Are Guppies Tropical Fish?

Guppy fish

If you have an aquarium, chances are that you know what "guppies" are. If you don't, it is probable than you might not know them by name, but you'll recognize the fish as familiar when you see them.

Guppies are one of the most common aquarium fish for first time aquarists as well as more experienced ones. They are highly sociable and peaceful, making them an interesting addition to any aquarium.

So are guppies tropical fish? Yes they are, however they have successfully evolved to become native to non-tropical environments. I have found this to be quite fascinating and so have researched this subject.

Guppies are considered to be easy to take care of and maintain, but how have they become so common? The truth is that it is not only about the easiness of maintenance of guppies.

If you're investigating guppies, you might ask yourself, if guppies are so common around the world, should we still consider guppies as tropical fish? Where do they come from?

The answer to the last question might be a bit controversial. The areas that are the natural range of this family of fish are the northeast regions of South America, especially Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Brazil, Guyana, Jamaica, and Venezuela, among others.

However, because guppies have been introduced to several different habitats around the world, they successfully adapted to several and varied ecosystems and ecological conditions. They are present on all continents except for Antartica.

The Latin name for guppies is Poecilia reticulata. Not only are they are widely distributed in nature, but they are also incredibly popular in freshwater aquariums.

Why have guppies been introduced around the world?

The main reason for introducing guppies around global waters had been a means of mosquito control. However, the primary objective of their introduction failed in most of the regions.

Even if guppies were expected to eat mosquito larvae and help to reduce the spread of malaria if not contributing to its eradication, the reality of their introduction was a lot different.

What happened was that guppies negatively affected the population of native fish of the waters where they had been introduced. Interestingly, guppies are also known with the common name of "The Millions Fish" because of their fast breeding rate. Strange to think that such small and innocently looking fish are strong and avid colonizers of freshwaters.

It turns out that guppies had been able to colonize almost every freshwater body accessible to them as well as some brackish habitats. The result of this massive colonization is that today there are almost 300 different species of guppies, all differentiating in colors, sizes, tail and body shape.

This is soley the result of an astonishing adaptation to very different kinds of environments. Another common name this family of fish is known by is "Rainbow Fish", which should give you an idea of the several different combinations that differentiation resulted in.

Additionally, breeders continuously create new strains of guppies with brighter colors and different patterns are well as tails, contributing to the already pretty intensive spread of guppies around the world.

How do guppies live in the wild?

As already mentioned, guppies could colonize many freshwaters across continents. As a result of different environments and evolutionary pressures, each species have developed different characteristics, for example in terms of lifespan and maturity.

For example, guppies living in regions with higher predators concentration mature quicker and reproduce more often than those found in regions where predators are less concentrated. Some of the common predators of guppies in the wild include larger fish and birds. The coloration of guppies naturally evolved as a response to predation.

They mostly feed on algae, invertebrates, plant matters and aquatic insect larvae depending on the availability of the specific habitat.

Guppies tend to forage in a group because of the higher probability to find food when in a group. This characteristic makes this fish sociable and less aggressive than similar species.

Where does the name guppy come from?

Guppies were described for the first time in the middle of the 19th century by Wilhelm Peters who found them in Venezuela. Their common name (guppy) comes from Robert John Lechmere Guppy, a British naturalist who sent the first specimens of guppies from Trinidad to London.

Guppies: a brief description

If you've so far read this article with only a vague idea of what Guppies look like, here a short paragraph to give you a little more detail. In nature, females are typically gray while males are colored with stripes and/or spots of many different bright colors.

Furthermore, males are smaller than females and you can easily spot a female from a male by just looking at them. This is quite a unique characteristic in the fish world.

On average, males are around 1.5 inches long while females can be 2 or even 3 inches in body length.

As already mentioned, these fish come in a variety of colors. Usually, the upper part of the body and the head is paler in color than the rest of the body. The tail is generally characterized by brighter shades of colors.

Guppies come with different patterns of color and shapes of the tail. Let's look at some examples.

In terms of pattern, some families of guppies are unicolored. The majority, however, present some patterns. The most common are:

  • Cobra: this pattern consists of vertical stripes and circles around the body of the fish, similar to the patterns that can be found on the body of a cobra.

  • Tuxedo: guppies presenting this pattern are characterized by two different colors in the front and back half of their bodies, just like a tuxedo suit.

  • Snakeskin: this pattern can be described as a chain of rosettes that cover the body of the fish.

The tail can follow the same patterns as well or be "spotted" like leopard spots, mosaic-like or by small tiny dots.

Not only that, the tail, arguably the most beautiful part of guppies' bodies can also be very different from species to species. Tails can be shaped as:









We already mentioned the incredible breeding rate of guppies, but let's dig a bit deeper. Guppies are very prolific live bearers, meaning that females retain eggs inside their bodies and give birth to live free-swimming fish.

Females can have around 50 babies per month, and they become ready for conception straight after giving birth. Something to watch out if you are having guppies in your aquarium is the custom of guppies to eat their own young. Due to their high colonization rate, guppies have developed a mechanism which consists of parents eating some members of their offspring.

If you want to avoid that in your aquarium, fill the tank with many plants to allow the babies to hide or separate the offspring from the parents for a while.

Now let us look at how you should take care of guppies, in case you are interested in including this very rewarding in your aquarium!

How to take care of guppies: a brief guide

Below is a brief guide including everything you need to know when starting with guppies in your aquarium.

Guppy water temperature

As already said, guppies are originally from freshwater streams South America, meaning they prefer warmer waters of around 70 to 76 Fahrenheit in temperature. Generally, they can be considered as tropical fish, even though they have easily adapted to other environments.

What size tank do guppies need

Guppies are relatively easy to take care of. First of all, the tank needs to be correctly set up, with a proper water cycle. As guppies do not produce a lot of bio-load they do not need much space to live. Also, compared to other tropical fish, they are very small.

As a rule of thumb, many aquarists calculate that for 1-inch fish you need 1 gallon of water. Guppies are on average 1.5 inches long, meaning that you can keep 3-4 guppies in a 5 gallon water aquarium. Following this rule, you can keep 7-10 guppies in a 10 gallon aquarium.

However, by adding live plants and filtration that help eliminate the toxic waste produced by the fish, the number of fish can be increased.

Remember that filtration does not eliminate the need for changing at least 25% of the water at least once per week. The preferred pH of guppies is around 6.8 to 7.8.

Keep a balance between male and females

Not many might know that, but it is generally advised to keep a female to male ratio of 3:1. This means that you should have one male for every 3 females in your aquarium.

Not only will the chances of the reproduction increase, but it will also increase the peace inside your aquarium, as are a lot less territorial than males. Some consider a ratio of 2:1 females to males already sufficient.

Guppies should not be kept alone since they are very sociable, they should like at least in trios. To make them live happily, larger groups are preferred.

Guppies will also live peacefully with many other species in the aquarium such as Mollies, Corydoras and Gouramis.

Guppies are particularly fun to watch because they like to chase each other and are very fast swimmers. Chasing might be seen as an aggressive behavior but in reality, is pretty normal and it causes no harm.

How often should i feed my guppy

In terms of feeding, guppies are not fussy at all. Guppies will eat a variety of food. Usually, guppies will eat whatever you feed them. They are considered to be omnivorous, meaning that they eat both plant and animal matter.

If you want your guppies to stay healthy and brightly colored try to provide them with good quality fish flakes preferably high in protein (such as shrimp). They can be found in any pet store. Make sure to check the ingredients and avoid fillers such as soy which do not provide any nutritional value for your fish.

Additionally, in general, you should feed your guppies with a wide variety of food to avoid any problem with nutrition deficiency.

Flakes, veggie pellets, spirulina tablets, freeze-dried shrimps will all work more than fine for your guppies.

Another important thing regarding food is to avoid overfeeding guppies. Feeding them once per day or every two days will be enough. The most common cause of death for aquarium fish is to give them too much food since it can lead to a highly toxic ammonia spike in their bodies.

What lighting for guppy fish

Guppies don't need particular artificial lightning and as if with the food, they are not too picky. Guppies prefer light that mimics natural conditions with 12 hours of light every 24 hours.

Remember not to place your aquarium in direct sunlight since that will cause algae blooms which will be very difficult to eradicate and will most probably give you a lot of headaches.

What substrate should i choose

The easier substrate to take care of in an aquarium is sand. However, gravel, larger rocks, and crushed coral will also work fine. As a rule, there should be 1 pound of substrate per gallon of water in the aquarium.

It is advisable to include some plants and decorations because both young and old guppies enjoy hiding and swim around the decorations.

Live plants are usually better with java moss and ferns being a very good option, as these are dense and fast-growing. Artificial plants might also work well, but the sharper ones might cause injury to the fish.

How long do guppies live

Guppies tend to live around 1-3 years. Biological, this relatively short life expectancy is explained by the high rate of creating new offspring.

Despite their short life-span, guppies are a great fish to include to your aquarium, not only for their beauty and colorfulness but also because of their strong adaptability.


Guppies are beautiful, colorful, sociable and easy care fish. They not only will make your aquarium more interesting, but they are particularly appealing for first-timers and ideal for any aquarium owner since they might provide you with offspring and because they easily adapt to many different environments.

Guppies are fun to watch and very active.

All in all, it is not a surprise they have become so common around the world in both aquariums and freshwaters.