Keeping guppies in a small tank like a 5 gallon raises some important considerations. While it’s possible to house a few guppies in a 5 gallon tank, their health and happiness depend on providing the proper conditions. In general, a larger tank is better for guppies, but with the right setup a 5 gallon can potentially work for a pair of guppies.
Here are some quick answers to common questions about keeping 2 guppies in a 5 gallon tank:
- Is a 5 gallon tank big enough for 2 guppies? Generally yes, but more space is better.
- Do guppies need a filter? Yes, a filter is required to maintain water quality.
- Do you need a heater for guppies? Usually yes, guppies prefer water around 74-82°F.
- How often should you change water in a 5 gal guppy tank? At least 25% weekly.
- Can guppies live alone? No, they are social and do best with at least 2-3 others.
- Do guppies need live plants? Live plants help improve water quality but are not an absolute requirement.
The Basics of Keeping Guppies
Guppies are small, colorful livebearers that originate from the fresh and brackish waters of South America. They are peaceful community fish that do well in most community tanks. Here are some basic care guidelines for guppies:
- Lifespan: 2-3 years, though 1-2 years is more common.
- Size: Around 1.5-3 cm long for females, a bit smaller for males.
- Temperature Range: 22-28°C or 72-82°F.
- pH: They prefer a pH between 7-8.5.
- Hardness: Medium to hard water is best, between 9-20 dGH.
- Tank Size: Minimum 10 gallons for a small group, 15-20 gallons ideal.
- Tank Setup: Planted tanks with lots of hiding spots work well. Lots of plants improve water quality.
- Stocking: Minimum of 3-5 guppies, either one male per 2-3 females or in all male groups.
Guppies are omnivores that will eat a variety of foods including flakes, pellets, live/frozen foods, vegetables, etc. They are best kept in at least small groups, as they are social fish that interact frequently. Males in particular will chase each other as they display to females.
The Debate: Can You Keep 2 Guppies in a 5 Gallon Tank?
The main debate around keeping guppies in a 5 gallon tank centers around whether or not this provides adequate space for their health and wellbeing. There are a few factors to consider:
- Swimming Space – Guppies are active swimmers and generally do better with more horizontal swimming space. A standard 5 gallon only offers about 16 inches length x 8 inches width, which could limit free movement for 2 guppies.
- Waste Accumulation – With only 2 guppies, waste buildup is less of a concern. But the smaller tank can accumulate waste more quickly. This makes filtration and water changes important.
- Oxygenation – A 5 gallon provides less dissolved oxygen than a larger tank. Proper surface agitation with a filter is important.
- Interaction Space – Guppies interact frequently, especially males displaying to females. A 5 gallon gives them less space to freely interact and establish territories.
- Stress – Cramped quarters could potentially cause more stress, though guppies are adaptable to various conditions.
So while a 5 gallon tank is not ideal, it may work for 2 guppies assuming the tank is properly set up and maintained. But there are some definite disadvantages vs. a 10+ gallon tank in terms of swimming space, waste control, oxygenation and overall activity space for a pair of guppies.
Making a 5 Gallon Tank Work for 2 Guppies
If you want to keep 2 guppies in a 5 gallon tank, here are some tips to give them the best chance of thriving:
- Use a longer tank rather than a tall one, such as a 20 inch long 5 gal. This provides more horizontal swimming room.
- Add plenty of live plants like java fern, anubias, floating plants, etc. Plants provide hiding spots and improve water quality.
- Use a good HOB, sponge or canister filter sized for a 5-10 gallon tank. This allows for adequate filtration.
- Maintain stable water parameters, especially temperature around 74-78°F.
- Perform regular partial water changes of 25-30% weekly, or more frequently if needed.
- Test water parameters like ammonia, nitrites, nitrates regularly.
- Feed a high quality diet in moderation to avoid excess waste.
- Provide cave decor and driftwood for shelter and exploring.
- Consider a nano air-powered sponge filter for supplemental oxygenation.
With a properly filtered, heated, and decorated 5 gallon aquarium, 2 guppies can potentially live happily. But larger is always better when it comes to fish tanks. So a 5 gallon should be viewed as the viable minimum space, while a 10-20 gallon tank is ideal for guppies.
Tank Setup for 2 Guppies in 5 Gallons
Here is one example of a suitable 5 gallon guppy tank setup:
- 20″ x 10″ x 12″ standard 5 gallon glass aquarium
- Small hang-on-back power filter rated for 5-15 gallons
- 50 Watt aquarium heater to keep water at 75°F
- Gravel substrate 2-3 inches deep
- Live plants like java fern, anubias, moss balls, floating plants
- Cave decor and driftwood for hiding and exploring
- LED aquarium lighting on 8-10 hour daily cycle
This basic setup provides filtration, stable warm water, live plants to aid water quality and plenty of decor for shelter and territory establishment. For the substrate, sand or fine gravel is recommended over large gravel or bare bottom tanks. The plants and decor help break up sightlines to minimize aggression and stress.
In a small 5 gallon tank, water quality must be pristine to prevent disease and stress. Recommended parameters are:
- Temperature: 74-82°F
- pH: 7.0-8.0
- Ammonia and Nitrites: 0 ppm
- Nitrates: Under 20 ppm, the lower the better
- GH (General Hardness): 10-20 dGH
Use a liquid test kit, not test strips, to verify parameters stay in the optimal range. In a cycled tank, ammonia and nitrites should always measure 0 ppm while nitrates will be low but present.
Tank Maintenance for a 5 Gallon Guppy Tank
Diligent tank maintenance is crucial for a small 5 gallon housing guppies. Recommended maintenance includes:
- 25-30% Weekly Water Changes – Use a siphon or gravel vacuum to remove waste, uneaten food and replace 25-30% of the water weekly. The small tank volume requires more frequent changes.
- Test Water 1-2 Times Monthly – Check parameters for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and pH every 2-4 weeks and before water changes. This ensures conditions are stable.
- Clean Filter Monthly – Rinse filter media in old tank water once a month to remove debris and maintain good flow.
- Algae Control – Wipe down glass with algae scrubber and limit light to 6-8 hours daily to prevent excessive algae.
- Gravel Vacuum – Use a siphon or gravel vacuum with each water change to remove solid waste from the substrate.
With a tank this small, test kits are vital to catch any spikes in ammonia or nitrites quickly so corrective action can be taken. The filter must provide sufficient biological filtration to convert fish waste and uneaten food into less harmful compounds.
Tankmates for 2 Guppies in a 5 Gallon
The main options for tankmates in a 5 gallon with a pair of guppies include:
- Snails – Good cleaners like nerite snails can be added. They help eat algae and leftover food.
- Shrimp – Ghost or cherry shrimp work well. They have a very small bioload.
- African Dwarf Frogs – Their small size and low waste make them potential tankmates. Provide plenty of cover.
Any tankmates must have extremely low bioloads and waste output to prevent water quality crashes. Avoid other fish for a 5 gallon, as overstocking will be an issue. Snails, shrimp or a single dwarf frog are the safest options.
Feeding Guppies in a 5 Gallon Tank
In a small tank, it’s vital not to overfeed guppies. Uneaten food quickly pollutes the water. Follow these feeding guidelines:
- Feed a high quality guppy diet with flake, pellet or freeze dried foods.
- Only feed once or twice per day, in very small amounts that can be fully eaten in 1-2 minutes.
- Remove any uneaten food after feeding using a siphon or turkey baster.
- Offer blanched vegetables like spinach or zucchini once or twice a week for variety.
- Fast guppies for 1 day a week to allow digestion and prevent waste buildup.
By following a light, varied feeding regimen and removing uneaten food promptly, waste accumulation can be minimized to help maintain water quality in the 5 gallon tank.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are guppies happy in a 5 gallon tank?
Guppies can potentially be happy in a properly maintained 5 gallon tank, but they generally do better with 10+ gallons. The small space limits swimming room and requires more maintenance. With ample plants, decor, stable water, and a pair of guppies, a 5 gallon tank can work. But a larger tank is easier to keep thriving.
Do guppies need tank mates?
Guppies are social fish that generally do best kept in groups of 3-5 fish minimum. However, a bonded pair of 1 male and 1 female guppy can potentially work in a 5 gallon tank. They may display some natural behaviors like chasing when breeding. Having at least 2 guppies provides social interaction.
Should you get a male or female guppy for a 5 gallon?
Either male or female guppies can work in a 5 gallon, though a male-female pair usually does best. Females grow a bit larger than males. But a single-sex pair of 2 males or 2 females is also an option. Having at least 2 fish prevents issues from keeping guppies alone.
How often do you clean a 5 gallon fish tank?
A 5 gallon guppy tank needs cleaning and partial water changes at least 1-2 times per week to remove waste and prevent pollution. Test water quality 1-2 times monthly as well. Beyond water changes, clean filter media monthly, scrub algae, and siphon the gravel as needed to keep the small tank clean.
Can you put a betta and guppies together in a 5 gallon?
Guppies and bettas are generally not recommended tankmates for a 5 gallon tank. Both fish require ample swimming space, and may be stressed or aggressive toward each other in tight quarters. It’s best to keep guppies on their own or with nano tankmates like snails or shrimp in a 5 gallon.
Housing 2 guppies in a 5 gallon tank is challenging but potentially feasible. The small space limits swimming area and water quality declines quickly without diligent maintenance. But a filtered, heated 5 gallon aquarium decorated with plants and hideouts can work for a pair of guppies.
The keys are keeping the tank clean through weekly partial water changes, feeding a high quality diet in moderation, adding plants and decor to improve conditions, and maintaining stable, warm water. Test water quality frequently as well. With attentive care, a 5 gallon tank can house 2 guppies, but upgrading to a 10+ gallon aquarium is recommended whenever possible.