Think petsmart gave me bad advice.. help!

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I am new to this hobby and just got some fish on Monday.
The ladies that I had been talking about this to for WEEKS before making the decision to add fish to my tank assured me that the fish I chose to get would be perfectly fine together.

However, my molly fish has started ‘shimmying’ and after doing research about the causes, one reason is that the water may be too soft. They need hard water, along with my guppies.

So then I researched that and my gourami needs soft water apparently?

So they live in two completely different water conditions.

What do I do now?!

PS: I havent gotten my testing kit yet, I had been taking my water to a local pet shiop for testing so I dont have exact levels, I just know that they told me the water was ‘good’.
 
Pet shops rarely give good advice I'm afraid.

Yes, the livebearers do need hard water and the gouramis do need soft water. You may be able to find out how hard or soft your water is from your water provider's website, that will give us an idea of what we are dealing with.We need a number and the units as there are several that could use.
Once we know just how hard or soft the water is, you'll probably need to rehome some of the fish, I'm afraid. Guppies can cope with water slightly softer than mollies, but both need hard water.

Your next priority is a test kit. Liquid reagent testers are better than strips, but whichever you get you need to able to test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH. Shops are notorious for saying the water is fine when it is not.
Did you cycle the tank by adding ammonia before you got fish? If you didn't, you may well have ammonia in the water. Some people (read shop workers) believe that ammonia has to get high for the tank to cycle so they'll say the water is fine, but this will harm the fish. Ammonia, and later nitrite, must be kept as close to zero as possible. Once the bacteria have grown, they will keep them at zero but until then it's down to you.
Once you can test the water yourself, tell us the readings and we'll help you keep the fish safe.
 
Pet shops rarely give good advice I'm afraid.

Yes, the livebearers do need hard water and the gouramis do need soft water. You may be able to find out how hard or soft your water is from your water provider's website, that will give us an idea of what we are dealing with.We need a number and the units as there are several that could use.
Once we know just how hard or soft the water is, you'll probably need to rehome some of the fish, I'm afraid. Guppies can cope with water slightly softer than mollies, but both need hard water.

Your next priority is a test kit. Liquid reagent testers are better than strips, but whichever you get you need to able to test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH. Shops are notorious for saying the water is fine when it is not.
Did you cycle the tank by adding ammonia before you got fish? If you didn't, you may well have ammonia in the water. Some people (read shop workers) believe that ammonia has to get high for the tank to cycle so they'll say the water is fine, but this will harm the fish. Ammonia, and later nitrite, must be kept as close to zero as possible. Once the bacteria have grown, they will keep them at zero but until then it's down to you.
Once you can test the water yourself, tell us the readings and we'll help you keep the fish safe.
I just went and got a few test strips from the pet store to use until I get my actual test kit (I have to wait until i get paid to buy it) and here are my results vs what was on the bottle.
My gourami fish has been sinking to the bottom and floating at the top vertically today and I’m not sure whats wrong with him but i moved him into the smaller tank with softer water to see if that helps him. the second photo (the one that doesnt have the chart beside it) is the result of that tanks’s levels. It looks like theyre a little off too so im not sure it will help him much.
 

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Pet shops rarely give good advice I'm afraid.

Yes, the livebearers do need hard water and the gouramis do need soft water. You may be able to find out how hard or soft your water is from your water provider's website, that will give us an idea of what we are dealing with.We need a number and the units as there are several that could use.
Once we know just how hard or soft the water is, you'll probably need to rehome some of the fish, I'm afraid. Guppies can cope with water slightly softer than mollies, but both need hard water.

Your next priority is a test kit. Liquid reagent testers are better than strips, but whichever you get you need to able to test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH. Shops are notorious for saying the water is fine when it is not.
Did you cycle the tank by adding ammonia before you got fish? If you didn't, you may well have ammonia in the water. Some people (read shop workers) believe that ammonia has to get high for the tank to cycle so they'll say the water is fine, but this will harm the fish. Ammonia, and later nitrite, must be kept as close to zero as possible. Once the bacteria have grown, they will keep them at zero but until then it's down to you.
Once you can test the water yourself, tell us the readings and we'll help you keep the fish safe.
I forgot to answer your other question, sorry. I cycled the tank for about 5 days before I put the fish in. I wasgoing to let it be for two weeks but they also sold me some starter bacteria liquid stuff that you add to the water and are supposedly able to immediately put the fish in so I went with that and did it early.

When I went by to get the tests today, the guy also gave me some aquarium salt and only told me to put like two tablespoons in because I have a molly that is shimmying and he said that should help. should I add that to the water with the mollies and the guppies? (the first test strip)
 
Interesting there is no ammonia test with those test strips. The ammonia could be the issue at least for the gourami. The molly needs much harder water so it is not likely to survive. Salt will not hurt mollies, but this is not a long-term solution as the GH of the water must be much higher, 200 ppm or higher, for mollies to be healthy. Salt is not advisable with soft water fish except as a specific treatment for something like ich, and it can help with nitrite but that is not showing as problematic at least not yet.

Cycling an aquarium takes anywhere from two to eight weeks normally. The bacterial supplements help speed this up, and with a large enough tank and few fish it might even do the job. What is the tank size (volume, and dimensions while we're on this), and what fish are in it?
 
Interesting there is no ammonia test with those test strips. The ammonia could be the issue at least for the gourami. The molly needs much harder water so it is not likely to survive. Salt will not hurt mollies, but this is not a long-term solution as the GH of the water must be much higher, 200 ppm or higher, for mollies to be healthy. Salt is not advisable with soft water fish except as a specific treatment for something like ich, and it can help with nitrite but that is not showing as problematic at least not yet.

Cycling an aquarium takes anywhere from two to eight weeks normally. The bacterial supplements help speed this up, and with a large enough tank and few fish it might even do the job. What is the tank size (volume, and dimensions while we're on this), and what fish are in it?
The tank is 20 gallons and I have the gourami, a female molly (who hasnt been shaking which is why i find it odd that the male is), a male molly, and two male guppies.
 
The tank is 20 gallons and I have the gourami, a female molly (who hasnt been shaking which is why i find it odd that the male is), a male molly, and two male guppies.
since I made this post, the male molly has stopped shaking so much and has been swimming all around again. only when he stops is when he gets back to shimmying slightly. I’m not sure what might be wrong with him
 
The tank is 20 gallons and I have the gourami, a female molly (who hasnt been shaking which is why i find it odd that the male is), a male molly, and two male guppies.
since I made this post, the male molly has stopped shaking so much and has been swimming all around again. only when he stops is when he gets back to shimmying slightly. I’m not sure what might be wrong with him

First on the "cycling" issue...you might not have ammonia or nitrite issues here if you used a bacterial supplement. Five relatively small fish in a 20g might manage. I am certainly not suggesting this is wise to do, just that you might have been lucky. An ammonia test would be helpful though, perhaps you could take a sample of the tank water to the fish store and have them test ammonia? Make sure you get the number; if they say "its fine" or "a bit high but OK", insist on the number and write it down. Such terms are meaningless to everyone except the person using them.

Now to the molly...shimmying is one symptom that can bee caused by soft water, acidic water, too cold (or a chill), ammonia, nitrite, high nitrate, and then any number of other issues like disease, parasites, toxins. This is why diagnosing fish ailments is so difficult, and I tend to stay out of it unless it is blatantly obvious. The wrong treatment can make things much worse, and kill the fish. But I can say without any doubt that your soft water is going to cause considerable harm for the mollies and the guppies, but especially the mollies. Return them if the store will accept them, this would be the best option for both the mollies and the guppies.

Livebearers (guppies, Endlers, mollies, platy, swordtail are the common ones) must have moderately hard or harder water. The minerals in the water are taken into the bloodstream and are essential for the proper functioning of the fish's physiology. There is no way around this. A 20g is not sufficient space for mollies anyway, another fault of the store; thee fish when healthy grow to 3 iinches for males with females reaching 5 inches and some report 6 inches possible. This is not a small fish.
 
First on the "cycling" issue...you might not have ammonia or nitrite issues here if you used a bacterial supplement. Five relatively small fish in a 20g might manage. I am certainly not suggesting this is wise to do, just that you might have been lucky. An ammonia test would be helpful though, perhaps you could take a sample of the tank water to the fish store and have them test ammonia? Make sure you get the number; if they say "its fine" or "a bit high but OK", insist on the number and write it down. Such terms are meaningless to everyone except the person using them.

Now to the molly...shimmying is one symptom that can bee caused by soft water, acidic water, too cold (or a chill), ammonia, nitrite, high nitrate, and then any number of other issues like disease, parasites, toxins. This is why diagnosing fish ailments is so difficult, and I tend to stay out of it unless it is blatantly obvious. The wrong treatment can make things much worse, and kill the fish. But I can say without any doubt that your soft water is going to cause considerable harm for the mollies and the guppies, but especially the mollies. Return them if the store will accept them, this would be the best option for both the mollies and the guppies.

Livebearers (guppies, Endlers, mollies, platy, swordtail are the common ones) must have moderately hard or harder water. The minerals in the water are taken into the bloodstream and are essential for the proper functioning of the fish's physiology. There is no way around this. A 20g is not sufficient space for mollies anyway, another fault of the store; thee fish when healthy grow to 3 iinches for males with females reaching 5 inches and some report 6 inches possible. This is not a small fish.
Okay, I will take some water back to the store and get it tested.

I ended up adding a little bit of aquarium salt to the water. I asked one of my close friends who has had fish for years and she recommended salt for the molly’s shimmying since they tend to do better in brackish water. I did that last night and when i checked on him this morning he has completely stopped.
I didn’t realize the mollies would need more space though, I had no idea they would get that big!!
What kind of fish would I be able to put in a 20g together? Also, is the ‘inch per gallon’ rule correct?
 
I'm afraid it is a myth that mollies need salt in the water, though a lot of people believe it. They don't need salt, they need very hard water.


The 'inch per gallon' guideline is helpful when first setting up a tank in order to prevent overstocking. However the guideline is pretty much outdated, and usually not quoted in its entirety. The actual guideline is "one inch of fish that are linear and grow no bigger than 3 inches per gallon" It never applied to fish which grow bigger than 3 inches, or fish that have tall bodies.

Stocking a tank is a much more complicated process. Are the fish suited to my water? Do they all need the same temperature and water flow speed? Do they need to be in a group or a pair or alone? Will any of them make a fast meal out of others? Are they fast swimmers or less active fish (active fish will stress slow swimmers)? Do I have fin nippers with fish with long fins? Is the tank big enough for the swimming nature/adult size?
There are a lot of factors to take into consideration.
 
I ended up adding a little bit of aquarium salt to the water. I asked one of my close friends who has had fish for years and she recommended salt for the molly’s shimmying since they tend to do better in brackish water. I did that last night and when i checked on him this morning he has completely stopped.

This immediate improvement is not surprising to me, but unfortunately it is not the end of the issue. Essjay responded on this, and I would just like to add that the salt is providing a benefit now because of what it causes internally to the fish's physiology, and that is OK so far as it goes but it is not the answer. Minerals, namely calcium and magnesium, must be present dissolved in the water at relatively high levels or the fish cannot function properly, and over time this will weaken the fish until it just dies. Brackish water has these minerals in it, because it is the same as sea water but with less salt (sodium chloride or common salt). Mollies can actually do quite well in sea water because of the minerals (calcium and magnesium). It is, as essjay noted, not the salt that is the crucial factor. And provided the mollies (and other livebearer species) are kept in water with the necessary level of hardness, they gain no benefit from adding salt (sodium chloride) as this can cause other issues for species other than mollies especially.

I still recommend returning the livebearers to the store. When you wake up one morning and they are floating dead (and this is not going to occur in a few days or even weeks, but it is eventual) it will not be very encouraging.
 

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