How to treat the Livebearer disease
Livebearer disease is a catch-all term used to describe many disorders that commonly affect livebearers (or fish that bear live young). The shimmies and wasting diseases, as well as body fungus, are just a few of the many ailments that can be found. First, diagnose and treat your fish for the specific type of livebearer illness.
Why are so many diseases called “Livebearer disease”?
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. Unknowingly, many people buy livebearers that are stressed and then catch the next disease. This can wipe out all fish in the tank. This outbreak often gets labeled generically as “livebearer disease” because we hobbyists are not adept at identifying fish illnesses. 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. We strongly recommend that all fish enter your home be quarantined, feed them high quality foods and treat them with preventative medication (such as vaccinating a puppy).
We were concerned about the health problems that new livebearers face. Therefore, we sought out ichthyologists to help us narrow down the selection of fish medications. Based on our research, we narrowed down the search to three broad-spectrum medications – Mardel Maracyn, Aquarium Solutions Ich-X, and Fritz ParaCleanse. Our fish store has received thousands of fish over the years, and every fish gets treated with this trio of quarantine medications to ensure they have a clean bill of health. This article will show you how to prevent illness in your fish by using these medications at home.
Trio of quarantine medications
Shimmies, Shimmying or Molly Disease
Shimmying can be seen in mollies or other livebearers. The fish will rock its body in a snakelike motion, moving in a shimmering motion. Shimmies can be caused either by:
– Low temperatures where the fish may be “shivering” to get warmer – Low pH where the fish’s skin is burning from the acidic water – Low mineral levels where the fish’s kidneys and other organs start shutting down
This last reason is the most prevalent. Most farm-raised livebearers were raised in brackish or hard water environments. For the past 30-40 year, the standard wisdom has been to add salt in order to treat shimmying of African cichlids or 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. Salt can cause damage to plants and snails in higher concentrations, which is why we don’t recommend it.
Mollies can shimmy if they were raised in brackish (partly saltwater, partly freshwater) environments.
You can provide optimal conditions for your livebearer’s health by increasing the pH level from 7.0 to 8.2, warmer temperatures between 76 and 80degF, as well as a higher 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. Keep in mind that your fish may have been stored for a considerable time in freshwater with no minerals at the wholesaler or fish shop. 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
A typical example of wasting disease looks like this: you buy 20 fish and a month later, five of them look very skinny while the rest are acting fine. Eventually those five fish pass away, and then a couple of months later, you notice five more fish are getting thinner and are also starting to die one by one. Internal parasites such as tapeworms and camallanus redworms are often responsible for this type of livebearer illness. The parasites steal nutrients from the fish’s body, causing weight loss and organ damage in the long term.
Tapeworms can infest fish’s digestive systems and cause blockages. Stringy poo and weight loss are some of the symptoms. However, it can be difficult to diagnose the disease without looking at the feces with a microscope. That’s why we recommend that every fish gets a preventative treatment of ParaCleanse, which contains an antiparasitic drug called metronidazole and a dewormer called praziquantel. Two to three weeks after the initial treatment, you should use another round of ParaCleanse to ensure that all newly hatched eggs are also eliminated.
Tapeworms can be difficult to identify unless you use a microscope to examine the fish’s waste.
ParaCleanse may not be able to stop the wasting diseases. Fritz Expel-P is very effective for treating roundworms, camallanus red worms, hookworms, and even planaria in your aquarium. Although most parasites can be seen with the naked eye, camallanusworms can be easily identified by looking at the small, reddish worms that stick 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. Two to three weeks after the initial treatment, dose the tank again with the dewormer to deal with any remaining parasites.
Worms are particularly easy to spread because their eggs are passed through fish waste and livebearers are excellent scavengers that tend to consume 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. The worms that infect a guppy or small livebearer are smaller and can cause serious health problems.
How to Prevent Livebearer Disease
Your fish’s health is dependent on prevention. Follow these simple guidelines if you want to get new livebearers.
1. Provide the proper water parameters with a pH of 7.0 or higher and lots of minerals in the aquarium. You can boost your mineral level by using crushed coral, Wonder Shell, and Equilibrium. 2. All new fish should be kept in quarantine for at least a week to check for signs and symptoms. You can prevent them from contracting the most common diseases by treating them with the trio. 3. While the fish are in quarantine, provide a low-stress environment to help them recover from their travels and rebuild their immune systems. You should keep them away from aggressive tank mates and give them lots of good food.
If your fish display a different set of symptoms and you don’t believe they have livebearer disease, check out our articles on other fish illnesses with detailed instructions to help you: