Guppies care guide, breeding & species overview

Guppies (also known as millionfish, rainbow fish or carplet) are very popular tropical fish that inhabit most pet stores around the world. They’re freshwater fish meaning they are born in water, which is their natural habitat. They belong to the genus known as Poecilia reticulata. The most common commercially sold guppies are white or black with coloured tails. There are however many different types of guppies that have been bred by aquarists over the years – often intentionally, but sometimes by accident.

They’re extremely friendly, colourful & active. That makes them a great pet for both adults & children alike! As with most aquarium fish, it’s important to do your research before adding any new fish to your tank so you can be sure you have all the proper equipment & conditions for your new fish.

Scientific namePoecilia reticulata
Common namesGuppy, millionfish and rainbow fish
Located inAntigua, Trinidad, Barbados, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela
Growing size0.6 – 2.4 inches
Life expectancy Up to 2 years
ColorsA variance including: yellow, black, orange, blue, red, green and pink
Minimum tank size5 gallons
Temperature74 – 82F (23 – 28 C)
pH6.8 – 7.6
Care level & temperamentEasy + peaceful

What’s their origin?

Guppies are generally found in large schools throughout the Orinoco River of South America, they are most abundant among habitats with muddy & vegetated waters. However, there are also species inhabiting brackish waters (salty) and even marine estuaries. Guppies can survive in a wide range of water parameters which makes them a very hardy species. Guppies can protect their fry in the ornamental plants which are present in their natural habitat. Guppies are popular aquarium fish and easy to breed.

Appearance and behaviour of Guppies

Guppies have a very characteristic torpedo-shaped body, long anal & dorsal fins and a tall sailfin. Their colours range from solid shades of silver, red, orange, yellow to blue and can sometimes be a mixture of these colours on a single specimen! They’ve got an iridescent sheen that makes them even more colourful. 

Tails come in almost every variation you can imagine, from the common lyretail to the less seen Halfmoon or rarely-seen longfin. There are even wild variations of the lyretail where the tail comes to a point.

Male guppies can be identified by their darker colour, more colourful pattern & extended fins. Females appear to be smaller and have a rounded tail as they’re not using it as an attractant for males. In addition, females tend to have duller colours.

Typical Behaviour of Guppies

Guppies are very social and love to swim together in groups. They can be easily trained and will learn their names and behaviours (swimming patterns). 

Guppies are very active and love to explore their environment. They will thrive in a planted aquarium with lots of vegetation and hiding places (plastic tubes, castles, caves etc.).

They’ve got a mild temper and can make excellent community tank inhabitants when they’re kept in groups of 6 or more (3 males to 2 females). 

They’re equally happy to live in a community tank with other peaceful & sociable species like Platies or Mollies for example. Just make sure there are enough hiding places for all fish!

Types of Guppies

Guppies are often divided into different sub-species depending on their geographical origin & local environment. Most of the divisions are based on regional variations in wild populations and related to each group’s habitats.

Commonly bred guppies for the aquarium trade come from a variety of wild populations.

Guppy Sub-species variations:

Common guppies: Central & Western South America, Trinidad

Black finned guppies: Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti Guppy Varieties

Mixed populations from different locations in South America Lyretail guppies – Trinidad Sigma guppies – Venezuela, Colombia Sailfin Lyretail guppies (Lyretails)

 Colombia Spotted guppies (spots on dorsal and anal fins) – Trinidad

Habitat & care of Guppies

Guppies require a lot of space for their high activity levels. A minimum aquarium size of 30 gallons is required to keep them properly, even more, if you’re planning on keeping more than one male in the tank! A wider rather than taller approach will really help give your fish enough room to swim & stay happy.

In their natural habitat, guppies enjoy a very colourful environment! The more colours you can include in your tank set up the better. They will appreciate a lot of artificial plants and will feel most at home in a planted aquarium.

Make sure to include lots of hiding places for both males & females as they can be quite timid when kept with more aggressive fish.

Tank Set-Up (Ph Balance)

Guppies are generally very hardy and active, however, they’re sensitive to nitrogenous waste products (ammonia/nitrite) which can become lethal at high levels. Water changes are therefore required to ensure optimum water conditions. They are not very fussy about pH & GH however a slightly softer water with a pH of 6.5-7 will suit them best as they’re native to a tropical environment.

Water should be soft with a slightly acidic pH (6.8-7.2) & KH 2-4 degrees dH for best results. Guppies come from soft waters so you shouldn’t use any chemically treated tap water because it may be too harsh for them. 

Guppies also appreciate a degree of salt in the water, around 1 teaspoon per 5 gallons will keep their scales healthy. Most tap water is fine to use as it contains chlorine and chloramine removers however if using untreated tap water make sure to use a water conditioner that neutralizes chloramine before adding the fish.


They are also very sensitive to poor water quality which will lead to stress, disease and sometimes death. 

Guppies are generally quite hardy and disease-resistant (when kept in clean conditions). They can however fall victim to tail & fin rot if their water is less than perfect or they’re not fed a healthy diet rich in protein.

Protozoan Disease

Guppies are also prone to Protozoan Disease (also known as Ich) which attacks the fish’s skin. Protozoan Disease can be treated fairly easily at home by increasing your tank temperature to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius) for 3 days.

This will kill off any parasites without harming your Guppies. Feed your fish a healthy diet, including lots of live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp or bloodworms and you will notice a huge improvement.

Fin Rot and Tail Rot

Guppies are usually quite hardy and resistant to most diseases, however, they can still fall victim to illnesses such as fin or tail rot. This is often brought on by a lack of water changes, poor diet or exposure to poor water conditions.

Fungal infections will usually appear as discoloured patches appearing on the body and/or fins. If not treated, the infections will spread quickly and may cause death.

Tail rot manifests itself as a loss of tail tissue and is usually accompanied by slow swimming, clamped fins and lethargy. This is usually caused by poor water conditions or by physical damage to the fish’s tail (usually from netting).

Can guppies live with other fish?

Guppies are one of the most popular species of tropical fish kept in aquaria because they are so easy to care for, inexpensive to buy & come in a huge variety of different colour morphs.

They can however be somewhat nippy towards other Guppies if not kept alone. Generally, male guppies are more aggressive than females, especially when inbreeding occurs. 

They swim at the top of the tank and will often pick on fish swimming at lower levels.

The best way to keep Guppies with other fish is to combine only male guppies together or buy a large tank with plenty of hiding places & plants, they will soon grow out of any nipping habits. If you must house them with other fish, try mostly peaceful community fish such as Mollies, Platies & Tetras.

Non-fish tank mates for guppies include: 

  • Cory doras Catfish
  • Otocinclus Catfish
  • Ghost Shrimp
  • Nerite snails

Diet and feeding – What do guppies eat?

Guppies are omnivores and will eat almost anything ranging from small insects, worms & crustaceans to fresh fruit and vegetables such as lettuce leaves or bloodworms.

They should also be fed a high protein food such as Brine Shrimp every other day. Guppies can be picky about their diet especially when they’re younger, so try out different types of flake or pellet food to see what they prefer.

Guppies eat a varied diet of algae, worms, insects & fresh fruit & veg.

Breeding – How to breed guppies

Guppies are very fertile & can produce up to 7 broods every 4-6 weeks. Small numbers of fry survive by hiding amongst plants and feeding on planktonic food sources. An interesting fact! As most people know guppies typically reach maturity at an age of 4 months but this depends on the temperature they’ve been raised in. At higher temperatures (26-30°C/79-86°F) they’ll reach maturity at 3 months, while at lower temperatures (20-25°C/68-77°F) they will need 4 to 5 months to reach the same level of development.

There are several ways to breed and raise the fry. Guppy breeding can be performed either through mating or via artificial spawning which is a lot easier. 

Mating Guppies

To successfully mate your Guppies, you will need to purchase several males and one female. The males should be kept in a separate tank until they are ready to breed (at around 6 months old). Females can be introduced at various stages of the male’s life so they are receptive when he is at his peak.

When a male is introduced to a female, she will put up a resistance and may nip at him. He will try to hold onto her with his fins and he does this by caressing her with his barbels. If the female isn’t receptive, she will swim away from him or turn upside down in an attempt to getaway. 

Once mated, the female usually produces a sperm plug which prevents any other males from mating with her. The pair are then referred to as “honeymooners” and can be left in peace for 4-7 days after mating has occurred. 

Are they suitable for your aquarium?

Guppies are perhaps one of the most popular species kept within the aquarium hobby, not only because they’re easy to care for, but also because they come in a variety of different colour morphs. They’re suitable for beginners who wish to keep tropical fish but may lack experience.

Their elongated bodies make Guppies perfect swimmers and they spend most of their time at the top of the water column. Although they may not be as glamorous as Angelfish or Betta, Guppies make great community fish and can live happily with almost any other non-aggressive species. 

Final thoughts 

Although Guppies are very easy to care for, it is still important that you buy healthy stock. Avoid fish with obvious signs of disease such as white spots or fungus on the body. Keep an eye out for frayed fins which could indicate fin rot and make sure they don’t have protruding scales (another sign of illness).

Don’t be afraid to ask your local aquarium dealer if you can see the fish feeding before you make a final purchase. By ensuring they are eating, you’ll know what condition they’re in and whether it’s appropriate to take them home or not. 

If you already have Guppies in your community tank, do consider introducing some of their fry into your aquarium. The fry will hide amongst plants and are safe from being eaten by other fish. They’re also useful for algae control as they feed on various types of algae including brown algae, black beard algae, green spot algae & diatoms.


Can guppies live alone?

Yes, they can, in smaller numbers.

How many guppies can live in a tank?

It depends on the size of the tank & how big your guppies get. However, it’s best to keep 1 male with 2-3 females.

Do guppies like strong current?

No, they don’t. Guppies require calm waters with occasional gentle movement in order to feel comfortable and be able to feed.

Do guppies die after giving birth?

It depends, some females may die after giving birth because of stress or because they’ve been carrying a lot of fry. However, if your female is healthy and doesn’t have a large number of fry, she should survive.

Can I feed guppies betta food?

Yes, betta food is a high-quality fish food that can be fed to both young and adult guppies. It’s best to feed them with this as their staple diet as it contains all the nutrients they need for healthy growth.

How do guppies sleep?

Guppies sleep in the same way as other fish, by sinking to the bottom of their tank. 

How many guppies fit in a 15-gallon tank?

It depends on the size of your guppies, but in general 8-10.

Are guppies aggressive?

Yes, they can be. Male guppies often show dominance in a community tank by chasing other small fish out of their territory and can occasionally nip fins.

Can guppies eat blood worms?

Yes, they can, but then you have to bear in mind that there are concerns over the safety of feeding live foods to fish. The worms often carry parasites that may infect your guppies when they eat them.

Why do my guppies keep dying?

It can be difficult to work out why guppies keep dying. If you notice your fish are suddenly ill, check the water conditions first as this is often the main cause of death. The pH level should be neutral (7) and ammonia & nitrite levels should remain at 0 ppm.

How long do guppies live?

Around 3 years but this can vary a lot depending on the care given to them and whether or not they’re inbred.