Guppy Fish or Betta Fish – Which is Easier to Keep?
Bettas and guppies are different in terms of behavior, tank layout preferences, water conditions, diets, and pretty much everything else. However, as much as they’re different, they are also similar in some aspects. One of them is the ease of care.
Both of these species are fit for beginners since you don’t need too much fish experience to care for them over the years.
That being said, the 2 require different approaches when discussing all of the factors I’ve mentioned above. So, let’s dive into them!
The first thing to consider when choosing between different fish species is the tank size they will need. In order to determine the size of the aquarium required for your pet fish is to know how big those fish grow and how many of them you will want to keep.
Guppies will grow up to 2 inches, with some even reaching 2.5 inches in some rare cases. They stay small, but they require their fair share of space nonetheless. One guppy needs at least 2 gallons of water to be comfortable. And here’s where the problem lies.
Guppies cannot live alone. These are shoaling fish that do best when kept in larger groups, at least 6 individuals. So, a thriving guppy community comprising of 6 fish needs at least 15 gallons of water.
Preferably 20, considering you also need space for tank equipment, plants, and various decorations designed to support guppies and beautify their environment.
Guppies are generally peaceful, but will sometimes get into scuffles with other members of their group or other fish in case of community tanks. In those cases, having some hiding places available will calm them down and prevent them from getting overly stressed.
Bettas are the polar opposite of guppies. While they reach approximately the same size as guppies, they don’t need as much space. To be fair, bettas tend to be slightly larger, around 2.5 to even 3 inches at times.
Without counting the tail. So, a betta will appear a lot larger, especially thanks to its wide and bride-like fins.
However, the betta isn’t as social as the guppy. Keeping a lot of bettas together is bound to spell disaster, especially when talking about males. Males are extremely territorial and dominant and will fight each other to the death over females, food, hierarchy, space, and so on. They will even attack each other due to their coloring.
The situation is calmer in a female-only community, but even then, things can spark out of control fast. Bettas are known to be short-fused. Not necessarily aggressive, but rather volatile, capable of shifting their temperament on the spot.
So, you can easily keep one betta alone, and you don’t need too much space for it. I recommend 2-3 gallons of water for a single betta.
However, there are some more important stipulations to consider when it comes to crafting betta’s environment:
- Avoid unsafe decorations and plants – Bettas have very large fins, so they are constantly at risk of injuring themselves. Avoid fake or natural plants that could hurt them and stay clear of sharp or rugged tank decorations. They might look good, but your fish’s safety should be above everything else.
- Ensure easy access to the water’s surface – Bettas are labyrinth fish. They possess a specialized organ that allows them to breathe atmospheric air. This is an evolutionary feature stemming from the betta’s natural environment, which typically consists of dirty and cloudy waters. Your betta will take regular trips to the water’s surface to take some gulps of air occasionally. Make sure there’s nothing in the aquarium that prevents them from doing that. Otherwise, they might drown.
- Cover the tank – Bettas are known jumpers. They will often pop out of the water, and they can be quite athletic at times. So much so that they might escape an uncovered tank. There are some theories regarding what’s driving this jumping behavior. Some research suggests bettas tend to jump out due to poor water quality, overcrowding, stress, parasites, or even playing. Either way, a tank lid is necessary to keep them in.
Other than that, bettas can do fine living alone, provided they have sufficient space.
Some fish species can adapt to a wide range of water parameters, while others will require a specific environment to thrive. Thankfully both guppies and bettas are very resilient fish species, but the water parameters should be in a certain range.
Guppies require temperatures around 72 to 82 °F. These are tropical ranges that will keep your guppy safe and comfortable over the years. Other than that, all other water parameters are pretty much universal for most tank fish. Ammonia and nitrites should remain at 0, while nitrates are allowed up to 25 ppm.
Bettas are also tropical fish that require temperatures in the same ranges as guppies. Keep the water temperature around 74 to 82 °F, and they will thrive.
When it comes to general care and optimal water parameters, here are some general rules applicable to both species:
- Perform regular maintenance and water changes – Your tank’s natural biofilm cannot handle the fish’s bioload indefinitely. Despite having a reliable filtration system, ammonia and nitrites will soon increase and kill your fish. You need to perform regular tank maintenance and water changes to prevent that. Remove dead plants, fish, fish waste, food residues, and excessive algae deposits to keep the aquatic environment clean and healthy. Weekly partial water changes are also necessary to freshen up the system, oxygenate the water, and dilute dangerous chemicals in the water. Don’t change more than 20% of the water at a time. Anything more than that may dilute the essential salts and minerals in the water and hurt the fish.
- Avoid chemicals – You will clean the tank equipment regularly, including the filter. When doing so, avoid using detergent or any other cleaning chemical. These substances will kill the beneficial bacteria inhabiting the tank equipment and leave behind poisonous residues that could kill your fish. Always clean the tank equipment with tank water.
- Only use dechlorinated water – Tap water contains chlorine which is deadly to fish. So, you should never use tap water to perform water changes or clean the tank equipment. Unless, of course, you have dechlorinated it first. Use a professional dechlorinating solution to remove chlorine, chloramine, and other dangerous chemical components that could poison the environment.
- Sterilize new decorations – Anything new coming to the tank should undergo a thorough process of sterilization and quarantine. Many tank decorations carry dangerous parasites or chemicals that could destroy your aquatic fauna. This stands true, especially for driftwood and plants. I recommend cleaning the plants thoroughly before adding them to the tank and boiling the driftwood in advance. The boiling process will remove the excess tannin and sterilize the piece, eradicating any dangerous pathogens.
As a plus, I recommend a well-rounded filtration system that would offer chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration. Just make sure that the filter isn’t too powerful since neither guppies nor bettas like strong water currents.
Feeding and Diet
So, which fish species is easier to feed and which requires a specific diet? Luckily guppy fish and betta fish are pretty easy on their diet, but there are some differences to consider.
Guppies are omnivorous and are quite easy to please. They will consume a variety of foods and can adapt to anything you throw at them. Fish flakes, pellets, veggies, live food, they will eat everything, so long as it’s on their natural menu.
When it comes to feeding guppies, make sure you provide them with a varied diet. Keep the animal protein content relatively low since protein can constipate them, and feed guppies twice or 3 times per day at most. They don’t need much more food than that.
They should only get as much food in one session that they can consume within 2 minutes at most.
Keep in mind – guppy fry require more protein intake than adults. Guppy fry’s diet should consist of 60% protein and more fats and carbs than you would feed a typical adult guppy. Their diet will gradually match that of an adult over the course of several weeks past birth.
Bettas are carnivorous, so they will only eat protein-rich foods. Feed them once or twice per day since that feeding frequency is generally sufficient to keep the betta satisfied. Carnivorous flakes and pellets are good choices, as well as live food like brine shrimp, bloodworms, and tubifex worms.
Be careful with the live food. These might contain too much fat for bettas, which can get them constipated.
The following tips apply to both species:
- Keep the water temperature stable – Colder waters will affect your fish’s digestive systems. Keep the water temperature in the mid-70s, preferably closer to 80 °F, to help with digestion. Fish tend to eat less and even get constipated in cold waters.
- Prevent overfeeding – Only feed your fish what they can eat within several minutes. And only 1-3 meals per day at most. This should keep them safe from overfeeding, which typically relates to digestive problems and higher bioload, which is bad. Both of these issues are bad.
- Source the food carefully – Never feed your fish food caught or found in the wild. Plants, veggies, and insects or animals caught in the wild can come with potentially deadly pathogens. They can also show high levels of dangerous chemicals and substances resulting from environmental pollution. Always get your food from specialized locations that can guarantee for its quality.
- Homemade meals – Many people rely on homemade fish food paste to optimize their fish’s diet. You can mix veggies with live food to create a nutritious paste, which you can freeze and use for days on end. It won’t steal too much of your time and will provide your fish with read-to-eat, safe, and tasty food daily.
- Feeder tanks – I would rank this as the best feeding solution for your fish. A feeder tank refers to a home setup designed for growing and breeding fish food. Brine shrimp, worms, crustaceans, smaller fish, etc. You can grow these in healthy and safe environments and use them to feed your guppies and bettas whenever necessary.
Number of Fish
Some fish are solitary such as male bettas, while guppies prefer living in a group, also known as shoal.
Guppies are social fish that require each other’s company. Ideally, you should have at least 6 guppies in a group and at least 20 gallons of space for all of them. However, keep the number of males to a minimum. I would recommend having 1 guppy male for a 20-gallon tank and 4-5 females.
You can keep more than 1 male, so long as you increase the tank’s size, add more females, and provide guppies with enough hiding areas. Males can become quite territorial and feisty at times.
Betta males are extremely aggressive towards one another. You shouldn’t place 2 or more in the same setting. You can make it work with sufficient hiding spots, but you can’t overdecorate their tank. These fish require open swimming spaces with fewer decorations due to their larger fins.
You can have one male and a handful of females at best or go straight for a female-only tank. Females are generally less violent. Or you can keep bettas alone since they won’t mind.
Whichever option you would go for, always monitor your bettas’ interactions. These fish have different personalities, and some may be more violent than others. You may be forced to remove the aggressor from the environment in extreme cases when all other prevention strategies have failed.
Guppies can live up to 2-3 years with proper care, while bettas can go longer, up to 5 years. Some factors will influence their lifespans, such as:
- Quality of care over the years
- Clear and healthy water conditions with stable parameters
- A balanced and nutritious diet for optimal nutrient intake
- A stress-free environment with peaceful and docile tankmates
- A natural-looking tank layout with rocks, substrate, plants, and various decorations
- Robust tank maintenance routine
These factors won’t only boost the fish’s lifespans but also boost their coloring and personalities.
The 2 species are quite different in terms of breeding behavior.
Guppies are amazing breeders. They breed monthly and can produce tens to hundreds of fry each time. They only need clean waters, higher temperatures, and an adequate diet, and they will produce more fry than you can handle.
These fish are livebearers which is a notion that’s different than what applies to mammals. While mammals give birth to live babies, just like guppies, the process is not the same. In the case of guppies, the eggs hatch inside the female’s abdomen, and the fry grow until they are ready to come out. So, technically, guppies are still egg-based breeders.
If you want to keep them, consider investing in a nursing tank where you can move the female when labor sets in. After the fry have been delivered, you should move the female back into the main tank to prevent it from eating the fry.
Guppy offspring require feeding 3-4 times per day in small portions. They also need more protein and animal fat than guppy adults during their first 2-3 weeks of life.
Bettas are bubble nesters. The betta male will create a bubble nest at the water’s surface and attract the female to the area. The 2 will mate, allowing the male to fertilize the eggs, which will remain trapped in the bubble nest. The male will guard the area ferociously, so you might see more often spurs of violence against other tankmates.
Overall, bettas are more pretentious in terms of breeding conditions, but they’re not as difficult as other species.
An important note here – betta fry are rather fragile and sensitive to water conditions. So, don’t breed your betta fish in the main tank. Create a custom nursing tank with optimal water conditions and remove the male once the fry have hatched. Otherwise, the betta male may see the fry as food.
These are both exhilarating fish species with an immense variety of colors, patterns, personalities, and a vibrant presence. Although they have different requirements in terms of water quality, diet, and overall tank setup, the 2 species are both easy to maintain and care for in the long run.
Refer to these recommendations to learn how to care for your fish properly, and you’ll win a lovely aquatic friend for years to come.