Feeder Guppy: How to Breed and Care for Feeder Fish

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If you have a predatory fish, you may have been advised to feed live fish to encourage natural hunting instincts and a varied diet. The problem is that many feeder fish carry diseases that can be passed on to your fish and / or the rest of the livestock. Even more so, it can get expensive over time, and going to the store can become a chore.

Fortunately, feeder guppies are especially easy to breed and provide your fish with the excitement and nutrition they need. Setting up the perfect guppy breeding tank doesn’t take too much of a hassle, but it’s best to set up the aquarium correctly the first time so you don’t have to make adjustments later!

What are feeder guppies?

Guppies are scientifically known as Poecilia reticulata, but they can also come from million fish or rainbow fish. There are many different types of guppies, including the popular fancy guppies that come in all different colors.

Feeder guppies are usually much less colorful and come in shades of brown and gray. These fish are native to South America and the southern Caribbean, where they thrive in most environmental conditions and ecosystems (including brackish water), especially those with dense vegetation and a healthy coating of algae and plant material. They reach a maximum length of 6.4 cm, whereby the males are slightly smaller than the females, but are much more colorful in comparison.

Should You Feed Your Fish Food Guppies?

Feeder guppies are popular breeders of live food because of their high adaptability to changing water conditions and their rapid rate of reproduction. However, does that mean you should be feeding your fish feed guppies?

Most larger freshwater fish species like to eat full-grown feeder guppies like Oscars and other cichlids. Almost all omnivores in the freshwater community also enjoy guppy fry from time to time. However, some hobbyists have found that over time, if their fish are given too much live food, their fish can become more choosy and may even begin to reject flakes and pellets.

However, the bigger problem with using live food is the risk of disease and parasites. Feeder fish and invertebrates are not cared for as much as other freshwater and saltwater fish in the pet store – which is usually still the bare minimum. This means that there are usually tons of sick and dead fish mixed in with relatively healthy ones. Unfortunately, these healthy people usually do not make it past the first few days or weeks because they have poor water conditions, stress, illness and generally poor care.

This means you can pick healthy looking fish from these feed tanks and still add sick fish to your aquarium and / or open a bag of dead fish when you get home from the pet store.

However, every now and then you will end up with a relatively healthy pair of fish that you can use to start a population where you can regulate the overall health and quality of the fish.

How long do feeder guppies live?

Believe it or not, feeder guppies can actually live anywhere from 2 to 5 years if properly cared for. Their lifespan is drastically shortened to a few days or weeks due to poor water conditions and poor overall maintenance.

Breeding feeder guppies

Many fish farmers selectively breed guppies for their bright colors and flowing fins. Fortunately, feed breeding is nowhere near as involved.

To start a feeder guppy colony, you need a good group of starter fish. It is ideal to have at least three wives to one man, as male guppies can excessively molest women, which can lead to possible death. When choosing this group at the aquarium store, it is best to pay attention to regular breathing, good coloring, active swimming, and overall lively fish behavior.

It is very likely that there are other sick or dead fish in the same aquarium, but finding a healthy batch is nearly impossible and this is often as good as it gets. Treating these fish for diseases and parasites can also be difficult, as they appear to die before there is hope. It can take a few trips to the aquarium store and bulk purchase to get a few that will survive and become viable for breeding.

If you are serious about starting a high quality population, it is recommended that you look for reputable feeder guppy breeders.

Can feeder guppies breed with fancy guppies?

Because feeder guppies and fancy guppies are the same genera, they can breed without affecting them. This does not seem to have much of an advantage, however, as the offspring usually have slightly more colorful wild-type colorations and nothing is overly desirable. Some experienced breeders may be able to convert these traits into unusual variations.

It is important to note that while inbreeding is generally frowned upon, incidental or even deliberate inbreeding practices have seen little or no adverse effects. Inbreeding is very common among skilled fish breeders to produce a steady expression of traits. However, inbreeding is never recommended unless the results are carefully monitored. If you notice that your fish are starting to mutate in shape, color, or behavior, it may be a sign that you have gone too far with that line.

Otherwise, it can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to track free range guppy matings in the aquarium. The only way to be sure that your guppies are not inbreeding is to keep males and females in their own tanks and assemble them just for the moment of breeding.

Feeder guppy grooming and tank setup

When setting up a feeder guppy tank, plan it out as if it were another freshwater aquarium. You want to get the most out of your fish, which can only be done if you create the conditions for them to thrive.

Guppies do best in 10 gallons (37.9 L) or more; A larger tank allows for more breeding, but this can quickly lead to over-frying. It is best to choose a tank size that you think meets the nutritional needs of your predatory fish while also allowing the population to feed themselves. In general, we recommend between 20 to 40 gallons (75.7 to 151.4 L) to allow brood and brood out.

The aquarium can have a sand or gravel base; As swimmers in the upper and middle water column, these fish do not necessarily need a substrate, which can make cleaning the tank easier. These fish appreciate many living plants in which young fish can hide and grow. These systems do not require a high-tech setup and fluorescent lighting is usually sufficient. Some recommended plant species in low light are Amazon sword (Echinodorus grisebachii), Java moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri), hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) and Amazon frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum).

A filter is required to keep guppies. However, regularly hanging on the back filters usually has the ability to soak up roasts and even smaller adults. It is recommended to attach a pre-filter sponge to the inlet of the filter or to use a sponge filter.

Do feeder guppies need heating?

Yes, guppies need heating. Unfortunately, guppies are often viewed as a single-use fish that is disposable. Because of this, they are not always kept in the best tank settings or water conditions.

Guppies are tropical fish and need to be kept in warmer water temperatures. They work best in a range of 16.7 to 27.8 ° C (62 to 82 ° F), with about 78 (25.6 ° C) being optimal. Although these fish are hardy and can withstand sudden changes in water temperature, it’s best to keep the tank as constant as possible. For many hobbyists, this usually means that a heater is needed to keep water warm and constant.

Water parameters

Otherwise, guppies prefer water conditions of 0 ppm ammonia, 0 ppm nitrites, and <20 ppm nitrates. A relatively neutral pH between 6.5 and 7.5 is best.

Feeding feeder guppies

Aside from just keeping your fish healthy, you also need to consider their diet. If you think of your systems as a food chain, whatever your guppies eat will be absorbed by your larger fish as well. This gives you complete control over what to feed your predatory fish right from the start.

In order to replenish your guppies, you should regularly feed them high quality foods. Guppies will eat until they can no longer be physically able, which can actually lead to serious health problems. It is best to feed your fish once or twice a day, although some hobbyists even limit it to once every two days.

Because of their small size, these fish are usually best for flake foods. Pellets may be too big for your fish to eat! You can also get a variety of live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods. As omnivores, they enjoy insect larvae, bloodworms, brine shrimp and a vegetable-based pellet.

Keep in mind that whatever you choose to feed your feeder guppies will affect the fish they are being fed!


Feeder guppies are bred for quantity over quality; This often results in sick guppy fish that can affect your entire tank. The best way to have a reliable source of live food is to grow a colony of guppies yourself.

These fish are best suited for planted aquariums where the fry have plenty of vegetation to hide and grow. You need a filter, heater, quality diet, and a constant range of water parameters to produce the best quality feed for your larger fish.

If you have any questions about feeder fishing or other guppies, or have any experience of providing a live diet for any of your larger fish, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

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