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). These different ailments can include the shimmies, wasting disease, body fungus, and more. It is important to first diagnose your fish and then treat the disease.
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. Many times, people unknowingly buy a very stressed out group of livebearers who catch the next illness that comes along and wipes out all the fish in their tanks. This outbreak often gets labeled generically as “livebearer disease” because we hobbyists are not adept at identifying fish illnesses. Although there are thousands of fish diseases in nature, most likely your livebearer has either fin rot or internal worms. We recommend that you quarantine all fish entering your home and feed them high-quality food to improve their health. You also need preventive medications, such as vaccinating puppies.
Due to the many health issues new livebearers often face, we consult with ichthyologists. We extensively tested a variety of fish medications to determine which ones are the most effective in treating bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections. 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 medications
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. You can cause shimmies 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.
This is the most serious problem, as most farm-raised bees are raised in either hard or brackish water environments. Therefore, the conventional wisdom for the past 30 to 40 years has been to add salt to treat shimmying in livebearers and African cichlids. “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 are prone to shimmying if they were originally raised in brackish (partly freshwater and partly saltwater) 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. If you have soft water, minerals can be easily added with supplements such crushed coral, Wonder Shell, and Seachem Equilibrium. If your tap water is extremely hard, simply doing more frequent, partial water changes may be enough to bring additional minerals into the aquarium. Remember that fish purchased from a wholesaler or fish store may have been kept for a while in fresh water without minerals. It may not be possible for the fish to be saved if it was already damaged and wasn’t treated promptly enough.
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. The five fish that died eventually die, but a few months later you see five more fish becoming thinner and dying. This is due to internal parasites like tapeworms and camallanus worms. 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. The symptoms of tapeworm infestation include weight loss and stringy poop. However, the disease is difficult to diagnose without studying the feces under a microscope. ParaCleanse is a preventive treatment that contains a drug called metronidazole, and a dewormer named praziquantel. You should repeat the ParaCleanse treatment approximately two to three more weeks after the initial one to make sure that all eggs hatching new eggs are also eradicated.
Tapeworms are difficult to spot if you don’t have a microscope to look at the 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. Most internal parasites are not visible to the naked eye. However, camallanus and hookworms can easily be identified visually. 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. After two to three weeks, re-dose your tank with the dewormer in order to eliminate any remaining parasites.
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. 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. If necessary, you can use crushed coral, Wonder Shell or Equilibrium to boost your mineral levels. 2. For a few weeks, place all new fish into a quarantine tank to monitor for signs of illness. This will help prevent any outbreaks from spreading to your tank. To prevent most common diseases, you can treat them with the three quarantine medications. 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.