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Guppies

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By Lindsey Stanton

different types and colors of guppy rainbow fish

Whether you’re looking for a pop of color and life for your aquarium or a new hobby that might earn some extra cash, guppies may be just what you’re looking for. These prolific breeders are available in tons of varieties, and they are happy, active fish that can be a ton of fun to watch. If you’ve ever wanted to know a little more about guppies, then keep reading!

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Quick Facts about Guppies

fancy guppies
Image Credit: panpilai paipa, Shutterstock
Species Name: Poecilia reticulata
Family: Poeciliidae
Care Level: Easy
Temperature: 72–82˚F
Temperament: Peaceful
Color Form: Any
Lifespan: 2–5 years
Size: 0.5–2.5 inches
Diet: Omnivorous
Minimum Tank Size: 5 gallons
Tank Set-Up: Tropical freshwater
Compatibility: Shoaling fish, peaceful tropical freshwater fish

Guppies Overview

red scarlet guppy
Image Credit: Pavaphon Supanantananont, Shutterstock

Guppies are one of the most popular freshwater fish in the world, and it’s easy to see why! These fish are full of life and with their bright colors and antics, they can liven up a boring tank. Their popularity stems from more than their personalities, though. Guppies come in almost unlimited options when it comes to colors and patterns, and there are even over a dozen tail shapes you can find in guppies.

These fish are hardy and can live in small tanks, making them ideal for beginners, children, and homes with minimal tank space. They reproduce readily, which makes them popular as feeder fish as well. Like goldfish, guppies are often underappreciated due to their availability and popularity. They may not be the most exotic fish available, but they are beautiful and there’s a guppy out there for pretty much every aesthetic. They are native to South America and many parts of the Caribbean, so they are more exotic than they are often given credit for.

How Much Do Guppies Cost?

Due to their prolific breeding behavior, guppies can be exceptionally inexpensive. If you’re choosing guppies from a feeder tank, they can cost as little as $0.10. For higher quality guppies, expect to spend a few dollars per fish, although you’ll rarely spend more than $5–$10 on a single fish. If you’re interested in some of the rarer and more unique guppies, though, you may end up spending $25 per fish.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Male guppies are prone to aggression toward other male guppies in the presence of females, so it’s best to keep them in harems or large enough groups to spread any aggression among males out evenly. Males may be spotted chasing females incessantly or nipping at the fins of other males. Toward other tank mates, though, guppies are usually extremely peaceful, although they are capable of outmaneuvering tank mates for food.

Appearance & Varieties

swordtail guppy
Image Credit: neohch, Shutterstock

Male guppies are smaller and more ornate than female guppies, with males having brighter colors, more interesting patterns, and longer fins. Females may be colorful, but tend to be more drab than males, and they usually have slightly stubby fins.

Here are some of the more common guppy patterns:
  • Cobra: These fish are covered with a variety of vertical patterning and rosettes on the body. Green cobra guppies are the most common color form of this pattern.
  • Snakeskin: Snakeskin guppies have a maze-like pattern across the body and fins that looks like the appearance of snakeskin.
  • Tuxedo: This variety typically consists of two distinct colors on the body with the front portion being a lighter color than the back portion, much like tuxedo pants with a white shirt.
  • Leopard Tail: These guppies have a distinctly leopard-like pattern on the tail fin. This pattern can be in just about any color.
  • Mosaic Tail: This variety of guppy has irregular patterns on the tail that sometimes creep onto the body as well. The patterns cross over each other, forming a mosaic appearance.
Here are some of the more common guppy tail shapes:
  • Fan Tail: The quintessential fancy guppy, fan tail guppies have tail fins that are shaped like an open folding fan.
  • Triangle Tail: Also called delta tails, triangle tail guppies have tail fins that are more triangular than the fan tail. This tail fin can spread as wide as 70 degrees when fully outstretched, although they are most often seen trailing delicately behind the fish.
  • Round Tail: Females tend to have round tails, although it is possible to see this tail type in males as well.

Also see: Different Kinds Of Guppy Fish: Colors, Shapes & Patterns (With Pictures)

How to Take Care of Guppies

lots of guppies swimming
Image Credit: underworld, Shutterstock

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

Tank Size

For 3–5 guppies, a 5-gallon tank will suffice. If your intention is to keep a few dozen guppies or to breed them, though, then you’ll need more space. It’s ideal to keep guppies in at least 10 gallons, but the more space the better, especially if you are keeping males and females.

Water Quality & Conditions

Although hardy, guppies have become highly inbred in many cases, which has decreased their overall hardiness. Maintaining high water quality is essential to their health. Ammonia and nitrite levels should always be at 0ppm, and nitrate levels should be below 20ppm. The temperature should stay between 72–82˚F and pH should stay between 6.8–8.0.

Substrate

Any substrate will suffice for guppies, but it should be capable of supporting plant life. Guppies can uproot shallowly rooted plants, but a well-planted tank is essential to keeping them happy and healthy. The substrate should allow plants to establish healthy root systems.

Plants

Any plants that thrive in the same water parameters as guppies will work nicely. Providing taller plants, like swords, Java ferns, and Ludwigia, will ensure the survival of fry. If maintaining a planted tank is too difficult, then floating plants with trailing roots, like water lettuce, will work nicely.

guppy fish in tank with plants
Image Credit: basuka, Pixabay

Lighting

Tank lights should support plant life and provide a normal day/night lighting cycle. Guppies are active throughout the day and do prefer some lighting, although high lighting might become stressful for them over time.

Filtration

Tank filtration should be able to support the number of guppies living in the tank. Their bioload is often low enough that sponge filters can support a guppy tank. HOB and canister filters may become necessary for larger tanks or tanks with guppies who are living with tank mates that produce a heavy bioload.

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Are Guppies Good Tank Mates?

guppy with goldfish in tank
Image Credit: Tony Stock, Shutterstock

Guppies can be excellent tank mates with the right setup. They are peaceful and will typically not bother their non-guppy tank mates. They can be a great addition to tropical community tanks, nano tanks, and planted tanks. It’s best to avoid keeping male guppies with other males unless there are large numbers of females to keep both of them busy. It’s possible for male guppies to act aggressively toward tank mates that look similar to guppies, like some types of tetras and other long-finned fish.

Avoid keeping guppies with fish that may eat them. Although this sounds like common sense, many people keep guppies with inappropriate tank mates. Keeping guppies with opportunistic omnivores that are large enough to eat them, like goldfish, can result in your guppies being eaten and your other fish choking or becoming sick.

What to Feed Your Guppies

Guppies are omnivores, so they should be offered a varied diet. A healthy micro pellet is an ideal base diet for them. Guppy-specific foods and some flake foods are also good options for feeding your guppies. They can be offered a healthy variety of fruits and veggies, like sweet potato, spinach, and berries, to supplement their diet.

Guppies also appreciate meaty foods since they naturally eat things like small crustaceans and insect larvae. Cyclops, baby brine shrimp, and bloodworms are all good options for your guppies to eat. Generally, these things are small enough to be eaten easily as well, although bloodworms may need to be crushed or chopped before feeding to smaller guppies.

Keeping Your Guppies Healthy

Maintaining great water quality is the best way to keep your guppies healthy. This entails having a cycled tank before adding fish, adequate filtration, and proper tank maintenance, like regular water changes and parameter checks. A varied diet will also support the overall health of your guppies.

Due to inbreeding for specific colors and fin types, guppies are often in poor health when purchased from pet stores. If they are able to get home, acclimate to the tank, and survive the first few days, then they are likely to continue to survive. It’s not uncommon for guppies to die within a few days of being purchased, though, so keep this in mind when picking your fish.

two guppies in tank
Image Credit: basuka, Pixabay

Breeding

Guppies are some of the easiest to breed fish you could possibly get. They aren’t picky about their breeding environment as long as the water quality is good, and they feel safe. Putting male and female guppies together will almost always result in fry. Providing safe places for fry to hide from the adults is necessary to survival, though, as the parents will eat the newborn fry. Guppy fry are around ¼ inch or smaller at birth.

Guppies are livebearers, which means they do not lay eggs and instead birth live young. These fry will appear in the tank within 3–4 weeks after breeding has occurred. Female guppies will develop a gravid spot during pregnancy. This spot is near the back of the abdomen and gets larger throughout the pregnancy. When nearing full term, female guppies will go from a rounded abdomen to a slightly more square abdomen.

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Are Guppies Suitable For Your Aquarium?

If you have a tropical freshwater tank setup and you’re looking for a lively, colorful addition, then guppies may be the perfect fish for you. Their active, playful nature makes them fun to watch, and their rapid reproduction means you’ll have a tank full of guppies in no time.

Keep in mind that it’s important to have a plan for your guppies before you put males and females together, though. Otherwise, you may end up with hundreds of guppies taking over a tank that is too small for their numbers. This can result in poor water quality, despite your best efforts, and unhealthy, unhappy fish.


Featured Image Credit: panpilai paipa, Shutterstock

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