7 Most Common Problems with Keeping Guppies

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Guppies have a very good reputation in general. They’re peaceful, they’re highly adaptable to different aquarium conditions, and they get along with most fish species. They’re also quite affordable and they come in a wide variety of beautiful colors and patterns. Clearly, they’re a very good choice for any community aquarium or a small beginner aquarium.

But it’s not all rainbows and sunshine with guppies. There are also some downsides that you need to be aware of before going out to buy your first trio of guppy fish. Don’t worry though. Most of these issues aren’t guaranteed. They’re also solvable in most cases. So, let’s take a look at the 7 most common problems when keeping guppies.

Guppies Are Prone to Diseases

Guppies aren’t too finicky when it comes to tank setup or water parameters. But they can require a lot of maintenance. It just happens that guppies are some of the most sensitive fish out there. They’re prone to various diseases, parasitic, and fungal infections, all of which can be fatal if untreated.

The most common health problems in guppies are caused by parasites. Sadly, these parasitic infections are hard to detect until serious damage takes place. Velvet disease, ich, fin and tail rot, and hexamitiasis are some of these diseases caused by parasites or fungus. These infections can lead to skin peeling, bleeding, and even holes in the body or head of the guppies.

Some bacterial infections such as Columnaris can also cause paralysis. Other infections can cause massive internal damage before any outward signs appear. Tuberculosis, dropsy, and viral hemorrhagic septicemia are such examples. These can damage the liver, kidneys, and later lead to ulcers and sores over the body.

But don’t worry! Most of these infections are treatable with special medications. Finally, although genetic diseases are rare, scoliosis is not that uncommon in guppy fish. This disease might also be caused by environmental factors. It leads to poor development and makes swimming difficult for the fish.

Guppies Randomly Die

Guppies are often lauded for being hardy fish, but this is a bit of a misunderstanding. While guppies can adapt to various water temperatures and parameters, this isn’t a guarantee. Actually, it’s not uncommon for guppies to randomly die because of sudden water quality fluctuations.

Guppies can withstand a broader range of water parameters, as long as there aren’t any sudden fluctuations. Any abrupt change in water temperature, pH, or nitrate levels can send guppies into shock. This usually causes sudden death.

Less sudden but frequent water fluctuations can also cause stress in guppies. Stress is a big problem because it can go unnoticed until it’s too late. When guppies are under stress, their appetite diminishes and their immune system weakens.

This makes them more likely to succumb to infections or parasites. Sometimes, guppies will die suddenly due to ammonia poisoning. Invisible to the naked eye, even small amounts of this compound can burn a guppy’s gills and lead to respiratory problems.

Guppies Breed a Lot

Guppies are also known as the millionfish, and this is no coincidence. They’re known to be prolific breeders. Male guppies will breed with as many females as possible. Female guppies will also give birth regularly, about once every 30 days.

If that weren’t enough, a female guppy can give birth to 20-60 fry at the end of every gestation period. You’re going to have a hard time managing a guppy tank if you don’t want to keep all the fry. And sadly, separating male and female fish doesn’t always work out.

Male guppies tend to get aggressive with each other when there are no females around. The ideal tank set-up is three females for each male guppy. It’s inevitable that your guppies will breed at some point. You’ll have to keep this in mind when choosing the size of the tank.

Guppies Eat Their Fry

Guppies will eat anything small enough to gulp down. This also includes their fry. Both male and female guppies do this, so neither get the “parent-of-the-year” award. If you aren’t trying to breed as many fish as possible, this isn’t a big deal.

However, if you want to breed guppies for a hobby, this can become an issue. You’ll have to stay diligent. You’d also have to invest in some extra equipment, such as a breeding box or a separate tank. Separating the pregnant guppy from the main tank while she’s giving birth makes it easier to look after the fry.

That’s why a second tank is best. You’ll have to move the female guppy back into the main tank after she’s done though. Otherwise, she might start eating away at the fry soon after they come out. You’ll also have to wait until the young fish grow big enough before moving them into the main tank. Breeding guppies successfully is quite a ride.

Guppies Need a Heater

Guppies are tropical fish, so they’re best adapted to warmer water. The ideal water temperature for guppies is 72° to 78°F. While guppies can adapt to lower temperatures, this isn’t recommended. Just because they can survive in under 72°F temperature, that doesn’t mean they’ll thrive.

Lower water temperature in guppies leads to a slower metabolism, but also a weaker immune system. Anything lower than 60°F can be fatal. Depending on the climate you live in, the temperatures can fluctuate quite a lot. If you need to heat your house to maintain a 70°F temperature in winter, you’ll probably need an aquarium heater.

The temperature in the aquarium is going to be a bit lower than room temperature because water heats up more slowly. Installing an aquarium heater is the best way to avoid fluctuations and keep the temperature in the ideal range year-round. Thus, if you’re looking for a simple set-up, warm water fish like guppies might not be the ideal choice.

Male Guppies Fight Each Other

Guppies are peaceful fish. If the right conditions are met, that is. However, in certain cases, male guppies can become aggressive towards one another and sometimes towards other fish. While guppies aren’t territorial, there are still instances when a pecking order appears.

Male guppies can become hostile towards one another if they are under stress. This stress can arise due to multiple reasons, including water parameters, new tank mates, and competition for food and mating partners. Introducing new guppies to your guppy tank can be stressful for both the old and the new guppies alike.

The newcomers can end up bullying the older fish, or vice-versa. If there’s not enough food to go around for everybody, the males will also start fighting over it. Lastly, with not enough females in the tank, male guppies will try to establish their dominance and their right to mate over other guppies.

Their aggressive behavior can lead to further stress, physical injuries, poor development, and even death. Bullied guppies could develop infected wounds, they won’t get enough food to thrive, and they will spend most of the time hiding.

Guppies Jump Out from Their Tank

Guppies are like mini athletes of the fish world. They’re energetic, agile, and they have amazing jumping abilities. While these qualities help them navigate and protect themselves in the wild, this can become a bit of a problem for an aquarium hobbyist.

Guppies are jumpers, and they won’t hesitate to leap out of the aquarium if given the chance. There are multiple reasons why guppies might do this. Sometimes, guppies jump out because they want to escape a crammed aquarium, aggressive tankmates, or other stressful conditions such as poor water quality.

In other cases, guppies will also jump out of the aquarium because they’re just too energetic and curious about the world around them. Unbeknownst to the poor guppy fish, the world outside the aquarium isn’t quite as cozy for them.

Even stranger, sometimes guppies engage in this quirky behavior just because. They’re simply wired that way. Even if there’s no real reason for guppies to escape their aquarium, they’ll still jump spontaneously. Whatever the reason, it’s pretty clear that you’ll need a weighted aquarium lid to keep your guppies from jumping to their deaths.

Conclusion

Guppies are sometimes challenging to keep. They breed a lot and can quickly overpopulate a tank. Conversely, adult guppies also tend to eat their young, which makes professional or hobby breeding difficult. Males can sometimes become aggressive and hurt tank mates. Guppies are also sensitive to fluctuations in water parameters. They’re also prone to infections and parasites.

It takes some planning and some extra aquarium equipment to look after this species. However, don’t let these problems scare you away from keeping guppies. Guppies can still make great pets. They have lively personalities and they’re some of the most beautiful fish you can add to your aquarium. Seeing them chasing each other and exploring their home is always a fun and relaxing experience.

Updated: January 25, 2022

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