How to Treat 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. People often buy stressed-out livebearers, which can spread the next illness to all their fish tanks. This outbreak often gets labeled generically as “livebearer disease” because we hobbyists are not adept at identifying fish illnesses. There exist thousands of fish disorders in nature, but most likely your livebearer has fin rot, internal worms, fungus, or another commonplace disease. To prevent the spread of such infections, we highly recommend quarantining all fish that enter your home, feeding them high-quality foods to boost their health, and treating them with preventative medications (like vaccinating a new puppy).
Because of the health issues that new livebearers regularly face, we consulted with ichthyologists and extensively tested a wide spread of fish medications to find the best ones to cure 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. Over the years, our fish store has seen thousands of fish. Every fish is treated with this trio. This article will show you how to prevent illness in your fish by using these medications at home.
Quarantine drugs in a trio
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 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 last reason is the most prevalent. Most farm-raised livebearers were raised in brackish or hard water environments. For the past 30-40 years, salt has been used to treat shimmying in African cichlids and 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. However, one of the main reasons why we don’t always recommend salt is because it can harm plants and snails at higher concentrations.
Mollies can shimmy if they were raised in brackish (partly saltwater, partly freshwater) environments.
Livebearers that are shimmying should be provided with optimal living conditions. This includes higher pH levels between 7.0 and 8.0, warmer temperatures (76deg to 80degF), and a higher mineral level. Minerals can easily be added to soft water by adding Wonder Shell, crushed coral 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, 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. This type of livebearer disease is usually caused by internal parasites, such as tapeworms or camallanus red worms. The parasites take nutrients from the fish’s bodies, leading to weight loss and organ damage over the long-term.
Tapeworms infest a fish’s digestive system and can cause intestinal blockages. Some symptoms include stringy poop and weight loss, but the disease can be hard to accurately diagnose without examining 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 may be hard to identify without a microscope.
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. While most internal parasites are invisible to the naked eye, camallanus worms are easier to spot since you can visually see small, red worms sticking 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 can easily be spread through fish waste. Livebearers, who are great scavengers, are able to consume infected urine. Worms can also infect other species such as angelfish but they don’t usually kill them. The parasites that live on large cichlids are tiny, so the parasites won’t be too big to harm them. The worms that infect a guppy or small livebearer are smaller and can cause serious health problems.
How to Prevent Livebearer Disease
Prevention is key to your fish’s health, so if you plan on getting new livebearers, follow these simple guidelines:
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. Put all new fish in a quarantine tank for a few weeks to observe for signs of illness and to prevent an outbreak from spreading to your display tank. To prevent most common diseases, you can treat them with the three quarantine medications. 3. While the fish are in quarantine, provide a low-stress environment to help them recover from their travels and rebuild their immune systems. Keep them away from any aggressive tank mates, and feed them plenty of good food.
If you are unsure if your fish have livebearer disease but they display different symptoms, we have detailed information to help you.