Starting a Guppy Fish Tank – Tips & Tricks

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Guppies are spectacular fish that deserve to be displayed in spectacularly looking aquariums, with ideal water conditions and ideal tank mates.

If you’re looking for guppy fish tank ideas, in this article I’ll discuss some ideas and tips you can adopt or adapt for your guppy aquarium.

I’ll discuss some of the essential things a guppy fish tank should include, some aquascape ideas that will make your aquarium stand out, and some of the don’ts and mistakes beginners make when setting up an aquarium for their guppy fish.

Guppy Fish Tank Must-Haves

Before you can go on to create incredible aquascapes, you must have a sound understanding of the basics that go into setting up a guppy aquarium.

Without going into too much detail, here are a few guppy fish tank prerequisites that every guppy owner should know:

1. Tank Size

You’ve probably seen this number thrown around in every guppy aquarium set-up guide: 10 gallons minimum.

And while there’s truth to it that you shouldn’t keep your guppies in smaller tanks, once you put all the equipment in and your substrate, the holding capacity of your aquarium will be diminished.

I recommend going for a larger-sized aquarium if you’re planning on housing multiple guppies (and you should since they’re sociable fish that prefer the company of their kind or other fish).

You should also consider the fact that guppies breed and give birth to multiple fry at once, which may make you want to upgrade to a bigger tank.

2. Nitrogen Cycle

The next thing you should carefully address in your process of setting up a guppy aquarium is the nitrogen cycle. For this process, only use dechlorinated water and make sure you understand why the nitrogen cycle is important.

Without the nitrogen cycle, there won’t be any bacterial colonies in your aquarium that could break down harmful toxins like ammonia and nitrites, both of which are fatal to your fish.

The nitrogen cycle takes time to complete and it simply involves adding small amounts of flake foods until bacteria start developing and transforming into a colony of bacteria useful in keeping toxins in check.

For this process, you’ll need to invest in an aquarium testing kit that measures ammonia, nitrites, pH, and other water parameters.

Once ammonia and nitrite levels are 0 ppm, you’ll know the nitrogen cycle is complete and you can start adding fish into your aquarium but be prepared that it will take a couple of weeks.

3. Filtration

Filtration is another extremely important aspect of setting up a fish tank. Filters help keep the water free of dirt, debris and it’s a good site for healthy bacterial colonies to form.

If you’re a beginner, a filter is an absolute must-have. A hang-on-back filter is enough for a guppy fish tank and it will help a lot in keeping your water clean.

4. Heater

Guppy fish are native to tropical waters and require stable temperatures throughout the year. If temperatures in your area aren’t characterized by this, you’ll require a heater to keep your guppies safe and comfortable.

When choosing a heater, you should find a heater that can heat up the water volume in your tank. A good rule to follow is the 5 W per gallon.

5. Live Plants

Adding live plants into the aquarium will help naturally speed up the nitrogen cycle, will act as a natural filter as they’ll feed on toxins in the water and offer cover and sustenance for your guppies.

Not to mention that plants can be used in various creative ways to create beautiful aquascapes that will make your aquarium stand out.

6. Lights

Guppies don’t necessarily require artificial lights, but most live plants do. If you have plants that require light and your raising fry, artificial lights can help both grow faster and develop more beautifully.

Remember that artificial lights should follow the same schedule as natural light, with special attention to the fact that guppies too need to rest during the night, and they can’t do so if the lights are turned on.

7. Substrate

Guppy fish aren’t fussy about their substrate, but live plants are. An all-in-one substrate can go a long way in keeping your plants healthy and stimulate their growth.

When it comes to substrate and plants, there are many options that you can choose to create beautiful aquascapes for you and your guppy to enjoy.

Creating Beautiful Guppy Aquascapes

Now that you know the basics of setting up an aquarium, you can think about ways to make your aquarium stand out.

Here are some tips to consider:

1.  Live Plant Ideas

Guppies love having plants in their aquarium and many other freshwater fish do. You can create an amazing tank that features multiple plants including:

  • Java moss: a low-light plant that doesn’t require too much care, java moss grows easily and constantly once it attaches itself to the substrate;
  • Hornwort: anchor them in the substrate or let them float freely, these plants are easy-going and widely available;
  • Amazon sword plant: its wide and long leaves are great if you want to hide aquarium equipment, plus it offers cover for fry or expectant guppies;
  • Rotala Rotundifolia: If you want something more special, this plant has interesting leaves that can become reddish if the plant receives enough light; a compact and bushy plant that’s relatively undemanding;
  • Moneywort: with thickly packed, rounded leaves, this plant can be an interesting twist on your aquascaping;
  • Cryptocoryne Wendtii: a slow-growing plant that doesn’t require much in the way of maintenance.

These are just a few examples of plants that you can keep with your guppies, there are many other plants that you can choose, but these are some of the less maintenance-reliant plants.

2.  Substrate Ideas

The substrate can be an interesting thing to play with in your aquarium, but since plants are reliant on a substrate that can either draw nutrients from the water or comes pre-loaded with nutrients, your choices may be a bit limited.

Below is a quick overview of my favorite types of substrate:

  • Complete substrates (e.g. ADA aqua soil or CaribSea Eco-Complete) are all-in-one substrates that are essential for rooted plants. They tend to cause ammonia spikes so make sure to add them at the beginning of the nitrogen cycle;
  • Flourite black substrates (e.g. Seachem Flourite) are great if you want to create contrasts in your aquarium, plus they last for the entire lifetime of the aquarium;
  • Multi-layer substrates: you can play around with substrates to create a layered substrate that can add color and can serve as a good base for your plants too.

Whichever substrate you choose, make sure it’s good for the type of plants you intend to keep in your aquarium.

3.  Decoration Ideas

As far as decorations go, there are multiple ways you can add a wow effect to your guppy tank, the sky’s the limit.

Here are some ideas you can use to add an interesting twist on your aquarium:

  • Driftwood: driftwood is widely available in pet stores and you can use different shapes and lengths to create interesting aquascapes;
  • Dragon stone: I like dragon stone for its rusty colors and rugged texture and goes quite well with Rotala Rotundifolia and dwarf anubias plants;
  • Other stones, rocks and decorations that are fish friendly.

These are just some ideas you can pick up to start your own aquascaping journey but be sure to check out some of the things you shouldn’t do.

Don’ts of Guppy Aquascaping – Here’s What to Avoid

It’s easy to get carried away when putting together an aquarium but bear in mind that less is sometimes more and simple things can be impressive as well.

Here are some of the mistakes you should avoid when setting up a guppy aquarium:

1.  Overcrowding the tank

Just as you shouldn’t overcrowd an aquarium with too many fish, you also shouldn’t add too many decorations.

Remember, anything that goes into the aquarium means less water volume and less swimming space for your guppies.

Therefore, leave enough open swimming space for your guppies. These are active fish that need enough space for swimming.

2.  Adding dangerous materials

Materials that leach into the water (painted plastics, painted ceramics, copper, concrete, etc.) have no business being in an aquarium.

Likewise, anything with sharp edges (glass, ceramics, etc.) that could harm or injure your fish should also be kept away from an aquarium.

Coins, rocks and wood that haven’t been pretreated should not be placed into an aquarium.

3.  Skipping on maintenance

When picking out the gravel and live plants, consider the maintenance requirements of each. How easy is it to clean the substrate? Can you do it? Are your plants in need of pruning and trimming? How often and are you up for it?


There are many things to consider when putting together an aquarium. Sometimes keeping things simple is the best, but that doesn’t mean your aquarium must be boring.

I hope the tips and tank ideas I discussed in this article will help you experiment and come up with other ideas that can work for your guppy fish tank.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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