In recent years, it has become evident that frequency dependence in the attractiveness of a particular phenotype to mates can contribute to the maintenance of polymorphism. However, these preferences for rare and unfamiliar male phenotypes have only been demonstrated in small, controlled experiments. Here, we tested the preference for unfamiliar mates in groups of six to 96 individuals over 13 days, in the guppy (Poecilia reticulata). We observed individual behaviour in situ to test whether fish discriminate two unfamiliar individuals among many familiar ones. We found that unfamiliar males and females were preferred over the familiar fishes in all groups and that this effect decayed over time. Increasing group sizes and levels of sexual activity did not hamper the preference for unfamiliar mates, providing further support for the role of frequency dependent mate choice in the maintenance of trait polymorphism in natural populations.