Cobra Guppy Care Guide

What Exactly is a Cobra Guppy Fish?

Cobra Guppy Care Guide7 mins read

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Cobra guppy care guide
Image from Flickr

The Guppy is one of the most popular freshwater tropical fish for beginners, and cobra guppies are a unique variety.

These little fish are also popular amongst experienced aquarists, too, and the cobra guppy is one of the most unique guppy variations. With snakeskin-like patterns, it comes in many colors, and no single cobra guppy is the same.

All guppies are hardy, peaceful shoaling fish, provided they have good tank conditions. Guppies do have quite specific needs, which this guide will explore. In addition, it will touch on the variations of the Cobra Guppy, and other characteristics.

Breed Overview

OriginMostly South America.
Lifespan1-3 years, 5-year maximum.
SizeMales 1.5– 3.5cm (0.6 – 1.4 Inches), Females 3–6 cm (1.2–2.4 Inches).
ColorsCobra Pattern in Green, yellow, Red, Dragon, Lemon, Golden, Luminesce, Koi, and Leopard.
Tank Size10 – 20 Gallons, and 5 gallons per additional fish.
TemperamentActive, Peaceful, Shoaling.
Water Temperature78–82°F (25.5–27.8°C).
Water pH6.5 – 8.5 Brackish Water.
Difficulty LevelBeginner Easy, and ideal for advanced Enthusiasts.

Species Summary

Species summary of cobra guppy
The Cobra Guppy is an extremely exceptional color variation of this ornamental aquarium fish, with color imprints so unique that not a single one is the same. Image from Flickr

The guppy (Poecilia reticulata) is one of the world’s most popular freshwater aquarium fish. They originated in South America and are now found all over the world. In general, guppy fish lifespan is not that long. Yet apart from this, guppies are hardy and tolerant fish that can survive in both freshwater and saltwater. Many aquarists love their peaceful and social nature, and tendency to shoal.

Color Variations Of Cobra Guppies

People have bred guppies for over a century to create extraordinary color variations. Guppies in the wild vary according to their eye color, body color, and shade as well as their tail shape. However, cobra guppies have special recognition within the fishkeeping community for their unique color mutations.

The Guppy is divided into three sub-categories pertaining to variations:

  1. Base Color – The Four Base colors include Albino, Cobra, Wild-Color, and Blond. Ground Colors may also be formed from combinations of the basic colors.
  2. Tail Type – There are ideally 12 different tail shapes in guppies as seen in the diagram from Wikipedia;
Larger Strain:Sword Strain:Shorter Strain:
  • Veil tail
  • Triangle tail
  • Fantail
  • Flag tail
  • Double sword
  • Upper sword
  • Lower sword
  • Lyre tail
  • Spade tail
  • Spear tail
  • Round tail
  • Pintail
  1. Patterns – The Cobra Pattern is a rosette-type pattern on the skin resembling that of a cobra snake, with vertical bars. Then, there is the Carpet pattern, Snakeskin Pattern, and Black or “Tuxedo” pattern.

The most prominent varieties of the Cobra Guppy are:

  • Green – Green-yellow color.
  • Cobra – Black and orange.
  • Yellow – Black and Yellow.
  • Red – Red to Green Color with black.
  • Dragon – Blue to red with Yellow.
  • Lemon – Light yellow, green.
  • Golden – Yellow Gold color.
  • Koi – Red, Orange, and White.
  • Leopard – Yellow with black.
  • Luminous – Available in Assorted Colors.

Sexual Dimorphism In Guppies

Sexual dimorphism in guppies
Males are more extravagant in color, and have larger tails, while the female is less colorful with a short tail and slight indications of specific color variations.

Guppies are one species where it is easy to differentiate between males and females. Female Guppies are almost twice the size of males. Similarly, the male has a streamlined, slender body, whereas the female has a much rounder, chunkier body.

Additionally, males have more extravagant colors and larger tails, while the female is less colorful with a short tail.

Guppy Fish Lifespan And Size

As mentioned, guppy fish lifespan unfortunately isn’t that long. Most Guppies will only live for around 1-3 years, especially ornamental guppies. However, with good care, they can live up to 5 years. A fully grown male guppy will be around 1.5– 3.5cm (0.6 – 1.4 Inches), and a female 3–6 cm (1.2–2.4 Inches).

Temperament And Behaviour

Temperament and behaviour of cobra guppies
Guppies are shoaling fish and therefore will need a companion or two, preferably one male with two or three females.

Guppies are shoaling fish and therefore will need a companion or two. Preferably, a group of guppies contains one male with two or three females. These fish are mostly peaceful, and get along well with other tank mates. Guppies are also quite energetic and social, with friendly personalities, and lots of individuality.

Overall Care Of Cobra Guppies

Caring for guppies in general is fairly easy. As mentioned, these are hardy and tolerant fish,  making them the perfect choice for beginners. But what are the specific requirements of cobra guppies? They are not too dissimilar from the needs of other guppies, so read on.

The Aquarium For Your Cobra Guppies

The aquarium for your cobra guppies
Guppies need 8-10 hours of sleep at night because they have a circadian rhythm. Keep them in indirect sunlight, or use an LED lamp during the day.

To create a habitat for cobra guppies, there are a few things to consider. These fish need something where they will be content, but that also shows off their intricate, bold colors and confident personalities.

These conditions naturally occur in tropical climates,  generally in streams and pools, with more brackish water. Therefore, it helps to mimic them in captivity.

Ideal Aquarium Parameters for Cobra Guppies:

  • Tank Size  – A tank of between 10-20 gallons will suffice for three guppies, with an additional 5 gallons per guppy, or a similar-sized tank mate.
  • Water Conditions – Cooler tropical temperatures of 78–82°F (25.5–27.8°C) are suitable. Guppies prefer Brackish water, so add 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons of water. Keep your water pH between 6.5 and 8.5, and ensure the water is always clean. You will need a thermometer and testing kit to do parameter checks.
  • Filtration – Invest in a very gentle hang-on back, or sponge filter that has a light current, and that will keep the water clean, and oxygenated.
  • Light – Guppies need 8-10 hours of sleep at night because they have a circadian rhythm. Keep them in indirect sunlight, or use an LED lamp during the day.
  • Heat  – Unless you stay in a warm tropical climate, their water temperatures should never be below 68 ̊ F(20 ̊ C), so a small heater may be needed.

Decorating Your Tank

  • Substrate – Mostly fine sand, gravel, or crushed coral is a suitable substrate for guppies and gives you a basis to plant live plants.
  • Ornaments And Toys – Depending on the theme or style of your tank, use ornaments that provide hiding space, and entertainment for your guppies. Anything from castles, shipwrecks, caves, ceramic pots, and PVC pipes, to more natural rocks and driftwood, and plenty of live or synthetic plants.

Live Plants

Live plants are great in aquariums because they are softer and less prone to injuring your fish. On top of this, they clean your tank and provide oxygen. Plants can also be a tasty snack for most fish and other tank inhabitants. Likewise, if you are trying to simulate their natural habitat, they can be perfect. Here are a few excellent plant choices for your Guppies:

  • Java Moss
  • Flame Moss
  • Ball of algae
  • Anacharis
  • Water Sprites
  • Water Wisteria
  • Barteri, Wrinkle Leaf Cognesis, or Hastifolia Anubias
  • Guppy Grass
  • Water Lettuce
  • Amazon Swords
  • Moneywort
  • Cryptocoryne
  • Hornwort
  • Java Ferns

New Guppies For Your Aquarium

New guppies for your aquarium
Before choosing any guppy, ensure that they are healthy and active, showing no signs of damage or disease, with a clear and colorful body and bright eyes. Image from Flickr

With many different colors and types of Cobra guppies available, you may have found your favorite by now. There are many reputable breeders and pet stores that specialize in ornamental fish breeds. However, it’s often not easy to find the fancy Cobra guppy in your regular pet stores.

Before choosing any fish, ensure that they are healthy and active, and show no signs of damage or disease. Your cobra guppies should have a colorful body and bright eyes. You will need to choose a few guppies, as they are shoaling fish and require some companions.

Place your fish in the bag to float in your aquarium for 20 minutes to acclimate. Then, you can replace cup by cup of the bag water with the tank water at 10-minute intervals for another 20 to 30 minutes. Now your fish should be used to the water conditions, and content to be introduced into their new home.

The Best Guppy Tank Mates

The best guppy tank mates
Invertebrates also make good tank mates for guppies.

Other Fish that are similar in size and peaceful themselves will make ideal tank mates. You will similarly need to consider whether they will be suited for the water conditions preferred by guppies.

Here is a list of some of the most suitable tank mates for your Guppies:

Smaller Shoaling Fish:

  • Endler’s Livebearers
  • Platy Fish
  • Black Neon Tetras
  • Ember Tetras
  • Chili Rasboras
  • Galaxy Rasboras (Celestial Pearl Danio)
  • Harlequin Rasboras
  • White Cloud Minnows
  • Peacock Gudgeons
  • Molly Fish

Small Bottom Feeders:

  • Otocinclus Catfish
  • Pygmy Cory Catfish
  • Kuhli Loaches
  • Bristlenose Plecos


Invertebrates also make good tank mates for guppies. However, you can also consider adding the following species to your guppy tank for even more variety:

Feeding Cobra Guppies

Feeding cobra guppies
Guppies should mainly be fed a staple of good quality nutritious, and balanced flakes or granules daily. Image from Flickr

Cobra Guppies, similarly to all Guppy species, are omnivores that require a balanced diet of both plant and meat matter. They are quite slow eaters and require at least 30 to 60 minutes to finish their food. After this, remove all food if not eaten by bottom-dwelling companions. You can feed your cobra guppies in the mornings and late afternoon before bedtime.

Guppy Foods

  • Meat Based – Small insects and larvae such as mosquitos, Brine shrimps, Daphnia, Bloodworms, and cooked minced beef or egg yolk can be given for protein.  brine Shrimp, Daphnia, Cooked Minced Beef, Cooked egg Yolk, detritus, Insect larvae, Mosquitos, and Bloodworms.
  • Plant-Based – Guppies can ideally eat a variety of vegetables including; cucumber, peas, lettuce, algae, zucchini, Broccoli, Cauliflower, kale, and spinach. All vegetables need to be blanched and cooled down before feeding.
  • Staple – Guppies should mainly be fed a staple of good quality nutritious, and balanced flakes or granules daily.

Tank Maintenance

Tank maintenance is a vital part of owning fish. Furthermore, your filter, plants, and algae-cleaning tankmates can go a long way to maintaining a pristine tank environment. However, you also need to maintain and keep the tank and ornaments clean and free manually. This means keeping an eye on decaying plant matter, foods, and algae build-up as far as necessary.

Weekly water changes are vital. In addition, here are some tips: 

  • Remove at least 20-30% of the tank water siphoning it from the bottom.
  • Prepare water separately and condition it with aqua salts to get the right parameters.
  • Use water that is the same temperature as that of your tank.
  • Replace the water with fresh water that has the same parameters and temperatures as your tank.

Common Pests And Diseases In The Cobra Guppy

Common pests and diseases in the cobra guppy
Most conditions in guppies can easily be treated by quarantining your sick fish in a separate tank with optimal water conditions, and a higher temperature. Image from Flickr

Guppies are relatively hardy fish that seldom get sick. However, poor water conditions, poor diet, stress, and contagious pests or diseases from new plants or fish can lead to issues.

You can treat most conditions in guppies by quarantining your sick fish in a separate tank. Additionally, this should have optimal water conditions and a higher temperature. You can also purchase medication for the specific condition or antibiotics for infection from a vet or pet store.

Common Pests and Diseases In Guppies: 

  • White Spot Disease/Ich – A parasite that causes white spots on your fish.
  • Fin And Tail Rot – Ammonia Burns or dirty water causes an infection that will cause the fins and tail to appear ragged and patchy.
  • Swim Bladder Disorder / Dropsy – Infection or damage to the swim bladder, that allows the fish to be buoyant. It can cause your fish to be bloated and swim irregularly, struggling to stay upright.
  • Columnaris & Mouth Fungus – Contagious bacteria that causes cloudy splotches on the mouth and middle part of the body.
  • Gill Flukes – Mainly found in Guppies, it is a worm that attacks the gills of your guppy, causing difficulty breathing. It can be treated in the early stages with quarantine, as it is infectious, and medication. Though when the gills start bleeding, it is too late.

You will find much more in-depth information on Guppy Diseases and Pests in our article “Guppy Fish Behaviour Before Death”.

Breeding In General

Do Guppies Give Birth
As you will notice, males tend to chase females around non-stop during mating season, and that is why we recommend keeping either one male per two to three females, or only females. Image from Flickr

Cobra Guppies, like all other guppies are live-bearing fish. They have intricate mating rituals and a unique birthing method. One notable aspect of guppies is that they are eager breeders. They also mature quite fast, you may soon find a few small fish in your tank without trying!

Unfortunately, in a communal tank where the parents are present, there is a risk they will eat the fry. To put it simply, guppies are cannibalistic towards their own young. Thus, the ideal breeding setting for guppies is to have a separate tank for controlled mating, with color variations of your choice. In addition, you must remove the parents after the birth of the fry.

More Detailed Advice On Breeding:

As you will notice, males tend to chase females around non-stop during mating season. Therefore, it’s best to keep either one male per two to three females or alternatively, only females. Keeping only males can be risky, but not impossible.

If breeding your guppies is something that you would be interested in I highly recommend reading “How to Do Guppies Mate

Final Thoughts

How long can guppy fish go without food
The peaceful and entertaining fish species, with individual personalities, will ensure many hours of social antics, and funny quirks.

The Cobra Guppy will be a colorful and stimulating addition to your established aquarium, or a hardy and beginner-friendly option for your new aquarium. The peaceful and entertaining fish species, all have individual personalities, and they will ensure many hours of social antics, and funny quirks.

With the right care, and by following our guidelines, you should have some years with a healthy and flourishing cobra guppy and companions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Exactly is a Cobra Guppy Fish?
The Cobra Guppy is a color strain from the Snakeskin family that has a more spotted pattern, and vertical bars on the body.
Is the Cobra Guppy Aggressive?
The name “Cobra” may leave you with the cliche indication of aggression, however, No, as with all other guppy species and color strains, the Cobra Guppy has the same peaceful demeanor.
Does the Cobra Guppy Need Different Water Parameters?
The Cobra Guppy is just as hardy as any other Guppy species and requires the same water parameters that you have read about earlier in our Care Guide.
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