Guppy Care Guide: Tank Size, Food, Equipment & Breeding

In this guide to guppy care, we answer the big questions and tell you what you need to know to take fantastic care of your guppies.

How big a tank do guppies need?

Part of the appeal of keeping guppies is that they don’t need a very big tank in order to survive and thrive. This means that almost anyone can afford a guppy tank and find a suitable place for the tank in their home.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can keep guppies in any old bowl or tank! It’s still important to make sure that your guppy tank is big enough for the number of guppies you plan to keep!

Before deciding how big a tank you need for your guppies, you should first consider how many guppies you want to keep and the ratio or males to females. When keeping a mixture of males and females, it’s best to keep guppies in groups of three (also knows as “trios”), with at least two females for each male.

This means that you could keep 3 guppies (one male, two females), 6 guppies (two males, four females), 9 guppies (three males, six females), and so on.

Once you’ve decided how many guppies you want, you can think about tank size. We recommend at least one gallon of tank water per guppy. Starting at a minimum of 4 gallons. This means that for one “trio” of a male and two females, you would need 4 gallons (as that’s the minimum). Then, for any higher number of guppies, simply stick to a 1:1 ratio.

6 guppies = 6 gallons

9 guppies = 9 gallons

12 guppies = 12 gallons

etc

This amount of tank space will give your guppies enough room to swim around, without the tank getting too crowded, and will help to keep your water parameters under control.

Finally, don’t forget that guppies breed very easily and have lots of babies (called “fry”) at a time! Guppies don’t lay eggs – females give birth to live free-swimming babies.

If you want to keep a mixture of male and female guppies then you should plan ahead so that you know what you’re going to do with their fry. Trust us – they will breed! If you don’t want your guppies to breed then it would be best to keep males only, with no females in the tank.

What do guppies eat?

An essential part of proper guppy care is learning about guppy food and making sure that your guppies eat the right things. Eating the wrong type or the wrong amount of food can be very bad for your guppies’ health.

In this article, we look at the various types of guppy food that you can feed your fish. This not only includes classic “fish food” that you can buy at pet stores, but also additional treats that you can use to supplement your guppies’ diet.

Finally, we discuss overfeeding your fish – and how bad this can be for them! – and tell you how much guppies should eat and how often to feed them.

What is guppy food? Is it different to other fish food?

You can feed your guppies standard “fish flakes” as the foundation of their diet, though it’s always a good idea to supplement this flake food with other things, such as live or freeze-dried foods (more on this later!).

The best kind of flake food to buy for guppies would be a tropical flake food designed to enhance their color. For example, Tetra Color Tropical Flakes or Omega One Super Color flakes.

Otherwise, different types of flake food are generally very similar to each other, and any type should be as suitable for guppies as it is for any other fish. 

Pellet fish foods are also available. However, these are often too large for guppies’ mouths. Special smaller pellets – also known as micropellets – are available for small-mouthed fishes like guppies, but we generally suggest sticking to flake foods as the foundation of a guppy diet.

What other foods can guppies eat?

While flake foods are the core guppy food, you should also feed your guppies other foods to ensure they have a healthy, varied diet. This includes vegetables, live foods and freeze-dried foods.

Popular live or freeze-dried foods include:

  • Brine Shrimp
  • Bloodworms
  • Daphnia

If you feed live food then there is a small risk of transferring disease to your fish. To avoid this, frozen and freeze-dried foods are available. They’re not quite as nutritious as live food, but they do offer many of the same benefits without the same risk of disease.

Finally, you can also feed your guppies vegetables, such as:

  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Cucumber

How much food should guppies eat?

“How often should I feed my guppies?” is one of the most common questions we receive from new guppy owners! And it’s a good question, as overfeeding can be very bad for your fish.

Guppies only have very small stomachs – about the same size as one of their eyes! This means that adding too much food can cause them to eat too much and block their intestines. A trail of poop behind your guppy is a sign that your fish has over-eaten!

You should feed your guppies one or two times per day, but only in very small amounts at a time. Slowly add extremely tiny pinches of food to your tank, for about thirty seconds, never adding more than your fish can eat in that time.

If you leave food in your tank after feeding then it will rot and pollute your water. You should therefore remove any uneaten food after the feeding session. It’s often a good idea to feed just before doing a water change, as you can then remove any uneaten food when changing the tank water.

If you keep your water at a fairly low temperature then your guppies will eat even less. Their metabolism slows down at lower temperatures, which means they need less food than when they are kept in warmer water.

The main thing to remember when deciding how much to feed your guppies is this: it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll ever seriously harm a fish by under-feeding it, however, you could certainly do it a lot of harm by over-feeding it!

How long can guppies live without food?

How long guppies will survive without food depends on a many factors, such as their age, how healthy they are and the temperature of their water (guppies eat less when kept in lower temperature water).

As a rough guide, you could expect a guppy to survive for approximately one week without any food whatsoever. Much longer than that and you’ll most likely lose some of your fish to starvation.

If you’re going on holiday then you could buy an automatic fish feeder that will release set amounts of guppy food at regular intervals. However, this is risky, as the feeder could malfunction and release too much food! Another option would be a feeding block – a block of food that sits in the water for your fish to nibble on – but these have their problems too. Feeding blocks can make your water cloudy and throw off your water parameters.

If possible, ask a friend or neighbor to come in and feed your goldfish once or twice, but remember to teach them how to do it properly! Your friend may not know much about feeding guppies, so you should tell them how much to feed them, when to feed them and, ideally, you should dish out appropriate amounts of food for them in advance.

Where to buy guppy food

Rather than buying guppy food from the supermarket (where the food on offer tends to be lower quality), you should buy your fish food from quality pet shops or online from well-known brands such as Tetra, Hikari or Hagen.

Do guppies need a filter?

Some fish, such as goldfish, produce a huge amount of waste. A filter helps to remove this waste and houses a colony of good bacteria, which remove water pollution.

But what about guppies? Do they produce a lot of waste and do guppies need a filter?

There’s no definite answer to whether guppies need a filter – some people insist that they manage fine without one, while others would never keep guppies without a filter. We recommend that you add a small filter to your guppy tank.

You may want to consider a sponge filter powered by an air pump (make sure you buy the right size for your tank and have air pump tubing too!).

A sponge filter should be perfectly adequate for guppies and is better than having no filter at all, as it will certainly help keep the water a little bit cleaner.

It isn’t necessary to have a large, powerful filter for a guppy tank as, compared to goldfish, for example, guppies don’t produce very much waste and won’t pollute their water quickly as long as they are kept in an appropriately sized tank.

In fact, more powerful filters can actually be dangerous for your guppies! The strong current created by the filter can drag them in to the filter or pin them against the side of the filter inlet!

Of course, whether you have a filter or not, you should do regular water changes to make sure that your guppies’ tank water doesn’t get too polluted!

What are the right water parameters for guppies?

Guppies are quite hardy and can easily adjust to fluctuations in water conditions than most species of fish.

Guppies are endemic to the fresh and brackish waters of the Amazon River and on several islands in the Caribbean.

In order to ensure that guppies thrive well under tank conditions, there is a need to mimic as much as possible their Amazonian habitat. You can achieve this ideal environment by focusing on the important water parameters.

Basic water chemistry

There are three important parameters that should be taken into consideration when creating ideal conditions for guppies. These parameters are water pH, temperature, and water hardness.

pH 

pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity of a substance. It is measured on a scale of 1-14 with 7 being the neutral pH. Acidic pH refers to values which are lower than 7 while figures higher than 7 is alkaline or basic.

Ordinary tap water usually has a pH of 7. However, the water in your tank will have a different pH because of the chemicals that are dissolved or suspended in the water. Different species of fish thrive on different ph levels. For guppies, the idea water pH ranges from 6.8-7.8.

Water hardness

Although water hardness is an important water parameter for the growth and survival of your guppies, many aquarium owners often overlooked its significance. Fish thrive in a specific range of water hardness, and when these levels are not achieved, it can cause stress and possibly death.

Water hardness simply refers to the total dissolved minerals in the any type of water. Hard water is the term used when there is a high levels of dissolved minerals, while soft water has a low mineral level.

It is important that you appreciate the relationship that exists between your water pH and hardness. Hard water usually has high pH because the minerals present act as buffer thereby reducing the amount of acid (pH) in the water.

The ideal range of water hardness for guppies is GH 8-12.

Temperature

Water temperature is equally important to your tank inhabitants. Fish and aquatic plants have been shown to tolerate only a limited range of water temperatures.

Another important factor that should be taken into consideration when talking about water temperature is consistency. Sudden and drastic changes in water temperature can often lead to health problems.

For guppies, the ideal water temperature range is between 10-29 °C (50°F – 85°F); with guppy fry thriving best at 25.6 °C (78°F), juvenile 24.4 °C (76°F), and adults 23.3 °C (74°F).

Do guppies need plants and gravel?

Lots of fish like tanks that contain lots of gravel to poke around in and lots of plants to hide behind. But what about guppies? Do guppy fish like lots of plants and gravel? Or should you keep your tank relatively bare?

The answer to this question is that (as long as your tank is big enough) it’s entirely up to you!

Guppies certainly don’t mind living in tanks that contain plants and gravel, but it isn’t strictly necessary either.

Here are a few things to consider when deciding whether to add plants or gravel to your guppy tank:

  1. Is your tank definitely big enough? If your tank is small then it’s best not to take up valuable water space with plants and gravel.
  2. How much time are you willing to spend cleaning your tank? Gravel is a lot more difficult to clean than a bare-bottom tank, as waste gets trapped between the bits of gravel, which you have to then hoover up, or your tank water will become polluted.
  3. If you’re considering live plants then what types are suitable for your tank? Do you have enough space, nutrition and light for them?
  4. What is most aesthetically pleasing? Do you prefer the look of a “busy” tank or a minimalist tank?

Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that guppies like to sleep near the bottom of the tank, resting on or very slightly above the surface. A bare glass surface will be more comfortable for them to rest on than gravel!

Finally, if you like the idea of adding plants and gravel to your tank, but you’re concerned about the cleanliness and comfort of gravel, then it may be worth considering sand. It looks good, it’s easier to clean and it’s more comfortable for your fish to rest against.

Do you have plants and gravel in your tank? Or have you gone for sand? Or is your tank bare-bottomed with a “minimalist” look? Let us, and other Guppy Fish Care readers, know in the comments!

Can you keep guppies alone?

As guppies are most often seen in groups, many new fish keepers wonder if they can keep one guppy on its own.

Can you keep just one guppy? Or do they need tank mates?

Usually people want to keep a single guppy on its own when they only have a small tank or bowl. In this case, there’s not enough space for several guppies – especially when you consider that guppies breed very easily! – so they wonder whether it would be okay to just keep one. But they also worry that he will get lonely by himself!

We say “he” because, in most cases, people planning to keep just one guppy on its own are thinking about keeping a male guppy. This is because males are more brightly colored than females.

So what’s the answer? Can you keep just one guppy in a tank on its own?

The answer is yes, it’s absolutely fine to keep one guppy alone!

As long as you have a big enough tank (we’d suggest 4 gallons and a sponge filter) then there’s nothing wrong with keeping just one guppy.

He (or she!) will quite happily swim around the tank and look around the plants and decorations without getting lonely or needing the company of any other guppy fish.

One thing to bear in mind though – if you choose to keep a female guppy then there is a chance that she could have become pregnant in the pet shop and be carrying babies before you even bring her home. This could mean that instead of one guppy, you suddenly end up with lots of guppies!  This is another reason why it would probably make sense to go for a male guppy, rather than a female.

What male and female ratio is best for guppies?

Male guppies have a tendency to harass females. They chase them around the tank constantly and display their colors in front of the females in an attempt to mate. Unfortunately, all this attention can make the female guppy fish very stressed, which can lower their immune system and make them ill.

An important part of guppy fish care is therefore to keep more females guppies in your tank than males. The males will then divide their attention between the females rather than chasing one female all of the time.

But how many male guppies and how many female guppies should you keep in your tank? What is the correct guppy male to female ratio?

In order to stop your female guppies from getting stressed by too much male attention, we suggest sticking to a guppy male to female ratio of 1:2. In other words, two female guppies for each male guppy.

A 1:2, male to female ratio means that each male guppy fish has two females to pursue. This allows one female to have a break while the male chases the other female!

So, when deciding how many guppy fish to keep in your tank, you should think in terms of “trios” – groups of three. You could choose to keep:

3 guppy fish: 1 male and 2 females

6 guppy fish: 2 males and 4 females.

9 guppy fish: 3 males and 6 females.

…and so on. Just make sure that you have a big enough tank!

One last thing to consider is that, unfortunately, female guppies can look a little drab! The male guppy fish are the colorful ones that looks nice in your tank, whereas females have shorter fins and are usually much less colorful. Because of this, not all fish keepers are happy sticking to a 1:2 guppy male to female ratio.

If you’re concerned about your tank not looking colorful enough then you could consider not keeping any females and just stocking your tank with colorful males. Of course, this means you won’t get any babies being born into your tank!

How to tell the difference between male and female guppies

Are you wondering whether your guppies are male or female? Fortunately, it’s very easy to tell the difference between a male guppy and a female guppy.

Unlike some fish, such as goldfish, where the differences between males and females are quite subtle, male guppies have a very different appearance to female guppies, which makes them almost impossible to confuse with each other.

What do male guppies look like?

Male guppies have big colorful tails and fins and usually some color on their bodies. A huge variety of colors are available, including red, orange, yellow, green, blue or a mix of different colors.

Males are smaller than female guppies. Not just in terms of length (where females can be up to twice as long) but also in terms of how deep or stocky their bodies appear. The females look much bigger and bulkier.

As if the size and color of a male guppy didn’t make it obvious enough. The anal fin of the male is also very different to that of the female. The anal fin is situated just below the tail and – in males – is long, thin and pointed.

What do female guppies look like?

Female guppies are much less colorful than males. Females usually have pale gray or silver bodies and equally drab fins. A pale color such as a light yellow is about as much coloration as you are likely to see in a female guppy.

As previously mentioned, females are also much larger than male guppies. This difference in size can be seen from a very young age.

Unlike the male anal fin, which is long and pointed, the female anal fin is a triangular shape. Also, female guppies often have a dark spot just above the anal fin. This is called the gravid spot and is visible whenever a female guppy is pregnant. As female guppies are almost always pregnant, this spot is usually visible. The size and darkness of the spot indicates how heavily pregnant the guppy is, as the spot grows larger and darker as the guppy gets closer to giving birth.

How do you tell a male guppy from a female guppy?

To tell a male guppy from a female guppy, you should look for the following signs:

  • Color: Is the fish very colorful? If so, this suggests it is male. Bland colors suggest a female.
  • Size: Is the fish quite large (over an inch long) with a heavy-set body? This suggests a female. Males are smaller and more slender.
  • Anal fin: Is the anal fin long and pointed? This means that the guppy is male. Females have more fanned-out, triangular anal fins.
  • Gravid spot: Is there a dark spot just above the anal fin? Only pregnant females have this spot. So if you see a gravid spot, you know the guppy is definitely female.

How long do guppies live?

Usually, with proper care, guppies live for between one and two years. However, “with proper care” is the key part of that sentence. If you keep your guppy fish in a tank that is too small for them, or don’t feed them properly, then they are unlikely to live very long.

How long can guppies live?

It’s not unheard of for guppies to live as long as four or even five years.

This is one of our favorite facts about guppies. However, these are exceptions and most guppies will live for between one and two years.

What factors can affect how long guppies live?

There are a number of factors that can affect how long guppies live. These include:

  • water quality – guppies living in poor quality water are more vulnerable to disease and less likely to live a long life
  • water temperature – guppies living in cooler water will grow more slowly and live longer than guppy fish kept in warmer water
  • diet – feeding your guppies a nutritious, varied diet will give them a better chance of living long lives.