Guppy Fish Tanks: How To Set Up Your First Stunning Guppy Tank

How To Start A Guppy Fish Tanks

How cute are little guppies with their stunning long tails and their sociable little attitudes?

They have been a firm favorite of mine since I started one of my first guppy fish tanks. They are perfect for someone who is new to the fish keeping hobby.

The problem that a lot of new fish keepers face is that they don’t really understand how to set up the tank for their new pets. Starting an aquarium can be an expensive venture and quite tricky at the beginning but it is so worth it in my opinion.

Before you run out and buy your guppies there are some things you should consider before you start your fish keeping journey.

By taking the time to learn how to set your tank up properly you can start to enjoy the fish hobby.

Instead of worrying if your fish will be alive in the morning.

In today’s post, I am going to share with you my top tips when setting up your first of hopefully many guppy fish tanks.

Guppies 101: What You Need To Know If You Don’t Want To Kill Them!

Ok, am I being a bit drastic here?


Fish are very sensitive when it comes to their environment.

Guppy Fish Tanks: Swimming blue guppy, tropical fish pet

One slight change and you could cause a major disaster. By taking the time to learn about these amazing little creatures you can learn the correct way to take care of your new pets.

And you will be able to give them a pleasant and comfortable home.

That is what we all want for our little guppies, right?

Where Do Guppies Originate From?

Guppies come from warmer climates in the wild.

Guppies (Poecilia reticulata) are normally found in the rivers and lakes in South America. There are around 300 different species of guppies and they are spread over Barbados, Brazil, Guyana, Netherlands Antilles, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.

These are very hot climates!

Guppies can be found in Barbados

So the first thing to think about is how will you heat the water to the correct temperature and keep it consistent. All fish need a stable and consistent environment.

Is Your Guppy Male Or Female?

A male guppy is normally the more colorful and they have a lovely fancy tail. The real distinguishing feature though is the anal fin known as a gonopodium. This is stick like in appearance and is only found amongst on a male guppy.

Male Guppies Have A Gonopodium

During breeding, the male will insert this into the female and release sperm.

Females tend to be less colorful and have a shorter tail. Their anal fin is much more triangular.

In your tank, you want to keep more females than males. Males have a tendency to harass females so if the males are outnumbered then there is enough love to go around.

If you would like to raise guppies then starting off with 2 females to one male is a good ratio.

Beware you will be raising guppies quite a lot.

Guppies are livebearers meaning they retain the eggs of their young inside them. When it is time to give birth you will see tiny little babies swimming around in your tank.

They are fragile though. You need to keep in mind that they may become food.

If you have no plans on breeding guppies I would suggest you just keep same-sex groups.

Guppies are breeding machines.

If you just want a show tank then a same-sex group is a much better option.

Water Quality

Guppies are pretty hardy to some degree but you should strive to give them the best in regards to water quality. These fish actually prefer harder water, so adding minerals to the water will keep your tank parameters perfect for these little dudes.

For the PH you want your water to be a little higher for guppies. I would aim around 7.2 to 7.5.

The thing with PH is stability.

It is pointless trying to chase PH. This will drive you insane.If your PH is fairly constant then your fish should be ok!

Now guppies come from a warmer climate like we mentioned before, so you will need to heat their water.

They despise cooler temperatures. I would set your heater between 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your new fish start to die you should check your water quality first.

In fact, I would suggest testing your water consistently to make sure the levels are pretty constant.

It also means you can react if you see a dangerous spike in any of the parameters.

Best Tank Size For A Guppy Fish Tank

The reason I would recommend guppies to new fish keepers is that you do not need a large tank. You can start with a tank as small as 10 gallons for your new guppies.

In the hobby, you will hear the rule of 1 gallon per inch of fish.

This would be ok for a more experienced keeper but for a new fish keeper, I would say 1 gallon per two inches of fish.

So for a guppy tank, I would put no more than 3 guppies in a 10 gallon.

As you add more fish you need to feed more.

That means you need to pay more attention to the water parameters and also to the cleanliness of your aquarium. This is especially true in smaller tanks. It is actually harder to keep the environment stable in small tanks.

Your water can change so quickly meaning a safe environment can quickly change.

Guppies are social creatures and they thrive when there is more than one. To keep them happy you should always keep a minimum of 3 guppies per tank.

They will even get to know you as their owner. Fair enough you are their source of food but they will greet you when you come near the tank.

Image Of A Beautiful Fish Tank

What Fish Can You Keep With Guppies

A lot of people like to mix and match fish. If you are not sure what will work well together you could end up with a guppy murderer.

Most people seem to think goldfish are a good mix. This is one combo I would not recommend. Check out my article on this topic here.

For guppies, you want a placid type of fish like a less aggressive type of tetra. Cardinals and Neon Tetras are great tank mates for guppies. Just remember tetras are schooling fish, meaning you will need to keep a minimum of 5 tetras.

Make sure your tank can hold that and your guppies.

There are some fish you should never attempt to keep with guppies. These are Red tail sharks, barbs and aggressive types of tetras.

These like to nibble on guppy fins.

If you have a large tank with larger species of fish then it is imperative that you know their temperament. If they are aggressive their next meal will be a guppy. If they are a lot bigger their next meal could be a guppy.

Do your homework before you add guppies in with other fish. To start with neon tetras are a good mix.

Do Not Add Guppies To Your Tank Straight Away

This goes for keeping any fish really not just guppies.

When you first set up a new tank your water will not be fish safe. So if you add fish at this stage they probably won’t survive. If it is a hardy fish they might push through but in general, most won’t.

Your job when you first set up your tank is to make sure that the water quality is good.

You do this by cycling your tank.

Before you add fish your water has no bacteria that can help convert the water to fish safe.

When you add your guppies they will be fine until they start producing waste.

In the wild, there is a much larger amount of water, so this isn’t really an issue. In a tank, however, your fish will swim in their own waste.

If your tank doesn’t have good bacteria to convert ammonia to nitrites and then nitrites into nitrates your fish will die. Ammonia and nitrites are very dangerous to fish.

Adding something like SeaChem’s Stability will help you build up the good bacteria before you add fish to your tank.

I would recommend adding stability for about a week before you add any guppies to your new tank.

My Best Guppy Fish Tanks For New Fish Keepers

You now know a little background on these beautiful little fish let’s dive into finding the perfect guppy fish tank. A fish that is happy in its surroundings is a much healthier and happier fish to watch.

Earlier in this article, we learned that the best tank size for guppies was 10 gallons or more.

When it comes to tank size bigger is normally better!

If you can afford a 15 to 20 gallon I would suggest it over a smaller one. Keeping the water parameters just right can be a bit of a pain in a smaller guppy fish tank.

Some people may choose to keep guppies because they want one of the retro-looking fish tanks. These cool shaped tanks usually are less than 10 gallons. Just stay away from bowl shapes.

Just remember that these little fish are social creatures so I wouldn’t recommend a smaller group than three.

If you do have the funds to buy a larger aquarium you will need to be careful that you don’t overcrowd. This can lead to the death of your fish due to increased oxygen requirements.

Here are my tank recommendations, I have given you a small, a medium and a large option:

All Glass Aquarium AAG09009 Tank and Eco Hood Combo, 10-Gallon

This is a great tank to get you started with keeping guppies. It is an all glass aquarium that comes with a sleek black hood. It also has classy black trims to give it that extra pop.

With this one, you do not need to worry about buying a light as it comes with a light in the hood. You will need to buy bulbs for the light fitting but they can be sourced from any fish or pet store.

It’s just a fluorescent tube bulb you need!

It is very adjustable as it has breakaway sections on the hood. This means that your filter and heater will fit neatly with this tank.

Fluval Flex Nano Aquarium – 15 Gallon

Next, we move up the ladder to a 15 gallon from a class aquarium brand. We have the Fluval Flex 57 15 gallon tank. This is perfect for a small group of guppies.

It is made from strong glass that has a slight bevel for an optimal viewing experience.

This is a great kit and comes with a 3 stage filtration filter. Fluval are a premium brand so even their low spec filters do a pretty good job of keeping your water in good condition.

Unlike the last tank your light this time is LED. You can plug this one in straight away though as it has everything you need for the light to work.

The downside with this one is that there is holes to attach filters and tubes. If you are not using them you will want to buy the covers as these aren’t supplied. Without them, you may find small fish escaping out them.

SeaClear 50 gal Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set

We are going up to the bigger aquariums now. The next one is from SeaClear another great brand. The SeaClear 50 Gallon Acrylic Aquarium is a great tank for beginners or advanced.

It is made from a durable acrylic which takes away the fear that something might smash the tank. The acrylic is super clear too.

Remember it might not shatter as easily as glass but it can still scratch. Just be careful when cleaning algae.

With this kit you have the sleek black trims and hood. The hood also comes with a fluorescent light fixture too.

Like the above, no light bulb is supplied.

The good thing about choosing a bigger tank is the possibilities. This could easily house a school of tetras, as well as your guppies. Schooling tetras are so fun to watch.

If you choose this one all you will need is a bulb, filter and heater and the decor you choose.

Do You Need A Filter For A Guppy Aquarium?

I want to get straight to the point on this one!

All fish need an aquarium filter.

Regardless of the type of fish!

Your filter is the home of the good bacteria that keeps your water in tip-top condition. Without this colony of good bacteria, your tanks water is at risk of an ammonia spike.

This can be deadly for fish!

All tanks have some sort of waste whether it be fish excrement or food waste.

When left in the water ammonia is released. This is very toxic to fish and in large volumes can severely reduce oxygen levels.

Your filter will take the water and waste and run it through the filter media you have.

Your water treatment center if you like.

The result is safer water for your fish.

This does not eradicate the need for water changes but if you didn’t have a filter you would have to do a change one to two times a day.

Especially in a smaller tank!

If you have chosen a smaller tank then swim space needs to be considered.

You already have reduced the swim space for your fish by adding a filter, heater and whatever else you put in the tank.

For this reason, I would suggest a hang on back filter or a canister filter. This will give the fish more room to enjoy in their tank.

Below I have listed three filters that I would recommend. Remember to choose one that can filter your tanks volume at least four to five times an hour.

You can never over filter your tank so choosing more than you need isn’t a bad idea.

Here are my filter recommendations for your new guppy fish tank:

The AquaClear Power Filter Range

This is definitely one of my favorite brands when it comes to a hang on back filter. The AquaClear 70 is great for tanks up to 70 gallons.

The good thing is you can’t really over filter your tank so if the 70 is too powerful you don’t need to worry it will be a good thing.

Hang on backs do as they say. They sit on the back.

If you have a small tank this will be perfect as your tank will not lose as much space. If you add an internal filter your little guppies will lose precious swim space.

Now other brands of hob filters encourage you to use filter cartridges but the AquaClear allows you to add media this means you can make it more efficient. The media it comes with will do the trick but the option is there if you want to try something else.

As far as HOB filters go this is very quiet. The only noise you will have to worry about is the trickling water.

I find this quite relaxing though!

You can see my review here!

Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filters

Now we have a cheaper brand model for you but it will still keep any tank below 20 gallons in good condition.

I am talking about the Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filter Range. 

Everything comes with this filter so you can add the pads and you are good to go.

If you are forgetful like me you have a flashing LED light. When this illuminates you know it is time to replace the cartridges. Would be good if there was an alarm too.

Now this will take up swim space as it sits in the tank.

If you have a small tank you need to consider this.

If you are worried about noise then you don’t need to worry about this one. As it sits in the tank noise and leaks are a thing of the past.

Eheim Classic Canister Filter Range

Time to play with the big boys as I show you the Eheim Classic Canister filter. These are pricier than the other models but in my eyes are the best filtration.

A canister filter does not take any swimming space. It sits outside the tank with two tubes doing the work. If it doesn’t fit with your decor hide it out the road.

That is a great thing about canister filters, they can be hidden.

Now inside that big canister is where you add your filter media. This holds a lot more media than any HOB or internal filter. That means you will get superior filtration in comparison.

If you choose this model you will get everything you need. The media that comes with the Classic range is a premium type but you can change to whatever you like.

When it comes to noise the Eheim Classic 250 is super quiet. Even the water trickling will be quieter than a HOB.

You can see my review here!

What Is The Best Heater For Your Guppy Aquarium: What Temperature Is Best?

There is one more really important piece of equipment that your new little fish friends require.

Where do guppies come from?

Can you remember?

South America!

That means they are used to warm climates. If you choose to leave your tank without a heater your water will be too cold for them. Nobody likes to feel cold.

It isn’t all about comfort though!

Fish actually can’t maintain their own body temperature. The water in your aquarium has to do this for them. If the water temperature fluctuates so does the guppies body temperature.

Fish need consistent water temperatures.

A heater will constantly monitor the temperature of your tank. If it starts to change the heater will kick in before it drops, keeping the temperature consistent.

When it comes to keeping your aquarium at the optimal water temperature there is a few things to consider.

First is the temperature in your house. This will affect the temperature of the water. If you have the heating on your tank temperature will rise.

In the winter months, your tank will cool.

The next thing to consider is the size of your tank.

Heaters are rated in watts.

To successfully heat the water efficiently you will need 5 watts of power per gallon of water. Having said this, with larger tanks the water parameters do not change as much so for a 40 gallon a 100-watt heater should do just fine.

Here are my top heater recommendations for a small, medium and large tank:

Aqueon Pro Adjustable Heater 50-250 Watts

This is the more budget heater in my recommendations. If you can afford the Fluval I would go for it as you will get a much better heater and a decent warranty.

The Aqueon Pro Heater is suitable for most tanks. Just choose the right wattage. 5 watts per gallon of water. This heater ranges from 50 watts (perfect for a small tank) right up to 250 watts.

You can set the heater from 68 degrees Fahrenheit to 88 degrees Fahrenheit. This means it should be able to keep the temperature consistent for guppies.

Now you don’t want your fish to boil. This heater has an auto shut off, so you don’t need to worry about boiled guppies. If it gets too cold it will reset.

There is an LED light that is always on. It shows red when the heater is heating and green when it is not. If you see the red light do not worry it is doing its thang!

To attach to your tank you use the suction pads provided!

So it literally is plug and play!

Eheim Jager Submersible Aquarium Heater

We go back to Eheim for their Jager Submersible Heater. If you are looking for a

more superior brand that is still cost effective then this is it.

It is made from top quality material, so you don’t have to worry about the heater shattering in your tank.

It comes with a  Thermo Safety Control, this will switch the heater off to protect the heater running dry. TruTemp dial recalibrates the heater for precise temperature regulation

Perfect for keeping a consistent temperature.

People have said that it can be a bit slow to start up but this is to stop the heater cooking the fish. Once you get it up and going it will not switch on much as it does a good job of regulating the temperature.

Fluval E Advanced Aquarium Heater

Once again we return to Fluval for the last heater recommendation. They are a bit pricier than the others but the quality is far superior. The Fluval E Advanced Submersible Heater.

is perfect for small tanks and large tanks, the power goes from 100 watts to 300 watts.

The heater is fitted with dual temperature sensors that provide accurate water temperatures.

You will always know how well the heater is performing.

If Fahrenheit is not for you then you can switch the LC to display Celsius.

It will heat up your water quickly but will shut it off when it reaches the temperature that you have set. It has an integrated fish guard, this means it will shut off to stop the heater cooking your guppies.

Like most heaters, it comes with everything you need including suction pads to fit the heater to the tank.

Lighting That Bad Boy Up: Does Aquarium Lighting Really Matter?

This is pretty much all you need to keep your new guppies happy and safe. The rest of the equipment is more for aesthetics and the design of your guppy fish tank. Let’s start off with lighting.

Do the guppies actually care if you have a light or not?

Not really.

A light is really more for our benefit. It lets us see our tank in all its glory. Daylight will be more than sufficient for the actual fish.

The purpose of light in the tank is to slow the fish down so they can rest. In the dark guppies will rest and recover after a hard day. Their little bodies need time to heal and recover from the stresses of being a fish.

To ensure that they are getting enough rest I would encourage you to let them get 8- 10 hours of darkness. It is up to you to control this for them, you don’t want to mess with their circadian rhythm.

I would suggest that you set a timer to alert you when to switch on and when to switch off.

Remember I said fish need consistency this goes for lighting too.

Aquascaping Your Guppy’s Environment

When it comes to aquascaping your new guppy fish tank the choice is yours.

The fish do not require anything. Most new fish keepers think that it is cruel to leave their tanks bare though and fill their tank with ornaments and bright colored gravel.

The more things you add to the tank the less space your fish have. if you have a small tank keep decor to a minimum or consider a larger tank!

The first thing you need to do is consider what is the best substrate for your tank. You can use gravel, sand or keep it substrate-less.

Gravel is the worse choice in my opinion as it is so easy for food and dirt to get trapped. This means you that you will have to be super vigilant with your maintenance.

Trapped food and dirt can increase that toxic ammonia.

Sand is a better choice if you really need something on the floor of your tank.

In my opinion, though substrateless is much more hygienic. You can see what dirt is left in the tank and remove it with a siphon.

This lowers the risk of an ammonia spike.

If your plan is to keep live plants you may have to give more thought to the substrate. Some plants need to root into the substrate. Best to do your homework and research the plant first.

On the topic of plants, are they safe for guppies?

Yes, some varieties are.

I would suggest Java Fern and Java Moss if you are a beginner. These plants are by far the easiest to care for. You can allow them to float freely or you can attach them to rock.

Before you buy any plant always check first that it is safe for the fish in your tank.

Lastly the actual ornaments!

This totally depends on the feel you are going for. In my opinion rocks and branches look the best as it looks natural. If you use real wood branches remember to treat it before you add it to your tank.

Some can cause your water to go a brown color.

Whatever you decide to add just make sure that it is fish safe!

Are You Ready To Set Up Your First Guppy Fish Tank?

So that pretty much takes us to the end of our venture into guppy fish care.

If you follow all these steps you should have yourself a pretty awesome looking guppy fish tank. If you have the tank, filter and heater, well, you have all the basics the rest is more for our benefit than the actual guppies.

Just remember that you need to cycle your tank!

This basically means building up the good bacteria. If you just add fish straight away then there is a high risk of an ammonia spike.

This could kill your fish.

A simple cycle can be done by adding some SeaChem Stability every day for a week. Then your tank should be safe enough to add your new little guppies.

So what are you waiting for go and start your first guppy fish tank!

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