How to treat livebearer disease
Livebearer disease is a catch-all term used to describe many disorders that commonly affect livebearers (or fish that bear live young). You can get shimmies or wasting disease, body fungal, and many other ailments. First, you need to diagnose and then treat your fish for any type of livebearer disease.
Why are So Many Diseases Called Livebearer Diseases?
Livebearers are frequently raised in hard water or brackish environments (see this article for more details), and when they get brought into our fully freshwater aquariums, their bodies start to crash, their immune systems become compromised, and it’s easier for pathogens to attack. People often buy stressed-out livebearers, which can spread the next illness to all their fish tanks. Because hobbyists aren’t skilled at diagnosing fish diseases, this outbreak is often called “livebearer disease”. There are many fish diseases, but the most common ones that your livebearer will have is fin rot, internal parasites, fungus or some other commonplace condition. To prevent the spread of such infections, we highly recommend quarantining all fish that enter your home, feeding them high-quality foods to boost their health, and treating them with preventative medications (like vaccinating a new puppy).
We researched the various fish medications available to treat parasitic, bacterial and fungal infections to discover the best. Based on our research, we narrowed down the search to three broad-spectrum medications – Mardel Maracyn, Aquarium Solutions Ich-X, and Fritz ParaCleanse. Each fish receives this trio of quarantine medication to keep them healthy. Our fish store has had thousands of fish in its care over the years. Learn how to treat your fish at home with these medications.
Trio of Quarantine Medicines
Shimmies, Shimmying, or Molly Disease
Shimmying is a symptom often seen in mollies and other livebearers where the fish rocks its body from side to side in a snake-like slithering motion. Shimmies can be caused either by:
– Low temperatures, where fish might be “shivering” in order to warm up. – Low pH, where fish’s skin is burning due to acidic water. – Low mineral levels that cause the fish’s kidneys or other organs to shut down.
The last reason is probably the most problematic. Most farm-raised livebearers were raised in brackish or hard water environments. For the past 30-40 years, salt has been used to treat shimmying in African cichlids and livebearers. “Livebearer salt” not only contains sodium chloride salt (e.g., regular table salt and aquarium salt), but also a mixture of calcium, magnesium, electrolytes, and other minerals that are essential for healthy biological functions. We don’t recommend salt in high concentrations as it can cause harm to plants and snails.
Mollies have a tendency to shimmy if they were raised in brackish, saltwater environments.
If your livebearer is shimmying, provide the optimal living conditions with higher pH levels from 7.0 to 8.0, warmer temperatures between 76deg and 80degF, and increased mineral content. You can add minerals to soft water with supplements like crushed coral, Wonder Shell and Seachem Equrium. If your tap water is extremely hard, simply doing more frequent, partial water changes may be enough to bring additional minerals into the aquarium. Be aware that the fish that you purchased may have been in fresh water for a long period of time. If the damage is already done, and the treatment wasn’t performed quickly enough, it might not be possible save the fish.
Wasting Disease or Skinny Disease
An example of wasting disease is this: You buy 20 fish, and after a month five of them are very thin while the others look fine. Five of the five fish you bought eventually pass away. Then, a couple months later, five more fish start to become thinner and begin to die. This type of livebearer diseases is often caused by parasites inside the fish, such as tapeworms. The parasites steal nutrients from the fish’s body, causing weight loss and organ damage in the long term.
Tapeworms are parasites that infest the digestive system of fish and can lead to intestinal blockages. Some symptoms include stringy poop and weight loss, but the disease can be hard to accurately diagnose without examining the feces under a microscope. ParaCleanse is a preventative treatment that contains a drug called metronidazole, and a dewormer named praziquantel. To ensure that any newly hatched eggs are eliminated, repeat the first treatment two to three weeks later.
Tapeworms can be difficult to identify unless you use a microscope to examine the fish’s waste.
If ParaCleanse does not stop the wasting disease, you may need to try another kind of dewormer. Fritz Expel-P is very effective for treating roundworms, camallanus red worms, hookworms, and even planaria in your aquarium. While most internal parasites are invisible to the naked eye, camallanus worms are easier to spot since you can visually see small, red worms sticking out of the fish’s anus. Medications like Expel-P that contain the active ingredient of levamisole or flubendazole work by paralyzing the adult worms so that they can be expelled by the fish and removed using an aquarium siphon. To eliminate any parasites remaining, you should re-dose the tank with the dewormer two to three weeks following the initial treatment.
Because their eggs can be passed through fish waste, worms are easy to spread. Livebearers are also good scavengers and will eat infected feces. Although worms can also be harmful to other species, such as angelfishes, they rarely kill them. This is because parasites are much smaller than the larger cichlids. A guppy, or any other small livebearer, can be infected by worms. It takes only a few worms for their health to go berserk.
How to Prevent Livebearer Disease
Preventing illness is the key to fish health. If you are looking for new livebearers for your fish, these guidelines will help:
1. Provide the proper water parameters with a pH of 7.0 or higher and lots of minerals in the aquarium. To boost your mineral levels, Equilibrium, Wonder Shell and crushed coral are all good options. 2. All new fish should be kept in quarantine for at least a week to check for signs and symptoms. Consider treating them with the trio of quarantine medications to prevent the most common diseases. 3. Keep the fish in quarantine. Provide a calm environment for them to recover from their travels. Keep them away from any aggressive tank mates, and feed them plenty of good food.
If your fish exhibits a different set symptom and you doubt they have livebearer’s disease, you can check our articles on other fish diseases with detailed instructions.