The average guppy lifespan is about four to five years, but this can be variable depending on the conditions which are discussed below.
Many factors influence this number including not only cleanliness and general upkeep but also the other fish that you keep with them in the tank. Even the number of males compared to the number of females can influence their lifespan, since breeding is stressful for both genders and reduces their longevity.
As a result, most aquarium guppies only last for two years at the most, which is why maintaining the water quality is the first thing you need to get right to make sure they last as long as they should.
How to Make Guppies Live Longer
The lifespan of your guppy is incredibly variable, dependent not only on the breeding of the guppy but the food you give them, your management of the water quality, and also, believe it or not, the mental health of your fish.
It’s common to think of guppies as easy pets because of their notoriously hardy nature and general tolerance to most of the small variances in temperature and water conditions that come with transporting and upkeeping an aquarium of freshwater fish.
This is a short guide to the conditions that improve the health of your guppies, as well as what you can do to ensure that these improvements mean longer lives for your aquarium pets.
Managing the Water
You may think that since tap water is safe to drink for humans that guppies won’t mind it either. This is true, to a point. Since guppies are a pretty hardy freshwater aquarium fish, they don’t require quite as much diligence as more delicate tropical varieties.
However, tap water can still be too chlorinated for your guppies, so one of the easiest things to do to increase their general health is to buy a dechlorination product from a pet store that will alter the chemical content of your water and make it as safe for your guppies as possible.
Then you need to manage three separate aspects of the water’s condition: pH levels, hardness, and temperature.
The pH level refers to how base or acidic the water solution is. For a guppy, a pH of around 7 to 8 is ideal, which in pH terms basically means as neutral as possible with a small margin of error.
Hardness is a condition inherent in the water that refers to how much calcium and magnesium have dissolved in it. A natural water softener is needed to change this number, which for a guppy’s aquarium should be from 8-12. Maintaining this number is essential to make sure the guppies don’t get overloaded with these minerals.
Finally, you have to maintain a consistent temperature in your guppies’ tank to give them as long a life as they deserve. Guppies are pretty hardy fish, as stated above, so it doesn’t have to be exact, but 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit is a standard measure for healthy fish water. Keep in mind that while temperature regulators aren’t necessary, the temperature conditions around the tank can play a role in their safety.
For instance, make sure your aquarium isn’t too close to a source of sunlight that could heat the aquarium and boil the guppies.
Guppy Breeding Practices
Guppies aren’t just bred for color and size. The right food and water conditions over generations of guppies can alter the health of their line, making them more or less susceptible to diseases and therefore more long-lived.
While most pet stores are pretty good about the genetic condition of their guppies, many collectors have noted that guppies that come from respectable breeders often last much longer than those that come from stores.
This is due to the practices listed here repeated over generations of guppies to encourage their long life. Sometimes, even traits that are unusual in natural guppies – such as colors in the females – will appear in especially well-bred, healthy fish.
Paying a little extra for higher quality fish can make them last twice as long and improve the health of their children too, if keeping the fry is part of your long-term aquarium plans.
Feeding Guppies for Health
Guppies are hardy fish, as mentioned above, and they’re not picky eaters. However, an extra dose of protein on top of their normal diet of Baby Brine Shrimp or various worms has been used by some breeders, so they say, to increase the life of their guppies.
They recommend a little egg yolk mixed in with the food for that extra vitamin boost.
One other thing to keep in mind is that if they’re sharing the tank with other fish, make sure the guppies are getting enough food. Pushy or aggressive fish can sometimes starve out smaller or more docile ones.
There have been many studies done on how humans react to stress. Many recent ones have found that our environment, particularly as it involves clutter and privacy, can cause stress to build up without it ever manifesting outwardly. Nevertheless, this stress can still shorten our lives by putting unnecessary mental and physical strain on our bodies.
It’s actually very similar for fish. Here are a few specific factors to consider when you want to reduce the stress of your guppies and prolong their lives.
Like humans, clutter stresses guppies out by forcing them to process too much information, affecting their breathing and distracting them. Clutter, in this case, reduces water conditions too and could include anything from too many ornaments to too much floating waste or sediment (thankfully, guppies don’t produce nearly as much waste as comparable aquarium fish, like goldfish, for instance).
Remember though that guppies are skittish fish and like to hide. Ample hiding spaces in rocks and flowing plants are actually a stress-relieving addition to your aquarium. Just make sure there’s a balance between decorations and open water.
Number of Fish
A single guppy is a lonely guppy. Even though it’s okay to have only one, guppies are schooling fish, meaning they feel more comfortable in a group. Remember that they will freely breed, however, so realize that a purchase of four guppies should be more than enough to get a school going.
This brings us to the counterpoint to the lonely guppy: the overcrowded tank. If your tank accumulates a sizable fish population, you need to move or get rid of some of them in order to avoid overcrowded water space, diminishing food availability, and fewer hiding spaces from stressing out your guppies.
Also, keep in mind the type of fish that you keep with your guppies. If you diversify the breeds in your tank, do some research first about their temperaments. You don’t want pushy fish breaking up your schools, aggressively eating all the food, or eating your guppies.
Cleaning the aquarium regularly is obvious advice, but make sure that the sediment you buy works well with your guppy’s activity level. If you notice the tank getting cloudy, you may want to buy something else.
Consider buying a water filter that will get rid of some of the nitrites that pollute regular water and cause harm to your fish over time.
Additionally, when keeping the temperature in mind, you need to make sure that your aquarium doesn’t have too much direct access to sunlight, as this could warm the guppies’ water to dangerously high levels.
Males and Females
The ratio of males and females in your tank is a huge determiner of how stressed out your guppy population will be.
This is because male guppies tend to push females around, chasing them and trying to mate. In order to minimize this effect, try and keep the ratio of males to females strongly weighted towards females (even twice as many would be good).
This will allow them to “tag-team” the males’ aggressive behavior and reduce the stress of your fish population as a whole.
Guppies are not a delicate fish as aquarium fish go, but that doesn’t mean they are exempt from best practices when it comes to cleaning, breeding, feeding, and taking care of them.
The most urgent matters in your guppies’ lifespans concern their living conditions. This means keeping the pH, water hardness, and tank temperature at reasonable levels, researched for guppy health.
Other than this, the food they eat and the cleanliness of the water can be easily managed by a good filter, regular cleaning, and a varied food supply.
Guppy stress is the most subtle aspect of promoting the long life of your guppies. Managing the plant life in your tank to provide places to hide and distractions from rowdy tankmates can help your guppies keep calm and avoid harassing each other. Keeping tabs on the gender population can also make a big difference in terms of how your guppies treat each other.
Managing the cleanliness of the tank and maintaining your guppies’ mental health can go a long way to helping them live as they should.