While all freshwater fish have mesmerizing patterns and impressive shades, it is the guppy that ultimately gets the most attention for having an extremely varied appearance.
This tiny fish scarcely grows over 2” and only needs 5 gallons of water per fish.
They are also referred to as the ‘million fish’ by breeders because of how rapidly they can reproduce. Other very apt names include “rainbow fish” and the Latin name, Poecilia reticulata.
Then there is the fact that they are extremely low maintenance which makes them an ideal fish for beginners who are just getting into fishkeeping.
Thanks to their beautiful patterns and active temperament, they made it to our list of the 30 best freshwater fish for novice aquarists.
In this guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at the Guppy and how to care for them.
|Level of Care
|All colors you can imagine
|Can live for over 2 years
|Reach a size of 3 inches maximum
|5 gallons per Guppy
|Modest requirements with a bare floor, minimal lighting, and a sponge filter
|Very peaceful with other community fish
What is a Guppy: A Brief Overview
Originating from South American tropical waters, the Guppies belong to the Poeciliidae family.
There are 300 subspecies of guppies, all of which come in different sizes, shapes, and colors.
These fish get their name from Robert Guppy, a British-born geologist who first found them in Trinidad in 1866 and took a few with him to the British Museum.
Because of their sheer popularity, the guppies have undergone several name changes and nicknames, the most common of which is The Rainbow Fish and the Million Fish.
As mentioned above, guppies have an extremely varied appearance among their sub-class, including colors, sizes, and shapes. Females typically have grey stripes and males have brighter,
flashier splashes in a wide range of colors to woo potential mates. Breeders often create new varieties in aquariums by crossbreeding different subspecies for those prized unique patterns, colors, and unique tails.
Males are usually smaller than females, reaching a size of between 1 to 1.5 inches, while females can be between 1 to 2.5 inches long.
These species are sexually dimorphic, which makes them easier to identify which of these are males and which are females. More on that later.
Their top and upper half of the body has a paler color, while the rear part is more vividly colored. Some guppies are known for giving off a very metallic appearance due to the presence of iridophores that don’t emit color and reflect light which creates iridescence effects.
Fun fact: Brightly colored male guppies are more likely to be seen – and devoured – by predators. Female guppies have greater camouflage which allows them to avoid predators. Here’s a more detailed study on this trait.
The most noticeable difference between the species is the shape of their tails, the most prominent examples of which include the following shapes:
- Triangle shape
- fan shape
- sword shape
- flag shape
- spade shape
- round shape
- spear shape
Guppies have a very peaceful temperament without displaying signs of aggression.
The males may get a little agitated when it’s breeding season, and you’ll often see them posturing and showing off to female guppies to impress them.
Guppies only get along well with fish that don’t display violent tendencies. If your guppy is running around and hiding a lot,
this is an example of them being stressed out or ill. Hiding is unusual behavior for guppies that are otherwise very jovial and active in their aquariums.
Make sure your tank has a lid because some guppies may get a little too excited and jump out of the water, catching you by surprise.
Although this isn’t common behavior, there’s enough anecdotal evidence for fishkeepers to take precautions than to regret later on.
Tank Requirements and Conditions
Guppies are freshwater fish and have their natural habitats in South American waters.
These conditions are not difficult to replicate in your tank but make sure you do if you want to provide them with a good quality of life.
Your priority should be to properly set up a tank and recycle water regularly. This will prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
While it is recommended to keep guppies in a 10-gallon tank, you can provide them with only five gallons of water. However, if you plan on keeping more fish than one, make sure to choose a bigger tank.
Consider buying an aquarium heater to regulate the water’s temperature between 74 to 82 Fahrenheit.
It is considered good practice to place the heater at one end of the tank, and a thermometer at the other end. Doing so will give you a more accurate reading of the temperature.
As for pH levels, the guppies can tolerate anywhere from 5.8 to 8.8 because they’re extremely well equipped to survive in harsh conditions. That being said, you should always try to keep the water between 7 to 7.3.
To keep the water safe and free of any contaminants, you’ll need to install a filter in the tank. If you pick the right filter for your guppy, you’ll have the peace of mind that it won’t be harmed.
Pro Tip: If you’re using a bigger tank (larger than 50 gallons), you’re better off choosing an external canister filter.
You can run the tank without a filter, but you’ll have to change 50% of the water every week and keep the number of fish to a minimum. Add more plants to compensate for the lack of a filter.
Depending on your requirements, there are two kinds of tank arrangements that you can provide: a show tank and a breeding tank.
In a show tank, your aquarium will contain plenty of rocks, substrate, and plants. The best plants to use for this purpose include the Amazon Sword Plants and Hornwort.
Because breeding isn’t your goal here, the choice of substrate is entirely up to you.
This is an ideal set up where your guppies will enjoy a good quality of life and mostly swim around the top and middle sections of the tank, giving everyone plenty to stare at.
In a breeding tank, the arrangements are slightly different. The bottom is completely bare of any substrates.
This is to ensure that any leftover food is easily removed. It is best to install a floating plant such as Java Moss where your guppies can hide should they get stressed out. This plant is also excellent at filtering the air.
Irrespective of the tank setup, it is important to change at least 25% of the water regularly.
Artificial Lighting for Guppy Fish
Although guppy fish do not require artificial light to survive, it is highly recommended to provide them with some sort of lighting.
It is a good idea to place them near your windows to let the light come in. This is a great way for guppies to stay healthy. If natural light isn’t available, you’ll have to make do with artificial light.
Hardness of Water
Guppies prefer a water hardness of 214.9 ppm. The higher the pH level, the higher the water’s hardness. In some areas, tap water may be enough to sustain guppies.
However, if your tap water contains chlorine, even in low quantities, it could cause significant damage to your guppies that could lead to their death.
Breeding: How Do Guppies Mate?
Guppies are livebearers, which means it’s easy to breed them by simply pairing a male and female together in a tank. However, you have plenty of choices when it comes to breeding them, all of which depend on your preferences.
For example, if you breed two leopard guppies, this will maximize the chances of the offspring having a leopard-like appearance.
If you breed a tuxedo guppy with a leopard guppy, the resultant offspring will display a mix of characteristics.
When they’re ready to mate, males will approach females by extending their gonopodium, which starts the mating process.
Females can give birth to around 200 fry per spawning, depending on the species. Pregnant females will become noticeably bulkier around their stomach by developing patches known as the gravid spots.
It is a good idea to choose your healthiest guppies for breeding because this will minimize the risk of spreading faulty genetics and diseases among offspring. Signs of bad health include rot, inflammation of the bladder, and obvious fungal infections.
You can breed guppies in separate tanks or in communal tanks, each method has its own pros and cons.
Separate Breeding Aquarium
If you want greater control over the breeding conditions, make sure to provide your guppies with a separate tank. This will easily help you select the parents for offspring for the desired color.
It is also much easier to keep a close eye on the guppies and their behavior, not to mention the fact that no other fish in the tank will get a chance of eating the newborn guppy.
The only disadvantage to this tank arrangement is that it requires considerable time, space, and money.
If you allow your guppies to breed in a communal aquarium, the results will be unpredictable and random.
This in itself could be exciting for fishkeepers as they’ll often find some exceptionally beautiful patterns.
The obvious disadvantage of this method is that tank mates may decide to go on a feeding frenzy if they spot the much weaker and defenseless newborn guppy.
If the color and shape of your newborn guppy don’t concern you, then you should go ahead with communal breeding. It is cheaper and doesn’t consume nearly enough time.
Whether in a breeding or communal tank, a guppy fry should be given lots of places to hide for comfort and to avoid getting eaten. One good solution is to use java moss, a very thick plant that makes an excellent hiding spot.
Feeding Guppy Fry
Right after they’re born, a guppy fry will go on a feeding frenzy and try to eat anything it can. Make sure you provide them with a well-balanced diet such as hatched brine shrimp and powdered dry food.
Consider growing your food at home. You can easily grow vinegar eels, which are tiny worms that grow in vinegar. They are easier to culture than to buy from a store. But before you feed them to your fry, make sure you get rid of the vinegar.
Introduce grindal worms to your fish’s diet after they’ve grown for a week or two. Whether you grow them at home or buy them from the store, make sure sterilize them to kill parasites and toxins.
However do not overfeed them because doing so could upset the aquarium’s quality of water and in the worst-case scenario, even kill the young fry.
Remember to change the water every now and then as your fry grows to maintain the quality of water.
What Do Guppies Eat?
Guppies are omnivorous fish, which means they will eat both animal and plant matter. They’re not very picky when it comes to food and will eat just about anything, even mosquito larvae.
But their main diet should consist of fish flakes because they contain a high amount of protein.
Do not buy fish flakes that have fillers in them such as soy and wheat. You can judge the quality of fish flakes by checking out the ingredients list.
To supplement your guppy’s diet, you can feed them with frozen or live foods such as bloodworms and shrimp.
As a general rule of thumb, you should only feed adult guppies twice a day, in quantities that they can eat within 2 minutes. If they’re struggling to finish the food in under 2 minutes, you’re overfeeding them.
If you have guppy fry in the tank, you’ll need to feed them at last 5 times a day but in even smaller amounts. Fry can eat the same foods as guppies, but they should be broken down.
How Big Do Guppies Get?
Guppies that are kept under the right conditions will develop into healthy adults. They will reach a maximum size of 2.5 inches but some species may even grow bigger than 3.5 inches,
but they are few and far between. If you want your guppies to grow healthy, make sure to follow the above guide.
Pro Tip: Never rely on a single type of food because this could lead to nutritional deficiency in your fish. Make sure to alternate between vegetables and meat.
How Long Do Guppies Live?
Guppies are indeed equipped with amazing defense capabilities that allow them to live in a variety of conditions, their maximum life span is around 2 years.
However, all the extensive breeding to create hybrids for those amazing colors comes at a price.
Hybrid guppies are relatively weak and fragile. Plus, some of them are kept in very overcrowded conditions that are prone to diseases and increases their stress levels.
The typical journey of a guppy begins at a wholesaler who lives in one corner of the world, who then ships it to the distributor in a different part of the world, who will ship it to your local pet store.
During this time the guppy may pick up diseases at every stop along the way. By the time it gets to you, they will need some serious care and attention.
You’ll have to provide them with a good diet, clean water, and if needed, medications to treat infections and illnesses.
Where to Buy Guppies?
Guppies are commonly available in most pet and fish stores near you. They can also be purchased off online stores, through online forums, auctions, or from individual traders online. They are extremely cheap, costing as low as $0.10 at pet stores. So you can buy a bunch of them for as low as $20.
Final Thoughts: Are Guppies the Right Fish For Your Aquarium?
Guppies are extremely lively, active, and peaceful fish that are ideal for beginners and advanced fishkeepers alike.
They can live a range of temperature conditions and don’t require special maintenance that could prove to be too hard for a beginner. They also come in a wide range of patterns, colors, and shapes.
If you can manage to get them to breed, which is generally easy, you can create even more diversity in your tank.
Just make sure to provide them with a well-balanced diet, maintain their living conditions. Before long, you’ll have a thriving tank of active swimmers who will entertain you and your guests.