Can Guppies Die From Overeating? (Answered)

Guppies are ravenous eaters and will eat as much food as you put into their aquarium. This desire to eat constantly can result in guppies becoming bloated through overeating which can lead to them dying.

Eating Daphnia
Eating Daphnia

Guppies have been popular in the freshwater fishkeeping hobby for decades. Since the 1960’s hobbyists and professional breeders alike have been selectively breeding guppies into the wonderful kaleidoscope of colors and tail shapes we have in the hobby today.

I started keeping guppies in the mid-1990s when I was given a 10-gallon aquarium with a small group of guppies. I don’t think there has been a single day from then until now when I didn’t have at least one tank of guppies in my fish room.

Why Do Guppies Die From Overeating?

Guppies, like almost all fish, have an internal organ called a swim bladder. This organ allows the fish to stay neutrally buoyant in the water so they don’t have to swim constantly to stay level in the water column.

If a guppy overeats or becomes bloated, the swim bladder can move. Once the swim bladder has moved, the guppy may no longer be able to keep itself buoyant in the water. If a guppy can’t keep itself buoyant, it will struggle to eat, which may lead to it starving to death, or it may become extremely stressed, which in itself can be fatal to guppies.

If guppies become bloated through overeating, their food may rot in their stomach rather than be digested. Rotting food can lead to gases being created inside the guppy or may allow infection to take hold in the guppy’s gut.



How Much Should Guppies Eat?

I recently wrote an article all about how often we should feed our guppies. The article is titled How Often Should You Feed Guppies and it looked at the subjects of ‘how often’ and ‘how much’ we should be feeding.

Essentially, it is important to get the right balance of ‘how much’ to feed your guppies. When I feed my guppy tanks, I always follow the same principle, little and often is better than all in one go. I like to add a small pinch of food to my guppy tanks, then give them a minute or two to eat it. If they eat it all, I add a little more and give them another minute or two. I repeat this process until they begin to lose interest in the food.

If we dump a load of food into the tank in one go, not only do we create a situation where one or more guppies can gorge themselves on the food, but there is also a good chance some of the food will fall down between rocks and behind decorations where the fish can’t get to it. The food will then end up rotting and spoiling your water quality.



What Is The Best Food For Guppies

Guppies are omnivores, and as such, they need a varied, balanced diet built around both meat protein, and vegetable matter. I recently wrote an article about What is the best food for guppies? and one titled What Do Guppies Eat?.

I feed my guppies a mix of good quality flake food, a selection of pellet foods, and a number of different live and frozen foods including bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia. I feed my guppy tanks 2 to 3 times every day. I try to feed them flake food once every day, and the pellet food on a separate feeding each day. The third feeding usually comprises live or frozen food, depending on what I have available.

The key to healthy, strong, colorful guppies is getting them the correct mix of vitamins and minerals, which can be achieved by giving them quality, varied diet.

How Can You Stop Guppies Overeating

It is very difficult to stop an individual guppy from overeating. When feeding guppies it is best to go with the little and often principal.

By adding a little food, then watching your guppies eat before adding a little more food, you can see if one individual guppy is overeating.

If you feel your guppies are overeating, one solution is to feed only good-quality foods. Generally speaking, the better quality the food, the fewer ‘fillers’ it contains. Fillers in fish foods are only there to bulk the food out and offer the guppies no nutritional value. Live and frozen foods for instance contain no fillers. Very cheap flakes or pellets will contain lots of fillers to help keep the price low.

When feeding your guppies, remember to bear in mind that a large, possibly pregnant female will need to eat more than a smaller male guppy.

What Should You Do If A Guppy Has Overeaten

If you have a guppy that has become bloated through overeating, you should first stop feeding for a day or two to allow the guppy to pass the food in its system. Don’t worry, guppies can easily go a few days without being fed.

If after a couple of days the guppy still looks swollen, try feeding it some food that is high in fiber. Daphnia and brine shrimp are both shelled crustaceans and their shells are great roughage for guppies. By feeding daphnia or brine shrimp, your guppy should pass the blockage which is causing them to be swollen.

If after eating daphnia or brine shrimp your guppy is still swollen, try removing the fish from the main tank and giving it a ‘bath’ in a tub of tank water that has had Epsom Salts added. The Epsom Salts help relax the guppy’s mussels, allowing a blockage to pass from its system.

In Conclusion

If we aren’t careful, our guppies can easily overeat which can be fatal. By feeding little and often rather than lots in one go, we can reduce the chances our guppies overeat.


About the Author

I’ve been keeping, breeding, and showing tropical fish for nearly 30 years. Over that time I’ve done it all! I’ve had great success and I’ve made some really foolish mistakes (like the time I bought an Asain Walking Catfish). Read more…
Richard James
Editor