If you have decided you want to keep live plants with your Guppies, you may get into it wondering where to start and will be quickly inundated with choice.
There are hundreds of different plant species in the aquarium hobby that do different things, it can be hard to know what works best for Guppies.
This guide will aim to steer you in the right direction when it comes to choosing what live plants to put in your Guppy tank.
Do Guppies like real plants in their tank?
Yes, Guppies really appreciate live plants and believe it or not, they can tell the difference between real and fake plants, preferring to hide and graze on live plants.
Plants provide more than just hiding places however, and bring with them several ecological benefits which will enable your tropical aquarium to thrive.
Plants consume nitrates and other toxins from the water, lessening the amount of water changes you will need to do. They increase the water clarity, produce oxygen and house infusoria.
Plants turn your fish tank into a functioning ecosystem, a system which your Guppies will thrive in.
How do you know which plants are suitable for Guppies?
Guppies are suitable with most plants, and will appreciate most of the species available in the aquarium trade.
The plants available for sale at your local fish store are safe with the majority of fish and will oppose little to no threat to your Guppies.
Some plants however, are better than others when it comes to maintenance and manageability, so start by selecting plants which are slow growing and that stay near the lower part of the tank.
Typically, plants which grow near the surface will multiply very quickly and can easily get out of hand if left unchecked.
Slow growers are better for beginners with planted tanks as they are easy to control.
What plants do Guppies eat?
Although Guppies are herbivores, their main diet is actually soft algaes and plankton, not the leaves of plant life, which are hard to break up and digest.
You don’t have to worry about your Guppies feasting on your Cryptocoryne or Java Fern, as they are not strong enough to tear these leaves up and digest them.
Guppies will however, occasionally feed on duckweed, which is small enough to swallow and soft enough to digest, but they will have little bearing on its presence as duckweed grows and spreads at incredible speeds.
How to choose plants for a Guppy tank
Selecting plants for your Guppy tank is fairly easy, as they will live with nearly all aquarium plants.
Plants which you purchase from your local fish store are assured to be safe. They have been selected because they are ideal for fish and have been cultivated and domesticated in farms, ponds and aquariums for many years.
This means you don’t have to worry about the plants being poisonous or harmful to your fish.
Plants do however, have different water requirements, Much like how fish like to live at different hardness and pH levels, plants are the same.
Most plants are very hardy, but there are more sensitive species out there, which cannot put up with the high, alkali pH levels which guppies are used to.
With this, you need to select plants which are able to live in hard water and are able to adapt to higher pH levels.
The best plants for Guppies
As mentioned, the best plants for Guppies are those which are hardy enough to live and thrive in higher pH levels; anywhere from 7.0 – 8.0, which is most aquarium plants.
There are some plants though, which Guppies seem to prefer over others, that can provide a greater benefit and will be used more often.
One of the best plants for Guppies is Java Fern, more specifically, the species Microsorum pteropus, which possesses broad, dense, tough leaves which provide plenty of hiding for small fish.
Java Fern can also withstand those higher pH levels that Guppies prefer and do not need to be planted within a substrate.
They are a Rhizome plant and can be tied to a surface using cotton thread. They are highly versatile and are easy to control, being slow growing and easy to propagate.
Java Fern is really useful if you want to breed Guppies, as it gives plenty of hiding space amongst its leaves and roots for fry to hide from their parents.
Any species of Anubias will work well with Guppies for the same reasons that Java Fern does. It is another Rhizome plant that does not need to be planted into the substrate and can withstand harder water with a higher calcium content.
Anubias is a very slow growing plant, so there is little worry that it will take over the tank, yet its broad thick leaves provide plenty of cover for adult guppies to get away from each other.
Anubias is especially good for female guppies who need to get some time away from the males every so often.
Moneywort is a very hardy plant that enjoys the harder water that Guppies are used to. It can even adjust to having some level of salt in the water, and is usually a recommended plant to use in brackish tanks.
Moneywort grows tall and produces leaves fairly quickly, but is easy to split and probate, allowing you to quickly make a forest of Moneywort which your Guppies will really enjoy hiding in and grazing from.
Moneywort is really good at removing toxins from the water due to its fast growing nature too, which helps with maintenance and reduces the build up of minerals and nutrients in your tank.
What plants should you avoid putting in a Guppy tank?
Plants you should avoid introducing to your tank are those which you find outdoors in your local ponds and rivers – these plants are sometimes invasive, can be poisonous, carry disease and parasites and can even be protected species.
Your local wildlife laws may protect certain plant species from being interfered with and you can sometimes be prosecuted for taking pond plants from the wild, so if you do this, you need to understand what species you are taking and know about its conservation status first.
Other plants to avoid as a beginner, are those which grow on the surface of the water and multiply very quickly, namely duckweed and its relatives.
Duckweed is a very useful and brilliant plant in its own regard, but only if it is cared for correctly and is controlled properly.
Duckweed is an extremely fast growing plant; it multiplies quickly, seeming to triple its population every day.
It appears as a tiny clover-like plant that floats at the surface of the water. They quickly split and form huge green sheets which block out light and reduce gaseous exchange from the air and water.
If allowed to take over, duckweed will turn water stagnant, acidic and will reduce the oxygen level in your tank.
It must be regularly and responsibly removed and disposed of in some way to maintain it at a safe level, otherwise it can cause issues for your fish.
If you are willing to regularly remove duckweed responsibly (this means not throwing it out and introducing it into the wild) then it can be a great plant, but not one that we would recommend to others, especially to people who are new to fishkeeping.
Do Guppies need live plants?
Plants are not a necessity for guppies, as they can be kept alive just fine with regular water changes and good husbandry, although they will heavily appreciate plant life being present in the tank for the many benefits they bring.
Baby Guppies, or fry, will appreciate them much more, as plants provide natural hiding spaces for them and are a source of infusoria, which are an essential food for young fish.
Keeping fish as natural as possible is the best way to ensure success, and introducing live plants mimics the wild swamps, rivulets and streams guppies have evolved from.
While you can keep Guppies without live plants, they will live much happier, more comfortable lives if you decide to turn your fish tank into a planted tank.