The Complete Guppy Care Guide: Breeding, Tank Requirements, Fancy Varieties…

The Guppy is one of the most well-known and popular aquarium fish for both beginners and seasoned aquarists alike.

They add plenty of color to tanks, are peaceful, relatively cheap and very easy to maintain.

In this article, we’ll be looking at everything about Guppies: how to care for them, their perfect diet, habitat and tanks mates for them, how to breed them, and much more.

Before we dive in, have a look at the summary table below to see if this fish is for you.

Your Free Bonus: Download the complete Guppies guide and learn how to care for this fish, what to feed them and their tank needs.

Category Rating
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Color Form: Every color imaginable
Lifespan: Up to 2 years
Size: 0.6 – 2.4 inches
Diet: Omnivores
Family: Poeciliidae
Minimum Tank Size: 5 gallons
Tank Set-Up: Freshwater, plants and substrate
Compatibility: Other peaceful community fish

Guppies Overview

Beginners Guide to Caring for Guppies
Beginners Guide to Caring for Guppies

This book is available as either a paperback or for the kindle. It includes plenty of comprehensive information about caring for Guppies.

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Guppies are freshwater tropical fish native to South America, and are from the Poeciliidae family.

Poecilia wingei(also known as an Endler Guppy) is also part of the Poeciliidae family and is closely related to the common Guppy (Poecilia reticulata). It is thePoecilia reticulatathat we’ll be discussing in this article.

There are almost 300 varieties of Guppies. They come in all different types of colors, sizes and tail shapes.

Their name derives from Robert John Lechmere Guppy, who found them in Trinidad back in 1866. It was taken back to British Museum and given the name Girardinus guppii, by an Ichthyologist. Since then, the fish has undergone a few name changes, including Lebistes reticulatusand is now known as Poecilia reticulata.

They are also known by a few other common names such as The Millions Fish (because of their amazing breeding rate) and The Rainbow Fish (because of the wide variety of colors they come in).

As well as the beautiful color and active nature they bring to the tank, they have also been used in freshwaters in Asia to control the mosquito population; however in some cases their release had a negative impact on the native fish populations.

Guppies in an Aquarium

Behavior

Guppies are peaceful fish that like to be kept in groups. They’re active swimmers and pretty much move around all the time.

You’ll often see the males chasing the females trying to impress them by wiggling their fins.

If your fish are constantly hiding, it could be an indication that they are stressed or ill.

Where to Buy Guppies

5 Male Guppies for Tropical Tanks
Male Guppies for Tropical Tanks

These brightly colored male guppies will be sent out in an insulated box which includes a heating element to ensure the water stays warm enough during transport.

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Appearance of Guppies

Different Colors of Guppies
There are a huge variety of Guppies

As we’ve already mentioned, Guppies come in many different colors and sizes, with different shaped tails too.

In the wild, females are typically grey and males have colorful stripes, spots or splashes in a wide range of colors. There are so many aquarium varieties due to breeders creating new strains with brighter colors and more patterns on their bodies and tails; even today, there are still new varieties being introduced.

Males are typically smaller than the females, averaging between 0.6-1.4 inches, whereas females are around 1.2-2.4 inches long.

These fish are sexually dimorphic, which means you can tell the males from the females just by looking at them. We’ll discuss more on how to do this in the breeding section.

Color

These fish come in almost every color imaginable, which is where they get the nickname ‘Rainbow Fish’ from.

They are normally a paler color on the top and upper half of the body, and the rear part is usually a brighter, more vivid color.

Some varieties can also look metallic. They have iridophores which are cells that don’t have color, and reflect light which creates an iridescent effect.

Patterned Guppy Fish

Pattern

Some are a solid in color; others have a pattern over their main body color. Examples include:

  • Cobra: vertical barring and rosettes.
  • Snakeskin: chain-link pattern and rosettes.
  • Tuxedo: front and back half and two different colors.

Again, the tail can also be either a solid color or patterned. Here are some examples:

  • Grass: tiny dots which look like grass.
  • Lace: fine web-like pattern.
  • Leopard: spots that look like leopard spots.
  • Mosaic: irregular spots that connect to each other.

Tail Shape

You’ll find a wide variety of tail shapes too including:

  • Fan shaped
  • Triangular shaped
  • Sword shaped (double, top sword and bottom sword)
  • Flag shaped
  • Spade shaped
  • Rounded
  • Spear shaped
  • Lyretails

Ideal Habitat and Tank Conditions

Ideal Habitat and Tank Conditions

Their natural habitat is in the warm freshwaters of South America, so it’s important to replicate these conditions into your tank to provide them with the most natural environment possible.

As with any fish tank, you always need to make sure that the tank is set up correctly, and that the water is properly cycled. This ensures you have the appropriate bacteria’s which will convert harmful compounds into less harmful ones.

Most people choose a ten gallon tank to keep Guppies in, but you can keep them in a 5 gallon, or anything upwards of a ten gallon. If you’re still unsure of which tank size you’d like – read our article on how to choose the right sized aquarium.

You’ll need to use a heater to keep the water in between 75 to 82OF. Always place your heater at one end of the tank, and a thermometer at the other end to check that the water is heated through consistently.

Whilst they can tolerate a wide range of waters, and of pH’s, from 5.5-8.5, the most ideal pH for them is between 7.0 and 7.2.

As with the majority of fish, you’ll also need a filter – the type you choose will fall down to the size of your tank and your personal preference. A hang on back filter will be fine for most set ups. If you keep your fish in a large tank (bigger than 50 gallons) you might want to consider using an external canister filter.

The set-up of your tank will depend on your intentions for keeping this fish. Do you want to just keep them to care for, do you want to breed them, do you want to keep all males or females?

Show Tank: Plant the tank up with plenty of live plants, rocks and substrate. Ideal plants to keep these fish with include Hornwort and Amazon Sword Plants. The type of substrate you choose is entirely down to personal preference. Guppies spend the majority of their time in the middle or top section of the tank.

Breeding Tank: Keep your tank bare bottomed, that way uneaten food can be sucked out easily. Use floating plants (such as Java Moss) to create a place for your fry to hide in. The plants also help aid filtration.

As we mentioned earlier, if your adult fish are constantly hiding – it may be a sign that they are stressed, they should usually be found swimming in the open.

Regardless of the setup, make sure you clean your tank weekly, and perform partial water change of around 25%.

Guppy Tank Mates

Poecilia reticulata

The most common tank mates for a Guppy, is more Guppies!

The majority of people who keep this fish do so because they like the vibrant colors of the males.  If you’re only keeping them for their looks, we recommend that you keep males only.

You can keep one Guppy per 2 gallons of water; for example, you can keep 5 in a 10 gallon tank and 10 in a 20 gallon tank.

If you choose to keep both males and females, keep them at a ratio of 2:1.

They can also be kept with other peaceful community fish such as Mollies, Platies, Gouramis, Corydoras and peaceful tetras. Almost all livebearers such as ender’s livebearers and swordtails can make ideal tank mates for them too.

You should avoid housing them with larger aggressive species, especially if they’re likely to make a meal of them. Keep them away from species such as Red Tailed Sharks, Barbs and aggressive Tetras. They will nip at their fins.

If you want to keep them with other non-fish animals, you could house them with Ghost Shrimp or African Dwarf Frogs.

Diet for Guppies

Best Guppy Food
Best Guppy Food

Fancy Guppy was specifically developed to meet the nutritional requirements for your Guppy fish.

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The food that fish eat depends on what’s available in their natural environment as well as their anatomy.

Guppies are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal matter. They are not fussy eaters and will eat whatever you give them, including mosquito larvae.

Their main diet should be good quality fish flakes. Ensure you choose a product which is high in protein, and not filler foods.  To ensure this, check the order of ingredients (ingredients are listed by weight). High quality foods will have proteins listed first (for example, other fish, shrimp, and meaty products).

Avoid fish flakes which have fillers such as wheat and soy listed as the first few ingredients.

To supplement the fish flakes you can feed your fish either live or frozen foods such as shrimp and bloodworms. You can also give them vegetables such as peas, lettuce and cucumber.

Fish stores sell triangular cone feeders which you can use to feed them live and frozen foods such as bloodworms. The fish can then swim up to the cone, which is a little like plastic mesh, and pull food out of one of the many holes.

You should feed your fish once or twice a day, and only an amount of food which they can eat within two minutes.

Don’t feed your fish only one type of food because this will lead to nutrient deficiencies. You should alternate between flake food, live/frozen food and vegetables.

You could feed them flakes in the morning and an alternative in the evening.

If you over feed your fish, this can lead to problems with their health and affect the water quality in your tank. By following the rule above, there shouldn’t be any leftover food in the tank, but if there is – you can just remove it using a net so it doesn’t settle on the floor and start rotting.

If you have fry in the tank, you’ll also need to think about how to feed them.

They will need to be fed smaller amounts, more frequently. You can feed them either the same foods as the adults, but crushed up, or you can buy specific fry food.

Feed them around four to five times per day.

Breeding Guppies

Decorative Grass Ideal for Breeding
Decorative Grass Ideal for Breeding

This decorative grass provides an ideal place for Guppies to lay their offspring, and also for the fry to hide out in providing a safe area for them.

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Guppies breed like crazy. They are certainly not shy, and will most likely breed without any input from you.

There are lots of different ways that fish breed. Guppies are ovoviviparous, which means that the females grow the fish inside their bodies, inside an egg.

The baby fish use the egg sac for nourishment, and once they have absorbed that they hatch inside the female and the female gives birth to live young.

It’s really easy to sex these fish once they reach sexual maturity (between three and five months). They have a number of tell-tale signs:

  • Coloring; males are usually much brighter and vivid in color than females.
  • Modified anal fin; males have a modified anal fin which is known as a gonopodium. It is longer and narrower than a female’s anal fin. Some species even have a pair of claws at the tip.
  • Males are smaller than females.
  • Females often have a gravid spot (a dark spot just behind the anal fin, which gets darker during pregnancy).

So how do they actually breed?

It is thought that males are able to determine which females are virgin and which are already pregnant.

The male fish makes brief contact with the female and fertilization occurs when he passes a package of sperm known as spermatophores into the females.  The packet then splits up in to thousands of sperm and the female store this to create a number of broods. She can have multiple pregnancies from only one fertilization over a period of time.

How to Sex Guppies

It takes between four and five days from when the egg is fertilized to the embryo being nearly completely formed.  For the rest of the gestation period, the fish develop organs. The gestation period is usually between 21 and 30 days. Towards the end of her pregnancy you may be able to see the eyes of the babies through her translucent skin.

Once she gives birth to the live fry, the process will then repeat again, and she’ll give birth in a further 21-30 days.

As we mentioned earlier, if you have a female and male Guppy in a tank they are likely to breed regardless of any input you have.

You can either choose to put the female in a breeding trap, use a breeding tank around a week before she is due to give birth, or remove the female fish once the fry are born to prevent her from eating them.

If you choose to use a breeding trap, we don’t recommend you use the small plastic ones available; they stress fish out. Instead make your own larger trap to give her plenty of space to swim. Include holes for the fry to swim out of.  If you place her in a breeding trap which is too small you’ll stress her out and this may lead to a miscarriage.

When using a specific breeding tank, keep the bottom of the tank bare, and use plants such as Java moss which allow the fry to hide.

Common Diseases

Guppies are very hardy fish; however their long tails can make them prone to fungal infections.

Ich is common amongst these fish. This is a disease where small white dots grow on the fish’s skin and you’ll notice them rubbing their bodies against objects.

To get rid of ich, you can use medication available from your local pet store.

They are also prone to fin rot; the tail will look likes it’s torn. Again, this can be treated with medication, and prevented by choosing suitable tank mates who won’t nip.

To reduce the chance of disease entering your tank:

  • Keep the water conditions optimal.
  • Carry out regular water changes and maintenance checks.
  • Always rinse everything, or put things in quarantine before adding them to your tank.
  • Keep their stress levels low.
  • Feed them a varied diet.
  • Don’t overcrowd them.

Are Guppies Suitable for your Aquarium? (Summary)

Guppies are a very colorful and peaceful fish, perfect for both beginners and experienced fish keepers.

They are hardy and make an ideal first time fish, but also come in a wide range of colors, patterns and tail shapes which makes them appealing to experienced fish breeders.

Keep their water clean, and provide them with a well-balanced diet and you’ll be rewarded with a group of entertaining, active swimmers for your tank.

What’s your experience with Guppies? Are you just starting out, or have you even bred your own strain? Let us know in the comments section below…

Robert Woods Portrait
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third generation fish keeper and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America and the Nature Conservancy.

44 Comments

  1. My tank is 125gal. I keep it at 81.2 degrees. Water, ph/ammonia/nitrate/nitites are good. Two canister pumps well established. 25% water changes weekly. LED lighting about 8hrs daily. So now that I’ve bored you all…guppies hovering at a bottom corner either single or pairs…females losing some color but not seeming pregnant also at the bottom…only tankmates are corycates and they seem to enjoy each other. 1. Is my tank too big for only 8 guppies? 2. Should I provide 10-15 more guppy tankmates?
    3.Could water alkalinity be stressing them?
    Any input is very appreciated.
    Dirk

    • Hi Dirk, yes you can definitely add more guppies to a 125 gallon tank. What is your pH? You could also include some plants to help them feel more comfortable. Thanks, Robert

    • Maybe you can try dropping the temperature a bit…says higher temps can stress fish out and cause lethargic fish. I’m new to this myself but notice quite a difference. Drop 1D a day to avoid over stressing the fish out. I have mind down to 76 they are swimming better.

  2. If you only have 8 guppies in a 125 gallon there is alot of space unused. And guppies are social and would probally like to have a little more company than they are currently being provided. With the addition of a few friends I would assume your guppies to liven up. Unless for some reason there getting sick. Also alkalinity or anything that will heavily affect your water isnt very good for your fishies.

    • I only had three guppies, I planned to buy more. Then I noticed seven babies…. a week or so later I see another group of fry being born…. I rush out and buy reed plants for the fry to hide in and change the water. The mother is so happy she gives birth to another hundred or so right on front of me.
      I now have about 250 guppies from three just three months ago. Stay calm, be happy, enjoy your guppies and get to know them..I’m sure they will surprise you soon.

  3. Had 10 guppies in 20 gallon tank every 2 weeks one or 2 died nitrite and nitrate were good want more guppies but I’m scared new to fish

  4. So I’m planning on getting five male guppies and putting them in a ten gallon. But I’m just wondering about diet. So I was think that I could feed them a flake food in the mornings and then I could alternate between bloodworms and veggies in the evenings. Like I could have veggies Monday, bloodworms Tuesday. Something like that. Would that be a good feeding plan or should I just stick to a main flake diet and have veggies and bloodworms as treats once and a while?

  5. Hi, I’m getting a 20 gallon tank. I was thinking some fancy guppies, neon tetras, swordfish, maybe Cory catfish and an Amano or cherry shrimp. Is this too much for my tank size? How many of each should I get?

    • Hi Alicia, I presume when you say a swordfish, that you mean a swordtail? Guppies, Tetras and Swordtails all like to be kept in groups so you might just want to choose one or two of those species and keep a larger number of them. You won’t be able to have all three groups in a 20 gallon tank. I’d have one or two groups (of either Guppies, Tetras or Swords) and have 4 or 5 fish in each group. You can also include 4 corys, such as the Bandit Cory and 4-5 shrimps. Hope that helps! There are plenty of great stocking calculators online to use if you want to see recommended stock levels. Thanks, Robert

  6. I have a 36 gallon tank with a variety of guppies, platys, and danios. One of my guppies, a female, is hanging out at the top of the tank and avoiding all of the other fish. I have 2 male guppies and 3 other females. They all harass the one female. They’ve nipped her tail and one fin. I’m not sure what to do here. The rest of the fish all get along fine. Should I let nature run its course or get another small tank to put her in? If I move her to another tank should I get another female or two to keep her company? I really feel bad that she’s suffering. I don’t have room for another large tank so it would have to be a 5 or 10 gallon if I get one. Thanks.

    • Hi Kerrin, I feel the same when I see one of my fish getting bullied and if it were me I’d be putting her in a 10 gallon tank with a couple of other females. Thanks, Robert

  7. This would be my first time getting fishes, I really want guppies cause I find them fascinating, beautiful and probably one of the best species for me if I want a 20 litres (5.3 gallon) tank. As I’m just starting off I was wondering how many guppies should I get for my size tank? How should I set up my tank correctly? And how do I clean my tank? If there is anything else important that I should know as a beginner please also tell me, thank you.

    • Hi Shadyn, do you mean Black moor Goldfish? If so, no you can’t. Guppies are tropical fish and Goldfish are coldwater fish. Thanks, Robert

  8. I have a 60 gallon African Cichlid tank which has been going for 2 months, no deaths, everything looks good. Now I have a 16 gallon tank, where I’m teaching my daughter some type of responsibility and obviously I’m with her 100% of the time during feeding and water changes. Guppies keep dying! I’ve had 3 batches of Guppies come in over the last month and all have died in a 3 to 4 day period. Water temp is 78F, light pebble substrate, 1 back filter, 1 small sponge filter, some plants and decor… all readings look good regarding chlorine, nitrites, nitrates, ammonia levels, alkalinity, etc. I have to clue what’s going on… since all fish died last week, I changed back hang filter, cleaned sponge filter, threw out pebbles and put in new pebbles.. doing fish less cycle… any clues? Ideas??

    • Hi Gian, how strange! I would recommened giving the tank a full 4-6 weeks to recycle with the new sponge filter in. Allow a bed of helpful bacteria to build up and monitor the water parameters over the next few weeks before adding Guppies again. Thanks, Robert

  9. I started this hobby about a month ago, I bought some plants and 12 baby guppies. They were sold as feeder in my local pet store. I bought them because they were cheap and the guy told me they were harder to kill, so good for a beginner.
    1 week after all of them were dead but 1. He forgot to tell me about the aquarium cycle and I didn’t know that this hobby was so complicated. I read a lot about it since and now they are really healthy, I bought a Bala Shark(Supposed to have a small mouth and don’t eat small mate) and an ancitrus since then.
    Today I woke up and notified 3 new guys in the aquarium… 3 little guppies…
    I read a lot about what I can do with those. The female is supposed to eat them, they have some space to hide but not a lot. And I don’t have a good place to put them alone. My girlfriend doesn’t want them to die 🙁 what should I do?
    I also made a mix of flakes and bug bites(larvae) I crush them because they’re so small. Is that ok?

    • Hi Steacy, I’m always concerned when I hear Bala Sharks are being sold to beginners. These fish grow very large and need a huge tank (min 150 gallons) You can read more about caring for them here: https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/bala-shark/
      As for the guppies, they’ll need their own tank and the food you’re feeding them is fine. Thanks, Robert

  10. I’m new to the hobby and i have a 20L tank with two guppies , 3 mollies + one male betta fish “yeah a fighter :D” and everything is fine , so what kind of vegetables should i feed them ? besides the pellets “and meat for my betta” ? thank you , your information are great !

    • Hi Dawn, this may be an obvious questions but do you have a selection of males and females? Thanks, Robert

  11. Hi,

    I have a 5G tank and got one male Guppy today. I know they are community fish, but wasn’t sure if I can have multiple in a 5G. I saw a previous comment you made abut a 5G holding 3-4 guppies.

    Is having one guppy okay? Or recommended to have at least a couple together? I would like to get at least another male if possible.

    • Hi Ruth, ideally Guppies like to be kept in small groups. 3/4 will be fine in a 5 gallon. Thanks, Robert

  12. I have a small container pond on my deck and I recently added 6 male guppies. The container is 10 gallon size however when I added the rocks and plants it only holds 6 gallons of water. 1. Is this enough room for my guppies? I was told at the store that it was. 2. How often should I change the water? The store told me monthly. I have a heater and a small floating solar fountain that runs for maybe 30 minutes in the morning. Thank you for your advise.

  13. I have a 15 gallon column tank that I’d like to set up again . I’d love to create a guppy tank . Would guppies do ok in a tall tank rather than a long tank ?

    • Hi Nancy, personally I wouldn’t keep guppies in a tall tank unless it’s a lot larger such as a 30 or 50 gallon tall tank. Thanks, Robert

  14. I have a 100L(29G) planted tank (60x40x40cm) that I have a thick bed of substrate in. I’: planning on cycling it for at least a month or more but I’m wondering what household items I can put in to keep the cycle going to feed the bacteria. Apologies if it’s been posted somewhere else, I’ve been flicking through a bunch of your guides and haven’t seen specific mentions yet.

    I’m also curious to see your opinion since I really want some Otos as well as Corys in my tank (I have a sandy area for the Corys). But it’d also be nice if I had some colourful mid to upper water column fish so I wanted to see how you would stock this tank. I want at least 6 Otos (preferably more) and not sure how many Corys would be good since I also know they school but I’ve heard to a lesser degree than Otos. I was thinking of having tetras but since they need even larger schools I thought the bioload might be too high. Would guppies work? If not do you have other potential recommendations for me? I also looked through your guide on Bettas!

    Thanks and I really appreciate all the work put into this site!

    • Hi Ethan, the nitrogen cycle will establish itself naturally so you don’t need to add anything. If you want to speed the cycle up you can add ammonia or a bacteria starter which most fish stores sell. In a 29 gallon tank you can keep 6 of each of the catfish and 5 guppies.
      We have articles on each of these species, so feel free to have a read of their particular care needs. Thanks, Robert

  15. Hi, I have a 100 gallon tank, running for nearly a month. Carpet grass with some java fern and moss and some A.nana. Havent added any fishes yet. Was wondering if I could keep a few Neon (10), mollies(4), honey gouramis(4) and of course the star of the tank, guppies. Would it be fine?

    • Hi Keya, I wouldn’t keep Guppies with Betta fish unless you have plenty of experience and certainly not in a tank of this size. Thanks, Robert

  16. We have a 58 litre tank, we started off by adding bacteria starter stuff, and cycling tank for a week, we then added silver cloud Minnows 4) that we already had, plus a plastic plant from their tank… we have 3 live plants… after a week of the minnows being in the tank.. (we also have heater and good filter) we bought 2 guaramies, and 8 guppies…. that was 3 weeks ago, we have since added 2 air stones and pump…. but one by one the guppies have died, they look ok at night, next morning dead, the last died this morning and one yesterday too… all eight, my daughter is very sad, as it was her birthday present and she is really trying to do everything right, reading up etc… she is 12… (we have thermometer too and temp is ok) The original minnows and guaramies are fine….please help if you can thank you….

    • Hi Sarah, you haven’t let your tank complete the nitrogen cycle which is essential before adding any fish. This process takes between 4-8 weeks, and requires the ammonia and nitrite levels to peak and then drop back to zero, meaning that the levels are safe for any inhabitants because the tank has had chance to establish a bed of bacteria to break these compounds down. Thanks, Robert

  17. I live in an area where my water is not only hard but also has a high content of red iron oxide. This has killed my guppies I and I need to know how to eliminate this red iron oxide so my fish won’t die?

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