There are many reasons why people choose to fish for a pet. Whether you don’t consider yourself a mammal, reptile, or bird lover, you live in a home that is not pet-friendly, or you want something that is very low-maintenance and doesn’t take up too much space – these are all good reasons why having fish makes perfect sense.
More and more studies show that having fish is very therapeutic and good for your health. Having an attractive aquarium with low-maintenance fish can help to reduce stress, including in kids. They’re also good conversation starters for those awkward, non-social moments. One of the most popular aquarium fish that meets all of these needs is the guppy.
The guppy is hard to miss because they’re incredibly beautiful, colorful, active, and peaceful. Guppies are relatively inexpensive, simple to maintain, and are popular for beginning to advanced aquarists. It’s no secret that guppies as pets are easy to keep.
Just as with any living animal, you’ll want to know the how’s and why’s of owning guppies. The great thing, as already mentioned, is that they’re easy to keep, and this article will go through the top reasons why guppies are easy to keep as well as necessities to help you keep your guppies happy and healthy.
Guppies as Pets
The guppy (Poecilia reticulata) is a tropical freshwater fish that may go by other names, including rainbow fish, seven colors, and million fish. We know the guppy as “guppy” because of a naturalist named Robert John Lechmere Guppy who discovered them in Trinidad in the 1860s.
Guppies are native to different parts of the Caribbean and the northern areas of South America but were historically introduced to other regions, especially Asia, for mosquito control. Because of their beauty and hardiness, people quickly caught on to the valuable nature of guppies as aquarium fish.
The two most noticeable attributes of guppies are their bright, attractive colors and their flashy, flowing tails. Most people don’t realize that there are nearly 300 different varieties of guppies with a diverse range of coloration, patterns, sizes, and tail shapes. Often, guppies are named after their elaborate traits such as Mosaic Guppy, Snakeskin Guppy, and Leopard tail Guppies.
Guppies seem to come in every color of the rainbow and then some. They’re notorious for their brilliant array of colors, and, coupled with flowing tails, they seem to give off the impression of wearing flowing tutus or trailing veils. Some varieties don a metallic intensity that is caused by iridophores, non-colored cells creating an iridescent effect when reflected by light.
Females, on the other hand, are nowhere near as elaborately colored. They are usually a silvery gray, but can still boast strikingly colored tails, although much smaller and a little less exciting than their male counterparts.
As mentioned before, female caudal fins (tails) are smaller and a little more mundane than males. This works well from an evolutionary standpoint since male guppies use their fancy tails to woo the females during mating season.
The types of guppy varieties equate to the types of tails. Some of the tail shapes include:
- Round tail
- Fan tail
- Sword tails (double sword, bottom sword, or top sword)
- Flag tail
- Delta tail
- Spade tail
- Veil tail
The combination of tail shapes and colored patterns is sometimes so attractive that they seem surreal. Some of the patterned shapes are called lace, leopard, mosaic, and grass.
Fishy Fact: Males are smaller than female guppies. Females can get to around 2 inches long, whereas males only grow to about 1.5 inches long. They are considered full-size by six months old. (Can be included as an embedded text box).
Guppy Social Behavior & Tank Mates
Guppies are infamously known for being peaceful aquarium fish. Their non-aggressive attitude makes them a pleasure to watch in the tank as they socialize or outswim their tank mates. Guppies are social, non-aggressive fish that much prefer and benefit from the company of other guppies.
Many beginner aquarists will catalog guppies as a schooling fish because they’re often seen swimming alongside other guppies. Although this is true to an extent, there is a difference between guppies that are schooling and guppies that are shoaling.
Shoaling is the social grouping of fish and is often confused with schooling. When fish shoal, this means that they swim together as a group, but not necessarily in the same direction. Shoals are less dense and are ‘simply aggregations of individuals.’
For their health and vitality, it is highly recommended to keep your guppy with at least five or more other guppies. Some guppy owners may argue that they have successfully kept two to three guppies together, and sometimes they have just had one with other species of aquarium fish. However, guppies are social by nature, and they depend on familiarity of other guppies to structure their close-knit shoaling group. This helps them to feel secure as part of their instinct.
In the wild, shoaling fish often look similar in appearance, which is why predators may more easily target a fish that looks different from the rest. If there are predators nearby, this is when schooling comes to play.
When fish school, they are a shoal that is not only much denser and more synchronized, but they are projecting an antipredator response. Schooling requires an enormous amount of fishy coordination and projects moderate to intense agitation, especially when one has accidentally slipped from the school.
Schooling guppies are mostly found in the wild where there are many more predators and threats to be found. If you find your guppies are schooling and showing aggregation and nervousness, consider the relationship with the other fish in your tank and whether or not they are compatible.
Guppy Tank Mates
It’s not too difficult to find other non-aggressive fish to keep with guppies. Luckily there are some general guidelines to follow when you’re on the hunt for tank mates. The main idea is to find fish that have similar temperament and behavior to guppies, like non-fin-nibblers. Also, consider fish that require the same diet and water quality as well as being of similar size.
Good guppy tankmates to consider are:
- Neon or cardinal tetras
- Cory or oto catfish
- Honey gourami’s
- Harlequin rasboras
A couple of species to avoid are angelfish (unless they are of the same size or else they may nibble or possibly eat the guppy) and cichlids.
Guppy Care and Habitat
Guppies are one of the easiest aquarium fish to care for because they are so relatively hardy. If you’d like more information on guppy care click here.
Guppy Environment and Tank
Your guppy’s aquarium will need to reflect their natural habitat of the warm, tropical fresh waters of the Caribbean and South America. A good rule of thumb for the size of tank to have is 1-inch fish / 1 gallon of water. Following this rule, a five-gallon aquarium can keep up to 3-to 5 guppies, but you’ll need at least a 10-gallon aquarium if you want to have more or other tank mates.
Since they are tropical fish, the water temperature needs to stay in the range of 75-82 degrees Fahrenheit. Guppies cannot survive in anything lower than 59 degrees Fahrenheit. This is most likely accomplished by getting a small tank heater and placing it on one end of the aquarium with the thermometer at the other end. This is to ensure that the tank is getting heated throughout the whole tank.
Other essentials are:
- Keeping the pH between 5-9
- Zero ammonia level
- Using a fish filter
- Adding plenty of plants and different décors
- Some lighting even if it’s from your window
Guppy Fish Diet
Guppies are very easy to feed as they will eat just about anything (only feed them food specific to them, though!) and have historically been used as mosquito control. They’re considered omnivores and will also nibble on algae, which is approximately half of their diet in the wild. This doesn’t mean you have to cultivate algae for their breakfast, however. There are plenty of fish foods specific to guppies that they will happily devour. These include:
- Vegetable flakes (with little to no fillers like wheat and soy)
- Spirulina tabs
- Frozen food (shrimp and bloodworms)
- Raw vegetables (peas and lettuce)
Feeding your guppies the same fish food could lead to nutritional deficiencies, so it’s best to mix it up every once in a while. Guppies only need to be fed once or twice a day, and be sure to scoop up the unwanted food, so it doesn’t convert into ammonia.
Anyone who has had multiple guppies will agree that they breed like rabbits. With that being said, guppies are very easy to produce if that’s something you are looking for in a fish. They only live for a few years, so it’s a natural way to keep restocking your tank!
Two things to keep in mind, however, are:
- Females have been known to have fry (guppy babies) without having a male in the tank, and could give birth to 30 – 40 fry each month!
- The adult guppies will eat the fry. You read right – they will eat their own babies. If you know there is fry in your tank, be sure to separate them from the adults as soon as possible. If not, it will be a show of survival of the fittest.
Guppies are very easy pets to keep. You will never get bored of watching these beautifully-colored fish dazzle the tank with their long, flowing fins. They are inexpensive, attractive, easy to maintain, and naturally replenish the tank with baby fry. If you are on the lookout for a pet that is easy to keep, the guppy could easily rank as one of the top favorites.