Guppy Fish Behavior: Common Habits of Guppies
In my personal journey as an aquarist, I’ve had the delightful experience of watching and learning about the vibrant and lively world of guppy fish. In this complete guide, I’ll share with you the ins and outs of guppy fish behavior, discussing their common habits and quirks, aiding both new and seasoned hobbyists alike in understanding these fascinating creatures better.
So, let’s dive right into the captivating universe of guppies!
What is Normal Guppy Behavior?
To begin our exploration of guppy fish behavior, it’s essential to recognize what is considered normal for these petite and colorful fish. As guppies are social creatures, their typical behavior often revolves around interacting with their fellow tank mates. Some common traits that you can expect to see when observing your guppies include:
- Swimming in groups: Guppies are known to form loose shoals or schools, offering them a sense of safety and community. You’ll frequently spot them swimming together in harmony.
- Active and energetic: These small fish are quite lively and seldom remain motionless. You’ll see them darting about throughout the tank, exploring their surroundings with enthusiasm.
- Feeding behaviors: Guppies are opportunistic eaters, grazing on a variety of food sources available in their environment. You’ll notice them nibbling at algae, picking at live plants, and readily accepting fish food offered to them.
- Mating behaviors: The courtship behavior in guppies is quite distinctive, with males showcasing vibrant colors and patterns while performing elaborate dances to woo females.
- Breeding: Female guppies are known to reproduce prolifically, giving birth to live young, commonly referred to as fry, every 4 to 6 weeks.
By understanding what is considered normal for guppies, we can better identify any potential issues or changes in behavior that may be a cause for concern.
Common Guppy Behavior and Their Meaning
Guppies have a wide range of behaviors that not only make them enjoyable to watch but also help us understand how they are feeling and interacting with their environment. Below, I’ll describe some common guppy behaviors and what they might mean:
- Constant swimming: Guppies are active swimmers, and you’ll often see them swimming around the tank with little pauses. This is normal and healthy behavior.
- Erratic swimming: On the other hand, if you notice your guppies swimming rapidly in erratic patterns, this could be a sign of stress or discomfort. This could be due to factors like poor water quality, bullying from other fish, or even parasites.
- Fanned out fins: When a guppy’s fins are fanned out, it could be a sign of displaying, either for potential mates or towards other males in the tank. This is normal and natural behavior.
- Clamped fins: If you see your guppies swimming with their fins held close to their body, this could indicate potential illness or stress. Clamped fins could be a sign that the guppy is feeling threatened or intimidated by other fish in the tank.
- Nipping and chasing: You may see your guppies nipping at the fins of other fish and chasing each other around the tank. While this can be normal behavior, especially among males, make sure it doesn’t escalate into bullying or cause injury to your fish.
- Schooling: Guppies are social fish, and they may swim together in a group or “school” with other fish, even those of different species. This behavior is normal and suggests they are feeling at ease in their environment.
- Courtship display: Male guppies display fascinating courtship rituals, often swimming in front of a female and spreading out their colorful fins. This is an attempt to woo the female and demonstrate their health and genetic fitness.
- Pregnant females: Female guppies can store sperm for months, so it’s common to see them produce multiple broods without mating each time. A pregnant female may display a swollen belly and a dark “gravid spot” near her anal fin. When close to giving birth, she might isolate herself or display erratic swimming.
Take the time to study your guppies to understand their behaviors better. Below you can read about more guppy fish behaviors:
Energetic Swimming Through the Tank
One of the most captivating aspects of guppy behavior is their seemingly endless energy as they swim through their aquatic environment. This lively and spirited demeanor often captures the hearts of aquarium enthusiasts. Here’s what energetic swimming can tell you about your guppies:
- Happy and healthy: Energetic swimming generally indicates that your guppies feel secure, and their basic needs are being met. A well-fed, stimulated, and properly cared for guppy will exhibit joyful swimming behaviors.
- Exploration and territorial claims: As guppies swim around enthusiastically, they are also exploring their environment and establishing their territory. You may notice certain areas of the tank where specific guppies spend most of their time, guarding their chosen spots from rivals.
- Exercise for good health: Just like humans, guppies need exercise to stay healthy. Their energetic swimming patterns improve their overall muscle health, keep them in shape, and reduce stress.
- Potential stressors: However, excessively energetic swimming could also indicate stress or discomfort. Keep an eye out for signs of stress, including darting across the tank, jumping, or colliding with tank decorations.
Swimming Together with Other Guppies
Seeing guppies swim together in a graceful, coordinated manner is a delightful sight for any aquarium enthusiast. There are several reasons why guppies swim together, and understanding these behaviors can help you provide a better environment for your colorful friends:
- Schooling: Guppies are social fish that often exhibit schooling behaviors. Swimming with other guppies provides a sense of security, as being in a group can deter potential predators or threats.
- Social interactions: Guppies are quite social, and swimming together allows them to communicate, play, compete, and establish a pecking order among themselves. Socializing with others is essential for their mental well-being and can even strengthen their immune system.
- Mating behaviors: Guppies may swim together during courtship rituals, with males displaying their bright colors to attract females or challenge competing males.
- Following the leader: Sometimes, guppy schools may have a more dominant individual leading the group. This dominant individual guides the group to food or areas that provide better shelter or water conditions.
Swimming Against the Glass
Occasionally, you might notice your guppies swimming against the glass of the aquarium, bumping into it, or pacing back and forth. It’s essential to understand what might cause this behavior and whether it’s something you need to address:
- Reflections: Guppies are often attracted to their own reflections on the glass. They may mistake their reflection for another guppy, leading to curiosity, competition, or confusion. If you find them fixating on their reflections, consider adjusting your tank’s lighting or using a background to minimize reflections.
- New environment: Guppies that have recently been introduced to a new tank may swim against the glass as they explore their new surroundings. This behavior should decrease as they become more familiar with their environment.
- Stress or poor water quality: Swimming against the glass can be a sign of stress or poor water quality, potentially caused by factors such as improper water parameters, temperature changes, or inadequate filtration. Frequent water testing and regular tank maintenance are essential to ensure your guppies have a comfortable environment.
- Hunger: Your guppies might swim against the glass and follow you around the tank if they are hungry. Make sure you are feeding them an appropriate amount of high-quality food at regular intervals.
Swimming in One Place
Though guppies are known for their energetic, lively swimming behaviors, there may be instances when you spot them swimming in one place or remaining somewhat stationary. Understanding the reasons behind this behavior can help you ensure their comfort and well-being:
- Resting or sleeping: Like all living creatures, guppies need rest too. They may not have eyelids, but guppies experience periods of inactivity when they slow down and hover in place, usually near plants or other hiding spots. This can be their way of conserving energy or sleeping.
- Claiming territory: Male guppies can be territorial, and they may hover in one spot to claim a particular area as their own. This behavior is quite normal, but make sure there is enough space and hiding spots in your tank to minimize conflicts among your fish.
- Poor water quality and stress: Staying in one spot can sometimes indicate stress, discomfort, or even illness. Poor water quality, toxins, or incorrect water temperature may cause your guppies to feel uneasy and find one place they perceive to be safer. Regularly testing your water parameters and making any necessary adjustments can help address this issue.
- Breeding or giving birth: Pregnant female guppies may stay in one place when they are close to giving birth, trying to find a secure spot to release their fry. Nearby plants or other hiding spots can help provide the necessary safety for both the mother and the newborn fish.
Understanding your guppies’ feeding behavior is crucial for their well-being and overall health. Observing how and when they eat can help you ensure they receive proper nutrition, maintain a healthy weight, and prevent potential health issues:
- Enthusiastic eaters: One of the key traits of guppies is their voracious appetite. They eagerly swim to the top of the tank when it’s feeding time and quickly consume their food. This enthusiasm is a sign of good health and proper care.
- Varied diet: Guppies are omnivores, so they benefit from a diet consisting of both plant-based and protein-based foods. High-quality flake or pellet food can be supplemented with vegetable matter and treats like brine shrimp, daphnia, or bloodworms.
- Overfeeding risks: Be mindful not to overfeed your guppies, as it can lead to health issues like obesity, constipation, or swim bladder problems. It’s advised to feed them small amounts multiple times a day, allowing them to consume all the food within a couple of minutes.
- Food competition: Guppies are speedy eaters, and they might compete with other tankmates for food. Keep a close eye on each fish during feeding times to make sure everyone gets their fair share.
- Signs of poor appetite: If a guppy is not displaying its usual enthusiasm for food, it could be a sign of stress, illness, or poor water quality. Keep a close eye on such individuals and check your water parameters to address any potential issues.
One of the most intriguing aspects of guppy care is observing their breeding behaviors. Understanding their mating habits and reproductive process will help you better support your fish and manage potential offspring. Here’s what you need to know:
- Courtship rituals: Males exhibit an elaborate courtship display by swimming in front of females and spreading their brightly colored fins while darting and shimmying. This display is intended to showcase their genetic fitness and attractiveness to potential mates.
- Persistent pursuits: Male guppies are quite persistent when it comes to pursuing females. They may chase and attempt to mate with females multiple times a day. Keep an eye on this behavior to ensure that the females are not overly stressed from too much attention.
- Pregnancy signs: Once fertilized, females can store sperm for multiple reproductive cycles. A pregnant guppy will have a visibly swollen belly and a dark “gravid spot” near the anal fin. The gestation period typically lasts 21-30 days.
- Giving birth: Livebearers like guppies do not lay eggs; they give birth to live, free-swimming fry. Before giving birth, the female might isolate herself, swim near the bottom of the tank, or become less active than usual.
- Rearing the fry: Guppy fry are vulnerable to predation, even from their own parents. To increase their survival rate, consider separating the expectant mother to a breeding box or a separate aquarium before she gives birth. Provide the fry with optimal nutrition, such as crushed flakes or baby brine shrimp, to support their rapid growth.
While guppies are generally lively and active fish, there are instances when they may become lethargic. This listlessness is often a cause for concern and should not be ignored. Let’s explore some reasons behind this behavior and what you can do to help:
- Illness: Lethargy can be a sign of illness, whether caused by stress, poor water quality, or the presence of parasites. If you notice your guppy lying at the bottom of the tank, gasping for air, or showing other signs of sickness, consult an aquatic veterinarian or online resources for diagnosis and treatment options.
- Stress: As mentioned earlier, stress triggers can lead to lethargy in your guppy. Factors like overcrowding, bullying from tankmates, or rapid changes in water temperature can cause stress. Identify and address any potential stressors in your aquarium to help your guppy feel secure and comfortable again.
- Aging: As guppies age, they may become less active and display signs of lethargy. Providing them with a stable, clean environment can help ensure their comfort and well-being during their senior years. Guppies typically enjoy a lifespan of 2-3 years.
- Response to treatment: If your guppy has recently undergone treatment for illness or parasites, lethargy could be a temporary reaction to medications used in the process. Monitor your fish closely and consult with an aquatic veterinarian if the symptoms persist or worsen.
Guppies are generally outgoing and social fish, but they may sometimes exhibit hiding behavior. Providing hiding spots for your guppies is crucial for their well-being, however, excessive hiding can indicate underlying issues. Let’s consider the potential reasons and ways to address them:
- Natural behavior: Guppies can be shy, especially during their initial days in the aquarium, and may feel the need to hide to feel secure. Placing live plants, caves, or other decorations in your tank will provide them with a sense of safety, allowing them to gradually adapt to their new home.
- Stress or fear: Hiding can be a sign of stress or fear, possibly caused by bullying from tankmates, rapid changes in the environment, or bright light. Observe the dynamics in your aquarium closely and take any necessary measures to minimize stress factors and ensure that all fish are comfortable and safe.
- Breeding or giving birth: As discussed earlier, pregnant female guppies may seek hiding spots when they are close to giving birth. Providing them with a separate area or breeding box can optimize the safety of both mother and fry.
- Illness or injury: A sick or injured guppy might isolate itself and hide to recover or avoid further stress. Carefully monitor any fish that is consistently hiding and take appropriate steps to diagnose and treat potential health issues.
While guppies are known for their peaceful demeanor, they can occasionally display signs of aggression. Recognizing and understanding the reasons behind aggressive behavior can help you manage and minimize any potential conflicts in your tank:
- Territorial behavior: Male guppies can be territorial, especially when competing for mating opportunities. They may nip at the fins of other males or attempt to chase them away from their claimed areas. Ensure your tank has enough space and hiding spots for each guppy to reduce aggression and stress.
- Mating competition: Aggression among male guppies can intensify during breeding periods. Males may become more assertive and nippy towards other males in their efforts to claim females. In this case, providing a balanced male-to-female ratio (e.g., 2-3 females per male) can help reduce aggression.
- Overcrowding: Limited space in a tank may lead to increased competition for territory and resources, triggering aggressive behavior among your guppies. Avoid overcrowding by following recommended guidelines for tank size and stocking.
- Stress factors: Environmental stressors, such as rapidly changing water parameters, insufficient filtration, or bright lighting, can provoke aggressive behavior in guppies as they try to cope with their discomfort. Regular tank maintenance and monitoring of water conditions are essential to avoid stress-induced aggression.
- Incompatible tank mates: Some fish species are more aggressive or territorial by nature, which might not be suitable as tank mates for guppies. Conduct thorough research on the compatibility of fish species before introducing new tank mates, to ensure a harmonious aquarium environment.
Eating Their Babies
One of the more surprising and sometimes disconcerting behaviors that guppy owners might experience is witnessing adult guppies eating their own fry. Understanding the reasons behind this behavior is crucial if you plan to breed your guppies and raise healthy fry. Here’s what you need to know:
- Natural instinct: In the wild, guppies face a constant struggle for survival and resources. The instinct to eat their offspring is a way to reduce competition for food and space. This behavior may also provide the adult guppies with additional nutrients to later reproduce healthier and stronger offspring.
- Lack of nutrition: One factor that might trigger this behavior is insufficient food for the adult guppies, causing them to resort to consuming their fry for sustenance. Providing a balanced, nutrient-rich diet for your guppies can help alleviate the chances of their resorting to cannibalism.
- Hiding spots: Limited hiding spots in the aquarium can increase the likelihood of adult guppies preying on their fry. Providing ample hiding spaces in the form of plants, caves, and other decorations can offer much-needed refuge for the fry to escape potential predation.
- Breeding setup: To increase the survival rate of guppy fry, consider setting up a separate breeding tank, moving the pregnant female just before she is due to give birth. This dedicated environment allows the newborn fry to grow, without the constant threat of being eaten.
- Fry raising: Once the fry has been born, it is important to provide them with the appropriate nutrition to facilitate their rapid growth. Feeding them crushed or small-sized fish food, baby brine shrimp, and other suitable options can lead to the development of healthy young guppies that can eventually join the main tank.
Jumping Out from Tank
A lesser-known behavior that guppies may occasionally exhibit is attempting to jump out of their tank. As disconcerting as this behavior may be, understanding the potential reasons behind it can help you prevent any unwanted accidents, maintain a comfortable environment, and ensure the safety of your fish:
- Poor water quality: One of the primary reasons guppies might attempt to jump out of their tank is due to poor water conditions. If the water becomes dirty or contains dangerous levels of toxins, fish become stressed and may try to escape to a safer environment. Regular water testing, maintenance, and monitoring will help maintain a healthier tank.
- Inadequate water parameters: Guppies can be sensitive to drastic changes in water parameters, such as temperature, pH, or hardness. Stress caused by such changes can cause fish to jump from the tank. Ensuring stable and appropriate water parameters will minimize this behavior.
- Bullying or aggression: If your guppy is experiencing aggression or bullying from other fish, it may try to escape the unpleasant environment by jumping out of the tank. Carefully observe any potential conflicts in the aquarium and take the necessary steps to create a more harmonious environment.
- Overcrowding: In a cramped tank, fish may struggle for space, territories, or resources, increasing stress and the likelihood of jumping. Adequate tank size and stocking can prevent overcrowding and alleviate this issue.
- Injury or illness: A fish that’s hurt or sick might attempt to jump out of the tank to alleviate its pain or discomfort. Closely monitoring your fish for signs of illness or injury and providing appropriate treatment can help deter this behavior.
Through our exploration of the fascinating world of guppy fish behavior, we’ve provided a complete guide covering various habits and activities that contribute to their unique appeal as aquarium pets. Knowing and understanding these behaviors allows you to create a thriving environment for your guppies, supporting their health, happiness, and well-being.
By carefully monitoring their actions and maintaining ideal tank conditions, you can foster a mesmerizing underwater world filled with lively, colorful guppies that will captivate and enchant you for years to come.
Sometimes, a female guppy will display behaviour akin to other fish’s behaviour when they scrape the substrate in order to make a nest. Is this a nest making instinct or are they scraping off parasites etc?
There could be multiple reasons why guppies rub on the substrate or aquarium decorations such as parasites, itching, shedding scale, etc. I’ve wrote an article about the topic why guppies rub on sand, you should check it out to learn more about this behavior.