Guppy fish are native to North-East & South America and can be found in abundance in Brazil, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, the Virgin Islands and Barbados.
However, they have been introduced to many other areas of the world with great success and sometimes to the detriment of native fish populations.
Being so widely distributed, you may wonder what do guppies eat in the wild? What are some of the staple foods of the guppy diet in the wild?
Guppies have access to a variety of foods in the wild including animal-based and plant-based foods. Guppy fish are an omnivorous species that thrives on a diet that’s varied and rich in both plant-based and meaty foods.
By knowing more about some of the staple foods of the guppy diet in the wild, you may have a better understanding on how to create the healthiest combination of foods for them.
Here are my tips on how to feed guppies so that their diet best resembles their diet in the wild:
Live foods are an excellent source of nutrients for guppy fish. Foods like brine shrimp, diatoms, invertebrates, aquatic insect larvae are some of the best examples of live food available for guppy fish in the wild.
Because guppy fish have an appetite for insect larvae, guppies are used as a means to naturally control mosquito population and slow the spread of malaria in many regions of the world.
In captivity, live foods such as baby brine shrimp are fed to guppy fry to boost their growth rate and to ensure a healthy development. In fact, baby brine shrimp is my favorite food to feed guppy fry.
I always make it a point to make my own baby brine shrimp cultures at home and offer them to my fry just as soon as brine shrimp hatch.
For adult guppy fish, feeding live foods in captivity shouldn’t be done on a daily basis as the high fat and protein content is not healthy for them. Live foods should be part of their diet only as an occasional snack, once or twice per week.
Beyond the high-protein and fat content, another problem with feeding live foods to fish in captivity is the potential to transmit diseases and parasites if live foods carry them.
Therefore, you can either prepare your own live food cultures or source them from a reputable place to avoid introducing parasites and diseases into your aquarium.
Alternatively, you can choose freeze-dried brine shrimp and other freeze-dried life foods, which don’t carry diseases and there’s no risk involved. They don’t pack the same nutritive punch, but they’re still a healthy and nutritious meal for your baby guppies.
Live foods and their freeze-dried varieties can be a great way to supplement a flakes-only diet.
Organic matter is another food type widely available for guppies in the wild. Soft algae, remains of plants and even of other aquatic animals are all part of the guppy diet.
Because guppy fish feed on plant matter in the wild, offering them plant-based foods such as algae tabs or spirulina can nicely complete a healthy guppy diet.
Because guppy fish like to nibble on soft algae that grows on plants, it’s also a good idea to have live aquatic plants in your aquarium that can serve as a food source both for adult guppies and guppy fry.
The availability and abundance of different foods in regions populated by guppy fish will determine the type of diet that guppy fish have in the wild.
For the most part, however, algae remains make up most of the diet of wild guppy fish, therefore, having vegetable matter in their diet in captivity is essential.
Now that you know more about what guppies eat in their natural habitat, let’s see what and how you should feed guppies in captivity.
How Often to Feed Guppies?
Adult guppies don’t need to be fed too often. Not because they won’t take food as often as you would offer, but mainly because overeating has multiple ramifications both in terms of health and water cleanliness.
When it comes to feeding my adult guppies, I like to limit feeding to 1-2 times per day. I feed them small amounts they can eat in under a minute and remove any food that’s left uneaten.
Guppy fry, on the other hand, should be fed more often. When I raise guppy fry, I keep a feeding schedule that features at least five feedings per day. I also make it a point to add as much variety to their diet as possible.
The diet of guppy fry should mainly consist of live food or freeze-dried food such as live or freeze-dried baby brine shrimp, live daphnia, vinegar eel or microworms, freeze-dried tubifex and flakes for small fry.
For a better control over the ingredients that make up commercially available fish flakes, you can prepare a variety of fry-friendly guppy food from egg yolk paste to beef heart paste.
Egg yolk paste is the easiest of the two (take a hard-boiled egg yolk and crush it into a paste), but it can also be dangerous as it can quickly foul the water if you feed them too much of it.
You can even go as far as to prepare homemade flake foods by combining bone meal, fish meal, daphnia, vegetables, spirulina, vitamins, fish liver oil, etc. in a food processor and make it into a paste.
Take the paste and spread it out on a parchment paper coated tray, then place it into the oven to dry it out. Once it’s dry, you can crush it into flakes and feed it to your guppies daily.
It’s important to avoid overfeeding your guppies as too much food can cause constipation and excess waste that will disturb the water chemistry in your aquarium.
For How Long Can Guppies Survive Without Food?
It may surprise you to find out that guppy fish can survive quite a long time without food. In a well-cycled, mature, and planted tank, guppy fish can go without food for up to 2 weeks if they’re otherwise healthy.
I agree that 2 weeks is quite a lot, but your aquarium must meet certain conditions before you can leave your guppy fish unsupervised for this amount of time.
Therefore, you should first prepare your aquarium before you live your guppies to fend for themselves for 2 weeks.
Here are some things you must do:
- A few days before leaving, make sure you carry out a filter maintenance (simple rinse the filter, but don’t replace it because you’ll disturb the water chemistry);
- Carry out a 50-70% change a day before your departure;
- Clean your tank by removing decaying matter and any sick fish.
Some aquarists suggest setting up an aquarium feeder for your guppies, but I disagree. In my opinion it’s better for guppies to starve a bit than have waste and toxins accumulate in their aquarium.
Although adult guppies can go as many as two weeks without food, guppy fry can go up to three days without food in a well-matured aquarium.
Because guppy fry are still developing and require a lot of nutrients, they cannot go without food for too long and they require frequent feedings.
If you have an aquarium with baby guppies and you need to go away for more than 3 days, you might want to consider setting up a feeder that dispenses small amounts of food each day so that your baby guppies don’t starve.
Can You Feed Vegetables to Guppies?
I already mentioned that vegetable matter should be part of a healthy guppy diet, but what kind of vegetables are okay for guppies and how should you feed vegetables to guppy fish?
Guppies will be interested in eating the following types of vegetables: spinach, lettuce, romaine lettuce, peas, zucchini, cucumber, sweet potato, carrots, and even pumpkin.
Some of these vegetables can be served raw (e.g. pumpkin), others must be blanched by boiling (e.g. peas, which also require their shell to be removed).
The soft, jelly-like bits of some vegetables (e.g. cucumber) must be removed before feeding them to your guppies, because these can foul the water much sooner than the hard bits.
When feeding vegetables to your guppies, you must be careful to remove any uneaten vegetables from the tank, especially that after 3-4 hours guppies won’t be able to smell them anyway.
Some veggies will float in the water and you’ll need to use vegetable clips or suction cups to keep them in place so that your guppies can feed on them.
Guppies have an omnivorous diet and their diet in the wild includes a mix of meaty foods and vegetable matter of which soft algae and plant remains are predominant.
In captivity, guppies accept a wide range of foods including commercial fish foods, live foods, freeze-dried and frozen foods.
To sustain a healthy development, you should put your guppy fish on a diet that has multiple sources of food.
Resources: Photo by Per Harald Olsen CC BY 3.0