The Guppy is one of the most popular fish for first time and seasoned aquarists and one of the most well-known in the freshwater community.
It has a variety of features and benefits that make it an excellent choice for your freshwater fish tank, including their beautiful and varied color combinations, easy to care for nature, and ability to get along with a variety of other peaceful fish.
Today, we’re going to give you the ultimate Guppy Fish Care guide, from the different types of Guppies that are available for purchase to what they eat to how to breed them.
Then, you can decide if these popular, lively, fun to watch fish are a right fit for your tank – because even though a species such as the Guppy is incredibly adaptable, they require certain conditions and companions that may not be the right fit for your aquarium.
That said, given the right circumstances, your Guppies can thrive in a home aquarium and you’ll enjoy them for years to come!
5 Facts About the Guppy
While many factors contribute to whether or not Guppies are right for you, knowing some basic information about them is a great place to start.
Let’s take a look at five important facts on the Poecilia reticulata or the Guppy before we move on to care requirements.
- Guppies are relatively easy to care for. As long as you stick to their basic requirements and give them a clean tank and the right food, they are considered low-maintenance fish. That said, just like any other fish, the Guppy has specific requirements when it comes to compatible fish mates and water temperature, all of which we’ll get into in a bit.
- The Guppy is considered a peaceful fish. Guppies are generally great tank mates. They are considered peaceful fish that keep to themselves but they must be kept with other fish of the same nature or they will get bullied. Male fish also have a tendency to bully other male fish, especially if there aren’t enough females around. In a relatively small tank, it is not a good idea to have more than one male Guppy around or more than one male of any species that resembles the Guppy.
- Guppies come in a wide variety of vibrant colors and often have white stripes and spots. Even the Black Guppy is striking in color as it appears metallic in the right lighting.
- A Guppy’s lifespan is not particularly long. In perfect living conditions, a Guppy can live to a maximum of five years but most typically live from one to three A number of factors contribute to this, including the Guppy’s stress levels, tank, water quality, and food.
- Guppies range in size from 0.6 to 2.4 inches. Males are typically on the smaller side, about 6 to 1.4 inches long, while females are larger, ranging from 1.2 to 2.4 inches long.
History of the Guppy
The Guppy is a freshwater tropical fish with a long and somewhat confusing history. The official discovery of the Guppy dates back to 1866 when it was discovered in Trinidad.
The Guppy, or Poecilia reticulata, was discovered by Robert John Lechmere Guppy. It was taken back to British Museum where it was named the Girardinus guppii before eventually landing on its name today.
That said, there is documentation of two other people discovering the Guppy before it was found in Trinidad.
The first recorded discovery was in Venezuela in 1859 by Wilhelm Peters and again in 1861 by De Filippi on the island of Barbados.
There are nearly 300 different types of guppies which is due both to breeders actively trying to create new ones and guppies happily mating with others of different colors, sizes, and other unique features.
The Guppy is part of the Poeciliidae family which includes other popular freshwater live-bearing fish such as the molly, platy, and swordtail.
The Guppy is also referred to as the Millions Fish and the Rainbow Fish, not to be confused with the actual Rainbowfish which belong to a different family altogether.
While guppies come in nearly every color you can imagine, some that are more common than others. Some Guppies are metallic due to the presence of cells called iridophores.
These cells have no actual color of their own, thereby reflecting light off of the fish’s mirror platelets. This, in turn, creates an iridescent effect.
The Guppy is often more colorful on the rear part of their body with the top half being more on the pale side.
When it comes to patterns, there is slightly less variation than the many different colors and shades of the Guppy.
Patterns vary from their body to their tail. Some common patterns seen on the Guppy’s body include:
- Tuxedo: Two different colors on the front and back half
- Cobra: Rosettes, vertical barring
- Snakeskin: Rosettes, chain-link pattern
Common tail patterns on the Guppy include:
- Lace: Resembling either a web or lace in a delicate pattern
- Grass: Thin, grass-like dots
- Leopard: Spots that resemble a leopard print
- Mosaic: Spots that connect to each other, but are irregular in size and shape
There is also a large variety when it comes to tail shape. Some of the most common tail shapes of the Guppy are triangular, sword-shaped and fan-shaped.
We’ve already mentioned that Guppies come in a large variety of colors, shapes, and sizes and have different shaped tails.
But how do you tell their genders apart?
Not only are females bigger and rounder than males, but they are also typically less colorful. In the wild, female Guppies are usually grey with males being the bright and colorful ones but this has changed with domestication.
Female guppies also have shorter caudal fins than males which are not quite as wide or long.
Male Guppies are up to half the size of their female counterparts and traditionally much more colorful.
Scientifically, it’s been said that the male’s bright and colorful appearance comes from the need to attract females, with the male being the more fertile of the two.
Although the male does have longer and wider caudal fins than the female, the male and female guppy are sexually dimorphic.
This means that there are no obvious parts that indicate which gender is which. You need to rely on the other subtle differences that we just described to tell them apart for breeding purposes.
Generally, Guppies are peaceful fish and enjoy being kept in groups. That said, they are not a schooling fish and won’t school with others of their own kind.
They will more likely loosely hang out around each other for company.
Guppies are lively and active swimmers which makes them entertaining to watch. You’ll see the males trying to impress females by wiggling their colorful fins at them.
In fact, males spend a lot of their time displaying to females to try to entice them into mating.
Keeping Guppies in a tank with a hood is a good idea as some Guppy owners have reported their Guppies jumping out of the tank, an extinct that dates back to their evolution.
Guppies may have a natural instinct to jump to reach their available habitat in Trinidad’s mountain streams.
A healthy Guppy does not hang out at the bottom of the tank – this is a common sign of stress, illness, or injury.
As mentioned, Guppies are naturally quite lively and should be swimming all around the tank as well as going to the top of the tank to feed.
Guppies can get aggressive with other male Guppies or males of a similar species who could be mistaken for a male Guppy.
This is because male Guppies are territorial when it comes to female Guppies and the caves in which they fertilize their eggs.
If you want to avoid aggressive Guppies, make sure there are plenty of females mixed in (in a large enough tank of course, which we will cover later) or that there is only one male Guppy in the tank.
Guppy Tank Mates
Being peaceful fish that generally keep to themselves, guppies are great community fish as long as they’re paired with other peaceful fish.
So, other Guppies are generally the best choice for Guppy tank mates.
Other peaceful, live-bearing fish in their own family are great contenders for Guppy tankmates, such as the Molly, Platy, Catfish, and Swordtail.
Other choices for a Guppy fish community include:
- Cardinal Tetras
- Clown Loaches
- Ghost Shrimp
- Red Cherry Shrimp
- Endler’s Livebearers
- African Dwarf Frogs
Tank Conditions and Habitat
When considering your tank options for a Guppy, the idea is that you’re trying to replicate their natural habitat as closely as possible, in this case, the freshwaters of South America.
As with any tank, a proper setup is essential to your Guppy’s wellbeing. You need to make sure that the filter is working correctly and that it can properly cycle the water to keep it clean.
This helps maintain the proper chemical makeup of the water and prevents the accumulation of ammonia which affects the health of any fish and leads to disease and eventually death.
You also need a heater to keep the tank water relatively warm, between 75 to 82°F.
When it comes to pH, keep it between 7.0 and 7.2. Having said this, Guppies are relatively adaptable when it comes to the measure of acidity in their water – as long as it’s not too high, as this can result in death.
The lowest pH level we recommend is 5.5 and the highest is 8.5. Keep your heater at one end of the tank and a thermometer at the opposite side to keep track of whether or not the water is evenly heated.
Just like any other fish, Guppies have a minimum tank size that they can thrive in. Since Guppies are lively and active, they prefer a large tank to swim in.
The minimum tank size for a Guppy is a five-gallon tank.
The standard rule for fish tank size is one gallon per one inch of fish. Due to the Guppy’s varying size, you should have no more than four Guppies in a five-gallon tank.
Ten gallons and upwards are ideal for the Guppy with no more than five or six Guppies in a 10-gallon tank.
To keep your tank clean, you need a filter – this is pretty standard, Guppies or not.
Some people think that because Guppies are such versatile and hardy little fish, they do not need a filtration system. This could not be further from the truth!
Guppies can still get sick if their water parameters are off and are susceptible to ich and other bacterial infections.
A Guppy filter should have a decent system that engages in three types of filtration – mechanical filtration for debris removal, chemical filtration to remove toxins, odors, and discoloration and biological filtration to remove ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates.
A Guppy’s filtration system should be able to process two to four times the total amount of water in the tank per hour.
A hang on the back filter is usually fine for smaller tanks below 50 gallons. A larger tank may require an external canister filter.
When setting up your tank, consider whether you’re keeping your Guppies purely for show (and companionship, of course) or if you wish to breed them and whether or not you wish to have all males, all females, or both.
When it comes to keeping your Guppies purely for show, give them lots of live plants for nutrition and so they have a place to explore. Some great live plants for a Guppy tank include Amazon Sword, Java Fern, and Hornwort.
Substrate is also a good idea, too, as it positively affects water chemistry, aids filtration, and contributes to the general well-being of your Guppies and their tankmates.
A healthy Guppy does not spend a ton of time at the bottom of the tank so if you’re keeping them for show, substrate is a good idea.
When keeping your Guppies for breeding, it is advised to keep the tank bare-bottomed so fry have easy access to uneaten food.
Using floating plants such as Duckweed and Java Moss to help aid in the filtration from the lack of substrate and also to provide a place for your fry to hide.
No matter how your tank is set up and regardless of your filtration system, your tank should be cleaned weekly with a partial water change of about 25% to allow your Guppies to thrive.
Guppies are omnivores so they do not have a problem eating whatever is put in front of them. In the wild, Guppies eat both plants and animal matter.
This diet should be replicated as much as possible in their tank.
High-quality fish flakes should be your Guppy’s main food source. While they may seem like a filler food, high-quality fish flakes are actually made up of all of the essential nutrients that your fish would get in the wild.
Plus, you can buy fish flakes that are made specifically for Guppies.
Look at the ingredients when purchasing your fish flakes. A high-quality fish food has proteins listed first, such as shrimp, earthworms, and fish.
It’s also common for fish food to contain shrimp, fish, and squid meal as well as spirulina and even garlic. Low-quality fish food contains fillers in the first few ingredients which can include wheat and soy.
While many pellets are available on the market, you should only feed your Guppies pellets in microform and those that can easily get soft and break down.
They will not be able to eat full-sized pellets with their small mouths.
Even though high-quality flake fish food contains everything your Guppy needs for an omnivorous diet, they still benefit from and appreciate live or frozen foods.
Guppies love bloodworms, brine shrimp, vinegar eels, daphnia, and micro-worms. They also like veggies and will eat small pieces of pretty much any vegetable, including zucchini, spinach, cauliflower, cucumber, carrots, and peas.
Guppies will also nibble on any live plants you may keep in your tank. Live plants help provide them with additional essential nutrients that they would normally receive in the wild.
Do not feed your Guppies more than twice a day and definitely do not overfeed them.
You should only feed your Guppies as much food as they can eat completely within two minutes. Alternate the type of food you’re giving them, too, whether that be fish flakes, vegetables, or live or frozen food to make sure they’re getting all of the nutrients they need.
Guppy fry need to be fed more frequently and in smaller amounts.
This is why it’s usually better to isolate your fry in a small tank or purchase a separator with the tank to tend to their specific needs.
You can feed your fry the same food that you feed your adult Guppies, just make sure it’s crushed up. There is also food made specifically for fry available.
It’s ideal to feed Guppy fry four to five times a day.
Guppies are notorious for breeding constantly.breeding constantly. In fact, when you purchase a female Guppy, you should assume that she’s probably expecting – there’s at least a 50% chance.
If you’re interested in breeding your Guppies, there are a few things to know to make sure you’re prepared.
If you have Guppies of the opposite sex in your tank, odds are they’re going to breed, whether you’re ready or not!
Here’s what you need to know about breeding Guppies:
- Guppies are ovoviviparous – what does this mean? It means that they are technically livebearers but that the females grow their fry inside an egg, inside their body. The way this works is that the fry uses the egg sac for nourishment as they grow inside their mother. When they’re ready to hatch, they absorb the egg sac and hatch inside of their mother. Their mother gives birth to live fry.
- Although Guppies do not have any telltale sexual organs on the outside that makes their gender a dead giveaway, there are multiple ways to tell them apart once they reach sexual maturity. Sexual maturity for a Guppy will occur between three and five months of age when male and female Guppies start to look visibly different from each other. As mentioned, a male Guppy is not only brighter in color than the female but also noticeably smaller in size. Males also have longer and wider caudal fins than the female.
- Female Guppies usually have a gravid spot that gets darker during pregnancy. In fact, the very first sign that a female Guppy is pregnant is this yellow-brown spot located where the Guppy’s abdomen meets its tail. Because a Guppy’s abdomen is translucent, this spot is actually the developing embryos that you can see through its skin.
- Guppies breed by the male making brief contact with the female so it’s very unlikely that you will ever notice your Guppies mating. Male Guppies have a gonopodium which in their case is their anal fin. Their gonopodium has a tube that delivers packets of sperm to the female Guppy. The male Guppy passes its sperm to the vent where the female’s gravid spot is located.
- A female Guppy can be impregnated multiple times from the same fertilization which she stores in her body. One packet from the male Guppy contains thousands of sperm.
- The Guppy embryos are nearly completing formed about four to five days after the egg is fertilized. For the next 21 to 30 days of the gestation period, the fry develop their organs.
- Once the female gives birth, the cycle repeats all over again due to the remaining sperm left in her body. So, expect another influx of fry in a few weeks to a month’s time!
Successfully mating and giving birth to the fry is the easy part – unfortunately, making sure the Guppy fry stay alive long enough to grow presents challenges.
The female Guppy will attempt to eat her fry. This is a phenomenon known as filial cannibalism and is not specific to Guppies.
Some fish, such as the Angelfish, help take care of their fry and make sure they are able to grow. Guppies do not fall into this category.
There are many reasons why Guppies may be eating their fry but they can’t be completely proven. Some theories are simply that Guppies mistake their own fry for food, although this seems somewhat unlikely.
Another is that Guppies are trying to replenish their fat storage after giving birth or that they’re simply trying to weed out the offspring that are naturally weaker and don’t have as much of a chance at surviving.
Either way, it is wise to use a breeding trap or tank for your female roughly a week before she is due to give birth. Once the fry is born, separate them from the female fish immediately to prevent her from eating them.
It’s important not to stress the female Guppy during this process.
Do not place her in a breeding tank that is too small as it could cause her to become so stressed that she miscarries.
Guppies are known for being a hardy and adaptable fish meaning that they’re not as susceptible to illness as some other species.
This is handy when it comes to keeping them in tanks with other community fish who have more specific requirements as they can easily adapt.
That said, Guppies are still prone to certain illnesses and infections such as ich. Ich is a fungal infection that can affect all freshwater fish.
It is thought that Guppies may be more prone to Ich than some other species due to their long tails. You’ll notice Ich on your Guppies by its white, dot-like appearance, which causes your Guppies to try to scratch themselves against objects in the tank.
Guppies are also prone to fin rot which can be caused by a variety of factors.
These include poor water quality, water temperature that is too low, overcrowding the tank, poor diet, overfeeding, or moving or handling the fish. Fin rot is also very visible. It looks like your Guppy’s tail is torn.
Both of these illnesses can be treated with medication that can be purchased from your local pet store.
These medications are added to the tank water to prevent the spread of Ich in the tank and kill the cells on the infected fish.
We hope you found our Guppy fish care guide informative and that it has helped you decide about whether or not Guppies are the right fish for you.
Or perhaps you’ve already adopted some Guppy friends and want to make sure you’re taking the best possible care of them.
Either way, if you feed your Guppies a well-balanced diet, keep their tank clean, and make sure they’re accompanied by peaceful companions, you’ll have no problem keeping your Guppies alive and well.
We hope you’re able to enjoy the beautiful and lively Guppy as your silent fish companion for years to come!