Can Guppy Fish Live Without Oxygen?

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Often beginners ask me the following question: can guppy fish live without oxygen? I know that this question mostly refers to the bubbles produced by and air-stone.

While there are many beginners who are just starting out with keeping guppies and don’t know how air stones or oxygen exchange works, I decided to create an article on this topic.

So without further ado, here is my answer to the above question:

NO, guppy fish can’t live without oxygen. Guppies breathe by pumping water through their gills which takes out the oxygen from the water.

In the next part, I will give you some info on how the oxygen exchange works and how to increase the oxygen level in your aquarium water.

How does Oxygen Exchange Work in Water?

Water molecules are created from two hydrogen and one oxygen molecules (H2O).

That said, water contains oxygen in some form, however, guppies and other fish can’t use this oxygen to survive. They need oxygen molecules (O2) to live.

You can add pure oxygen into the aquarium water by agitating the surface or by adding fresh water, which contains dissolved oxygen molecules.

The greater the surface agitation is, the more oxygen will be dissolved from the atmosphere into the water.

Do Guppies Need an Air Stone or Water Pump?

As mentioned before, guppies need oxygen to live. Water oxygen exchange happens through surface agitation.

To agitate the surface of the water, you will need to use an air pump with an air stone or a water pump.

Air stones can produce lots of agitation in the fish tank. Though, a water pump can be more effective in agitating the water.

If you want to provide good oxygen exchange and keep a high oxygen level in your guppy aquarium, I recommend using an air stone or a water pump (internal filter).

I recommend using this air pump from Amazon along with these air stones. I use these pumps myself and love them because it is not nosy, unlike other air pumps.

Do Guppies Need a Filter?

Oxygen is very important for guppies. However, filtering the water is also important.

By feeding your guppies, they will produce waste. The decaying food and fish waste will turn into ammonia (which is highly toxic for the fish).

The nitrifying bacteria will turn ammonia into nitrites and nitrites into nitrates.

Nitrates in low quantities are non-toxic for your fish.

The beneficial bacteria live everywhere in your guppy fish aquarium. However, to increase their numbers, you need to use a filter media, which provides a huge surface area for the bacteria.

A sponge filter is a great option to start with. Instead of an air stone, you can use a sponge filter. This way you will filter the water and you will provide surface agitation too. I use and recommend these sponge filters from Amazon.

If air stone is not what you want, you can use an internal filter. Internal filters include a sponge and usually some other filter media. You can point the outflow of the internal filter to the surface of the water to create more surface agitation.

This internal filter from Amazon is very effective in filtering tanks of 10-40 gallons. It comes with 3 stage filtration: mechanical, chemical and biological. It is more effective than a sponge filter. It has an adjustable return flow rate and adjustable flow direction. It can be placed in the tank both vertical and horizontal.

So if you want to provide good oxygen exchange good water filtration, use this internal filter.

Using Live Aquatic Plants to Produce Oxygen in Your Aquarium

Live Aquatic Plants Produce Oxygen

I know, air stones and water pumps are really noisy.

If you don’t want to use an air stone or a water pump in your guppy aquarium, you can get rid of both.

Using live plants, you will be able to create a self-sustaining ecosystem, which does not require an air-stone or water pump.

Guppies will consume the oxygen from the water and will release CO2. Also, they will produce waste, which will turn into nitrates.

Live plants need light, CO2 (carbon dioxide) and some nutrients (nitrates) to photosynthesize. During this process, the plants will release oxygen into the water.

This is a cycle that benefits both your plants and your guppies.

If the proportion between the guppies and the live plants are good, your guppies will have enough oxygen.

I recommend the following fast-growing plants for guppies:

All these plants are very hardy and beginner-friendly. They can survive without fertilizing them and even in low light conditions.


I really hope this article has helped you find the answer to your question.

As you can see, there are multiple ways to provide oxygen for your guppies. I’m curious which method you prefer. Please let me know in the comments below.

Updated: December 13, 2021
Questions & Answers
    1. avatar

      This is totally normal. If guppies eat algae, vegetables or spirulina tablets, it is normal to produce green colored waste.

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