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Guppy Fish Care – How to Care for Guppies?

Guppy fish is probably the most common live bearer tropical fish in the aquarium hobby. It is also known as rainbowfish, thanks to its wide range of colors and patterns. They are also known as millionfish, because if they can reproduce very fast and can populate whole ponds in a very short time.

The guppy fish has become so popular because it is a beautiful and colorful fish and it is a relative hardy fish, perfect for beginners.

In this article I will show you my best tips on how to take care of your guppies and what to do to keep them healthy and long living.

Aquarium Size for Guppies

Compared to other tropical fish, to discuss for instance, guppies are very small. Depending on conditions and genetics, female guppies can grow up to 1.5 inches, while male guppies to 1.2 inches. They reach full-size maturity in about six months.

They do not produce much bio-load, so they do not need much space to live. However to keep them healthy you need offer them a minimum amount of space.

In the aquarium hobby there is a very common method of calculating how many fish you can keep in an aquarium: 1 inch fish / 1 gallon of water.

If you follow the above rule, in a 5 gallon aquarium you can keep up to 3-4 guppies.

You can increase the number of fish you put in your aquarium if you add filtration and live plants. Filtration and live plants will help eliminate the toxic fish waste from the water column, this way you can keep more fish without the need of changing the water very often.

Having filtration and plants in your guppy tank will not save you from changing the water. You still need to do your weekly water changes, to keep the fish healthy, but you can keep a bigger stock of fish in the same amount of water.

For keeping guppies, I recommend at least a 10 gallon aquarium, in which you can add 7-10 guppies.

Female to Male Guppy Ratio

Now that you know how many guppies you can put into your aquarium, you need to choose the male to female ration.

This is very important, because male guppies chase female guppies all the time to reproduce. Female guppies can be exhausted in this process. So it is wise to choose a 1 to 3 ratio, one male to three females. This will give the females enough time to rest and recover.

You can also setup a males-only or females-only guppy tank. This way you will avoid all the harassment of the females and overpopulation of your aquarium. Guppies that are not reproducing can live a longer life.

Water Parameters for Guppy Fish

As mentioned before, guppies are very hardy and they can accept a wide range of water parameters. However, to keep them healthy the ideal would be to keep them in the following conditions:

  • Water temperature: 72-82 °F (22-28 °C )
  • Water pH: 6.8-7.8
  • Water hardness (dGH): 8-12
  • 0 ppm ammonia, 0 ppm nitrites, maximum 10 ppm nitrates

Guppies prefer harder water. Usually the water hardness increases with the pH level. In most areas the tap water has a pH of 7.6, which is perfect for keeping guppies.

However be careful when using tap water for your fish. Tap water usually contains chlorine and chloramine, which is low quantities, is not harmful for human use, but can cause significant damage in your fish, or even death.

Changing Water for Your Guppies

Changing water in your aquarium is very important. Fish produce waste, which is toxic for them. Changing the water is the only way to remove waste and detoxify the water column.

For a low stock (few fish) aquarium I recommend changing about 30% of the water once a week. In most of the cases you can use your tap water to change the water, but you have to pay attention to the following:

  • Use a water conditioner for your tap water that will remove heavy metals and chlorine; or let your tap water sit in an open container for 24 hours to evaporate chlorine.
  • Make sure your water is the same temperature as your tank water

I use Seachem Prime to condition my water. This product instantly eliminates the heavy metals and chlorine from your tap water and it is safe to use right away.

If your aquarium if over-stocked (you have too many fish), you should perform bigger water changes more often.

Feeding Your Guppy Fish

Feeding fish is always fun, especially guppies. When I approach my aquarium, all my guppy fish are gathering to the surface, waiting for food.

Guppies accept a high variety of food. You can give them vegie flakes, spirulina tabs, frozen food, live food, even raw vegetables. When you are feeding your guppies, make sure you offer them a variety of food in order to keep them healthy and colorful.

Feeding them once a day is enough. You can also feed them multiple times, but avoid giving them too much food.

The most important thing when feeding your guppies is to not overfeed them. Offer them only the amount of food they can eat in about one minute.

Overfeeding is the most common problem of fish death. Feeding your fish too much food, will result into ammonia spike, which is highly toxic for your fish.

Fish waste and uneaten food will convert into ammonia. In normal situation, ammonia (NH3) will be converted into nitrites (NO2) right away by the beneficial bacteria in your aquarium. The nitrites will be converted into nitrates (NO3), which is less toxic for your fish. This is called the nitrogen cycle in aquarium.

The nitrates will be removed from the water column by your live plants and partial water changes.

In case of overfeeding, so much ammonia will be produced by your fish and excess food that the beneficial bacteria won’t be able to convert it fast enough into less toxic nitrates.

High ammonia level in your aquarium can kill your fish in just few hours. The worst thing is that it has no prior signs.

So be very careful with feeding your guppies.

Water Filtration for Guppy Tank

I get this question very often: Do I need a filter for my guppy tank? Well, yes and no.

You can run your aquarium without a filter. The key to this is to do bigger (50%) weekly water changes and have good control over your feeding. And also keep your number of fish to minimum.

I also recommend adding live plants to your tank, if you don’t want to use a filter. Plants can keep your water clean, and remove the nitrates from the water column.

Please also remember, that an air pump is not a filter. It is not enough to drop an air stone into your aquarium. It won’t replace your filtration. If you have an air pump, you can hook it up to a sponge filter, which will do a very good job removing the ammonia.

A very basic sponge filter will be good. However if you can afford, buy an internal filter. I use the Aquaeon Queitflow for my 10 gallon aquarium.

If you don’t want to use a filter at all, I recommend using a very thick substrate (4-6 inches). Using a thick substrate in your aquarium, you will create an anoxic zone, where the beneficial bacteria will transform nitrates into nitrogen and oxygen gas, which are not harmful to your fish.

These gases will build up in your substrate in form of bubbles, and they will be released into the air time-to-time. If you see small or bigger bubbles floating up from your substrate, you should know that the bacteria are doing the work.

I’ve tried out the thick substrate method in an aquarium, and works very well. I use the Seachem Flourite Dark, which is a substrate for planted aquariums.

Water Heater for Guppies

Another question that I often get is: Do I need a heater for my guppies? Yes, you need a heater, unless you live in a tropical climate.

Guppies are tropical fish. They are originating from the Amazon River, where the annual maximum temperature is 90 °F (32 °C), and the minimum is 73 °F (23 °C) (source) . If you keep your fish in your home, most likely your room temperature will be at minimum of 70 °F in the winter. This temperature can be tolerated by your guppy fish; however you are exposing them to diseases.

I highly recommend getting a heater, because your fish will suffer from low water temperature. I use the Eheim Jager 50w aquarium heater, which can keep the water temperature stable at 74 °F (23 °C) in my 10 gallon guppy aquarium.

Artificial Light for Guppy Fish

Do guppies need artificial light? No, but they need some sort of light.

For guppies the light coming through your windows is enough to stay healthy, so they do not require additional lightning. However if you are keeping live plants in your guppy aquarium, artificial light is vital. Most aquarium plants need bright and strong light for at least 8 hours a day to photosynthesize and grow.

If your aquarium is near a window seal, and it is getting strong sunlight, you might get away keeping plants healthy.


Having an aquarium in your room is a very good way to introduce a piece of nature into your life. Guppies are very active fish and fun to watch. They are also easy to keep fish, if you know what they need.

Choose a good size aquarium and place some guppies in it. Feed them a variety of food, but never give them too much. Do your weekly water changes to keep them healthy. They will reward you with their beauty and lots of fry.


Featured Image:

26 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    How can I send you a photo of my sick guppy?

  2. Sharon says:

    Hi could I put my new born fry in with 3 week old guppies.

    • avatar Fabian says:

      Probably there will be no problem with placing new born fry with 3 weeks old guppies together.
      Though, you should note, that the new born fry can have a slight growth disadvantages when keeping them with other fry size. The bigger fry will always get more food than the smaller ones.

  3. Morten says:

    Hi i have guppy and big aquarium about 150 liter but i lose every week my guppy and this is why my guppy give birth then die

    • avatar Fabian says:

      I wonder how many guppies you keep in a 150 liter aquarium and also if the water is already cycled. It takes about 6 weeks for a new aquarium to cycle. Only after this period is recommended to add fish.

  4. Guppy says:

    Hi my problem is the sem i lose my guppy every week when my guppy give birth then die but my Malé fish also die i dont know why

    • avatar Fabian says:

      It is probably due to water quality. Probably your tank is not cycled and you have ammonia spikes. This is the most common reasons why guppies die without any sign of disease symptoms.

  5. Alefiya says:

    Yesterday i buy 22 guppy fish male famale mix.Today 4 guppy fish die and in my tank some cardinal fishes also and 2 fish for elge. my water is fully purified,we have oxygen, natural plant n water temperature also normal.

  6. Tracy M says:

    I have a 36 or 39 gallon bowed front tank with filter. We had goldfish and an albino bristle-nose Pleco which all recently died due to several factors hitting the tank at once. I tossed the rocks at the bottom and the decor. I’ll be scrubbing the tank and leaving in the sun for a week before getting new fish. I’m thinking of getting guppies (had them a long time ago, almost 30 years). I’m wondering though how many would be the max, is the tank too tall for them, what other kinds of fresh water fish will go with them, and will a bristle nose Pleco be okay with them? I know I’ll have to get a heater as temperatures fluctuate depending on time of year and day. Any and all suggestions will be appreciated.

    • avatar Fabian says:

      In a 40 gallon fish tank I would not put more than 30 guppies – unless you have a really good filtration. If you want to add other fish too, I recommend platies, mollies, swordtails. Plecos also go well with guppies. Please consider that bristle nose plecos will grow to about 6 inches. So I would not add more than 2-3 plecos into a 35-40 gallon tank.
      All in all, I would do the following stocking:
      2 birstlenose pleco
      6 guppies (2 males and 4 females)
      4 platies (2 males and 4 females)
      Sure, you can mix guppies with tetras or other peaceful fish.
      Check out my article, where I list over 20 guppy fish tank mates.

  7. Emily Holler says:

    I have a guppy that has been attacked by another fish in my tank and both fish have been isolated in breeder tanks temporarily, I was wondering if you could help me, would my damaged fish’s tail grow back?

  8. Linda Billings says:

    I am a new guppy keeper and have had a terrible time making sure they are happy and unstressed. In this process I have lost many fish I am sorry to say. But I think I am finally getting it figured out. The other dau I noticed two of my fish had what I thought was ick . Not knowing how long they had it I thought I should treat the whole tank. I took all the decorations out of the tank followed the medication directions I got jungle fizzy tablets and began treatment from yesterday to today all the fish seem to be less stressed and my two sick ones look better. This morning I did a 25% water change and added more meds. How do I know how long to treat and after it is over how do I clean the tank to get it back to normal? I was told I need to get new gravel and it should be coral because they like hard water. Any information you could give me would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you for your time

    • avatar Fabian says:

      Hi Linda! Guppies like harder water, but you don’t need to add crushed coral. Gravel is just fine. Usually tap water is good for guppies. If you use RO/DI water, then you might need to use minerals to make the water harder.
      The life cycle of ich is around 4-7 days, depending on the water temperature. In warmer water ich will have a shorter lifespan. So treating your tank with medication or aquarium salt of 7 days is enough to kill off ich.
      After medication is finished, I suggest using a carbon filter to remove all the remaining medication from the water. Do a 50% water change and vacuum the gravel thoroughly.
      Ich should be gone for good, though you should still monitor your fish in the next few days to see if it all fine.
      Before putting back your aquarium decoration, make sure you wash them really good in hot, salty water. If you use live plants in your aquarium you should leave them in the aquarium during medication.
      Hope this helps you! Good luck!

      • Linda Billings says:

        The two that looked so naff died yesterday now one has a white ring around its eye and it looks like something close to its mouth

        • Linda Billings says:

          They are all laying on th bottom of the tank I don’t know what to do

          • avatar Fabian says:

            As I said before. This is likely to be ammonia poisoning. Do 50% water change and if you use tap water, use a dechlorinator. If your fish already suffered of a huge ammonia spike, probably they will not be able to recover.

  9. Someguy says:

    Hi Fabian
    Thanks for your helpful content.
    I don’t have a test kit and new to the hobby. How much water change do you suggest I need for a 60 gallon tank with 6 guppies and 15 10-day old fries. I have a couple plants. Thin substrate. And a small filter
    I lost a fry today. and my black guppy refuses to eat and has become inactive. Tank is old enough.

    • avatar Fabian says:

      If it is a 60 gallon tank (230 liter), and if your tank is cycled, the chance of ammonia poisoning is low. On top of that your aquarium is under-stocked fish. Do you see any signs of any disease on your fish? How often do you feed your fish? If you feed them too many times and too much food, that can cause ammonia spikes. I recommend doing a 30% water change and watch your fish. Guppies are very sensitive to ammonia, so even the smallest amount of ammonia can cause problems.

  10. Kadence Smith says:

    Hi, I went to a pet store today and the associate helping me said that 5 adult guppies is too much for a 10-gallon tank, is this true?

    • avatar Fabian says:

      It really depends on the filtration. If you have a good filter and an established tank, you can keep up to 7 to 10 guppies in a 10 gallon tank. I had success with this setup and that is why I recommend it.
      If you are just starting out, you should probably get 3-5 guppies first, and wait until the tank is cycled and established. After 5-6 weeks you can add a few more guppies.

  11. Steve G Larsen says:

    Ughhh..Ty for telling People on how to take care of Guppies!..Its quite easy if ya really think about it..Clean fresh water, Temperature, Waste, Plants and over feeding!..That’s the Worst!.
    Cheers. Good to know there’s someone out there looking after these Guppies!


  12. Linda Billings says:

    Hi I discovered 10 guppy fry in my tank. They are about two months old and so far 7 have survived. Yesterday I noticed one falling behind it has what looks to be scoliosis. It is much smaller than the others. If I separate it from the bigger fry and give it some tlc will it catch up or is the poor little thing doomed.
    Thank you for your time

    • avatar Fabian says:

      Hey Linda. In my opinion you should not treat this guppy separately. She will always be behind. Also, do not allow this guppy to breed, because the off springs will also have similar genetic problems. This is a health condition that can not be treated.

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