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Do Guppies Need a Filter? (All you Need to Know)

Do Guppies Need a Filter? (All you Need to Know)

Guppies are ranked amongst the easiest fishes to keep. Their small size, hardiness, and variety of colors make them a very attractive choice for beginners wanting to keep them as their first fish.

Do guppies need a filter? Well, the short answer is no. Guppies are small fishes growing to 0.5-1.5 inches maximum and do not produce a large amount of waste. A 5-gallon tank should be able to handle a small school of guppies (2-5) without much problem. 

However, it really depends on a few factors. For example, how many guppies do you have and how big is your tank? These factors are important as too many fish in a small space is just asking for a disaster to happen. 

While the more experienced keeper might be able to keep guppies alive without a filter, it usually is much more convenient and highly recommended to have a filter in place to remove uneaten food and waste, not to mention keep the water moving! 

Let me explain below! 

What do guppies need to survive? 

They are also voracious eaters, eating almost anything you throw at them, from flakes to pellets to freeze-dried blood worms, there is very little that a guppy will not eat.

Guppies also are livebearers, which means they give birth to live young. So if you do take care of them well, get ready to be rewarded with babies! Females generally give birth once every month, giving birth to 1-100 babies at a time. 

Their small size also means that a small school does not require a big tank. A small 5-gallon tank with a good filtration system should be able to handle 2-5 adult guppies with little to no problems.

However, this also means that they react quickly to small changes in the water, so it is essential to keep the water in your tank stable and pristine. 

Generally, guppies are easy to keep if you keep things simple. 

Follow this chart of parameters if unsure : 

  • Temp – 22-28 deg C
  • pH – 6.8-7.8 dGH – 8-12
  • Ammonia – 0ppm
  • Nitrites – 0ppm
  • Nitrates – Maximum 10ppm 

What filtration is suitable for my tank? 

Filtration devices often come with a rating as to how much water they filter every hour and how big a tank it is recommended for. If you are unsure, it is advised that a flow rate of the tank volume multiplied by 10 for a heavily stocked tank and multiplied by 5-8 for a lightly stocked tank. 

Below are some of the popular choices of aquarium filtration systems. 

Sponge filters

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Sponge filters are a simple filtration device that requires three parts to function correctly. 

  1. Sponge filter
  2. Airline tubing
  3. Air pump 

They have been a popular choice for beginners and experienced keepers alike because they’re easy to clean, cheap, and a very reliable form of aquarium filtration. Air is pumped through the airline tubing from the air pump creating a suction effect, drawing water through the sponge and filtering the water. Due to the constant airflow and bubbling, the sponge filter also aerates the water at the same time. 

Hang on back filters

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Hang on back filters (HOB in short) are another popular type of aquarium filtration due to the ease of use. All you require is the filter, hung to the back (or the side) of the aquarium and you’re good to go.

HOBs are popular as almost the entire system is hung outside the tank and as such is not as much of an eyesore compared to the sponge filter. Usually, HOBs are sleek and look good as well, however they cost quite a few times more than a sponge filter. 

HOBs work by drawing the water through a siphon tube, passing it through a media chamber, before spitting it back into the main tank. At the same time, just like the sponge filter, aerates the water. 

They have a few drawbacks. As the water is drawn in through a siphon, the water level in the main tank needs to be at a certain level for the filter to work efficiently. But not to fear, once you top up the water to the required level, everything goes back to normal. 

Internal filters

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Internal filters are another attractive choice of filtration system as it is simple and easy to use. They are fully submersible filters that generally have a higher flow rate than HOBs and sponge filters, which means better filtration for your tank! Like the picture above, water is drawn in from the bottom of the filter through the media chamber before being pumped back into the tank. 

They do come with their downsides as well. Being an internal filter, much like the sponge filter, takes up some space in the tank and sometimes can be an eyesore. Additionally, the internal filter is a few times more expensive than the sponge filter. 

Canister filters

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As the name suggests, they come in the form of a canister and are also another popular method of filtration. 

Water is siphoned from the main tank, pumped through the filter before being pumped back out to the main tank. Canister filters are the most robust compared to the previous filtration systems mentioned earlier.

They also come with their own set of benefits, such as ease of maintenance as the entire system is situated outside the main tank. The higher volume of media is also a bonus due to the bigger system located outside the tank. 

The drawbacks, however, are that they are much more costly as compared to the other systems we have mentioned above and are also prone to leaking issues if not serviced regularly. 

How often should I clean my filter? 

Filters like sponge filters should be cleaned once every 2 to 4 weeks, depending on how heavily you stock your tank. Sponge filters are particularly easy to clean by taking out the entire assembly and giving it a good rinse under the tap. 

However, most other filtration systems contain multiple layers of filtration. For example, a typical canister filter would have 3-4 levels of filtration media.

The first layer is most often mechanical filtration i.e., sponge or filter wool; the second layer is often chemical i.e., activated carbon with the 3rd and 4th layer being biological i.e., bio rings, etc. 

Chemical filters are usually changed once the aquarium water starts to turn cloudy or once every 1 to 2 months, again depending on how heavily stocked your aquarium is, this might be changed more often. 

Biological filtration is usually lightly rinsed every 3 – 6 months in a bucket of the original tanks water to remove excess dirt but not washed too vigorously such that the beneficial bacteria gets removed. 

It takes some guesswork to gauge when you should wash your filter; however, once you get the hang of it, just repeat the cycle! 


Guppies are a great first fish to have! They come in many colors, hardy, voracious eaters and are very prolific. Proper care and maintenance will reward you with a thriving colony. 

While it is not a must to have a filter in a tank, it is highly recommended to have as it saves you the frequency of water changes and keeps the tank clean. Filtration is an essential piece of equipment in any tank which chooses to have it. So remember to go through the pros and cons listed above before making your decision as to which system to use! 

Remember to clean your filtration systems periodically for optimum performance. A dirty and clogged filter hardly does any good for the aquarium, in fact, it’s harmful once excess nutrients start to build up, and all sorts of problems occur.