Guppy Care Guide: Lifespan, Size, Diet, Breeding & More

Guppy fish are an incredibly popular freshwater fish in the aquarium scene. Low-maintenance and beginner friendly, there’s a lot to like about this species!

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about guppy care. While they’re not difficult to keep, you still need to understand their basic requirements if you want them to live long and happy lives!

Species Summary

Guppy fish (Poecilia reticulata) are some of the most breathtaking in the aquarium community. Revered for their stunning coloration and fast breeding rate, guppies are the quintessential domesticated freshwater fish. Many seasoned aquarists liken them to Goldfish, as they are pretty widespread and easy to keep healthy.

Author Note: This species is perfect for beginners. They’re hardy, unfussy, and can get along well with others in a community setting.

The guppy was first discovered during the 1860s in South America. Its natural distribution is vast. However, they’re most prevalent in Brazil and Guyana. Some wild populations are found in Barbados, too.

Interestingly enough, you can find guppy fish in many places around the world. And it’s not just irresponsible owners that released them into the wild that caused these growing populations.

One guppy fish swimming by plants in an aquarium

The guppy fish is often used for mosquito control. Their propensity to consume mosquito larvae makes them a cheap and reliable option to reduce mosquito populations without chemical pesticides. Of course, introducing these fish to strange environments doesn’t always end positively, and you should never attempt to release them into the wild on your own.

Fortunately, most of the guppies sold today are simply used as pets. These fish have a lot to offer both new and experienced aquarists alike.

Appearance

The most exciting aspect of the guppy is its appearance.

These fish are sporting gorgeous tailfins filled with color! In most cases, the body is relatively muted. These fish have a minnow-like profile with a pointed snout and upturned mouth. 

But after the caudal fork, a burst of flowing beauty emerges! The guppy has a fan-shaped fin that’s considerably large compared to the rest of the body. You might see similar colors and a flowy texture to the other fins, but the tailfin is where most of the details are.

Author Note: Contrary to popular belief, not all guppies are the same. When most people think of these fish, they imagine the typical appearance of male fish. However, this species exhibits pretty extreme sexual dimorphism!

Both males and females can exhibit the flowing fin that defines the guppy, but females tend to be significantly bigger overall. They’re plumper and can grow to twice the size as the males. For this reason, the tailfin isn’t as eye-catching.

Against the female body’s larger size, it’s not as “in your face” as the males’ fins.

As for color, the sky’s the limit with guppies! There are reportedly more than 300 different varieties. These fish can take on a spectrum of colors and patterns.

Guppy fish swimming in a large tank

Guppies are a favorite among freshwater breeders. Thanks to their prolific spawning rate, it’s fairly easy to create new variations of these colorful fish

Some of the most popular varieties include the cobra, tuxedo, snakeskin, and lace guppy. These types feature distinct black patterns against a burst of vibrant color. 

Lifespan

The typical guppy fish lifespan is between two and five years. Like any other fish, their life expectancy is largely attributed to the level of care you provide.

There are no guarantees, with luck and genetics both coming into play here. However, guppy fish living in a well-maintained tank are well-suited for longer, healthier lives.

On the other hand, those in substandard conditions tend to succumb to stress and disease easier. Fortunately, guppy care is something that everyone should be able to handle (more on that later).

Average Size

Guppies are not big at all, which is why the flowing fins are so impressive.

The average guppy fish size is about two inches long for adults. Females can get as large as two and a half inches long. Meanwhile, males might not even reach the two inch mark!

Author Note: Their small size is perfect for those who have smaller tanks. However, they can also feel quite comfortable in a larger aquarium as long as you keep a bigger group together.

Guppy Fish Care

There’s a reason why you see so many aquarists recommending guppies to newcomers. Despite their small size, these fish are surprisingly hardy!

Resilient and highly adaptable, they’re a great choice for anyone first learning the ins and outs of fish-keeping. Proper guppy care is something that anyone can manage.

But as always, this species does have some preferred guidelines and requirements in order for them to truly thrive. Here’s the crucial information you can’t miss.

Tank Size

First things first, what kind of aquarium does a guppy need?

Thanks to their small size, you don’t need a massive tank to keep guppies. A trio can live comfortably in an environment with as little as five gallons! A five-gallon tank will cover the fish’s bases.

But for better results, we recommend going with a 10-gallon tank or larger.

A larger tank provides more room to live comfortably. Guppies are highly active and love to swim around the environment. Larger aquariums accommodate that behavior slightly better than smaller ones.

Author Note: Not only that, but these fish are also fast spawners. While you might start with a small group, there’s a good chance that the population will grow in front of your eyes. 

Water Parameters

The best thing you can do for any fish species is to replicate their natural environment as much as possible. Fortunately, that’s not too difficult when it comes to guppy care.

Guppy fish hail from the warm waters of South America. They can adapt well to a relatively wide temperature range. However, they do best in warmer conditions.

Interestingly enough, a guppy’s life cycle can fluctuate based on water conditions. In cooler weather, they mature at a slower rate and breed more infrequently. Meanwhile, they reach adulthood faster in warmer conditions.

A group of guppy fish

Guppies typically live in streams and ponds with moderate water flow. As a result, their natural habitats are usually teeming with life. To replicate the living ecosystem, it’s best to provide water on the harder side and an overall neutral pH balance.

The beauty of caring for guppies is that you don’t have to be exact. You should still monitor the water conditions regularly (with a good test kit) to avoid any major fluctuations, but as long as you stick within the following accepted ranges, your fish should do just fine.

  • Water temperature: 64°F to 84°F (somewhere in the mid-70s is ideal)
  • pH level: 7.5 to 8.0
  • Water hardness: 8 to 12 dGH

What To Put Inside Their Tank

If you feel like getting creative, now is your chance! 

Unlike other tropical fish species, guppies aren’t super picky about the decorative items in their tank. As always , natural is best, but these fish aren’t going to mind either way.

Start with a standard layer of a sand substrate. Sand is the preferred choice for guppies, as it’s fine enough not to cause any issues if accidentally ingested. However, you can always use gravel or large rocks if that’s what you prefer.

Another reason why you might want to use sand is its effects on live plants. Guppies love to have a lush environment filled with vegetation. In the wild, guppy fish are natural targets against larger fish and predatory animals.

To evade capture, they tend to hide within plant leaves and grasses. Replicating a lush underwater landscape will make these fish feel more at ease (we would actually consider this one of the most important aspects of guppy care)..

Feel free to use a wide range of plant cultivars. Guppy fish enjoy Java moss, aquatic fern, and more. You can also use artificial silk plants, but make sure that they’re soft enough not to cause injury whenever your fish swim against them.

Author Note: Create a natural landscape with a mix of background, middle ground, and foreground plants. Try to keep the middle of the tank relatively open, as the fish like to have open swimming spaces for exercise and play.

Once you have some plants in, you can also add artificial rocks, driftwood, and plastic decorations. Whatever you add, make sure to examine everything closely. Avoid any items with sharp or jagged edges that could rip your fish’s fins.

For lighting, keep things natural! Guppies have no strict lighting requirements. However, they do need a standard day/night cycle. Put standard aquarium lights on a timer or place the tank near a window for natural lighting.

If you live in a colder area, you may want to invest in a submersible heater. Heaters can keep the temperature range stable, avoiding any shock-inducing fluctuations that could harm your fish!

Three guppies swimming together

It’s also important to invest in a reliable filtration system. Some seasoned guppy owners will tell you that a filtration system is not necessary. However, we always recommend using one to prevent a noticeable rise in ammonia and nitrate levels.

Guppies don’t produce a colossal bioload, but they still make waste. If you have a large community, the waste produced is more than capable of souring the tank. A filter that can cycle the water a few times per hour will keep things stable in the long run.

Common Possible Diseases

Guppies are resilient little creatures that can hold up well in a wide range of conditions, making care fairly simple. That said, they’re not immune to disease!

This freshwater species is at risk for all the common health concerns. Like any other captive tropical fish, they can suffer from bacterial infections, fungal problems, and parasitic infestations. The closed environment of an aquarium makes it easier to spread disease.

Author Note: This is especially true if the conditions are lackluster. Difficult living conditions cause undue stress on the fish, which challenges the immune system and increases the likelihood of disease.

One of the most common stress-related ailments is Ich. Ich is a parasitic infection that manifests itself through tiny white dots all over the body. While it seems benign at first, Ich can quickly kill a fish if you don’t provide medication.

To make matters worse, Ich is highly contagious. It spreads through the cycled environment, putting all of your fish at risk. If you notice those dots appearing, you must quarantine the infected fish and administer treatment as soon as possible.

Guppies are also susceptible to fin rot, which can be fungal-based or caused by bacteria. Those precious flowing fins can decay before sloughing off completely. Not only does this condition impact the beauty of your guppies, but it can also affect the way they swim.

The best way to deal with fin rot, Ich, and any other disease is to avoid it altogether!

To do this you should monitor tank conditions regularly. Perform partial water changes every couple of weeks to avoid spikes in ammonia and prevent significant chemistry changes that could harm your fish.

Food & Diet

When it comes to food, guppy care is a piece of cake! These freshwater fish are natural omnivores that will consume whatever they can get their mouths on!

In the wild, guppies will search for plant detritus and small morsels of food in the water. However, a special feast for these fish is mosquito larvae and other tiny insects.

It’s best to provide a balanced diet with a little bit of variety in captivity. The primary food source should be high-quality flakes or pellets. Commercial food is well-rounded and formulated to meet the dietary needs of tropical fish.

Every once in a while, provide high-protein snacks like bloodworms, brine shrimp, and mosquito larvae. You can offer up these foods frozen, freeze-dried, or live.

Author Note: The biggest issue fish-keepers have with feeding guppies is providing too much food. They might be tiny, but guppy fish will indulge if given a chance.

Stick to an established feeding schedule. Offer up two meals a day. Provide just enough food that your fish can eat in one minute.

Guppies are smart! They will eventually learn their routine and show some signs of excitement whenever you approach the tank. This makes ownership even more fun, and allows you to develop a bond.

Behavior & Temperament

Guppy fish are peaceful and easy-going. The only minor signs of aggression you might notice come in the form of fin-nipping. Thanks to their fast-swimming nature, they tend to gravitate towards the fins of slow-moving creatures.

Luckily, that’s a problem you can easily eradicate with a bit of planning ahead.

For the most part, guppies aren’t going to be a problem. They’re great community fish and will easily get along with like-minded species.

Author Note: Social animals at heart, they like to stick together and explore the tank as a group. However, they’re not a strictly schooling species. So, don’t be surprised if you find lone wolves having a moment of respite in some plants!

Tank Mates

The best guppy fish tank mates are other guppies!

We recommend keeping guppy fish in a group no smaller than three. If possible, keep even more! Guppies tend to display more extroverted behaviors when they have a group to fall back on. 

Solo fish will feel vulnerable and spend most of their time in hiding.

When planning a tank, you must keep more females than males. Keep two females for every male that you have. If you don’t do this, the arrangement may become a little chaotic.

Males want nothing more than to breed! Having too many males will lead to fighting within the group. Plus, females will have a more challenging time getting away from spawn-focused males.

Beyond other guppies, you can keep them in communal tanks. The trick is to house them with like-minded species that are peaceful. Avoid any fish or invert that’s prone to aggression.

Guppy fish are easy targets and will quickly become food for any fish that can overpower them. Stick to peace-loving fish that are a similar size to guppies. Here are a few guppy fish tank mates that are worth trying out.

Breeding

Breeding guppies is a cinch. In fact, you will probably see these fish spawning without any direct intervention.

Guppy fish are unique to other fish because they are livebearers. They belong to an exclusive group of fish that birth free-swimming fry! Some other examples of livebearers include Platies and Mollies.

Instead of laying eggs throughout the tank, guppies will do so inside the womb. The gestation period can last anywhere between 21 and 40 days. Once the eggs are ready, the female will give birth to upwards of 200 babies at once!

Author Note: While guppies will breed frequently, the chances of fry survival are slim without a bit of prep work. These fish do not exhibit parental behavior. They will eat the fry alongside any other community fish in the tank.

To help increase the chances of survival, create a separate breeding tank. Fill it with fine-leaf plants and grasses that the fry can hide in once they are born.

To promote spawning, condition your fish with high-protein snacks for several days. You may or may not witness the spawning process, which involves semination from the male. The only way to tell if spawning was a success is to see the female swell up with eggs.

Pregnant guppy fish can hold sperm for upwards of three months. However, well-primed fish will utilize it almost immediately for fertilization.

After the gestation period is over and the female births the fry, remove all the adults from the breeding tank to give the fry a fighting chance. 

You can feed baby fish fry food or baby brine shrimp until they are large enough to take standard flakes or pellets.

Conclusion

Guppy care is rather simple once you’ve done your initial research. These colorful freshwater fish are a joy to own, and shouldn’t cause you much hassle.

As long as you take care of their basic needs these fish will be just fine!

If you have any questions about guppy fish care that we didn’t address in this guide, don’t hold back! Send us a message and we’ll try to help you out as soon as we can.

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