Protein and Guppy

Most of us know that protein is essential to guppy and feeding live bbs (baby brine shrimp) is one of the best food. When I asked my fellow hobbyists why is live bbs a preferred food over other processed food, their answer is that because it’s high in protein. When I checked the processed food label, it’s stated that it’s slightly above 60% in protein which is even higher than bbs!
Guppy is an Omnivore (eats both plant and animal food) and requires between 35% to 47% dietary protein in general.

The amount of dietary protein required by guppy varies from fry to adult;

Fry – 50% and more on a dry weight basis
Juveniles – 35% to 40%
Adult – 30% to 40%

So what is protein? Proteins are organic compounds made up of small chains of nitrogen containing molecules called amino acids. There are 20 common amino acids, 12 of which are essential for guppy. They are called essential amino acids. The others are called nonessential amino acids. The non-essential amino acids may be used for energy or broken down into essential amino acids.

Protein is the most important component of the diet of guppy because protein intake generally determines growth.

The guppy must be supplied with sufficient and proportional quantity of essential amino acids. In general, if the food supplied parallels that of the guppy’s own protein structure, it will be more ‘digestable’ and becomes useful to the guppy.

As such, the top 3 best food you can choose to feed your guppies;
1.    Live fish
2.    Freshly hatched bbs (nauplii)
3.    Processed fishmeal

Let us take a look at this Amino Acids Table;

acid composition of common protein sources (g/ 100 g protein);

  Requirement Artemia nauplii Fish Meal
Arginine 4.4 7.3 8.3
Histidine 1.6 1.9 8.8
Isoleucine 2.0 3.8 4.2
Leucine 3.6 8.9 7.1
Lysine 4.8 8.9 7.9
+ (Cystine)
1.7 + (3.3) 1.3 3.1
+ (Tyrosine)
2.7 + (5.3) 4.9 + (5.4) 3.6
Threonine 2.0 2.5 4.0
Tryptophan 0.6   1.0
Valine 5.3 4.7 7.9
CP   61.6 68

In contrast to fatty acids, the amino acid composition of Artemia nauplii seems to be remarkably similar from strain to strain, country to country. Live fish is listed as the best food for your guppy but most of us don’t use it for obvious reason. Processed fishmeal is good too but remember that processing destroys some nutrients in it. Most guppy hobbyists will use freshly hatched bbs as it’s the second best and rather convenient to prepare.Most hobbyists know that high protein food are important for their guppies but usually do not know why. Fries usually need more protein than adult guppy. Proteins not used for tissue reproduction are utilized as energy. The metabolism of these proteins to sugars results in the release of highly toxic ammonia which is eliminated into the water by the gills (85%) and the kidneys (15%). The ammonia released into the aquarium is a pollutant. It is detoxified by the filter bacteria which use it as a food source. So if one use a very high protein diet, it will put an additional load on the filtration system and deteriorates water quality. Thus a strong bio-filter in the guppy tank and regularly changing water is essential. The filter eliminates ammonia. This is a key to better water management of your guppy tank.

Please note that the above are my personal point of views, and are written to help those who are interested in learning more about guppies. I would also like to thank those who have shared their experiences with me.

Note : This article was first written and published by Chris Yew on Monday December 12, 2005.

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