Guppies (Poecilia reticulata) belong to the family Poeciliidae which are “toothed carps” or sometimes just referred to as the “livebearer” family. The origin of Poecilia is Greek, meaning many colors; this makes sense when you see the wide variety of color forms these two inch long fish can display. The name guppy comes from a British naturalist named Lechmere Guppy who sent fish back to England from Trinidad. The common aquarium varieties range from black to “tequilla sunrise” or “green cobra” and a cornucopia of colors in between. The original wild guppies were much more drab, with females being almost colorless and translucent and males displaying a wide variety of randomized color.
Guppies are originally from South America and parts of the Caribbean. Their hardiness and popularity within aquaria has spread them all over the world. Guppies have been introduced in some areas as mosquito control, but those efforts have negatively affected native fish around the world, while doing little to control the disease carrying mosquito. Now, whether by uninformed pet owners, honest mistakes or misguided mosquito control efforts, guppies have been found on every continent except Antarctica. There are even guppies living in hot springs in Canada! Let this be a reminder to never release an aquarium fish into the wild.
Despite their hardiness, and ability to tolerate new environments such as brackish (a mixture of salt & fresh water) guppies do tend to come from smaller, calmer bodies of water and like dense vegetation. They are are small and incredibly hardy so their aquarium requirements are minimal. A pair of guppies could be kept in tanks even smaller than our ten gallons minimum recommendation given proper heating, and filtration of the water. Why we recommend a ten gallon aquarium or larger is because guppies will rapidly reproduce and fill any size aquarium with lots of motion and color. Live plants can be beneficial to act as hiding spots for the smaller babies, and the adults will graze on algae that grows on delicate plant leaves. Guppies aren’t picky on water quality generally, but usually thrive in harder water. A sponge filter or sponge coverings on filter intakes will help protected the tiny babies when they are born. Tank mates should be fish too small to eat the guppies, and peaceful enough to not harass or nip at the potentially long fins of fancy guppies.
Guppies are small and so food needs to be appropriately sized. They eat small insects and other invertebrates in the wild, and graze slightly on algae. A well rounded flake or small pellet is likely the best daily food for guppies with some live or frozen aquarium food like bloodworms or daphnia added for treats.
Guppies are the easiest of all aquarium fish to breed, and if you ask anyone who has been in the aquarium hobby what one of their earliest memories are, they will probably respond with “When my guppies first had babies!” Healthy guppies provided with good food & water quality will reproduce rapidly to form a large colony. Some people enjoy trying to make their own varieties of guppy by removing fish who’s color they don’t like from the colony until they have isolated a really desirable strain. Guppies are sexually dimorphic meaning that males and females look different. Females are generally a drab gray/clear color and you can frequently see the babies developing inside of the mother! Males are smaller, brightly colored, and have a “gonopodium” which is a specialized anal fin designed for reproduction. Guppies are born live, and few things are more exciting for children and adults like than watching the tiny replicas of the adults swimming around!
Guppies are hardy enough to live in a small aquarium with simple filtration, active & colorful enough to provide interest when watching your aquarium, and the ease of breeding them makes fun projects for aquarists of all ages and skill levels. Talk to your local fish store about our variety of different guppies available today!