Complete Guppy Fish Care Guide

From beginners to experienced fishkeepers alike, guppies are one of the most popular freshwater fish in the aquarium hobby, and it's easy to understand why.

I’ve had countless hours of enjoyment keeping guppies over the years.

This guppy fish care guide will take you through everything you need to know about keeping these wonderful little fish happy and healthy in your aquarium.

Guppy Fish Care Guide

Guppy Fish Care
Guppy Fish
  • Name / Scientific Name: Guppy Fish / Poecilia reticulata
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Maximum Size: 2 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Water Temperature: 72°-80° F
  • dKH: 8-12
  • pH: 7.0-8.2

Also known as rainbowfish or millionfish, guppies are without doubt one of the best freshwater fish in the aquarium hobby. They’re readily available, cheap, hardy, super easy to care for, highly active, and peaceful in community aquariums.

Fancy tailed guppies come in every color you can possibly imagine, so you don’t have to worry about adding tank mates to give your aquarium a bit of extra color. Their vivid tail fins put on a great show as they dart constantly around your aquarium.

Various guppy fish color varieties

Some of the most popular types of guppies are:

  • Lyretail guppy
  • Rainbow guppy
  • Sunrise guppy
  • Tiger guppy
  • Turquoise guppy

Another plus is that almost every guppy in this hobby is captive bred rather than wild caught, so there’s no negative impact on wild populations.

That being said, fish store guppies aren’t as hardy as they used to be due to interbreeding on large fish farms. If you’re buying from a store, look closely at every fish in the tank for any signs of distress. If you’re in any doubt at all, walk away!

If you can find a reputable breeder with lots of positive customer feedback, I’d use them over a large chain store any day of the week.

Not only will you be supporting a local business, but your fish will already be used to aquarium conditions so you’ll have a much better chance of survival once you get them home.

They’re also super easy to breed, which makes them an obvious choice for fish breeders. If you’re wanting to breed your guppies, I’ve gone into more detail in the breeding guppies section further down this post.

Are Guppies Easy To Care For?

Yes, guppies are easy to care for with the right information. You’ve already taken a step in the right direction by reading this guppy care guide.

How Long Do Guppies Live For?

With proper care, a healthy guppy fish has a lifespan of 2-3 years.

Guppy Fish Tank Setup

Guppy Tank Setup Kit
Tetra 10 gallon tank setup kit

Before adding guppies, or any other fish to an aquarium, it’s vital that you have fully cycled your tank. If you skip this step, you’re going to run into trouble pretty quickly!

What Size Tank Do Guppies Need?

The minimum tank size for guppies is 10 gallons. Even though guppies are only small, they are highly active and need a lot of space to swim.

If you’re wanting to have a larger school, or add other tank mates in the future, consider 20 gallons and upwards.

I always recommend you get a lid for any aquarium to stop your fish from jumping out. Speaking from bitter experience, it’s not nice finding a dried-out fish on your floor.

How Many Guppies Should I Get?

Guppies are social fish so you should get at least 5 of them.

How Many Guppies Can Be Kept Together?

I use the 1 guppy per 2 gallons of water principle. Some guides will tell you slightly differently, but that’s ok, my preference is for an understocked tank.

If you want to keep both male and female guppies in the same tank, keep 3-4 females to 1 male. A male will constantly harass the females to mate, which can stress the girls unless there are a few of them to share his attention.

Guppy Water Parameters

Guppies are hardy fish so can tolerate a wide range of water parameters. That being said, you should always aim to keep your water parameters as consistent as possible, fish find it stressful when your pH levels, temperature, etc are fluctuating all the time.

Can Guppies Live In Tap Water?

Yes, guppies can live in tap water. Just make sure you treat your tap water with a water conditioner, such as Fritz Complete or Seachem Prime, so that the water is safe for your fish.

These water conditioners detoxify harmful chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals found in tap water, and high nitrate levels that can be found in well water.

Guppy Water Hardness

Guppies’ water dGH level should be between 8-12.

Guppies prefer harder water with good amounts of essential minerals such as calcium and magnesium.

Water pH For Guppies

Water pH for guppies should be kept between 7.0-8.2.

Do Guppies Need A Heater?

Yes, guppies need a heater. The water temperature for guppies should be 72°-80° F unless you’re breeding them, in which case you should gradually raise the temperature to around 82° F.

Guppy fish lifespan and their breeding cycle are affected by water temperature.

  • At 72° F they can live up to 3.5 years, but they’ll take a lot longer to grow and will only breed every 6 months
  • 76 -78° F they’ll live around 2 years
  • 80°-82° F they’ll live around 18 months, but they will produce a lot more fry

Do Guppies Need Salt?

No, guppies are freshwater fish so don’t need salt in their aquarium water. They live in fresh and brackish (slightly salty) water in the wild, so they can tolerate some salt levels, but don’t need salt.

Filtration

Can Guppies Live Without A Filter?

I wouldn’t recommend it. Guppies will benefit from having a filter as they create waste just like any other fish, what goes in has got to come out!

Having a filtration system in place helps to remove waste from the tank and keeps your nitrogen cycle in check. If you choose not to have a filter, you’re going to be very busy performing lots of water changes to keep toxins in the water under control.

Any type of filter will work great, but if you’re planning on breeding your guppies choose a sponge filter to avoid the fry being sucked in.

If you’ve got a HOB filter already, you can buy a pre-filter sponge that fits over your filter’s intake tube to stop the fry or small fish from being sucked in.

Do Guppies Need An Air Pump?

No, guppies don’t need an air pump, but they will certainly benefit from one. An air pump will help keep your water oxygenated by causing surface agitation.

How Do You Keep Guppies Water Clean?

You can keep your guppies water clean by doing the following:

  • Cycling your tank fully before adding your fish
  • Use a filter and an air pump
  • Add some live plants to the tank
  • Don’t overstock your tank
  • Don’t overfeed your guppies
  • Clean your aquarium and change the water on a regular basis

When Should I Change My Guppies Water?

I do a partial water change once my nitrate levels are around 20ppm. How often your nitrates reach this level depends entirely on your own aquarium’s nitrogen cycle. There are a few factors to take into account such as tank size, how many live plants you have, how many fish you have, etc.

The way to work it out is to regularly test your water and record your nitrate levels. You’ll soon figure out how long it takes for them to reach 20ppm.

Substrate

You can use whatever substrate you prefer.

My own preference is sand as it’s less likely to cause your fish problems should they swallow any and it doesn’t trap fish poop and other waste in small gaps, where it will rot.

Also, sand won’t injure any bottom-dwelling tank mates if you’re planning on adding any in the future.

Decorations

Decorations will provide your guppies with hiding places where they can relax, and also provide extra surface area for the beneficial bacteria to colonize which helps with your nitrogen cycle.

Decorate your tank however you choose. If you want to have a Star Wars themed tank, you go right ahead! As Joda would say “In a way you’ll enjoy looking at, decorate your tank you should. Yes, hrrrm!!”

2 things to be aware of with decorations:

  • 1: Make sure they don’t have any sharp edges which could injure your guppies’ fins
  • 2: Some cheaper plastic decorations have been known to leach chemicals into the water, making fish seriously ill or worse

Do Guppies Need Live Plants?

Guppies prefer a planted tank and live plants are better than artificial plants. While both offer your fish places to hide and relax, using live plants in your aquarium will help remove harmful toxins from the water.

Some of the best live plants for guppies include:

  • Anacharis elodea
  • Anubis nana
  • Guppy grass
  • Java fern
  • Water sprite

If you prefer using artificial plants to save you from having to take care of live ones, make sure they have no sharp edges that could snag your guppies fins.

Do Guppies Need Light?

No, guppies don’t need a light, but they’re OK with it in moderation. Lights are more for us humans, so we can see inside our aquarium better and they help plants with photosynthesis.

If your guppy tank is in a room with plenty of natural light, put them on for an hour or two while you spend time with them. Exposure to too much light can stress them.

If you’ve got live plants in your tank, you’ll need to use lights to help them grow. Just follow the guidelines for whichever plants you have chosen and use a timer so you don’t forget to turn them off.

LED lighting is the way to go these days.

LED lights have 3 major advantages over fluorescent lights:

  • 1: They use less energy
  • 2: They have a consistent color of light throughout their life so you don’t have to keep changing them
  • 3: They don’t get as hot, so won’t affect your aquarium’s water temperature as much

What To Feed Guppies

What Do Guppy Fish Eat
Various foods to feed your guppy

Feeding guppies is one of the major fun factors of keeping them. Have you ever noticed how your dog just knows that it’s feeding time and will bug you until they get fed?

Well, guppies are smart fish and learn their own feeding schedule too! They’ll become more active around those times, especially when you go near the tank.

What Do Guppies Eat?

Guppies are omnivores so will eat almost anything.

You should feed your guppies a wide and varied diet to keep them healthy. A staple of their diet should be a high-quality flake or pellet food that has fish meal as a primary ingredient.

You should also feed them things like:

  • Bloodworms
  • Brine shrimp
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Blanched veggies such as cucumber, shelled peas, spinach, and zucchini

Guppies have small mouths so you need to make sure their food is in small enough pieces so they can easily pick at it.

It’s vital not to overfeed your guppies as this can block their intestines and cause problems.

Only feed them as much as they can eat in 2 minutes and remove any leftover food, as it could rot and cause an ammonia spike.

A good indication that you may be overfeeding them is long trailing poop.

Your guppies will also nibble away at the algae in your tank, but they’re not the best algae eaters available.

How Often Do Guppies Need To Be Fed?

Adults should be fed once or twice per day. A good routine would be to feed them flakes or pellets in the morning, and bloodworms, veggies, etc in the evening.

Guppy fry should be fed 3 to 5 times per day.

How Long Can A Guppy Go Without Food?

Healthy adult guppies can go around 2 weeks without food. This is OK for rare emergency situations, but shouldn’t become a regular habit.

If you’re going to be away from home any longer than 3 days I recommend you either get someone to feed them for you or invest in an automatic feeder.

Common Diseases In Guppies

There are a few common ailments that affect guppies, most of them caused by stress.

One of the biggest stress-related issues in guppies is ich. Ich is a highly contagious parasitic infection that can quickly spread to every fish in your tank if it’s not dealt with.

Fin-rot is another ailment guppies are prone to. Fin-rot is generally a sign of poor water quality, injury, or aggression from other tank mates.

The best ways to keep stress levels down in an aquarium are:

  • Maintain good water quality by routinely cleaning your aquarium
  • Avoid overstocking your tank
  • Feed your fish a high-quality diet
  • Provide your fish with enough hiding places
  • Don’t provide too much light
  • Avoid aggressive fin nipping tank mates

How To Recognise Sick Guppy Fish

Spend time with your guppies and learn what their normal behaviors are. You’ll be able to spot anything out of the ordinary which could be an early warning sign of an illness.

Early warning signs of an illness are:

  • Appearing lethargic
  • Bruising or scale loss – this will be a sign that your fish has been flashing
  • Clamped fins
  • Flashing – flattening themselves out at the bottom of the tank and rubbing against the substrate or decor, twitchy swimming, sudden bursts of swimming, or even jumping out of the water
  • Hiding more than normal
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale coloration

Guppy Tank Mates

Guppy Fish Tank Mates
Cory cats, platties, harlequin rasboras, and white cloud mountain minnows are all good guppy tank mates

Gupy fish are super peaceful and are compatible with lots of other peaceful fish so long as their tank mates:

  • Are a similar size
  • Won’t nip at their fins
  • Can’t fit them whole in their mouth

Having their fins nipped will stress them out, leading to illness and eventually death if it’s not dealt with.

Anything that fits whole into a fish’s mouth is considered food. With guppies being small, they will fit into the mouth of a lot of fish that are bigger than they are, and will end up becoming a tasty snack!

Some of the best guppy fish tank mates include:

  • Bristlenose Plecos
  • Cory Catfish
  • Harlequin Rasboras
  • Mollies
  • Platies
  • Swordtails
  • White Cloud Mountain Minnows

Guppy Fish Breeding

The first thing to know about breeding guppies is that it’s a cinch!! But, you can quickly be overrun if you don’t have a plan in place for why you want to breed them and what you’re going to do with all of the babies.

Guppies are livebearers, meaning they give birth to free-swimming live young instead of laying eggs and waiting for them to hatch.

Guppy Giving Birth
Guppy giving birth to live young

A female guppy can have anywhere from 20-50 fry at a time, every 3-5 weeks.

You could see if your local fish store will buy them, or you could sell them to family, friends, or other aquarists. Either way, make a plan ahead of time.

You have 3 choices when it comes to breeding guppies:

1: Casual Breeding

This is for those who just want extra fish in their aquarium and have a bit of fun raising fry.

Let the male and females mate. Most of the fry will end up being eaten by the other fish so you’ll have a high mortality rate and won’t end up with too many extra on your hands.

2: Specific Breeding

This method is for those who want more of a specific coloration or behavior. You should only need 1 extra tank for this.

3: Breeding For Profit

If you’re wanting to breed guppies for a profit, you’ll need a breeding tank and at least 2 holding tanks.

Guppy Fish Breeding Tank Setup

Your breeding/holding tanks’ water parameters should be as close as possible to each other to avoid stressing your fish when moving them from one tank to another.

  • Tank size: 10-20 gallons
  • Filtration: Sponge filter
  • Substrate: Optional
  • Plants: Guppy grass and/or water sprite
  • Water Temperature: 80°-82° F
  • pH Level: 7.0-8.2

Choose a male and 2-3 females with coloration you want to reproduce, add them to your breeding tank, and wait for them to mate.

You will know your female is pregnant when she becomes noticeably bigger and her gravid spot at the back of her abdomen becomes darker.

Pregnat guppy with gravid spot highlighted
Female guppy fish gravid spot location

Once your females are pregnant remove the male as he’ll continue to try and mate with them.

You’ll be able to tell when she is nearing giving birth as her abdomen will develop a more squared-off appearance. It takes quite a while to be able to notice this, but with a little practice you’ll pick it up.

Place her into a breeding trap to give birth. The fry can swim free into the tank without fear of being eaten by her.

Some think this is cruel as it will stress her, but this will give you the biggest yield of fry to sell on, so it’s up to you.

You can feed your fry either specialist fry food or crush your regular flakes and pellets so they’re small enough for them to eat.

Once your fry has reached 6-8 weeks of age or 1 inch in size, it should be safe enough to add them to your main tank or sell them on if that’s what you’re wanting to do.

If you’re breeding guppies for profit, keep males and females that are for sale in separate holding tanks to prevent them from breeding too. Your customers may want a male or female only aquarium themselves so will expect them to be separated.

How To Sex Guppies

Sexing guppies is easy. Females are larger with duller coloration, whereas males are vibrantly colored and more slender. Males also have a gonopodium and smaller anal fins, whereas females have a larger anal fins and a gravid spot.

Male vs Female Guppy
Male and female guppy comparison

How Do You Keep Guppies From Breeding?

If you don’t want to breed your guppies, keep all males or all females in the same tank. You can keep a male only guppy aquarium without problems.

How To Care For Guppy Fish Conclusion

Guppies really are super easy and fun to keep. They’re not only a great starter fish for beginners but also a great addition to an established aquarium.

Now you know all about guppies, I hope you can use this guppy fish care guide to get as much enjoyment from your guppies as I’ve had.

Check out the Aquarium Health section for more guides on how to keep your fish tank in tip-top shape.