Guppy fish (Poecilia reticulata) is without a doubt one of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish and a good choice for beginners. These fish are hardy and can live in harsh conditions that other aquarium fish might not be able to live in. This makes them great beginner or starter fish for new aquarium hobbyists. They’re low-maintenance species so you don’t need to be an experienced fishkeeper to keep them happy.
We prepared this care guide for you to fully understand these fish and how to make them a healthy environment to live in. So let’s get started!
Species Profile & Overview
Guppies are beautiful species of live-bearing fish native to northeast South America. They were first discovered in the 1860s in the Amazon basin. They can be found in many parts of the amazon river and sub-rivers but are often found in Brazil and Guyana. That said, this fish has now been introduced to many ecosystems around the world.
These fish can develop beautiful coloration and patterns on their body and breed at a fast rate. This makes them desirable fish for most breeders and new aquarium owners. This fish has now been line bred to create hundreds of different colors and patterns. Each of these mutations can be labeled with a specific trade name.
In some countries, they use guppies to reduce the mosquito populations in ponds and still waters. Guppies are great at eating insect larvae. This process is safe for the environment compared to using chemicals to eradicate mosquitoes. The only downside is that this fish will spread and take over the body of water so quickly. This is why you should never release these fish in lakes or rivers.
Despite being labeled as beginner fish, many expert aquarists keep guppies in their tanks. These fish develop beautiful patterns and colors that not many other fish can produce. At the same time, they are extremely peaceful species and can live with any similar-sized fish in a community tank.
Guppies can go by a few different names like rainbow fish, millionfish, and their Latin name, Poecilia reticulata. However, they are commonly known as Guppy fish or in their plural form, Guppies.
Appearance & Types
Guppies have been line bred to countless color variations and fin shapes. However, it’s only the males that have beautiful colorations. Females often have pale bodies that lack vibrant colorations. The males have longer fins but smaller bodies in comparison to the female specimens. A fully grown female can grow twice the size of a male specimen.
The tail fin is the most colorful part of the guppy’s body. A good quality guppy fish will have all its body painted with a beautiful pattern or a single color. The patterns, fin shape, and colorations on the body of this fish will define its strain and breed. Some variants can be super expensive but most are super affordable. These strains are the result of years of line breeding.
Guppy fish come in all different fin shapes and body patterns but they all can interbreed and make new patterns. However, males and females will always look different because of their sexual dimorphism.
Hobbyists are continuously trying to line-breed new patterns and fin shapes. Each strain is named after the pattern it has. The most popular strains of guppy are tuxedo, cobra, grass, snakeskin, lace, and Leopard guppy. All these strains have their own subcategory of fish that have the same pattern but might have different colors or fins.
As mentioned, guppies are categorized by the pattern and fin shapes they develop. This fish can develop quite a few tail fin shapes. The most famous are fantail, delta, lyre-tail, and double sword-tail.
Guppies are one of the smallest fish you can get for your aquarium. Males are often smaller and grow to about 1.5 inches in length. The females on the other hand can grow to about 2.5 inches. Females are also more plumbed and thick.
This fish is a great fish for any small or even nano tanks. However, as we always say, the larger the tank the better the living environment for a fish. This statement is also true about guppies.
This fish lives a short life compared to the bigger aquarium fish. But if we compare it with other small species they are living a longer life. A guppy can live about 2 – 5 years when tank conditions are in its favor. The diet also affects the lifespan of these fish so quality food is a must to keep them healthy long-term.
A poorly maintained tank with a bad diet can reduce the life expectancy of the guppy drastically. So you might hear some say their guppy has passed away after a few months of purchasing it. This is either that they purchased an old guppy or the tank is in a bad condition.
Behavior and Temperament
These fish are fun to watch especially when it’s feeding time. They will recognize you and come to you for food. This is especially true when they are hungry.
Guppies are very friendly and calm species and will not harm other fish. However, these fish are great at eating anything that fits in their mouth. They will eat any fish egg or fry if they can get to it. This includes their own babies.
Luckily, you can easily solve this problem. We will discuss how to safely keep guppy fry with their parents in the same tank in the breeding section of this article. The guidelines mentioned there can apply to any other small species that you might want to keep with guppies.
Guppies are not schooling species. So if you want to keep a lot of them in a tank you should not expect them to swim together in a group (school). These fish will swim in all parts of the tank but they usually stay in the middle and upper parts of the tank.
Guppies are super easy to care for. With the right tank setup and diet, almost anyone can keep this fish. I remember the very first time I went to buy fish, the pet store employee suggested guppies and as a kid, I fell in love with the fish.
Guppies are great beginner fish as they can withstand most of the mistakes beginner fish keepers might make. These hardy fish can easily adapt to the change in their environment and will live in a wide range of water parameters.
However, to create the best living conditions for your guppies we highly recommend reading through the next few sections. We will walk you through all the information you’ll need to give your fish the best possible life.
Guppies are small fish so they can live in tanks as small as 10 gallons. You can keep a few of them in a tank of this size if you don’t have any other types of fish. If you are just starting your guppy aquarium, we recommend having a trio of guppies in your tank and after a few months, you will see your tank is full of guppies as a result of their breeding.
You can also keep this fish in smaller tanks, but we do not recommend that as any smaller tank is hard to maintain and keep water parameters stable. You might see experts keeping this fish in their nano tanks, this should only be tried by experts as they can keep the water stable and in favor of the fish at all times.
What To Put In A Guppy Tank
This is the part where you can get really creative. This fish is not fussy and demanding and can adapt to live in any aquascape or tank setup. But you will need to be a little thoughtful about the items you keep in a tank. Most artificial decorations will not change the water chemistry but the natural decorations can change. This can be good or bad depending on the quality of your tap water.
We, however, always recommend going all natural. Natural decorations are great to make beautiful and natural designs and can help you keep the tank’s parameters stable. You can have some aquarium rocks of your choice, live plants, and driftwood to decorate the tank.
Plants are vital to the health and well-being of your fish. At the same time, if you have live plants in your tank more of the guppy fry will survive. As mentioned, guppies eat their fry and having live plants will provide the fry with hiding spots where they can hide until they grow large enough.
Many plants will not need planted substrate to live. They can be great beginner plants to keep in your guppy tank. The best plants for guppies are ones that can grow densely. Guppy Grass, Water Sprite, Java Moss, Hornwort, and Moneywort are among the best plants to keep in a guppy tank. All these plants absorb nutrients from the water column and have a dense growth form.
If you decide to go for root-feeding plants, you will need to have a planted substrate. But this fish is not demanding when it comes to the substrate. We recommend having fine gravel to keep with your guppies. You can also have sand, but sand can be risky as it can trap ammonia air pockets which are extremely harmful to fish.
These fish are coming from the tropical waters of the Amazon basin so recreating such an environment is important to keep them happy. These fish need a slightly warm tank that is well-oxygenated.
When keeping guppies in warmer waters you will have to remember to feed them more often as heat will raise their metabolism. More food also means more breeding actions. If you want them to breed less you can keep them at the lower end of the range they can tolerate. In cooler waters, they will also need less food so make sure only feed them as much as they finish in a few minutes.
The water flow is also another important thing to think about. These fish prefer to live in slow-moving waters. An ideal tank for a guppy fish is a tank that this fish doesn’t have to waste energy fighting with the currents.
Guppies live in a vast geographical area of the amazon basin. This means they are also able to live in a diverse range of water parameters. They also live in brackish areas so they are perfectly able to tolerate some salt in their tank. Salt also helps them to keep their muscle intact and prevent diseases.
Below are the ideal tank parameters you can keep Guppies in:
- Temperature: 72 – 82 Degrees Fahrenheit
- PH: 7.0 – 8.0
- TDS: 100 – 250 PPM
Guppies prefer natural lighting, ideally sunlight. These fish are known to develop better coloration under direct sunlight. However, this is probably not possible for most as sunlight can cause all types of algae blooms in a tank.
The good news is that sunlight is not a necessity and these fish can live in any lighting conditions. Most planted aquarium lights are great to shine some light on these beautiful fish. The planted lights are often full spectrum and have blue light which makes the guppy shine more.
Since most keep guppies with live plants, having the light on a timer is super important. Having the light on a timer will make the fish and plants adjust to a normal day/night schedule and continue living without stress.
Good filtration is the key to keeping this fish healthy and happy long term. A good filtration system is an investment you will have to make. It will save you a lot of money in the long run but more importantly, it will save the life of your fish.
A great filter is a filter that can clean your tank off the bioload your fish makes and any large particles that might float in the water. Biological filtration is the most important part as it will prevent ammonia spikes. Ammonia spikes are the main cause of death in new tanks.
Guppies are small fish and thus they produce a very small amount of waste. But when you have too many of them in a tank they can produce a lot of waste as a whole. The stronger the filtration system is the more guppy fish you can keep in a tank. Most Filters are great for guppies but you should prevent internal filters that have a strong powerhead. As mentioned, guppies don’t like fast-moving waters.
Common Diseases and Prevention
Guppies are hardy fish but they are also one of the first fish that will show signs of diseases in a tank. These fish are hardy when it comes to water conditions but they are very fragile when diseases spread in a tank. Almost all aquarium diseases are a risk to the well-being of these beautiful tiny creatures.
Bacterial infections, fungal problems, and parasitic infestations are among the most common types of diseases guppies experience. They can get these illnesses from the introduction of sick fish or when water conditions are poor in their tank.
They are also at risk of getting Ich and fin rot. High-stress levels can cause both of these diseases. Poor water conditions are also another cause of many diseases including the ich and fin rot. These diseases can also get introduced to your aquarium by any new fish that you buy.
To prevent disease, you will have to focus on providing your fish with a clean and healthy environment. You should also never add new fish to your tank before quarantining them for 2 – 6 weeks. In case your fish somehow got sick, there are fish medications available to treat these diseases.
Diet and Feeding Requirements
Guppy is not a picky creature when it comes to the food it wants to eat. These freshwater fish are omnivore species. This means they will eat almost any fish food that fits in their tiny mouth.
Guppies are great at hunting and eating insect larvae. Insect larvae make a huge part of their diet in the wild, but they also eat large amounts of algae and other plant matter. Giving your fish a diverse diet is the best way to keep them happy.
Flake foods are one of the best foods you can give these tiny fish. They can easily eat flakes or smaller pellets. Having a few different types of foods is the best practice to give this fish all the nutrients it needs.
You can also feed your guppy fish fresh vegetables like cucumber. These fish love to eat cucumbers. Simply attach a small piece of cucumber to a fork and let it sink to the bottom of the tank.
However, if this is the first time you are feeding them cucumbers, they might not eat it as they might not know its food. Just don’t make the mistake of feeding them your regular fish food as they might never eat the cucumber. Once they get hungry, you will see your guppies going after the soft inner parts of the cucumber.
These fish also need unprocessed whole insect foods. You can give them frozen foods once or twice per week for optimum growth. Fresh or frozen insect-based foods will also make your fish develop better colorations.
For guppies, it is best to feed them in small amounts but more often. So ideally you should feed them a few times per day but in very very small amounts. These fish have tiny stomachs and one or two tiny flakes or tiny pellets are just the right amounts for them to eat.
We usually feed our guppies twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Having a set feeding schedule is important as it will let your fish digest and use the food before the next meal. It can also prevent overfeeding if you only feed as much food as they eat in a few minutes. Overfeeding is a bad habit many guppy owners have.
Guppies are one of the easiest fish you can spawn. All you need to do is to keep a few males and females and let them do their magic. These fish will breed almost every month and each time a female can give birth to 20 to 50 tiny fry. Yes, they give birth to live tiny fry!
Young fish usually give birth to a lower number of fry but older females will easily give birth to 30 – 50 fry. The size of the female is a good indication to anticipate the number of fries it will give birth to.
These tiny livebearer fish will breed like rabbits! The males will constantly chase the females and try to mate with them. This means if you have more males than females, the males might stress the females to death. An ideal male-female ratio for guppies is two or three females per male.
As you just read, breeding is super easy and you do not have to do anything special to make them mate and breed. However, fry survival is something that many new fishkeepers fail. This is because guppies eat their newly born fry.
To make sure a large number of fries can survive you should have a lot of densely grown plants in your tank. Live plants will provide a safe haven for newly born guppy fry. Any densely grown plant can make a good plant in your guppy tank. But our favorite plants are Guppy Grass, Water Sprite, and Hornwort.
If you want your guppies to breed more often you can feed them high-protein foods. Females can hold sperm in their bellies for up to three months before they have enough energy to start developing fry. When you feed them high-protein foods you are encouraging the females to skip the waiting time and start developing the fry right away.
Guppies are peaceful species and can live with most small and similar-sized fish. Because of the small size of this fish, you should not add them with larger fish that can eat your guppy. At the same time, guppies will eat any small creature that fits in their mouth so you should avoid adding small creatures to your tank.
Considering these points, here are a few of the fish and inverts you can keep with your guppy:
- Platy Fish
- Freshwater Snails
- Molly Fish
- L397 Pleco
- Bristlenose Pleco
- Other Types of plecos
- Neon Tetra
- Pleco Fish
- Most Dwarf Gouramis
- Bamboo Shrimp
- Vampire Shrimp
Guppies are probably the easiest fish to keep and breed. These fish are fun to watch and will keep you entertained for a long time. These tiny hardy species of freshwater fish are super smart and can recognize the person that feeds them. They are beautiful-looking fish that will make any tank 10 times more beautiful.
We have answered some of the most common questions about these tiny fish on another page. You can read them here: Guppy Questions & Answers.