Guppy Care Guide, Species Overview, and Fun Facts

guppy care
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Last Updated: September 19, 2023 by Flora Gibbins

Did you know that they are extremely useful for the well-being of the communities close to where they thrive because they feed on mosquito larvae and thus prevent malaria and other nasty mosquito-borne diseases?

Plus they are gorgeous and come in so many different colors, patterns, and tail shapes! Guppies have always been a favorite among aquarium junkies — myself included, and I can’t wait to share with you all the fascinating facts and tidbits I’ve learned about these colorful creatures.

I also need to help those of you who want to keep guppies as pets and make sure you have excellent guppy care knowledge so they can stay healthy, happy, and thriving. I’ll be sharing helpful tips and tricks for everything from tank setup to feeding and breeding.

Guppy Fish Facts

  • Common names: Millions Fish, Rainbow Fish, Fancy Guppies
  • Scientific name: Poecilia reticulata
  • Adult size: 1.5 – 2.5 inches (3.8 – 6.4 cm) for males, 2 – 2.5 inches (5.1 – 6.4 cm) for females
  • Lifespan: 2 – 3 years on average, but can live up to 5 years with proper care
  • Colors and Markings: Guppies come in a wide range of colors and patterns, including metallics, solids, and intricate designs. Male guppies are typically more colorful than females, with vibrant hues of red, blue, green, orange, and more.
  • Origin: Guppies are native to South America, specifically the rivers and streams of Guyana, Brazil, and Trinidad.

Origin of Guppies

Guppy fish have a fascinating origin story, as they’re native to the rivers and streams of South America. Specifically, they hail from the countries of Guyana, Brazil, and Trinidad, where they were first discovered in the mid-19th century. In fact, the first documented guppy specimens were collected by Robert John Lechmere Guppy in Trinidad in 1866, which is how the fish got their name.

From there, guppies quickly became a popular aquarium fish thanks to their vibrant colors and easy-to-care-for nature. They were exported to other parts of the world, including Europe and the United States, where they quickly gained a following among fish enthusiasts.

Interestingly, guppies also played an important role in scientific research. In the 1920s and 30s, geneticist J.B.S. Haldane used guppies to study the effects of natural selection and mutation, as their rapid reproductive rate made them ideal for observing genetic changes over short periods of time.

Today, guppies remain one of the most popular aquarium fish, with breeders around the world developing new and exciting color and pattern variations. And while they may have humble beginnings in South America, their impact on both the scientific and aquarium communities is undeniable.

You can still find guppies in most freshwater rivers in South America nowadays. Again, the fish is common in other countries worldwide to control mosquito breeding. Guppies tend to feed on mosquito larvae and thus may be the best solution in eradicating malaria in the prone areas.

Lifespan

Guppy fish can live for a period of between two to five years. Their lifespan will depend on their care and the genetics in place. Thus, your guppy will live longer with healthy living conditions and quality food.

Appearance

Appearance of Guppies

Guppies have the most stunning coloration and thus win the heart of many aquarists. Their bodies look gorgeous and have tail fins. Their fan-shaped fin may be larger than the rest of the body. Other fins may have similar colors and textures, but the tailfin is the most impressive and detailed, making them unique.

Both male and female guppies possess flowing fins and colors. Nevertheless, the female guppies are larger. The female can become plumper and grow twice the size of the male, thus overshadowing the tailfin feature.

Guppy fish are generally small in size, thus why the flowing fins become impressive. These fish can grow to about 2 inches long for mature adults. Female guppies, however, can grow large, up to two and a half inches. But the male guppies are always less than two inches. 

There are different breeds of guppies depending on the following features.

Colors

Guppies have a range of colors, from metallic blue to bright orange. These colors appear on their upper and lower bodies, where the upper parts are more colorful than the tail. Again, the gray color is dominant, but you can still find gold and albino white. 

There are around 30 different types of guppies under this category. The unique ones include:

  • Albino guppies are present with white or translucent bodies with pink markings. This species is rare and comes with triangular or flag tailfins.
  • Black guppies – it’s an unusual species of guppy.
  • Solid color guppies come in red, white, or blue colors.
  • Bi-colored guppies have a different base color and some portions of the body with another color.
  • Half-colored guppies have the best combination and thus appear most beautiful. Again, this is the most sought-after breed due to these colors hence very expensive.

The usual varieties are half black and blue, red delta breed, black and yellow guppy, and black-red guppy.

guppy colors and patterns

Patterns

You will find some guppy fish with solid colors, while others will have patterns on their bodies as follows;

  • Snakeskin — it has a pattern similar to snake or tiger-like. However, the body has a chain-like design with rosettes.
  • Cobra — has dark rosettes and spots like a cobra. These guppies have multiple colors like silver, green, orange, black, and white.
  • Tuxedo — it’s compared to a tuxedo suit; these guppies have different colors on the front and back sides. The upper body part is lighter, while the lower is darker( two-toned bodies).
  • Leopard — the fins have a series of spots like the leopard skin. The leopard-like markings may be in range and black. Others have red, white, and blue shades with different black markings and are so pretty.
  • Mosaic — the pattern on the tail has posts joined together like the mosaic design.
  • Lace — describes the pleasing weblike shapes that form on the snakeskin guppies.
  • Grass — has an admirable pattern than leopard and tiny dots like grass seeds.
  • Glass — this type is transparent as the tail lacks guanine.

Tail Fin Shapes

There are various fancy fins in the guppy species due to selective breeding. The differences in the appearance of guppy tails have resulted in many breeds such as:

  • Large fan tails belong to the group of fancy guppies.
  • Square flag tails
  • Double swordtails
  • Delta triangle tail
  • Veil tail guppies
  • Swordtail
  • Top swordtail
  • Bottom swordtail
  • Lyre tail
  • Needletail has a rounded shape or sharp pointing.
  • The Spade tail resembles the shape of spades in the pack of cards.
  • The round tail looks round in form.
  • Halfmoon tails are also among the gorgeous guppies.

Guppy Behavior

Guppy is a less aggressive fish species with no territorial tendencies. These fish are active swimmers and like exploring and chasing each other. Again, guppy fish enjoy swimming or even feeding in a school. The schooling behavior enables them to overcome predation, especially in the wild.

Guppies can swim anywhere in the tank, but they mostly prefer staying at the top of the tank. They like swimming in the open but can hide in caves when playing or are afraid of something. They sleep when it’s dark and remain active in daylight.

While guppies are generally peaceful fish, they have been known to nip the fins of other fish, especially if they’re kept in crowded or stressful conditions. However, it’s important to note that not all guppies are fin nippers, and some individuals may be more prone to this behavior than others.

In general, male guppies are more likely to nip fins than females, as they can be more territorial and competitive. Additionally, if the tank is overcrowded or if there aren’t enough hiding spots, guppies may become stressed and resort to fin nipping as a form of aggression.

To minimize the risk of fin nipping, it’s important to provide ample hiding spots and plants in the tank to reduce stress levels. Additionally, avoid overcrowding the tank, and choose tank mates that are compatible in terms of size and temperament.

If you do notice fin-nipping behavior in your guppies, it’s important to take action to prevent further damage. This may involve separating the aggressor guppy from the rest of the tank, providing additional hiding spots, or adjusting the tank environment to reduce stress levels.

Guppy Tank Mates

Guppies are known for their peaceful and sociable nature, making them great tank mates for a wide variety of other fish species. However, it’s important to choose tank mates that are compatible with guppy fish in terms of water requirements, temperament, and size.

Compatible Species

Some great tank mates for guppies include:

It’s important to avoid aggressive or larger fish species, as they can harm or even eat guppies. Additionally, avoid overcrowding the tank, as this can lead to stress and disease.

Can Guppies and Bettas Be Tank Mates?

Bettas are known for their aggressive behavior and can be territorial, especially towards fish with long, flowing fins, like guppies. Male bettas, in particular, are notorious for their aggressive behavior towards other fish, including guppies.

While it’s possible to keep guppies and bettas together in the same tank, it’s important to take precautions to ensure that they coexist peacefully. This may include providing ample hiding spots and plants for the guppies, keeping the tank clean and well-maintained, and choosing a male betta with a less aggressive personality.

However, it’s important to note that even with these precautions, there’s no guarantee that the two species will coexist peacefully. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and keep them in separate tanks to ensure the safety and well-being of both species.

Can Guppies and Goldfish Be Tank Mates?

It is generally not recommended to keep goldfish and guppies together in the same tank for several reasons.

Firstly, goldfish are known to produce a lot of waste, which can create poor water quality and high levels of ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite. Guppies, on the other hand, are more sensitive to poor water conditions, and this can lead to stress, illness, and death.

Secondly, goldfish are cold water fish, while guppies prefer warm water. Goldfish are also larger and more active, which can create an intimidating and stressful environment for guppies.

Thirdly, goldfish have been known to eat smaller fish, including guppies, especially if they fit into their mouth. Guppies are small and have long, flowing fins, making them vulnerable to predation by goldfish.

Guppy Care Essentials

Guppies are the best fish for beginners since they are resilient species. The fish are highly adaptable, and one can learn their care quickly without harming them.

However, every species has its preferred aquarium requirements for optimum growth and survival. Some of these requirements for the guppy fish are as follows.

Guppy Tank Setup

Tank Size

If you are to keep guppies, what type and size of aquarium do they need? How many guppies do you need to stock? Since guppies are small, you don’t need a huge tank. A 5-gallon tank is enough for three guppies for a start.

However, it’s best to have a 10-gallon guppy tank for better results. A large tank, like a 10-gallon one, will provide comfort for the fish. Since guppies are active swimmers, they will enjoy a larger tank than a smaller one. Hence a reason to start using larger gallon tanks from the start. 

These fish spawn fast, rapidly increasing their population and outgrowing the small tank.

Water Parameters

Guppies originate from warm waters in the wild. Though they can survive in a wide range of temperatures, they thrive best in warm waters since they are tropical fish. 

Guppy fish will multiply and breed faster in warm waters while having a slower growth rate in cold water. The best water temperature should be between 64 – 84 degrees F. The ideal water temperature for guppies is around the mid-70s.

Water pH is also essential — guppies prefer close to normal pH levels. The ideal range is between 6.8 – 7.8 similar to what is found in the natural habitat. Also, maintain the water hardness at dGH 8 -12. Water flow is another factor to consider. 

Water current isn’t an issue for the guppy fish as they enjoy playing in high flow. But if you find the flow causing stress to your fish, you should place plants and decorations to reduce the effect.

What to Put in the Guppy Fish Tank 

The guppy aquarium should resemble the natural habitat. These fish are known for their love of hiding in caves and under rocks, so be sure to provide plenty of hiding spots.

Choose live plants like flame moss, java, and wisteria as they offer the best cover for the fish. These pants also facilitate the nitrogen cycle, essential in the tank system to break down the toxic compounds.

Driftwood can also be a great addition to the tank as a hiding place. However, avoid any sharp objects that will rip off the fins. For the substrate, choose a dull color. Since guppies aren’t bottom dwellers, sand or aquarium gravel can be good options.

Do guppy fish need lighting? Guppy fish has no strict requirements for lighting. It’s best to keep the conditions natural. A regular day or night cycle is enough for them. You can place standard aquarium lights on a timer or put the tank in an area with sufficient natural light. Full-spectrum of natural day/night cycles is enough to mimic their wild habitat.

Filters

Clean and fresh water is ideal for any aquarium fish. Therefore, it’s necessary to purchase a quality and reliable filtration system for your guppy tank. A filter helps eliminate any toxic compounds in water by breaking them down into less poisonous substances and prevents the accumulation of nitrate and ammonia.

A hang-on-back (HOB) filter or canister filter is a good choice. The filter should be able to process the entire tank’s water volume at least three to four times per hour. For example, if you have a 10-gallon tank, the filter should be able to process 30-40 gallons of water per hour.

Substrate

Guppies don’t require any specific substrate, but it’s recommended to use a fine-grain substrate like sand or small-sized gravel. These substrates won’t trap debris, making it easier to clean and maintain the tank. Avoid using large or sharp-edged gravel, which can harm guppies’ delicate fins or injure them while swimming.

Heater

Are heaters necessary for a guppy aquarium? You may require a heater for your guppies if you live in cold areas. This tool keeps water temperature stable for your fish for optimum growth and activity. As stated earlier, this fish species likes warm waters.

Fun Fact: Move forward with your guppy buddy by learning the basics of a guppy tank setup! Read our post on Guppy Tank Setup: A Noobie Guide To Assembling An Aquarium to quickly get your pet fish swimming happily.

Guppies Diet and Feeding

Guppy fish are omnivorous and mainly feed on algae in the wild. These fish also feed on invertebrates and detritus along the bottom of water bodies. These fish live in schools and carry out foraging; they can share when they find more algae supply. 

Omnivore Diet

In captivity, guppies can feed on various foods since they are omnivores. You should feed them a diet of meat and vegetables. So, what feed should you give them? Guppies can feed on flakes, brine shrimp, and mosquito larvae. Brine shrimp has a high level of protein at around 60%. Also, brine shrimp are the favorite food for adults and are very nutritious.

Please don’t assume that since guppies are omnivores, they can eat anything. Be careful about what you feed them for better health. Consider purchasing tropical flakes and fish feed formulation for your guppies from a credible fish store. They also enjoy plants like hornwort and water sprite.

Vegetable pellets are also worth it and contain a combination of algae, plankton, and spirulina. Use this with a high-protein fish flake to have a balanced diet for your fish. Other foods to consider are zucchini, tubifex worms, and daphnia. 

Guide to Feeding Guppies

The first thing to consider is to avoid overfeeding your guppies to prevent health complications. Guppies have a high appetite, which may tempt you to feed them more.

To combat overfeeding, follow a 5-minute rule. Give your guppies the amount they can only consume in a span of 5 minutes. If you go to the aquarium after 5 minutes and still find some food, you should go ahead and remove it.

Excess food will also impact water quality. Extra feed and other waste products will soil the aquarium, creating an unhealthy environment. Again, overfed fish will excrete more waste, which lowers water quality.

Common Guppy Diseases

Guppies get ill just like any other ornamental fish. Nevertheless, these species are less susceptible to infections, especially in healthy aquarium conditions. But, if their living conditions get compromised, they get stressed and become susceptible to common guppy diseases.

Ich

Ich is a very common parasitic disease that presents as small white dots on the fins and body. It can be treated with medication, but prevention is key. To prevent ich, maintain clean water, avoid overcrowding the tank, and keep the temperature stable.

If you notice the white dots on your gup, it’s best to quarantine the infected fish and treat it immediately.

Fin Rot

Fin rot is caused by bacteria or fungus and causes the fins to decay and slough off. To prevent guppy fin rot, maintain stable water quality and parameters, perform regular water changes, and avoid overfeeding. Treatment includes antibiotic or antifungal medication and removing the infected fish from the tank.

Swim Bladder Disorder

Swim bladder disorder is caused by stress and affects the guppy’s buoyancy, making it difficult to swim and maintain balance. To prevent swim bladder disorder, maintain stable water quality and parameters, avoid overcrowding, and provide hiding spots. Treatment includes reducing stress levels, changing diet, and in severe cases, medication.

Popped Eyes

Popped eyes can be caused by poor water quality, bacterial infections, fungus, or dropsy. To prevent popped eyes, maintain clean water and avoid overcrowding. Treatment includes antibiotic or antifungal medication and maintaining clean water.

Dropsy

Dropsy is a bacterial infection that causes the guppy’s abdomen to swell due to kidney or liver damage. To prevent your guppy from getting dropsy, maintain clean water, avoid overfeeding, and quarantine new fish. Treatment includes antibiotic medication, salt baths, and maintaining clean water.

Prevention is the key to keeping your guppies healthy and avoiding diseases and conditions. Maintaining clean water, avoiding overcrowding, and providing a healthy diet and environment can go a long way in preventing illnesses in your guppies. If you notice any symptoms of illness, it’s essential to act quickly to prevent further damage and seek advice from a veterinary officer.

Guppy Breeding and Reproduction

Guppy Reproduction

 

Breeding guppies is a popular pastime for many aquarium enthusiasts, as guppies are relatively easy to breed and can produce a lot of offspring in a short amount of time.

Here are some notes you’ll need if you want to breed guppies:

Separating the Sexes

Before breeding guppies, you need to separate the male and female guppies. Guppies are sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females look different.

Males are smaller and more brightly colored, with long flowing fins. Females are larger and more drab in color, with shorter, rounder fins. You can easily identify the sexes by looking at their physical characteristics.

Creating the Ideal Breeding Environment

To encourage breeding, create an ideal environment for your guppies. This includes maintaining clean water, providing hiding spots and plants for fry, and keeping the temperature stable.

Guppies prefer slightly acidic water in the breeding tank, with a pH between 7.0 and 7.5.

Introducing the Males

Once you’ve created the ideal breeding environment, introduce the males to the females.

The males will chase the female guppies during the mating season. The female will hide among the plants or caves in the aquarium until she feels ready.

When the male gets a chance or notices the female is distracted, he will quickly insert his anal fin and release sperm. The mating process is so quick that you may not even see it.

Something unique about guppies is the ability for females to store sperm for a very long period. Again, they can give birth to many fry without mating as they already have stored sperms.

Females Get Pregnant

How will you notice a pregnant guppy? Since it’s hard to notice when guppies are mating, you should be keen to look out for pregnant ones. Identifying a pregnant fish helps you give it good care and prepare for the guppy fry. 

Here are some signs to watch out for:

  • The female gets plumper over a few weeks.
  • A dark spot called gravid occurs on her abdomen after fertilization.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Rubbing themselves against objects

If you notice your female has the above signs, just provide her with a peaceful environment.

Live Birth

Guppies are livebearers, ovoviviparous, meaning fertilization occurs inside the female guppy, and the eggs remain for development.

Instead of spawning, females give birth to active fry that are fully formed and can swim immediately. It’s important to provide hiding spots and plants for the fry to hide in, as the adults may eat them if they don’t have adequate protection.

Keep the fry in the separate tank until they’re big enough to join the community tank.

Feeding the Fry

Fry should be fed small amounts of food frequently throughout the day. Baby brine shrimp, micro worms, and finely ground flake food are good options. Be sure to remove any uneaten food to avoid water quality issues.

Helping guppies reproduce can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s important to have a plan for what to do with the offspring. Guppies can produce a lot of fry in a short amount of time, so be prepared to provide adequate space and care for the babies or find homes for them.

Fun Fact: Guppy fry are cute and adorable (from the fish owner’s POV)! Do you know how to care for them? Read our article and educate yourself — Guppy Fry: Tips And Hints In Taking Care of Your Baby Gup.

Watch This!


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my guppies are happy?

To know that your guppies are happy, they should have the following signs;

  • Clear normal eyes without clouding or bulging
  • Actively swimming
  • Normal breathing rate
  • Good appetite
  • Brightly colored scales
  • Bright and spread-out fins
  • Stock your fish accordingly on the tank size you have.

Maintain your fish health, and if sick, quarantine and treat immediately.

How often should guppies be fed?

You should be careful not to overfeed your guppies due to their high appetite. Ensure you feed them once or twice a day, depending on the amount of food.

Can you have two male guppies together?

Yes, it’s okay to keep two male guppies in the same tank. Though, at times some male guppies may be aggressive to other males, which is normal. For instance, they can chase each other when fighting over a female. To ensure they thrive together, provide hiding spaces for the weaker ones.

Why is my guppy glass surfing?

Guppies can engage in glass surfing, much like other species of fish. However, it’s essential to interpret this behavior within context. If you’re seeing your guppies swim frantically up and down or side to side against the aquarium glass, it could be a sign of stress or discomfort.

Stress in guppies can arise from various factors. These can range from the more quantifiable aspects like water quality—consider pH, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels—to more qualitative elements like the tank’s decor, lighting, and even the social environment.

Guppies are social fish and prefer to be in groups. Incompatibility with other fish or an insufficient number of guppies can lead to stress and, subsequently, glass surfing. A sudden change in water parameters, like temperature or pH, can also trigger this behavior.


Conclusion

Guppies are great fish that most guppy breeders keep as a form of leisure. Guppy care is easy when you have all the skills needed. To be equipped, you should do your initial research before venturing into this hobby.

Just ensure your fish are healthy by providing a clean aquarium environment and a balanced diet and keeping them stress-free.

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