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Basic Care

Welcome to the world of Fancy Guppies. This portion of the International Fancy Guppy Association (IFGA) site is provided as help to those new to fancy guppies. It is not intended to be a complete guide to the care and propagation of Guppies. It is intended however, to give the beginner a start in the right direction. You are urged to contact either an affiliated club or an experienced breeder if you have any questions or need help. You will find that as you become involved in this hobby, there are no secrets among "Guppy People." So, if you need information, it is always available from fellow hobbyists. Through the Clubs page of this site, you will find a complete list of affiliated clubs and the point of contact for each club.

CONGRATULATIONS! if you are reading this because you are thinking about breeding FANCY GUPPIES. You are sure to enjoy the hobby and the experience. Hopefully, you have researched the wide variety of color strains that are available and have contacted a reputable breeder for breeding stock. Do not make the mistake that most beginners make. You go to a breeder and see many beautiful strains that you would like to keep and purchase several strains.


The number of strains that you can keep is determined by your tank space. Though you can maintain a strain with just a few tanks, it typically requires 8 to 10 tanks to maintain a line of quality fish. Don't take home more strains than you can handle. It is best to start with one good strain. Get experience and if possible, expand and enjoy yourself. Start with the best breeding stock you can find from a proven IFGA Breeder. Do not accept the term "IFGA Quality" as this is frequently misused. Ask the breeder for his or her credentials and performance from IFGA shows. The fish you should be looking to purchase should be young and healthy and about 3-4 months of age. Fish at this age ship better and acclimate easier than mature fish. What's more, you will reap the benefit of having them during their peak breeding period, which runs from about three to seven months of age. The next few paragraphs will address your equipment and setup. It is very important that you prepare for the arrival of your new fish. Last minute rushing around and stop gap preparations usually lead to disappointment and failure.


Beginners in this hobby are many times discouraged when they hear about breeders with very elaborate fish rooms, with numbers approaching 200 tanks. You do not need an elaborate set-up to raise good guppies. Bare 10 gallon tanks are very practical. Five and 20 gallon tanks are also a good choice. It all depends on the room that is available. For example, some breeders use 10 gallon tanks for growing babies and 20's for show fish. Breeding trios are housed in 2 or 5 gallon tanks. In order to achieve success in raising good show guppies, one needs to have a minimum of 8 to 10 tanks per strain. In order to accomplish this you will have to do some serious culling. Just think... each female drops 30 to 50 babies every 28 to 30 days. If you kept all of these offspring and the numbers of fish grows geometrically, soon enough 200 tanks would not be enough.



One should use filters that are inexpensive and easy to clean. The two types that are popular among breeders are box filters and sponge filters. Box filters are better mechanical filters. They should be filled with floss and use ceramic bio media, dolomite and/or marbles for weight. The sponge filter is easyt to maintain and is one of the favorites among breeders. It is a simple filter made of sponge with an air lift tube. All you do to clean it is to squeeze the sponge in warm water once a week. The sponge holds millions of bacterial organisms that help clean and purify the water. Either type of filter should be cleaned at least every other week.

Air Pumps

The amount of air you need will depend on the number of tanks in your set-up. A good energy efficient pump should be used whenever possible with the size being appropriate for the number of filters and tanks used. The most efficient way to supply air to your tanks is to run PVC piping with branches off to each tank through flexible airline tubing. This type of system is easy to install and you can probably use a smaller pump than if you run all of your air through flexible tubing. 


If you have a lot of tanks, it's best to use four foot fluorescent ceiling lights, rather than trying to light each tank individually with more expensive hoods. The lights should be kept on for 10-14 hours per day. Direct lighing over every tank typically causes algae problems. Lights should be set to go on one hour before the first feeding and off one hour after the past feeding.


Good, clean water is the most important element for growing large guppies with long, flowing fins. Call your local water company to find out if chloramine (combination of chlorine and ammonia) is being added to the water. If it is, it will have to be treated, because it is lethal to tropical fish. If chloramine is present in your water, it is easy to remedy. Use one of the commercial products with sodium thiosulfate and treat as per directions. This chemical will separate the chlorine from the ammonia and eliminate it leaving the ammonia. The ammonia can then be removed by running a box filter with ammo-chips in your water holding vessel. If you just have chlorine in your water, you can age it for about 24 hours with aeration. A simple test kit is very useful to monitor this procedure.

Understanding the nitrogen cycle is very important in guppy breeding and raising show fish. Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are all dangerous and harmful to guppies. 95% of all problems experienced by guppy breeders are directly related to water quality. 


Hardness and pH are not critical as long as they do not suddenly vary over a wide range. Hardness in tap water ranges from 20-800 ppm (total hardness) depending on the origin of the water supply. Guppies seem to do better if the water is on the hard side. With regard to pH, guppies can handle anything from 6.5 - 7.8 (7.0 is ideal). Ammonia, the number one fish killer, is caused by overcrowding, overfeeding, poor water conditions or lack of oxygen in the water. It is especially important to monitor the ammonia level in new setups. The "good" (nitrifying) bacteria that will eliminate ammonia, will take from 2 to 3 weeks to develop. If you find ammonia present, do water changes with your seasoned water as required. Usually about 20 to 30 percent will suffice. Another option is to run a box filter with ammo-chips in the affected tank. Remember, try to avoid sudden changes in pH and hardness. Guppies can acclimate to a wide variety of changes, if they are done slowly. It is very important to acclimate the fish slowly to your water to avoid shock. If you don't, death or disease is certain to follow.

Water Changes

Water changes make or break good show fish. The removal of uneaten food and fish waste is an important aspect in the growth cycle. Siphoning is a typical method for removing waste from the tanks. Water changes are necessary in raising show fish. The percentage of water to be changed weekly can be affected by a number of things such as feeding and number of fish and size of fish per tank. Some breeders change 30-40 percent of the tank water weekly and some breeders have automatic systems that do daily water changes. Water changes are necessary to maintain high water quality.


Guppies like their tank water to be between 75-82 degrees F. Temperature affects the growth rate in guppies. These temperatures can be maintained with individual tank heaters or by heating the room the tsnks are in . If a large number of tanks are being used, it is more efficient and economical method to heat the room rather than each individual tank. Individual heaters are expensive and can be expensive to run.

Feeding Your Guppies

Birth- 6 Weeks: Baby guppies should receive a steady diet of newly hatched brine shrimp. It is also a good idea to put a tablespoon of non-iodized salt in the tank, for each 5 gallons of water. This acts as a tonic for the fish and will also keep the brine shrimp alive longer. After the first two days you can begin adding some dry food to their diet. Any good quality flake food is acceptable. This should be as fine a consistency as you can get. There are a number of commercial products of very small sizes available on the market from which to choose.

6 Weeks-Adult: Proper feeding and a balanced diet is another key to success in raising good fish. If you feed poorly, you will not achieve your goal of raising good show fish. A balanced diet must be offered in order to meet all the nutritional needs of the fish. The most important time in a show guppy's life is it's first 3 months. Feeding improperly at this time will greatly affect the fish's growth. Feed sparingly, but often. As many as 6-8 times a day. A variety of dry and live foods must be fed in order to provide the essential elements necessary for a good diet. Meat, fish, vegetables and cereal provide vitamins, minerals and high amounts of protein that are needed in a complete and balanced diet. Make sure you look for good foods and don't try to skimp on the price. Foods that contain fish, shrimp, or meat meal are excellent sources of protein. Spirulina, algae or spinach will give your pets the vegetable protein they need. Two of the most valuable foods available to the hobbyist are baby brine shrimp and micro worms. A typical feeding program might have baby brine as the first meal, a variety of dry foods fed during the day and a final meal of baby brine or micro worms before bed time.

Hatching brine shrimp eggs can be accomplished in several ways. You can use gallon jars or inverted two liter plastic soda bottles with the bottom cut out. Both can work just fine. . .your choice will depend on the number of fish you have to feed. Or there are several commercial hatchers available. As for hatching the eggs, follow the label instructions for each brand, experimenting with different amounts of salt and eggs. One method that works is to use a teaspoon (or amount required) of eggs in a solution of two tablespoons of kosher salt in two liters of water. Keep the hatching solution at 80 degrees with strong aeration, and in 24-36 hours you should have a hatch. Don't use an air stone because the tiny bubbles will throw the eggs out of the water only to dry on the sides of the bottle. At this point, shut off the air and wait about 15 minutes. This causes the empty shells to float to the top of the container, while the live shrimp collects hear the bottom. Placing a light near the bottom will assure that all shrimp collect there. Use a length of rigid plastic tubing attached to air-line tubing to reach down to the bottom of the container where the shrimps collect. From this point you siphon the shrimp through a brine shrimp net, rinse with fresh water and feed to your fish. If you are feeding a number of tanks, put the shrimp into a container of fresh water. You can now feed with an oven baster, ear syringe or spoon.

Micro worms are another good food you can raise and feed, but they must be obtained from someone who has a culture or through a mail order fish food company. They breed very easily in a mixture of cooked oatmeal, with a pinch of baker's yeast. You start with plastic shoe boxes with a thick paste oatmeal in the center. Sprinkle a little yeast on top of the oatmeal. Then you inoculate with some worms, and within a few days they should start to crawl up the sides. A spatula can be used to scrape the worms from the side of the box. Remember to start with a new culture every two to three weeks (or sooner, if the culture turns and starts to smell) as a replacement for the old culture.

Try to keep your feeding schedule to a number of small meals each day (two of these meals should be live or frozen foods). Do not overfeed and keep the tank bottom free of uneaten food. Many breeders keep small catfish (Corydoras) in their tanks to clean up uneaten food. Some people think that these catfish eat baby fish. If you are unsure in your own mind, wait until the fry have grown a little (two or three weeks) before introducing the catfish. In the end all the effort will pay off!


If you keep your water clean and do not overcrowd your fish, disease will not be a problem. The most common ailments and their treatment are listed below.

WHITE SPOT (Ich, ichthyophthirius) is caused by environmental stress and/or cold water. It can also be caused by sudden changes in water temperature. It is a parasite resembling a grain of salt that feeds on the tissue of the fish causing irritation. It spreads through the skin and fins and will eventually kill the fish if left untreated. The mature parasite cannot be killed, nor can its eggs. It can only be destroyed in its free swimming stage after the spot falls off and the eggs hatch. This can take from 1-4 days. This is why it is important to continue to medicate for at least 3-5 days after the spots are gone. Add 1-2 drops of formalin or copper sulfate to the tank water and raise the temperature to 82 degrees (use formalin with great care as it is a cancer causing agent).

VELVET (Oodinium) is similar to ich but it is much smaller and has a golden color to it. As above, the fish will eventually die if untreated. Use the same treatment as for ich.

PROTOZOAN FIN ROT is the reason for death in most imported guppies. It eats away at the fins and in no time causes death. Caudals turn gray and will eventually fall off it not treated. An effective way to quickly combat this problem is to combine formalin (1-2 drops), sulfa (1 capsule per 10 gallons) and salt (one handful per 10 gallons) and treat the fish for at least a whole week, making 10% water changes daily. Remember to replace medications daily. Antibacterials such as nitrofurazone and tetracycline, when used for 7 days, work well also.


FUNGUS is grayish white patches on the body or fins. It too, can easily kill a fish. Treat with nitrofurazone (250 mg. per 10 gallons) for 7 days. Any similar antibacterial will also do the job.

As you can see, you don't need a full medicine cabinet to treat the common diseases of the guppy. If you keep formalin, sulfa, nitrofurazone, tetracycline and salt in the fish room, you should be ready for all but the most exotic diseases.


We hope that this beginners guide will help to get you started on the right foot in our hobby. It is to your advantage to become a member of the IFGA and put into practice all of the techniques that have been mentioned in this section. In addition, try to join one of the sanctioned clubs. You will find that the interaction with other guppy enthusiasts will make this a more rewarding hobby. If you have any further questions or problems, contact one of the IFGA Officers or one of the club contacts of an IFGA Sanctioned Club. All of this info can be found through by following the links at the top of this page.

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