Unhappy Guppy: What's Wrong?

why does my guppy seem unhappy

There are many reasons why your guppy may seem unhappy. Guppies are sensitive to changes in their environment, and common issues like water quality, water chemistry, or compatibility issues can cause them stress. Guppies are social creatures and happiest when kept with their kind, so a lack of companionship can also cause them to become unhappy. Unhappiness can also be caused by underlying diseases, overfeeding or insufficient feeding, and poor water temperature or conditions.

Characteristics Values
Swimming behaviour Staying in one spot, swimming up and down, hiding, chasing
Eating behaviour Loss of appetite, not eating
Physical appearance Pale, discoloured, torn tail, cloudy eyes
Behaviour towards owner Playing in water current
Tank conditions Poor water quality, toxins in water, small or <co: 3,4,5>overcrowded tank, aggressive tank mates


Poor water conditions

Water quality is crucial for guppies, and high levels of toxins such as ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates can be harmful. Regular water changes, typically around 30% once a week, are necessary to remove waste and maintain healthy water conditions. Guppy owners should also test the water regularly to monitor toxin levels and ensure they remain within safe limits.

Water temperature plays a vital role in the well-being of guppies. Guppies are tropical fish and thrive in temperatures ranging from 72°F to 82°F (22°C to 28°C). Significant fluctuations or sudden drops in temperature can cause health issues and stress for guppies. Therefore, it is essential to maintain a stable temperature within the ideal range.

The pH level of the water is another critical factor. Guppies prefer close-to-neutral pH levels, ideally between 6.8 and 7.8, which is similar to the pH level in their natural habitat. Deviations from this range can impact the health and happiness of guppies.

In addition to these factors, water hardness (dGH) is also important for guppies. The ideal water hardness for guppies is between 8 and 12 dGH. It is worth noting that water hardness and pH are correlated, with higher water hardness typically resulting in higher pH levels.

To ensure the happiness and health of guppies, it is crucial to provide them with optimal water conditions. This includes regular water changes, stable temperature within the ideal range, suitable pH levels, and appropriate water hardness. By maintaining these factors within the recommended ranges, guppy owners can create a healthy and comfortable environment for their fish.


Lack of space

Guppies are speedy swimmers and like to dart back and forth, so they need plenty of space to be happy and healthy. A lack of space can lead to stress and illness in guppies.

The recommended amount of water per fish is 2 gallons, and a 5-gallon tank is the smallest recommended size for a trio of guppies. However, a 10- or 20-gallon tank is more appropriate, especially if you plan on breeding them. Guppies are social fish and should be kept in groups of at least three, so they need enough space to comfortably accommodate multiple fish.

In addition to space, water quality is crucial for guppies. Regular water changes, filtration, and testing for ammonia levels are essential to maintaining a healthy environment. Guppies are sensitive to ammonia levels, so it is important to keep the water clean and well-maintained.

If your guppies are in a community tank with other species, a larger tank of 20 gallons or more is recommended. It is important to avoid keeping guppies with aggressive fish or those large enough to eat them.

Providing a spacious and well-maintained tank with good water quality will help ensure your guppies are happy and healthy.

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Aggressive tank mates

Guppies are known for their docile and sociable temperament, and thrive best in peaceful environments. When choosing tank mates for guppies, it is important to select companions that mirror their gentle nature to ensure a stress-free habitat. Guppies are susceptible to predation by larger fish, so it is important to avoid tank mates that might eat them.

  • Tiger Barbs: Known for their tendency to nip at the fins of other fish, particularly those with long, flowing fins like male guppies.
  • Red-Tailed Shark: A large and aggressive fish that can intimidate and harm guppies.
  • Angelfish: While generally peaceful, Angelfish can grow to a significant size and may become aggressive during feeding time, competing for food with smaller guppies.
  • African Cichlids and Oscar Fish: These fish are notoriously aggressive and territorial, and may view guppies as prey.
  • Goldfish: Goldfish prefer colder water temperatures and can grow to a size that makes them a potential predator to guppies. They also produce a large amount of waste, which can negatively impact water quality in a tropical tank.
  • Killifish: May exhibit aggression or compete with guppies for resources.
  • Flowerhorn Fish: These fish are known for their territorial behaviour and can bully or consume smaller fish like guppies.

It is important to carefully select tank mates that are compatible with guppies in terms of size, temperament, and environmental needs to ensure a harmonious and stress-free community tank.


Poor water quality

Guppies thrive in moderately hard water with a water hardness range of 8 to 12 dGH (degrees of General Hardness). Water hardness refers to the mineral content in the water, and guppies require water with good amounts of calcium, magnesium, and other essential minerals.

To maintain good water quality, regular water changes are crucial. Aim for a weekly water change of 20-30% to remove accumulated waste and pollutants. Before adding new fish, it is recommended to do a water change to help minimise stress on the fish.

You can use a water test kit to monitor the levels of ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH in your tank. Tap water can be used for a guppy aquarium but requires proper conditioning and adjustments. If your water is naturally soft, you can add Wonder Shell to your aquarium to raise the water hardness and add minerals.

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Underlying diseases

Guppies are generally hardy fish that don't get sick often. However, they can be affected by a few underlying diseases, which, if left untreated, can be detrimental to their health. Here are some of the most common diseases that could be the reason your guppy seems unhappy:

Ichthyophthiriasis (Ich) or White Spot Disease

Ichthyophthiriasis, commonly known as Ich or White Spot Disease, is a prevalent disease among freshwater fish, including guppies. It is caused by the parasitic protozoan Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. Infected guppies will exhibit white spots resembling grains of salt on their bodies, fins, and gills. They may also show signs of distress, such as rubbing against objects, rapid gill movement, and loss of appetite. Poor water quality, stress from overpopulation, and abrupt changes in temperature are the most frequent causes of Ich.

Fin and Tail Rot

Fin and tail rot is caused by a microbial infestation, usually resulting from poor water quality. It may also be due to physical harm to the fins, inadequate nutrition, or underlying medical conditions that compromise the guppy's immune system. Damaged tails and fins, tissue deterioration, and tattered and flaked fins are common symptoms.

Swim Bladder Disorder

Swim bladder disorder affects the swim bladder, an organ that controls buoyancy in guppies. Overeating, constipation, and biological abnormalities are the most typical causes. Guppies with this disorder may exhibit abnormal swimming patterns, such as floating at the water's surface or sinking to the bottom, and may appear bloated.

Velvet Disease

Velvet Disease, caused by the parasite Piscinoodinium pillulare, is common in tropical fish, including guppies. Infected guppies will exhibit a yellowish or gold dust-like coating on their bodies and may become lethargic, lose their appetite, and experience respiratory distress. Poor water quality, high temperatures, and excessive fish numbers can make guppies more vulnerable to Velvet Disease.

Columnaris & Mouth Fungus

Columnaris is a pathogenic illness induced by Flexibacter columnaris, a common freshwater aquarium parasite. It is associated with bad water conditions and significant stress in guppies. Mouth fungus, or cotton mouth, is carried by a fungal pathogen that can infiltrate the guppy's mouth and gills. Both are opportunistic illnesses that affect stressed or immunocompromised guppies.

Red Blood Spot or Hemorrhagic Septicemia

Red Blood Spot, commonly described as Hemorrhagic Septicemia, is a microbial disease driven by the gram-negative microorganism Aeromonas hydrophila. It is linked to poor living conditions and excessive stress in guppies. The microorganism thrives on the animal's lymphocytes and can invade the guppy with its tails, scales, and fins. Red and purple markings, along with internal bleeding, are common symptoms.

Frequently asked questions

Your guppy may be unhappy if it is hovering in one spot, not eating, or exhibiting stressed behaviour such as constantly swimming up and down the aquarium.

Guppies are sensitive to changes in their environment, such as water chemistry, water quality, or compatibility issues with tank mates. They may also be stressed by transportation or handling.

Guppies are tropical fish and prefer warmer waters with a stable temperature between 75-78 °F (24-26 °C). They can tolerate a pH level between 7 and 8, but sudden fluctuations can be harmful.

Signs of illness in guppies include loss of appetite, hiding, pale colour, gasping for air, injuries, and cloudy or swollen eyes.

To reduce stress, ensure your guppy has a clean and spacious tank with friendly tank mates, optimal water temperature, and good water quality. If your guppy is sick, quarantine it and treat the illness with proper medication.

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