Can I Keep Guppies in a Bucket?
Yes, you can keep guppies in a bucket, but that would be less than ideal, to put it like that. A bucket is far from the ideal environment for a guppy for many reasons, such as:
- Opaque setting – The reason why people have aquariums in the first place is so that they can see the fish. Keeping guppies in a bucket will only allow you to see them from up top. Which is depressive.
- Small space – Guppies don’t need a lot of space to be happy, but they do need to live in groups. And having a group of guppies in a bucket is unsettling and even more depressing than the first point. It will most likely lead to overcrowding, stressing your guppies over time.
- Limited aquascaping potential – There’s not much aquascaping you can do in a bucket. The tight space won’t allow you to add plants, rocks, or anything that would make the habitat look cozier and more natural. Not to mention, it will all be for nothing, knowing that you can’t really see anything except from above.
I would say that a bucket is most fitting as a temporary setup. Many people use buckets or similar containers as hospital settings or until the main tank completes the cycling process. If you want what’s best for your guppies, a bucket is probably not the way to do it.
That being said, if you cannot afford to invest in a larger tank, a bucket should do, provided you consider several aspects. The most important one is the size. Have the bucket measure at least 10 gallons, which should be almost enough for 3-4 guppies. I would suggest getting a larger container when the time and resources allow you to.
How Long Can Guppies Live in a Bucket?
Guppies can live in a bucket for their entire lives, provided you ensure optimal living conditions. These include having a heater, enough space (preferably 2 gallons per guppy), plants, a filter, and performing regular maintenance to keep the water clean and clear. Obviously, you will need to tap into your ingenuity to make the bucket work, especially for a group of guppies.
The space is probably the most pressing problem for obvious reasons. Keeping your guppies overcrowded will stress them out, affecting their immune system and leaving them open to infections and diseases. And all viral conditions will spread a lot faster in a smaller setting.
In other words, keeping your guppy population in a 10-15-gallon bucket is feasible, but it requires more work and comes with certain risks.
Setting Up a Bucket for Guppies
Now that you’ve acquired your guppies (and the bucket), it’s time to set up their environment. In this sense, you want to make sure everything is by the book, such as:
- Nitrogen Cycle – The nitrogen cycle is a must whether you’re using a bucket or a 150-gallon tank. The goal is to promote the formation of the nitrifying bacteria, which can take 6-8 weeks. Don’t skip the process, no matter how inconvenient it might sound. I suggest completing the cycle process before getting the guppies to save time. If you’re interested in how to perform the nitrogen cycle, I’ve already detailed the process in another article(s).
- Substrate – Fortunately, guppies don’t care much about their substrate. Choosing the right one will ultimately come down to your personal preference. I would recommend sand if you’re also planning on adding live plants. Sand creates a more natural look, and it’s easier to clean than other options because the particles are smaller. The dirt won’t sink in as easy. If you’re not a sand person, go for gravel, river rocks, or even bare bottom. Just watch for options like crushed corals since this type of substrate can alter the water’s pH.
- Heating – You can’t skip the heater since guppies prefer tropical temperatures in the neighborhood of 72 to 82 F. The main problem here is the heater’s placement and type. Get a filter with a protective grill so that your guppies won’t get burned. The chances of this occuring are higher in a smaller setting.
- Filter – The filtration system is a must for obvious reasons. Have one that ensures mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration for an all-rounded filtering experience. And get a HOB or a canister, preferably one whose power setups can be adapted to a 10-gallon environment. These pieces won’t take extra space in the bucket, and you can use them later on if you plan on upgrading your bucket to a tank.
- Lighting – Guppies require a healthy amount of natural light during the day so that they can regulate their sleeping pattern. This may be more difficult to achieve when using an opaque bucket that doesn’t allow light to pass through from the sides. So, either get a UV lamp to fulfill your guppies’ needs or place the bucket in a room with plenty of natural lighting. Don’t keep guppies under direct sunlight.
So, if a bucket doesn’t seem like the ideal setting, what’s another option you could consider?
Alternative to Bucket
The 2 best changes I would recommend include a larger and transparent container. If it’s possible to go for a 20-gallon container, that would be the ideal move. If not, anything close to that will also work. The transparency part is good both for you and the fish. You’ll be able to see your fish just as if they were in a legitimate aquarium, and they will get their necessary dose of natural lighting.
I recommend getting one of those voluminous containers from IKEA, providing sufficient room for a stable and thriving guppy community. Just make sure they are food-grade and have enough room to accommodate guppies and the necessary equipment.
I wouldn’t recommend keeping guppies in a small bucket, but there are no other alternatives sometimes. The good news is that a bit of planning and ingenuity can go a long way.
Follow this guide, you’ll be able to make things work.