Female guppy not improving despite treatment

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wayfareranima

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Location
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What is the water volume of the tank? 28L not enough, I’m aware, and shopping for a second hand 100-200L tank.
How long has the tank been running? Mid Oct /23
Does it have a filter? Yes HOB
Does it have a heater? Yes, 25w
What is the water temperature? 25-27*c typically
What is the entire stocking of this tank? two adult female guppies, (new additions) two juvenile female guppies.

Maintenance
How often do you change the water? Atm daily,
How much of the water do you change? 10-25%
What do you use to treat your water? aqua essentials api, also stresscoat+ api,
Do you vacuum the substrate or just the water? It has no substrate, I am clearing out all the fish waste I can see.
*Parameters - Very Important
Did you cycle your tank before adding fish? Yes. Since October/23
What do you use to test the water? Fluval masterkit at first, now API freshwater masterkit
What are your parameters? We need to know the exact numbers, not just “fine” or “safe”.
Ammonia: API = 0 Fluval = .1
Nitrite: API = 0 Fluval = 0
Nitrate: API = 0 Fluval = 0
pH: API = 6.8 Fluval = 5.5

Feeding
How often do you feed your fish?
How much do you feed your fish?
once a day, with a syringe, so it’s presoaked in their water and measured out, no more than they can eat in 30s, fasted one day once a week.
What brand of food do you feed your fish? I changed the diet from sera veggie flakes to aqua one tropical flakes, then added bloodworms and defrosted frozen spinach. Now they’re on Dymax tropical essentials. Been trying to offer a varied and nutritious diet, to tempt the sick fish.
Do you feed frozen? Yes, bloodworms and spinach, but defrosted first.
Do you feed freeze-dried foods? Yes, listed above.

Illness & Symptoms
How long have you had this fish? About three weeks coming up to a month now.
How long ago did you first notice these symptoms? Maybe a fortnight?
In a few words, can you explain the symptoms? I’m most worried about the larger adult female. She has had inflamed gills and laboured breathing, and is less interested in food, and has lost weight.
had some inflammation at the base of her pectoral fins, and was chasing food attempting to eat it and then spitting it back out. The only thing I’ve seen her keep down is fine spinach. She now has what looks like erosion behind her flared, red gills.
Have you started any treatment for the illness?
When I first got the new girls they seemed fine for a few days and even dropped some fry, so I first suspected the inflammation was die to ammonia poisoning, so was doing daily water changes of about 10-20% and using a half dose of aqua essentials + stresszyme.
When she showed little improvement I then suspected gill flukes, and I treated them with melafix and pimafix, epsom and sea salt for five days to try to address what I thought was parasitic infection, while I waited for Para-gone and quick start to be shipped to me.

I did this in response to the ammonia and pH results of my newly bought fluval master kit, but am now doubting its reliability since getting an API master test kit. They contradict each and the discrepancy is significant.
Was your fish physically ill or injured upon purchase?
Didn’t appear to be, but I know gill flukes can lay dormant until stress occurs.
How has its behavior and appearance changed, if at all?
So my main concern is the red inflamed gills that have now developed a scalloped or eroded patch of scales behind them, I assume from her laboured breathing. She was sitting at the bottom the day before I began treatment for bacteria but seemed to improve after 5 days of melafix and pimafix and salt and the air stone.
Looked like she had gained some weight back too.
I stopped using those for 48hrs and did a WC so I could dose the tank with paragone.
The next day she’s sitting at the bottom again, so I do a big water change, around 50% and start melafix and pimafix and salts again.
I am changing the water daily, and have now treated for parasites, bacteria and fungal infections, and she is a bit more active today and swimming around and trying to eat but is still spitting out most bites.
I’m trying not to get my hopes up about her recovery.
The two adult females also developed this black patch on the heads, which from all my scouring on the internet I have determined are either developed from stress and/or ammonia burns.
The larger female developed the patch of black on the head first and then not long after, her blue sister did too.
I did all I could to reduce stress and ammonia, (lights out siesta in the middle of the day, only having the air stone on for a short period on low, stresscoat+ aqua essentials and stresszyme/quick start at half doses, melafix and pimafix and salt for five days) and the black mark went away on the blue girl and reduced on the larger yellow girl.
But since yesterday’s big WC the black mark is now back prominently on both girls.
Explain your emergency situation in detail.
(Please give a clear explanation of what is going on, include details from the beginning of the illness leading up to now)

At first I suspected NH3 poisoning, did all I could to reduce the ammonia and test kits say it is very low.
No nitrites or nitrates because I have been doing daily WCs for a week and a half, and there was a huge java moss with driftwood in there, that I removed yesterday in case it was the cause of the ammonia. The tank has been running for months with dechlorinator and cheap fish flakes in it.

When I stopped the bacterial/fungal treatment for 48hrs to begin the parasite treatment she declined overnight and was sitting at the bottom again.
I did a big WC, tested the tap water, (it’s pH is just above 7 according to API but 6 according to Fluval) and began the pima/melafix+NaCl and epsom salt dosing again yesterday, and she seems a little better this morning.
Chasing the new food and trying to eat it, not quite succeeding, but now swimming around with ease, comes to the glass when I stop by to examine her.

Pictured below are the yellow adult female and then one or two pics are of her sister.
The blue girl without the mark on her heads and the yellow girl with a reduced mark, yesterday from above.

Which testing kit is more accurate and reliable?
 

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Microsporidian infection. treat all your tanks with salt because it's in them all.

SALT
You can add rock salt (often sold as aquarium salt), swimming pool salt, or any non iodised salt (sodium chloride) to the aquarium at the dose rate of 1 heaped tablespoon per 20 litres (5 gallons) of water. If there is no improvement after 48 hours you can double that dose rate so there is 2 heaped tablespoons of salt per 20 litres.

If you only have livebearers (guppies, platies, swordtails, mollies), goldfish or rainbowfish in the tank you can double that dose rate, so you would add 2 heaped tablespoons per 20 litres and if there is no improvement after 48 hours, then increase it so there is a total of 4 heaped tablespoons of salt per 20 litres.

Keep the salt level like this for at least 2 weeks but no longer than 4 weeks otherwise kidney damage can occur. Kidney damage is more likely to occur in fish from soft water (tetras, Corydoras, angelfish, Bettas & gouramis, loaches) that are exposed to high levels of salt for an extended period of time, and is not an issue with livebearers, rainbowfish or other salt tolerant species.

The salt will not affect the beneficial filter bacteria but the higher dose rate (4 heaped tablespoons per 20 litres) will affect some plants and some snails. The lower dose rate (1-2 heaped tablespoons per 20 litres) will not affect fish, plants, shrimp or snails.

After you use salt and the fish have recovered, you do a 10% water change each day for a week using only fresh water that has been dechlorinated. Then do a 20% water change each day for a week. Then you can do bigger water changes after that. This dilutes the salt out of the tank slowly so it doesn't harm the fish.

If you do water changes while using salt, you need to treat the new water with salt before adding it to the tank. This will keep the salt level stable in the tank and minimise stress on the fish.

When you first add salt, add the salt to a small bucket of tank water and dissolve the salt. Then slowly pour the salt water into the tank near the filter outlet. Add the salt over a couple of minutes.
 
Note that your Epsom salt is magnesium and should not be used here. You need sodium, your sea salt should work as it will be 90% sodium.

When you do water changes make them larger than the 10-20% you have been doing, I suggest 50%. Obviously then replace the salt as necessary, as described by Colin above.

Long term, your water is too acidic for guppies to thrive. Do you know the GH (general hardness)? You can increase the hardness with a calcareous substrate or mineral salts.
 
Thank you guys, for responding.
Can I ask what exactly indicates microsporidian infection so I can recognise it, in the future?
I am aware that epsom salt is Mg, the tap water here is very soft and I was trying to stabilise the pH by increasing the hardness, as I know guppies prefer it.
Also, aware they prefer a higher pH and the tap water is 7.2 but even when I do a bigger water change like 50-75%, over night it swings back down to 6 something, depending on which testing kit I use.
I’m aware there are some fluctuations of pH between day and night, so trying to test pH at midday, daily. I am hesitant to put them through unnecessary pH swings when they’re stressed/being medicated, because 3/4 seem to have adapted to lower pH, and I’m aware of the impact of having to constantly acclimatise them.
Just trying to minimise any and all stress.
Any advice regarding the black head mark? Or about which master kit to rely on?
I just bought a much bigger tank today, it’s 48G or approximately 180l and have moved the fish that were doing well into that tank and left the larger yellow girl in the 28l tank to reduce bioload and stressors. I did a 50% WC and added more NaCl but not any Mg, and she ate some food and kept it down, so I’m tentatively hopeful.
Thank you again for sharing your knowledge.
 
Can I ask what exactly indicates microsporidian infection so I can recognise it, in the future?
Microsporidian infections are characterised by white muscle tissue under the skin. The second picture across (top row) show this quite nicely. I have put the image's link below. In addition to the muscle turning white, the fish lose condition over 2-4 weeks (sometimes longer) and death occurs unless treated.

Microsporidian infections are spread when a fish or shrimp eats infected meat (an infected fish or shrimp dies and gets eaten). It normally takes around a month after infection before it shows the white muscle tissue. The only cure I know that works is salt.
 
Thank you guys, for responding.
Can I ask what exactly indicates microsporidian infection so I can recognise it, in the future?
I am aware that epsom salt is Mg, the tap water here is very soft and I was trying to stabilise the pH by increasing the hardness, as I know guppies prefer it.
Also, aware they prefer a higher pH and the tap water is 7.2 but even when I do a bigger water change like 50-75%, over night it swings back down to 6 something, depending on which testing kit I use.
I’m aware there are some fluctuations of pH between day and night, so trying to test pH at midday, daily. I am hesitant to put them through unnecessary pH swings when they’re stressed/being medicated, because 3/4 seem to have adapted to lower pH, and I’m aware of the impact of having to constantly acclimatise them.
Just trying to minimise any and all stress.
Any advice regarding the black head mark? Or about which master kit to rely on?
I just bought a much bigger tank today, it’s 48G or approximately 180l and have moved the fish that were doing well into that tank and left the larger yellow girl in the 28l tank to reduce bioload and stressors. I did a 50% WC and added more NaCl but not any Mg, and she ate some food and kept it down, so I’m tentatively hopeful.
Thank you again for sharing your knowledge.
Absolutely you do not want pH swings which is why it is always best to choose fish that are suited to your water.
If that isn’t the case, long term solutions to the GH discrepancy are needed, such as a calcerous substrate or mixing mineral salts with the new water to increase the water hardness. Fish do not adapt nor acclimatise to different water in a few days, if ever. Hard water fish have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to specific parameters and need that to thrive. Keeping them in water that is too soft will shorten their lives.
50% water changes are desirable in almost all circumstances, water quality is the single most important factor in fish keeping and changing 10-25% of the water leaves 90-75% of the bad stuff in the tank.
 
Update: I have increased the salinity, and removed all the other fish that were sharing her space, doing 50% WC daily, and she has become swollen almost overnight, I doubt it’s a good thing, somehow. Any insight into what’s happening with her? Still swimming and showing interest in food.
 

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Is she declining? Or improving? I don’t want her to suffer unnecessarily. If the rapid bloating is an indicator that she’s losing the battle, I would consider euthanasia.
Anyone experienced this before?
 
Is she pine coning? If so it could be dropsy, in which case euthanasia may be kindest.
 
You need to treat all your fish because if she has it, chances are the other fishes might have it too.

How much salt did you add?

I haven't seen that happen before from adding salt but it could be the salt in the water has caused her to absorb a lot of water and that is why she is bloated. If this is the case, it should settle down in a few days. However, it could also be something else and she is going to die.

On a plus side she is still eating. If fish (and other animals) are eating well, that is a good sign.

She is still swimming around and if she is swimming normally, that is also a good sign.

If she stops eating and or does a stringy white poop, that is a bad sign and she should be euthanised then.

At this stage I would monitor over the next 24 hours. As long as she keeps eating and swimming and doesn't breathe excessively heavily/ rapidly, just see how she goes.
 
We are currently at two heaped teaspoons per 20L, as was doing the first dose rate before coming here and getting advice.
1 per 20L, it’s a 28L tank and I was doing a tablespoon and a half, now doing three tablespoons for the whole tank.
I managed to purchase a 48g tank which works out to be roughly 180L, it has no decor, no substrate, as I am trying to maximise water volume and all the guppies are in there now, three girls two boys and I added 18 tablespoons of sea salt to that tank.
🤞 hopefully they’ll recover, as they dont seem to be anywhere near as crook as she is.
I have five fry in a 21L tank now, they’ve been salted, one tablespoon added as they're only babies, and my 70L tank with my goldfish in it has had three tablespoons added. Using a proper measuring spoon, not a soup spoon.
 
Update number two,
Yellow lady didn’t make it, came home from work to see her on her side on the floor of the tank. She declined rapidly after being isolated. I’m now fearful for the lives of the rest of my fish, how do you tell they have recovered from a microsporidia infection?
Does the muscle return to a more pink colour? Or is it determined by the fact that they have survived four weeks of salt treatment?
Is it futile to attempt to save the other fish and should I resign myself to euthanasia for everyone, bleach/steam sterilise all the tanks and start again with new fish from a breeder?
Blue girl is now in a salted 180l tank and seems okay, for now.
 
There's no need to wipe everything out and disinfect the tanks. Just run salt for 2-3 weeks, then stop using it.

The Microsporidian parasites die within a few days of salt being added but you keep the salt in the tank for at least 2 weeks to make sure they are dead and to give the fish time to recover and heal.

Fish that don't have it will have normal coloured tissue (semi transparent) and it won't be white.

If the guppy was the only one to show symptoms, then it means you caught the problem early and everyone else should be fine. Just keep salt in the tanks for 2-3 weeks and see how they are after that. If any get worse during that time, post pictures of them asap.
 

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