Freshwater Fish

guppies | Guppy Fish Basic Care Guide

Introducing the beginner’s guide to basic guppy fish care. We show you step by step the fundamental knowledge to successfully care for beautiful guppy fish.

Guppies are one of the most popular freshwater fish species and there are many reasons for their popularity.

They are hardy fish that adapt well to most environments, add lots of color, are peaceful, and relatively inexpensive.

The best part is the fact that guppies are much easier to keep than most other species.

In this article, we will see everything about the Guppy fish: how to take care of it, its perfect diet, its habitat and tank mates, how to breed it and much more.

Guppies fish

Guppies go by many different names, including rainbow fish, due to the wide variety of colors they occur in. Also million fish, due to its amazing rate of reproduction. Known as guppies or by their Latin name, Poecilia reticulata.

It is one of the most used fish to beautify many tropical freshwater aquariums.

They are highly adaptable and have been introduced to various regions of the world, often with adverse effects on native fish populations.

Belonging to the Poeciliidae family, the Common Guppy has the scientific name Poecilia reticulata.

There are almost 300 varieties of Guppies and they come in many different colors, sizes and tail shapes.

Their name comes from Robert John Lechmere Guppy, who found them in Trinidad in 1866. Since then, the fish has undergone a few name changes, including Lebistes reticulatus and is now known as Poecilia reticulata.

Guppies vary in size, with males typically being smaller at between 1.5 and 3.5 cm in length. Guppy females range in size from 3 to 6 cm in length.

Males may have brightly colored spots or stripes, as well as other markings as a result of selective breeding, while females are usually gray.

Guppies mature in 10-20 weeks and can live up to 2 years. In that time the females can have many offspring of fry. Life in the wild differs from that in an aquarium, but depending on the dynamics of the tank, guppies can live a little longer than in the wild.

Let’s take a look at the following list with a summary of the characteristics of guppies:

  • Attention level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Color form: Every color imaginable
  • Lifespan: Up to 2 years
  • Size: 1.5 – 6cm
  • Diet: Omnivores
  • Family: Poeciliidae
  • Minimum tank size: 18 liters
  • Tank Preparation: Fresh Water, Plants and Substrate
  • Compatibility: Other peaceful community fish

In a well-planned aquarium with lots of rocks and vegetation, guppies can be quite a sight. However, watch out for predatory fish inside the tank and make sure the guppies have plenty of hiding places for themselves and their fry.

Guppies are also notorious for infanticide so make sure your fry are well fed and not overcrowded as these are common reasons for them to do so.

With the proper knowledge and care, guppies make a great addition to any aquarium. If you want more information about fish, do not hesitate to visit our category dedicated to our aquatic friends,

guppies appearance

As we have already mentioned, Guppies come in many different colors and sizes, with different tail shapes as well.

In the wild, females are typically gray and males have colored stripes, spots, or splashes in a wide range of colors.

Males are smaller than females, between 1.5 and 3.5 cm, while females are between 3 and 6 cm long.

These fish are sexually dimorphic, meaning you can tell males from females just by looking at them. We will see how to do it in the breeding section.

Poecilia reticulata colors

They are usually paler in color on the top and upper half of the body, and the back is usually a brighter, more vivid color.

Some varieties can also appear metallic. They have iridophores, which are cells that are colorless, and reflect light that creates an iridescent effect.


Some are a solid color; others have a pattern over the main color of their body. Examples include:

  • Cobra: Vertical bars and rosettes.
  • Snake skin: (Snakeskin) pattern of links and rosettes.
  • Tuxedo: (Tuxedo) front and back half with two different colors.

Again, the tail can also be a solid color or patterned. Here are some examples:

  • Grass: Small dots that look like grass.
  • Lace: fine spider web-like pattern.
  • Leopard: spots that look like leopard spots.
  • Mosaic: irregular dots that connect to each other.

guppy tail shape

You will also find a wide variety of tail shapes:

  • Fan-shaped (Fantail)
  • Triangle (Triangletail or Delta tail)
  • Double sword, upper and lower (Double Swordtail, Top Swordtail, Bottom Swordtail)
  • Flag (Flagtail)
  • Shovel (Coffertail)
  • Roundtail
  • Spear Shape (Speartail)
  • Lyre tails (Lyretail)


You will often see the males chasing the females trying to impress them by flapping their fins.

If your fish are constantly hiding, it could be an indication that they are stressed or sick.

Ideal habitat and optimal tank conditions for the guppy

As with any fish aquarium, you always need to make sure that the tank is set up correctly, and that the water is properly cycled. If you need to know how to cycle the aquarium correctly, you can visit our post dedicated to this important topic. This ensures that you have the proper bacteria that will convert harmful compounds into less harmful ones.

Guppies are very small fish whose biological load is also very small, so they do not need much space to live normally.

However, a guppy still needs a reasonable amount of space and you’ll need to make sure its tank is big enough for it to thrive.

The most common size is a 10 gallon (40 liter) tank. It’s not very big, but it’s a good size to start with. If you try a smaller tank, it will be difficult to keep it clean because you won’t be able to cycle the water efficiently enough.

It is necessary to keep the water at a suitable temperature, as there is a risk of killing the guppies if the water temperature is too hot or too cold.

Ideally, use a tank heater to keep the water between 75-82°F (23-27°C). Always place the heater at one end of the tank and the thermometer at the other end to check that the water is constantly heating up.

Guppies can tolerate a wide range of waters. The pH can vary between 5.5 and 8.5, but the most ideal pH for them is between 7.0 and 7.2.

It will be necessary for your guppy fish to have plenty of places to hide, so make sure you decorate the aquarium with plenty of plants and decorations. But be careful with objects that have a sharp edge, there is a chance that it will damage their delicate fins.

As with most fish, you will also need a filter. The type you choose will depend on the size of your tank and your personal preferences.

A backpack filter in the back will be fine for most aquariums. But if you have your fish in a large tank, more than 180 liters, you might want to consider using an external aquarium filter.

You should also expect there to be at least 2 inches of gravel at the bottom of the tank. Not only will this look nice, but it also helps filter the water.

The tank according to its purpose

Sample aquarium: Place plenty of live plants, rocks, and substrate in the tank. The ideal plants to keep these fish are the Hornwort and the Amazon Sword.

The type of substrate you choose depends entirely on your personal preferences. Guppies spend most of their time in the middle or top of the tank.

Breeding tank: Keep your tank bare, this way uneaten food can be easily sucked out. Use floating plants like java moss, for example, to create a place where the fry can hide. Plants also help filtration.

As we mentioned before, if your adult fish are constantly hiding, it can be a sign that they are stressed. They should usually be swimming calmly.

Regardless of the type of tank you choose, make sure to clean the tank weekly and do a partial water change of 25% or so.

Guppy fish feeding

The foods fish eat depend on what is available in their natural environment, as well as their anatomy.

Guppies are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal matter. They are not picky eaters and will eat anything you feed them, including mosquito larvae.

Their main diet should be good quality flakes. Make sure you choose a high-protein product like this, and not filler foods

To ensure this, check the ingredients, which are listed by weight. High-quality foods will have protein listed first, for example other fish, shrimp, and meat products.

By using a quality flake food designed for tropical fish, you can enhance the color of your guppy. But if that’s not important to you, any quality flake food should be fine for them.

Avoid flakes that have fillers like wheat and soy listed as the first ingredients.

To supplement these scales, you can provide your fish with live or frozen food, or you can also give them vegetables.

freeze-dried food and vegetables

Guppies eat a wide variety of freeze-dried foods, so you can think of including things like: brine shrimp, earthworms, or daphnia.

These foods will give your guppy some variety and if you are thinking of breeding, a varied diet will deter them from eating their own fry.

You can offer them as live foods instead of freeze-dried. Live foods are more nutritious, however live foods carry the risk of transferring disease to your tank.

You can also offer your guppies vegetables. They will eat things like lettuce, peas, and cucumbers, which will provide them with nutrients and some variety in their diet.

Guppy Diet Tips

Pet stores sell cone-shaped feeders that can be used to feed live and frozen foods, such as worms.

The fish can swim up to the cone, which is like a plastic mesh, and pull the food out of one of the many holes. For example, you can see this model.

You should feed your fish once or twice a day, and only as much food as they can eat in two minutes. Also, keep in mind the temperature of the tank. Guppies eat less in cooler temperatures, as their metabolism slows.

You could feed them flakes in the morning and something else at night.

It is important not to overfeed your guppies. They have very small stomachs, so overfeeding can block their intestines, and this can lead to problems with their health and affect the quality of the water in your tank.

Therefore, it is necessary to control their eating habits and only provide them with what they can eat at one time. There should be no food leftovers floating in the tank, as this will not only encourage overfeeding, but will also putrefy and contaminate the water.

It is a good idea, therefore, to remove the remains with a net once the feeding has finished.

A good schedule is usually flakes in the morning and then live or frozen dried foods or vegetables in the evening. This will ensure your puppies stay healthy and happy and potentially extend their lives.

Guppy fry feeding

If you have fry in the tank, you will also need to think about how to feed them.

They will need to be fed in smaller amounts and more frequently. You can use the same foods as with adults, but crushed. Or you can buy specific foods for fry.

Feed them four to five times a day.

Guppy Tank Mates

When building a mixed tank that includes guppies, or if you want to add guppies to your existing tank, you will need to consider which fish will eat them, or at least cut off their long fins.

Most aquarists who keep this fish do so because they like the vibrant colors of the males. If you only keep them for their looks, we recommend that you keep only the males.

Other guppy-compatible fish such as Mollies, Platies, Gouramis, Corydoras, and Pacific Tetras can also be kept. They are very similar in that they are shy fish that prefer to live in peace, which makes for a calm aquarium.

There is also the option to include different species in the tank, such as shrimp, which will also keep the tank clean between cleanings.

Or you can try bottom dwellers as the guppies stay in the center and on top. This will not only keep your tank clean, but will also take up the space left by the guppies, keeping the whole tank happy.

You should avoid housing them with larger aggressive species, especially if they are likely to become their meal. Keep them away from species like red tail sharks or aggressive tetras. They will cut off their fins.

If you want to keep them with animals other than fish, you can house them with Ghost Shrimp or African Dwarf Frogs.

raising guppies

Guppies breed like crazy. They are certainly not shy, and will most likely breed without any input from you.

The most important thing is to consider the environment in which you are going to raise them, and why you are going to raise them.

Will you let nature take its course in the tank as an occasional breeder, or will you set up a special breeding tank to carefully control breeding?

First we are going to see how guppies reproduce, and then we will see some guidelines to follow according to the purpose we want to achieve.

guppy reproduction

The baby fish use the egg sac as food, and once they have absorbed it they hatch inside the female, and she gives birth to live young.

So how do they actually reproduce?

Males are believed to be able to determine which females are virgins and which are already pregnant.

The male fish has brief contact with the female and fertilization occurs when he passes a packet of sperm known as spermatophores to the females.

The packet splits into thousands of sperm and is stored by the female to create a number of offspring. You can have multiple pregnancies with a single fertilization over a period of time.

It takes four to five days from the time the egg is fertilized until the embryo is almost completely formed. During the rest of the gestation period, the fish develop organs.

The gestation period is usually between 21 and 30 days. Towards the end of pregnancy you will be able to see the babies’ eyes through the translucent skin.

Once she gives birth to live fry, the process will repeat again, and she will give birth in another 21-30 days.

How to sex guppies

It is really easy to sex these fish once they reach sexual maturity (between three and five months). They have a number of telltale signs:

  • Coloration: Males are usually much brighter and more vividly colored than females.

  • Anal fin: Males have an anal fin which is known as a gonopodium. It is longer and narrower than the anal fin of a female. Some species even have a pair of claws at the tip.

  • Size: Males are smaller than females.

  • Spot: Females often have a spot gravidarum (a dark spot just behind the anal fin, which darkens during pregnancy).

How to breed guppies?

You can choose between separating the female with a separator, farrowing box or rearing cage, using a breeding tank a week before she gives birth, or removing the female fish once the fry have hatched to prevent them from being eaten.

A breeding cage like this one has two compartments separated by a wall with holes. When the female gives birth, the fry can swim to the other compartment, preventing the female from eating them.

We do not recommend small plastic cages as they stress the fish. Instead, use a large cage to give him enough room to swim. If you use a breeding cage that is too small, you will stress the breeding cage and this can lead to miscarriage.

If you set up a breeding tank, you need to make sure that it is quite large and has enough room for breeding.

It should be similar to the usual tank so as not to stress them out, and make mating easy. You can carefully choose the guppies you are going to breed by color, size, or any other characteristics that you find interesting or important.

You will need to have a few tanks to accommodate the breeding pairs, as well as some small tanks for the fry.

You should also make sure that the lighting and temperature match in all the tanks, so there is less stress and a better chance of success.

A really good filtration system is also necessary. Although guppies are fairly clean, the fry are very susceptible to water contamination, so to ensure they stay healthy it is important to maintain good water conditions.

Having good aeration is another important factor. A good air pump is necessary to move the water and get the oxygen flowing. You can also add live aquarium plants, they will not only help oxygenate but also provide a food source and hiding place for the fry.

Common diseases

Ich is common among these fish. This is a disease where small white dots grow on the skin of the fish and you will notice that they rub their bodies against objects.

To get rid of ich, medications available at pet stores can be used.

They are also prone to fin rot; the tail will look as if it is broken. Again, this can be treated with medication and prevented by choosing suitable non-pinch tankmates.

To reduce the chances of your guppies getting sick:

  • Maintain optimal water conditions.
  • Periodically carry out water changes and maintenance checks.
  • Always rinse everything, or quarantine things before adding them to your tank.
  • Keep your stress levels low.
  • Feed them a varied diet.
  • Don’t overload them.

Are Guppies Right for Your Aquarium?

Guppies are very colorful and peaceful fish, perfect for both beginners and experienced aquarists.

They are resistant fish and also ideal for the first time. They come in a wide range of colors, patterns, and tail shapes, making them very attractive to experienced fish keepers as well.

Keep their water clean, and provide them with a well-balanced diet. You will be rewarded with a group of entertaining and active fish in your tank.

Final conclusions on the care of Guppies fish

Never forget that when it comes to having a pet, it is totally up to you. Your fish need you. Your care, or lack of care, will determine whether he lives or dies. His life is in your hands.

It will depend on you that the water is clean, maintain an adequate population, provide enough food and take care that they do not get sick.

Therefore, it is your responsibility to take care of your guppies if you want them to thrive.

If you want to become a great guppy aquarist, I recommend that you keep learning more about these beautiful animals.

Try to broaden your knowledge on all aspects of Poecilia reticulata fish care as this is just a beginner’s guide.

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