Filter: Aqueon QuietFlow Filter
- Artificial Plants: Penn-Plax Baby Hideout
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you a good starting point for setting up your guppy tank.
We hope you have enjoyed reading this article and learning about guppy care. These beautiful fish make great beginner fish and are sure to add personality and color to any aquarium. With the proper care, your guppies can thrive and live long and healthy lives. Thanks for reading!