Guppy Staying In One Spot At Top Of Tank – Reasons & Solutions

Guppies are among the most common fish for amateur aquarists, mostly thanks to their low cost and low maintenance. However, despite being relatively hardy, guppies can still subject themselves to weird behaviors.

A prime example is when guppies stay in one spot at top of the tank, where they are not supposed to linger for long. What are the reasons behind this? And what can you do to nudge back to normalcy? Let’s find out in the article below!

Why Is My Guppy Staying In One Spot At Top Of Tank

Low water quality

Sometimes, guppies choose to swim near the surface due to the horrid water conditions inside the tank. Without proper care, your tank can easily turn into a mess that fails to provide guppies with their needs.

First off, guppies need to be kept somewhere slightly warmer than the standard room temperature. This is because they originate from a tropical country.

When the temperature of your aquarium drops below a certain point, expect guppies to get anxious and uncomfortable.

Secondly, guppies require a fixed range of pH levels to survive. Ideally, it should fall between 5 and 7. If your tank’s pH level exceeds this recommended range, it should be no surprise when your guppies try to escape from the water as much as possible.

Swim bladder syndrome

Swim bladder syndrome refers to a situation where your guppy’s bladder is full of gas. In most cases, having an empty bladder allows guppies to move around and swim effortlessly. But if they fail to eject the accumulating gas, chances are they will not be able to swim to a lower depth.

The easiest way to determine whether your guppies have swim bladder syndrome or not is to look at their bellies. If they are bloated, then bingo!

Low oxygen concentration

Like all other underwater animals, guppies rely on oxygen to live. If your tank does not have enough oxygen regulated for the fish, guppies end up being desperate. Subsequently, they swim to the tank’s water surface and try to suck the oxygen out of the air.

An oxygen deficiency can be traced back to various reasons, but the most common ones are lack of water currents and fierce competition among tank mates.

Toxic buildup

If you have not checked your water’s conditions or cleaned your tank for quite some time, prepare yourself to be appalled by the amount of waste accumulated inside.

As time goes by, the waste will dissolve, causing nitrate and ammonia levels to spike up.

When coming into contact with these two chemical substances, your guppies will experience organ breakdown and immense stress. Thus, once they detect a change in the water’s ammonia and nitrate levels, guppies will want to stay away as much as possible.

Overcrowded tank

Overcrowded guppies

Being forced to live with too many tank mates can be the main source of stress for guppies. Given their peaceful temperament, there are nothing guppies can do besides running and avoiding others.

Hence, they tend to sneak to the water surface if the fish inside the tank becomes too much of a burden.


1. How can you tell if a guppy is stressed?

If a guppy is stressed, chances are it will develop the following symptoms.

  • It swims near the water surface and stays there most of the time.
  • It looks paler and is nowhere as vibrant as its original colors.
  • It lurks around hiding spots.
  • It does not want to eat as much.
  • It suffers from nips and injuries.

If you think your fish has a few of these signs, it is time to give your tank an overhaul and see why it is negatively affecting guppies.

2. How can I tell if my guppy is dying?

It can be difficult trying to tell whether your guppy is dying or just sleeping. The trick here is to learn about common behaviors of guppies, then check out whether your guppies are doing the same.

For example, if your guppy seems motionless and does not move around during the day, chances are they are either sick or about to die. This is because guppies normally do not sleep during the day. Rather, they are super active and will swim around enthusiastically.

If you are unsure about this, then there are still several signs such as bloated bellies, rotting fins, and tails, protruding eyes, bent spine, or white spots running across the body.

3. How do you calm a stressed guppy?

Calming a stressed guppy means you have to understand what causes the problem in the first place.

If it is about living in an overcrowded tank, consider investing in a bigger aquarium. Something with at least 50 gallons of water will suffice. This way, your guppies can be free to move around.

If it is about bullies and aggressive tank mates, find a better company for your guppies. Equally small and quiet fish will be your best bet. Stay away from anything that can pose a threat to your fish.

If it is about the water’s conditions, perform a water change and keep all the necessary parameters in check. Get rid of the waste and make sure your water stays as fresh as possible.

stressed guppy

Or, if your guppies are going through a cold wave, consider buying a heater. Heating the water up to 82 degrees Fahrenheit makes it easier for guppies to breathe and live, as it mimics their natural habitat.


Guppy staying in one spot at top of the tank can be the symptom of many problems. Make sure you examine all relevant factors carefully to determine whether they are the issue.

Then, take timely steps to treat your guppies and ensure they get to stay happy and healthy.