Guppy Fish Care Guide & Species Profile

The Guppy Fish is one of the tiniest freshwater fish around.

This little fish is barely larger than your thumb but you can find them in some of the most spectacular colors!

Mixing several different colors and patterns together will create a living rainbow in your aquarium. You can see why these spectacular creatures are often nicknamed Rainbowfish.

If you are looking for a colorful fish for your aquascape, then this little fish does the job quite well and fits right into a community of other colorful fish.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about breeding, feeding, and caring for these lovely little fish…

What is a Guppy Fish?

Guppy Fish

Guppies (Poecilia reticulata) are bright and colorful fish from the Poeciliidae family.

They are also known as either Fancy Guppy, Millionfish, or Rainbowfish.

Guppy Fish are livebearers and are beloved by hobbyist breeders due to their easy and frequent spawning. Groups of these colorful fish are used as decorations for a planted tank.

These colorful fish are found naturally in South America, Central America, and parts of the Caribbean. However, their popularity has led to them being introduced in temperate and tropical climates all over the world.

At just under an inch long they are one of the tiniest fish in the tank.

Most Guppy Fish will have a short lifespan of between 2 and 4 years.

Expect to pay $4 to $6 for a standard color morph like Sunrise or Black. Rare, exotic, or popular colors can cost anywhere from $30 to $60.

Key Facts:

  • Experience Required: Aquaculture.
  • Nicknames: Millionfish, Rainbowfish, Fancy Guppy.
  • Color Forms: Various.
  • Size: 0.9-1.5 inches.
  • Tank Size: Minimum 5+ gallon.
  • Tank Temperature: 74-82°F.

Guppy

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Can live in groups or in communities
  • Breeds quickly and easily
  • Gets along well with other livebearers

Cons:

  • Vulnerable to fin nippers
  • Carries trematode parasites
  • Interbreeding lowers stock quality

Appearance

Poecilia reticulata

The first thing you will notice about this little fish is their brilliant color.

In the wild they are grey, reddish brown, or yellow.

But in aquariums they can come in every color of the rainbow. You can find them in red, blue, yellow, green, purple, orange, black, gold, silver, white, or pink. In many cases up to 4 colors can appear on a single fish.

The brightest colors and most intricate patterns occur on the fins and tail.

Some carry a lattice pattern that looks like a snake’s scales. Others have an elegant webbed pattern that resembles lace. Or you might even come across a black and white tuxedo Guppy.

Guppy Fish are shaped like a tiny bullet.

Their thin and streamlined body lets them maneuver through just about any current.

Males grow to about 0.9 inches long and females usually reach a maximum of 1 and a half inches.

There are several different fin types available.

  • Fantail: This is the most common type and it is a wide trailing fin shaped like a Japanese fan.
  • Veiltail: This is a long caudal fin that trails downward like a veil or skirt.
  • Flagtail: A wide and rectangular shape just like a flag.
  • Sailfin: Tall, sail shaped dorsal fins and wide tails.
  • Lyretail: Split tails with threadlike extensions at both ends.
  • Dumbo Ear: This is one of the most unusual varieties of all the pectoral fins are shaped like an elephant’s ears.

Regardless of their fin type they will have 7 fins. There is a dorsal fin, caudal fin, a pair of pectoral fins, a pair of pelvic fins, and a short anal fin.

Types of Guppy Fish

There are hundreds of types of Guppy Fish.

Some of the most popular varieties are:

Sunrise: A Sunrise Guppy is bright yellow and orange with a silver colored head.

Cobra: Cobra Guppies have a lattice pattern over their caudal fins that looks like a snake’s scales. Yellow, green, and red are the most popular base colors for the Cobra variety.

Snakeskin: On a Snakeskin morph the same lattice pattern that occurs on the Cobra’s tail extends to the body.

Dragon: This is a mosaic morph with very long trailing fins. The dorsal and caudal fins have a beautiful red, yellow, orange, and black mosaic pattern.

Black: Black is a popular base for a solid colored fish. Males have a very deep inky black hue with iridescent blue over their head.

Leopard: This is a very popular fin pattern and features black spots over the tail and fins. The base color is red, yellow, orange, green, or pink.

Peacock: A bright green or blue color that matches a peacock’s feathers. This can be a solid color, or a base color for a Mosaic Guppy.

Albino: Most Albino Guppies are stark white with bright red eyes. However there is a Red Albino that has a bright red tail.

Bronze: The Bronze, or Gold, is one of the rarest color varieties. To be considered Bronze the body must be at least 25% gold in color.

Dumbo Ear: These are one of the most unusual Guppy varieties. They have wide pectoral fins that look like elephant’s ears.

Lacetail: This is one of the most spectacular patterns that you can find. The caudal fin has an elegant lattice pattern that looks like lace on a lady’s dress. This pattern is particularly popular on Fantails and Veiltails. Lacetails can be red, purple, green, yellow, orange, or blue.

Moscow: This glossy fish comes in inky blue, purple, black, green, or blood red. Moscow Guppies are among the most elegant looking Guppies.

Neon Blue: This bright cyber blue color starts at the abdomen and ends at the tip of the caudal fin. They may have a yellow or orange spot over the head.

Tuxedo: These fish have light colored bodies and black tails. The most common base colors are white, orange, yellow, or red.

Habitat and Aquarium

There are not too many habitats that this fish cannot live in.

In the wild they can be found in rivers, streams, swamps, and coastal estuaries.

Because they are so adaptable they are actually invasive in many parts of the world. They can survive in man-made or altered bodies of water just as easily as they can survive in natural ones.

Guppy Fish tolerate slow moving and fast moving water, and can even handle murky or turbid conditions. Large numbers are found in areas where lots of algae grows, and zooplankton and insect larvae gather.

Guppies

Tank Set Up and Water Parameters

A 5 gallon tank is enough for a group of up to 5 Guppies.

Make sure to add a gallon for each additional Guppy.

The water temperature should range from 74-82°F and the pH should be close to neutral (7.0 to 8.0). The water hardness can range from 8 to 12 dGH.

They are not very picky about the substrate as they rarely visit the bottom of the tank. Fine sand or smooth gravel is the safest to use and you should avoid using plastic or dyed gravel.

It is vital to add some extra oxygen to your water column, so you can use either a sponge filter or bubble filter.

Natural decorations such as rocks and logs are the best kind for this tank.

Plants are among the most important decorations for this tank.

Marimo Moss Balls provide an extra food source and you can also grow some algae beds or mats. Guppy Grass is one of the very best carpet plants to grow in this tank. Other good carpet plants include Dwarf Hairgrass, Java Moss, and Flame Moss.

Water Sprite and Anubias can be planted in the middle or foreground of the tank. Anacharis and Water Wisteria can also be floated along the water’s surface.

Care

The Guppy Fish is a good choice for a first livebearer.

This fish cannot be kept alone as they are very vulnerable to predators.

You will want to keep at least 5 in a group, but preferably between 6 and 8.

There are a few things that newcomers should take note of.

They will breed at least once every month and too much breeding will take a toll on the female’s small body over time. Try starting off with a single gender group until you are a little more comfortable with the species. Once you have some experience you can try breeding them.

Next, your water should maintain a stable, neutral to alkaline pH. As plants and driftwood start to decay your pH will lower. A 10% water change can bring it back to suitable levels. Water should be changed at least once every 2 weeks but it may need weekly changes if it is well stocked or heavily decorated.

Finally, you should be aware of flukes.

Guppies can come infected with trematodes, or flukes, which can quickly spread to the other fish in the tank. Most flukes infect the gills or the muscles. To prevent an infection you should quarantine your Guppies for up to 2 weeks before you add them to your community.

Feeding and Diet

A fish this small will eat the tiniest prey they can find.

In the wild Guppy Fish will eat insect larvae.

They particularly enjoy mosquito larvae and they are used in certain places to control mosquito populations.

In the aquarium you need to give them a mix of live prey, fish flakes, and greenery.

You can supplement a flake based diet with protein packed live prey. Brine shrimp and bloodworms are two of the best live foods that you can give your Guppies.

These tiny fish can snack on a surprisingly wide variety of different foods. Here is a list of everything that they can eat:

  • Fish flakes
  • Brine shrimp
  • Bloodworms
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Microworms
  • Algae wafers
  • Spirulina
  • Algae
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Peas

Instead of giving your fish 2 or 3 large meals a day you should give them 5 small pinches over the course of the day. This will fuel their daily activities without overfeeding or underfeeding.

Do not allow any leftover food to remain at the bottom of the tank.

Behavior

These fish are very active during the day and will keep you amused with all of their little games and tricks.

You will find Guppy Fish most often shoaling in the middle levels of the aquarium.

They will play with the others in their shoal by twitching their fins and flicking their tails, chasing after one another, and playing hide and seek in your plants. They might even swim in circles or zig zags.

While they are generally peaceful and friendly to their tank mates there are times when they will misbehave.

They are known to occasionally nip at the fins of larger fish.

However, aggression is not common and most of the time your Guppies will behave cordially to one another and to the other fish in the tank.

Tank Mates

These fish are extremely community friendly.

They work well with other small fish but their small size means that they are very susceptible to being eaten. Because of this they must only be kept with fish that are too small to fit them in their mouths.

Other livebearing fish are some of your best and safest options for stocking a community. Swordtails, Platys, Mollies, and Endlers will get along just fine.

You can pick other colorful fish, including Tetras and Rasboras. Try the Cardinal Tetra, Chili Rasbora, Rummy Nose Tetra, or Harlequin Rasbora.

To add even more color to this colorful community you can include small Rainbowfish, such as the Threadfin Rainbowfish.

Invertebrates of all kinds can fit into this community as well. Cherry Shrimp and others from the Neocaridina genus will add a burst of color to your carpet moss or grasses.

For algae eaters you can include a Nerite Snail, Mystery Snail, or a group of Amano Shrimp.

Make sure to avoid any fish that are large enough to fit the Guppy Fish in their mouth. This includes Plecos, Clown Loaches, and other large fish.

Also you should avoid fin nipping fish such as Serpae and Black Skirt Tetras. Mosquito Fish will compete for food and freshwater sharks like Red Tails and Black Sharkminnows are a bad idea.

Breeding

Guppy Fish will naturally breed on their own.

Although breeding can occur year round, it usually happens during the summer months.

If you want to breed your Guppies then you need to keep them in a separate breeding tank.

The breeding tank should have a sponge filter, a water temperature of about 75°F, and a pH of 7.0 to 8.0. You can also add Najas Grass and Water Sprite. To encourage them to breed you should increase the amount of live prey in your pair’s diet. Feed them plenty of bloodworms and brine shrimp until the male’s colors grow brighter.

Males will attempt to attract the female by swimming in an S shape in front of her. Once she accepts, copulation will take place. Copulation will only need to occur once as the female can hold the male’s sperm for up to 6 months for future pregnancies.

A pregnant Guppy Fish will be swollen with eggs.

You can tell your female is pregnant by looking at the gravid spot on her abdomen, under her caudal fin. If the female is going to give birth this spot will turn black about 2 to 3 weeks into the pregnancy as the larvae develop inside.

If your gravid female has gone an entire month without giving birth you can be certain that her brood was not viable.

After around 25 days your female will give birth to up to 30 tiny, black larvae. They will settle at the bottom of the tank and immediately begin searching for food.

The fry should be fed infusoria and powdered fry food for the first few weeks.

Once they reach 4 to 6 weeks old you can give them larval brine shrimp. The fry will develop their colors between 30 and 40 days and by three months they will be mature enough to be placed in the community tank.

History and First Sighting

The Poecilia reticulata was discovered by Wilhelm Karl Peters in 1859.

Shortly after being discovered their appetite for mosquito larvae was realized and they were exported to Europe for pest control.

The first captive specimens arrived in Germany in 1908 and shortly after they were used to control mosquito populations in lakes and ponds.

Introducing these fish to natural bodies of water outside of their native range established them as a strong, hardy fish. Unfortunately, they soon became invasive in these areas.

By 1930 the species had moved from the pond to the aquarium and the first fancy morphs hit the market.

In 1965 the International Fancy Guppy Association was established and dedicated to the breeding and showing of fancy varieties.

Today, the Guppy is one of the most popular livebearing fish in the hobby and the demand for exotic color varieties is skyrocketing.

Facts about Guppy Fish

Guppy
Other Common Names: Millionfish, Rainbowfish, Fancy Guppy
Scientific Name: Poecilia reticulata
Family Name: Poeciliidae
Distribution: South America, Central America, Caribbean
Size: 0.9-1.5 inches
Color: Easy
Care Level: Peaceful
Temperament: Peaceful
Lifespan: 2-4 years
Minimum Tank Size: 5 gallons
Tank Mate Compatibility: Peaceful Nano fish

Final Thoughts

It is not very difficult to give a group of Guppy Fish a good home.

There is a lot that Guppies can bring to a freshwater tank. From their beautiful colors to their lively personalities, to their compatibility in communities.

These fish are very healthy and do not have any specific demands or tank requirements. They can be enjoyed by beginners and veterans alike.

All of these excellent qualities have made the Guppy Fish the most popular livebearer around.

What is the rarest Guppy variety that you have seen?

Let us know in the comments section below…

David Thomas Author Bio Picture
David Thomas leads the team at Everything Fishkeeping as the Editor-in-Chief. David has been keeping fish since he was a child. In his first tank he kept goldfish and since then he has kept over 30 different species. Now he has 4 separate tanks and his favorite is a 100 gallon freshwater tank with a school of Rasboras, Tetras and Loaches.