Do Guppies Need A Filter? We Separate The Dos & Don’ts!

Do Guppies Need A Filter
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Last Updated: September 17, 2023 by Flora Gibbins

If you are looking into keeping guppies, you must be researching everything there is to know about these tropical fish and their ideal living conditions. 

Since you are reading this, you are looking to answer these questions; do guppies need a filter? Or, can guppies live without a filter?

The short answer is: 

Guppies need a filter. However, they can survive without a filtration system if certain conditions are met. 

This guide covers everything you need to know about guppies and filters. Read on. 

How Do Filters Work?

Filters are essential aquarium equipment that maintains water chemistry, clarity, and cleanliness. Like other fish species, guppies need quality aquarium water to live healthily and happily. This is where a filtration system comes in.

Filters use filtration media to get rid of waste and debris. The filter media can either be: 

  • Mechanical
  • Biological
  • Chemical

Let’s discuss each media at length. 

Mechanical Filtration

Mechanical Filtration

Mechanical filtration media removes debris and fish waste from the guppy tank. This includes; fish poop, dead plants, leftover food, dirt, and grime. The media removes large particles to prevent other filter media from clogging.

Chemical Filtration

Chemical Filtration

As the name suggests, chemical filtration removes chemicals as well as smells and discoloration from the aquarium water. Most filters use activated carbon for chemical filtration. 

Biological Filtration

Biological Filtration

Biological filtration promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the guppy aquarium. The beneficial bacteria remove poisonous ammonia and nitrates to keep your fish safe. 

Benefits Of Adding A Filter In Your Guppy Tank

Adding an aquarium filter to your guppy tank will benefit you and your guppies. How?

Removes Toxic Chemicals

Ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates are invisible to the naked eye. However, their invisibility does not make them less harmful. These invisible chemicals are fish killers. Fortunately, a filter will remove nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia buildup. 

Oxygenates The Water

Still, water has less surface area, making it difficult to absorb oxygen. A filtration system promotes water movement, which facilitates oxygen absorption. The filter churns the water’s surface to prevent biofilm formation. 

When a fish tank has high levels of dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide levels reduce. This stabilizes pH levels and keeps guppies healthy.

Less Water Changes

With a filtration system in place, you will not perform frequent water changes as you would without a filter, making your life easier. Since the filter cleans the aquarium water, it eliminates the need for daily water changes. 

Fun Fact: The pH level of your aquarium water determines whether your pet guppy will thrive well on its own or with other aquatic species. To better understand this important subject, read our article on Guppy pH: Proper Monitoring Of Water Acidity For Your Pet.

Which Are The Best Filters For A Guppy Tank?

In all honesty, there is no one best filter for a guppy tank. You should add two or more types of filters for the best results. Nevertheless, power filters work best for smaller tanks, while canister filters are perfect for bigger aquariums. 

The following are the best filters for a guppy tank:

Sponge Filters

Sponge Filters

Sponge filters are a favorite among fish keepers because they are inexpensive, easy to clean, and reliable. They need a sponge filter, an air pump, and airline tubing to work.

The air pump pumps air through the airline tube to create a suction effect. This draws in tank water to the sponge filter for filtration. The filtration process creates bubbling and airflow, which aerate the fish tank. 

Power Filters (HOB Filters)

Power Filters (HOB Filters)

These are also known as Hang On Back Filters and are indeed hung on the back of the aquarium. Power filters feature a siphon tube that draws the tank water into a media chamber for filtration. Once cleaned, the water is pumped back into the tank.

A hang-on-back filter is perfect for a small aquarium since it is not too powerful. Moreover, it is easy to adjust its flow rate to avoid stressing the guppies. 

Internal Filters

Internal Filters

Internal filters are also effective in maintaining water quality in fish tanks. You need to fully submerge an aquarium filter for it to work. An internal filter offers better filtration than sponge filters and Hang on Back Filters.  

These aquarium filters, however, have a few shortcomings. They fetch a hefty price and take up a lot of space in the guppy tank. Additionally, they are an eyesore to your tank’s decoration. 

Canister Filters

Canister Filters

Canister filters are placed outside the fish tank. They draw water from the tank, pump it through a filter then drive it back to the tank.

A canister filter is more robust and holds a high volume of media. Nevertheless, it is quite expensive, and if not maintained, it suffers leaking problems. 

Can Guppies Survive Without An Aquarium Filter?

To this point, we have discussed that guppies need a filter and the benefits of a filter. But can guppies live without a filter? Yes, they can. 

Guppies produce minimal bioload, unlike other fish, and do not require the most powerful filtration systems. 

However, if you choose not to add a filter, you must spare more time to maintain the water quality.

How To Maintain A Fish Tank Without A Filter

You can maintain the correct water chemistry without a filter by doing the following.

1. Choose The Correct Aquarium Size

Choose The Correct Aquarium Size

A bigger tank is the best way to go when you do not have a filtration system. Smaller tanks have less water volume that gets polluted as soon as guppies poop. This increases the likelihood of ammonia spikes and unbalanced water chemistry. 

We recommend that you get a bigger tank. The general rule states you should provide 1 gallon of water for every guppy. But how many guppies should you keep in a 10-gallon tank if you do not have a filter?

Normally, a 10-gallon tank would accommodate ten guppies if there was a filter. But in this case, it would be best to limit the number to three guppy fish. 

Overstocking the fish tank can result in water pollution and ammonia spike, killing your guppy fish in a day or two. Also, overstocking depletes oxygen levels in the water, thereby stressing your fish. Stress can make your fish ill, and they may die from this. 

2. Complete Nitrogen Cycle

Complete Nitrogen Cycle

You must complete the nitrogen cycle before you introduce guppies to the aquarium. The nitrogen cycle promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria that destroy toxic toxins. 

How do you go about this?

Step 1: Use a conditioner to remove dissolved chemicals in your tap water before adding it to the fish tank. Chlorine and chloramine can kill the bacterial colonies you are trying to nurture. 

Step 2: Add small amounts of fish flakes and pellets to the water daily.

Step 3: Monitor as ammonia levels spike after several days.

Step 4: As the days go by, monitor the increase in nitrites as ammonia levels decrease. 

Step 5: Keep an eye on nitrate levels as nitrites deplete. 

Step 6: The nitrogen cycle is complete when ammonia and nitrite levels are 0 ppm. Nitrates are less dangerous but should always remain below 20 ppm.  

3. Regular Tank Maintenance

Regular Tank Maintenance

In addition to fully cycling the guppies’ tank, you should perform weekly 25% or 50% biweekly water change. When you perform water changes, you prevent ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates from building up. 

Also, remove the decaying plants, uneaten food, or dead fish. Siphon the substrate, too, to keep the tank clean.

4. Add Live Plants

Add Live Plants

Aquarium plants will also help clean your guppy tank. Live plants act as a natural filtration system by absorbing the toxins from fish waste. Besides, if you introduce plants when cycling the tank, they can speed up the process. 

Aquarium plants also reduce algae growth. For starters, they use up the resources that algae need to grow. In addition, live plants aerate the substrate, preventing the formation of anaerobic gasses. 

Guppies and guppy fry love plants because they provide hiding spots. The plants offer security and comfort when a guppy is feeling stressed. Moreover, they are a food source for these fish. 

Hornwort, Java moss, African fern, and Java fern are excellent low-maintenance plants to try. They not only decorate the tank but their surfaces also promote the growth of good bacteria. 

5. Use Ammonia Neutralizer

Use Ammonia Neutralizer

Alternatively, use ammonia neutralizers to neutralize toxic ammonia. The product converts ammonia to ammonium, a harmless compound to guppies but beneficial to healthy bacteria. 

6. Use Aqua Soil Substrate

Use Aqua Soil Substrate

Live plants need a substrate that holds essential nutrients for their growth. So, choose aqua soil substrate instead of gravel and sand. 

Do Baby Guppies Need A Filter?

Guppy fry needs a filter more than adult guppies. Baby guppies are more fragile and sensitive to polluted water. They can easily catch fungal, parasitic, or bacterial infections. Moreover, dirty water can result in respiratory problems. 

This is why you should add a filter to a guppy fry tank. The filter will remove debris and waste and keep the water clean. Furthermore, the fries will find food easily in clean water rather than cloudy water. 

Guppy fry produces less bioload compared to adult guppies. So, a small filter will be sufficient for their tank.

This YouTube video has additional information on how to care for baby guppies:

Do Guppies Need An Air Pump?

Yes, particularly if you do not have a filter. The pump injects dissolved oxygen into the aquarium water. It creates movement in the water’s surface to drive more oxygen and prevent the formation of surface scum. 

This film is usually responsible for reduced oxygen levels and harboring dust particles, insects, and bacteria.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Filters Need Cleaning?

Yes, filters need cleaning. However, the frequency depends on the type of filter. For instance, you should clean sponge filters once every two weeks if your tank is overstocked.

How Long Can Guppies Live Without A Filter And Tank Maintenance?

Depending on the size of your aquarium, it would take 2 to 5 days for your guppies to die. Also, more fish in the fish tank means more waste. So, your guppies won’t live long in an overstocked and unmaintained tank. 

What Should I Look For When Buying A Filter?

The best aquarium filter should be easy to clean and maintain. It should also be reliable and offer biological, chemical, and biological filtration. 


What’s your take; do guppies need a filter? Yes, they do. A filter helps maintain clean tank water to promote the guppies’ health and longevity. You can purchase HOB filters, canister filters, sponge filters, or internal filters. 

If you are not interested in getting a filter, you can maintain water chemistry by; cycling the tank fully, adding live plants, using a big tank, stocking the correct number of guppies, and performing water changes.