Do Guppies Need A Filter? (surviving without filter)

Filters are essential for setting up a fish aquarium as they keep the water clean. But do guppies require a filter? Let’s find out.

Guppies don’t require a filter as they do not produce much waste. However, we recommend having a filter to keep the water clean and safe from harmful toxins like nitrite and ammonia. Make sure to cycle the water without fish, add plants and change 30-50% of water weekly if you don’t use a filter.

Below, we will discuss keeping the aquarium clean and free from harmful toxins without using a filter. So, let us get into this.

Can guppy survive without a filter?

Guppy can survive without a filter as they don’t produce lots of waste. However, I recommend using a filter in your fish tank.

Filter helps keep the water clean, and it also protects water from harmful toxins like nitrite and ammonia.

If an owner is not using a filter, then they will require to maintain such things:

  1. Cycle the water without fish
  2. Change 30-50% of water weekly.
  3. Add lots of live aquatic plants.
  4. Use a special substrate.
  5. Don’t overcrowd your guppies tank.
  6. Go by choosing the right aquarium size.
  7. Regular maintenance of the aquarium is essential.

An owner should take care of all the above points if they are not using a filter in their guppies tank.

Also read: Can Guppy Survive In Muddy Water?

How to prepare a tank without a filter?

Let us know what we have to perform when we set up a tank without using a filter. An owner should know that these all things are essential for their guppies’ good health and growth.

Cycle the water without fish

Your aquarium needs to carry out the nitrogen cycle to create a balanced ecosystem for your fish. Therefore, it is essential for your aquarium if you are not using a filter.

The role of the nitrogen cycle is to fill the aquarium with good bacteria that feed on and converts toxins into less damaging component.

The nitrogen cycle part of the aquarium maintenance is crucial and ensures the water chemistry is in good condition and not out of balance.

Performing a nitrogen cycle is not challenging; all you need is time and patience. The one thing to know is that there should be no fish present in an aquarium while performing the nitrogen cycle.

An owner should first know entirely about the nitrogen cycle, which will help them perform it entirely in a perfect way.

Here we will discuss the steps of doing the nitrogen cycle:

  1. Fill your aquarium with unchlorinated freshwater.
  2. Start adding a small amount of flake food till you don’t detect the ammonia spike in the aquarium.
  3. Keep the process on by adding flake food until you don’t be able to monitor the nitrite in an aquarium. 
  4. Once you detect the nitrite, the ammonia level decreases as the bacteria feeding on ammonia change it into nitrite.
  5. Once both ammonia and nitrite level falls at high speed, nitrate will start appearing because of the good bacteria feeding on nitrite. 
  6. Your nitrogen cycle is now completed with 0ppm nitrite and 0ppm ammonia. 

Nitrates are not completely harmless but are less damaging than nitrites and ammonia. Therefore, an owner should be completely active and do regular checks on nitrates along with ammonia and nitrite.

Regular maintenance is essential for keeping the water chemistry in balance. Make sure to change 30-50% of the water weekly as it will help in reducing the nitrates from the aquarium.

Add lots of aquatic plants

Live aquatic plants don’t only look beautiful in an aquarium but also are of many use like:

  1. They can become a food source for your guppies and their fry.
  2. They help in keeping the water clean.
  3. They become a hiding place for your guppies and their fry.
  4. Live plants feed on the toxins released by the fish waste and provide oxygen into the water.  
  5. Adding them in the very beginning will help increase the speed of the nitrogen cycle. 

Some of the plants you can use in your guppies aquarium are:

  1. Java Fern
  2. Amazon sword
  3. Horn wort
  4. Micro sword
  5. Guppy grass

Usually, aquatic plants get their nutrients from fish waste and other organic waste, but they also need more to grow. In such a case, you can use plant fertilizer which will make them grow faster.

Also read: Does Guppy Eat Plants?

Use a special substrate for your aquarium

Choosing the right substrate is essential if you are setting up your guppies aquarium without using a filter.

An aquarium with a live aquatic plant needs a substrate that can hold the nutrients to grow.

Sand and gravel cannot hold the nutrients and are also not easy to clean, making them out of the list.

ADA Aquasoil Amazonia is the best substrate to use, and it is not hard to clean like sand and other substrates.

I use ADA Aquasoil Amazonia in all of my planted tanks and recommend using it as your substrate for your guppies aquarium.

Don’t overcrowd your guppy’s tank

We all love to see the overcrowded guppy in a tank as it looks beautiful, but it can be dangerous to keep an overcrowded tank with guppies without using a filter.

More guppies mean more leftovers and waste, making the water dirty in a very short interval of time.

Dirty water can result in your guppy getting a disease and coming under a very critical situation.

As a general rule, we should follow the one-inch fish per one gallon of water rule, but this applies to an aquarium with a filter.

So in such a case, if you have a 10-gallon tank, then by following the rule, we can have ten guppies in a tank.

Some space usually gets occupied by the substrate, plants, and filter, which will not allow your tank to have 10 gallons of water.

So we can say that in a 10-gallon tank with a filter, you can keep an average of 7-8 guppies, and in an aquarium with no filter, we should keep less than that average.

Go for the right aquarium size

I recommend you to go for a bigger size aquarium as the aquarium smaller in size can make some issues like:

  1. Water will get dirty soon.
  2. It will contain a lower volume of water which will not be stable.
  3. Spike in ammonia is possible due to increased fish waste and other organic waste.

Even with a filter, a smaller aquarium is hard to maintain, so going for a smaller aquarium while not using a filter is not a good idea.

It entirely depends on the number of guppies you will keep while deciding the size of the aquarium. But we will recommend you not to go for less than a 10-gallon tank.

Also read: How Many Guppies In A 20 Gallon Tank?

Regular maintenance of aquarium

Maintenance of an aquarium is essential, even for an aquarium with a filter. So, regular maintenance becomes an essential part of an aquarium without a filter.

A change of 30-50% of water weekly is necessary for an aquarium with a filter, so an aquarium without a filter will need a more frequent water change.

The water change will depend on how fast the water is being filled with toxins. However, start with at least changing the 50% of water weekly.

If you see that the water needs to change every other day, I will suggest you use a filter instead.

When using tap water, make sure to use a water conditioner as the tap water disinfectant can kill the beneficial bacteria in your aquarium.

Use air pump

Usually, an air pump helps maintain the supply of air in your fish tank by keeping the water moving. The filter keeps water moving, and in case of the absence of a filter, the air pump does the work.

Without water movement, there can be a lack of oxygen in the water, which is not good for fish; also, it can result in surface scum without water movement.

Surface scum is a visible film of microorganisms that are present on the surface of the water. Surface scum acts as a boundary layer between the natural habitats and the air.

Using an air pump will help create movement in the water, which will prevent your aquarium from surface scum and will also provide more oxygen into the water.


Guppies can live without filters as they don’t produce much waste. Still, we recommend using the filter as a filter helps clean the water and keep the water safe from harmful toxins like nitrite and ammonia.

You can keep guppies in an aquarium without a filter. But, some requirements should be taken care of in such a case, like performing a nitrogen cycle, changing water weekly or before as needed, adding lots of live aquatic plants, and choosing a good substrate like ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia.

Don’t go for a tank that is smaller than 10 gallons, and keep in mind not to overcrowd the aquarium guppies.

Reference: NCBI

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