Do Guppies Jump Out of the Fish Tank?

Not many guppy lovers are aware that guppies can and will jump out of the water regularly. This includes people who have had guppies for a long time. The reason for them being oblivious to the phenomenon is the rapidity it unfolds.

It will happen in the blink of an eye, and you can easily miss it. This has led to many head-scratching instances where a fish simply goes missing out of the tank with no apparent explanation.

In reality, it’s all on the guppies’ athletic capabilities, leading them to potentially deadly consequences. In the wild, a guppy that will jump out of the water will fall back in. The situation is vastly different when you have an uncovered tank limiting their environment.

Guppies that jump out may fall prey to pets or end up in unreachable places where they die. All you’re left off with is the enduring mystery of a missing guppy that vanished into thin air.

Today’s article aims to disperse this mystery and shed light on one of guppies’ less known abilities – dry jumping.

The Main Reasons Why Guppies Jump Out of the Tank

First, a disclaimer: Nobody truly knows for sure why guppies jump out of the tank. The interesting aspect is that wild guppies show the same behavior, and researchers still struggle to find out the cause.

Unlike many other jumping fish species, guppies don’t leap out to catch prey, evade predators, or overcome physical obstacles in their path. They just do it for no apparent reason.

There are, however, some potential explanations that we will analyze today:

Overcrowding or a Small Living Space

Overcrowding refers to having too many fish per gallon of water, and it’s a common issue among fish lovers. Everybody wants to have as many fish as possible to create a vibrant aquatic habitat. The problem is that overcrowding will make fish uncomfortable, leading to a variety of issues.

These include:

  • Aggression – Guppy males can be territorial and will become aggressive in the presence of other fish. With less space at their disposal, they will become more confrontational and even violent towards other male guppies and even other fish breeds. This can lead to stress, causing the bullied to seek a way out. If they have few-to-no places to hide, jumping will appear as the only other option.
  • Poor oxygenation – Holding a lot of fish in the same area will consume more oxygen than it should. Add to that the improper tank conditions and dirty water, and the guppies will feel compelled to leave their environment.
  • Food competition and predatory behavior – If you have a lot of different fish species in your tank, you need to feed them properly. This is a difficult task since they don’t eat the same things or in the same amounts. This can lead to some species going hungry or becoming unsatisfied with their food. Bigger fish can turn predatory and target your guppies, which can cause the latter to seek a fast way out.

You can resolve the problem by keeping no more than 5 to 8 guppies in a 10-gallon tank. This will also depend on your guppies’ size. If they’re bigger, you may not hold as many. The same goes for mixing guppies with other, bigger fish that will take up a lot more space.

Fish Stress

Stress is a common problem for guppies since they are sensitive to a variety of triggers. These include:

  • Poor water quality
  • Poor tank maintenance
  • High ammonia levels in the water
  • Overfeeding and overcrowding
  • Bullying from more aggressive fish
  • High traffic in the tank
  • High traffic in the room with a lot of lights, noises, and people moving around
  • Pregnancy, etc.

Stressed guppies tend to signal the problem via behavioral changes. They will eat less, their coloring will fade, they will swim erratically, constantly look for hiding, and even jump out of the water.

If you ignore these signs, your guppies may fall ill since the constant stress will affect their immune system. This will open the door to infections, parasites, and illness with potentially deadly effects.

If you observe stress signs in your guppies, do whatever you can to identify and remove the cause. This will calm your guppies and allow them to catch their breath for once. Hopefully, it will also decrease the likelihood of them jumping out of the tank.

Inadequate Water Conditions

Guppies facing unfit water conditions in the wild will simply swim to a different location. They don’t have this luxury when trapped in a 10-gallon tank. That doesn’t mean they won’t try.

If your guppy deals with poor oxygenation, high levels of ammonia, or unfit water temperature, they will display abnormal behavior. The signs that your guppies will display vary depending on the cause.

Here are some signs signaling that something’s not right with the water quality:

  • High ammonia levels – The higher the ammonia levels, the higher the chances for your guppies to experience poisoning symptoms. These include gasping for air at the surface of the water, darker body colors, gills turning blood-red, etc. Keeping track of the ammonia levels in the water is key to preventing ammonia poisoning and keeping your guppies safe.
  • Low water oxygenation – There are numerous reasons for poor water oxygenation. These include overcrowding, overfeeding, resulting in food waste, high water temperature, lack of water movement, etc. Your guppy will display discomfort via a variety of signs, including gasping for air, rapid gill movements, and more sluggish movements. At this point, a 50% or more water change is absolutely necessary.
  • High water temperature – The Goldilocks zone lies in the 72-82 °F range. Small variations are possible, but if the water rises or drops too much, the guppy will experience discomfort. If the water is too hot, the guppy will try to leave the tank, including jumping out.

In the end, you need to identify the signs of discomfort in your guppies and look for the cause. The sooner you identify and solve the problem, the fewer the health risks that your guppy could face.

Exploration and Playfulness

Sometimes, even after eliminating all stress factors that may make your guppy uncomfortable, the jumping behavior persists. At this point, the only explanation remaining is that this behavior is innate and instinctual.

Some researchers suggest that the jumping behavior shows the need for exploration and playfulness. Most likely, however, it is a sign of an instinctive behavior protecting the guppies from predators.

In the wild, the same behavior allows the guppies to avoid inbreeding and explore more food-rich areas of their habitat. In a tank, the same beneficial behavior can spell death in one single jump.

How High Can Guppies Jump?

Most guppies can jump up to 15 inches above water level. This is enough to propel them way outside of the tank’s area.

The propelling force is their technique which makes the most out of the water-resistance. Studies showed that guppies will stop swimming, wiggle their bodies backwards, and propel themselves violently towards the surface.

The force is enough to shoot the fish into the air, sometimes into unexpected and unwanted places.

How to Prevent Guppies From Jumping Out of the Tank?

A tank lid will solve all your problems. Your guppies will still jump, but they will no longer be able to leave the tank’s confinement.

If you think you don’t need a lid because your guppies don’t jump, think again. Most guppy owners have never observed their fish jumping out of the water. Then, one day, they notice fish missing.

The problem here is that guppies are unpredictable and will sometimes jump out of the water for no apparent reason. You may not notice it; that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Sure, a lid will reduce your interaction with your fish and add an extra layer to remove when performing water changes or feeding. The benefits, however, outweigh the downsides.

Not to mention, a lid will also prevent things from falling into the tank. Or cats (if you have any) fishing the guppies out of the water when you’re not looking.


Your guppies will jump out of the water whether you observe them or not. If you do catch them doing that, investigate the cause. Most of the time, it will be their genetic makeup at play.

But, other times, the explanation may be more serious, including causes like stress, illness, predatory behavior, poor water quality, etc.

Keep track of your guppies’ behavior and act as soon as you notice anything abnormal.

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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