IGEES Guppy Care Guide – Overview

There is a great diversity within the modern guppy population now days. Some are very hardy and are tolerant of a wide variety of parameters; while others require somewhat more than their basic needs meet. Good quality food and water conditions are basic to successful guppy husbandry. They can adapt to almost any water conditions but certain values for water parameters (slightly hard and alkaline water) are ideal and make guppies easier to maintain. Avoiding sudden changes in water conditions goes along way towards managing a healthy environment for guppies.

Guppies purchased from pet stores arrive from their long journey highly stressed and usually in medicated water. They could be carrying virulent diseases that are difficult to cure. Many guppy farmers raise their fish in water containing salt. Adding salt at one tablespoon per 5 gallons is beneficial for new arrivals to help deal with any rough handling and can be discontinued after a few days. Salt also can help rid them of parasites. The Florida farms are a mixed lot, some being near to swamp areas having tannic acid water which is usually on the soft side others near the coast have a lot of sea shells adding minerals and hardness. These farms ship large quantities of pet shop guppies and so trying to guess what the correct water conditions are in most cases is impossible. The larger Pet Shop chains are getting their guppies from Thailand, while being very richly colored they usually are carrying pathogens very different from US raised fish. A middle of the road approach is the best for pet shop fish.

With quality guppies purchased from a reputable breeder you can query the breeder about the water parameters they were raised in. Adjust your tanks to those parameters (especially pH) and adapt the fish to your local water conditions. Do this gradually if possible, however this isn’t the way it usually happens especially if they go into an established aquarium, because the eco system already in place can and will modify those conditions overnight.

Some strains are constitutionally stronger than others so watch your new arrivals for signs of problems. Sitting at the bottom or hanging at the top with their fins clamped a little or a lot, this is the first sign of problems.

There are many factors in breeding and raising a beautiful strain of guppies, and getting everything right is a juggling act. Experiment until you find a way that works for you. Expect accidents. Expect waste. However, practice over time results in mastery and brings with it deep satisfaction as your fish develop into healthy, vigorous and long-lived fish.

The information here is targeted toward the hobbyist who has or wants to go beyond a single fish bowl/aquarium arrangement. You are driven by a thirst for more – of what perhaps it’s not clear yet. You want to be a part of the whole experience of birth to death and perhaps answer the question – can I make them better than they are? Most serious hobbyist arrive at the place were they want to see what can be done in the area of developing their own strain of guppies. The following is set forth to help with that endeavor.

The typical guppy breeding set up should be designed to be easy to maintain while maximizing the amount of guppies you can house in the allotted space. No matter how you plan there seems to be the desire to try one more strain. Something shows up in a drop that’s different and you want to try for more, logic and reason take a back seat to the prospect of adventure. Plan for expansion.

  • Use bare tanks. Set up bare tanks on end, in rows. You can set up more tanks in a given area this way. Bare tanks will be easier to maintain and easier to keep free of disease. It’s difficult to rid a planted tank of disease. You will have many reasons to be in the tanks so not having to move things around just makes it quicker.
  • Use small tanks. The segregation of guppies for breeding means that smaller tanks (5.5 and 10 gallon) are favored over larger sizes. However the use of smaller tanks requires routine water changes in order to maintain good health. Japanese breeders faced with very limited space use these sizes almost exclusively. Twenty gallon or larger are often used for growing out tanks.
  • Use fluorescent lighting. Single 30 or 40 watt bulb fixtures mounted over each row of tanks will supply adequate light. Candescent lights throw off heat and waste electricity. The duration of light is more important than its intensity. Use an automatic timer to turn the lights on for twelve hours and off for twelve hours. Allow half an hour with the lights on before feeding and turn off lights one hour after feeding. Uneaten food remaining in the tank overnight will cause the water quality to suffer.
  • Learn basic water chemistry. The three most important water parameters are pH (acidity or alkalinity), GH (soft or hard water) and KH (buffering the water to avoid pH bounce). Creating the proper chemical conditions in your tank is not difficult and usually people at your local club can provide you with a chemical “recipe” that will adjust the water parameters to the optimum range. In small bare tanks especially during the initial cycling process its not unusual for the PH to swing from the low 6’s to over 8. Monitor your tanks carefully until things settle out. For ease of care, keep guppies in optimal water conditions. Although guppies can adapt to extreme water conditions, over the long term they will thrive and be relatively disease-free in the following optimum water conditions:




6.8  8.0



50F -100F
(10C – 31C)

78F (25C) fry

76F (24C) juveniles
(4-8 months)

74F (23C) adults


soft to hard

moderately hard

  • Follow an Easy Repetitive Care Routine. Routine is paramount to ease natural fluctuations, so the same amount of meals and water changes are important. A tank containing plants acts as a buffer to these changes but you must weight the pros and cons of their addition. You should focus on acclimatizing guppies to your water, as trying to maintain certain water parameter artificially is work and expense best avoided.
  • Use a pump and corner filters or sponges. Use an air pump and simple plastic corner or sponge filters. If possible, place the tanks in a heated room. A simple set-up is easy to maintain and inexpensive to expand. Vigorously aerate the water to expose more volume of water so as to allow gas exchange at the surface. Beneficial bacteria thrive on oxygen. Two filters at opposite ends of larger tanks (15 gallon or greater) are optimal. Large tropical fish farms being very labor conscious, if they had filters at all they were sponge in non-flow through systems.
  • Maximize biological filtration. Understand the nitrogen cycle, during which bacteria convert toxic wastes to less harmful substances. Add biological filtration to increase the waste processing capacity of your tanks. Bacteria do best in oxygenated water and dark conditions. Cylindrical or star shaped ceramic or polymer biological materials maximize water flow and available surfaces for the bacteria colonies. Choose materials that have porous surfaces as they make it easier for bacteria to establish colonies and prevent water from shearing over the surface of the material. A sponge at the top of the filter can be removed and cleaned. Marbles at the bottom of the filter weigh it down. Some hobbyists use a sponge filter in addition to the corner filter to achieve maximum bio filtering thus allowing for higher densities of fish per tank.
  • Feed Fresh Healthy Food Sparingly. Overfeeding guppies and feeding them with poor quality or spoiled food are the leading sources of disease in the fish room. If you have got everything else right and still have sick guppies, chances are your food and feeding schedule are at fault, polluting your tanks and stressing your guppies. Store your fish food in the fridge after opening. Or take as much out of the food container as you will feed in the next two or three days. This is very important.