When it comes to guppy fish, lifespan is the burning question on everyone’s minds. I can tell you that guppies generally live around 1-3 years but that’s not their limit.
With proper food, good genetics, suitable water parameters, and a low-stress environment, guppies may even live up to 5 years. But the question still remains – how is guppy lifespan influenced by these factors?
Well, this is what I’ll talk about in this article. Guppies are some of the most popular aquarium fish in the world. Naturally, pet owners want to know what makes their fish tick, and how they can improve their lifespan. We’re about to descend into the wonderful world of guppy fish, so buckle up!
Factors That Affect Guppy Lifespan
As I said, multiple factors influence guppy lifespan. Some are things you can’t control, but most are easily manageable for a knowledgeable pet owner. With knowledge comes power and responsibility, so let this knowledge help you improve your guppies’ lifespan.
We’ll start with something you can’t change no matter how hard you try. Let’s get the ugly thing out of the way. Poor genetics means guppies can even die before reaching adulthood. If you want to avoid bad genetics, I recommend buying guppies from experienced breeders and reputable pet stores. They care a lot about reputation so their breeding methods will be top-notch.
Inbreeding is known to cause many genetic problems, for example. From personal experience, I can tell you that buying your fish from a breeder is much better than buying them from pet stores. The difference in guppy lifespan and quality of life is evident after you analyze a few cases. Which I did. Apparently, breeders are more quality-oriented and care more about promoting good genetics for their guppies.
If you want to raise your own guppies, you better watch out for inbreeding. Good genetics can be thoroughly ruined by it. Even illnesses can be transmitted through generational breeding. So, I also recommend isolating and terminating sick fish that don’t get better. Don’t let them breed because the new fish will be sick, most likely.
Food & Diet
Of course, I was going to talk about food. What happens when you and I gorge on fast food for a couple of months? Well, we get fat and develop all kinds of illnesses like diabetes, thyroid problems, and so on. Plus, fast food is not healthy. Similarly, guppies need a diverse diet to remain healthy and have a longer lifespan. They’ll eat anything you give them but this doesn’t mean you should give them anything on hand.
Instead, choose a reputable commercial brand of fish food. Spirulina tablets, veggie pallets, frozen bloodworms, dried brine shrimp, all these are ideal for your guppies. They also love dried tubifex worms, if you can find them. If you want to prepare the fish food at home, make sure your guppies get all the necessary vitamins and minerals. You can feed them fresh vegetables like spinach, carrots, green beans, and more.
Because of their omnivorous diet, guppies will also enjoy live food like vinegar eels, brine shrimp, or daphnia. However, unless you’re planning to cultivate your own live food, buying it from breeders may be more expensive. Lastly, remember not to overfeed your guppies. This is a real problem with this fish species. They’ll eat anything at any time, so keep the meals relevant.
Water is life for guppies. Just as we breathe air to get oxygen, guppies take their oxygen from water. If the water is polluted and coaxed with unhealthy stuff, the fish will get sick. Their lifespan will shorten significantly, as well. Fortunately, guppies are quite hardy and can adapt to many water conditions. Still, I recommend you maintain the following water parameters:
- pH at 6.8-7.8
- Temperature at 72-82 °F (22-28 Celsius)
- Hardness (dGH) at 8-12
- 0 ppm nitrites, 0 ppm ammonia, and a maximum of 10 ppm nitrates
Being so hardy, guppies can even thrive in tap water but only if you use a water conditioner to filter out toxic substances like chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals. A good product is Seachem Prime. It effectively eliminates all of the harmful substances from tap water.
A ten-gallon tank is just perfect to keep guppies. You’ll need to cycle the water and put in beneficial bacteria that transform bad compounds into good ones. Your goal is to replicate the guppies’ habitat conditions from the warm freshwaters in South America. So, the temperature should be at around 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit. I recommend using a heater and a thermometer to see if the tank is heated proportionally.
A water filter is also necessary if you want your guppies to live longer. Water gets filthy pretty quickly, and you’ll also need to change it occasionally. Perform 40-60% water changes weekly because full water changes will stress out the fish. And as you’ll see shortly, stress can be deadly for guppies. Now and then, you’ll also need to clean the tank and make sure no bacteria or harmful compounds are leftover.
After you provide medicine to sick fish, make a water change to eliminate the medicine from the tank. You should also isolate gravely sick fish to another tank so they don’t infest the tank and get other fish sick.
Stress is the silent killer of many guppies. It’s not like humans where we’re just undisposed temporarily. Fish can actually get sick and develop severe illnesses if something stresses them out. And boy, do they get stressed from literally anything! Here are a couple of instances where guppies get stressed:
- Lack of hiding spaces – Guppies often become afraid or anxious because of… a lot of stuff. So, they need lots of hiding places to feel safe. For instance, female guppies can get annoyed and stressed by sex-crazed males. So, they’ll hide to escape from the unwanted attention. Guppy Fry will also hide from other guppies for fear of being eaten. And most hiding places come in the form of aquarium plants, which also improve the quality of the water. Win-Win!
- Overcrowded tank – When there are too many guppies in an aquarium, they’ll become stressed. Imagine you being stuck in a room with 30 other people and you barely have space to breathe. Yeah, that’s how it feels for guppies. I recommend following the 1 guppy – 1-gallon formula.
- Too much sunlight or artificial light – Did you know that guppies sleep? And when they sleep, they don’t want light shining in their eyes. That’s usually how sleep works for most of us. If there’s too much light, guppies may even die from exhaustion because they can’t rest. Turn off the light at least 6 hours per day so the poor fish get to sleep. I mean turning off the artificial light since you can’t turn off the Sun.
- Aggressive tankmates – No one recommends keeping guppies together with aggressive fish like angelfish or tiger bars. Guppies get bullied all the time because they’re small and squishy. Plus, guppies are not aggressive, which means they have low combat skills. They’re like noobs in a game with low-level items. Everything will destroy them.
- Improper water conditions – Water can be very stressful for guppies, quite ironically. If the water conditions are bad, with lots of ammonia, nitrites, or a high temperature, guppies get stressed. Stress can kill them, so try not to stress them out. Clean the water, perform occasional changes, and make sure the water is of good quality.
- Inadequate male-to-female ratio – If you only keep male guppies, they’ll slaughter each other out in an all-out war. Males tend to nip at each other’s fins and tails for lack of activity. If you bring in too few females, males will become over-zealous sex maniacs. Females get stressed out pretty quickly, and that’s not good. I recommend the one-to-three male-to-female ratio. One male to three females can barely satisfy the sexual cravings of a male, and the females are relaxed.
Stress should be avoided at all costs for guppies. Maintain maximum attention at the water level, food intake, and interaction with other fish
Unfortunately, guppies are prone to many diseases, especially if they’re stressed or if their water is unclean. Things like Ick, Velvet, tail rot, parasites, Columnaris, Dropsy, and others are very dangerous and sometimes deadly for these fish. I recommend consulting a veterinarian as soon as you see the warning signs – lack of appetite, lethargy, blood spots, weird colorations on the scales, and so on.
Anything that isn’t normal may be a sign of disease. Some are genetic while some appear due to various environmental factors. Infected live feed you provide to guppies may also get them sick.
Too much light stresses them out and doesn’t let them sleep, which could kill them. Tuberculosis is a genetic disorder that’s not curable. Dropsy is also untreatable because it damages the fish’s internal organs. All you can do is euthanize the sick fish and isolate them from the main tank.
There are quite a few things that could affect guppies but you can prevent most with practiced care and tank maintenance.
Male or Female Guppies Live Longer?
No research indicates males or females live longer than the other. What I have discovered through experience is that, when put together, both males and females have a lower lifespan.
Females give birth all the time, while males mate with females all the time. This decreases their lifespan due to the accumulated stress, especially for females. Keep them separately and it might increase their lifespan!
How Long do Wild Guppies Live?
Is there a difference in lifespan between tank-grown and wild guppies? Well, not really. In the wild, male guppies become adults at around 6-7 weeks, and females mature 2 months later than males.
Their lifespan is similar to tank-grown guppies, at around 2 years. But that’s not accounting for all the other elements and circumstances out in the wild. For instance, guppies have many natural predators that will eat them.
Then there are the extreme weather conditions that wreak havoc on guppy populations. Abundant rain, floods, cold weather, all these will take a toll on the lifespan of guppies and could kill many.
Compared to tank-grown guppies, wild guppies are more resilient to weather changes but not by much. Out there in the wild, the conditions are unforgiving, and not by a small margin.
Finally, the waters may be polluted by human waste, which is far from a surprise. Chemicals or pesticides spilled in the water heavily impact guppy populations. It can even kill entire generations of guppies if we do nothing about it.
Do Guppies Live Longer with a Filter?
This question pops up frequently on many blogs. Pet owners ask whether guppies need a water filter and if their lifespan is affected by one. Well, water filters don’t directly impact a guppy’s lifespan and health.
Instead, the filter affects the water that the guppies swim in. You can easily set up an aquarium without a filter and make it work so your guppies live a good life. Just change the water frequently and make sure it’s healthy.
But a filter does that for you. It artificially optimizes the water parameters so guppies receive the best living conditions. So, I would say that guppies don’t necessarily live longer with a water filter installed. If the water is clean enough, a filter is unnecessary. Pay attention to the water parameters and your guppies will be fine!
What’s there to be said that I didn’t already say? Many things influence the lifespan of guppies but they’ll rarely live past 5 years, even with the best conditions.
You can certainly improve their lifespan by optimizing the water parameters, food intake, preventing stress and illness, and optimizing their numbers. An overcrowded tank leads to a decrease in the overall lifespan for all guppies.
Love your guppies and they will love you back!