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Guppy Care – Everything You Need to Know (Updated for 2018)

Guppy fish display an array of colors and dazzling designs. "Guppy" provided by thefixer via Flickr.

The guppy is a popular fish amongst both beginners and enthusiasts alike. Guppies are cheap, easy to care for, and offer an amazing spectrum of coloration and patterning. It’s no wonder these little guys are widely bred as show fish due to the thousands of unique strains that can be bred. They’re also one of the absolute BEST choices when it comes to first-time owners and newbies. Whatever your case is, you really can’t go wrong with these fish. They’re a solid choice. A true classic in the fish-keeping hobby.

Read on to learn everything you need to know to care for your guppy.

Last updated: 2/4/18.

Guppy Tank Size

Guppies are peaceful and social and love to be in schools (groups of fish). For a standard 10 gallon tank, you can house anywhere from 10-12. Add another gallon for every 3 fish. If you plan to mix them with other fish, that’s fine too. They’re excellent for community tanks as they generally get along with any non-aggressive, similarly-sized fish.

Aquarium Water Quality

Guppies are hardy and can withstand a variety of water conditions (which is another reason why they’re great for beginners). This gives you some time to correct any errors without too much harm to the fish. When you add water to the tank, it must be treated beforehand, no matter what the scenario is. If you’re doing a water change, topping it off, or even a partial water change, make sure you quarantine the water you plan to add and treat it first. If you’re new to this, treating your water means adding some kind of chemical that basically purifies the water and makes it safe for fish. Tetra makes an excellent water conditioner that’s super easy to use. Be sure to always treat water that’s going to be added to the tank. Note that you should fix any problems ASAP. Just because the fish doesn’t go belly up doesn’t mean he’s not suffering. Water pH should be between 7.0 and 8.5. Water parameters should be ideal (0ppm ammonia and 0ppm nitrite). Hard water is preferred over soft water. (If you don’t know what any of these measurements mean, do some reading). Invest in a master water test kit. These kits will tell you all the parameters of your water quality for precise measurements. They usually come in a kit with multiple solutions for testing different parameters. You may also find a version where you dip these long slices of paper-looking things into the aquarium water. These kits are generally cheaper, but give water parameter results that are known to be inaccurate or all over the place. If you’re just starting out and not sure you want to invest too much, or you simply don’t have the money, many pet stores will test your water for free. Just bring in a small sample of your aquarium water.

 

Ensuring good water quality is critical for a stress-free environment for your fish.
Ensuring good water quality is critical for a stress-free environment for your fish.

“Guppy Pair” by Mihnea Stanciu via Flickr.

Aquarium Filtration

A standard hang-on-back power filter will work great. If you don’t know what that is, it’s the type of filter that literally hangs on the edge of the tank and sucks up water, filters it, and drops it back into the aquarium. Get the appropriate rating for your aquarium. Look at the package. Most filters will tell you the flow rate in gallons per hour (GPH). A standard rule of thumb in the fish world is to get a filter that has 10x the volume of your aquarium. So, if you have a 10 gallon fish tank, you’d get a filter with at least 100 GPH. This may be way more than what the “recommended” tank size the manufacture prints on there, but you always want more filtration. That’s another rule of thumb. You can never have enough filtration.

You should know, if you mix both male and female and provide hiding places, chances are that your females will have babies (fry). They’re well-known to give birth like crazy. Any female in your tank can bear 50+ fry about every 30 days. That’s a lot of babies. If you plan to keep these babies, you’ll need to separate them to another tank with a weaker filter (such as a box or sponge filter) to keep it from sucking up the fry into the inlet tube. Otherwise, if you don’t care for the fry, you can simply do nothing. More on this later.

Guppy Temperature and Heating

Guppies prefer warmer temperatures, ideally 78F (26C). However, they can withstand temperatures ranging from 75-82F (23-28C). An adjustable aquarium heater is important to maintain a constant temperature. Be sure to get one with the correct wattage rating for your tank size. Also get a thermometer to measure the temperature of the water. Make sure you get one that goes INSIDE that tank, not outside. The sticky strips that stick on the outside glass can be upwards of 20F off.

We sell fully adjustable aquarium heaters that suit Guppies perfectly! Check them out here.

Aquarium Lighting

Guppies are a cinch in the lighting department. They don’t need any special or fancy aquarium lighting. A standard fluorescent bulb ranging from 18-40 watts will work just fine. Keep the light on 10-14 hours a day. Try to turn them on 1 hour before you feed them breakfast, and turn them off 1 hour before you feed them dinner. If you plan to have live plants in your aquarium, be sure to read up on the special lighting requirements for your specific plant. If you don’t want to deal with live plants, fake plants work just fine.

Aquarium Decor

Guppies love hiding places. Whether you use ceramic pots, planters, rocks, plants, or whatever else provides a sheltered area, they’ll appreciate it. If you plan to breed them, hiding places are essential. Why? Check out the next section.

Breeding Guppies

Guppies are known as the “million fish” because they reproduce easily and readily. If you buy them from a pet store where both males and females are housed together, there’s a high chance you’ll have a pregnant female. You’ll likely wake up one day and see dozens of guppy babies (fry) swimming around. Most guppy owners end up having a pregnant female giving birth to a batch of fry without even knowing it. That’s how easy it is to breed them. You literally don’t have to do anything. Just keep the light on 10-14 hours a day and provide lots of hiding places.

Soon enough, after a few weeks, scan the female guppies in your tank. You’ll notice that some of them have a dark spot (gravid spot) near their rear end on the underside. It looks like an oval-shaped patch with a darker complexion than the rest of the body. It may switch from black to orange throughout the pregnancy. Congratulations! You have a pregnant guppy. Other signs to look for are a change in eating habits, squared body, open gills, arched back, fading or changing colors, and changes in behavior (aggressive or skittish). Depending on the guppy, these signs may or may not apply. When you first notice these changes, you have about 3-4 weeks before she gives birth. During this time it’s important not to stress her and provide a high-quality meal.

After 3-4 weeks, keep a close eye on her. She should have an enlarged underbelly and should be ready to deliver anytime. You may even be able to see the fry inside her. At this point, you have 2 options. You can either keep her inside the community tank and let her deliver the fry into the tank, or you can move her to an isolation tank and let her deliver into a separate tank. The reason for this is simply because they’re cannibalistic. Other guppies will eat the fry, including the mother herself. Well-fed guppies have a lower disposition to eat the fry, but it’s not a guarantee. If you decide to let her deliver in the community tank, expect some fry to be eaten. If you decide to move her to an isolation tank, it’s recommended to use a breeding net. A breeding net is simply a net with small holes. It separates the pregnant female on one side and the fry will fall through the net to the other side one by one as they’re delivered. You don’t need one, but it makes the whole process a lot easier. Keep a close eye on the female while she’s in the isolation tank. You want to keep her there for the least amount of time as possible. Try not to keep her there for more than 24 hours. If she’s been in isolation for over 24 hours and hasn’t delivered, move her back to the community tank and continue watching her. It’s somewhat of a guessing game, but you’ll gain experience as you “deliver” more fry.

 

You can see the prominent, enlarged underside on this pregnant female guppy (boxed in red).
You can see the prominent, enlarged underside on this pregnant female guppy (boxed in red).

“Pregnant Guppy” provided by Mihnea Stanciu via Flickr.

What to Feed Guppies

Feeding guppy fry (0 to 6 weeks): Guppy fry need to be fed a meal small enough to fit inside their tiny mouths. Brine shrimp make an excellent choice and is what’s usually fed to baby guppies amongst aquarium hobbyists. After a few days, the guppy fry can be transferred over to a high-quality fish flake diet. If the flakes are too big, just pour some in a zipper bag and crush them down to size. You can feed out of the bag and reseal after each meal.

 

Guppy fry should have plenty of hiding places available in the aquarium.
Guppy fry should have plenty of hiding places available in the aquarium.

“Baby Guppies” provided by Falashad via Flickr.

Feeding juvenile to adult guppies (6 weeks to adult): Guppies need a balanced and varied diet. Feed them a staple food, any high-quality fish flake will do. Offer other sources of nutrients, such as vegetables, meat, fish, cereal, brine shrimp, and microworms are all excellent supplements. Offer your staple food to them 2-3 times a day. Feed as much as they’ll consume within 3 minutes. If they stop eating or they slow down and lose “excitement” the food, stop feeding. If food starts collecting at the bottom of the aquarium, stop feeding. Keeping them hungry and not bored of their food is important. A hungry fish is a happy fish. Make sure there’s no bullying going on when you drop food into the aquarium. If there are guppies that get bullied and can’t eat, feed the bullies on one end of the tank. While they’re distracted, feed the rest at the other end. If it’s really a problem, you may have to house them separately as they may get bullied not only during feeding, but other times as well. They are peaceful fish, however, other fish may be aggressive towards your harmless guppies. Monitor for any signs of aggression.

Concluding Thoughts

Guppies are an excellent choice for beginners. If you’ve never owned fish before or you’re new to the hobby, you can’t go wrong with guppies. They’re low cost and extremely easy to care for, yet they offer a rewarding experience due to their colors (especially with fancy strains). They don’t require much startup equipment other than the necessities, which are just the bare essentials that you’d buy no matter what fish you get. They also don’t require a large tank, which saves you a sizable chunk of cash. They’re also a great choice because they get along with each other so you can have many guppies in the same aquarium, or even add other fish later on to spice it up. Their readiness to breed also adds in a whole new level of entertainment. You can breed your own fancy and rare strains easily, rather than dealing with specific requirements and conditions like many other fish. All in all, they make one of the most popular pet fish for good reason.

All images licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Do you own guppies? What’s your experience with them?

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