Why is My Guppy Fish Hiding?

As a novice fish lover, there are many things that you need to understand about your guppies. These include feeding patterns, reproductive and mating behavior, water temperature and oxygenation, etc. And this is without having to deal with the unexpected in the form of erratic behavioral changes.

One of these erratic behavioral changes is hiding with no apparent reason. What drives your guppies to seek shelter since this isn’t typical guppy behavior? Naturally, there are several reasons for that, some more serious than others.

Today’s article will explore the main reasons causing your guppies to hide or swim along the tank’s substrate. The most important ones include:

The Day-Night Cycle

As diurnal animals, guppies are most active during the day. Nighttime is a period for sleep and rest. Guppies generally require about 8 hours of sleep, during which they will linger around the tank’s substrate, sometimes motionless and other times performing subtle jerky moves. There’s nothing to alarm you since guppies need sleep just like any other creature.

Their behavior should only alarm you if it manifests during the day. As an important note, I suggest shutting off any lights during the night, allowing your guppies to adapt to the day-night cycle.


Your guppies can fall prey to a variety of illnesses, including fish tuberculosis, white spots, velvet disease, fin rot, etc. Most of these disorders will appear with no apparent symptoms and unfold gradually as days go by.

One of the earliest symptoms is hiding behavior. The guppies instinctively seek shelter from the discomfort and stress they’re experiencing. This can lead them to seek solitude, hide behind plants and rocks, and lurk around the tank bed more often. You will also see other behaviors like lack of appetite, apathy and lethargy, ragged fins, body lesions, etc.

If you suspect your guppy may struggle with an illness, speak to a specialist to help identify a disorder and provide adequate treatment.

Birth Incoming

Pregnant females also tend to hide when it comes time to deliver. They do so instinctively to provide the fry with the best chances of survival. If you have pregnant female guppies in your tank and see them lurking over the substrate or seeking hiding spots, remove them from the tank.

Placing them in a separate tank will provide the fry with the best chances of survival. Allowing the guppies to deliver the fry in the main tank will put the fry at risk since guppies are known to resort to cannibalism.

You can easily tell when guppies are pregnant by their protruding bellies and more introvert behavior towards the delivery time. I suggest removing pregnant females from the tank as soon as you notice their pregnancy. This will prevent any surprises since you don’t know the day when they will deliver.

The Guppies are Stressed

Guppies will exhibit a specific behavior when stressed, including seeking for hiding places and avoiding other fishes’ company. This can be challenging for novice fish owners who have so many things to look out for. The trick here is to find out what stresses them and eliminate the cause.

Here are the main stress triggers that your guppies may encounter during their lifetime:

  • Poor tank conditions – We include here problems like the accumulation of fish waste, rotten food on the substrate, algae build-up, or dead fish floating around. All these problems will increase the ammonia levels in the tank, affect the water oxygenation, and kill the beneficial bacteria. Your guppies will immediately experience discomfort, fall sick, and even start dying as a result. Ammonia build-up is deadly, so it’s better to act fast as soon as the ammonia levels spike. The first sign that your guppies are distressed is the hiding behavior, as you see them swim near the substrate and behind plants and rocks.
  • Aggressive tankmates – Guppies are small and friendly fish, for the most part, which means they don’t like conflicts and don’t fare well cohabiting with aggressive tank mates. If you have bigger and more aggressive fish in the tank attacking your guppies, the latter will look for escape routes. Other fish may fight, attack, and bully your guppies, causing them to become timider and always hiding. To fix the problem, I recommend identifying the aggressive fish and removing them from the tank. Not all aquarium fish species can coexist in peace.
  • Too many males – Too much testosterone in one place is always bound to cause problems. Male guppies are instinctively territorial and will get into constant fights when too many of them share the same space. This may cause larger males to bully the smaller and weaker ones, forcing them into hiding. Females will also suffer with time since males can be quite pushy during the mating season. Hormones will push them to fight for the females’ attention around the clock and relentlessly pursue them around the tank. You can avoid all these rather common problems by using a 1 to 3 ratio. This means having 1 male for every 3 females, avoiding male crowding, and ensuring a healthy and stable tank environment.
  • Too much sensorial input – Guppies are naturally introvert. It’s not that they don’t like human contact, but rather that they can experience sensorial overflow quite easy. In other words, they tend to get scared when there’s too much activity near the tank. To avoid this problem, place the aquarium in a place with less traffic.

How to Keep Your Guppies Happy?

Guppies are a friendly and adaptable fish species enjoying the human company and are easy to care for. It doesn’t take too much to make them happy and keep them healthy over the years, but you need to be thorough about it.

Here’s what to do to keep your guppies happy and in good shape:

  • Avoid overfeeding – Your guppies, just like any other creature, tend to eat more than they need to. This can lead to illness and health issues over time since, in nature, guppies don’t get to eat too much or too often. Adult guppies should receive food once or twice per day maximum and only what they can eat at once. If you overfeed them, they will leave a lot of food residues behind, which will accumulate on the substrate and start to decay. This will lead to a spike in ammonia levels and cause a variety of other issues.
  • Ensure a varied diet – Your guppies need a varied diet, including healthy fats, animal and vegetal protein, carbs, vitamins, and minerals. You can get all these nutrients from combining live food, like brine shrimp, with veggie pellets and other fish food. If you have no idea what nutrients your guppies need and in what quantities, I suggest educating yourself on the topic first. It’s important to provide the best nutrient intake to ensure that your guppies remain healthy and thriving over the years.
  • Regular water changes – Stalled and old water will accumulate toxins and harmful bacteria, causing your guppies to fall sick and even die. The ammonia levels will also increase naturally as food residues pile on the substrate and the oxygen level drops in the tank. I recommend changing at least 50% of the water at least twice per week to keep your guppies safe and happy. Depending on the tank’s size and how many guppies you own, you can change the water more often.
  • Ensure proper water temperature – Few fish owners realize how important water temperature is for guppies. How important it is for all fish, actually. All fish species thrive in specific water temperatures; some lower, other higher. Guppies are tropical fish, thriving in temperatures between 74 and 82 F. The temperature may fluctuate a bit in both directions with no significant impact, but not too much. The guppy will only withstand 62 F, for instance, for short periods before experiencing health problems. The same applies to water hotter than 82 F, which will make the guppies uncomfortable, lower their immune system, make them vulnerable to parasites, and even kill them. Have a water heater monitoring the water temperature to prevent these issues.
  • Avoid overcrowding – It’s easy to overcrowd your tank when you want as many different fish species as possible without thinking of the consequences. Overcrowding will lead to more fish competing for the same oxygen and cause aggression, territorial fights, cannibalism, and death. I suggest keeping up to 5-7 fish in one 10-gallon tank but take this suggestion with a healthy grain of salt. That’s because the measurement also depends on how big and voluminous the fishes are. The bigger the fish, the fewer you should add.
  • Ensure compatibilism – Not all fish are compatible to one another. Some species feed off of others, while others are just more naturally aggressive towards any other species. You should pair your guppies with small fish that are naturally as docile, calm, and friendly as your guppies. This will avoid any territorial fights or other fish seeing your guppies as prey.


Guppies are cool and easy to maintain, so long as you master the basics.

These include:

  • Cleaning the aquarium regularly
  • Keeping the ammonia levels in check
  • Avoid overcrowding
  • Only allow compatible fish species to cohabitate the aquarium
  • Ensure optimal nutritional intake
  • Avoid overfeeding
  • Change at least 50% of the water at least once or twice per week
  • Detect early signs of guppy stress and seek the responsible triggers

These may sound like much, but they’re actually typical requirements for any guppy owner. With time, these will come up naturally and will become part of a daily routine.

In the end, your guppies never hide or show introverted behavior without good reasons behind it. If you can’t discover the cause on your own, send a comment in the comment section below, and our community will guide you.

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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