The guppy (Poecilia reticulate) is easily one of the most recognizable fish in the world, and sometimes it seems like everyone has kept these fish at some point in their lives. And it’s easy to see why these fish are so popular. Not only are they peaceful, but the males are available in a staggering array of eye-catching colours and tail fin variations.
Originally described from specimens collected in Venezuela in 1859, the first guppies were sent to the British Museum of Natural history in 1866 where they were given the name Girardinus guppii. The name was then shortened to guppy in later years by fish collectors. Other names given to guppies include millions fish, rainbow fish, red-tail fish, and seven colours fish.
|Life Span:||2 Years|
|Size:||2.5 inches (6.5 centimeters)|
|Minimum Tank Size:||5 gallons (18 litres)|
Guppies are native to many Caribbean islands, including Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Netherlands Antilles, Jamaica, and the United States Virgin Islands. They could also originally be found in South America, inhabiting northern Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana.
But since their original discovery, guppies have spread well beyond their natural range – partially through introductions to control mosquitos and partially through escapes – and now inhabit every continent except for Antarctica. In fact, they are considered an invasive species and have had a negative impact on native fish in the areas where they have been introduced.
Guppies can be found in virtually every type of habitat and have colonized nearly every stream, pond, river, and lake available in their native range. Some can even be found in brackish water, though these tend to be rare. Guppies also avoid deep and fast flowing water, preferring shallow pools and streams.
At the bare minimum, a 5-gallon aquarium should be provided for guppies, but this size will only work if the tank is stocked purely with males. If both sexes are kept together, even a 10-gallon aquarium will quickly become overrun by fry from these prolific breeders. Many experienced fishkeepers prefer to keep their guppies in 29-gallon aquariums or larger. A larger aquarium makes it easier to maintain stable water parameters and will allow the juvenile guppies to grow to a size where they can be sold or given away.
When stocking a guppy tank initially, it’s important to provide at least two females for every male. Guppy males will attempt to relentlessly breed with any available females, and if the proper ratio of sexes isn’t maintained, the females will become stressed from the constant attention. It’s important to have additional females to spread out the male’s breeding attempts.
Guppies don’t have any special requirements for décor in their tank, but they do well with plenty of live plants, as long as an open area is left for swimming. Driftwood is also a good addition to their tank and has the added benefit of giving the females a place to hide. The substrate should be a muted colour and aquarium gravel, or sand are both good options.
As guppies aren’t an overly dirty fish, a simple hang-on-back filter is usually the best choice for their aquarium. Hang-on-back filters are reliable, durable, and most importantly, cheap. Aquaclear filters are my recommendation for a guppy tank filter, as they’re incredibly durable and do an excellent job keeping the aquarium water clean.
Another filter option for guppies is a sponge filter. While these filters aren’t commonly used, they are perfect for breeding tanks. While other filters can be deadly to newborn fish – by sucking them up into the impeller – sponge filters are gentle enough to never injure or kill any fry. The downside is they don’t collect much of the debris from the water, so it’s important to thoroughly clean the aquarium regularly with an Aquarium Gravel Cleaner.
Guppies are omnivorous, with most of their diet in the wild consisting of algae. They are also known to feed on invertebrates and the detritus found along the bottom of the bodies of water they inhabit.
Because most of the guppies available are captive bred, they should readily accept prepared fish foods without a problem. A good diet should include a high-quality fish food, vegetables (lightly blanched zucchini medallions are a favorite), and the occasional feeding of live or frozen foods.
An excellent choice for guppy fish food is Hikari Fancy Guppy. It’s specially formulated for livebearers and has natural colour enhancers to bring out guppies impressive colors. And it’s small granules make it the perfect size for guppies to eat.
There’s a popular saying that to breed guppies, just add water. And while the saying may be a slight exaggeration, it’s not too far from the truth. Guppies are one of the easiest fish to breed and if a male and female are kept together in a properly maintained aquarium, they will eventually breed.
But prior to breeding, the guppies first need to be sexed. Thankfully, male and female guppies are easy to tell apart, with the males generally having brighter colours and long flowing fins, while the females have muted colours and shorter tail fins. Also, the males have a gonopodium, which is a modified narrow anal fin that allows them to breed with the female, while the females have a triangular anal fin. And finally, the females have a dark spot, called a gravid spot, directly behind the anal fin, while the males do not.
If someone is serious about breeding guppies, then a breeding tank should be set up. The breeding tank should be fully cycled, with a combination of floating plants and dense plants like Java moss. The live plants will give the fry a place to hide after they’ve been born and should increase their survival rate.
Once the breeding tank is ready, a male and female should be placed in the tank. After approximately 24 hours, the male should be removed back to an all-male tank, while the female remains in the breeding tank. The female should give birth after around 28 days, at which point she should be removed to an all female-tank.
Newborn guppy fry have fully developed mouths and can accept ground up fish food without difficulty. However, many breeders prefer to feed the fry baby brine shrimp for the first week or two to help them grow faster. At around 4-5 weeks of age, the males and females should be separated, or they will soon start to breed with each other.
The best tankmate for guppies is usually more guppies. While guppies are a peaceful fish, it can be difficult to find them proper tankmates. With their long flowing fins, they shouldn’t be kept with any fish prone to fin-nipping, which rules out most of the commonly recommended community fish.
But there are still some fish that may work with guppies. The best tankmates for guppies are usually bottom dwellers, like corydoras catfish and kuhli loaches, who generally won’t interact with the guppies. Bristlenose plecos and otocinclus are also good choices and have the added benefit of consuming algae in the aquarium. And non-traditional choices like nerite snails, apple snails, ghost shrimp, and red cherry shrimp all make good additions to a guppy tank.