How to Prepare Your Guppy Tank for a Long Vacation?

While guppies don’t necessarily need around-the-clock supervision, they do require daily maintenance. This includes feeding, cleaning the aquarium, or simply monitoring the situation in case anything peculiar happens.

Sure, your guppies can survive without your assistance for a day, let’s say. But the situation will change fast when leaving home for multiple days in a row. Everybody needs a vacation occasionally, and people will usually arrange for someone to care for their pets during that time.

However, caring for a cat or a dog is entirely different than caring for a fish tank full of guppies. A lot of things can go wrong, seeing as few people know how to handle guppies if they’ve never owned any.

Today’s article will teach you how to ensure your guppies’ safety and wellbeing in your absence. This will allow you to enjoy your vacation without worrying about your guppies 24/7.

Here are several things that will keep your guppies healthy and kicking until your return:

Clean the Tank Filter

I am speaking here of the mechanical filter, which can lead to fish waste and food residues. In turn, these will eventually lead to the accumulation of deadly ammonia in the water, affecting your fish and even killing them. It’s also worthy of mentioning that the situation can escalate fast, several days being enough for major side-effects to occur.

You should, however, leave the biological filter untouched since it acts as a great cleanser. The biological filter hosts entire cultures of beneficial bacteria, which cleanse the tank water of ammonia and other toxins.

Cleaning the filter is essential for minimizing the risks of toxin accumulation and maintain the water’s quality for longer.

Change the Water

Ideally, you should change around 30% of the water every week to provide optimal oxygenation and cleansing. If you plan on leaving for a couple of days, I recommend changing up to 70% of the water beforehand.

This will remove any harmful nitrates, prevent the accumulation of ammonia, and increase oxygen levels.

A good water conditioner will also prevent chlorine and chloramine build-up.

Managing the Lights

Not many fish owners appreciate the importance of tank lights. An interior tank will need a light pattern to simulate the solar activity. In other words, your guppies need light during the day and darkness during nighttime. This will allow them to regulate their life cycle, alternating periods of activity with those of rest.

The different aquarium plants also need light to grow and remain healthy. However, balance is the key here. You can’t leave on your vacation and leave the lights on since this will interfere with the guppies’ sleeping pattern.

Excessive and continuous light can also boost the algae population, which will increase the ammonia levels and suffocate the fish.

On the other hand, keeping the lights off will, again, interfere with your guppies’ diurnal activities.

The best way to go about it should involve automated lights. Get a timer and set it to deliver 8 hours of light during the day. If you can’t get one before leaving, I recommend leaving the lights off rather than on to minimize the downsides.

Cleanse the Tank of All Dead Plants

Cleaning the dead plants from the aquarium regularly is a must for any fish owner. But I understand how some fish owners can overlook this aspect. Just try not to do the same when leaving home for several days.

Dead plants will decay in the tank and drastically increase the ammonia levels, resulting in nitrates over time. Not only that, but decaying matter can also increase the risk of your fish developing tuberculosis due to harmful bacterial growth.

And tuberculosis is fatal for fish, causing bent spine syndrome, along with a variety of other symptoms. Even more crucial, tuberculosis can transmit from fish to other animals and even humans.

Cleaning the dead plants from the tank before leaving will prevent all these problems and stimulate the remaining plants to grow even bigger and faster.

Remove Dead or Dying Guppies

Fish can get sick for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s the water quality, other times it’s the food or some bacterial infection. Or maybe you’ve purchased tuberculosis-infected fish and introduced them into the tank without realizing it.

Whatever the case may be, dead or sick fish can infect others in a matter of days, if not hours. A lot of things can happen while you’re away, enjoying your vacation.

To prevent these unfortunate scenarios, I advise checking your fish population before going. There are several signs to consider, including fish swimming erratically, not using their fins properly, showing a lack of appetite, discoloration, etc. All these can be indicators of disease, at which point you need to act fast.

Failing to remove the dead fish from your tank will cause the corpses to decompose and lead to dangerous ammonia build-up. It’s also worth mentioning that dead fish will decompose fast, spoiling the water and affecting the guppy population.

Manage the Food

This is a sensitive topic since not all guppies have the same feeding patterns. While adult guppies eat every several days, guppy fry can eat every other day or even daily. The amount and type of fish food they require will also differ.

When it comes to food management, there are two aspects worthy of considering:

  1. Overfeeding – It’s easy to overfeed your fish, especially since guppies don’t need as much food as you think. Overfeeding can easily kill your fish since they won’t be able to consume all of it. The resulted food residues will accumulate on the tank’s bed and rot, creating entire cultures of harmful bacteria. In turn, these will increase ammonia levels in the tank, creating a toxic environment where your guppies can’t survive.
  2. Not enough food – The good news is that guppies can resist without food for around 2 to 3 weeks. They might resort to consuming algae or other plants in the aquarium to ensure their necessary nutrient intake during that time. Guppy fry, however, are more sensitive and might not last more than 1 week.

With that in mind, not feeding your guppies for your entire vacation’s duration might not be optimal. Just because guppies generally go 2 to 3 weeks without food doesn’t mean that all do. Maybe yours will die within the first week.

To avoid that, here are some options to feed your guppies even while you’re away:

Rely on Someone Close to You

This could include a family member, a neighbor, or a close friend. A family member is an ideal candidate since they will already be familiarized with the fish and know what to do. If there’s no one in your family to fill your spot, you need to do some preparation in advance.

I suggest leaving extensive instructions on feeding so that the person you will leave in charge doesn’t screw things up. Prepare the food in advance and leave notes on using it, when, and how much.

It’s also worthy to mention that water changes might be necessary, especially if you miss more than 2 weeks. This is a more delicate topic since changing the water and cleaning the filters isn’t in the same ballpark as throwing some fish food in the tank.

If you know that the person you leave in charge can’t handle the task, drop it. Just leave everything as it is, and you can change the water when you return. Nothing bad will happen until then, provided your vacation doesn’t go for more than 2-3 weeks.

Hire a Professional Fish-Sitter

This is the professional equivalent of having “someone to care for your fish while you’re gone.” Having a connoisseur on-site to provide your fish with the care they need is a priceless asset. That is if you’re comfortable with giving someone you don’t know access to your home.

You can easily fix this by only allowing the professional to go inside only accompanied by someone you trust.

The positive aspect about having a pro caring for your fish is that they know what they’re doing. More importantly, they can assist with other problems, like changing the water, cleaning the filter, removing dead fish, etc.

The negative aspect is the cost. Getting a fish expert involved can cost quite a lot in some cases. If money is not a critical problem, then this is the way to go for you.

Using an Automatic Feeder

Automatic feeders are very useful when leaving home for several days. The system will provide your fish with regular food when you can’t do it manually.

This system is especially useful for feeding guppy fry, which needs food more often than adults.

The problem is that the automatic feeder isn’t a very reliable system in the long run. Aside from occasionally clogging, especially on flakes, it also lacks a food measuring feature. This means that you can’t control the amount of food that your guppies will receive, which will lead to overfeeding.

Aside from these options, you also have the alternative of relying on a vacation feeder. While it is an option, I wouldn’t recommend it. Guppies will generally avoid these feeders, causing the accumulated food to pile on the tank bed. We all know what comes with that.

Now the next question comes – What to feed your guppies while on vacation?

There are two things to mention here:

  1. What to consider – Living food is the best option here. Both daphnia and brine will provide your guppies with critical protein intake for longer periods of time. The even more important aspect is that these creatures will continue living in the tank once your guppies have their full. They will then serve as food, later on, keeping your guppies fed for longer periods of time.
  2. What to avoid – Food items like beef liver or egg yolks. These foods will pollute the water and drastically increase the levels of ammonia fast.

Just to help you put everything in order, here is a checklist to follow before and after returning from your vacation:


  • Change 50% to 70% of the water before leaving
  • Assign someone in the family with the task of feeding the fish while you’re away
  • Leave detailed instructions on feeding, water change, and filter clean-up if necessary
  • Leave the aquarium lights on a timer
  • Remove dead or decaying plants
  • Remove sick or dead fish to avoid affecting the healthy population
  • Make sure all the aquarium equipment is in good order and functioning


  • Change 30% to 50% of the water to remove the accumulated toxins and reset the oxygen levels
  • Check for sick or dead guppies and remove them from the tank
  • Check ammonia and nitrate levels to make sure everything is within the safe parameters


I have compiled comprehensive guides on caring for your guppies, help them during the mating phase, and providing them with optimal living conditions. This article teaches you the essentials of caring for your guppies while you’re away for more than 2-3 weeks.

The good news is that guppies don’t need much care if you only leave for several days to a week. They are resilient fish, capable of going without food for a long time.

If you need to go on a longer-than-usual vacation soon, follow this guide, adapt it to your situation, and everything should be fine.

You can always contact me if you require further assistance or have questions that need more detailed answers.

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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