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Why Do Guppies Jump Out of Water?

September 26, 2013

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Why do fish jump out of water? Fish are known to jump out of water for a variety of reasons. They can be chasing prey or trying to escape from a predator, or trying to remove parasites from their skin, or are migrating up a river, or some other reason. But the question on the mind of many aquarists, especially those who keep guppies (Poecilia reticulata), is why do guppies jump out of fish tanks? Well, it is not because of the above mentioned reasons, but because they may be looking for new bodies of water to inhabit.

Guppies jump out of water
Guppies jump out of water on purpose.

Researchers Daphne Soares and Hillary S. Bierman sought out to determine why guppies jump out of water after one landed in Soares' cup of iced tea. In order to help determine why and how the fish jump, Soares and Bierman set up high speed digital video cameras to capture the fish jumping event and what they found was intriguing to say the least; the guppies not only jumped out of the fish tanks, but they jumped out with purpose, actually backing up to gain speed for their hurl into the air. They determined that the guppy can jump several times its body length and do so for no apparent reasons.

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 The researchers believe the guppies jump for dispersal purposes, meaning they want out of the current body of water that they are living in. They didn't find any evidence that guppies jump out of water to feed on arboreal food items like that of the archer fish or arowana, or for seasonal migration purposes. Soares and Bierman hypothesize that guppies jump out of water deliberatively and for the purpose of moving to a different body of water.

So, if you keep guppies, which happen to be one of the most popular fish for freshwater aquarists, make sure that the tank they are living in has a lid on it.

The complete paper, "Aerial jumping in the Trinidadian guppy (Poecilia reticulata)," is published in the scientific journal PLoSONE.

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Reader Comments

Roy    Tampa, FL

11/19/2013 7:35:46 AM

Interesting article, in the case of fancy guppies with large tails I have not lost a male to jumping but occasionally have lost a female. This behavior on my fancy guppies seems to show up when the fish get crowded in smaller spaces, with larger livebearers like swords which can jump much higher and farther than guppies even a single fish confined to a smaller bowl or bucket might try to jump out time and again. I do not keep any lids or covers on my fishroom tanks, when I housed large swords in 10G tanks this was a common problem however it rarely happens now that they are in 20G long tanks. It seems to me that space is a variable on encouraging this behavior, however other factors like turning on lights or walking by the tank can also cause ANY fish to jump. The best alternative when a lid is not available or desired is of coarse floating or surface matting plants. Just some of my personal observations which I'm sure many other aquarists have also experienced.

CaveCarp    Springfield, IL

11/3/2013 6:09:00 AM

What an interesting article and video--cute fish!

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