Guppies are adaptable fish that can flourish in captivity, making them ideal for interior and exterior tanks. That being said, many things can disrupt their health or lifestyle, one of which is overcrowding. Most novice guppy owners try to stack as many guppies as they can in the same environment for esthetic reasons. The fuller the tank, the prettier and richer it looks.
But that approach will hurt your guppies in the process. Each guppy requires at least 2 gallons of water to remain healthy and comfortable in the long run. Overcrowding will create a variety of issues, including rapid waste accumulation, bacterial growth, elevated ammonia levels, and fish stress.
So, how many guppies should you keep in your tank? I suggest at least 3, with no upper limit. You are only limited by the size of your tank. The larger it is, the more guppies you can add, provided you stick to the adequate guppy-per-gallon ratio.
But, as a minimum, 3 is the magic number – 1 male and 2 females. Keeping 2 males and 1 female isn’t a good idea since males are extremely competitive when the mating phase begins. And, with guppies, the mating phase begins pretty much daily.
Male guppies will also display territorial behavior, especially if they lack sufficient water volume. You should ideally have 2-3 females for every male, hence the minimum ratio I’ve just mentioned.
Can You Keep Only Male Guppies?
Yes, but I wouldn’t recommend it. In theory, male-only tanks are possible. Not only that, but people actually prefer them since male guppies are more colorful than the females. There are, however, problems that need preventing or fixing along the way.
Males are generally more aggressive and territorial, especially towards other males of their species. They will fight over food, space, females, or simply bully smaller males for the sake of it. While they can’t really kill each other directly, they will sustain wounds that can infect and result in death over time.
To prevent such scenarios, you need to take measures to minimize males’ aggressive tendencies. Some of the most reliable measures available include:
- Adding more hiding spots – The guppies’ environment should be rich in plants, caves, rocks, and woody decorations. These additions will make for a richer environment, providing your guppies with plenty of hiding spots to retreat to when threatened or stressed out. Such decorations will break line of sight between the males, diverting their attention and ensuring a calmer and more peaceful environment for all tank inhabitants.
- Provide enough food – It’s common for guppies to fight over food, especially males. If you have a male-only tank, disperse the food all over the water’s surface, to make sure everybody gets to eat. You can also feed guppies in separate groups in different areas of the tank with the same effect.
- Remove the aggressor – Some male guppies are more aggressive than others and the same goes for females. They will attack other guppies with or without reason and there’s little you can do to prevent it. At that point, you may need to remove the aggressor from the environment and euthanize it.
- Add females – A mixed tank is generally more balanced than a male-only environment. If you simply cannot ensure a healthy and stable male-only habitat, you might want to add females into the mix. Just add at least 2 females for every male present. Otherwise, simply adding a couple of females in a large group of males will only make the latter even more aggressive. They will now have extra reasons to fight.
How Many Males and Female Guppies Should You Keep?
There is no upper limit to how many guppies you can keep, so long as you provide enough water volume. When it comes to gender numbers, the ideal ratio is 1/3, as I’ve mentioned. That means 3 females for every male in the tank.
Such a ratio will minimize the males’ aggression since they all have more than enough females to mate with. It’s a good strategy if you’re looking to ensure a healthy and thriving aquatic environment, keeping your guppy population stable.
Can You Keep Only a Single Guppy?
In theory, you can, but I don’t recommend it. Guppies are social creatures that like to live in larger groups, despite not displaying schooling behavior on the regular. They do, however, display shoaling behavior and will resort to schooling occasionally when threatened.
They also get lonely and depressed when alone, which is why it’s a bad idea to keep one guppy only. You may provide the fish with ideal environmental conditions, the best food, and adequate care, and it ultimately won’t make a difference. The fish may still get sick and depressed and even die due to its weaker immune system.
If you love guppies, at have 3 at a minimum, 1 male and 2 females, in a 5-gallon tank.
Can You Keep Guppies With Other Fish?
Yes, but you should approach the situation with care and consideration. Not all fish species get along with each other. Guppies, for instance, are peaceful and timid and only get along with species sharing their behavior and environmental preferences.
Here are several useful tips to remember when preparing a mixed tank:
- Environmental compatibility – All fish species living in the same environment should thrive in similar water parameters. Guppies, for instance, prefer water temperatures between 72 and 82 °F, with a water pH of 6.8-7.8. Find them suitable tank mates that prefer or can adapt to these values.
- Size considerations – It’s an unwritten rule in nature that larger fish will bully or eat the smaller ones. The same will happen in your tank if you mix your guppies with large species. The larger fish may take guppies for prey and kill them or simply bully them around, stressing them out, and forcing them into hiding. Stressed guppies will experience a lower immune system, leaving them prone to infections and parasites.
- Diet – It’s always a bad idea to mix carnivorous species with vegetarian or omnivorous ones like guppies. Even small carnivorous fish may attack guppies if they lack sufficient food, injuring them and making them vulnerable to infections. And this is a risk you don’t want to take.
If you’ve decided to mix your guppies with other fish species for a plus of variation, be smart about it and take all precautions necessary. For instance, you should also consider pairing guppies with fish species like Bristlenose Pleco, that doesn’t share the guppies’ swimming space. This will minimize daily interactions between the fish, maintain a healthy and stable dynamic.
Can You Keep Different Types of Guppies Together?
Yes. I actually recommend this option if you want a more diverse tank. There are nearly 300 species of guppies available with a variety of subspecies and presenting incredible color and pattern variations. You can find different guppies based on body shape, body pattern, and color, providing you with virtually limitless options.
The great thing about mixing different species of guppies is that they all thrive in the same water conditions. They also recognize each other as belonging to the same species, despite their differences in appearance. Just remember that guppies will mate with each other monthly. If you don’t want to mix species and would like to keep them clean mixed tanks aren’t really a great idea.
Guppies don’t need much to live healthy, active, and stable lives. One of their basic requirements is space, which means that overcrowding can become a quick problem. Keep them in a plant-rich environment, pair them with compatible tank mates, and always make sure your guppies have all the space they need to thrive.
Other than that, you can refer to my other articles on the topic of guppies if you’re interested in dietary, accommodation, and reproductive info and advice.