Guppy Aquarium Setup: the Things You Need for Keeping a Guppy

You can use just about anything that will hold water for guppies tank, but you should make sure it’s got a large enough opening at the top so you can get things (like the fish and a small net) in and out, and steady enough to not rock around or tip over easily.

Some people use wide-mouthed jars or bottles (even a well-cleaned half-gallon bottle with the neck cut off would work – not ideal, but it could be done in a very warm house). Some people use fancy vases and many other types of containers. Since I think guppies should be kept in at least a gallon of water, I wouldn’t use anything too fancy.

I don’t keep my home warm enough for the fish, so I need to use an aquarium heater, so anything I keep the guppies in has to accommodate that too.

Guppy Aquarium
Guppy Aquarium

How do you set up a guppy tank?

The things you absolutely need for keeping a guppy are:


To keep the fish in. Most tap water is suitable to keep guppies in, after using a water conditioner. Your local pet store should be able to tell you if this is not the case – but it would be not the case for ALL fishes. Selling bottles of “guppy water” has sometimes been popular, but if you need special water for guppies then you need special water for all fishes. If they don’t sell special water for other fishes, you don’t need it for your guppy.

Water conditioner

To remove Chloramines and/or Chlorine from tap water. These two chemicals are used to keep bacteria and other life forms from living in our tap water. Unfortunately, they also keep fish from living in our tap water. Exposure to either of them can kill a fish very quickly. Always use a water conditioner BEFORE you put the fish in the water. Usually, it acts to instantly neutralize the Chloramines or Chlorine but read and follow the directions. Also, usually, it’s okay if you add too much of the conditioner, you just don’t want to add too little.

Food for Guppies

To feed the fish. See the page on feeding your guppy to find out what kind of food would be right for you.

Water Heater

For keeping the temperature around 78°F (25.5°C), the temperature Guppies are most comfortable at. If you keep them too cool, they will eventually get sick and die prematurely. Some stores may say you can keep them at room temperature, but with more and more people keeping their rooms at 68°F (20°C), you really should invest in a heater.

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That is just too cold for guppies and most other aquarium fishes (goldfish excepted). Some people recommend keeping your guppy tank even warmer, but I find in a small tank that the evaporation is too fast, and the fish do just fine at 78°F (25.5°C).

The actual range at which guppies should be okay is roughly 75-82°F (24-27°C), but at the higher temperature, the guppies will have shorter lives.

Things you should consider having for keeping a guppy are:

A thermometer

It may be needed for your aquarium if you have a heater. Some heaters come with a built-in thermometer, so you may not need a separate one. If you keep your fish in a tank of five gallons or more, I recommend putting the thermometer as far away from the heater as you can. this will help you know if the whole tank is being kept warm enough.

Water filter

This keeps the water cleaner, longer. It does not replace general maintenance of the aquarium, but it helps keep it to a minimum. There are in-tank filters, and hang-on-the-side filters, and built-into-the-hood filters. Most of the filters for aquariums of a gallon or two work in the same way – water is pumped over or through some material and returned to the tank.

The filter captures much of the waste of the fish, either solid waste or the liquid waste. The carbon in the filter captures the liquid waste. It doesn’t capture it all, which is why you’ll do water changes, but it helps out a lot. The filter material the water is pumped through is replaced about once a month.

Make sure your pet store carriers replacement filter pads. I recently had to reject buying four filters for a new aquarium set-up because the store that wanted to sell them to me couldn’t sell me replacement filter pads!

Dedicated water scoop

This is for taking water out and putting water into the aquarium. You don’t want to use the same utensil for the soup that you use for your fish. The problem is not that you might get something from the fish, but that you should never use soap on anything you use for the aquarium. The type of scoop depends a lot on the size of the aquarium, and the size of the opening.

You might need a ladle and larger bowl, or you might just need a small plastic container. You could also get some sort of “aquarium vacuum”. However, most of these move five gallons or more water a minute – much too much for a small guppy aquarium. The minimum tank size I would use an aquarium vacuum in is five gallons.

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A different kind of food

Eating macaroni and cheese every day might sound fun (if you like it), but it’s kind of boring. Be kind to your guppies and give them a varied diet. See the section on feeding guppies to see what kinds of foods you might consider. Even a different kind of flake food once in a while is a good thing.

An aquarium light

Like I mentioned before, it is really something that is for you. Unless you keep live plants, it’s so you can see the fish. The guppy is fine with light from the room around it. Though if you keep your aquarium in a dark corner, or feed them at odd hours, you may need a light so they can see to eat, too.


Like gravel, plants (plastic, silk, or live), rocks, castles, whatever you fancy. The fish don’t need these, though a plant or two might make them feel more comfortable if the aquarium is in a busy area. These really can fit the decor of your room, be naturalistic, or be wild and imaginative. Remember your guppy is a descendent of a long line of aquarium bred fish – the natural habitat for a guppy is now an aquarium, so feel free to put in that mermaid castle or sunken pirate ship.

Male guppy
Male guppy

How do I set up my guppy aquarium?

The first thing you should do is decide where to place the aquarium. It should be a location secure and strong enough to prevent it from falling off. Water weighs about 8 lbs. per gallon (1 kg per 1L), and whatever you place your tank on must be able to support that and a location not too near a window (too much light, plus extra heat or cold depending on the season). It should also not be too near air conditioning ducts, for similar reasons you don’t want it right by a window.

The aquarium should also be near an electrical outlet so you can plug in the heater, filter, light, and anything else that may require electricity. I recommend using a surge protector with any aquarium. Also, make sure any cord coming from the aquarium has a dip in it, to make sure any water that drips down the cord ends up dripping off the cord before it reaches the plug.

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Having picked the location, you’re ready to set things up. You should first rinse the aquarium out. There are sometimes residues leftover from making aquariums, or from sitting in the shop that could be harmful to fishes. This rinsing should be thorough, but you shouldn’t need to scrub it strongly.

Remember to never use any soap on the aquarium or anything that goes into it. Soap residue can coat the gills of fish and cause them to suffocate. If you forget sometimes, or if you need something in an emergency, just rinse it really really well with lots of warm water before using it.

Once your aquarium is rinsed fill it about two thirds (2/3) of the way with water. The water should be a bit warm to the touch if you have an aquarium thermometer try to aim to get the water to about 78°F (25.5°C).

Rinse and put any gravel you might use into the aquarium. Rinsing gravel can take a while, you need to try and get as much dust out of it as you can, and some aquarium gravels are very dusty. You can use a kitchen sieve/colander to do it, just remember to rinse it really well beforehand to get any soap off of it.

Set up the filter, heater, and anything else you need to put in the aquarium. How you set these up depends on what kinds you get, so refer to the packages.

If you’re setting up the aquarium with decorations, those should also be rinsed well, and can now be put in the aquarium.

If you ever need to scrub anything in the aquarium you can use plain (non-iodized) salt as an abrasive. You can get it from the grocery store and is pretty inexpensive.

Once you’ve got all that set up, you can fill the tank the rest of the way, to about a half-inch (1.25 cm) below the top of the aquarium. Add your water conditioner to remove the Chlorine or Chloramines in the tap water, plug-in and start the heater and the filter, and you’re all set.