Do Guppies Need A Filter? (Why They’re SO Important)

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Last Updated on 2023-08-05

If you’re setting up your fish tank and you’re wondering “do guppies need a filter?” then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, not only are you going to find out whether they need a filter, but you’ll also find out the following:

  • The different types of filtration and what each one does.
  • The benefits of setting up a tank with a filter.
  • What to do if you don’t have a filter.
  • What to look for when purchasing a filter.
  • The different types of filters you can purchase.
  • And the dangers that can come from not having a filter!

So keep reading to find out everything you need to know!

So, Do Guppies Need A Filter?

Filters are essential for guppy care, especially in smaller tanks. They’ll help keep the water quality in the tank high, and reduce the chance of waste and ammonia building up and making your guppy sick.

While you can get away with not having a filter in your tank it’s definitely not recommended. The chances of something going wrong in your tank will become much higher, and it will also end up being more effort on your part trying to keep the tank clean.

What Exactly Do Filters Do?

Filters pull water through themselves, and then clean them with the filtration media they have inside. The 3 most common filtration media are chemical, biological, and mechanical. There are also other types of media you can add to your filter, but only these three are necessary.

So what do each of them do?

Mechanical Filtration

Mechanical filtration is going to remove all of the debris and waste you can see in your tank. This includes dead plants, feces, and other grime and dirt. It is normally the first stage of filtration as it removes the biggest particles, reducing the chance of the other filter media clogging up.

Mechanical filtration will look similar to the sponge you use to clean your dishes with, however, it’s a lot more porous.

Chemical Filtration

Next up is chemical filtration. And as you can guess by the name it’s going to remove any chemicals that are in the tank. However, it doesn’t just do that. As well as removing chemicals it also helps to remove any smells or discoloration in the water.

The most common form of chemical filtration is activated charcoal, however, there are more and more types becoming available.

Biological Filtration

Lastly, there’s also biological filtration, and arguably this is the most important filtration you can have in your tank.

Biological filtration is the ideal surface for healthy bacteria to grow on (just like gravel). The bacteria that grow on biological filter media feed on ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites (which are poisonous to your guppies) and helps remove them from the tank!

(Find out whether guppies need heaters.)

What Are The Benefits Of A Filter In Your Guppies Tank?

There are many benefits associated with adding a filter to your guppies tank, so they’re well worth purchasing! Here are a few of the main benefits you’ll notice when adding a filter.

Ammonia, Nitrites And Nitrates Will Be Removed

While you won’t notice this with the naked eye, you can tell it’s working because you’re fish aren’t dead or sick, but swimming around happily. The main benefit of having a filter is that it’s going to remove these three chemicals.

While you’ll still need to perform water changes every so often. Having a filter will improve the quality of water in between changes.

You Won’t Have To Perform Water Changes As Often!

This is one of the best reasons to get a filter! You won’t have to change the water as often because it will stay cleaner for longer. Without a filter, you may need to change the water every other day. Not only can this be a pain for you, but it’s also going to stress your guppies out.

It Will Keep The Water Moving Around

Keeping the water moving around is ideal because it’s going to keep it oxygenated. If water is still it’s much harder for oxygen to be absorbed. However, the more movement there is (such as ripples), the bigger the surface area of the water becomes, meaning it’s going to be able to absorb more oxygen.

More oxygen means less carbon dioxide, which is not only bad for your guppies’ health, but it can also affect the pH of the tank as well.

(Find out whether guppies need light.)

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What’s The Right Type Of Filter For Guppies?

Unfortunately, there isn’t just one type of filter you can add to your tank, but a whole range of them. Each has its pros and cons. I would, however, recommend canister filters for those with a bigger tank, and power filters for those with smaller tanks.

Here’s a quick summary of all the different filters you can choose from!

Canister Filters

If you’ve got a bigger tank, then canister filters are going to be your best bet. They often sit underneath the tank and filter the water from there. Because they’re not in the tank they’re a lot bigger which means you can add a lot more filter media to them to help keep your water pristine.

In a lot of cases, they’re also easier to clean as you don’t have to fiddle around inside the tank. One thing to be aware of though is that when you do clean them, it will take longer than cleaning other types of filters, due to the extra components they have.

Power Filters

Power filters or HOB (hang on back filters) are often a great choice because once again, they’re not going to be inside your tank, but rather on the back. If you have a small aquarium, then these are going to be a lot better as they’re not going to be too powerful. You can normally get them for aquariums that are as small as 5 gallons!

You can also get some power filters that include bio wheels. When these wheels spin they make contact with the air for a small amount of time which helps the beneficial bacteria grow!

Internal Filters

If you wanted you could also use an internal filter. If you buy an aquarium kit then this may come with the tank anyway, but there’s normally a separate compartment you can put them.

While internal filters work great, they do take up space inside the tank which means less swim space for your guppies. It also means it’s messier when you’re trying to clean them as you’ll spill water.

And lastly, they can often take away from the ambiance of your tank. However, with that being said they do work great and they’ll be fine in your aquarium if you choose one.

Undergravel Filters

While they’re not as popular as the other filters on this list, they could still be a viable option in your tank. However, they’re going to be a lot harder to install if you’ve already got your tank set up.

As you can guess by the name undergravel filters go underneath your gravel and suck water through. The gravel itself acts as the mechanical filter, and will only need to be vacuumed when you’re cleaning your tank, instead of taking the whole filter out.

The problem with undergravel filters is that some areas tend to have more suction than others, which means there can be a build-up of debris in areas.

But if you haven’t set up your aquarium yet, and you like the sound of undergravel filters then you should give them a go!

If you’re not sure what filter to get then I highly recommend the Fluval C4 Power Filter. They come in different sizes and can work for a tank up to 70 gallons in size. It’s also reasonably priced, and most importantly, it’s going to get the job done!

(Find out whether guppies need an air bubbler.)

What To Look For When Purchasing A Filter For Your Guppies

If you’re planning on buying a filter for your guppies, there are a few things you should look for. Getting the right filter is going to make your life a whole lot easier, however, getting the wrong filter can result in you wishing you had a different one.

  • Make sure your filter has biological, chemical and mechanical filtration. Without all three of these, your tank isn’t going to be cleaned properly.
  • It should also be easily cleaned and maintained. While your filter is there to keep your aquarium clean when you’re not around, it’s also there to make your life easier. There’s no point getting a filter that’s going to make your life harder.
  • And lastly, make sure it’s reliable. Filters are essential to the upkeep of your tank, so getting one that is reliable is essential. If you don’t you may end up having to perform water changes more often.

What To Do If You Don’t Have A Filter

If your filter has broken, or you don’t have one yet, there are a couple of things you can do to keep the water clean. Just remember, that while these are viable in the short term, long term you should definitely invest in a filter.

Don’t Overstock Your Tank

While you should never overstock your tank anyway, it’s even more important without a filter. An ammonia buildup will happen rapidly with more fish in your tank, and it could only take a day for it to become too much and kill your fish.

Perform More Water Changes

The best thing you can do is to perform more water changes. Doing this is going to remove any build-up of ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites as well as any debris floating around in the tank.

The smaller your aquarium the bigger and more frequent the water changes will have to be. To know when to change your water you should use an API Master Test Kit to check the water daily. If the parameters aren’t right, then change the water.

Use Ammonia Neutralisers

Ammonia neutralizers are going to be a godsend when you don’t have a filter at first. They work by turning ammonia into ammonium. Ammonium is harmless to your fish, but it still feeds beneficial bacteria in your tank.

I used to use API Ammo Lock when I first started out, and it worked perfectly!

Use Lots Of Plants

And lastly, make sure you have lots of plants in your tank. Not only will they make your fish happy, but they also help keep the tank cleaner. They provide additional surfaces for bacteria to grow on as well as oxygen that feeds them.


Now you know that filters are pretty essential for the longevity of your guppies! If you don’t have a filter then you should consider purchasing one immediately! The best choice of filter for most tanks will be power filters or canister filters, although most filters are going to work great.

If you can’t get a filter right away, make sure you’re not overstocking your tank, and that you’re performing frequent water changes, adding an ammonia neutralizer and live plants.

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