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Feb 22, 2024
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For my very first aquarium I decided to start with guppies, I got a beautiful blue female who I named Azura, and she was always so strong and active. She has had about 4 or 5 pregnancies so far, but lately she started acting oddly, losing a lot of weight and being less active, usually staying at the top of the tank which she rarely did before. I first thought that it could be that she just wasn’t pregnant for the first time in a long time but today I noticed her swimming in place a lot or hiding and she had red, swollen gills, laboured breathing and a severely bent spine. I looked it up online and nothing matches those symptoms exactly, although I have been warned of fish tuberculosis. I am so lost and the grief of what’s happening to my girl is getting to my head. I just don’t know what to do, can anyone help me diagnose what is going on with her?

This is the quarantine tank where she’s in because the main tank is heavily planted and I wouldn’t be able to keep an eye on her as closely there.
What kind of place did you buy her from? A fish store, market, another hobbyist?
I have a female guppy that has a bent spine like this after giving birth. This is known as scoliosis. From what I read it's due to inbreeding in the fish trade, but can also occur due to poor feeding and bad tank conditions. There's no cure for it. The fish I have that has it still swims around and is living a normal life just has a bent spine. I don't think she will ever get pregnant again either. In fact, I moved her to a female only tank. Trying to separate the males and females. They are having too many guppy fry atm.

I'm not sure if the other symptoms are the result of scoliosis however. There might be more at play.
She came from a fish store

I'm really sorry to be the bearer of bad news...

I'm afraid most fish store stock is imported from huge fish farms abroad, often in Asia, and they're breeding for cheap, pretty fish, but not necessarily healthy or long lived ones....

In those fish farms and in a lot of fish stores, worms are super common in guppies, they're often weak, sickly, carrying worms that eventually make them skinny, listness and deformed, sadly. So the fact she has lived long enough to have several batches of fry means you've done well to keep her going so long, and the fry should be healthier and do better than the imported fish store stock, so at least the babies she had should be hardier and healthier, hopefully.

I can see she's a really pretty fish, why you named her Azure and got attached! She looks like one of my earliest batch of female guppies, like this one I had, I absolutely adored, and was gutted when she died:

That one was one I'd bred from a group of six beautiful females with blue tails and some markings from a fish store. Just general mutt guppies, but produced lots of pretty babies.

But the sad truth is that they aren't a long lived fish, especially these fish store ones that have been farmed abroad. How long havee you had her for?

Also remember that carrying and birthing all those fry can be very hard on the female. Some females die during labour, just as giving birth is hard on humans and other animals. Requires a lot of energy and resources from the mother, and after 4-5 batches of fry, she's pretty worn out, and may have some internal damage from the last birth. I'm sorry. My store bought females, or even ones I've bred, have developed the same bent spine and become listless once they've had several batches of fry, then they're elderly fish, and it's just their time.

I'm afraid there's nothing you can do except try to keep her as comfortable as possible, let her pass away. But if she becomes distresssed, bloated and pine-coning, or sits on the bottom and struggles to swim up, then euthanasia to prevent further suffering can be the kindest thing, so she doesn't suffer too much. But I know that's a tough thing to consider and do, it's your choice.

Remember her fondly, and appreciate the young babies she produced, and be proud of her for that. Sounds like she was a good mama for you.
In fact, I moved her to a female only tank. Trying to separate the males and females. They are having too many guppy fry atm.

More bad news - separating the males and females is a start, but it won't stop the fry production for a long time, I'm afraid. Female livebearers like guppies/mollies/platies/Endlers store sperm packets once they've been with a male, and can keep releasing those sperm packets to self fertilise the eggs, and can continue to pop out fry month after month, even with no males around anymore.

So depending on how many females you have that have shared a tank with a male or had fry before, you could still be seeing fry for a long time to come!

I saved one single female unexpectedly when I adopted some male guppies and some mollies, and the guy swore there were only males, and I only saw males in the photos he'd sent. But when I got them, there was one single female with about ten males. I moved her to a different tank ASAP, and she and her daughters have now produced a couple of hundred fry.

Having male and female tanks is still useful, you need to sex the fry as soon as they're old enough to tell whether it's a male or female, and separate them into male and female tanks asap, so the male fry don't get their sisters knocked up...!
@AdoraBelle Dearheart Yeah, that's my issue as well. I have many more fry actually. What did you do with the amount of guppy you bread?

Before buying a single guppy, I checked with my closest privately owned local fish store where I bought my fish (which weren't always healthy, but some were, survived and bred healthier fry) that he'd be willing to take the youngsters, and he agreed, once they'd grown to a sellable size. We already occasionally bagged some of our black/silver/blue dappled molly young to that store when that tank started to get too full, but since they bred more slowly or more fry were eaten, only had to bag up young mollies to take in every six months or so. They sold well, so he had no problem with taking those, and gave some store credit for them, or for other more popular fish like pygmy cories or shrimp.

When mine quickly bred more fry than I could handle (buying six females might have been a mistake! But that's how many were in the tank, and they were pretty, large, healthy looking females). So I got more tanks for separating and raising them, then would take in so many bags of juvenile guppies at around 3-6 months old, and so often and so many, they openly welcomed me with "Hi! It's the guppy girl!" Became my nickname there.

After a while he knew my young were healthy and pretty since I wormed all my tanks and they sold quickly, so when I'd buy anything there, he'd sometimes knock a few quid off the total and say it was for the fish I'd bought in. I'd thank him but decline since privately owned fish stores operate on a knife edge as they struggle to compete with the big chains and people buying everything they need online. I told him I needed him to take the fish much more than he needed the fish!!

When the store ended up having to close because the business went bust, they had a closing down sale for the week, I helped out and also got some bargains on equipment and bits and bobs.

I brought in all of my guppies except the stud males I wanted to keep and some other pretty males, and elderly females I was attached to and had stopped producing fry so they could live out their lives in my tanks. But brought in and we quickly sold all the other females, males, and fry, right down to newborns. Plus some young bronze cories I'd raised, so I actually got to meet who bought them.

The big chain stores won't usually take fish from hobbyists. It's too much of a disease risk, but mainly they can get them so cheap from suppliers, they don't want potentially ugly or mismatched looking fish in their tanks. So privately owned fish stores are the best chance, ask if they're willing to take your youngsters.

When my LFS closed, I did that because the only other store in my city that might take them is far away and I can't get to often, and I didn't want to mess about with trying to sell or give them away privately since that means hassle, time wasters, strangers coming to your home etc... So I deliberately stopped breeding them by giving away all young and all fertile females.
When I said this:
I saved one single female unexpectedly when I adopted some male guppies and some mollies, and the guy swore there were only males, and I only saw males in the photos he'd sent. But when I got them, there was one single female with about ten males. I moved her to a different tank ASAP, and she and her daughters have now produced a couple of hundred fry.

I'd previously managed to go a year or so without any breeding guppies (oh, and I also gave the store any fertile female platies, only kept the mollies we'd bred for years since they don't usually overwhelm with numbers.

So for that year or so, I only had or bought male guppies. But that one female adopted unexpectedly has led to hundred again, colony breeding, and I haven't dealt with it yet. But I network and have befriended local hobbyists through getting to know people from the store, FB groups for fish, and have people willing to take them all off my hands - but I'm keeping the OG female (Susan, the one in the FOTM contest) and she's still gravid and looking healthy, so I imagine I'll be rehoming to people privately through FB, the BAND ap, or at one of the local fish clubs meetings and sales that happen quarterly.

Worth getting to know local hobbyists and joining fish groups on various social media platforms. I check they have a tank ready for them first and vet them, and won't give or sell fish if I don't think the potential buyer is right for them or isn't prepared.
The fish has gill flukes, possibly an external protozoan infection like Costia, and maybe the start of a microsporidian infection. Add some salt and if it survives, deworm all the fish.

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.

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