Are Guppies Messy Fish? 5 Things to Consider

They are typically not. Guppies are rather small fish that don’t create too much mess and waste. But that can change. Overcrowding and overfeeding are 2 of the most relevant problems leading to increases in ammonia and a higher level of fish waste.

But how do guppies fare once you’ve tackled these fundamental problems? Do they require plenty of cleaning, and how should you approach the situation?

Today, we will discuss guppies’ pooping behavior and what you can do to fix the problem if any.

Do Guppies Poop a Lot?

The answer isn’t really straightforward. Many people claim that they don’t, while others consider guppies to be poop machines. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Guppies tend to poop more when fed more vegetables and fatty meat. High-protein meals will diminish their pooping habit.

They will also make a lot more mess in a smaller tank than a larger one. This brings us to the most ardent topic relating to fish poop – how do we solve and prevent the problem?

How to Keep Your Guppy Tank Clean?

Guppies require a stable system to remain healthy, reproduce successfully, and live long and balanced lives. Excessive fish waste will increase the ammonia levels, causing your fish to get sick and even die. It’s imperative to keep the tank clean and perform regular maintenance, but that’s not the only thing you can do.

Here are several other strategies for preserving your guppies’ environment in pristine conditions:

– Use a Good Filter

A potent and reliable filtering system is necessary for a variety of reasons. These include:

  • Cleaning the water of debris and floating particles
  • Remove dead matter residues coming from plants and algae
  • Oxygenate the water
  • Ensure medium and healthy currents, helping the fish breathe better

The filtering system is almost necessary in all fish tanks, especially for guppies. The filter will stabilize their environment and prevent dangerous increases in ammonia and nitrates, which are associated with unclean tanks and fish waste.

– Water Changes

No matter how proficient the filtering system is, you still need to perform regular water changes to preserve the environment’s stability. There are 2 aspects to consider here:

  1. The amount of water being changed – No matter the tank’s size, you should never change more than 10-15% of the total water volume at once. The main reason is the risk of disrupting the tank’s biofilm. Every cycled tank will have a microbiological balance, where cultures of beneficial bacteria neutralize harmful chemicals. Some of these chemicals include ammonia and nitrites, natural compounds resulting from fish waste, and decaying matter. Changing too much of the water will destabilize the system and kill off the beneficial bacteria, allowing the ammonia levels to spike with deadly consequences.
  2. The frequency of water changes – Not changing the water often enough will cause problems, but so will changing it too often. So, where should you stand? I recommend performing one water change every week unless the situation dictates otherwise. Having a lot of fish, making a lot of mess requires more often water changes. If you have more fish than intended, you might need to increase the frequency of water changes to 1 every 5 or even 4 days.

Water changes are essential for any fish tank, no matter whether you have a filter or not. The only difference is that, with a filter, the need for water changes isn’t as critical.

– Reduce Feeding

The more and more often you feed your guppies, the more poop you will obtain. What most novice guppy keepers don’t know is that you can’t really rely on guppies to tell you how much they should eat. Guppies function based on instincts and will eat as much as they can. This is a biological prerogative, seeing how, in the wild, food is rather scarce, and competition is fierce.

The same instincts carry over to domesticated guppies. It’s very easy to overfeed them if you allow your guppies to plan the meal program. Guppies will consume as much food as they can and increase their pooping rates consistently as a result. Aside from that, overfeeding will cause guppies digestive issues, leading to constipation, among other things.

Unconsumed food will decay in the water and dramatically increase the ammonia levels.

Provide your guppies with a controlled meal plan to prevent that. Feed them at most twice per day and only what they can consume in 1 minute. Other useful strategies include:

  • Having a denser substrate – Use sand as a substrate for your guppy tank. The tiny granules won’t allow fish waste and food residues to infiltrate in the substrate. This will make the residues easier to spot and clean.
  • Consider bottom-dwelling fish – You can add bottom-dwelling fish into your guppy tank. The Bristlenose Pleco or the Bumblebee Goby are valid candidates among many others. They will keep the substrate clean by consuming any food residues sinking from the water’s surface and won’t interact with your guppies too much.
  • Cleaning the substrate regularly – If you have a sand substrate, cleaning it will only take a few minutes of your time. It goes so fast that you can do it daily, as part of your routine.

– Use Live Plants

Live plants are essential for keeping the environment clean and healthy. Some of the benefits to expect from decorating your aquarium with live plants include:

  • Cleaning the water – Plants consume fish waste, food residues, and any organic debris of any nutritional value.
  • Balance the system’s gases – Plants consume the CO2 that the fish produce and create oxygen in exchange, so long as they get access to light. They are also useful for stabilizing the tank’s pH.
  • Serve as hiding spots for fish – A plant-rich environment will provide the fish with plenty of hiding spots, boosting their comfort and reproductive rates. Fish who have plants in their aquarium tend to be more comfortable in the open and exhibit more vivid colors.

– Reduce the Number of Fish

If your aquarium is overcrowded, you have a problem. Overcrowded tanks are generally messier and will cause the fish to become more aggressive and territorial. If you see the water turning murky often, or if your fish display more aggressive behavior, trim the pack.

You can separate the fish into 2 communities and get 2 tanks for that or you can sacrifice several of them for the greater good. There is no easy solution, but any solution is better than keeping the entire guppy population in miserable conditions.

How Many Guppies Should You Keep?

The golden rule is 1 guppy per 2 gallons of water. Sure, you can use 1.5 gallons instead of 2 when doing the counting since it won’t make much of a difference. Just keep in mind that overcrowded guppies can become aggressive towards one another.

I should also remind you that guppies are prolific breeders. Having 4-5 females and 2 males is enough to multiply your guppy population several times over within one month. And guppies will produce fry every month; dozens of them at once.


Guppies aren’t particularly messy fish; it all depends on their environmental conditions. If you don’t overfeed them, cram too many fish into not enough space, or forget to clean the tank, the mess will take over.

Take my advice, follow my tips, and keep your guppies clean and healthy.

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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