What are Guppies?
Guppies, or Million Fish (Poecilia Reticulata) are one of the most popular fish in the aquarium hobby for many reasons. They are small, easy to care for, reproduce easily and have been selectively bred into a huge range of colours and shapes.
P.reticulata are a member of the livebearer family, meaning that instead of laying eggs like most fish, they reproduce via giving birth to fully formed live offspring, similar to a mammal.
Where are Guppies from?
The Guppies seen in pet stores today are man-made and do not occur naturally in the wild. They have been domesticated and are well acclimatised to life in captivity for this reason.
However, their ancestors and relatives are found naturally in brackish swamps in and around northern South America.
Although, Guppies are widespread due to their successful breeding habits, and are invasive in a few different places around the world, being sometimes found in wild rivers and streams in Australia, North America, Africa and some parts of Asia.
Water parameters for Guppies
Guppies like to live in hard water (water with a high calcium and mineral content).
They also prefer to live in slightly saline or brackish waters similar to their natural habitat; although, if they have been bred in true freshwater, they can live perfectly fine without salt.
Guppies are fairly adaptable to different water parameters, but they will always prefer to live in alkali waters and will tend to struggle in soft acidic water with little minerals.
Through keeping and breeding Guppies over the years, our best luck has been with these parameters:
|7.2 – 8.0
|Moderate to high KH and GH
|Temperature: 24C – 26C (75F – 79F)
|½ a teaspoon per gallon (not always necessary)
Feeding and diet of Guppies
Like most fish, Guppies are omnivorous and have a widely varied diet.
However, like most livebearers, they are more on the herbivore side and the majority of their diet is taken up by algae.
As for feeding Guppies in the home aquarium, they will take nearly all prepared fish foods, but will do particularly well if kept on veggie and spirulina-based foods.
Soft flakes and crisps are best, as they can be easily broken apart and swallowed. Soft pellets are also usable, but make sure that they are either soft or small enough to swallow, as Guppies can be prone to choke and colic due to their small size.
Algae wafers are a great food for Guppies to graze on – the fibre is very important for their digestion.
Guppies will also consume naturally occurring soft string and hair algaes that grow in the aquarium, and will do a good job of controlling algae take over.
For protein, Guppies like to eat small invertebrates like Daphnia, Brine Shrimp, Cyclops and Tubifex, either frozen or live.
Small bloodworms can be offered to larger Guppies, but be careful, as they can oppose a choking hazard for smaller fry.
Best tank mates for Guppies
Guppies do great with a variety of peaceful fish, namely other livebearers like Platies, Mollies and Swordtails, as well as a few egg laying species too, like Rasboras and Cherry Barbs.
Guppies themselves are peaceful fish, but they are subject to being bullied by fin nippers or large boisterous fish due to their large, flowing, colourful tails.
Guppy tails are particularly exciting things to other fish, and seeing them flutter around can sometimes trigger fin nippers to go at them.
Fish like Phantom Tetras, Tiger Barbs, Danios and Cichlids do not make ideal tank mates for Guppies as they are renowned fin nippers and will definitely pull on and shred a Guppy’s tail.
So, what fish are good with guppies?
Any species of Cory Cat will go well with Guppies. They are peaceful, stay near the bottom of the tank and are adaptable to the higher pH that Guppies prefer.
If you decide to keep Cories with Guppies however, you need to find a balance in water parameters, as while cory cats are adaptable, they swing more towards a low pH and they do not like salt.
To house Guppies and Cories together comfortably, go for a pH that sits anywhere from around 7.0 – 7.6 and keep them in true freshwater.
You also need to make sure you are feeding plenty of sinking foods so that the Cory Cats are able to get enough food, and so that the Guppies don’t eat it all at the surface level.
Ricefish, more specifically Daisy Ricefish, make great pair-ups with Guppies. They are peaceful, have similar diets and water parameters to Guppies and are around the same size.
If you want to keep them together, keep a moderate pH of around 7.5 and moderate hardness – this will be enjoyed by both species.
Ricefish will also sometimes enjoy a low level of salt in the water too much like livebearers.
Southern Platyfish and Guppies often go hand in hand in community tanks. They are close cousins and enjoy near enough the same water parameters, diet and have a similar temperament.
If you want to keep them together, keep them in a tank with plenty of cover. Although generally peaceful, once mature, male Platies can be quite territorial and will chase other fish around.
Having plenty of plant life or rockwork in the tank will allow your Guppies to get away from any boisterous Platies.
Guppies can also live with Shrimp, since their small size and non-predatory nature allows them to live in the same environment.
Yes, Guppies will prey on young Shrimplets and sometimes even adult shrimp on occasion. However, if you have enough cover and plants, the Shrimp will survive and will breed faster than the Guppies can eat them.
If you want to keep Guppies and Shrimp together, keep lots of cover and foliage. Shrimp do particularly well in planted tanks, with lots of dense live plants and driftwood.
Feed plenty of sinking foods or fine powdery foods like crushed flakes, which get past the Guppies and reach the Shrimp.
Keep the water parameters stable, maintain the pH at around 7.5 and have moderate hardness.
How to breed Guppies
Guppies are arguably the easiest fish to breed in the aquarium hobby, due to their life cycle involving the birthing of live young.
Unlike many other fish species in the aquarium hobby, Guppies are ovoviviparous. They fertilise their eggs internally and the female holds them inside her body, until they are developed enough to be released as free swimming fry.
To breed Guppies, one simply needs to maintain good water conditions. As mentioned before, with a moderate to high pH and hardness level, no ammonia and no nitrites.
Then, you need to house male and female Guppies together. To do this however, you need to know how to properly sex guppies, which is fairly easy to do.
How to sex Guppies
Sexing Guppies is fairly easy as they are sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females look different.
A trained eye can even sex a Guppy at the moment it is born by looking at specific signals.
- The main way to sex a guppy is to look at its anal fin – the singular fin located underneath its body, closest to its tail.
In male Guppies, this fin is shaped like a spear head. It is long and narrow, and you may see them even try to use it by angling it towards females, or bending it forward to wipe a ball of sperm onto the end of it.
This fin adaptation is called the Gonopodium and is the male reproductive organ in livebearers.
Male guppies will also have longer more showy finnage on their caudal and dorsal fins, which is coated in bright colours.
In most breeds, male Guppies also tend to have more opaque bodies, whereas females tend to be slightly translucent.
In female Guppies, this fin is shaped like it is in any other fish – it is broad and triangle shaped.
Female Guppies are also typically larger than the males.
However, these characteristics are seen only in mature Guppies, and your young fish may not show these symptoms until they are already of breeding age. So. how does one separate and sex them before this?
The trick is to look at their back end when they are young and still mostly transparent. From birth, female Guppies will have what is called a gravid spot. This is an area behind the anus where the eggs are stored, and it appears like a black cluster.
If you look at your young guppy fry and see a black spot near the anus inside the fish’s body, then it is a female, if you do not see one, and instead you see right through the fish, then it is male and does not have eggs.
This is the best way to sex Guppies, but it takes a lot of eye training to be able to notice it effectively.
The next stage in breeding Guppies is to properly sex ration them. This means to get the right ratio of male to female, so that stress is minimised and breeding is most effective.
If you’ve ever kept Guppies, you may notice that the males pester and chase the females neary every waking moment of their lives. They do this to spread their genes and because sperm takes a relatively small amount of energy to produce.
If a male Guppy can impregnate as many females as possible during his short life, then his genetics will be spread to the next generation and he will have been successful in continuing his bloodline.
However, in captivity, this poses an issue as the female cannot get away from the male’s advances. This constant chasing causes stress, which can contribute to health issues.
To avoid this, you need to have more females than males in your tank; typically a 1:2 ratio, so that the male cannot focus on one female all day and the chasing is spread out.
Adding plenty of cover and plants also helps with this, as the females can find refuge.
Guppy spawning and fry
Once your Guppies have mated, then the female will become “pregnant” and will hold onto her eggs and fry for around 30 days depending on the temperature. Once she is ready, she will drop the fry as free swimming babies and that is where her parenthood ends.
The babies are now free to fend for themselves.
Guppies show no care for their young once they are born and have no parental instincts. They will sometimes eat their young immediately after they have been born, so if you want to keep the babies alive, it is best to separate them.
Catching and separating fry into a different tank or container is the best way to ensure all of them will survive. You could also move the pregnant female into her own tank and allow her to drop her fry before moving her back to another tank.
Alternatively, you could do nothing and leave the fry to naturally raise themselves. This is doable if you have lots of cover in your tank from rocks and plants. If you provide plenty of hiding spaces in your tank, your baby Guppies are less likely to be eaten and will often raise themselves to adulthood.
Baby Guppies are born very well formed as far as fish go and can take crushed flake food 2 days after they have been born, and absorb the remainder of their yolk.
- Keep your fish well fed and keep the water in good condition and you will find that your Guppies will just make more of themselves, very quickly.
Before deciding to breed any animal however, you need to have a plan for the offspring. Can you house them? Do you have a place for them to go? Do you know of a place that will take them?
You need plans in advance for what you are going to do with this new life you have helped create, before you breed a million Guppies and have no idea what to do with them.
What tank size do Guppies need?
In a 5 gallon, you can get away with housing 3 – 4 male Guppies. If you want to breed your guppies however, you need a larger tank.
A 10 gallon is the smallest tank size to ideally breed Guppies in, and it is best to start with a trio of one male and two females.
Even better, a 20 gallon will allow your Guppies to truly thrive and you can house and breed much larger numbers of them.
What plants are best for guppies?
The best types of plants for Guppies are those with very dense foliage, plants that are easy to grow, grow fast and produce many leaves for fry to hide in amongst.
Here are some of the best plants which will aid best in maintaining clean water, while providing lots of good cover for your fish:
- Guppy Grass
- Rotala Wallichii
- Java Fern
- Brazilian Pennywort
- Java Moss
- Anubias Nana Petite
Tips and tricks for Guppy care
Some of the best advice we can give to people who are new to keeping livebearers and are having trouble is to test your tap water’s hardness and pH levels.
People who tend to struggle keeping livebearers alive generally have soft, slightly acidic tap water and need to buffer it with calcium.
- If you do have soft water, then we recommend buffering your water regularly using a KH powder or by adding crushed coral to your tank.
Adding small amounts of KH powder with each water change will add vital minerals to your tank, which Guppies need to stay alive and thrive.
Salt can also assist with this, and making the water slightly brackish can prevent against disease, parasites and fungus.
Another tip is to feed mostly plant based/veggie based foods. As Guppies swing more towards the herbivore side, they will benefit from the additional nutrients they can extract from plant material.
We also recommend, as always, to add live plants to your aquarium as they provide many benefits other than just cover. They prevent high mineral build up, reduce nitrates, produce environments for infusoria and algae to grow and simulate the natural environment our fish are used to.