Do Guppies Need Oxygen to Survive?

How many of you have heard about the connection between guppies, air stones, and oxygen exchange? I know I hadn’t when I first started getting into guppy raising.

The question of the day – can guppies survive without oxygen, and if so, for how long? Well, the short answer would be no. Guppies can’t survive without oxygen, no matter how cool that would be.

Guppy fish pump water through their gills, and this process extracts the oxygen from the surrounding water. That’s how they breathe.

What Is Oxygen Exchange?

We all know how water is formed, right? You take one molecule of oxygen and two of hydrogen, and you end up with more or less potable water. But did you know that the oxygen in water isn’t very helpful to guppies? It’s not pure enough because the hydrogen suppresses it. So, these fish need pure O2, oxygen molecules, to live. To get pure oxygen, simply agitate the water surface or add some fresh water to the aquarium.

This will break up the hydrogen molecules and free up the oxygen. Guppies will get a gulp of fresh oxygen every time you do that. This is one of the reasons why you should perform water changes regularly. Oxygen exchange is a vital part of guppies’ lifestyle, and they do it all the time. But that’s not all there is to guppy breathing, right? Nope, it isn’t.

What About a Water Pump or Air Stone?

Remember when I said that you need to agitate the water if you want guppies to breathe pure oxygen? Well, doing it manually isn’t really an option unless you plan on not sleeping anymore. Guppies need to breathe every waking moment, so you have your work cut out for you. Fortunately, that’s not necessary. This is where an air pump or water pump comes into the picture.

Air pumps with air stones will stir and agitate the water in the aquarium but it’s nowhere near as effective as a water pump. Water pumps are also known as internal filters, for guppy beginners. Water pumps allow for efficient water exchange, leading to an increased guppy lifespan. I recommend looking for a silent and efficient water pump and water stones. You can find them on the internet, so there’s really not a problem boosting your guppy aquarium.

Make sure you clean the water pumps and internal filters regularly. They tend to become clogged with filth, fish waste, and dead plant leaves. If left dirty, the filter will muddy the water and, in time, your guppies may get sick. Unclean water is the number one reason for deadly ailments among fish. That and stress. And guess what? Unclean water also leads to stress.

How Important Is a Filter For Guppies?

Essential, I might say. Just like any other animal out there, guppies defecate and leave waste behind them. If kept in an enclosed environment like an aquarium, guess where all the waste goes to? Right, to the bottom of the aquarium. As it piles up, all that waste becomes toxic to fish by elevating the nitrate and ammonia levels in the aquarium. And by now, you should know how dangerous nitrates and ammonia are for guppies.

Beneficial bacteria generally take care of all the nitrates and ammonia, but only if they are numerous enough. Here’s the kicker – without a water filter, there won’t be enough bacteria to clean up the aquarium. The filter pumps water throughout the entire aquarium, pushing the bacteria in the nooks and crannies that they wouldn’t normally reach.

You can start with a sponge filter if you’re not feeling comfortable with air stones. Sponge filters are good for two reasons – they filter the water and provide water agitation, giving your guppies pure oxygen for breathing. Bullseye, just what you needed!

You can also give internal filters a shot. Internal filters contain a sponge and also a type of biological filter media. This filter can also agitate the water if you point the outflow of the filter toward the surface of the water. There are plenty of internal filters out there that will do a good job. Some have adjustable flow rates and flow directions, giving you verticality and horizontality quite easily.

Use Aquarium Plants to Boost Oxygen Levels

What if water pumps and air stones are too noisy for you? Well, I’d have to say they’re an acquired taste if anything, but you don’t have to go through all the hassle. You can ditch them for something better – aquarium live plants. This isn’t the first time I recommend live plants for guppy owners. They’re a great way of cleaning the tank, providing fresh oxygen to guppies, and enriching the ecosystem.

Live plants can even create a self-sustaining ecosystem from scratch. This is how it works:

  • Guppies consume oxygen from the water
  • They release the CO2 back
  • Guppy waste turns into nitrates, eventually
  • Live plants consume CO2 and nitrates as nutrients for photosynthesis
  • Plants release oxygen during photosynthesis

See what I’m talking about? Like magic, plants take the bad things in the water and turn them into good things that guppies can make use of. The unusable CO2 and nitrates become pure oxygen for the fish. If you place enough plants in the aquarium, you won’t need air stones or a water pump to agitate the water. The plants will produce enough pure oxygen for your guppies. As for specific live plants, I recommend the following:

  • Hornwort
  • Waterweed
  • Crypt Wendtii
  • Moneywort
  • Amazon Sword

All of these 5 plants can survive without fertilization, they don’t need that much light, and they’re very resilient to guppies nibbling on them. Just what a beginner fish owner needs, right?

Wrap Up

So, we’ve answered the question of the day – do guppies need oxygen to survive? Yes, they do. To give them that pure oxygen they need, either agitate the water with air stones and a water pump or bring a few live plants to your aquarium.

I use air stones, water pumps, and live plants for a superb combination. It all works wonderfully as my guppies are as sturdy as they come.

Guppies   Updated: September 16, 2022
avatar 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.
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