20 Best Guppy Tank Mates

The humble fancy guppy is one of the most common aquarium fish, known for its small size, easy care, and bright colors. This species is remarkably hardy, and they get along well in community tanks. That said, some species are still better suited than others to share the confines of the tank with each other.

So, let’s take a look at some of the best guppy tank mates, and then I’ll show you a few fish that just aren’t up to the task.

guppy

1. Betta Splendens

Size: 3”

Care Level: Easy 

Special Requirements: n/a

The humble Betta is a great tank mate for many of the more peaceful community fish. Their fierce common name, the Siamese Fighting Fish, is only relevant within their own species. Bettas aren’t very aggressive with other fish and their flowing fins keep even the most unruly from being a true threat.

Bettas are also remarkably easy to care for. In the wild, they live in small pools with little circulation much of the time. They can do this by breathing atmospheric air, which they gulp at the surface. This air ends up in a place unique to this family of fish: the labyrinth organ. This respiratory organ slowly absorbs air, allowing the Betta to stay submerged for extended periods.

Bettas have to be a one-off, however, as the males will harass and attack each other until one or the other is dead in a confined area like an aquarium. You can mix them together with females in their own species tank, but I recommend not doing so in a community tank with your guppies.

2. Mollies

Size: 3”

Care Level: Easy

Special Requirements: None

Mollies are one of my personal favorite companions for guppies. Mollies tend to be a bit smarter than most of the fish categorized as livebearers, and they’ve got a pretty big size advantage over guppies. They’re not suitable for a breeding tank, as they’ll eat any fry they come across, but they have a bizarre array of colors and forms for the interested fishkeeper.

Mollies are technically brackish fish, but there are no real negative effects when they’re placed in freshwater. Mollies, as we know them, are often crossbred and most have some ancestry of a species native to Florida which does well in wildly varying conditions of salinity.

Mollies can be boisterous. The only concern keeping them with guppies is to make sure the middle and top regions of the aquarium aren’t too crowded since this is where they’ll be swimming. That said, try to avoid picking up the strangely shaped “Balloon Molly” if you stumble across them. They’re a deformed variant of Molly, not a unique species, and raising them brings up some serious ethical concerns.

3. Swordtails

Size: 5 ½-6”

Care Level: Easy

Special Requirements: None

Swordtails are the largest of the various livebearer species that have found their way into the pet trade. They top out at about 6”, with most being in the 5 ½” range in my experience. Swordtail males and females can be easily told apart by the presence of the “sword” on males, which is an extension of the lower part of the tail fin.

Swordtails are quite peaceful fish for the most part. Their larger size does mean they should only be placed with full-grown guppies, but even with maximum size disparity, it’s rare for swordtails to try and eat any mature guppies. And let’s face it, everyone eats guppy fry including the guppies themselves.

Swordtails will require a much larger tank than many of the fish on this list, simply due to their large size. That’s the only real problem that their care presents, however, as the rest of their care is identical to guppies or other livebearers.

4. Neon Tetra

Size: 1 ½”

Care Level: Easy

Special Requirements: None

Neon Tetra are among the most popular community fish. They’re small, fast, and quite peaceful in addition to being beautiful. This makes them ideal for co-existing and their strong schooling nature also helps to keep them protected from would-be bullies that inhabit the same tank.

Neon Tetra had a reputation for being finicky about care in the past. This came from the fact that most of the stock found was wild-caught. Neon Tetra are almost entirely captive bred these days, you’d have to go searching to find a wild-caught specimen. A few generations in captivity makes most fish easier to keep and modern Neon Tetra are no more demanding than guppies.

Remember to keep these fish in schools of 6 or more. With any fewer they will tend to be skittish and stressed, leading to dull colors and a shorter lifespan. You can still comfortably house a school of guppies and a school of these tetras in a 20-gallon or larger tank but be careful about overstocking with smaller fish.

5. Skirt Tetra

Size: 3”

Care Level: Easy

Special Requirements: None

Skirt Tetra are a popular community fish, their elongated anal fin giving the distint impression of a “skirt” trailing behind them. There are a few varieties, but the most commonly seen variant is the Black Skirt Tetra. You can find them at most fish stores, depending on seasonal availability, and they’re a simple, undemanding fish to take care of.

Skirt Tetras are also the species that were altered to become the Glo-fish Tetra, a genetically altered variant that glows in the dark. These are commonly available in pet stores and online and they can add a splash of color to the tank without any extra care requirements.

These fish need to be kept in schools of six or more to be comfortable and like plenty of cover in the form of decorations or driftwood. If you can supply that then they’re a great companion for your fancy guppies, whether as a background fish or as a brilliantly colored display depending on the variation you’re fond of.

6. Corydoras Catfish

Size: 2 ½-3”

Care Level: Easy

Special Requirements: Soft Substrate

The various Corydoras sp. are some of the most famously compatible fish around. They’re small catfish with armored scales that prevent them from being damaged by most fish their size or a bit bigger. There are a few dozen species of Cories out there, with about a dozen making up the bulk of the aquarium trade. There are also Dwarf and Pygmy Corydoras which are about half the size of most other species.

Cories will spend their time on the bottom of the tank sifting for food. Since gravel can damage their delicate barbels they should only be placed in tanks that use either sand or a soft substrate to cover the bottom. After that, they’re easy to take care of.

Corydoras will inhabit the bottom and should have minimal interaction with your guppies. Even if they do interact this is a case where neither fish is capable of hurting the other, which guarantees non-violent encounters between the fish. Add in that Cories are capable cleaner fish and you can see why they’re a staple in community tanks.

7. Harlequin Rasbora

Size: 2”

Care Level: Easy

Special Requirements: None

Harlequin Rasbora are another common schooling fish that ends up in a lot of community tanks. They’re two-toned fish, with a red front and a black wedge on the posterior of their body. They school tightly, creating the impression of the harlequin pattern that gives them their name.

Apart from their appearance, these rasboras are remarkably simple fish. They’re roughly the same size as adult male guppies, or a bit smaller than the females. They readily take flaked foods. They’re adaptable to a wide array of different conditions. On paper, they’re an ideal community fish. In practice… well, that’s usually the case.

Harlequins will nip fins on species with longer fins. If you choose to add them then avoid any veil tail or other long fin mutations being added to the tank. If you avoid that and can fit a group of at least five, however, then you can add a great look to the tank without having to dish out a ton of extra effort.

8. Bristlenose Plecostomus

Size: 5”

Care Level: Easy

Special Requirements: Soft Substrate and Driftwood

The Bristlenose Plecostomus reaches between 4 ½” and 5” and is a good community clean up fish. Do not confuse them with the common Pleco, which will reach 18”+ and be a true monster within a few years. Bristlenoses have a much more manageable size for the majority of tanks and are a favorite cleaner fish for many.

The Bristlenose Plecostomus is an easy-going fish that is adaptable to a wide variety of conditions. They do have a couple of requirements for care. You’ll need a softer substrate in order to protect their nose while foraging and driftwood for rasping. Most pleco varieties require driftwood for their digestive tract to function properly.

With those conditions managed, keeping a Bristlenose is as hassle-free as possible. The minimum size for a school of 6-8 guppies and a Bristlenose Pleco is 20 gallons, but 30+ is better and will allow you to keep more guppies safely. These are the large bottom feeders I’d recommend for someone’s first community tank, and it’s easy to see why.

9. Dwarf Gourami

Size: 3 ½”

Care Level: Easy

Special Requirements: None

Dwarf Gouramis are one of the smallest species of the Gourami family. They’re closely related to Betta, having the same labyrinth organ which allows them to absorb atmospheric air. Dwarf Gouramis are roughly 3 ½” long, with a striped red and blue coloration. They can also be found in solid blue or red colorations.

Like all gourami, Dwarf Gourami have elongated fins which are used to sense the water around them. They’ll poke and prod at things with them, and they have a surprising amount of control when it comes to using them. At one point or another, they’ll probably try poking at everything from their tankmates to the substrate.

Gourami rival Betta in intelligence, which puts them ahead of most community tank fish. This leads to some interesting behavior, especially combined with their unique way of feeling things out inside the tank. These fish are very individual and rare specimens may be a bit more aggressive than you’d like, but the vast majority of them will make excellent showpiece fish in a tank with guppies.

10. Cherry Red Shrimp

Size: 1 ½”

Care Level: Easy

Special Requirements: Plants

Cherry Red Shrimp, or just Cherry Shrimp, are one of the many dwarf shrimp species we find in our tanks. Keep in mind that they’re a very different species from Red Crystal Shrimp despite superficial similarities. The latter are not suitable for a guppy tank due to their specialized needs in the water column.

Cherry Shrimp come in a wide array of colors. While red and wild-type (a muddy olive color) were the only ones available originally there’s a lot of variety to be found these days. There’s still the highly differentiated red line, but there are also strains of blue, green, orange, and yellow out there if you know where to look.

I recommend sticking with one color. The “Skittle Packs” sometimes sold, which contain numerous color varieties, will breed towards a natural type over time. Careful selective breeding is done to enhance the natural coloration of these shrimp. As far as care goes? Drop them in the tank and they’ll be fine as long as they don’t have any serious predators.

11. Zebra Danio

Size: 2”

Care Level: Easy

Special Requirements: Long Tank (at least 24”)

Zebra Danios are a common, small fish that are used in both scientific experiments and aquariums. They’re extremely fast, top-swimming fish with horizontal striping. They should be kept in groups of four or more, preferably six or more, in order to encourage both security and schooling behavior.

Zebra Danio do have one big caveat: their extreme swimming speed means they need a longer tank than their size would indicate. They’re not very dirty fish, it’s not necessarily the volume of the tank that needs to be increased, they just need a couple of feet to run around or they’ll start jumping. A school of jumping Zebra Danio is a disaster, they can fling themselves incredibly far and it will often be their final flight.

With the right amount of distance, however, these fish are quite resilient. They adapt well, eat everything, and generally leave other fish alone. The one exception to this is very long fins, while suitable for most veil-tailed live breeders, you’ll want to avoid mixing them with fish with exceptionally large fins like Betta splendens.

12. Kuhli Loach

Size: 3”

Care Level: Easy

Special Requirements: Soft Substrate

The Kuhli Loach is a bottom-feeding fish with a long, snake-like body. They’re an interesting species with few care requirements other than feeding. You’ll want to make sure that you have a softer substrate such as sand since they root around the bottom of the tank, but other than that they’re remarkably easy to keep in captivity.

Kuhli Loaches are quite social. A group of three is the minimum, but six or more can make for much more lively behavior. These fish are energetic, constantly searching the bottom of the tank for food, and they’ll tend to leave other species alone entirely.

They make a perfect bottom feeder for those who aren’t into keeping Corydoras or Pleco species. While not quite as efficient at clean up you’ll find their constant roaming ends up taking up a considerable amount of detritus. Feed them frozen foods on occasion for their best health. They’re a solid option if you want something different.

13. African Dwarf Frog

Size: 2 ½”

Care Level: Moderate

Special Requirements: Hand Feeding

African Dwarf Frogs are a small, fully aquatic frog species that are easy to keep. As long as you can devote some time to making sure they have food you should be able to keep them with no issues. The only place where issues should crop up is if you accidentally bought a mislabeled African Clawed frog, but the two are easy to tell apart when you know what to look for.

The only problem with them is that they’re nearly blind and hunt entirely by their sense of smell. This can lead to them appearing quite “dumb” during feeding times and it’s best to simply take the time to hand feed them frozen foods every few days. To do so, grab an eye dropper or turkey baster and thaw the food in water. Suck it up in the tool, then shoot out the matter in front of the frog. They’ll usually react and start eating.

ADFs will occasionally strike at fish but it’s harmless. Even if they’re capable of harm they’d still be too slow and blind to catch most fish. In the wild, they’re specialized in eating worms and other small live food items, hunting by their sense of smell with precision. In our tanks this specialized behavior simply makes them exhibit endearing behavior, and they’ve been a favorite in aquariums for a long time.

14. White Cloud Minnow

Size: 1 ½”

Care Level: Easy 

Special Requirements: None

White Cloud Minnows are tiny fish that are often seen in nano tanks designed for plants. They’re small, unobtrusive, and remarkably peaceful. They will spend most of their time schooling, so make sure that you have a group of at least six. Other than that? In most regions, these fish don’t even require a heater.

White Clouds are among my favorite fish for planted aquatic displays due to their unobtrusive nature. In the community tank, they can make a great contrast to the more colorful nature of guppies. They’re quite active, zipping around in the middle and upper parts of the tank, but tend to stay to themselves.

The males may display aggression towards each other if their breeding impulse comes into play. They’ll prefer to mark off their territories and spar over bits of the tank until it passes. That said, they still don’t bother any other fish in the tank and they’re one of the best options for a low-maintenance schooling fish to house with your guppies.

15. Sparkling Gourami

Size: 1 ½”

Care Level: Easy

Special Requirements: None

Also known as the Pygmy Gourami, this small species of Abantid is a great choice to keep with your guppies. They have the same rough behavioral patterns as most other gourami species, but remain tiny at only 1 ½” or a bit more in length. This lends them very well to community tanks, where they can be kept in smaller tanks than most comparable species.

The Sparkling Gourami also has a weird trick up its sleeve: it croaks. They do this by using a specialized pectoral muscle to create the sound. As a general rule, this sound means that they’re happy campers in the tank but it can also signal the onset of their breeding season. In either case, healthy Sparkling Gourami will make a little bit of noise.

Like all Abantids, the Sparkling Gourami breathes atmospheric oxygen which it takes in from the surface of the water. They’ll spend most of their time in the middle level of the tank but can disrupt top-dwelling fish on their way up. Fortunately, they’re small and non-aggressive, so this rarely leads to anything more outrageous than a couple of surprised guppies. 

16. Platies

Size: 3”

Care Level: Easy

Special Requirements: None

Platies are a common schooling livebearer. They come in many different colors and fin configurations, but care is the same across all of them. They just need a warm tank, a bit of flake, and a functioning nitrogen cycle to remain in good health.

Platies are a bit bigger than guppies on average, but they don’t pose any threat to them. They have roughly the same behavior: loose schooling and constant breeding. Platies will eat fish fry, including their own, but pose no threat to adult fish of any size.

Their easy care and many color variations keep the Platy as one of the most favored community fish in the aquarium trade. Indeed, they’re my first suggestion to most people who want something that’s “more than a guppy.” Schools should have at least four members for the fish to feel secure, but six or more is better.

17. Glass Tetra

Size: 2 ½”

Care Level: Easy 

Special Requirements: See Below

Glass Tetras are a see-through tetra species, overall similar to skirt tetra. They’re actually considered a color morph of the species, but they need a bit of extra explaining so that you can pick a healthy specimen. Glass tetra are simple schooling fish with no special requirements as long as you pick the right specimen.

Please note that this species does not naturally have intense coloration. Instead, you’ll occasionally see Painted Glass Fish with bright streaks of neon colors. These fish have been dyed artificially, as opposed to the genetic modification found in Glo-Fish Tetra. These dyes are toxic, dangerous to the fish, and outright unethical to use on a living creature. Avoid these poor fish at all costs.

The rest of the species remains a remarkably hardy fish with a glass-like exterior. This makes it easy to see the underlying bone structure and some of the organs of the fish, a neat experience for kids in particular. They’re very undemanding and don’t cause problems in the tank, just make sure you’re not supporting the ridiculous practice of injecting them with dyes.

18. Cardinal Tetra

Size: 2”

Care Level: Easy-Moderate

Special Requirements: None

The Cardinal Tetra looks like a bigger Neon with more red coloration on the bottom lateral stripe. They tend to be about ½” longer than Neon Tetra raised in the same environment. For their benefit, you’ll want to make sure that your tank is cycled, balanced, and has a pH in the 6.0-7.0 range.

This pH requirement is the only thing that makes their care different than any other small, schooling fish. It’s questionable if even that is necessary, but I’ve noticed their colors are brighter and the fish seem happier when the pH gets lowered a bit. Keeping them in hard, alkaline water doesn’t do them any favors.

Cardinals are a bit more expensive than Neons and take up more room. They should be kept in schools of six or more for their health. I recommend keeping Neon Tetra first if you’ve never had Cardinals before. You can transition to Cardinals as the Neons pass away, since they’ll actively school with Neon Tetra.

19. Cherry Barb

Size: 2”

Care Level: Easy

Special Requirements: None

Cherry Barbs are a whole different animal from most of the other small, schooling barbs. Barbs have a well-earned reputation for aggression, but Cherries just seem to be the most peaceful fish around. They’re highly sexually dimorphic, with the males being lean and a bright scarlet while the females are two-toned, with an orange top and white bottom separated by a black lateral stripe.

Cherry Barbs are hard to call schooling fish if you’ve kept them for a long time. They’re one of the few species I’ve seen actively not school when they feel secure. In a species tank, I’ve often found they tag along in groups of 2-3 while they investigate parts of the aquarium despite having 25+ fish of the species. With other species introduced they’ll generally form a school but it’s not the tight shoaling of Tiger Barbs or Neon Tetra.

As a relaxed species, they make great companions for guppies. You should keep them in groups of three or more with a ratio of two females to one male wherever possible. The males are more beautiful but having too many of them can lead to a bit of infighting. That infighting is the only time I’ve seen these fish display aggression, and I’ve had at least one school continuously for over fifteen years.

20. Chili Rasbora

Size: 1”

Care Level: Easy

Special Requirements: Large School (8 minimum)

Chili Rasboras are relatively new to the aquarium trade. They’re brightly colored, tiny fish that often find their homes in planted tanks. The Chili Rasbora is easy to care for as long as you don’t place them with fish that can eat them. They’re remarkably well adapted for aquariums, if the tank is cycled they’ll be fine.

The only caveat to their care is their required school size. In any mixed environment, you’ll want at least eight of them to form the basis of the school. Twelve or more is better. These fish need a bunch of their own to feel secure. Otherwise, they’ll break off into skittish duos and trios which spend most of their time hiding.

The minimum size for a school of Chilis and a school of guppies is about 20 gallons. This allows enough room for both fish and still allows a bit of space for bottom-feeders. Once in the tank, they’ll be fine unless a larger fish eats them. Just be careful about which other fish you put into their tank.

Common Fish Not Suitable for Keeping With Guppies

Many fish species don’t play well with guppies. The following categories of fish are some of the worst to keep with them.

1. Cichlids (Including Rams)

Cichlids and guppies don’t mix. Cichlids are larger, aggressive, and predatory fish that will see a school of guppies as a snack. Even the smallest cichlids, such as German Rams, are too aggressive to mix well with your guppies. Just avoid this family altogether in community tanks for the best results.

2. Barbs

With the sole exception of Cherry Barbs, the majority of fish in this family are too aggressive to keep with guppies. Guppies shouldn’t be placed with even semi-aggressive fish as they’re not really capable of defending themselves. Barbs are among the worst families to drop in with them, particularly the fierce Tiger Barb.

3. Goldfish

Goldfish get huge, produce a ton of waste, and live forever if you take good care of them. Their needs are entirely different from guppies and they need some specialized care to last until the end of their natural lifespan. I don’t advise mixing them with any other fish without a lot of careful research.

4. Predatory Catfish

Catfish are ambush predators with very big mouths. Something like a Pictus catfish will make short work of a school of guppies, I would expect two or three to disappear per night until the school is gone. It’s not any different for any of the other predatory catfish, so avoid placing them with guppies or any other small schooling fish.

5. Crayfish

Crayfish are one of the more common freshwater invertebrates but they’re hard to keep with fish. In the case of guppies, they’ll simply eat them. These freshwater lobsters are fast and remarkably agile in the water. In the case of larger fish… well, they’ll be the ones getting eaten. In either case, they’re not appropriate for a community aquarium.

Keep It Simple With Great Tank Mates

Guppies are compatible with a huge portion of the fish that make up the aquarium trade, although certainly not all of them. Stick to the above guidelines and you’ll have a thriving community tank in no time. The best guppy tank mates are among the most commonly found fish in LFS and big box pet stores across the country.

So, which species are you looking at adding to your guppy tank?