What do Guppies Need in Their Tank?

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Guppy fish aren’t high maintenance, but there are a few things that will have a significant impact on their quality of life.

If you’re raising guppy fish, you’re probably interested in how to set up their aquarium so that they’ll have a comfortable and healthy environment.

Some aquarium equipment is indispensable for raising healthy guppies, others may not be compulsory, but I’d still suggest you invest in them, especially if you aren’t an experienced aquarist.

In this article, I’m going to point out the aquarium equipment you’ll need to successfully raise and possibly breed guppies.

Here’s what guppies need in their tank:

Choosing Tank Size

Guppy fish reach an average size of 1.5-2 inches, yet they require relatively spacious aquariums, which can provide them with enough swimming place.

The tank size I recommend for a small guppy group is 10 gallons. This size will offer them a comfortable amount of space and it can accommodate the aquarium equipment needed as well as some live plants.

If you have trouble figuring out how many gallons should your tank have, you should count one gallon of water for 1 inch of fish. This should be a good guideline to pick a comfortable aquarium size.

Choosing the right tank size from the get-go is important because setting up a new aquarium when your fish outgrow their current one takes time.

For example, the nitrogen cycle needed to establish a healthy bacterial colony in every new aquarium can take a couple of weeks to complete.

It’s best to choose a larger tank that can house multiple fish and the possible fry that may result from your guppy group breeding than having to deal with not having enough space and rehoming fish or, worse, having to mitigate any disease outbreaks that may happen in an overcrowded tank.

Water Filtration

When it comes to water filtration, you’ll see different opinions about whether guppies need an aquarium filter or not.

Some say a water filter is indispensable, others argue it’s optional. I agree with the fact that some guppy aquariums can be set up without a filter — e.g. if there’s a low number of guppy fish, if it’s a well-cycled aquarium, and if it’s a planted aquarium. Mind you, these are a cumulative requirements.

But it’s important to note that in the hands of an inexperienced aquarist, an aquarium without a filter may become problematic, so I don’t recommend it.

Experienced aquarists can easily figure out the fish to plant ratio and how to manipulate water parameters so that a healthy ecosystem is established for their fish.

Beginner aquarists don’t yet have that acumen, so I don’t recommend going filterless with your first guppy aquarium.

As for aquarium filters, there are multiple choices, but for a small to medium tank recommended for guppies, a hang-on-back filter is great, you don’t need a canister filter.

The aquarium filter will aid in keeping water parameters at optimum levels, will reduce debris and dirt in the tank, helping it to be cleaner and clearer.

The filter media in the aquarium filter is also a good site for healthy bacterial colonies to develop and thrive.

In conclusion, unless you know what you’re doing, I suggest investing in an aquarium filter for your guppy fish tank.

Water Heater

As aquarium equipment for guppies, a water heater is not something up for debate if you live in a temperate climate, where temperatures vary from season to season.

Guppy fish are tropical fish that require warmer water to thrive. The ideal temperature range is between 72-82 °F (22-28 °C).

The problem of having a guppy tank set up without a water heater in climates other than their natural climate is temperature fluctuations.

Guppies don’t do well if water temperatures fluctuate, therefore, you must provide them water at stable temperature, something that you can achieve if you install a water heater.

Sizing the water heater correctly is also important because you want it to warm up the entire water in your tank. I use the 5 watts per gallon of water volume rule to pick the correct heater size for my aquariums.

If you live in climates where outside temperatures stay above 68 °F (20 °C) all year round, you can set up a guppy aquarium without a heater.

Guppies are fish that can be kept even in outside ponds, but not all year-round if temperatures in your area drop below the recommended minimum.

If temperatures fall below 68 °F (20 °C), you should move your guppy fish inside and provide them temperatures that are as close as possible to their ideal range.

Aquarium Lights

Guppies are not dependent on artificial lights, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need any lights. The natural light that gets in through your window is enough for guppy fish.

If you have a planted aquarium, you may need to install artificial lights as natural light is not enough for many aquarium plants.

Don’t expose your aquarium to direct sunlight just to compensate for the fact you don’t have enough light for your plants. Strong direct sunlight can have unintended consequences such as uncontrollable algae growth, for example.

If you have aquarium lights, make sure you set up a running schedule for them that mimics natural daytime-nighttime patterns.

Guppy fish need darkness to rest and recuperate. They don’t sleep in the traditional sense, but they do become inactive, their breathing slows down, and they can be seen resting on the substrate or on decorations in your tank.

Excessive light is not ideal for guppies and it will encourage algae blooms in the aquarium, which can be very hard to remove once they take hold of your aquarium.

Live Plants & Decoration

Live plants are a welcomed addition to a guppy tank, partly because they help accelerate the nitrogen cycle, help keep the water cleaner, and partly because they compete with algae for resources, preventing them from getting out of hand.

Live aquarium plants can also be a source of food for small fry and even adult guppies that will graze on soft algae that can grow in these plants. Plus plants can make your aquarium look even better.

Beyond aesthetic reasons, both plants and decorations are useful for offering coverage or hiding spaces for weaker fish or female guppy fish that are being chased around by male guppies.

Remember that some plants require additional light and they may require trimming or dosing with fertilizers to grow.

Therefore, I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the requirements of live aquatic plants or opt for low-maintenance and low-light aquarium plants.

When adding plants to your aquarium, remember that they can carry parasites that could cause diseases in your tank, so do your due diligence by sterilizing them before you place them into your aquarium.

Other Things You Need

These were some of the most basic and important things guppies need in their tank. Here are some other things that you should have if you set up an aquarium:

  • Water testing kit: A water testing kit will help you measure certain water parameters (e.g. toxin levels, pH, etc.) during and after the nitrogen cycle to know which stage you’re at and whether everything in at the required levels;
  • Air pump: An air pump will stimulate oxygen exchange in the water by creating bubbles that break the surface tension of the water, driving more oxygen into it;
  • Fish net: You’ll need to use a fish net for various reasons like removing things from your aquarium, inspecting fish, handling fish, etc.;
  • Gravel vacuum: You’ll need a gravel vacuum for cleaning the substrate when performing basic maintenance in your aquarium;
  • Bucket: When performing water changes, you’ll need buckets to perform water changes, which should be done regularly to dilute and remove toxins, debris, and leftover food particles;
  • Dechlorinator: If you’re using tap water for water changes, you first need to remove the chlorine and chemical disinfectants from water because chlorine can kill your fish;
  • Breeding box: When breeding guppies, you may need a breeding box to separate the fry from the adults and prevent them from getting eaten by them;
  • Quality fish food: Feeding your guppy fish quality food will translate into a healthier physical development, brighter colors, better immunity and resilience to diseases.

Depending on how you set up your aquarium you may need other equipment or maintenance tools. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but it can give you a general idea of what things you may need to buy for you aquarium.


As I mentioned, guppy fish aren’t very sensitive fish that would require constant monitoring, but they do need a few things to ensure their well-being.

A water filter, a heater and a spacious enough tank are the bare minimum you should do for your guppy fish but offering them a habitat that best resembles their habitat in the wild is the best way to keep them healthy and content.

Feed your guppies a healthy and varied diet and offer them the best possible care so you can enjoy them for many years on end.

Updated: January 24, 2022

Questions & Answers

  1. Hi I was wondering if Guppies need airstones or airpumps for oxygen, because I’ve seen people say yes they need airstones and no for oxygen. Can you please make that clear with a yes or no?

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