How to Care for Guppy Fish? Guide for Beginners

In the pet-owner world, Guppies have been a household name for a long time. You’d be hard-pressed to find any aquarium without at least a few of them. It’s easy to see why they’re so popular. They’re small, adaptable, and easy to care for. This makes them perfect for seasoned pet owners as well as complete beginners.

Their unique, colorful looks also earned them the nickname of the “rainbow fish”, so they make a great aesthetic addition to any aquarium. Besides making any aquarium look awesome, guppies are also friendly, peaceful, and active. They’re likely to get along with other fish in the tank and they always find something to keep themselves entertained.

But their perks don’t stop at just their personality or appearance. To make things even better, guppies are also hardy, low-maintenance fish. They’re a great choice if you’re just starting with the aquarium hobby.

Keeping a pet fish doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg! As I’ve already mentioned, guppies are easy to care for. Low maintenance might actually be an understatement.

For starters, guppies are cheap as dirt and you can find them in any pet shop. For just a few bucks, you can get started with your guppy tank. Also, they don’t need lots of space to feel satisfied and even the tank equipment won’t be a huge financial drain.

They’re sturdy, so they don’t need any fancy conditions either. Don’t believe me? Just keep reading to learn how basic and no-nonsense this pet really is.

Guppy Tank Size

Let’s start with the basics. You can’t keep fish without a tank, so you want to first get this part down first. For fish, the most important thing to remember when preparing a tank is the size. Some fish need plenty of space, while others are just fine with less.

Luckily, guppies belong in the latter category. Compared to other species of fish, guppies rarely grow larger than 2 inches (5 cm), and males are usually smaller than females.

They still need a bare minimum of space to move around and enjoy their daily activities, but they’re less fussy than other species of fish. So, how much space will you need? That depends on how many guppies you want to keep.

A simple rule of thumb to remember is that for each centimeter of fish, you’ll need about 1.5 liters of water. So, let’s assume that the average guppy fish is about 1.4 inches (3.5 cm) long. If you were to keep 5 guppy fish, you’ll need about 26 liters of water.

Here’s a pro tip! If you add some live plants and filtration, you can keep more guppies in a tank. So, if you can’t find a tank to fit all your guppies, don’t panic. As long as you keep the water clean and fresh, you’re good to go.

Of course, adding plants and filtration doesn’t mean you won’t have to change the water every once in a while. And speaking of water, let’s see what a guppy’s water requirements are.

Guppy Water Parameters

Luckily, guppies are total badasses. They can adapt to almost any condition, so they do well in various environments. Still, for optimal health, you should stick to the following guidelines. First of all, the water pH should range from 6.8 to 7.8. This range means that guppies can manage both slightly acidic as well as slightly alkaline water.

In most places, tap water is also just within this range. If you’re unsure, you can always check the pH of tap or bottled water with some pH test strips.

Water temperature should fall within 27-82 °F (22-28 degrees Celsius). Getting the temperature right might take some more tweaking. The water shouldn’t contain any harsh chemicals such as ammonia, chlorine, chloramine, or nitrites, and nothing above 10 ppm nitrates.

Also, the water hardness should be within 8-12 dGH. In case you’re wondering, water hardness refers to how much calcium and magnesium are in the water. The more of these minerals, the harder the water.

For example, if your water hardness is 1 dGH, that means there are 10 mg of calcium oxide for each liter of water. Water measuring 8-12 dGH is actually considered hard water. Water measuring 4-8.5 dGH is slightly hard, while anything above 8.5 is hard.

Anything above 17 dGH is considered very hard water. There are plenty of options for at-home water hardness testing kits. If the water you’re planning to use doesn’t fall within this range, you can always purchase a water softener or hardener.

How to Feed Your Guppies?

This is probably the most fun part when caring for guppies. They know when you come to feed them and they will all race up to the top of the tank to be the first to feast. But remember that most fish are voracious eaters. If you feed them too much, they might overstuff themselves and die. Always portion your feed appropriately for the number of fish in your tank.

You can feed them multiple times a day, but once a day is ideal. It’s best to only feed them as much as they can eat during one minute. This way, you can avoid overfeeding and creating additional waste in the tank.

Food leftovers and excessive fish waste start decomposing rapidly, generating harmful compounds such as ammonia and nitrites.

With regards to what you should feed them, guppies aren’t fussy eaters. As long as it can fit into their mouth, guppies will eat anything. In the wild, guppies eat a variety of algae, as well as live insects, other smaller fish, as well as other guppies, fry, and even the flesh of their enemies (okay, maybe not).

The most important thing is providing a wide variety of nutrient-dense, colorful foods. Things such as algae tablets, vegetable flakes, raw veggies, and even insects are all fine.

Do Guppies Need a Filter?

This is a frequently asked question. I’d say installing a filter isn’t necessary. As long as you change the water frequently and avoid food waste when feeding them, your guppies won’t need a filter. But some extra help would be nice. A filter will extend the time between water changes, making pet maintenance less of a hassle.

Also, remember that space requirements are going to be stricter if you don’t use a filter. Keeping too many guppies in an unfiltered aquarium is dangerous.

That’s because there’s going to be more waste the more fish you keep in a tank. An overcrowded tank with no filter is like a death sentence for your pets. You never know when the ammonia levels in your tank get out of control until it’s too late. So, if you want to play it safe, you should either keep your guppies in a large enough aquarium or install a filter for some leeway.

Another useful tip to manage harmful waste products is thickening the substrate. If you don’t want to or can’t install a filter, you could try using a thick soil substrate, about 5 inches (12 centimeters) deep.

The beneficial bacteria in the soil will neutralize the harmful ammonia and nitrates, generating harmless nitrogen and oxygen. Adding some live plants will also aid this process.

Do Guppies Need a Heater?

Definitely! Guppies can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, ranging from 74-90 °F (23-32 degrees Celsius). But the main requirement is keeping the water warm. Unless you live in a hot climate, seasonal temperature fluctuations might negatively influence your aquarium temperature.

The temperatures won’t be above 74 °F (23 degrees Celsius) year-round. In fact, the average temperature in a heated room in winter is around 70 °F (21 degrees Celsius).

While guppies won’t immediately die in lower temperatures, their immune system might still take a hit. If your fish live in constant suboptimal temperatures, their health will eventually deteriorate. Relying on constantly fluctuating room temperature is a bad call.

But an aquarium heater keeps the water temperature within a suitable range at all times. That’s why I strongly recommend buying one.

Do Guppies Need Light?

Yes, they do! Guppies don’t necessarily require artificial light, although using a lamp wouldn’t be a problem. They can get by with just natural lighting coming in through your window. Just make sure to place your tank close to one so that your fish are getting direct sun exposure. If you can’t place your aquarium next to a window, you’ll have to use artificial lighting for your fish.

If you use artificial lighting, try to provide around 8-10 hours of light per day. Remember to turn the light off at night. Guppies need at least 6-8 hours of sleep, and constant light exposure might interfere with their natural sleep cycle. Too much light exposure and not enough sleep might lead to death not only in guppies but also in other species of fish.

I also recommend artificial lighting if you have live plants in your aquarium. Remember that plants need light to grow and photosynthesize. Make sure the artificial light you’re using is either full spectrum or visible light. Plants don’t actually use UVB light, contrary to popular belief.

Plants need visible blue and red light to grow and do other plant things. A full spectrum light will cover both visible light (red and blue as well) and invisible UV light. That means you’ll cover both the fish and the plants’ needs with one lamp. It’s a win-win!

Keeping Male & Female Guppies Together

Guppy Fish are generally peaceful little creatures. But male guppies are disgusting, horny bastards. When kept together, male guppies will continuously seek out females for breeding. And when I’m saying “continuously”, I mean it.

Guppy fish are such prolific breeders that they’ve actually earned the nickname of “million fish” for that reason. The problem is that female guppies will grow exhausted from all the harassment.

Not only that but their physical wellbeing might also be affected by the constant breeding. A female Guppy Fish can have up to 50 fry per month. That’s a lot of baby fish. And it turns out that guppies who don’t breed actually live longer, healthier lives.

Now, it’s up to you to decide, but I wouldn’t recommend keeping male and female guppies together. Not unless you want to quickly overpopulate your aquarium.

It’s best to keep male and female guppies separated. The next best option is only keeping female Guppy Fish. If neither of these options works for you, you can also try to keep a higher ratio of female to male fish. There should be at least 3 female guppies for every male. It’s the best way to avoid conflict between male fish and to allow your female guppies some rest.

Wrap Up

So that’s it! Guppies are fun and energetic little pets. They never fail to enhance any room with their beauty. There aren’t many downsides to owning Guppy Fish, because they’re so sturdy and low-maintenance. Even a complete beginner can manage this pet. As long as you can meet their requirements, guppies will live for up to 4-5 years.

Just ensure that they have clean, warm water and plenty of space. Change their water regularly and make sure there are no impurities or harsh chemicals in it. Feed them daily, give them a variety of foods, but never too much. As long as you follow these general guidelines, you can’t go wrong. It’s really that simple!

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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