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FAQs on the Swordtail Disease/Health

Related Articles: Swordtails & Poeciliids: Guppies, Platies, Swordtails, Mollies by Neale Monks, Livebearing Fishes by Bob Fenner,

Related FAQs: Swordtails 1, Swordtails 2, Swordtail Identification, Swordtail Behavior, Swordtail Compatibility, Swordtail Selection, Swordtail Systems, Swordtail Feeding, Swordtail Reproduction, Livebearers, Guppies, Platies, Mollies,

Freshwater - New Fish - Missing Mouth?      6/27/16
Good evening guys,
<Hell Dave,>
I have a 30 gallon fresh water tank. I have 2 Julie and 2 Albino Cory catfish, 2 White Skirt Tetras,
<These are aggressive and nippy if you don't keep them in large enough groups.>
a female Guppy, and 2 Painted Glass fish.
<Please don't buy painted fish. It's an extremely cruel process that should have been banned years ago. Indeed, it's died out completely in the UK, but in some countries it still goes on. Please don't create demand for this!
Not only cruel, demonstrably shortens the lives of the fish.>

I have a large castle, a smaller castle, and numerous fake plants for cover. I used to have a Beta for 3yrs until I think it over ate on some Guppy babies about six months ago and died.
<Not sure about the cause-and-effect here! Three years is a reasonable age for a Betta (which rhymes with "better", not "beater") so more likely you'd kept this chap quite well and he simply died from old age.>
Anyhow, my kids have been bugging me for some new fish, and I took a trip to the local store and acquired some more.
<Good to see they enjoy the hobby. But please do temper their enthusiasm with some reading on your part!>
2 female Guppies (one died the first night after introduction)
1 male Swordtail (bright orange and black, full tail)
<Can be aggressive.>
2 female Swordtails (what they told me, but I think one of them is actually an Orange Molly)
1 small Beta
<Not suitable for this community tank. Good chance it'll get nipped by the White Skirt Tetras (also known as Black Widows or Petticoat Tetras, or more properly, Gymnocorymbus ternetzi). Failing that, the Swordtail will go for it. Do also understand that whereas Swordtails need cool (22-25C/72-77F)
water and fairly strong currents, Bettas require warmer water (24-28C/75-82 F) and hate strong currents. So not much overlap between them, and unlikely to thrive in the same tank. Now, I know this sounds a bit tiresome, but a lot of fish health problems are best avoided by careful stocking.
Treatment, as we shall see, isn't always easy.>
I introduced the new fish Tuesday night with the lights off, and kept the lights off all of Wednesday. I did turn the light on late Wednesday night for a little bit of light and to feed them - all looks normal. Thursday when I got home from work at dinner time, I noticed my male Swordtail was either shedding some of his orange scales or being picked at (didn't witness this) so now he has a lot of white/gray patches where he's missing his bright orange. His sword tail is also about 1/3 shorter than what it was. I've spent a few hours now combined watching these fish, and there is no fighting.
<But clearly something happened. This chap has certainly been turned on and harassed. Hard to say by whom, but both the White Skirt Tetras and the Swordtails have track records for being nippy and/or aggressive. To be clear, I would not keep White Skirt Tetras alongside anything delicate, and would only keep them in large groups (so they don't get bored, which leads to nippiness) and with active midwater or bottom swimming fish like loaches (which can keep out of trouble). Swordtails are a mixed bag, females generally peaceful enough if pushy, but males can vary from quite easy going all the way through to extremely aggressive and spiteful. Swordtails are generally fine with dissimilar fish (loaches, catfish, cichlids) but less trustworthy with other livebearers (Guppies, Platies and Mollies) which seem to elicit aggressive tendencies from males who view them as rivals or potential mates.>
They all appear to be getting along.
Today is Friday, and my original Guppy and the male Swordtail seem to have had the tips of their mouths ripped off and both are swimming at the surface. My guppy's fins are fine, it's just the white blunt end of his mouth (what's left of it).
<Indeed. I'm a bit worried by the clamped fins on the orange fish (some sort of Molly?) as well as the white mess around the mouth of the grey fish (a female Guppy) though your photo isn't terribly sharp so I can't be 100% sure what I'm looking at. In any case, clamped fins indicate stress, and the first thing to do is check the water chemistry and quality. Both these species need hard, alkaline water. So 10-25 degrees dH hardness, and a pH somewhere between 7 and 8. Neither handles poor water quality well. So zero nitrite and ammonia, and Mollies also tolerate nitrate badly, so nitrate should be below 40 mg/l and ideally below 20 mg/l. At the very least be sure you own a pH test kit and a nitrite (with an "i") test kit. These two will tell your the most useful stats. Forget about asking your shop to do water tests if they simply tell you something qualitatively, like "your water is fine" because this is very unhelpful. For a start, what's good for White Skirt Tetras isn't good for Mollies! One is a soft water fish, the other a hard water fish. So what we need are the actual numbers. Some good pet shops will give you the numbers, often the mom-and-pop places run by enthusiasts. The big box stores, the PetCos and whatnot, tend to be staffed by people who mean well but don't really have any expertise in the field, and are primarily motivated by the desire to sell you stuff. >
Looking at my tank, it's my Painted Glass fish that are the biggest, quickest, and sometimes they go a little nuts.
<Glassfish are certainly fast and definitely predatory (I've seen them take down Neons!) but don't usually harass other fish, though again, I've always kept this species in big groups, six or more, and like all schooling fish, if you keep just two or three, well, all bets are off about how well they'll behave. Nice species, and being tolerant of slightly brackish
water, excellent companions for Mollies and other livebearers. Provided you don't want to breed those Mollies, because Glassfish will eat any baby fish they see!>
I would think that given they've been in the tank for years with that same Guppy, that perhaps it wasn't them.
<Agreed. But here's the thing. Animals, including fish, tend to ignore other animals they've been raised alongside. They see them almost as scenery. But add another fish, even something similar to the fish already in the tank, and those newcomers are viewed in a different way. As a threat, as a rival, as food, even as a playmate. So just because one Guppy has been fine with your Glassfish doesn't mean another Guppy added today would be treated just as well. Make sense?>
What I'm calling the female Swordtails, the smallest is really docile and at the moment he's acting a little strange on the bottom of the tank.
<If rocking from side to side, and with her fins clamped to her side, indicates stress; called the Shimmies, and never a good sign with livebearers. Usually means something wrong with water quality or water chemistry.>
The bigger one that I think is an Orange Molly is a fair size (equal size to the male Swordtail) and seems to be doing quite fine. The Beta sleeps in the small castle, and comes out from time to time... doesn't seem to bother anyone. If anything, I'd think the other fish would bother him. The Beta isn't big enough to tackle these wounded fish in my opinion.
<Agreed, and Bettas rarely harass dissimilar fish. Like Swordtails, their aggression is directed towards their own kind, i.e., other male Bettas.
Sometimes they go for very similar fish, such as small Gouramis. But rarely do they go for other fish.>
Thoughts? Given the history of the tank, I think perhaps the bigger female/Orange Molly/Swordtail? If this is the case, isn't it odd that he'd pick on a big Guppy and a Swordtail his size?
<Hope the above helps. I'd be checking water quality and chemistry; upping the numbers of the more social species; and medicating as per Finrot (not using Melafix or anything like that, but a proper antibiotic) because Finrot and probably Mouth "Fungus" (Columnaris) are what you're dealing with so far as symptoms go. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Freshwater - New Fish - Missing Mouth?      8/28/16
Thanks for your note. Yes, I hadn't realized these glass fish were injected at the time of purchase, as I recall having seen some sort of neon striped glass fish that are naturally colored.
<Unfortunately not. All the ones in the trade are artificially coloured.
Please understand that pet shops routinely lie about this. They insist that the Glassfish traded are naturally coloured, or that it's done harmlessly.
All lies. There are some photos kicking about of Filament Glassfish displaying traces of white or blue on their fins, but these fish are extremely rare in the hobby, and not sold by mainstream pet stores.>
In any event, I wasn't impressed with my purchase - hey, at least I avoided the jellybean frogs.
This mouth fungus you speak of, can that suddenly occur within two days and kill a fish?
<Definitely. Columnaris is a bacterial infection, despite the "mouth fungus" name, and can kill fish very quickly.>
It's now Saturday morning... the Guppy and the male Swordtail are dead, as is the female Swordtail. Everyone else doing fine. I'm aware of the temperature preferences and keep the tank right at the 24/25 range to accommodate both preferences.
My water test shows no signs of nitrates/nitrites/ammonia.
<Now this is VERY fishy. Check your test kits. While zero ammonia and nitrite are possible, zero nitrate is practically impossible. It would imply no animals in the aquarium, no biological filtration, and no bacterial decay. Seems unlikely, no? So, go back and use your kits again, and see if you're using them correctly. Something is VERY amiss if you're
getting zero nitrate.>
pH checks out as well.
<Meaning what? What's the pH value? The right pH for tetras is around 6.5 to 7, whereas for a Molly would be between 7.5 and 8, so "checks out as well" means nothing in an aquarium with both species. Do please understand
the quality of the help I can offer depends on the quality of the information supplies, and that means numbers, not interpretations. Make sense?>
Given the sudden 'missing mouths' I think this was some sort of attack. I hear you about the White Skirt Tetras, but these fish seem to be the most timid fish in the tank.
Current stock now includes
The 4 Corys
<Betta, from a Thai word, "Bettah".>
1 new Guppy
1 female Sword or Orange Molly?
2 White Skirt Tetras
2 Painted Glass Fish
I was thinking that I should keep an eye on water for two weeks, and then acquire 1 or 2 White Skirt Tetras to keep their numbers up.
<Certainly a half dozen or more is what you/they want.>
Possibly 1 each of the Julie and Albino Cory's so they're in 3's each.
<Sensible move.>
2 or 3 Guppies so that I don't just have one.
<Guppies are not social, so this isn't a big issue. Singleton males or females can do perfectly well.>
Question is, what to do with the Orange Molly - could she have been the problem biting off the mouths of an equal sized Swordtail and a slightly smaller Guppy?
<Unlikely; female Mollies are generally pretty easy going.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Pink spot female swordtail; no data, no reading, sans.... all    12/15/15
Hello. I've had my tank over a year, so I've dealt with a lot already.
But swordtails just haven't been my forte.
<Used to be, Xiphophorus (helleri et al.) were very tough.... nowayears... mainly imports... not so much. Need SPACE, hard, alkaline water of not too high a temp.... All gone over/archived on WWM>
I managed to keep a male, so when my favorite molly died, I decided he might like a couple girlfriends. I bought them at the only pet store I haven't had bad luck in.
<What is it about your statements that makes me lament? "Managed", "only"... "luck".>
When I got the second one (they accidentally gave me a boy and I had to switch him for another female) I noticed she had a weird pink spot on her side. Her behavior is a little spastic, but she settled down once was out of the bag. Since I haven't had much luck with the females, I'm worried this might infect my other fish. What is wrong with her?
<This is the totality of your information? A "pink spot"? Likely resultant from a physical trauma.... Bob Fenner>
Re: Pink spot female swordtail; complaint, still no info. of use...          12/16/15

Thanks for the help. Although you could've come off I bit less snobbish.
<?.... Have you read on WWM re Sword disease? DO SO>
I was worried it might have been a fungus of some sort after Googling it.
<... Data.... a vague desc. helps no one. BobF>

Is there other cause for male swordtail to scratch besides ick?        4/14/15
Hi guys, I'm at a loss here. I have a 55 gall tank with a male African cichlid electric blue, with a male red swordtail platy, and a large Pleco.
The cichlid is 17+ years old so he doesn't harass the male. I've been treating the tank for 5 days now for ick, because my swordtail was scratching on the blue cup. I'm using jungle ick guard, 3 doses of salt with the water changes, and heat treatment. The 3rd day I raised it to 85, on the days before it was in the 80s. Today and yesterday the temp has been
at 86, and the fish seem okay, but the swordtail has still been itching.
I haven't seen any spots on any of them, nor do I see anything else external.
The nitrates in the tank has been really high lately, I adopted the tank from my mom, who stopped cleaning it, with only the cichlid in it. I just got the nitrates down to about 5 or 10, after months of work. Could the water change be making him itchy? I've been using tetra easy balance plus with conditioner.
Any advice would help and be greatly thanked!
<Short answer is that fish will "flash" or scratch against solid objects anytime they feel their skin or gills getting irritated. So while Whitespot and Velvet are two common reasons (Velvet in particular often affects the gills long before you see it on the body) they're not the only ones. Sudden changes in pH in either direction, non-zero ammonia and nitrite levels, and high levels of silt in the water column are all other possibilities.
Certain medications can irritate their gills as well. Do bear in mind Swordtails are fairly specific in their requirements. They need hard water and relatively low temperatures (22-25 C/72-77 F) as befits stream-dwelling fish from upland parts of Mexico. Review, and act accordingly. Cheers, Neale.>

Swordtails      2/28/14
One of my male swordtails has a hook at the end of his tail. Is this normal or is he injured?
<Could be a deformity or an injury review aquarium size and stocking and act accordingly.>
The other male in the tank chases him around whenever he gets close to one of the females.
<Swordtail males are mutually aggressive and this species needs space; I would not keep them in tanks smaller than, say, 90 cm/3 feet in length, and keeping more than 1 male will only work if the tank is large enough for them both.>
Should I have two more females to balance out the males?
<Depends on the size of the tank, but with all livebearers, if you're mixing males and females, you need AT LEAST twice as many females as males, otherwise the males harass the females, trying to mate with them all the time.>
Thank you,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Pregnant sword has something stuck in her vent   2/15/14
Hello Crew!
I've had two swordtails for awhile now and the female has been preggo looking for nigh on two months. A couple days ago she started looking really fat and square so naturally I thought she was about to pop and redoubled my vigilance to catch any fry. Then I saw something orange (same shade as her body) poking out of her vent. I thought it was a fry but it's grown a bit over several days and has become covered in fuzzy white fungus, which I wiped off her yesterday with my finger cause it scared me. She's pooping and eating normally but looking stressed (she's always been a 'fraidy fish and the male isn't helping). I wanted her to pop so I could have another female...but... All my other fish are fine. I tried pulling it out with tweezers but it's stuck well and good! Help please! I have no quarantine tank!
<Hello Gabby. Could this perhaps be an infection of Camallanus worms? Do look at some pictures online, and treat accordingly with some sort of dewormer (like Prazi Pro). Alternatively, if you scroll down this page a little, you'll see some photos of a female Halfbeak of mine that may have developed a uterine blockage of some sort:
In this case, it was fatal, a decaying batch of fry that blocked its vent.
So two possible ideas here. I wouldn't pull at anything though: the risk of damaging the fish is too great. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Pregnant sword has something stuck in her vent     2/15/14

Hi Dr. Monks, thank you :)
<Most welcome.>
It's definitely not a worm, it's a fleshy orange blob... Looks sort of like the halfbeak, I was thinking it may be birth canal prolapse. If it is how can I save them all?
<Unaware of any practical method. Antibiotics should clear bacterial infections (a common cause in cichlids, at least) and you might use Epsom salt as a muscle relaxant, laxative. But beyond that, it's up to Mother Nature, which usually translates as either the fish shows clear signs of recovery or else you humane destroy a fish if it clearly isn't recovering and/or is suffering.>
My priority is the fry...the good of the many outweighs the good of the
Thanks again!
<Cheers, Neale.>

? Sick female swordtail     2/10/14
Hi! I could really use some expert advice. Briefly, here's some information
about my tank:
12 gallon FW

Fluval Edge filter
2 cardinal tetras
1 Cory cat
1 female swordtail
2 black skirt tetras
1 apple snail
Temp: 78 degrees (Fahrenheit)
pH: 7.0
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 5 ppm
The swordtail is the fish I'm worried about. We recently lost a platy to an unidentified illness (weight loss, curved spine) and now the swordtail is looking ill. Her swimming is a bit off (maybe a shimmy?), her breathing is a bit fast/labored and her appetite is a bit off. I think she may have some white patches on either side of her head (behind her eyes). I can only see them in certain light. They're not speckles like Ich and are definitely white and confluent (not velvet?).
I'm at a loss of where to begin. Our tap water is acidic (pH 5.5), so I buffer it with some sodium bicarbonate with water changes to keep the pH neutral. I do water changes and gravel vacuuming 1-2x week, about 20% each time. Is there anything else I should do? She used to school with the platy but has been stressed since he died last week. Her tank mates are all behaving normally.
I appreciate any help you can give.
<Hello Jeff. The exact problem is hard to say. You may be unlucky and have a Swordtail with a TB-like bacterial disease, sometimes called "Wasting Disease", that's far from rare among farmed livebearers, especially Guppies. But you do have a number of other worrying factors. 12 gallons is much too small for Swordtails (and Black Skirt Tetras, for that matter).
Bear in mind that Swordtails are quite big (up to 8 cm/3 inches for females) and come from cool, flowing stream habitats, so need swimming space, cool water (22-25 C/72-75 F) and a decent water current that provides lots of oxygen. Water chemistry needs to be at least moderately hard; 10-25 degrees dH, pH 7-8. In soft water fungal infections are extremely common on livebearers such as Swordtails, which could explain the white patches. Because you have just two Black Skirt Tetras, this species (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi) is likely to become "nippy", causing damage, and making fungal infections (as well as Finrot and Columnaris) much more likely. Finally, while irrelevant to the health of your Swordtail, Corydoras and Cardinals are both social fish, the former needing at least groups of three, and the latter six or more specimens. Since Cardinals and Swordtails have fundamentally different environmental requirements, they're unlikely to do well in the same aquarium. You may find this article useful:
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: ? Sick female swordtail      2/12/14

*Sigh* Thanks for the reply, Neale.
<Most welcome, Jeff.>
Looks like I received some bad information from my LFS.
<Seems so.>
What would you suggest I do at this point? Is there anything I should treat this presumed fungal infection with?
<Fungal infections are usually easy to treat if caught early. Provided you avoid the Melafix-type products (which are more preventatives than cure) most of the standard preparations work well. Here in the UK, I use something called eSHa 2000. But elsewhere your range of options may be different. Something like Seachem ParaGuard or NeoPlex might be useful
because these treat fungal and (some) bacterial infections.>
Should I move them all into a bigger tank?
<Long term, yes; a reasonably large aquarium, say, 25-30 gallons, would provide space for groups of six Cardinals, Black Skirts and Corydoras catfish. Aim for water chemistry around 10 degrees dH, pH 7-7.5, and you should be okay in terms of water chemistry issues with these three species together with Swordtails (if you don't have Swordtails, just the South
American species, then soft, acidic water would be just fine). Keep the temperature around 25 C/77 F, which should be acceptable for all of the fish, if not ideal.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Injured male swordtail tail, plus ADF hlth.    1/3/14
My male swordtail, Charlie, has two slits that extend into the skin of the tail. I removed the other male, of course.  I'm worried that he is in pain and if there is anything that I can do to help him to heal.
<Good water quality and nutrition, and time going by>
 He is over a year old, two inches long in body, with a manly sword that is another inch or so that seems heavy for him now that his tail is torn, so he'll have to rest on the sandy bottom occasionally.  He is still very interested on eating and uninterested in being captured, though I tried half-heartedly because your website crew has spoken against this.
    I'm not sure what to do.  Because the sword is heavy, can that be trimmed like a finger nail, or would that cause pain for him?  What about a liquid bandage? 
<Perhaps a modicum of aquarium salt. Search WWM re Neale's article re salts and their medicinal use with freshwater systems>
    Also, if an African Dwarf Frog has a pregnant look to him/ her do you think that is a tumor? 
<Not necessarily; no>
She has a rounded belly, but a slim neck and bone- thin arms and legs and has to work hard just to surface.  The back bone jutting from her back worries me.  The other ADF is in perfect condition.  And yes, I put her in the little trap from time to time so she can rest.
I adore your advice and go by every word that  Drs Bob and Neil write, however I hope that mercy killing won't be the suggestion for either of these two cases!
<Patience here Christina. Bob Fenner>

Two Day Old Fry Flashing - 1/25/13
Dear WWM Crew,
<Hi Stephanie, Rick here>
I have been reading as many pages as I've found on your amazing website, but unfortunately couldn't find a definite answer to my question. It is surely there, but I may have missed it. I bought 2 male swordtails about a year ago and kept them in a 10gl. tank. About 5 months ago I set up a 55gl. freshwater tank for my red tailed shark and to put the male swordtails in.
I did this, and decided to get the males some female companions. I bought 6 fat healthy looking females', acclimated them and all went well.
<No quarantine period, I'm guessing, since you said you no longer have the 10 gallon tank.>
After a lot of starring and researching, I noticed a few of the females appeared pregnant, which really did not surprise me at all.
<Happens a lot with livebearers.>
So I've been waiting anxiously for the birthing. I had to get rid of my 10gl, it was my ex's and even though he doesn't want to use the tank, he wanted it back so I don't have anything to put the fry in.
<Might want to pick one up. They're useful to have on hand.>
I figured I would deal with that issue once I saw fry swimming around. Yesterday morning, around 10am I went to my room and as I usually do, checked on my fish. I then noticed 8 tiny little fry swimming around at the top of the tank in one corner near the heater. I was extremely excited and immediately knew they needed a better hiding spot, so I yanked up a couple of the fake plants I have in there and made a little haven for them in the corner and blocked it off using my glass scrapers so only the fry can get back in there. Today I noticed the female who had given birth is not eating and she flashed a few times against the live sword plant.
<Probably brought whatever it is into the tank with her. Thus, the suggested quarantine period.>
 Then as I watched the fry very closely, I saw two of them "flashing" against the leaves of the fake plants I used to help hide them!
<Probably got it from Mom.>
The only fish that are in the tank are 2 Male Swordtail's, 6 Females, 1 Medium size Red Tailed Shark, 1 Pleco and 10 medium size Apple Snails. I do water changes every weekend and check my parameters regularly and they are:
Ammonia 0 Nitrite & Nitrate 0 and PH 8.2, Temperature stays at 72°F. I had read on your site that Ich has several life stages and that it's very possible for your fish to be in the beginning stages of infestation and them not be showing the notorious 'white spots'. I have turned my heater up and will be adding another small heater to help boost the temperature up to 85°F, gradually. My LFS owner said to buy fresh garlic and cut very very thin slices and put it in during evening feeding, saying that fish with Ich will search out the garlic. Is it possible that my fish have ich and through birthing gave it to the fry? If so will the fry survive the ich?
I've never had ich before in my 3yrs. of working with Saltwater & Freshwater tanks so I am a bit naive. I really don't want to use any copper treatments because I am afraid as delicate as fry are, it would severely injure or kill them. Any advice and help is greatly appreciated guys.
Thanks so much!
<First, you don't know for sure that you have ich. You have flashing, and they do that when their skin is itchy. Could be ich, could be something else.
I would seriously consider getting a 10-gallon tank, and maybe a 2-1/2 gallon tank also, so you can isolate
the affected fish and keep the fry separate from the adults.  Used tanks from Goodwill would be fine for this as long as you can keep them warm enough and aerated.   I urge you to do this because treating your entire display tank is excessive, exposes the healthy residents to meds unnecessarily, and gets expensive since you have to treat all the water.
Look for other symptoms like ich spots (the prime suspect), but also slimy or cloudy skin, red areas on the skin, and so on.  Occasional flashing is normal, I mean, you get itchy sometimes too, but frequent flashing does mean something is wrong.  Better to try to identify what than to start shotgunning meds blindly.  You can read through this article by Bob Fenner for some general disease clues: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/SolnChartFWDisArt.htm
Here's the article on freshwater ich: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwich.htm
Some FAQs on Ich mostly answered by Neale:: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwichcausdiag.htm >
Stephanie L.
<Hope it helps. - Rick>

need advise on swordtail fish; hlth.      12/23/12
I am wondering if you can give me advise.  My swordtail are dying one at a time.  They start to have white patches or cloud like color on their body. 
I have use Aquarisol with Maracyn, Methylene blue with Nitrofurazone on other tank.  Yet I don't have any luck.  What kind of disease does my swordtail fish have.  Thank you in advance.
<Need some information about your aquarium. How big is it? What is the water chemistry? What is the water quality? What is the temperature? Let's recap: Swordtails need a fairly big aquarium (no less than 60 cm/24 inches in length) because they are active swimmers. The water must be hard and alkaline (aim for 10+ degrees dH, pH 7-8). Water quality should be good
(zero ammonia and nitrite). Water temperature should be relatively cool (22-25 C/72-77 F). What you describe above sounds like a bacterial infection, but these tend to be opportunistic, so randomly adding medications won't help if the aquarium conditions are wrong. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: need advise on swordtail fish     12/24/12

Thank you for the reply. what medication should I use?  Now since the swordtail are sick, I put them in 10 gallon tank.  But on regular basis, they are on the 55gallon.  Wondering why this disease only affect swordtail not my guppies.
<Guppies come from warmer, stiller water conditions. Swordtails need cooler, fast-flowing water with much more oxygen. Review conditions in your aquarium and act accordingly.>
I have 3- 55 gallon and 40 plus 10gallon tank. My fish are RREA guppies and albino swordtail only. Please help. (wiping out my entire swordtail stock)
<If just one species of fish is stressed and dying, likely conditions are the issue, though it's possible you have bought poor quality (genetically inbred for example, or previously exposed to Mycobacteria spp.) fish that are pretty much doomed anyway. Medicating without knowing what the problems is/are won't be wise. A combination of Maracyn 1 and 2 would be as good as any, but ultimately a shot in the dark. As I say, review aquarium conditions understanding what it is that Swordtails need to do well.
Cheers, Neale.>

Red sore on swordtail      9/20/12
A few days ago i had noticed the newest addition to my tank (after now residing there for about a month), a female Swordtail, laying on the bottom and not doing much of anything. I would come back a few hours later and she will have swam to a different place, but still laying on the bottom.
<Mmm, poor behavior for livebearers>
Today, I go through my normal morning routine of turning the lights on and feeding them their breakfast, I noticed that she had begun to swim normally and has been normally social (if that's what you could call it) with her tank mates (another female and a male, four danios, and a lone guppy in 60 gal).
I also noticed that on both sides below and behind her pectoral fins, she has red sores that look a lot like the last time I popped a blood vessel in my eye (I apologise if the attached picture isn't too clear- today she wouldn't stay still long enough) . I have never seen anything quite like it in my time (especially with the lethargy and then suddenly springing back to life)
When I checked yesterday, pH is about 7.6; ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites all virtually zero.
<Nitrates I take it are measurable, and no NH3 nor NO3>
I'm not sure if there is cause for concern or if I should just let her be for now.
<I would let this fish be... as there's not much to be done, and catching, moving it will likely only hurt... these marks may show some sort of pathogenic involvement, but I suspect their origin is from other cause (physical trauma).>
Thank you,
P.S. the last few days, the danios have been spawning like crazy. Every time I look, I see four or five more eggs drifting from wherever towards the surface. Not sure if this has any effect on anything, but it sure is fun watching the danios chase each other around.
<Ah yes, but not indicative of cause of trouble w/ the Sword. If anything, their spawning behavior shows that conditions in this system are favourable. Bob Fenner>

Re: Red sore on swordtails      9/23/12
I wanted to thank you for your help
<Welcome Tim>
The aforementioned female sward turned up dead this morning... I'm thinking that the lone male guppy may have put extra stress on her even though she was becoming more and more active and appeared to have healed some (though he is the low man on my tank's totem pole, I saw him picking on her as an injured fish).
I'm thinking that there is a problem with my tank's hierarchy as this isn't the first time I've lost a female sward (this will have been the fourth female I've lost in the last 6 months).
<Something's up here>
I had previously chocked it up to poor water chemistry (the male and female remaining swards somehow survived back when i started up... I've slowly brought the pH down from around 10
 to the current 7.6 through water changes rather than using a half gallon of pH down). This is the first time I've had ideal water chemistry for more than a month.
I never noticed anything strange about the social dynamics... the four danios mostly keep to themselves, the guppy is mostly indifferent to the other fish... but the swards I could never get a read on. To me they most seem like the grumpy old war veterans (once living in a pH of 10, surviving Ich two times in the last four months... yet both are beautiful and healthy fish). Could this be a case of the fish equivalent of old men sitting on the porch yelling at the neighborhood kids (not liking any newcomer swards)? If so, is there anything I can do to reset the social dynamic so that I can eventually add more female swards?
<Remove the existing fishes to a plastic floating colander for a week while the new Xiphophorus get familiar w/ the system>
Just look at me. I'm talking about fish as if they are people. I need to find a new hobby, something a little more mindless, like breeding guppies.
Thank you for your help,
<Again, welcome. BobF>

My swordtail being harassed     8/23/12
Could you please advise me. I changed my gravel to play sand from the sand box or otherwise known as river sand here is south Africa I left all my fish in a small tank(my plants tank over night ) because of the new water change and sand change and setup I added 7 new plants rocks driftwood etc etc .. After putting my fish in there newly setup tank noticed my female swordtails left eye popped n white and didn't know what's the course....
<One-sided, unilateral "pop eye" is generally due to a physical injury... but the system being so "new", likely uncycled, accumulation metabolites... may well be the contributing cause here>
 I then red few of your articles and when I returned to my tank I noticed the white was gone but I've tried seeing if the eye is fine but it seems as if its blind in 1 eye. I then noticed my small lil tiger barb
<Nippy... need to be kept in a group... in a large enough setting... See WWM re this species>
 biting the same eye of that fish
.... And on the gills of it .. These 2fish lived happily for the past month Don't know why its harassing the poor female now only so I took the barb and put it in my plant tank...... I also read to add Epsom salt I added 4/5 pinches to my 20L tank ... I have 4mollies 8 guppies 2black widows an algae eater 2neons 2other orange fish think a diff neon and  a male and female swordtail..... First question is the salt I added enough??
<Might help a bit... need to be careful re dosing too much salt/s w/ the Characins>
 Second can I put the tiger barb back in after a while?
<I wouldn't, no>
 Or should I give it back to my pet store? Is this a bacterial disease due to changed sand or was it bitten?
<... could be either, both... and/or the cycling issue... I'd be measuring for NH3, NO2, NO3>
Thanks a million
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>


swordtail problem; no data, rdg.       7/24/12
I noticed a large bumpy black area on the side of our fish.( The fish has dark black spots with its normal coloring, so I failed to see this until it grew quite large)  I don't see anything like this in my fish diseases chart.
<... need to review the make up of the system and more. Read here:
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Swordtail, Epsom Salts and Pop-eye    6/23/12
Hi folks, first of all what a fantastic site.  I've found bits of answers to my question, but not an overall solution, so I'm hoping for some clarification.
The problem:  A female swordtail who has developed pop-eye in both eyes.
<Mmm, but no other fish/es I take it>

Feeding and swimming as normal.  Usually an aggressive little lady, definitely the alpha in her group.
The tank:  240 litres.  Bogwood, heavily planted around the edges and on the wood, clear space for swimming in the centre.  Ph of 7.  Temp 26.5 deg Celsius.
Nitrites, Nitrates, Ammonia at 0.  10% water changes weekly; gravel vacuum each week (partial - not the whole tank at once).  Fluval 204 canister filtration with carbon, noodles, and balls as media.  No noticeably sharp objects to cause injury, and I'm aware that water quality is a common cause of this issue - the only thing I can think of in that regard is that I have insufficient filtration.
Tank running for over 2 years.
Occupants:  8 neon tetras; 4 female swordtails; 1 male swordtail; 6 rummy nose tetras; 5 female platies; 2 male platies; 2 peppered cats (Corydoras) - I know this is less than recommended; had a couple of deaths a while back and have not yet added any more.
Food:  Cooked, shelled, crushed peas in the morning.  Frozen brine shrimp or daphnia in the evenings, alternated with frozen bloodworms about once per week.
A couple of algae wafers after lights out for the cats (who also like the peas).
The dilemma:  How to treat the swordtail.  My quarantine tank (40 litres) is currently doing time as my fry-tank, as the platy I had recently been given was in quarantine - and helpfully had babies.
Q1: I have read that Epsom salts can be used to treat this problem - as long as the cause of the problem is identified and remedied - is this broadly true?
 If so, how?  e.g. recommended dose, duration of treatment, water change regime during treatment, addition of further salt at water change...
<Epsom can/could be used; but I wouldn't here... The small tetras don't like extra salt/s>

Q2:  Ideally I'd isolate her, but I suspect that my psychologist husband will start looking at me as a prospective client if I set up yet another tank.
  Can I treat her in the main tank?  Obviously concerned here about the effect on the other tank residents.  And would I need to remove the carbon from the filter for the duration?
<Again... I suspect the cause of the pop eye here is mechanical injury... from the one fish bumping into objects... Will resolve on its own in time just as well as by treating>
Q3: Actually, I don't think I have another question.  I just have an overwhelming need for some concise, informed, definitive advice :)
Apologies for the length of this - I've tried to give as much pertinent information as possible but it's turned into a bit of a book.  My grateful thanks in advance for any help you can offer.
Kind regards
<Mmm, yes; most cases of bilateral exophthalima are due to bacterial et al. environmental issues... but your other fishes are non-affected... I'd just wait here, be patient. Bob Fenner>

Sick swordtail   3/30/12
Ok I have a sick fish on my hands. Now I know it is partially my fault as my tank went without a water change for too long, had issues with my vacuum. Then I found my filter was not running properly. I've since solved the filter issue & have changed the water etc.... Water perimeters all test fine & I took a sample to a local store to have tested. Water fine.
<Please tell me the values, not your interpretation of them. "Fine" really means nothing. So let's recap what Swordtails need. They must have cool, well-oxygenated water; 22-25 C/72-77 F. Medium to strong water current essential. Water quality must be good, zero ammonia and nitrite. Water chemistry must be hard and alkaline, 10+ degrees dH, pH 7-8.>
My young male seems sick, he's "floating" instead of swimming, seems he can't control himself with the current. He actually goes tail end over head, swims and kind of tips over. He swims to and eats food but has little control while swimming. He floats around & looks like he's going to die.
<Does sound like poisoning, which could easily be environmental, especially if this is a mature fish that's lived a few years happily enough up until now.>
I've had my tank for years. I do have a common Pleco who is too big for the tank.
<Looks like you already know the score here.>
We are in the process of setting up a larger tank (55 gal) to move everyone to. I also have a nursery tank. I know my tank is crowded hence setting up the 55 gal.
<Do be aware that an adult Plec will heavily load a 55-gallon system. You'll be going from bad to moderate, rather than bad to good. If you can fit 75, 90, 100 gallons in the same space, budget -- then do that. Else trade in the Plec for something smaller/better, like a Bristlenose Plec (Ancistrus sp.).>
My question is: is there anything I can do to save this fish or should I remove & euthanize now before my other fish end up sick? All fish are swordtails. Thanks so much for your time! 
<Do read:
…and the FAQ articles linked therein. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick swordtail   3/30/12

Thanks so much Neale, I did ask a local small pet shop I trust to take my Pleco and I did speak with them about him as well, his size & housing him. We cant go any bigger than 55 gal so he's off to a New home soon. We've had him for close to 10 years.
<I see. So about middle age for this species, which can, does get to ages of 20-30 years if cared for properly.>
Now our challenge is transporting him. He's huge. About 8-10 inches long & I'm sure u know he's big and beefy!
The sick swordtail is young. We had a batch of fry about 6 months ago. He's one of the fry, long and looks mature but is just beginning to sprout his sword, both parents are gone, gave away the male & the female died last month, she was old & had had several batches of fry. I wrote to you about it because I had no clue what to do back then about the fry. I do not know the cause of death. One day fine the next I couldn't find her. Which is odd because she was a candy & all the rest of my swordtails are red velvets & blood reds.  I did finally find her dead in the log at the bottom. Oh my, I always forget because we rarely see it, we have a bumble bee catfish whom we've also had for about 10 years.
<I see.>
My water is zero ammonia and nitrites. There is some nitrate but it's in the "safe" level, I've been unsuccessful at getting that to zero.
<May be impossible if your tap water has non-zero nitrate levels -- you can't get any lower than the nitrate level in your tap water. For most community fish, 40-50 mg/l is fine, but some sensitive species, such as Mollies and most cichlids, you need less than 20 mg/l.>
My water is hard and the temp is between 70-72 never goes above 72.
<Hmm… may be a trifle cool at 70, but 72 F is fine.>
The PH & alkalinity all register in the ideal level according to the test strips & my local pet store.
<What's "ideal"?>
If by chance my sick swordtail has been poisoned, any idea what to do?
<Water changes, ideally a series of them, a few hours apart. New carbon can be useful too, and thrown out after 24-48 hours.>
The rest of my fish are all fine, seem healthy, eating well. I feed them a range of food: regular tropical fish flakes, Spirulina (sorry about the spelling) flakes & seaweed (packaged for fish). They gobble it all up. Which after reading the containers I see is not enough fiber for them.  I used to give them bloodworms but read that they're herbivores so they haven't had bloodworms in a few months. The Pleco eats everything the fish are fed and algae wafers which the fish also eat. My sick one is still hanging in there. He gets bumped around during feeding time & still holds his own. There is another male who is a few years old. I did not know this sick one was male until recently when his sword began to sprout. Still not totally sure its a male, looks to be sprouting a sword but...Looking closely today and I think there might be another male just sprouting. Which throws off my female to male ratio big time. 2 males was already too much, I asked the pet store if they'd take my swords and they said as soon as they're big enough to sell they would. But now I can't give them possibly sick fish. I'm really stumped here. I'm going to read the links you sent. I just wanted to reply and answer your questions on the water. Thanks again!
<Real good. Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Sick swordtail   3/30/12

Ok I got a real close look at my sick one. Still not sure if it's male but he looks more male than female. Anyhow, upon a real close inspection he has this weird whitish spot under his mouth, looks cottony?
<Hmm… yes, could be… review both plain vanilla fungus and "mouth fungus", a bacterial infection despite its name, and also known as Columnaris.>
Real small & seems to sway when the fish swims. Looks like a teeny piece of cotton attached under the mouth. The tail fin now looks a bit frayed as well. I'm very worried about this & the rest of my fish. I'll be "studying" them periodically throughout the days. He seems to be worse today. My other fish seem ok. Swimming well, eating well. Upon closer inspection another young small swordtail seems to be swimming a little weird and there's a very faint whitish not a bright white (barely noticeable) spot on the side of the body. I'm very worried and don't know what to do for my fishes. I know they need oxygen rich water and there is a bubbler in the tank. Don't know how to test Oxygen levels.
<Under stock the tank, keep cool, ensure good water circulation, position outlet from pump/filter so there's plenty of splashing. All useful for promoting good oxygen levels. Testing requires a kit… rarely necessary in freshwater situations.>
Any advise is greatly appreciated.  Thanks so much for your time.
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick swordtail   3/31/12

I just wanted to thank you so much for your advise. I do believe you are correct and my fishes have Columnaris. I also contacted my trusted local pet shop and they had a medication that they themselves use when necessary.
Thankfully it was not very costly.
<Good to hear.>
They also advised me to leave the very sick fish and treat him/her as well.
Hopefully it will recoup. So treatment has begun and now we pray to the fishy gods. My fish are precious to me.
<All hail the fish gods!>
One thing I'm perplexed about is my huge Pleco shows no signs of sickness at all. Nor does the bumblebee catfish.
<Both are tough, hardy animals. For one thing, they don't move about much, so their oxygen demands are low.>
I got a good look at it last night with a flashlight. It wasn't happy about the light but seems fine and looks fine. Are these two immune? Or perhaps more tolerant?
<The latter.>
Oh the "ideal" levels: hardness 150ppm
Chlorine 0, KH 120,
pH between 7.2-7.8
<All sounds good.>
I thank you again for your invaluable advise along with your wonderful web site. Have a great day!
<You too.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick swordtail   3/31/12

Hello again,
Thanks so much for all your help.
I have one more question for you;
Now we've begun medication yesterday and my fish seem to be responding.
One thing I found curious, today 2 of my females have swollen bellies?
Pregnant possibly? Does it happen that fast?
<Not usually, no. A clue is whether the scales are lifted up from the body (so above the fish looks like a pine cone) or else there's an unusually fuzziness to the body. Both of these are symptoms of bloating or dropsy.
Pregnant livebearers generally look normal and healthy, and should certainly be swimming about happily.>
They weren't swollen yesterday & today, very bloated looking. And my other tank that we're medicating as well are a few with swollen bellies? Pregnant or possible side effect of the med or constipation?
<Impossible to say from where I'm sitting. But assume the worst, and observe carefully for the next few days. Used correctly medications shouldn't cause problems to most fish (with loaches and catfish being the species most likely to react poorly among community tank species). Be sure to increase aeration or circulation while medicating, because medicines are
toxic at some level and do stress fish even if they don't kill them. Do also remember to remove carbon from the filter, if used, otherwise the medicine will be absorbed by the carbon and do nothing useful.>
I did notice on my large female (swordtail) that her anus has white either around it or coming out? Hard to tell.
<Doesn't sound promising.>
All my fish are swordtails except the Pleco & catfish.
<I see.>
Ok two questions, my 55 gal is set up & cycling. When my fish are healthy & the new tank is ready is it safe to use the ornaments, lava rock & driftwood that are in my current tank being medicated in my new tank? Or should I replace everything?
<Well, you should be able to reuse everything. But giving bogwood and rocks a good scrub is a brilliant idea, and ideally, you'd leave them out in the sunshine for a few days to air dry. That'll kill off most parasites and snails. Same with the gravel, or else replace the gravel if you can (gravel is cheap, and I use unwanted or old aquarium gravel in the garden or in
flower pots to add drainage). Alternatively, you can use hydrogen peroxide (or products such as JBL Desinfekt) to sterilise things like gravel and rocks, and after thorough rinsing, they can be put back in the aquarium.
The one thing you can't sterilise is filter media, so all you can do with that is gently rinse in a bucket of aquarium water or under a luke-warm tap (the same temperature as the aquarium) until the filter media is clean. You can then add this mature media to the filter that'll be connected to the new aquarium, and your new aquarium will be instantly cycled, ready to
accept the fish. If you're cleaning the gravel and rocks, and so have them outside the tank for a while, keep the lights off on the new aquarium so your fish won't be spooked. It's fine for them to live in a bare, glass-bottomed tank for a few days. In fact, that's the best way to medicate them because there are fewer places for the germs to "hide" (or put scientifically, it's easier for medication to get all around the tank).>
And the medication I'm using & that my local pet shop recommended is: tetra fungus guard. Active ingredients: Nitrofurazone, Furazolidone & potassium dichromate.
<Broad range of antibiotic and antibacterial medications here.>
Thanks again!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick swordtail   4/1/12

So sorry to bother you again. I'm really lost on the filter media. I do not want to use the carbon cartridges and I cannot find any biological media or perhaps I just do not know what I'm looking for!
<The latter. Biological media is the stuff with bacteria in it -- sponges, ceramic noodles, etc. All standard filters will have some sort of biological media, even if you didn't call it that!!!>
I sent my husband to the pet store for new plants etc.. And he also cannot find or does not know what to look for as well. I only have (in the new tank, no fish in there yet) the bio wheel spinning and I put a few of the new empty sponge pockets that hold the carbon (for my old filter) into the new filter chamber to trap any debris and what not. If possible could you give me a few examples or brand names of biological media I could use in my Marineland 350 filter?
<See above.>
My Top Fin filter sold filter media that you assembled yourself so I just used the sponges & ditched the carbon unless I needed it after a round of medication or what not. With this new filter (Marineland 350) I've only been able to find the cartridges fully assembled with the premium black diamond activated carbon (as per the label). So obviously here I'm going to have to improvise but with what is where I'm stuck. Going to keep surfing your site, such a wealth of info, thank you! But again, any recommendations
you have would be more than greatly appreciated! Thanks so much again!
<Thanks for the kind words. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick swordtail

Oh my! Thanks so much! I've seen the ceramic noodles. Now I have an idea what to do. Thank you! You guys are fantastic!
<We are?>
Still trying to figure out what to do with my huge Pleco, can't find a shop to take him, I've asked all the local & chain shops, declined. Any chance I could house him in with my baby turtle?
<Isn't ideal. Even if the turtle doesn't harm the Plec, turtles produce MASSES of waste, and so create water conditions that quickly become stressful to most fish. Does depend on the size of the tank, of course:
I've seen turtles and fish coexist in tanks couple hundred gallons in size.
But regular tanks? Not a great idea.>
The turtle, we found outside while on a walking school field trip that my husband was chaperoning last year, he almost stepped on it, one of my daughters saw it & saved it from being squashed & we inherited a new pet!
It's prob not much more than a year old, eastern painted. It's small between 4-5 inches from head to tail. Or is that a bad idea?
<Not the best idea, no.>
I'm reaching here I know. So my search for a new home for him continues. If you have any suggestions please feel free. Thanks again so much!
<Do try and find out local (or local-ish) aquarium club. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick swordtail   4/1/12

Thanks again Neale, I didn't know there even were such clubs, I'll definitely look into that.
<Oh yes, and in US especially, they are often very vibrant and worthwhile places to visit.>
I didn't think putting turtle & Plec together was a good idea. Thanks for confirming. On a sad note, my swordtails seem to be taking a turn for the worse. I fear I may lose them all. There's 1 that seems unaffected. He's the alpha male and older by a few months of the other male. Took a long time to find him when I began my swordtail hunt over a year ago. Very beautiful fish. He's still very frisky, chasing the females and really shows no signs of sickness. He does look a little raggedy but he always kind of did. He even has a bent sword, near the end it's bent downward. Has always been that way, not sure why. He's a beautiful red velvet and has a sort of silvery belly. Always that color.  Will let u know what happens. Going to stay the course and hope for the best but they aren't looking good, worse actually. So sad. Thanks again for everything!
<Hmm… have you tried adding a bit of aquarium salt? While this isn't something I'd recommend casually, it can have a tonic effect on livebearers. Don't add much, because your catfish won't be thrilled, but somewhere between 2-5 grammes/litre should be safe.>
I'm beginning to wonder if I bought a sick fish months ago (had a spot i assumed was an injury from the net as the guy at the store wasn't very gentle!) and this has just been a downward spiral as I've treated for what I thought was ick a few times over the last year. (Advice from a pet shop.) We will see. Hoping for the best. Thanks again!
<Most welcome. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick swordtail   4/1/12

Thanks so much. I haven't found any clubs yet but still searching. I do use aquarium salt at the dosage you listed. I last put some in 5 days ago. The day before we began medicating we did a 50% water change and added the aquarium salt.
<Okay. Was worth a shot!>
Today we are to do another 50% change and another round of meds. I tested the water this morning and there are nitrates present, a little higher than what they normally are. There are always some, I've never been able to get them to zero.
<Nitrates are safe so long as below 40, 50 mg/l.>
There are also a bit of nitrites which weren't there yesterday.
<Nitrites more serious, and while no nitrite level above zero is safe, if the level is above 0.5 mg/l, then there's a good chance health problems will follow.>
Sorry I don't know the exact values, I threw away the test strips. So I'm assuming my fish are stressed from that. Although they seem a bit more active than yesterday and all eating well, even the real sick one, It's still "floating" and darting around then flipping over. Still not much improvement on that one. Still hoping it'll come around. Thanks again!
Great day to you!
<If fish perk up for a day or two after a water change, then go back to being morose afterwards, it's a good sign water quality is at fault.
Perhaps inadequate filtration, perhaps insufficient water changes, perhaps not enough oxygen, perhaps pH drops below a suitable value between water changes. Review, and act accordingly. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick swordtail    4/3/12

Thanks so much again Neale, I greatly appreciate all of your advise. 
<Most welcome. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick swordtail

Hi Neale,
I have a question about water hardness.
Now I have hard water it tests at 150 (hard). Then after a few days in the new aquarium (no fish) and my existing it goes to 300 (very hard) is that ok for swordtails & mollies?
<Try filling a glass with some water from the tap, doing a hardness and pH test on it at once, and then trying again 24 and 48 hours later. If the water chemistry stays the same across all three tests, then there's something in the aquarium that's altering water chemistry. But if the tap water changes just sitting there in a glass, then there's something else going on. Some types of tap water are "funky" for want of a better word, either because they contain a lot of gases (such as CO2) or unstable minerals that change when the water is exposed to air (this seems most common with water from wells rather than municipal supplies). Either way, so long as you do small, regular water changes, there isn't any great risk, and adding marine aquarium salt mix can be very beneficial if all you're keeping is livebearers and salt-tolerant fish (such as Rainbowfish). If you have other sorts of fish that aren't salt-tolerant, then things become more tricky; but still, if you switch to doing 10-15% water changes, perhaps every 4-5 days rather than 20% every week, you should find things are tolerable for your fish.>
How do I keep it at just hard?
<Let's cross that bridge when we get to it. Life is a lot easier for casual aquarists to not change water chemistry.>
I don't know what is causing it to change. The aquarium salt?
<Plain vanilla aquarium salt should have little/no impact on hardness and pH; marine salt mix, by contrast, will slightly raise pH and hardness.>
Chemicals I use to treat water:
Cycle by Nutrafin (use as directed)
Aqua safe by tetra to condition tap water
Occasionally (maybe once a month to every 6 weeks) add easy balance with Nitraban also by tetra
And if my pH is off: neutral regulator by SeaChem
<I would not use this product. Leave the pH at 7.5-8 if keeping livebearers. In any event, trying to change the pH without understanding water chemistry can cause MAJOR problems.>
I've also used stress coat by API but not recently. And my water hardness always changes. It's at hard when we do changes then by the end of the day it's at very hard.
<Do the water experiment, then get back to me with the results.>
Been trying to figure this out for a while now and I'm stumped.  Thanks so much again!
<Welcome. Neale.>
Re: Sick swordtail

Hi Neale,
Sorry to bother u again! I just wanted to let you know after much more research I found my answer on how to reduce hardness.
<I would not alter water chemistry just yet.>
I'm still stumped as to why it rises but I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually. I thank you so much for all of your assistance. My sick fishes are still hanging in there. Seem to be ok for now. Going through a second dose of meds now we wait. Thanks again so much! Great day to you!
<Real good. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick swordtail    4/3/12

Thank you Neale!
<Most welcome.>
I'll do the experiment and let you know. For my new tank I was just going to add some distilled bottled water but I'll leave it for now. My sick tank was seeming to improve. Fish all seem very active, eating well. All come over to me (to say hi) as usual but I noticed (just now) a new spot on my large mature female on her side nearish the gills. And a spot on another fishes side.  My fish are all red velvets and blood reds so seeing any spots is fairly easy. Except for the now weird color of the water from the medication.
We did remove the very sick one. It seemed worse and I was afraid it was suffering so I did what I thought was best and removed it and took care of it. They'll be a burial later today.
<Oh dear.>
It looked stiff while darting almost twitching around to swim. It looked almost like a bobber bobbing around but no wiggly fishy swim movements just stiff and bobbing/floating and darting around the tank. Also it wasn't eating like it used to. Upon very close inspection after removal, it was in fact female. So the rest seem ok but a few have a spot here or there. This is day two of round two of the medication. So it's been a total of 6 days of treatment and two 50% water changes one before medication began, one yesterday before round two.
Great day to you!
<And to you.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick swordtail     4/4/12

Oh boy Neale,
I have a situation I'm not sure what to do. In my sick tank my very large female is in fact pregnant.
<Almost always the case with livebearers. Don't worry about it too much.>
Today she looks very "square" and quite large. She's been growing larger by the day. Today is day two of round two of the meds. She is showing possible signs of giving birth soon. Besides the fact she's got the squarish belly look she looks as if she's trying to find a space to drop the fry. Chasing other fish away. I'm keeping a close eye on her but in the medicated tank how harmful will it be to the fry?
<Not harmful.>
Will they even survive?
<Likely so. Often they do better than the adults in tanks where there are problems!>
Last batch of fry were a surprise & we just scooped them out into a nursery tank as we found them. Will the fry be sick as well?
<Can catch Whitespot and Velvet, for sure, but bacterial infections tend not to be "catchy" as such.>
I'm not even sure this female is sick. She has shown no signs of illness at least none I can see.  No spots, swimming fine, eating fine. She's the one I mentioned in an earlier email that has the white on or coming out of her anus. Which now I think is probably because she's going to deliver soon.  
Any advise on what to do to save the fry would be great.    They'll be fry from a blood red male and a red velvet female, real pretty combo.  Thanks so much! 
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick swordtail

Hi again Neale!  Just wanted to let you know I found a local club that actually meets right in my town, close by!  Very excited, bought a family membership as now my hubby and kids (3 girls, 1 toddler boy) are interested!
<Real good. The guys and gals at these places can be super-helpful.>
We removed the mama fish to a nursery tank. And low and behold it was just in time! This morning we spotted one fry! Yes only one so far. This is her first pregnancy. She doesn't seem sick at all. My last female that had babies (several times) never delivered them all at one time, she had them over the course of a few days. Then a few weeks later all of a sudden more new fry would appear. We just scooped them out as we found them. We are just going to leave the mama in the nursery tank for now.
<Que Sera, Sera.>
She's not as big as yesterday and doesn't have that squareish shape to her anymore but I don't want to return her to the medicated sick tank as she also seems to be the only one not sick. But I'm not certain on that so I don't want to chance putting her in the new 55 gal, there's now 2 young mollies happily inhabiting it! And 3 very young red velvet swordtails, all doing very well. All bought at the only shop I trust, a local mom & pop type of store that's been there for close to 20 years, also very helpful gentlemen!
<Good to hear.>
I'm really hoping we spot more than just one fry. I've kept her well fed on a variety of flake, bloodworms and daphnia. I read as long as she's well fed she should leave the fry alone, I'm hoping that's true, just spotted a second fry!  And the mama seems a bit aggressive and did go after the fry, we chased her away. Now I'm not sure what to do with her. Return her to the medicated tank or chance putting her in my new tank or just leave her and pray she doesn't eat all the fry! Yikes, what to do, what to do???
<Wouldn't let the fry be a factor either way. You'll have a gazillion over the lifespan of a given Molly or Swordtail, so you can afford to bide your time. Put the mother first. If you want to rescue fry and pop them into a breeding trap, then go ahead. They're fine in there for weeks. You can set them loose after 3-4 weeks and they'll be fine with their parents.>
Thanks again Neale for everything! Have a great day!
<Most welcome and happy to help. Neale.>
Re: Sick swordtail

Thanks so much Neale!
The mama fish seemed really stressed in the nursery tank. It's only a 5.5 gal so we returned her to the 20 gal medicated tank. She's fine now.
This is day 3 of round 2 of the medication and all seemed fine until I got a good look at my Plecos belly. He's got a white spot up near his top left fin that wasn't there before. And one of his other lower fins is damaged, could be an injury as he freaked during the last water change a few days ago. Also noticed his bristles on his "wing" fins (sorry don't know what they're called) are all standing up near the ends. I really don't know what's going on with this tank. There's my 10 inch Plec, a small bumblebee cat, 1 young male swordtail (sword just sprouting), 2 large mature female swordtails and 1 young smaller female swordtail.
<I see. At 2-3 g/l, your catfish should tolerate the salt just fine. But I wouldn't go higher with the Bumblebee Cat (Plecs are in fact somewhat salt-tolerant if their distribution around Florida is anything to go by).>
Who all seem fine other than what I mentioned about the Plec, and 1 large female has a weird whitish spot behind her eye, the young female has a similar spot on the side of her body but very faint, nothing noticeable on the large recent mama but her anus is whitish and she's become a bit aggressive lately. Young male has whitish on the bottom of his body right where his gills meet but that could be just his coloring.  Weird. And the very sick female that passed was the only one who had the cottony patch under the mouth and the weird floating, bobbing and stiff body.  Perhaps nothing is wrong with the fish at this point. So tomorrow is day 4 of round 2 of the meds. I'm going to continue to do what's necessary to maintain optimal environmental conditions and watch for anything weird or unusual.
I'm sure from here on things will continue to improve. 3 fry (that we can see) survived and the mother seems just fine and much happier to be back in her home but still a bit aggressive.  We've also increased the bubbles (and current), tomorrow will use carbon and water change to get the medicine out then switch to ceramic noodles and just sponge no carbon. Also the temp is steady at 75 degrees. I do test daily to make sure everything is at the right levels. And I'm still doing the water experiment, I went and bought the liquid master test kit instead of the quick strips so I began the experiment today to see if the hardness changes on its own. I'll let you know what results in a couple days. I want to thank you again for all of your incredibly helpful advise! Have a wonderful day!
<Best of luck, Neale (who's signing off tomorrow for the Easter weekend taking a trip to the countryside away from the Internet!)>
Re: Sick swordtail     4/4/12

Have a wonderful holiday!!!
<Thanks! Neale.>

Re: Swordtail Bloating (also: book buying)    1/30/12
Hi Neal,
Sorry for late reply, thanks for all the book recommendations.
<Glad to help.>
Quick update regarding Firemouth coloration change: I added a couple clumps of water sprite, floating on the top.  It's growing quite well, I like it.
The reddish colour of the one Firemouths came back somewhat after a few days. 
Swordtails:  I had 3 females / 1 male.  Unfortunately 1 female died.  For about 24 hrs. she was floating at the top taking shelter within the water sprite.  Her belly was very bloated.  At the time, I was rather excited that perhaps she was pregnant and getting ready to give birth.  No, she was on her side in the morning, dead as a door nail. 
<Too bad. These fish are not especially delicate, but misuse in the aquarium trade (excessive heat, lack of oxygen, monotonous diet) as well as the usual problems from inbreeding and bacterial infections likely do take their toll. I wouldn't be too disheartened, but if you can, try to hunt down some hobbyist-bred specimens, e.g., through a fish club. Better yet, "wild-type" Swordtails, especially other species like Xiphophorus alvarezi, should be tougher, healthier. On the average, it's the farmed, fancy varieties that tend to have the most problems.>
Diet consisted of NLS flakes, Omega One  flakes & pellets, frozen bloodworms / Mysis shrimp, freeze dried blood worms.  Oh and spinach leaves/zucchini for the Bristlenose plecostomus, which the swordtails relished as well.
<All sounds good.>
I know it's hard to diagnose, but I'm wondering if she got a little too much meaty foods and/or pellets that expanded in her tummy? 
<Possibly, but Swordtails aren't usually that sensitive; at least, not in the same way as, say, Tropheus or Mbuna.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Swordtail Questions. sys., beh., hlth.   12/10/11
<Hello Craig,>
About a year ago I bought a pair of red swordtails from a local pet store. A year later I have 5 swordtails 3 female and 2 male.  They grew up in my 25 gallon tank along with a Pleco
<This will need a huge aquarium within 1-2 years, 55 gallons upwards.
Unless you're keeping a Bristlenose Plec, Ancistrus sp., which would be fine. The Common Plec sold in American aquarium shops is Pterygoplichthys sp., which gets to 45 cm/18 inches within 1-2 years. It's a giant of a fish, and despite its reputation, creates more problems than it solves.>
and 2 zebra diamos. 
<Now, do understand that Swordtails aren't sociable. There is certainly no such thing as a pair, and while females may get along, males are very intolerant of one another. Swordtails are fish for big tanks. Look at their shape -- they're streamlined and built for speed! Keep them in a small aquarium and they'll be frustrated and unable to get out of one another's space. Net result, aggression.>
Of course the females will be pregnant.  I bought a 10 gallon tank to transfer the females into once they start getting closer.  The 10 gallon is perfectly set up been up and running with a few more zebras in it and another baby Pleco.
<May be a well set-up tank, but 10 gallons is too small for Zebra Danios to be honest, let alone Swordtails. All you're doing is creating problems.>
My question is:  2 of my females seem to be hanging in a corner of the tank where it is more dimly lit with one male (the bigger one) just kind of hanging around and 'lightly' harassing them.
<What happens with these fish. See above.>
Should I transfer them now?
<Again? To which tank? You need 30+ gallons for Swordtails, end of story.
If your tank isn't a good 90 cm/3 ft long, it isn't big enough for these quite big and obviously streamlined and fast-moving fish.>
I look for the large belly and gravid spot but I'm really not sure what I'm looking at.
<There's no reliable "gravid spot" on Swordtails. Remember, the gravid spot isn't a magical patch of colour that appears to say a female livebearer is pregnant. All it is is the uterus pushing against the muscle and skin around the back end of the abdomen. On very small species like Guppies, the dark uterus can be seen as a dark patch because the muscle and skin are quite thin. But the bigger the fish, the more skin and muscle, and the less clear the uterus becomes. On Swordtails and Mollies, it's usually not clear at all. Instead, you can safely assume any female kept with a male will be pregnant, and batches of fry will normally be about 4-6 weeks apart. Since Swordtails are cool climate tropical fish, you should be keeping them at between 22-24 C/72-75 F, which means they produce young slightly more slowly than high-end tropicals like Guppies.>
I was wondering if this behavior is normal.
The 'runt' male and female still are going about their normal business. 
However when I study the fish closer looking for signs I noticed that there is a whitish coloring around the gills converging under the chin of all of the swordtails.
<Hmm, doesn't sound good.>
Is this normal?
I read stuff on gill flukes and keeping clean water, which I make a 25% water change weekly.  Could this be normal swordtail coloring?
Or do I have to take drastic measures? 
<Depends. Could be mucous from irritation of the gills (e.g., but Whitespot or Velvet); could be dead skin or mucous from physical damage; could be a bacterial infection like Mycobacteria that is unfortunately very common among livebearers when they aren't kept properly (and, to be honest, hardly rare among cheap farmed livebearers either).>
pH is 6.8-7.0,
<You water is clearly much too soft. You need to be adding about 0.5-1 tablespoon of Epsom salt per 5 US gallons, and 0.5-1 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) per 5 US gallons. Note that I have not said anything about adding generic aquarium salt -- ordinary salt does not raise hardness.>
Ammonia is  >.25ppm,
<Much too high, and likely close to the problem here. The only safe level of ammonia is zero. Anything above that, and you're doing something wrong, and your fish are at risk.>
Nitrite is 0 ppm, and Nitrate is around 2-3 ppm.
<These both sound find. That your ammonia is high suggests your filter isn't adequate to the task, or you're overfeeding, or, possibly, there's chloramine in the tap water you're using. Make sure you use a water conditioner that removes chlorine, chloramine, ammonia (tap water, not from the fish!), and copper.>
<You're welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

Swordtail head discolouration/fungus, Nitrate    11/26/11
my Odessa barb population has stabilised well after I euthanised the swollen female. I've now ten Odessas swarming around my 180 litre tank, a lovely species, curious and outgoing. They are probably 4 months old, the males have not yet developed very strong red stripes.
<Sounds great.>
Three weeks after the latest Odessa health problem I thought it safe to add four young Red Swordtails to the tank. I now worry I might have been rushing it, and there's some problem left in the tank.
<Indeed. I always recommend waiting at least a month before adding new or replacement fish. Ideally, wait six weeks. It takes several weeks for some diseases to "germinate" so the longer you wait, the better.>
The swordtails, one male and three females, are all swimming around, eating well and generally appearing in good spirit, but two of the females have developed a gray/white discolouration on the head (right between the eyes on the top side). Possibly a little fungus-like in texture, kind of rough.
<My guess would be Columnaris, primarily because this problem is so common among livebearers generally. Antibiotic and anti-bacterial medications can work extremely well here, but you do need to be quick.>
Hard to tell but I think it's slowly getting worse. The smallest of them has also become paler in colour, and her fins are a wee bit frayed. She is eating and swimming around, but stays near the bottom if she's not up chasing food.
The male and the biggest female appear totally healthy. Have not seen any aggressive behaviour.
I upgraded to my Rio 180 mid-September, used the water and gravel from my old 60 l, had a Nitrite spike the first week. Added the Odessas about three weeks later, after the Nitrite had settled at 0. My current water parameters are 25ºC, pH 8, GH 180, KH 240, Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate consistently 40. Doing weekly 30% water changes, adding JBL Ferropol plant fertiliser and a little aquarium salt.
What could be wrong with my Swordtails? Could there be some residual problem left from my first batch of six Odessas (four of which died with swollen stomachs) some parasite, fungal or bacterial problem?
<If you can, medicate with something that treats Finrot and Columnaris, e.g., in the UK and Europe, eSHa 2000.>
Any tips on treatment of the Swordtails?
<Nothing specific, except to note that they dislike oxygen-poor water, so when you add medications, be prepared to increase aeration and/or circulation to compensate.>
Also, why isn't my Nitrate value coming down?
<It won't. Nitrate is lowered through water changes. Nitrate accumulates between water changes as the end product of biological filtration. Unless you have masses of rapid plant growth, there's nothing to use up that nitrate. So, if you have 40 mg/l at the end of the week, and replace half the water with tap water that has zero mg/l, you'll still end up with 20 mg/l. Realistically, much tap water contains much higher levels of nitrate -- in London for example, 40-50 mg/l in the tap water isn't uncommon.>
I've cut my feedings down to once a day six days a week. Have got 1350 l/h filtration. Is my tank overstocked (2 x Elliotis, 10 x Juvenile Odessas, 4 x juvenile swordtails, 2 x bumblebee gobies, 1 x Bristlenose Pleco)?
Have bought some API StressCoat, not sure whether to use it.
<Doesn't have much use either way. It's useful when shipping fish, and perhaps if a fish has been roughed up a little but not seriously damaged.>
As always, many thanks for your care and help!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Swordtail head discolouration/fungus, Nitrate    11/27/11

Thank you Neale,
I have started a course of eSHa2000 now. Will keep a close eye on those Swordtails.
<Sounds like a plan.>
Will be more patient next time I re-stock after disease, I just got too impatient!
<Quite so.>
Checked my tap water for Nitrates too, it's showing 25 mg/l, consistent with the report I got from my local council. So at least I know it's never going to go below that as you so rightly pointed out.
Have a good weekend,
<Likewise, and good luck. Cheers, Neale.>

Swordtail troubles   8/23/11
I am hoping you can help me. I am pretty new to aquariums but I have a female swordtail and today I noticed she has a Sac or bubble if you will near her anus. Does this mean she is about to give birth? Or do I have a sick fish?
<I fear the latter. I've seen this on a halfbeak once, and the female subsequently died. There's a picture of the female in question over at FishChannel, here:
All you can really do is pray to the Fish Gods! Treatment with Epsom Salt as per constipation might loosen things up a bit, and certainly won't do any harm.
Do we aware that these birthing problems are likely linked to stress, for example, keeping equal numbers of males and females in the tank (you should have at least twice as many females). Cheers, Neale.>

My pregnant Swordtail is sick, env.    7/1/11
Hello, I have recently discovered a new pregnancy in my 10 gallon tank which houses a single Killifish, a Golden Gourami, a common Pleco,
<Both these last two need more room than this>
and a male and female swordtail.
<And these>
the Swordtail became pregnant, and, now, 3 weeks later, appears to be prepared to have her babies. All is going as planned I presume, except: I noticed about a week ago, that her gills started to turn pink, and her fins appear to be rotting off.
<... environmental>
I began treating the tank with anti-fungal formulas. Am I approaching the problem correctly? Can I expect healthy babies?
<No and no>
<Please read on WWM (or elsewhere) re the needs of the species you list... the issue here is the world (too small) these fishes are living in. No medication will/can solve this. They need more room, better water quality. Use the search tool or indices: http://wetwebmedia.com/
Bob Fenner>

Female Swordtail Illness or Disease     6/12/11
Hello, I have spent hours attempting to research disease and illness in swordtails today without actually being able to effectively diagnose what is wrong with my female swordtail and treat it. I have a community tank with twelve guppies, six black neon tetras and a couple of female swordtails.
<Mmm, I should mention that the livebearers and tetras really "like" quite different water conditions; aren't all that compatible; and that the Swords get too large, "outgoing" to be kept with guppies>
Both of my female swordtails were pregnant when they were given to me and the one who appears to be sick has recently given birth. I have set up a nursery tank for both guppy and swordtail fry as the guppies also birthed.
After separating the fry from the community tank and isolating them in a nursery tank I noticed a couple of my female guppies had chunks missing from their tails. I was concerned about fin and tail rot although I suspect they may have been attacked by other fish whilst birthing primarily because there was no whiteness and the wounds seemed clean.
<How large is this system?>
However I have not been able to confirm this as I have not witnessed any of the fish behaving aggressively towards one another. As a preventative measure against fin and tail rot I did a full water change, boiled the gravel & treated my tank with Melafix for a week.
<?! This is drastic... likely killed off your bio-filter>
then did a quarter water change. This was just a couple of days ago. I have not continued the treatment as the guppies tails appeared to be growing back fine. A few days ago I noticed my red swordtail was not swimming around the tank but staying in one place near the bottom of the tank hiding in the plants and appeared to be gulping or gasping. I have kept a close eye on her and she seemed to picking up, feeding and swimming around normally however yesterday just a couple of days after adding new plants I noticed she has a white growth on her body just before her top fin. I have isolated her as I was worried that it could be contagious and spread to my other fish, however the container is not big enough for her as my other tank is being used as a nursery I had to make do and I'm concerned the lack of space for her to swim in may be causing her further stress. Initially I thought it may be something called white spot but upon researching this have decided that is not what is wrong as this is a single white circular growth and not many tiny white spots. What has me so confused is how this could possibly be a bacterial infection after the tank having been treated with Melafix for a week.
<Worthless and toxic>
I have been researching fungal and parasitic infections but as swordtails are generally fairly hardy I don't seem to be able to get all that much information on potential diseases or infections.
<The issue here is almost assuredly environmental; not pathogenic>
Nothing I have found online has helped me to form a confident diagnosis.
This is the first time I've kept or bred tropical fish and have only had my tank set up for just over a year, the swordtails were a more recent addition 3 months ago so I am very much learning as I go here. I don't want to lose my swordtail and at the moment she appears to be the only sick fish in the community tank, she is now in a basin but sitting in the community tank as I have nowhere else to put her. The two injured guppies are making an impressive recovery and seem well on the mend after the Melafix treatment. I can only assume that this white growth a few of mm in size perhaps slightly smaller is resistant to the Melafix treatment. I still don't know how to treat her
<... fix the environment>
as I can't make a positive diagnosis and therefore judge which treatment to start her on or whether I'm dealing with a contagion that may mean treating the whole tank or something that is specific to her alone. I will continue to monitor the other fish in the community tank for symptoms of disease or infection but at the moment I am at a complete loss of how to proceed. Please if you can offer any advice or make a diagnosis on the information I have given let me know. I really don't want to lose any of my fish. Many Thanks. Denise.
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/sworddisfaqs.htm
and the linked files above. Also search on WWM re API Mela(not)fix. Bob Fenner>
Re: Female Swordtail Illness or Disease   6/13/2011

Thank you very much for your prompt response, I had looked at the swordtail disease faq's on your site and have realised that the community tank is too small for them from what I have read.
<Ahh; as I asked>
I intend to get a 200L tank for them alone as soon as I am able and will throw the Melafix in the bin.
I also appreciate that you don't believe my current mix of species is compatible but in all honesty they were just what were available and had been bred locally by other fish keepers.
<I see>
When I get another tank that will give me three, so as soon as the current fry are big enough I can separate them into their own species and create environments unique to each of them. I have had fair success in breeding them however and despite what must be cramped conditions for them I haven't lost any fish due to disease or ailment and would like to do my best to keep it that way. Thanks again Denise
<Thank you for this follow-up Denise. Cheers, BobF>

Sick swordtail   3/24/11
Hi WWM crew,
<Hello Matilda,>
I find your website an invaluable tool. Particularly when I was setting up my tank, the articles were incredibly informative and reassuring for a noob like myself.
My 40L freshwater tank has been chugging along fairly happily since I set it up last September.
<Forty litres? That's really much, MUCH too small for what you have here. Do read here:
Your aquarium would be 10 gallons in US units, and should be stocked accordingly. Half a dozen Kuhli Loaches and some small tetras would be appropriate, perhaps 6-8 Glowlights or Cardinals. But Swordtails need far more space than this. Look at how streamlined they are -- they're fast-moving stream-dwelling fish that shouldn't be kept in tanks less than 60 cm long and really do better given 90 cm or more. BBGs debatably need brackish water, and should certainly be kept only alongside those species that will tolerate slightly brackish if needs be: Guppies, Halfbeaks, Dwarf Rainbowfish, etc.>
It currently houses two female and one male Swordtails, two Bumblebee Gobies, five White Cloud Minnows and a Glowlight Tetra. I know this is quite packed for a little tank, so I am rigourous with weekly water tests and I do half water changes whenever nitrates are above 15 or so, or every 2-3 weeks, which ever happens sooner.
<Good, but keeping track of water quality won't offset "psychological" issues caused by cramped housing, any more than feeding a dog well means you can keep it locked up in the basement.>
We originally had another minnow and a Corydoras Julii but the minnow was a victim to Australia's hot hot summer (we had three weeks of over 35C and it still hasn't cooled down much even though it's now March) and the Cory found our house move extremely stressful and died a couple of days after the move.
<Corydoras sterbai is the warm water Cory, and would be appropriate in tanks 75 litres/15 gallons upwards.>
We also had a bout of what I suspect was fin rot in December last year- one of the BBGs and all but one of the minnows developed raggy fins. My LFS suggested I dip all fish in a 35g/L solution of salt water until the fish tipped onto its side. This fixed up the minnows (the worst affected lost a lot of weight and was the one who died a month or so later) but the BBG has remained raggy of fin despite five saline dips. I assumed his fins would grow back in time and let him have a break from the salt water, the experience was no fun for either of us- he is devilishly hard to catch. He is also paler around the face then he used to be. Not in an Ich/white fluff/ other discernible skin disease way, just slightly blotchy black rather than the solid black he was before.
<Again, water chemistry may be an issue, but housing or diet may also be underlying causes. I have kept BBGs in freshwater over long periods, i.e., several years, but they do need good conditions and above all a rich diet. They are NOT community fish and WILL NOT eat flake food. They need regular (i.e., 5-6 times/week) offerings of live foods such as Daphnia and/or their substitutes, e.g., wet-frozen bloodworms. BBGs may also eat very small chunks of white fish fillet, shrimp, etc. Because they are so slow at feeding, in community tanks they frequently, i.e., almost always, starve. Funnily enough, Australia has some outstanding Goby species ideally suited to aquaria. My own favourite is the Desert Goby (Chlamydogobius eremius), a species that is easy to keep and breed.>
All going well until a couple of weeks ago I noticed one of the minnows loosing weight and the male swordtail had a slightly raggy dorsal fin. I dipped them at the same time as I did the weekly water test (all good- 0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite, ~10 Nitrate). On Tuesday this night this week when I tested the water again the Nitrates were up a little higher so I did a water change and re-dipped the minnow and the Swordtail, both of whom seemed to be a little worse than they had been. Not behaviour-wise, just the state of their fins. The Swordtail didn't like the dip and hung out at the bottom of the tank for the next day then bounced back to his usual self.
<Surely a problem with the size of the tank.>
This morning though the Swordtail was curled into a lateral C shape and was struggling to stay upright- he'd float onto his side and then roll over completely to right himself.
<When fish develop kinked spines, it may be a dietary issue, but I've also seen it with my juvenile Halfbeaks when I keep them in an aquarium too small for them. Again, Halfbeaks are livebearers like your Swordtails, and I wouldn't be at all surprised that cramped housing is the issue.>
He was also lurking on the bottom behind some plants (Java Fern) and occasionally flashing on the bottom. I fed him some mashed peas with the usual frozen bloodworms and this seemed to sort him out for the most part. The fish usually get bloodworms 4-5 times per week with some flakes or Nori and a starve day for the other two.
The Swordtail, while unkinked and swimming about, is now less active than usual and swimming with his tail held lower in the water rather than his usual (fairly) horizontal position. My questions are: does it sound to you like the Swordtail is still sick, if so can you suggest a remedy? Is there anything I could do to prevent this from happening again? Is the fin rot (if that is what it is) symptomatic of a bigger problem and if so what should I do about it. I'm none too keen on antibiotics unless there is a very good reason to use them. Any suggestions on why the BBG hasn't recovered and what to do about it?
<See above.>
Also, slightly unrelated but do you have any tips for keeping tanks cool in summer? We keep the hood light and heater off and take the hood off entirely on very hot days but the water still sometimes gets to 29C- the minnows are such troopers for getting through that! (I know they prefer cooler climes).
<Floating a block of ice can work, whether loose or inside a plastic carton that you can refreeze as required. Otherwise opening the top of the tank and placing a fan nearby will cool the water by evaporation, but many fish jump out of open tanks, including Swordtails, BBGs.>
Sorry for the long email, I was trying to be thorough.
<Glad to help. Hope this is useful, Neale.>

Re: Suggested tankmates for swordtails... hlth. 03/20/11
Hi again, thanks for all your help WWM! After the death of my Swordtail, I've been keeping a really close eye on my tank. I've noticed that most of my Swordtails have white stringy poop. After doing a lot of research, it seems like it could be an indicator of a number of things (e.g., parasites, stress, lack of fiber). Because they all seem to be active and healthy, I'm not sure what to make of this. I'm feeding them Hikari wafers -- is this enough fiber? Also, there doesn't seem to be any information on the etiology of white stringy poop. Why is it a sign of something wrong?
<When the gut is irritated it produces extra mucous, and in the case of fish this results in faeces that are paler and stringier than before. Among cichlids it is one of the indicators of Hexamita infections, but by itself the white, stringy faeces don't prove anything. For example, Swordtails are herbivores in the wild, so yes, they do produce more faeces than carnivores such as tetras. Such faeces do tend to be more solid coloured though because they contain particles of plant material and algae, rather than off-white mucous. On the whole Swordtails are a hardy bunch, but they are stressed by excessively high temperatures and the slow, sluggish water conditions in the average community tank. Remember, they come from fast-flowing streams and need lots of water current, plenty of swimming space (lack of exercise promotes constipation), and relatively low temperatures, 22-24 C being optimal. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Problems with my Dalmatian mollies (and I think maybe more that one problem?)  1/16/11
Hi Neale
Sorry to bother you again. I'm having some slightly different problems now with the sword tails in my tank.
I have changed the water conditions to those you suggested below suitable for the mollies. They seem really happy and healthy now and actually quite plump. The sword tails on the other hand are showing signs of stress.
<Swordtails and Mollies require quite different conditions. Swordtails don't like warm water -- their top temperature for comfort is about 24 C/75 F, whereas Mollies prefer somewhat warmer conditions, at least the farmed Mollies do (wild-type Mollies may be less fussy). As for salt, Mollies have a far higher tolerance for salt than Swordtails. If you're using salt, make sure you haven't added to much, and don't dramatically change the salinity in one go. Spread any changes out across a day or two. Swordtails naturally come from fast-flowing streams and need lots of oxygen. Mollies, by contrast, come from swamps and are able to breathe air -- they "gulp" water at the surface across their gills, extracting oxygen other fish can't get at. So there are three different environmental parameters to review, and if necessary, change accordingly. Start by lowering the thermostat on your heater and increasing water circulation by turning up your filter and/or air pump. Use a hydrometer if you have one, and make sure the salinity isn't above, say, 3-5 grammes per litre, about SG 1.001-2 at 24 degrees C.>
They are lying on the bottom with rapid gill and fin movements, or floating near the top or trying to hide in my ornaments. I do not notice them eating much either. I am keeping a close eye on the water conditions and doing a 25% water change weekly. Once a week the fish get peas too to help supplement their diet and their flakes are the type that contain algae etc.
This change in behaviour has only happened since I added the instant ocean.
Any suggestions?
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Problems with my Dalmatian mollies (and I think maybe more that one problem?)  1/16/11

Thank you ever so much for the quick response. You and your team really are life savers.
I have dropped the temperature by 1oC. It was only at 25 so hopefully not a big change to the Mollies either. I'll check the SG in the morning at 24oC and do the required water change to bring the salinity down a bit if required.
I did add the salt over a couple of weeks so hopefully the water change tomorrow will do the trick as there doesn't seem to be any physical changes to any of the fish just behavioural. I have an air filter and added an air pump with just and air stone at the end a couple of weeks ago so hopefully there is sufficient aeration in the tank. Its amazing how difficult keeping tropical fish is. Many don't appreciate this. I know I didn't. I'm learning a lot.....fast.... On the bright side I've not lost any more fish since I've changed the environment as you suggested and my Mollies are really thriving.
They really do look health and active.
Thank you again
<Glad to help Sarah. Let me know if they don't improve. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Problems with my Dalmatian mollies (and I think maybe more that one problem?)   1/18/11

Hi Neale,
Sorry to say that my only male Sword Tail died today. He spent the last few days swimming near the surface hidden among the plants. I popped out this afternoon for less that one hour and came back to find him at the bottom, not moving or breathing. I am not going to entertain replacing him until the others pick up. There is no change as yet in their behaviour though I wasn't expecting an instant improvement. I had a close look at him out of the water and couldn't see anything obvious at all. His colour was good.
His scales and fins were all in tack and looked fine, his eyes were not cloudy or anything, so nothing obvious.
Mollies and the 5 baby mollies still all doing fine.
<Sorry about the bad news. You're very wise to hold off replacing dead fish for a while. I'd argue you want to wait at least a month. And because Mollies require quite specific conditions, concentrate your reading on the needs of Mollies and the sorts of fish that get along best with them. In slightly brackish water for example, things like Knight Gobies, Orange Chromides, and Brown Hoplo Catfish make good choices. Cheers, Neale.>

Swordtail parasite of some sort   1/15/11
Hi guys. Sorry, I posted this on the forum, but was provided this email by one of the forum members and thought Id take a chance and ask you directly. You can view the topic here:
Any ideas, help would be greatly appreciated. Ill also post your response in the forum in case anyone has a similar issue in the future.
Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this. Your site really is a great source of information. Glad its there.
<Hello Sasha. It isn't immediately obvious to me what this parasite might be. I'd certainly be doing daily seawater dips in this case, for up to 20 minutes at a time, as this is a good way to weaken any external parasites intolerant of salt. Swordtails are highly salt-tolerant, so this shouldn't cause any serious harm, though do remember to remove the fish if it rolls onto its side or otherwise shows signs of severe distress. Treating with a general anti-worming medication may also help, something like Prazi-Pro, but it's worth mentioning that many of the so-called "worms" that parasitise fish from the outside are in fact crustaceans, and treating these can be hard without recourse to organophosphates such as those used to treat Anchor Worm. If the Swordtail is basically healthy, you could try physical removal of the parasite after weakening it with a seawater dip, afterwards dabbing with ordinary medicine cabinet iodine to clean any wound. Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: swordtail parasite of some sort  1/17/11

Neale, thank you for taking some time to respond to me. I really appreciate it. I'll take what you've said into consideration but from my research this does not sound like an anchor worm. Firstly, the cist (worm) formed over a period of 2 days, during which time it grew enormously. Then it burrowed its way out. The problem is, as the fish flashed against gravel and rocks, the worm broke in half before it had a chance to remove itself completely and remaining half inside the fish stayed inside and moved around. I could literally see its path. Quite disturbing. In any case, at this point there are no external signs of a parasite. Nothing is hanging off it. The half that stayed inside, has moved to an area that I can no longer see or has found another exit because I can no longer find it. The fish isn't looking very good but I have to tell you, I admire its tenacity. He's a real fighter. I'd be happy to treat him, but I just need to know what it is first and no online research has turned up anything resembling what I've experienced, so I'm at a loss. What I'm afraid is that perhaps when the worm burrowed out, it releases eggs into the water before I quarantined the Swordtail, which might end up infecting my other fish. In any case, if you don't have a solution, there's no need to spend any more time responding, but in case there was a misunderstanding concerning the nature of the parasite internal vs. external, I thought I should clarify in the hopes it might make things clearer.
Thanks again Neale.
<Hello Sasha. The thing is that what you're describing isn't anything obvious to me, and outside of a fish pathology lab or your local veterinary surgery, it's going to be hard to pin this thing down. If you can, call your vet, and find out if they can offer you any help or point you in the general direction of someone who might help. As it is, my gut feeling is that this won't be "catchy" and the use of an anti-worming medication and anti-Anchor worm medication should kill off the two most likely pathogens, true worms and worm-like crustaceans. Strongly brackish water, up to SG 1.005 at 25 C/77 F, should also be stressful for the parasite, though not harmful to your Swordtail. Cheers, Neale.>

swordtail illness 1/13/11
Hello Crew,
I have a male swordtail in obvious distress. It is in a 20 gallon long aquarium with 2 other swordtails,
<What sex/es are these Swords? Is this pertinent?>
6 zebra Danios, 3 zebra Nerite snails and about 8 red cherry shrimp. Temp is kept at 72 degrees. The tank has been up and running for about 2 years with very good regular care, 25% weekly water changes etc. It has a bio-wheel filter and is filled with a variety of low light plants.
I have had this swordtail for 1 1/2 years. From my reading, I think this fish has a melanosarcoma. In the middle of the caudal fin, on both sides, there is an irregular shaped, raised, black area that measures about 1/4 inch on all sides. The fish is lethargic and stays under a plant leaf or hidden behind a rock all day. It hovers in place, moving very little.
Could this possibly be a melanosarcoma?
the fifth citation>
Can this be treated?
<Not as far as I'm aware>
I have an interest in biology - could I take a scraping and possibly learn something about this condition by looking at it through a microscope?
<Possibly... Do you have access to Ed Noga's 2d ed. of Fish Disease, Diagnosis and Treatment?>
How would you recommend I proceed?
<Mmm, just observe for now... Euthanize this fish if it appears to be suffering: http://wetwebmedia.com/euthanasia.htm
Thank you for your advice.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: swordtail illness 1/14/11

Thanks for your kind reply and suggestions. The other two swordtails are females.
<I see>
Through my library system I have ordered a 1996 version of the text you recommended. This is the only edition available in my state and I can borrow it from a local university.
<Ah good. I have both... very useful>
I'll have to wait a bit before I splurge
on the cost of the latest edition - a good item for my birthday wish list!
Thanks again.
<Please do follow up w/ your observations, an account of your actions. BobF>
Re: swordtail illness 1/14/11
Not to bother you again, but I found the following (from cancerres.aacrjournals.org) interesting.
"The platy fish, Platypoecilus maculatus, and swordtail, Xiphophorus helleri, do not hybridize in their native rivers of Mexico, but do so readily in aquaria. Among the hybrids, the black or spotted fish often develop melanomas, whereas the nonspotted siblings are free of tumors. The genetics of this neoplasm has been extensively investigated by Gordon (32). It is the species-specific tumor of these hybrids."
I will definitely follow-up and thank you for the learning experience.
<Interesting. Thank you for sending this along Janet. BobF, who says "so much for general statements re hybrid-vigor">

swordtail, dropsical?   6/7/10
Please help. Your site is great.
I have a male swordtail about 2.5yrs old appears to have dropsy?
<Certainly possible, and livebearers are perhaps a bit more prone to dropsy than some other fish.>
He looks fine no fungus etc but he is a bit swollen and his scales are standing out. 2 others in the tank are fine. He is presently in a fry net.
<Sounds like Dropsy.>
What can I do for him?
<Not much. Do read here:
Bob has seen fish recover and has some recommendations for treatment; for my part, I usually euthanise fish that exhibit these symptoms.
Also do you have any advice re swordtails breeding. Should I separate male and females?
<Ideally, yes.>
Have 3 males in one tank and they are fine, 2 are very friendly, 1 less so but ok.
<He's the dominant one, I'd wager.>
Have a 40 gallon tank with 1 male and 4 females and fish look pregnant most of the time but I never see any babies despite searching hard and often.
<Do you have floating plants? Indian Fern makes a huge difference. Provides both shelter for the females -- which reduces the risk of stress-induced miscarriages -- and also cover for newborn fry -- reducing the risk of cannibalism. Most problems with breeding livebearers come down to these two issues.>
Also have Danios.
<Will eat baby Swordtails.>
Are babies being born and eaten?
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: swordtail, dropsy  6/7/10
Wow, thanks for quick reply.
<No problem.>
So do you think I should isolate him and what should I put in the water. I have read the page suggested but dont recognise the medication. (UK).
<As I say, Dropsy is one of those diseases that I've never seen a fish recover from, but Bob has. Take that advice for what it's worth. If you do choose to medicate, obviously you need a separate aquarium, minimum 8 gallons/30 litres with a heater and filter. Epsom salt can be used alongside the Metronidazole and/or Nitrofuranace, but it isn't a substitute. I've never, ever seen the "Anti Internal Bacteria" medications sold in the UK cure anything at all. I If you need an antibiotic such as Metronidazole or Nitrofuranace, you are going to need to visit a vet, not a pet store. These are NOT sold in pet stores, and anything sold in the UK in pet stores WON'T treat Dropsy, whatever the advertising on the box might suggest. This is why I argue in favour of [a] prevention and [b] euthanasia.>
Should I do a water change and what should I add to the water?
<The vet will tell you what dosage to add to the hospital tank. Treating the display aquarium is possible, but isolating a sick fish as large as a Swordtail in a breeding trap will simply stress him, reducing the risk of recovery even further.>
Tested water on weekend, nitrate and nitrite at 0. Mostly I feed food crisps but also frozen selection, is this ok?
<Yes. Swordtails are typically stressed by over-heating and social interactions, the males being highly aggressive.>
Cant destroy him, my favourite, called Spot!
<Sometimes humane destruction is the kindest thing to do.>
Have seen a pond fish make a remarkable recovery last year, not dropsy. Now he is the first up to me in the morning.
<Good luck! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: swordtail [Bob, feel free to chime in here re: Dropsy] 6/7/10
Had a sick goldfish last year, about 11" long. 2 vets refused to see him or medicate.
<Can be a problem sometimes. Do visit the Fish Veterinary Society; they have a listing of vets who treat fish.
Thanks for reply, really appreciated.
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Death of a swordtail   4/15/10
Dear WWM crew member,
At the outset, I would like to thank you for your profound help in the past.
<You are welcome.>
And today I need your help again to find out the reason for the death of my swordtail last night. Well everything seemed normal for last 3 months in the tank, but last night I found a dead female swordtail. I have attached a photo of it which shows discolouration on left side of body, and swollen abdomen.
<Doesn't show obvious signs of anything much.>
I simply cant find out the cause of this problem but here are some recent changes in aquarium which might help you to find the cause
1. Its very hot now-a-days here, nearly 42 degree Celsius outside. I cant tell the water temperature as the thermometer is broken and I am yet to buy a new one.
<Swordtails are NOT tolerant of water this warm; indeed, few fish are. But even above 25 Celsius they get stressed, and above 30 Celsius will kill them quickly. Swordtails come from cool, fast-flowing streams with LOTS of oxygen. Just look at their streamlined shape! And the way they swim so fast! These are NOT fish for still or sluggish water. They are not like catfish or gouramis that can breathe air if needs be. Keep the water temperature between 22-24 C for best results. Increase evaporation or add cold water -- even a small block of ice! -- if the water gets too hot. A one litre block of ice in a 100-200 litre aquarium would be a good start.>
2. I am facing little problem with a slimy light brown algae. It needs scraping twice a week to keep the glass clean. I am using snails to check these algae. So please let me know how to prevent more loss of fish this summer and also how to control these slimy algae.
<Algae is best controlled using fast-growing plants under reasonably bright lights. Floating Indian Fern, Ceratopteris thalictroides, is ideal. Do also read here:
I read about using copper sulphate but isnt it harmful for fish?
<Yes it is. Don't use it.>
Thanking you
<Cheers, Neale.>

Pregnant Swordtails, red gills, and two clueless tank owners 02/22/10
Hello. For my birthday this year, January 9th, my husband decided to get me an aquarium tank.
After four hours at Wal-mart (you don't even have to say it), we walked out with a 10 gallon tank, Whisper filter, bubble stone, a few deco items, fake plants, food, test kits, chemical adjusters, and our fish: 2 Swordtails (2 female, a pineapple and a black tail), 1 Pleco, 1 African Albino Clawed Frog, and a Kissing Gourami (all young).
<You do realise almost none of these animals will survive in a 10 gallon tank. Actually, the plastic plant is the only thing that will be happy.
Swordtails are up to 12 cm/4 inches long, and as their shape should immediately suggest, very fast swimmers. They need tanks at least 90 cm/3 feet long to feel at home. The Plec will get to 45 cm/18 inches within a year or so, while the Kissing Gourami is a big food fish that becomes a slab of meat up to 25 cm/10 inches long at maturity. The frog, Xenopus laevis, might be okay, but it's a coldwater animal that doesn't belong in a tropical aquaria, and frogs and fish rarely mix successfully. I'd suggest you take back everything, and read here:
My husband set up the tank, chemical adjusters and all, and we released the hounds a few hours later.
<What are these "chemical adjusters"? Almost always, beginners shouldn't touch bottles of any potions *other* than water conditioner. Beginners kill more fish using pH buffers than they ever help.>
However, we lost the Kissing Gourami before it even got to the tank, and the AACF didn't make it past a week.
So, we returned the Gourami and exchanged it for a Red Male Swordtail.
<Males are extremely aggressive.>
We gave the frog a proper flushial (burial) and purchased another frog.
<Hold on... why are you buying more animals when you don't know why the ones you had just died?>
A few weeks later our Red Swordtail died.
On Valentines Day, we lost our Pleco with no sign of sickness or ailing, except that he hardly ever touched his Algae wafers and just sucked on whatever else he could (malnourished?)
<No, he was killed through careless maintenance.>
We've been struggling to keep good bacteria in the tank and Ammonia out.
<I bet.>
After extensive research, we've come to the conclusion that we shouldn't have bought fish the same day as the tank.
Last week, we went to a pet store and bought 2 more Plecos and another Swordtail (male).
<Stop! Stop!>
The next day, one of the Plecos was dead.
<Oh, for the love of God! What are you doing here? Are you trying to make me cry? This is sheer insanity! For gosh sakes, take all the fish back, and go buy a book about keeping an aquarium. Clearly you have all kinds of money, since you're happy spending it on fish that die overnight. So choose a book on fishkeeping for beginners, and read the darn thing.>
Last week our Frog's toe was twitching for a few hours, so we changed the water and he stopped after a while. Could that be the Ammonia?
My husband has been changing the tank a few days a week. Mostly doing full tank changes. We just bought Stress Coat & Stress Zyme, API is the brand.
<Look, all the potions in the world won't help UNLESS you know what's going on. For a start, you have too many fish, and none of them belong in this tank. Take them all back. If I was feeling cranky, I'd say you should keep pet rocks or something, but I'll try and be constructive this time around.
Your tank needs cycling. Do that without fish. Set the tank up, run the filter and the heater, and then add a tiny pinch of flake once every other day for the next three weeks. During that time, replace 25% of the water once a week. After the end of the third week, check your water. You should find ammonia is zero and nitrite is close to zero. Carry on doing this, and when both are zero, you're good to go. Buy a few small fish suitable for this aquarium. I'd suggest either six Neons (if you have soft water) or one male and two female Endler Guppies (if you have hard water). Let them swim about for a couple of weeks and see what happens. If all is good, and nitrite and ammonia stay at zero, you can slowly add more small fish every couple of weeks. Broadly speaking, if you stick with small, Neon-sized fish, you can allow about one inch of fish (i.e., one Neon or Endler Guppy) per gallon of water. If you add bigger fish, then you can't add so many.>
He's been adding those and is now doing 20% water changes but there doesn't seem to be an improvement.
<I bet.>
Here's the kicker;
<Only now comes the kicker?>
I have noticed a black stripe straight through the black tail Swordfish and just figured it was her color. Well, this weekend, we went away overnight to my in-laws and when we came home Sunday we found a few tiny little unfamiliar moving objects inside the tank. Low and behold they were fry...19 fry. The black tail Sword no longer has that black stripe going through her body but now has a redness under her belly (probably where she gave birth?) and a black sack looking thing near her gills.
<Very sick.>
This led to us noticing a sort of redness on her gills and a redness on our other two Swords gills. We also noticed our pineapple Sword has a black pouch under her tummy as well, and has been there for a weeks now. Could she be pregnant?
If so, what should we do?
<Well, I'm weeping for the poor little souls. This is really not an aquarium for Swordtails.>
They are all acting fine for the most part.
<"Most part"? Half the fish you've bought are dead, and some of the surviving ones are sick...>
So, our questions are, how can we fix our aquariums eco system properly without getting rid of our fish and doing it from scratch?
<Illogical question. You can't keep the fish you have in this aquarium.
It's rather like me asking you "How do I get a ripped body and lose all my flab without eating less and doing any exercise at all?" You have a too-small aquarium that hasn't been cycled and is filled with fish that don't belong there.>
What happened to the black line through our Swordtail and why does she have a black sack near her gills?
<No idea without a photo.>
What do red gills on the swordtails mean?
<Inflammation. Same thing as red patches on humans.>
How should we take care of the Fry, where should we put them?
<Least of your problems right now.>
Any idea how to get our Pleco to suck on something other than an inanimate object?
<Take it back to the shop. It doesn't belong here.>
Thanks a bunch,
<Not sure you're going to be pleased with my reply, but I did my best. Good luck to you all! Cheers, Neale.>

Treating Fish in Display Tank to Prevent Columnaris  1/29/10
<Hello Lisa,>
I've noted over the last few days that my male red swordtail was not as evident in the tank as he had usually been.
Tonight I made a close search through the plants and finally located him sitting low under a piece of driftwood. He had clear signs of Columnaris, with the saddleback discoloration, discoloured patches on his body and a mouth full of cotton. I immediately removed him to a hospital tank and will treat him with appropriate medications and fingers crossed!
<Do remember a small hospital tank with poor water quality offers no benefit at all; oftentimes it's better to treat the whole tank if that means avoiding some 2.5 gallon death trap. I wouldn't keep a Swordtail in a hospital tank much smaller than 10 gallons.>
Meanwhile, I now have a 30 gallon display tank and a number of fish who have all been exposed to this. Included in my tank are two angels, a Farlowella gracilis, a Corydoras,
<It's Corydoras; like "sheep", both the plural and the singular are the same.>
three Oto cats, two female swords, a school of six rummy nose tetras and one rock shrimp.
<Do be aware many medications will kill shrimps; copper in particular is highly toxic to them.>
Ammonia is 0, pH 7.2, KH 180 ppm, GH 150 ppm, nitrite 0, nitrate 5.
At this point I don't see any other fish exhibiting signs of illness. What is the risk to the rest of the occupants in this tank? I have to assume that the male sword does not have the most virulent form of Columnaris because he's clearly been hiding for a few days with this.
Should I go ahead and treat the rest of the tank on a preventative basis?
And if so, what treatment would you recommend for a tank stocked with five catfish and a shrimp!
<Nothing with copper in. Because Columnaris and Finrot are latent in all tanks, "prevention" is meaningless. If the fish are healthy, they'll resist those bacteria just fine. If the fish are weakened somehow, then they'll get sick.>
Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.
<Good luck, Neale.>

Re: Treating Fish in Display Tank to Prevent Columnaris   1/31/2010
Thanks for your quick reply Neale.
<My pleasure.>
My swordtail is currently swimming by himself in a cycled, lightly planted tank, so not too worried about stress from him feeling crowded. Just crossing my fingers he's not too far gone.
<I hope so too.>
If I need to treat the display tank at some point if others get sick I can put my shrimp in with the swordtail (assuming he survives this).
In a worst case scenario like that, what treatment would you recommend, given all my various catfish...
<I don't know what medications are sold in your part of the world. Here in England, I've found eSHa 2000, which contains Rivanol, copper, and methyl orange, work safely with my catfish and pufferfish. It treats Finrot, Columnaris and Fungus. In general though, catfish keepers try to avoid copper and formalin if at all possible, so try to find medications that don't contain either of these ingredients. If you have no choice but to use something with copper or formalin, at least use them carefully, and observe your catfish for signs of negative reaction: gasping at the surface, laboured breathing, and so on.>
I know a lot of meds need to be dosed at half strength with cats in the tank...just wondering what would be safest and still likely to do the job?
<I'm not a big fan of the "half dose" approach; many of these medications work reliably only at the stated dose on the package, and I certainly don't have the training in veterinarian science to be confident about changing doses. Half doses can create problems by knocking back an infection without actually curing it, so the disease comes back a few weeks later.
Alternatively, a half dose might not even work at all, so you end up with a dead fish. I'd sooner choose medications that are safe for use around catfish, and use them at the full dose, i.e., ones that don't contain copper or formalin; Methylene blue for example has been widely used for treating catfish affected by fungus, and of course salt works very well against whitespot. It's important to be clear that catfish aren't uniquely sensitive to medications than any other fish. Indeed, there are lots of other fish groups at least as sensitive, or a good deal more sensitive.
Loaches, Mormyrids, stingrays, pufferfish and moray eels are all examples of fish equally or more sensitive to copper and formalin. On the other hand, other fish aren't magically immune to copper and formalin.
Livebearers, barbs, tetras and so on happen to be a bit less sensitive than, say, catfish, but slightly higher doses will kill them just as quickly. So it's all about getting the right amount of antibacterial medication to kill the infection while not killing the fish. Compared with antibiotics, which target just bacteria, antibacterial medications (copper, formalin, organic dyes) kill everything they touch, we just try to minimise the harm done to the fish by getting just the right dose into the aquarium.
If you have fish that may react badly to antibacterial medications, then antibiotics are the safest and best way forward. On the plus side, antibacterial medications are cheap, don't need a prescription, and generally reliable without being complicated by the gram-positive, gram-negative issue that makes choosing the right antibiotic difficult.>
Thanks again in advance,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Sick Swordtail Cont'd, admonition re stkg. FW Clams,  08/04/09
Hi Again,
First off I'd like to thank you for your quick and informative response the first time. Sorry for the delayed response, but it took awhile to complete the several treatments on the swordtail.
<We're continuing on from 'Sick Swordtail (Gill Disease/ Flukes) 7/9/09':
I have rotated through several parasitic treatments as recommended and one bacterial medication including: "Life Bearer" for gill flukes for 48 hours as the package said, Formalin & quinine hydrochloride mix from Tetra for 10
days w/ water change and re-dose after five, and NeoPlex for six days so far. None of these have done anything to help the swordtail. From the previous response I assure it is definitely the safe clams and they are being specially fed. There is still no other fish that are affected and he hasn't gotten any worse.
<You haven't told me what type of clams you have in this aquarium, so we can't dismiss pseudo-parasitic clam larvae on the gills. As I've mentioned multiple times, NO FRESHWATER CLAM does well in aquaria, so adding them is POINTLESS. At best, the clam starves to death over a number of months, before dying and then mucking up water quality. At worst, you have a type of clam (the Freshwater Mussels) that produce glochidia that attach
themselves to the gill filaments of fish. While in themselves fairly harmless, the glochidia can, will damage the skin tissue of the filaments, allowing secondary infections to develop. Never, ever add clams to a freshwater aquarium. They are difficult to maintain, always die prematurely, and invariably cause some sort of problem, whether water quality issues or healthcare issues.>
The swordtail still has quickened breathing w/ the slightly gaped gills and kind of "red swollen appearance" on them, I say kind of because his body is already a bright red coloration making it hard to tell, but he eats normal again (out of the blue) and there are no other signs of stress from him. The "white mucus" for better description look like a small piece of cotton behind the gills which doesn't protrude too far out from them staying more compact than really loose and can really only be seen when looking above and behind the fish.
<Could be a fish "louse" of some sort, such as Fish Lice or Anchor Worms, and while these usually don't affect aquarium fish they might do under some circumstances. Typical treatment is either manual removal (not really possible in this case) or the use of an organophosphate insecticide (e.g., metriphonate/Trichlorfon) normally sold for pond fish. Dosage varies with pH and temperature, but is typically around 1 mg per gallon for seven days.
Another medication used for this is Diflubenzuron.>
This has gone on for so long at least a month an half to two w/ no change from any of the meds it makes me think that maybe their is natural reason for this or his immune system is keeping it from getting serious, but I don't really know. Thanks again in advance for any help.
Sincerely, Mack
<Mack, please give me the information I asked for. What type of clams are these? Furthermore, any medication likely to kill external parasites effectively will kill the shrimps and clams you have. If the clams and shrimps are fine, then the medication wasn't particularly effective! Always remember to remove carbon when treating, otherwise nothing will work. I really do need the information requested plus a photo. The description you give isn't really specific enough, and while it might be some type of fluke or fish louse, it might be something else, too. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Sick Swordtail Cont'd   8/5/09
Here is the information you requested.
My clams are Corbicula fluminea.
<Ah, I see. Well, this species doesn't have parasitic larvae, so on that point you're fine. On the other hand, it doesn't live long in aquaria, at least not tropical aquaria, being a coldwater species that feeds on plankton. So unless this clam is in an unheated tank and being regularly fed filter-feeder food (as for marine clams, oysters, etc.) it's starving to death. It *will* die, and it *will* pollute the aquarium. There are no freshwater clams that make good, or even viable, aquarium additions, and anyone who tells you they're "scavengers" or "they clean algae from the water" is taking advantage of your ignorance. Don't listen to them!>
All the invertebrates were moved to another tank when I first started the treatments and the carbon has been removed during the whole process.
I did my best to get some pictures that have detail because getting a shot close enough to the gills to really see anything is hard, so I don't know how useful they'll be.
<Not very helpful, to be honest. Unless an image is actually in focus, there's really data not much that can be extracted from it. Try photographing the fish in the aquarium.>
I posted a link to each one at the bottom. I also recapped the two parasite medications I used to show what they "cover". According to the package Life Bearer kills gill flukes, body flukes, and fish lice using the active
ingredients of dimethyl, hydroxy, and trichlotomethyl phosphate, Tetra Pond Fish Treatment (Desafin) according to its label kills Ich, Costia, Trichodina, and other external parasites using the active ingredients of
Formaldehyde and quinine hydrochloride.
<Quite the mix of medications.>
<Well, the photos are, unfortunately, useless. So, for the time being, can you precisely answer these questions. [1] Does the white stuff come out through the gill slit, as if attached to something inside the gill chamber, or is it on the gill cover, or simply on the skin around the gill area? [2] Is the white stuff pure white or white with red or off-white areas? [3] How long is the white stuff? Like a short tuft, or more like a piece of thread?
From what you've described hitherto, there's nothing at all obvious that springs to mind. A sharp photo would help me, or Bob, or someone else on the crew narrow down the possibilities. In the meantime, if the fish is feeding normally and doesn't seem to have problems breathing, I'd do a nice big water change (50% if possible) to flush out any medications, and then I'd just run the tank normally for a while and see what happens. If things don't get any worse, the fish's own immune system may well fix the problem for you -- assuming of course all the usual factors are correct. As you know, Swordtails need cool (around 22-24 C) water with lots of oxygen, a high hardness (10+ degrees dH), and a basic pH (around 7.5 to 8). They
don't need salt, but they'll tolerate a low amount very well, and at SG 1.002-1.003, you might have sufficient salinity to knock off a wide variety of external parasites. Marine salt mix would be the ideal, but tonic salt would do if you already have hard, basic water. Salt has a mildly therapeutic effect when fish are weakened, so while redundant as a standard addition to the Swordtail aquarium, in the short term, it might help and won't do any harm. Obviously, this depends on your other livestock tolerating such conditions. Shrimps, snails and clams generally tolerate slightly saline conditions just fine, but most fish are finicky, so review your tankmates first. Other livebearers will be fine, but tetras, catfish, etc. can be stressed. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Sick Swordtail Cont'd   8/5/09
Yes, I was afraid the shots would be useless. See he has white coloration around the gills which makes it extra hard to photograph and just looking at him on his side you can only tell his gills look a little extra red and swollen and until you look above him during feeding you find the "white stuff" which barely protrudes from gill slits.
<Does the white stuff go in and out when the fish feeds? Because of the way the fish "throat" works, food can sometimes pass into the areas with the gill filaments on each side of this cavity. As Microsoft would say, "this isn't a bug, but a feature", but occasionally loose material can get wedged in the gill filaments that should have been swallowed or expelled. If this is the case, when the fish feeds, the white stuff would flip in and out
with the water current. Eventually, the gills should clear themselves, and the danger is more irritation than anything else. Because the gills are so delicate, you shouldn't try and pull the material out.>
So getting a photograph from the side will probably prove just a bad, but I will provide one anyway from inside the tank.
<Very good.>
1. The white stuff comes out from the gills and appears to be attached in the gill chamber. The protrude part seems very loose though small moving when his gills move, but the part in the gills is more firm and doesn't act like the protruding part.
<I see; sounds as if the gill-ward end is attached or wedged, while the protruding part is loose and flapping about.>
2. It's hard to say the white stuff is "pretty white", but I'd say it has some "clearness" to it when you look closer if that makes sense.
<Yes, does make sense.>
3. The white stuff is definitely more of a short tuft and not like a thread, it protrudes only about 3mm give or take a little.
<Well, fungal threads look like short, white fibres, and are often likened to cotton wool. Dead tissue looks, well, dead, i.e., off-white to grey.>
My tank has a temperature of about 78 degrees Fahrenheit right now because its the summer here, but the temp. was more around 73 when this started.
The general hardness is about 9-11 dKH and pH 7.6.
<A summertime high of 78 won't do any harm to Swordtails provided there's plenty of water movement. Water chemistry sounds good.>
There are small tetras in the tank x-ray and flame that can't be moved so I don't now about the salt.
<X-ray tetras (Pristella maxillaris) actually tolerate slightly brackish water in the wild, so 3-4 grammes/litre (~SG 1.001 at 25 C) would do them no harm, and might well help Mr. Swordtail. But Flame tetras are, like most South American characins, somewhat intolerant of salt, so if you did add some salt, you'd want to watch them very carefully for signs of distress.
Salt isn't a poison, but over the long term, freshwater fish can be stressed by exposure to saline conditions.>
Hope this helps and I'll try to get better pics!
<A picture really would help! Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Sick Swordtail Cont'd   8/5/09
The swordtail is being quite skittish when I approach the tank going back and forth at the back of it making pictures hard to get. Since he was far back that meant I had to use the zoom to actually get a picture close enough to see the gills. There are some glaring pictures mainly because of the zoom. If I have to try again I can though I doubt it will look any better. Also I have noticed that when he eats a massive amount of bubbles come out at a rather large size compared to the gills, I know this can sometimes happen with fish but its new since the "white stuff" appeared. I don't believe it goes in and out rather side to side, but I can't confirm that until tomorrow when I feed him.
Here are the best picture I could get after about 30 min., though I still can't get much out of them but who knows maybe they'll give you a little insight.
<Photos not dramatically better, so can't actually see the problem. So going on instinct here! Suspect the problem is physical damage and/or something trapped inside the gill cavity. Would directly treat the water.
Would instead give the Swordtail daily saltwater dips to prevent secondary infections and speed up healing. Dips are simple. Put one litre of water from the aquarium in a container. Add 35 grammes of non-iodised salt.
Aquarium salt is good, but so are equivalent cooking salts, such as kosher salt. You don't want marine salt mix for this, because that would change the pH and hardness as well as salinity. It's plain vanilla sodium chloride we're after here! Now, dissolve the salt thoroughly. When it's all dissolved, net the fish gently, and then place in the salty water tub until the fish shows signs of severe distress (classically, it rolls over, but thrashing about wildly would be a good sign too). You should be able to dip this type of fish, a salt-tolerant livebearer, for at least 2 minutes, and anything up to 20 minutes will be safe, assuming it hasn't rolled over first. Lift up the fish, place the net in the aquarium, let the fish recover, and once it looks happy again, release it. You can repeat this on a daily basis if necessary. The idea here is that "blitzing" bacteria and fungal colonies on the outside of the fish with salty water draws out the water from their cells, killing them. It also shocks external freshwater parasites such as lice and anchor worms. It has no effect on parasites and bacteria inside the fish, which is why it doesn't help with whitespot, if you're wondering. I find saltwater dips quite helpful for mystery diseases, and you might too! Good luck, Neale.>

Swordtails: Health\Disease 7/23/2009
My male red wag swordtail seems to be pooping red, and none of my other fish have been doing this ether.
<Provided the fish appears to be in good health, and in the absence of any other symptoms or water quality issues, I wouldn't worry too much. White, stringy feces is a sign of ill health.>
Thank you

Xiphophorus hlth.  07/28/08 Hello, I have a question about female Swordtails. Two out of my 4 females have died. The last one gave birth, only two fry survived. A few days after the birth she started gasping for air, like the one before her. <Sounds environmental. Swordtails are fish from fast-flowing streams and need lots of water movement (look at their streamlined shape!) and excellent water quality. The water must be hard and alkaline -- I'd recommend 15+ degrees dH, and a pH around 7.5-8.0. While they're somewhat adaptable, pregnant moms are more sensitive than otherwise. Do also remember that males can harass them, so females are best isolated -- but not in a breeding trap! Breeding traps are the kiss of death for Swordtails.> I tried everything, cleaned the tank, treated for fungus, parasites and the water was perfect. This went on for 3 weeks and finally her color went from Orange to Reddish Orange. She finally died. Now I have a Pineapple female that gave birth and is doing the exact thing. So please tell me what I can do. I don't want to loose another. The fourth female I think gave birth.. not really sure and she seems fine. All my other fish are doing just fine. <Without knowing more about the tank can't say anything helpful. What you're describing is very unusual when livebearers are kept in healthy conditions, but entirely in keeping with livebearers kept in the "wrong" way. So please give me information on the size of the tank (must be at least 60 cm long), water chemistry and water quality.> Thanks for your help Kristine <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Swordtails; repro., health   07/28/08 Thanks for the response... <My pleasure.> the tank is 55 gal. I have two different filters, one undergravel and one above that is a double. I have two air stones, large ones so there's lots of current. There is one male that I would like to rid of, he's the bully, smaller and with black markings and I think he's the father of most of the fry. Some are starting to look like him. He's a fast swimmer and noses the females a lot. <This can be pretty stressful for the females. Floating plants help, providing cover for the females (as well as the fry).> I didn't do breeding traps but did divide the tank and the last batch of fry were able to escape to the safe part of the tank. I only have about 15 and that's enough for me. <Ok.> I tested and these were the results. ph 7.8 alkalinity 180-300 hardness 150 hard nitrate 20-40 and 0-.05 chlorine safe ammonia 0 <All seems fine.> Thanks again for your response. <It's difficult to say precisely what's going on here. I've never seen anything like this with Swordtails. Given the water quality and chemistry are good, I'd tend towards removing the bullying male and see if that helps, though I suspect another male might 'fill his shoes' and become the bully soon afterwards.> Kristine <Sorry can't offer any better advice, Neale.>

Sick Dojo Loach and Swordtail with Tumor 03/10/08 Dear WWM Crew, <Angela> I currently have a 10 gallon tropical aquarium, with a dojo loach and a swordtail. The tank has been running for several years now and the water quality has always been good, but nitrate levels have gone up in the past two weeks after my dojo loach got sick. <Interesting... is this all that changed?> I've been changing the water weekly to try to keep things clean. <Mmmm, hopefully not too much at a time> The dojo loach is usually very lively and eats a lot, but about two weeks ago I noticed that she wasn't eating as much as usual. The problem has gotten worse, and I haven't seen her eat anything in the last week. Within the last week, her anus has become abnormally large with a swollen protrusion (I've attached a photo for your convenience). <I see this> She also continually goes up to the surface for air and floats there, only coming down again after farting. In addition, I noticed that around the same time she first started showing signs of illness, she developed two shallow holes in her head. There is one under her eye, and one closer to her nostril. They are only on one side of her head. I'm not sure if these are related to the rest of her symptoms. <I do think all is inter-related> I've tried treating her with Maracyn and Maracyn II, but they don't seem to have had any effect. I'm planning on giving her a treatment of Epsom salt - do you think this will help? <Mmmm, maybe...> Also, I've noticed that my swordtail has been growing a white, fleshy protrusion on his side. I'm thinking it is probably a tumor, but I'm not quite sure. He's about 4 years old, and the area the tumor is growing from has been missing a few scales for around a year. It doesn't seem to bother him, but is there anything I can do about it? <This, and the pits on the Loach's head and possibly the other anal complaint of the loach are possibly pathogenic, infectious... bacterial... but what triggered, brought in this complaint? Live food, some newly purchased livestock? That the fine two gram positive and negative Mardel products didn't cure this is not too surprising... No mix or single antibiotic/anti-microbial can do... But perhaps the use of a Furan compound will help here... and not further disturb your biofiltration. I would try this with the Epsom... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwantibiofaqs.htm Bob Fenner> Thank you very much for your time! Angela

Re: Sick Dojo Loach and Swordtail with Tumor   3/17/08 Dear WWM Crew, <Angela> I'm not sure what triggered the illness. The tank has been running as usual, no new kinds of food or new livestock. I feed them a combination of shrimp pellets and flake food. <I see> We have been trying the Furan treatment as prescribed, but it seems like it hasn't helped. The loach has become much worse - in the past week, she's developed ulcers all over her body, mostly on her belly. She's gotten very skinny and spends most of her time floating on her side now. I don't know how long she has left, but is there anything I could try to save her? <Sometimes Epsom Salt addition seems to have a cathartic effect here... Read: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/saltusefaqs.htm> Thanks for your help, Angela <Welcome. BobF>

Xiphophorus hlth.  1/15/08 Hello, I really need help. <Oh...?> I have two swordtails in a ten gallon tank and I just got them. <Too small! Too small! Swordtails are BIG, ACTIVE fish that need a "long" 20 gallon tank, minimum. In small tanks they tend to jump out, become aggressive, eat their babies, and frankly don't do well.> I just set up a new aquarium and I waited 4 days before putting the swordtails in. <The "waiting" was a nice thought, but didn't do anything. Tanks are cycled only when there's a source of ammonia for the filter bacteria to eat. That can be a few hardy fish, or it can be a few dribbles of ammonia from a bottle. Either way, that's what matures the tank. So adding live fish into an immature tank (what you did here) exposes the fish to ammonia and nitrite while the filter grows into being. The whole process takes about 6 weeks, during which time you need to measure the nitrite levels in the tank, and be prepared to do water changes as often as every day. OTHERWISE, the fish will sicken and die!> At first they were fine. However, on the ninth day, my swordtails started to look very sick. <I bet. How many water changes? How many water quality tests?> They have very cloudy skin and they look like they have "worms" hanging from their body. The "worms" are white as well as some of the skin. <Likely Fungus and/or Finrot. Treat quickly unless you want the fish to die. There are medications that treat both at once, such as Maracyn (in the US) and eSHa 2000 (in Europe). Use them! Don't use herbal stuff like Melafix/Pimafix; they're just not all that effective.> Sorry I don't have a picture, my camera broke. What disease is this? I treated it with Mardel CopperSafe. Here is a picture of it. http://www.virbacpets.com/modules/getimage.php?prodID=190&size=235. <Not what you need here. Coppersafe is for treating Ick/Whitespot.> I have not tried salt yet but I will be doing this soon. <Salt isn't a cure-all, and shouldn't be treated as such, regardless of what the guy in the store says (mostly, he wants to sell you very expensive boxes of what is basically cooking salt).> Is it safe to use this medication with salt? <Possibly, but I wouldn't bother.> I have also raised the temperature up to about 80 degrees. Is there anything I am missing? <Yes: you haven't tested the water quality, have you? I bet you'd find the nitrite levels are VERY HIGH. You have a problem here because the ammonia/nitrite in the water will be killing the fish every bit as effectively as the Finrot/Fungus. So, you need to do three things. First stop feeding the fish. No food. At all. None. Nada. Secondly, do a big water change, 50% at least. Then add the medication as instructed. This may require several doses across 2 days or more. When the course is finished, you do the third thing: 25-50% water changes EVERY DAY until your nitrite test kit registers zero nitrite in the water. When that happens, slap yourself on the back and say well done, because you tank will not be mature. You can then SLOWLY add more fish, one or two every week or so.> Please help. I don't want my two swordtails to die. Thank you bob and crew. <Cheers, Neale.>

Mollies & Velvet Swordtails - please help... hlth.    1/9/08 Hello, <Hail!> First time I'm submitting a question. I chose your site, because you seem to consistently have well-rounded information. I wish I'd discovered your site sooner. I have quite an emergency that I sincerely hope you can help with. The following is quite long, but I noticed postings on your site that are challenging to respond to, or time is wasted with you having to extract more details, so I hope the following does the trick. This is chronological, with the recent emergency towards the end. <OK.> I've appreciated aquariums for years, had my own system a few years ago and have recently taken up the hobby again. I've spent literally hours researching online, in three different LPS (local pet shop) and a few 'beginner' books. <All good.> I wish I found your site when I was researching which fish to buy. Despite combing through the mountains of research, I'm not sure I have the ideal combination. <Oh?> I also have an entirely new appreciation for your site's consistent advice on keeping mollies in marine/brackish water. <Indeed. While you *can* keep Mollies in freshwater, the simple fact is they are much easier to keep in brackish water. This needn't be very saline: SG 1.003 is a good start, and well within the tolerances of most other livebearers.> Knowing all of this now, I'm still hoping for your advice. I apologize this the following may be lengthy, but I sincerely hope it yields some accurate direction so I may help my fishies and become a better aquarist. I originally purchased my setup from a hobbyist who was moving, so he generously provided me with aquarium-safe decor and tips to start. Here goes: Description of equipment being used: 30 gallon tank heater (temp. maintained between 76 - 79 degrees F) hood filter (uses a combination blue 'floss' and carbon filter) <Lose the carbon, and replace with some type of biological media. Carbon was useful back in the old says when people didn't like doing water changes, imagining "old" water was better. Carbon removed dissolved organic compounds, stopping old water turning yellow. In a modern system where we do 25-50% water changes per week, carbon doesn't do anything useful. Indeed, it can be unhelpful, because it removes medication.> under gravel filter: one 'tube' is powered by external pump. This 'tube' has an airstone and carbon filter. The other tube has a separate in-water pump a 'bubble wall stick' (incidentally - fish seem to really like 'playing/riding' the bubble wall) <Many fish come from flowing rather than still water, and bubbles provide water movement, and the fish like that.> hood light (recently replaced with new 20 watt) - turned on daily by a timer from 8:00 am - midnight <Quite a lot of light; the fish won't care, but if you try growing live plants, you'll need to change that to 12 hours on, 12 hours off.> Average water change: 3x/week, 2.5 gallons each time with vacuuming. Use Aquaclear water conditioner. Also regulate pH with Jungle brand aquarium salt (inherited with initial tank purchase - your site advises marine salt - would love more information regarding this) <Tonic salt is plain vanilla sodium chloride; marine salt is a more complex blend of salts that not only raises salinity but also dramatically improves carbonate hardness. All livebearers like carbonate hardness, so this makes a big difference. If your water has less than 7 degrees KH (as opposed to general hardness, the dH scale) you should do something to raise carbonate hardness. Adding marine salt is one way that works effectively with salt-tolerant livebearers, i.e., Guppies and Mollies. For non-brackish water species, i.e., Platies and Swordtails, you're better off using a Malawi Salt mix. You can make you own from cheap ingredients like Epsom salt, Baking soda and cooking salt, or buy it ready made from an aquarium store.> Oct. 20 tank cleaned and setup. Aside from gravel, decor (rocks, castle, bridge, artificial plants), only things placed that were living were 2 plants: Anubias nana (that I wired to live driftwood which I soaked and boiled first to reduce water colouration) and an Echinodorus bleheri. <Boiling driftwood has minimal long term effect: it will still make the water brown. It will also acidify the water, so check you have sufficient carbonate hardness to steady the pH at 7.5 or so.> Oct. 23 with the 'thumbs up' from LPS, added 3 velvet swords (1 male, 2 females) and 3 all-black mollies (1 male, 2 females). Carefully monitored water quality with ammonia, nitrite and pH test kits. Monitored behaviours, as was paranoid of that ever-delicate initial cycling phase. Other than swapping a few fish based on bullying, struck a balance and fish swam a lot, ate well...cautiously optimistic conditions <Good.> Diet: 2 varieties of frozen bloodworms (one containing vegetables) and dried: Nutrafin Basix Staple Food <When the basic flake has finished, buy vegetarian flake instead. Often called Spirulina flake or Livebearer flake. Far better for these fish.> Have since maintained the following water test results: ammonia: "ideal" "0" or "safe" "0.25" reading (Jungle quick dip test strips) <Hmm... no such thing as "safe" amounts of Ammonia other than ZERO! If you detect any, you have the potential for problem.> pH: 7.5 or 8 (TetraTest) nitrite: since beginning of November, consistently 'clear' water readouts (presumably below the lowest readout of 0.1) (Hagen) <You're aiming for ZERO.> Have also taken samples to LPS about 1/month (Oct, Nov, Dec) to ensure home testing is accurate, which they've confirmed. <Good.> Enjoying discovering the 'personalities' for the two fish types: mollies are fearless, swimming in between my fingers during feedings and always curious when you visit the tank. Velvet swords like to swim and play, but are a little more people shy <Agreed.> Nov 15 spied 3 snails - learned they hitchhiked from the plants. LPS thinks their apple snails. <Which are fine enough animals. But Apple Snails rarely become "strays" on plants or whatever. They just don't breed quickly enough. More likely Physa spp., which are round but a bit elongated, so they are about the same size and shape as a Rice Crispy puff. Apple Snails are round and almost spherical, and have distinctly long "feelers" (antennae) at the front that they wave about. Physa snails have very short feelers, barely triangular buds.> Once I learned that they help clean the tank, became more fascinated with and now enjoy them. (note: they are breading a lot. At any given time, I can see 10...which I'm guessing means there are more). <Sounding more and more like Physa! In small numbers, harmless, but can damage plants when excessively numerous.> Noticed ~4 velvet sword babies and ~4 black molly babies. They hung around the plants and castle but within ~ 7-10 days had all 'disappeared' (didn't see if they were gobbled or otherwise expired). <Likely eaten. Floating plants are helpful, but for the first few weeks it's a good idea to confine baby fish to a breeding net, or better still, another aquarium.> First sign of a problem: ~ Nov 22 - noticed a very small white dot that wasn't flush with the skin (sometimes had a water bubble on it) on the mouth of the male velvet sword. Wasn't sure if it was a small injury. In a day or two, noticed a tiny bit more white (cottony?) on his mouth. On advice of LPS, added salt and monitored to ensure water didn't get higher than 8 pH. Slowly increased water temp. to 79-80 for about 2 weeks. 'Spot' seemed to reduce back to original, smaller dot, but never went away. Behaviour was unchanged. Increased water conditioner by a capful in hopes of protecting healthy fish and monitored. <Does sound like "Mouth Fungus" but could equally easily be Finrot or Fungus. Treat with anti-Fungus/Finrot medication (but not Melafix/Pimafix, these aren't reliable).> Female black molly preferring to hang around the heater or near the submersed pump (in the top corner of the aquarium). Otherwise, eating well, swimming normally. Watching to see if she's not feeling well or if perhaps she's pregnant. Since the mollies are peculiar and there aren't any other signs on her, wondering if this is just a weird preference. <One of the problems with Mollies to look for is "the Shimmies", a neurological disorder. Characterised by odd swimming behaviour, as if the fish were treading water or rocking from side to side.> Dec 16 watched molly birth - WOW!!!! ~6 alive, ~ 6 still born. What a fascinating experience!!!! <Indeed.> Dec. 17 noticed velvet swords were hiding behind the castle more than usual (came out for feedings) - turns out they, too had babies Dec. 22 baby count: 5 velvet swordtails, 4 mollies. Find this amazing, but truly don't wish to breed. Am putting the word out for takers, as I'd love to give the fishies to a good home (except for maybe one or two). Q: if I wanted another female black molly to keep the male entertained (so my females don't get stressed with his 'courtship persistence') would I need to be concerned about in-breeding if I raise one of the babies? <Inbreeding is a problem with Livebearers, and a reason why so many livebearer broods containing fry with deformities, conjoined twins, belly-sliders, etc. Best to keep the parents but export the fry. Stores will often buy excess fry once a reasonable size, at least 2.5 cm/1" long.> Also, any advice on a healthy way to control births?? <Not really. Predation usually removes the fry quite quickly though, so unlikely to get mountains of babies.> Christmas season: due to vacation, given only dried food through an auto feeder. Besides the Nutrafin Basix Staple Food, added TetraColor Tropical Granules. Ground up both varieties in blender so there was a variety of sizes for babies and adults in my absence. <Good.> Returned Fri. Jan. 4 Tank didn't go longer than 1 week without a 2.5 gallon water change (and right before that change, wanting to ensure there weren't any spikes during my absence, performed 3 water tests - same as indicated earlier - and all levels were the same as written earlier). <Should be doing bigger water changes. Not less than 25% per week, and ideally 50%. No aspect of fish care has as big an impact on their health than this.> Was REALLY concerned to see my molly with a whitish/greyish colouration on her bottom half. This is almost like a 'coat' from her tail to halfway up her body. Although she's swimming normally and eating, she's obviously fighting something. I call the LPS and immediately pick up Pimafix. Carbon filter on undergravel filter is removed, but there's still carbon in the combination floss/carbon filter of the hood filtration. I mention this to LPS, but they didn't think that amount of carbon would matter. They think the male velvet sword has cotton mouth and the molly likely has the same. <Pimafix is overrated and largely a waste of time. Kick into gear and use something industrial strength!> I was hoping to introduce an algae eater to the tank. LMS thinks it should be ok and I proceed (in hindsight - would have held off) <Forget it. Few algae eaters in the hobby tolerate brackish water. Neither do algae eaters actually remove much algae. The more fish => more nitrate and phosphate in the water => the happier the algae. Best to remove algae by hand from the front of the tank and let it grow everywhere else. Livebearers eat algae, so they'd prefer a tank that was knee-deep in the stuff; removing algae is more about the aquarist than the fish. So I say, keep the front of the glass clean and otherwise let the algae be. If you really want some algae removers for brackish water, then Nerite snails and Florida Flagfish are good choices.> BTW - noticed very small clear eggs on the glass, which molly ate - any idea who's eggs these are? <Snail, likely Physa spp. if they looked like jelly blobs.> Constantly monitoring and increasingly concerned about my sick molly. Research online, as I'm paranoid that I'm not treating for the right disease (do the red velvet male and the female molly have the same affliction, even though their symptoms are different?). Also call LPS to ensure tmt course. <Likely different, but possibly the same. In both cases, brought on by poor water quality (the ammonia and nitrite) and in the case of the Molly exacerbated by the lack of salinity.> Sat. Jan. 5: 2.5 gallon water change Sun. Jan 6: 2 more black molly babies Tues. Jan. 7: 2.5 gallon water change. white sick dots/ 'coat' on molly has increased to 2/3rds of her body (starting from tail). Also notice a few tiny dots on other female molly's back and side. This is NOT good! I do more online research and call the LPS - wise advice to rip open the hood filter and dump out the carbon (then I return the filter with floss-only to ensure good bacteria wasn't removed from the aquarium). Previous medicine might not have even had a chance to work(!) <Indeed.> By evening, sickest molly is preferring to hang out at the bottom of the tank. She changes location occasionally. I'm really, really worried and wholeheartedly hope you can help me help her (and my other fishies). I'm so stressed that I have some awful illness attacking my fish! Please, please help. <Start by dipping this molly once or twice a day in full strength seawater for 2-20 minutes (as long as she can stand without rolling over). Treat aquarium using a combination Finrot/Fungus medication such as Maracyn or eSHa 2000. Add marine salt mix to the aquarium at not less than 6 grammes per litre (SG 1.003) and ideally 9 grammes per litre (SG 1.005). Raise the salinity over the course of the week. The Algae Eater (presumably Gyrinocheilus aymonieri) cannot tolerate brackish water and will need to be removed. It's a HORRIBLE fish anyway, so no loss. Any store selling them is exploiting the ignorance of their customers actually. Gyrinocheilus aymonieri gets big and is EXTREMELY aggressive, and once over half-size, stops eating algae almost entirely. If the fish is a Plec catfish (usually Pterygoplichthys spp.) then this will tolerate SG 1.003 fine, but cannot be kept in a 30 gallon tank, so will need to be rehomed long before it reaches its adult size of 45 cm/18".> Newest recruit (the algae eater) remains in the castle. I can usually see him a few times/day. I was told to let him eat the algae first, then consider giving an occasional food puck. Hope this is correct? <More or less.> Baby count: 5 velvet swords and 2 black mollies from the original batch and 2 black mollies from a few days ago Snails - likely too many to count - at least 10. If there is any vital information that I've missed, please let me know and I'll respond asap. I sincerely hope you're able to process all of the above and deliver timely advice. <Done my best.> So appreciated, Wendy in Winnipeg (I'm assuming my email address will not be visible if you post this on your website. Please ensure this is true). <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Mollies & Velvet Swordtails - please help 1/9/08 Hi Neale, THANK YOU!!!! <You're welcome.> I so appreciate your quick and detailed responses. If I may please trouble you for more bits of information, as I'm SO worried about my molly I'd be even more grateful. She's now at the bottom and barely moving and I'm desperate to help her if it's even still possible. <Ok.> Within the hour when the stores open I'm running to get the Malawi salt mix (or as close to as they sell) and the Maracyn. I've obviously never done a treatment bath. Do I use half aquarium water and half fresh? <Nope. Put one litre of water from the tank into a plastic tub (an old ice cream carton is idea). Stir in 35 grammes of plain cooking salt. Stir well, and when fully dissolved (may take several minutes) dip the fish by netting the fish and dunking it into the saltwater bath. Watch the fish carefully. The first couple minutes should be fine, but as time passes, you may notice the fish lose its balance. If it rolls over, remove at once, and return to the aquarium (I like to float them in the net first, and release after a couple minutes). The object of the exercise is to use the salt water to completely dehydrate the bacteria/fungi, while not fully dehydrating the fish.> If I use my 2.5 gallon pail, how much salt to I add? <Don't bother. Use what I describe above; smaller and easier to control.> She's really not looking good and I fear it's too late, but I need to try this. <Yes you do!> I've included additional info and questions below, as I really appreciate your advice and want to avoid making further mistakes. To assist you in sifting through all of the info, I've preceded my questions with "Q" within the copy below... (THANKS, Neale!!!!! Sincerely!!!!) <Cheers, Neale.> Q (this one may seem silly - please have patience as I'm eager to learn and do this right) how do I measure SG? Is this a separate test kit? <Not a test kit, but a device. A floating hydrometer can be used. This is a glass, thermometer-like thing you float in a sample of water. I use a pickle jar for this, as it's deep enough to let the hydrometer bob up and down safely. Anyway, a basic floating glass hydrometer will cost about $5 and lasts a lifetime. There are more fancy ones at higher price points that are a bit easier to use, as well as refractometers, which are most expensive and in theory at least more accurate. For brackish, "guesstimating" by weighing the salt, and then checking with a floating glass hydrometer is fine.> COMMENT: hah! Thanks for your frankness - will do! <We are purveyors of fine frankness here at WWM.> Q: will do! Thought I could help promote algae growth for my mollies with more light. Plants are growing, but do get occasional brown spots. On leaves that this grows, I pinch off at the stem base (has only happened with the Echinodorus bleheri). <Plants want a certain intensity of light, and extending the length of illumination WILL NOT compensate. Think of it this way -- to get photosynthesising adequately, a certain "pressure" of light is required to "force" the molecules along the system. If the intensity of light is too low, it doesn't matter how long you leave that pressure going, it'll never start the chain of molecular processes. While Anubias will do well at a mere 1.5 Watts per gallon, Echinodorus will not, and needs at least 2 Watts per gallon. If your system doesn't provide that, your Echinodorus will slowly die. May take months, but die it will...> NEW TEST INFORMATION: In my 'inherited' aquarium equipment that I bought used, I discovered a Carbonate and General Hardness test (Hagen). I performed this for the first time this morning with the following results: GH: after adding the initial drop of GH, it took only 2 other drops to turn the water sample from pink to blue. Multiplying this number by 20 provides me with a GH of 40 (very soft according to the kit info) <Not good for Livebearers. You're aiming for "moderately hard" (minimum) for Platies/Swordtails, and "very hard" for Mollies.> Carbonate Hardness (KH): after adding the initial drop, which turned the water blue as per the instructions, it took 3 additional drops to achieve the yellow colouration. Multiplying this by 10 as per the instructions results in 30 ppm. Q: the results evaluation starts at 105-125 mg/L...so I'm not sure how to assess these results. Any help/advice? <Do see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oquality.htm One degree on the KH scale is 17.9 mg/l calcium carbonate, so in your sample you have something like 1.5 or so degrees KH -- a very low amount. You live in a "soft water" area, apparently. Low KH is problematical for all sorts of reasons, and is best avoided for general freshwater fishkeeping.> COMMENT: please see if "NEW TEST INFO" above is sufficient <Low KH means your water has minimal ability to buffer pH changes. Aim for raising the KH to COMMENT: will do - thanks! <Good.> Q: haven't noticed this, but will keep an eye out. They are so playful, I don't want to jump to conclusions but will be mindful of this behavior. Is there any cure /treatment if I do detect "the Shimmies"? <No, no cure as such other than moving afflicted fish to better environmental conditions.> Q: if I wanted another female black molly to keep the male entertained (so my females don't get stressed with his 'courtship persistence') would I need to be concerned about in-breeding if I raise one of the babies? <Realistically, no, since you're not out to breed your fish, just have fun. But over the long term, it's a good idea to swap out offspring for new livestock periodically, just to keep the gene pool fresh.> Q: any natural predator suggestions that will go with my mix? BTW I LOVE my mollies and am willing to give away my velvet swordtails to achieve a harmonious environment with ideal conditions. Am entirely open to opinions and advice here. <If you can find Wrestling Halfbeaks in your neighbourhood, they are VERY good at eating livebearer fry, and are just the right size to do well with adult livebearers of all types. They tolerate salt well. Glassfish are another option. Small gobies would work very well, even Bumblebee gobies are astonishingly good at eating baby fish. Larger sleeper gobies, like the "Crazy Fish" Butis butis will eat fry of all sizes. Orange Chromides are nicely coloured and basically easy fish, and they will also eat fry. Really, pretty much anything big enough to eat fry *will* eat fry.> Q: Happy to! Thought I was being diligent! How many gallons do you suggest changing a week? Was I mistaken that 7.5 gallons (2.5 three times a week) is ideal? Not looking for any shortcuts here - all part of the hobby! <It's a 30 gallon tank, right? Do change at least 25% per week, and 50% per week is the ideal, especially if you find nitrate levels go up and pH is unstable. Doesn't really matter how you slice the water changes... once a week, twice, whatever. I'm lazy, so do a big water change on a Sunday.> COMMENT - hah! Caught the LPS again, didn't you? Thanks for the advice. I will return the algae eater. <Probably wise. You REALLY don't need an algae-eater.> BTW - noticed very small clear eggs on the glass, which molly ate - any idea who's eggs these are? <Snail, likely Physa spp. if they looked like jelly blobs.> COMMENT: that's EXACTLY the description! Funny that you can nail the snail type with only descriptions and knowledge, yet the LPS didn't even know what was in their own tank (ugh!) <Only because I have these little snails in my pond and tanks. They're harmless enough, and probably won't last long in brackish water anyway. Scrape the eggs off when you see them, and squish excess snails if you want. They won't harm Anubias, so are good with those plants.> After all of this, I have to say I'm very disappointed in the LPSs that I've put my trust into. My only goal is to provide a healthy aquarium  environment. When I took my water in to get tested by them, why didn't they advise me on hardness? Why let me buy an algae-eater? I'm an entrepreneur so I appreciate sales, but I always operate in a trusting manner, where the advice is ideal for the customer. Ugh! Is a $15 algae-eater worth losing a lifetime of purchases and trust in the LFS? Hard to understand. < It's a bit more complex than this. Sometimes it's mere ignorance. The guys in the LFS may be expert on one type of fish, say, African cichlids, but less expert on others, such as livebearers. Some fish are simply so unusual that the LFS guys (unless they read a lot) will be as in the dark as their customers. LFS also have to make a profit, so they tend towards selling fish that leave their tanks quickly. As much as I might rail against Mollies and Goldfish and Common Plecs and Algae-eaters and Dwarf Gouramis as being poor choices for the average aquarium, the simple fact is people keep buying them. A store that only sold small, hardy fish could well go out of business!> Please wish me luck! Wendy <Wishing you luck, Neale.>

All male swordtails in community tank   12/11/07 Hello, <Hello Aileen,> I have a mixed community 110g tank...... Boesemann's Rainbows Dwarf Neon Rainbows Yoyo loaches Bristlenose Pleco Diamond tetras Some swordtails and a few platys Yes, this is a Neale guided community from my past inquiries. <Hah!> This is a two part question. <Fire away...> I have lost some females recently. All very pregnant or swollen with eggs. The last to go was a diamond tetra. I think what is happening is the respective female begins to give birth or spawn as the case may be, and in the feeding frenzy the follows that said female is getting injured. I am almost certain this is what I witnessed the other night and I think it was a Boesemann's rainbow that dealt the fatal blow. <Very odd. Never, ever heard of this. Fish don't normally swell up with eggs outside of being given breeding stimuli. They don't have a menstrual cycle comparable to that of humans, for example. Almost always swelling is more to do with other factors, such as diet (constipation) or health (oedema). The addition of salt can sometimes cause bloating in fish not adapted to saline conditions (problems with osmoregulation, such as 'Malawi Bloat').> I have watched the tank for several hours and otherwise have witnessed no aggression. Though initially I was tempted to pin the blame on the yo-yos there really does not seem to be an issue with them. Does this sound feasible to you? <I can't rule it out, but I have to honestly say I've never heard of anything comparable to this. While it is true community fish will eat eggs and fry given the chance, fish generally don't relate this to "pregnancy" or being ripe with eggs. I have Corydoras that spawn every week in my community tank, and within hours the eggs are all gone thanks to the Pufferfish in particular eating them up. But there's no sign the Puffers know what is happening and follow the catfish about. There are predatory fish that, for example, ram mouthbrooding fish to get them to spit out their babies, but as far as I know there aren't any fish that recognise the signs of ripeness/pregnancy.> I have planned on more swordtails but in light of the recent deaths have considered an alternative stocking plan. I was considering removing all the female swords and platys and stocking the main tank with just males of these fish. Is this a good plan? <Many people keep livebearers this way. Male Swordtails can be (often are) exceptionally aggressive though, and wouldn't be my choice for this.> As always A grateful and loyal reader Aileen <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: all male swordtails in community tank   12/11/07 O.K. Neale, <Aileen,> I will plan on stocking according to the 2/1 ratio. My thinking was the lack of females would prevent their disappearance and calm the males, but I guess this is not so for all species. <In the wild male Swordtails fight to monopolise access to females. So in a given patch of water (easily larger than the average aquarium!) there will be one dominant male, multiple females, and dead/scared males lower down the pecking order.> Perhaps I am wrong and it is merely coincidence. I did see a flurry of activity around the tetra and I did see her take a hit and then behave "out of sorts" and the next morning she was gone. I did not see the same for the female platy and large female swordtail that disappeared without a trace, though the fact that they were consumed by their tankmates means nothing. I just know they were gone and I noticed nothing peculiar about their behaviour prior to this. <Can't comment on this really... Robert or others here may know more. But I've yet to see anything comparable to this.> There is no salt in the water other then those naturally occurring and I do now use conditioner with all water changes. <Very good.> Perhaps it is simply a matter of where there is life there is death and one cannot always determine the cause. Everybody seems healthy and active this morning......and they are all accounted for. <Indeed so. The lifespan of things like Swordtails should be around 3-5 years in captivity, and about the same for most small tetras.> I will investigate the other issues you mentioned <Good.> Thanks Neale Aileen <Cheers, Neale.>

Swordtail die-off; not seeing on FAQ   12/9/07 Hi Crew, <Greetings,> I tried doing research and couldn't find my problem specifically. Your advice was spot on when I was having some trouble with ich back in the early days of my aquarium and problem was solved (without losing any fish I'll add), so I turn to you again if you have the time. I'll let you know up front that I'm diligent with maintenance and change water about every 2 weeks (25% in the 37 gallon and 50% in the 10 gallon) on average, have well planted tanks, and keep a pretty close eye on them. <All sounds good.> I have a 37 gallon corner tank, and a 10 gallon tank (both freshwater) that have been trouble free and thriving for about 1.5 years now. In the 37 gallon I have 3 angels, 4 Corys, and about 4 swords. Both are well planted tanks - the big one has thriving sword plants that need trimmed on occasion; the small one java fern is dominant (non intentional) and needs to be thinned, and it wasn't the original plant but it's taken over. <Java fern does indeed do this when happy! You have to be ruthless, but sharing Java ferns is never hard, as it's the perfect plant for just about every freshwater and brackish water aquarium.> The swordtail populations have fluctuated over time - the 10 gallon tank was originally set up to be a hospital tank for stocking the big one, but the angels have been successful in the big tank, and over time the 10 gallon became a "nursery tank" for the swords that bred in the big one. At most, the 10 gallon tank has had about 7 juvenile swords and one neon tetra, that is a leftover from a school I had when I first started (that single tetra is now quite big and doing great). Long story short, everything went great for a good year plus - swords got pregnant now and then, I kept some, angels got most, but nice balance - put a small few in the 10 gal. tank to keep the line alive. Biggest concentration I had in the 10 gallon was about 7 swords over this year; but now all of sudden, my swords are dying off quickly. <Odd. Can we assume these are not all the first generation of fish becoming "life expired"?> The symptoms of the sickly swordtails is that they just seem to wither away - their bodies, especially near the tail, get super thin, and they start sitting near the bottom. There are no visible blemishes or growths, they just get real skinny towards their posterior side, and start looking like heads with paper thin tails attached. (Almost like they're starving, but I try to feed at least once a day in small amounts as I always have, and these sickly fish do seem to be eager to feed.) <Very odd.> As far as diseases go, I'm puzzled because I literally have not added any stock to any of these tanks in over a year. I've checked water parameters and conditions and they are all normal as they've always been (no ammonia or nitrites, and nitrates are well under safe levels- 10ppm). The only thing I could think is that the luck of the draw is that almost all the swords in the small tank turned out to be males in the last round and maybe it was a result of fighting due to gender imbalance. I don't buy that though - these fish lived for months with mostly males at a juvenile size with no problems until the last month or two. <Hmm... sounds like some sort of 'wasting disease'. Can be caused by a variety of factors, some genetic, some pathogenic, some environmental. Difficult to cure. Generally the best approach is to isolate or painlessly destroy infected fish to prevent potential infection of other fish.> What scares me is that I noticed one full grown sword in the big tank is MIA, and one small one (that's been in there healthily for months) now has these wasting symptoms, yet I don't share equipment across tanks. <Presumably genetic and/or environmental issues are at the root cause.> That would lead me to think it's a water problem, but you'd think the angels would be the canary in the coal mine so to speak and they seem fine. <Oddly perhaps, not all fish have equal susceptibility to diseases. Cichlids for example are more prone to Hole-in-the-Head, loaches to Ick, gouramis to viral infections, perciform fish to Lymphocystis, and so on... In the case of livebearers, wasting diseases do tends to be more common. But regardless, if genetics are at work, then you wouldn't expect the Angels to get the disease.> I don't want to make this too long so I'm wondering if you have any ideas about this condition or what might be going on. I'll be glad to provide more details if what I describe isn't common/obvious. <Do review the water chemistry: Swordtails obviously prefer hard, alkaline water conditions, and in soft water while Angels and Corydoras will thrive; Swords will not. Anything less than pH 7.5 and ~15 degrees dH is below optimal and will aggravate any latent or genetic sensitivities these fish have. If the problem is genetic, bringing in some "new blood" will make a world of difference. Destroy the sick fish, and then trade some of the healthy fish for some new fish bought elsewhere.> Thanks, Jason <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Swordtail bubbly tail   12/2/07 Hello, <Hello Lauren,> First I wanted to thank you for a previous question you answered, and now I have a new one for you. I have a 10 gallon tank of 4 swordtail, all born from another female I have. They're about 4 months old now and have been healthy all along. I noticed a short time ago though that 3 seemed to have bumps, bubble looking at the ends of their body, right where the tail begins, mostly right on the ventral side just nearest the tail. I thought it was a trick of the light at first, because the bumps are the same color as the fish (black) and when they were small they looked potentially natural. They are now obviously not natural. They are not interfering with the fish at all, but on the one the bumps have grown so much that they are stretching the skin to the point of translucency at one point. This does give it a whitish area in the one spot, but every where else is black. Nothing obvious hanging off. Gills, fins, scales look fine. <Hmm... some sort of fungal or Finrot infection perhaps. Difficult to say without a photo. Not normal, certainly.> I try to change 10-15% of water at least once a week (water is from the kitchen sink and comes through a Brita filter - don't if this is helpful or not) and do frequent filter changes. <Pointless. What you need are bigger water changes for a start. 50% per week would be my recommendation in such a small tank. Add new water taken from the tank and treated with a good quality dechlorinator.> The tank is getting heavy in algae, outgrowing their grazing habits, so I was considering adding a snail to help them out at some point, but I'd like to get this cleared up first. <The algae is fine. Livebearers love the stuff (assuming not blue-green algae, which they won't eat). Adding a snail is one more thing to worry about, and won't have much impact. And, when you add Finrot/fungus infection (which you need to do) the snail will die.> Levels are: GH = 30 KH = 40 pH = 6.5 NO2 = 0-0.5 NO3 = 0-20 <Nitrites way too high. That's your problem right there. The tank is either overstocked/underfiltered/overfed. Or all three.> I would really love any help you could give me. Thanks! Lauren <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Swordtail bubbly tail 12/9/07 Hey Neale, <Lauren,> Thanks for the helpful comments on my bubbly-tailed fish. I wasn't able to get a picture (stupid camera) but I did photo shop a picture so you'd at least know the region I was talking about. Two of the three bumpy fish are now bump free and the third (the worst of the group) has at least not gained any more in number or size. <If it was attached to this missive, a photograph of said fish didn't come through!> I'm trying to step up the number of water changings, and I've done a water check and found nitrites at zero, so yeah! <Good-oh.> Now I've got a new concern. All four have begun to go to the surface together and kiss/gulp air, shortly after the light comes on in the morning and at night before the light goes out and for some time after. <Does sound either a temperature issue (too warm) or an aeration issue (not enough). Cool the tank down slightly, by reducing the thermostat on the heater to, say, 24C/75F. Adjust the filter if you can to improve circulation. Could also be a water quality issue. If the nitrites are zero, do also check the ammonia if you can. Alternatively, replace 50% of the water and see what happens. If they seem happy and normal, but then become odd a few hours later, then it is entirely possible water quality is at work.> I have cut down on their food a bit, and so they've stopped being lazy and waiting for the filter to push it down to them and have figured out to go to the top for it. Could this have turned into a behavioral thing? <Not really very likely.> It does seem to be around the times they eat, but it occurs infrequently at other times. <Ah, the plot thinnens... when you feed fish, ammonia/nitrite go up, and a few hours later go down again. Do check your filter, and make sure your tank isn't overfed/overstocked/under-filtered.> In testing my water, I also found that my pH is now at 6.0 from 6.5. How concerned should I be? Could this cause this behavior? <Quite possibly. Another clue maybe: ammonia raises the pH.> Thanks for all your help! - Lauren <Hope this helps, Neale.>  

Sickly swordtails..... 09/22/07 Hello again, <Hello,> So glad you "guys" are here. I took your recommendations once and am ever so glad I did. I hope you can point me in the right direction again. <OK.> I bought a mix of swordtails. Immediately I could see two were struggling ( inactive, clamped fins) One died first night. Though I had been monitoring the water quality this fast death prompted me to test again and the water was perfect 0, 0 and about 10 nitrate. So, I did a little reading here and elsewhere and decided the it was a fish with bad genes. <Unlikely. When new fish suddenly sicken and die all at the same time, it is almost always either [a] you added too many fish to an immature aquarium; or [b] the water chemistry in your tank was so different to that in the retailer's tanks that the fish died from water chemistry shock. Nothing else that I can think of will cause what you observed, so pick and choose from them.> The deaths continued sporadically over the next 4 days, the next being a marigold mentioned above. I examined the dead fish but could see no signs of anything. I was still thinking weak fish. <Nope.> Somewhere along the line, I increased the temp to 80 and added salt, my reasoning being to prevent ich or other fungus from developing. <Hmm... wouldn't be my first move. Admittedly, salt doesn't do any harm to swordtails in small amounts, but if they're already stressed from some osmoregulation issue because of water chemistry differences, adding salt could make things even worse.> Then I saw a male rubbing and decided to treat for parasites with Maracide. <Why? This would be like you feeling sick and then doing a "lucky dip" at the pharmacy, pulling out any old drug that came to hand and using that. Until you are sure you have identified the problem, don't treat. Your doctor won't treat you without identifying the sickness, and your vet won't treat your dog without identifying the sickness. Seeing a pattern here...?> Then a female red came down with this invisible malady, but occasionally showed signs of recovery.....and then the males. The male lyretail showed the whiting of the tail fin and his "trailers". I then discovered it on the female red mention earlier though she could have shown it first...... <Too many fish too quickly to be "bad genes".> Fin and tail rot was my diagnosis and I treated as such with tetracycline in a separate treatment tank, the female red and male lyretail. <Arghh! Put the medications down, and start looking at the tank. Check ammonia, nitrite, pH, general hardness and carbonate hardness. Do you, for example, use a domestic water softener? Lots of inexperienced fishkeepers do. But you mustn't! Apart from creating entirely screwy water chemistry conditions, the shock of going from the local hard water into the saline-but-soft water from a domestic water softener is extremely bad for fish.> The female died. In the meantime the marigold male was showing signs of illness so in he went.....I think you get the picture. <Yes.> I am down to 4 out of nine swordtails in less then a week. Two never got sick, one began to show signs (clamped fins and hanging occasionally) but since has completely recovered on her own (the salt?) and one who is doing well but still in treatment and isolation. <Hmm.> So, not impressed I went into the store today and sure enough, the tanks of swordtails all look ill! I told the manager what was going on, including that his own tanks were not well and he is being dismissive although I never directly demanded compensation. I told him my approach and he said it was columnaris and I needed to treat the whole tank or when i put my fellow back in he would get sick again. He wanted to know what the lyretail was "on" before he recommended anything. I called when I got home and told him and that the male was spunky and eating. He then suggested I not treat the "tank" just keep on eye on it. He was hesitant in his own recommendations and I think questioning himself too but never revealed his thinking to me. Just a "keep on eye on the tank and call if things change...." <Doesn't sound like Columnaris to me. Columnaris is "mouth fungus". It is very, very common on livebearers kept in water that is too soft. Mollies are the archetypal fish when it comes to Columnaris infections. Anyway, the cure is two-fold. Firstly, use an appropriate medication. Many finrot/fungus medications will fix Columnaris, such as Interpet #8 Anti Fungus & Finrot; otherwise, Erythromycin- and Furan-based antibiotics should work well too. Secondly, adjust the water chemistry. Livebearers, with few exceptions, want as much carbonate hardness as possible. Certainly, not less than 10 degrees KH and ideally 20 degrees KH or more. Please note that adding "aquarium salt" is NOT a substitute for carbonate hardness, contrary to the myth. Salt has no effect on the buffering capacity of the water, which is what's at issue here. To some degree marine salt mix can work, but it also raises salinity. While guppies and mollies don't mind (being able to live in seawater) platies and swordtails are not so keen on salt.> All this has me more worried then I was. Have I treated for the wrong thing? <If you've treated a tank without a diagnosis, then the odds are good you've done the wrong thing.> Do I need to treat the whole tank? If so with what? I guess I need to know what I should have on hand..... <As stated above. Once the fish are healthy and the water chemistry is stable, Columnaris shouldn't be a problem. It is one of those diseases (like Finrot) that has practically a one-to-one relationship with poor/wrong water conditions.> Also, when reading up on columnaris I learned it was another one of those bacteria always lurking, safely held a bay by the immune system. This makes sense in light in the above circumstances, but why then would I treat a tank for it and not the individuals succumbing to it? <The opportunistic bacteria and fungi that cause these sorts of infections are everywhere. They aren't "contagious" in the sense of sick fish infecting healthy ones (as, for example is the case with Neon Tetra Disease). What happens is that once fish are stressed, they whole community of them succumbs to the ambient pathogens in the aquarium. Healthy fish in a stable tank aren't at risk though. Once they become a problem you have to treat them, yes, but once healed they should remain healthy, unless of course you mess up somehow and the fish are stressed again.> Why did I also read that it is highly contagious and the all equipment needs to be sterilized or other tanks will be re/infected? <Sterilising nets and such between tanks is good practise and certainly does not harm. But this isn't really a factor here, because the fish have become sick almost certainly from environmental issues.> As I am sure you have realized by now I am concerned and worst of all, confused. Cheers Aileen <Hope this helps, Neale>

Re: sickly swordtails..... 09/22/07 Thanks so much for your quick reply, I was waiting for it posed to run back into town this morning..... <Happy to help.> You are right about the water softener, partially. I have it only on the hot water, the cold water bypasses the water softener. <Be sure and check this: it is common here in the UK for water softener output to be connected to all taps *except* the kitchen drinking water tap.> To match up the temps I do run a little hot water but only minimal as the hot water is really hot, you cannot put your hands in it. Still, could be an issue I guess, though I have not experienced this with other fish, which include the zebra danio, gold fish, diamond tetras and a dwarf gourami. <Only one way to test: use test kits, and measure the GH and KH. Then you'll know. Guessing your water chemistry is usually not a good idea.> My thoughts are that they are thriving so the water should not effect the swordtails so badly. <Hmm... ain't necessarily so. Gouramis and Danios and Tetras are soft water fish. Goldfish and Swordtails are hardwater fish. So what suits one won't suit the other, and in fact the ideal conditions for a community of these fish MUST favour the hard water fish for physiological reasons (in a nutshell, soft water fish can adapt to a surfeit of mineral ions better than hardwater fish can tolerate a dearth of them). To minimize the shock do I drip slower, over what time period would you suggest? <In practise, 30-60 minutes works well, at which point you remove the fish from the bucket and add it to the aquarium. You avoid mixing water from the bucket with water from the aquarium. However, if there are dramatically different water conditions at home and in the tropical fish store, you might not be able to adapt your fish easily at all. It's possibly, but you need to go slowly, and ideally use a quarantine tank to adjust the fish over several days. This is why messing about with water chemistry is such a VERY BAD IDEA. Find out what sort of water your retailer has (probably local tap water) and keep your aquarium at that. Once you understand water chemistry and have soft water tanks for tetras, hardwater tanks for livebearers, and brackish water tanks for brackish water fish, then you are ready to mix and match fish to the water conditions that best suit them. But until that point, it's ALWAYS best to "go local" as far as water chemistry goes, and let your retailer get through the risky stage of acclimating the fish instead of you.> I can only leave them in minimal water for only so long. Or do I only use the cold water and change only what I can contain in buckets per week? Daily? How will I handle maintenance? <Adding up to 25% cold water to a tropical tank should cause no problems at all. I routinely do 50% water changes using water from the cold tap. A temperature drop from, say, 25C to 18C will not harm your fish at all. They experience this sort of thing in the wild, for example during heavy rain (of which there's a lot in the tropics!). Compared with the sea, where temperature is remarkably constant, freshwater habitats are characterised by fluctuations in temperature with season, rainfall, and time of day.> Especially as it applies to the 125 g tank? I read somewhere that water was cured in a bathtub, but then I would worry about contaminants, we use ours. <No, you can't "cure" water. You put water into a bucket, and add dechlorinator, and stir well. That's it. Repeat as required. Do check if your local water supplier uses chloramine; if they do, select a dechlorinator that eliminates this as well.> As far as susceptibility of the stock I do have to wonder. Why are the tanks in the store all sick too? Did he make the same mistake? <No idea. Generally retailers are pretty good at keeping "bread and butter" tropicals alive, because their profitability depends on it. But bad stuff happens to the best of us. Maybe they got a bad batch of fish, that wasn't packaged properly or something. Who knows?> I do not know much about city treated water but I would assume being on the Canadian Shield that we all have hard water. <100% perfect for swordtails. Just let them have this "liquid rock" as well call in in England. Livebearers will thrive in it, as will goldfish. Diamond tetras generally do well with it too, and danios couldn't care less. Dwarf gouramis are sickly, weedy things riddled with disease that die prematurely anyway, so who cares?> To add to this mystery, the other fish place in town lost a tank full of swordtails too. I knew they had a new shipment two weeks ago and I knew they were treating the tank last week. From what I could see yesterday they had lost the vast majority of them but didn't want to talk about it. <I bet.> I thought the evidence pointed to something that came with the fish. They treated with Maracide and something else I do not remember what a sale girl told me last week. <OK.> And about treating without diagnosing the issue. <Yes...?> I did read, and look for symptoms and follow the suggestions. The addition of salt is all over the web as a cure to help with all fungal infections is it not? Some people keep salt at low doses continually. Many, at the first sign of illness suggest salt at the rate of 1 tablespoon/ten gallons. <And I object to this greatly. Adding salt is Old School fishkeeping. Back in the day, people didn't do water changes. They thought water changes were bad. By adding a small amount of salt, you detoxified (to some degree) the nitrate, and also (to a less degree) reduced the toxicity of ammonia and nitrite left over from inefficient filtration systems. In out brighter, brainier days we instead use proper filters and do big (50%) water changes once a week. So salt (like activated carbon) is obsolete. Indeed, salt isn't part of the natural environment for most freshwater fish, and can potentially place a stress on their osmoregulation systems. While tiny amounts of salt (like the teaspoon-per-gallon type things) probably do no harm, they don't do much good either, so are at best a waste of money. Finally, compared with real antibacterial and antifungal medications, salt just isn't all that effective by itself. It has its uses to be sure, but no vet or professional fishkeeper I know of suggests using it as a permanent addition to the freshwater aquarium. It's just a hangover from the past.> Like you, I do not agree that it was columnaris according to what I have read. Although I am aware that the columnaris and tail and fin rot share the symptom of frayed, whitened edges, I did not see any other symptoms of columnaris. <Agreed, and this is why I favour medications such as eSHa 2000 that treat finrot, fungus, and Columnaris equally well. No fuss, no muss.> And I do not see how he glimpsed in his tanks and diagnosed it either, for I saw no evidence of it in his tanks but then he is in the fish business and perhaps he was already aware the tanks were sick and did not want to tell me. In fact I saw no evidence of illness regarding growths or rot of any kind, his fish were listless and fin clamped. If not diagnosing the problem by what you see, how is it to be done? <Diagnosing many fish diseases is more about the situation than the symptoms. If a newbie fishkeeper tells me they just bought a goldfish and now it has white slime, I know finrot or fungus are likely problems, simply because those two diseases are incredibly common in tanks with poor water quality. Likewise when someone says their goldfish or cichlid has "swim bladder disease", experienced fishkeepers will say, "No, they have constipation", because we know inexperienced aquarists rarely give goldfish or cichlids the plant foods they need. A lot of aquarists bounce buzzwords about like "internal bacterial" or "gut parasites" without having even the vaguest clue about how to identify these things. In your situation, I have no precise idea what is causing the deaths, but I do know what sorts of things kill off newly-bought livebearers within a short space of time. Water chemistry and water quality are the top two things, so checking them is always a good idea.> Ahh, the parasite treatment.....that was one of the "fish experts" in the "other" store in regards to the information I gave him regarding the rubbing by one fish. I must learn to follow through by what I know and not what they tell me in the store. <Indeed.> I have to learn that the fish experts are me and those I trust...... confidence building that I will work on as I delve deeper into this hobby. Still, when you are experiencing a die off, what are the steps you would take? How would you handle this? <Easy. Firstly, ALWAYS check nitrite. Nitrite gives you a snapshot of how well the filter is working. It's better than ammonia or nitrate, both of which can be misleading (ammonia because it reflects only "half" the filter bacteria, as well as ammonia in your tap water, and nitrate because it's likely to be in your tap water anyway, regardless of how well your filter bacteria are working). Next up, check the pH. Again, this is a snapshot of water chemistry. Fish don't actually care about pH, they are far more sensitive to the hardness, but a sudden change in pH is easy to spot and indicates at once that water chemistry has gone screwy. Once I'd done the nitrite and pH, I might then break out the general hardness test kit. This gives you nice overview of the water chemistry. Right, if all these check out, I'd look at the filter and the heater. Are they working properly? I'd also look around the house to see if there are any extrinsic factors. Bug spray, solvents from things like paint, and small children are common factors (children drop things into tanks...). I'd also review any changes I'd made. Have I added any new wood or plants? Bogwood that hasn't been cured properly, for example, can change the pH quite rapidly. Have I added new fish? These are a potential (probable) source of infection, especially opportunistic things like whitespot. Finally, I'd check social behaviour. Are any fish suddenly aggressive? Have I added potential fin-nippers? Cichlids for example can be mild as milk most of the time, but if they decide to breed, they may systematically wipe out their tankmates. A lot of so-called community fish nip fins. Tiger barbs, Serpae tetras, black widow (petticoat) tetras, and Synodontis nigriventris are classic examples. Factoring out these things eliminates 99% of the likely sources of problems.> So, the next steps, expand my water testing kit. I only have ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, ammonia and ph (7.8). Do not treat the tank. Finish what I started with the last sick fish,? Then reintroduce him and watch? <Always always always finish courses of medication. When you're done, then let the tank sit for a few weeks. With luck, the fish will recover. Absolutely do not add any new fish. I personally ALWAYS treat fish in the tank, and only remove them to a hospital tank if the injury is so severe the fish cannot feed or is likely to be bullied. Moving fish about is very stressful to them, not least of all because they are away from the school mates and suddenly have to adapt to a new set of water conditions.> Sorry, hate to be a pest but I am concerned and want to learn how to handle my tanks, water and fish. I promise I will function more independently in this regard at some point in the future. <Very good! The main thing is to read, experiment, record what you're doing, and make sensible choices afterwards. Sometimes you'll discover you have no luck with one particular species, no matter what. For me, that's Neon tetras. Your local water conditions, the quality of the available stock, the existing residents in your community tank, and your own fishkeeping skills are all factors here. So cross those species of your list and move on. Other times, you may simply find one retailer just doesn't sell good quality fish. I have a quiz somewhere here at WWM all about how to judge your local retailer, but basically look in the tanks. If the fish are all healthy and well fed, that's good; if the tanks are dirty, the fish all look scared or sickly, and you spot lots of dead fish, then that's not such a good store. In which case move on, and patronise another retailer.> thanks so much Aileen <Phew! Hope this helps, Neale>

Re: sickly swordtails..... 09/22/07 Hi, Just home and read your email. I would never have dreamt in a million years that I could do a water change with cold water but you are right, water layers (stratification I think it is called) and therefore there are hot spots and cold spots all through standing waters. So you make perfect sense. But that is not what this email is about. I just wanted to say thank-you for the guidance. I know you have given my fish and myself a lot of your time and I want you to know I really appreciate it. Aileen <Happy to help. Obviously, you can't dump freezing cold water into a tropical tank. I've done that (by accident) and the fish go loopy, losing their balance and keeling over. They recover as the tank warms up, but it's scary! But adding room temperature or slightly cooler water, like that from a regular cold tap, is generally fine. A water temperature difference of a few degrees C won't do any harm at all, and many fish, like danios and Corydoras, positively enjoy it. And yes, the distribution of water at different temperatures is called vertical stratification. It's a very important phenomenon, particularly in the sea. A lot of fish have a preferred water temperature range, and will move up and down the water column to find the temperature they want. There's even some evidence sick fish will move into warmer water than they normally prefer so they can effectively "run a fever" to get through an infection! Cheers, Neale>

Re: Sick Swordtails   9/27/07 Hi Neale, This is one of the sick swords that died this morning. In one of the pictures you can see the evidence of fin rot. I know I should send these with our previous discussion but I am not sure how small these need to be so that they are received by you. This is one of the batch of fish that have become sick in the store. Can you tell me what may have killed this fish? Thanks Aileen <Hello Aileen -- I can't see anything obvious to blame here. Just looks like a dead swordtail to me! Can't really expand on what I said before. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Emailing: dead fish 001, dead fish 001right side, dead fish 002left side, dead fish 003 top 9/27/07 Thanks, just worried about the others.....it is no wonder everybody is giving fish tanks away.... <Honestly, keeping fish is remarkably easy once you understand and implement the basics. People do sometimes fail when they start, and then give up. But truly, it's like riding a bike. You have to learn from your mistakes, and once you've done that, it's really an easy hobby, at least as far as basic community freshwater fish go.> I ordered the meds you recommended and the tests kits, but it was held up and will not be here until tomorrow. In the meantime I found a bypass on the water softener and so disconnected it (actually, I was not sure and so disconnected a lot of things) and then did tons of laundry. <The domestic water softener exists to provide water that doesn't dump lime scale inside pipes, washing machines, dishwashers, etc. What domestic water softeners don't do is produce "real" soft water of the sort fish need. All they do is replace lime scale salts (carbonates and bicarbonates) for non-lime scale forming salts (mostly chlorides). It's questionable whether domestic softeners even make water that is good for humans to drink, let alone pets or for fish tanks.> What I have discovered with your prompting, is the well water's (unsoftened) ability to increase in ph. I know to a certain degree what I will find with those tests. It also means that water changes will have to be handled with care. <In an aquarium stocked with hardwater fish -- things like livebearers, including swordtails -- hard water is a GOOD THING. Livebearers love "liquid rock", as do many other types of fish, including certain cichlids, Australian rainbows, goldfish, and brackish water fish. Assuming you have an aquarium stocked with livebearers, then don't worry about the rise in pH. Even pH 8, 20 degrees dH, will be a slice of paradise for them!> There are so many variables here that could have contributed to this fiasco. <Indeed. But as I say repeatedly to aquarists having trouble -- the key is to find out what your local, raw water is. Then select fish that like that kind of water. It's like a guy setting up a zoo in Alaska. If he chooses to keep penguins, seals, and reindeer, he'll find his job easy. But if he decides to keep camels, elephants, and crocodiles, you know he's going to have to do a lot more work.> Aileen <Cheers, Neale>

Re: sickly swordtails..... 09/29/07 OK. Sorry to bother you again but I think the problem is water changes. Despite the popular recommendation to water change etc. I think it can become problematic in and of itself. <Water changes should never cause problems. Assuming you're doing them right, and have fish suited to the water you're putting into the tank, the bigger the water changes, and the more frequently you do them, the better!> Would you please confirm what I am thinking..... <I'll try.> My water has a very high KH and GH. <Define "high"? Don't tell me what you think the scores are on the test kit in relative terms... give me NUMBERS! A general hardness of 20 degrees dH would be high for a Rasbora, but perfect for a swordtail. So it all depends on the fish, you see.> Apparently it is great for brackish systems..lol. <A reminder: choose fish according to your water, and all will be well. If you have "liquid rock", then livebearers, goldfish, certain killifish, many cichlids, Australian rainbows, fresh and brackish water gobies, pufferfish, etc are the way to go. There are even tetras that are adapted to very hard water, for example the cave tetra and the x-ray tetra (this latter, Pristella maxillaris, is even found in brackish water and does well at up to 35 degrees dH!). Barbs and catfish also tend to be rather indifferent to water hardness, especially the riverine rather than blackwater species. So simply accepting you have hard water and picking livestock according to that is in no way a handicap.> The water softener is still off and so this is straight well water. <You should only ever use "raw" water in the aquarium, never water that's gone through a domestic water softener. Domestic water softeners don't soften the water -- they simply change the mineral content from one your test kits measure (temporary hardness, i.e., carbonate and bicarbonate) to one you test kits cannot measure (salinity, i.e., chloride salts).> I have tested it and when aerated the pH climbs and levels at about 8.0 which I am seeing maintained. <A perfectly acceptable pH for hard water fish. Assuming this is concomitant with a high level of hardness, and not, for example, coming from ammonia, there is nothing to worry about. The pH range for Corydoras catfish for example is 6-8 according to Fishbase, and Corydoras certainly do well in the London tap water around 20+ degrees dH.> The 100g has lots of driftwood but it was well "conditioned" and besides, with those readings one would expect it to have little effect on water with such a high buffering capacity, Yes? <Broadly speaking, yes, in water with a high carbonate hardness (degrees KH, rather than degrees dH) pH fluctuations should be very slight. That's the big advantage of having a high KH, and why marine aquarists and African cichlid keepers focus on KH to such a high degree.> I have gotten the same reading on water straight from the kitchen tap and in a bucket of standing water that had been drawn two days prior, and from the outdoor tap; the 7.4 that is. <Not sure what this sentence means. Where did 7.4 come from? Are you saying it is pH 7.4 out of the tap, but when aerated it the pH climbs to 8.0? That doesn't really make much sense. Aeration drives off carbonic acid but that really shouldn't make a big difference in hard water because the carbonic acid will be pretty well neutralised anyway. Have you tested for ammonia? Often, if there is chloramine in the water, adding standard dechlorinator to the water splits the chloramine into ammonia and chlorine, the first of which elevates the pH.> The reading of 8.0 was from an aerated bucket, the 110g the 20g, the 10g and the 5.5 g. <OK.> This is explained by the high hardness or the carbonate to carbonic acid... and this change according to what I have read is enough to stress fish. <Not convinced by either of these statements.> Of course, I cannot bend my mind around the chemistry yet to figure out what this would all mean when the water is softened in the house water conditioner. <In terms of aquarium keeping - nothing! Do not use domestically softened water in an aquarium. Period. End of story.> The carbonate would be replaced by sodium, so would be removed but the buffering capacity of the water would also removed so? <Yes, and also the chloride salts stress the fish.> Is there a ratio that could be combined to offset the disadvantages of both? <Not as such, no. Just determine accurately what your raw water supply pH, general hardness, and carbonate hardness are -- and choose fish accordingly. Your life will be 1,000,000 times easier.> For now, this means that I can change no more water then I can aerate in buckets prior to the change. Well probably a small portion direct from the well wouldn't hurt but it cannot be enough to effect the pH. <Broadly, yes, this approach is sensible. But I can't see why aerating water should dramatically change the water chemistry. There's no chemical reaction. As I say, check the ammonia, or at least, make sure you are using a dechlorinator that removes chloramine as well as chlorine.> And I must be particularity careful when dealing with fish demonstrating signs of duress. <All the fish care about is that the water going into the tank has approximately the same water chemistry as the water that was taken out. All freshwater fish have some tolerance for changes in water chemistry, so you don't need to be paranoid. They all live in environments where things like heavy rain and droughts can suddenly change the water conditions. So, let's start by establishing what the water chemistry of "raw" water is -- pH, dH, and KH. Then add dechlorinator, stir well. Test the pH, dH, and KH again. Next, aerate for a couple of hours. Test the pH, dH, and KH again. Finally, test the pH, dH, and KH of the aquarium one week after the last water change. Give me ALL FOUR sets of numbers. From these, we can probably work out what's going on, and MOREOVER, whether there's anything here likely to put your fish at risk.> I have had a small tank in the living room for years without any problems or real knowledge or attention to the details. In fact the goldfish in there has been with me for a long time, six or seven years. <Goldfish love hard water, so if you're giving them hard water, they'll live forever!> But, I think I often set out a bucket the night before or only topped up the tank. With all the reading and tanks, I started doing more water changes and using the handy tool that came with the big tank. It both siphons and then adds water to the tank......... <It adds water direct from the tap? How do you dechlorinate the water?> I still believe these swordtails were not up to snuff as there are a number of factors pointing in that direction. But it seems that the more I tried to help them, the more I may have been adding to whatever ailed them. Other species have survived and in fact flourished over the past 2 months. Just in the past couple days, some of the diamond tetras have matured and now I see the lovely, violet coloured fins I have read about. They're nice fish.> Hopefully these guys will be ok in my liquid rock. <Yes, kept them thus and they're fine.> Though I know I am pushing the limits as far as they go. But they are shimmering beauties. But back to the point, they have not been undergoing treatment and large water changes and daily water changes and....... <Indeed.> In the meantime, the last of the swords has today developed the obvious systems of ich, though I know it could be other things according to the pages of WWM, they are all treated in the same way, again from the above mentioned pages. I suspect with all this mucking around that I have infected my 100g, though I am certain the others are o.k. I know you would prefer I not treat the 100 until signs of ich are there. Now, is that true or is there some preventive steps I could take. <I'd treat the tank at the first sign of scratching, but perhaps not before. Whitespot doesn't tend to kill fish quickly, so you *do* have a breathing space to diagnose and then treat the problem.> I am exhausted from nursing the swords and would prefer to head it off if that is possible. Besides my kids and dogs are starting to show signs of jealousy, the cat of course loves all the action, the pony is full of burdock and the lizard needs his sand cleaned......and oh boy, will water changes on that 100g be fun.... <Sounds like you have your hands full.> How 'bout that Maracide???? <For what? Whitespot? Never used it. But it is sold as a whitespot treatment, so presumably works.> Thanks Aileen <Cheers, Neale>

Re: sickly swordtails..... 9/29/07 Hi Neale, <Aileen,> One last thing before I carry out your instructions. <Yes?> Are you aware that I am on a well? <Nope.> It is 100+ year old, hand dug and lined with stone. <OK.> My water is not from a municipal water supply, it is out of the ground. <Ah, in that case testing the water chemistry becomes even more important.> Something is indeed increasing the pH with aeration. I have tested this numerous times in different circumstances and the factor does seem to be adding oxygen. <No idea why.> Even a standing bucket does not increase in pH, though I should check that again too; I still have one that has now been standing in the dark for 4 or 5 days with no agitation of any kind. It is not due to ammonia which reads 0 out of the tap. <Very good.> I can still get some water conditioner and see if this has any effect. <Always worthwhile. A good dechlorinator will deal with things like ammonia from agricultural run-off, copper from the pipes, etc.> I think there be a test kit or two I have not bought yet too. <Nitrite, pH, and general hardness are the key ones, carbonate hardness and nitrate are useful. The others are all optional extras. In my opinion, anyway! There are some nice dip-stick type things that test all of these at the same time. Good value if you slice them vertically to get two tests per strip.> Phosphates? <Not normally a problem in freshwater tanks. I'd sooner have the pet store do this test, if they will, for a $1 or whatever than buy a test kit specially.> They cause lots of problems in excess but could they be contributing to pH issues? <Can't see why.> And by the way, I have read and in fact printed your article on hard-water fish...... <Hope it'll help! Assuming your other fish are fine, and your swordtails eventually settle down, I'd tend to step back and let things progress a while.> Thanks With much gratitude Aileen <Let me know what those water chemistry stats are right out the tap and again after aeration, and then I might be able to help further. Cheers, Neale> Re: sickly swordtails..... 10/3/07 Hi have some water specs. for you to look at. <Hello Aileen,> By the way only one swordtail survived. He has never shown any signs of illness (touch wood) and it will have been 3 weeks this Friday. I have not gone into town lately to see what the loses were at the first shop, the one where I got the swords but I suspect they were high. So sad.....and not a particularly pleasant experience. <Too bad.> Some of these parameters were checked twice, if the results seemed a little odd, I did it again. <OK.> Fresh from outdoor tap: KH degrees 15, 268.5ppm GH degrees 25, 447.5ppm PH 7.4 <Perfect for swordtails.> Aerated 12 hours: KH degrees 15, 268.5ppm GH degrees 23, 411.7ppm pH 7.8 <Still good for swordtails. No idea why the GH has changed though.> Standing bucket (week): KH degrees 14, 250.6ppm GH degrees 23, 411.7ppm pH 7.8 <So no change here.> Bare tank: KH degrees 12, 214.8 GH degrees 15, 268.5 pH 8.2 <Still fine for swordtails.> This 10g tank received a water change last night and so it is a mix of "fresh" aged water and older, cycled water. It was there so I tested it. This of course explains the increase in pH, the GH is making a significant decline over time and the KH is also declining although in a less dramatic manner. <Aeration and "sitting around" shouldn't -- can't -- change the GH. Something else is at work here. GH is a measurement of dissolved minerals, and aeration can't drive minerals into the atmosphere! I simply don't understand what is going on here.> Clearly aeration speeds up the process. <Can't see what process though. Doesn't make any sense at all.> I am sure if I test the buckets tonight (and I will) the pH will have increased and the other parameters with have decreased. <Oh.> Any ideas? <None at all.> I have not yet gotten the water conditioner although this will be something I will try. Thanks Aileen <My only thought is that your well water contains minerals or pollutants that register on the test kits as general hardness or cause the pH to register at some level, but aeration and/or time and/or temperature cause these chemicals to change in some way the hardness and pH readings change. Normally, hard water is chemically very stable. Nothing aeration does can change that. It is possible I suppose that the water from the well contains a lot of carbonic acid (dissolved CO2) and aeration drives that off, raising the pH. But it's certainly something like that going on. But I've never heard of this situation before, and honestly can't offer anything sensible as an explanation. In terms of aquarium husbandry, the answer is simpler: do small, regular water changes. Perhaps 20-25% weekly. Take great care not to overfeed the fish. Provided the water changes are small, any background fluctuations in water chemistry will be moderated by the other 80-75% of the water in the tank. Further, all the water chemistry readings are "hard and alkaline", so provided you pick species that enjoy such conditions, like livebearers, there's no real problem about what precisely the pH and dH and KH values are at any given time. Sorry can't offer any deeper wisdom! Neale> Re: sickly swordtails..... 10/3/07 Thanks Neale, <Hello Aileen,> I think you are right about the dissolved CO2. Yes, I have been reading..... <Very good.> I do appreciate you getting me to take a closer look at the water though, it is something that is often dismissed, other then the "big three" I have worked out a system for water changes erroring on the side of caution, though it has never hurt the healthy fish, at least in no ways that were obvious to me visually. <Small water chemistry changes shouldn't do any harm at all, so this approach is sound.> The buckets are being aerated 24 hrs, two buckets every 2 days. This is a system I can handle. <Sounds a lot of work to me. I'd put the water straight into the tank (after dechlorinating) and see what happens. Try 10%, say. The differences between the "before" and "after" values you sent me are so small as to be irrelevant. If the water pH was going from 8 down to 6, that would be different.> I may have to increase that at some point as the numbers increase but right now that keeps the 0, 0 less then 20 numbers stable. Actually the nitrates have been at 10 for over a month. <Good.> That over feeding thing you mention will take enormous self control. Ha, ha. It is just so much fun to feed fish! <One trick is switch to more green foods. Many fish will thrive on a low protein, high greenery diet. Or you could switch from high protein flake to low protein frozen food. Bloodworms for example are only 5% protein, compared with flake at around 40% protein. It isn't the volume of food that matters, but the amount of protein, since it is protein that metabolises to ammonia.> I am going to let everything settle another week and then take a look at those rainbow fish... Swordtails are still on my list but I think it best to wait a few months on those. <Agreed. Maybe shop around, or even see if you can buy online from a serious swordtail breeder. The wild-type fish are nice and generally hardier than the fancy sort, so bear that in mind too.> Thanks again for all your guidance I suspect you have made me a more conscience fish keeper for it Aileen <Good luck, Neale>

Re: sickly swordtails..... 10/3/07 Hi have some water specs. for you to look at. <Hello Aileen,> By the way only one swordtail survived. He has never shown any signs of illness (touch wood) and it will have been 3 weeks this Friday. I have not gone into town lately to see what the loses were at the first shop, the one where I got the swords but I suspect they were high. So sad.....and not a particularly pleasant experience. <Too bad.> Some of these parameters were checked twice, if the results seemed a little odd, I did it again. <OK.> Fresh from outdoor tap: KH degrees 15, 268.5ppm GH degrees 25, 447.5ppm PH 7.4 <Perfect for swordtails.> Aerated 12 hours: KH degrees 15, 268.5ppm GH degrees 23, 411.7ppm pH 7.8 <Still good for swordtails. No idea why the GH has changed though.> Standing bucket (week): KH degrees 14, 250.6ppm GH degrees 23, 411.7ppm pH 7.8 <So no change here.> Bare tank: KH degrees 12, 214.8 GH degrees 15, 268.5 pH 8.2 <Still fine for swordtails.> This 10g tank received a water change last night and so it is a mix of "fresh" aged water and older, cycled water. It was there so I tested it. This of course explains the increase in pH, the GH is making a significant decline over time and the KH is also declining although in a less dramatic manner. <Aeration and "sitting around" shouldn't -- can't -- change the GH. Something else is at work here. GH is a measurement of dissolved minerals, and aeration can't drive minerals into the atmosphere! I simply don't understand what is going on here.> Clearly aeration speeds up the process. <Can't see what process though. Doesn't make any sense at all.> I am sure if I test the buckets tonight (and I will) the pH will have increased and the other parameters with have decreased. <Oh.> Any ideas? <None at all.> I have not yet gotten the water conditioner although this will be something I will try. Thanks Aileen <My only thought is that your well water contains minerals or pollutants that register on the test kits as general hardness or cause the pH to register at some level, but aeration and/or time and/or temperature cause these chemicals to change in some way the hardness and pH readings change. Normally, hard water is chemically very stable. Nothing aeration does can change that. It is possible I suppose that the water from the well contains a lot of carbonic acid (dissolved CO2) and aeration drives that off, raising the pH. But it's certainly something like that going on. But I've never heard of this situation before, and honestly can't offer anything sensible as an explanation. In terms of aquarium husbandry, the answer is simpler: do small, regular water changes. Perhaps 20-25% weekly. Take great care not to overfeed the fish. Provided the water changes are small, any background fluctuations in water chemistry will be moderated by the other 80-75% of the water in the tank. Further, all the water chemistry readings are "hard and alkaline", so provided you pick species that enjoy such conditions, like livebearers, there's no real problem about what precisely the pH and dH and KH values are at any given time. Sorry can't offer any deeper wisdom! Neale> Re: sickly swordtails..... 10/3/07 Thanks Neale, <Hello Aileen,> I think you are right about the dissolved CO2. Yes, I have been reading..... <Very good.> I do appreciate you getting me to take a closer look at the water though, it is something that is often dismissed, other then the "big three" I have worked out a system for water changes erroring on the side of caution, though it has never hurt the healthy fish, at least in no ways that were obvious to me visually. <Small water chemistry changes shouldn't do any harm at all, so this approach is sound.> The buckets are being aerated 24 hrs, two buckets every 2 days. This is a system I can handle. <Sounds a lot of work to me. I'd put the water straight into the tank (after dechlorinating) and see what happens. Try 10%, say. The differences between the "before" and "after" values you sent me are so small as to be irrelevant. If the water pH was going from 8 down to 6, that would be different.> I may have to increase that at some point as the numbers increase but right now that keeps the 0, 0 less then 20 numbers stable. Actually the nitrates have been at 10 for over a month. <Good.> That over feeding thing you mention will take enormous self control. Ha, ha. It is just so much fun to feed fish! <One trick is switch to more green foods. Many fish will thrive on a low protein, high greenery diet. Or you could switch from high protein flake to low protein frozen food. Bloodworms for example are only 5% protein, compared with flake at around 40% protein. It isn't the volume of food that matters, but the amount of protein, since it is protein that metabolises to ammonia.> I am going to let everything settle another week and then take a look at those rainbow fish... Swordtails are still on my list but I think it best to wait a few months on those. <Agreed. Maybe shop around, or even see if you can buy online from a serious swordtail breeder. The wild-type fish are nice and generally hardier than the fancy sort, so bear that in mind too.> Thanks again for all your guidance I suspect you have made me a more conscience fish keeper for it Aileen <Good luck, Neale>

Attention Neale: Re: sickly swordtails 10/3/07 Hi Neale, <Amanda,> I hope you don't mind me butting in here, but I may have some information that could help with Aileen's situation. Well help is probably not the appropriate word because I can't tell you how to stop it from happening, but it may help shed some light on the subject. From my understanding she uses well water, which is where all of this starts. <Indeed... so what do you think is happening...?> I know I am a bit late with this one, I got a bit behind on the reading of the daily FAQ, but hopefully it will help someone. <Let's hope!> Groundwater. When a well is dug it taps into underground aquifers (I can hear you already, I know, it's basic, I'm getting there, a person has to set the scene you know). Now there is a big difference between subsurface water and surface water. Surface water picks up lovely things from storm water runoff like excess nitrates, phosphorus, gross pollutants, hydrocarbons, that sort of thing. Which is treated for in our water treatment plants, so when we get water out of the tap we drink lovely things like chlorine and chloramines......mmmmm chemicals. <I even have the Homer Simpson visual to go with that last comment...> Now well water is a whole different ball game. It's natural, and more or less tends to be unpolluted by anthropogenic causes. This, however, doesn't mean that it doesn't contain contaminants, or analytes for a better term as they are naturally occurring. The make up of ground water is often determined by the chemical make up of the rocks surrounding it and what sort of rock, or ground it needs to percolate through to reach the subsurface aquifer. <Indeed.> Now things like granites can contain high levels of heavy metals, minerals and other various analytes which get dissolved into the water as it moves through the rock. Now some of these chemicals which are dissolved into the water while in the aquifer are inert as there is nothing there for them to react to. When this water is pumped up from the well into the air it is now exposed to things which it was never exposed to while in the aquifer. There is fresh air, and lots of it. Air contains things like oxygen, and nitrogen, and carbon dioxide and the like. Now this could cause chemical reactions depending on what analytes are dissolved in the water. <Makes sense.> The things in the water could combine with things in the air which they were never exposed to and it could cause them to precipitate out of solution. Similar to what occurs when you have unbalanced calcium and alkalinity levels in a SW tank and get the infamous 'snow storm' effect. <Yep, sounds plausible.> Something to look for, which would indicate that this indeed is what is happening, is a film on the bucket/container in which the water is in. If there is a film or precipitate there that wasn't before the water was aerated, it's very likely that she does have some analyte in her water which is reacting to something in the atmosphere which is causing it to precipitate out of solution which could be causing her rapid decline in GH and KH. <Ah, I see. Not something I have ever experienced, but your logic is flawless.> So no, aerating the water isn't pushing dissolved minerals into the atmosphere, so much as it is allowing the dissolved minerals to react with something in the atmosphere and precipitate out into the bucket. <Yes, agreed.> I tend to get a bit long winded and wordy. Sorry if that doesn't make sense, I don't often explain myself well. Just a thought. Not sure if it helps you any or not. <Helps a great deal, and I hope it helps Aileen too.> Thanks for your time and I hope I didn't step on any toes with this one. Amanda <No, not at all. Thanks so much for writing and better yet presenting your thoughts in such a clear and scientific way. Much appreciated! Cheers, Neale>

Neale Monks. The case of the ever dying swordtails..... 10/25/07 Hi Neale, Remember me? The case of the ever dying swordtails..... <Indeed. Hello again, Aileen!> Well, I wanted to let you know that some new denizens of the deep joined my tank after a couple of weeks quarantine. I have attached a picture for your perusal. Thanks for steering me in their direction. <Hmm... no attachment arrived!> In the meantime, I am looking for some stocking guidelines as I plan the final additions over the next couple of months. My nitrates have not moved above 10 so I would think even with the addition of the five rainbows that I am o.k. to proceed? <Indeed. Nitrate is a very good guideline, though nitrite also tells you whether or not the filter is coping with the bio-load, so keep tabs on them both. Generally though, a decent biological filter will handle a significant bio-load *provided* it is given time to adapt.> It is a 110 g tank rather heavily decorated along the back and open in the front. 5ft long, 18 inches wide and 2 ft. tall. Two Emperor 400s maintain the filtration. With a old fashioned box filter helping things along but actually for emergency tank set-ups, it only contains floss. <Sounds good.> Further statistics necessary include, hard water with a high pH... The present inhabitants include: 3 swordtails 1:2 3 platys 1:2 9 diamond tetras 5 boesemanni rainbowfish 12 zebra danios (I think, they are most difficult to count....) 1 Bristlenose cat 2 loaches (yoyo) <All good choices for hardwater aquaria. However, loaches in general shouldn't be kept singly, and the Yoyo Loach (Botia almorhae) is no exception. For best results (and minimal aggression towards the other fish) get at least 6 specimens. The loaches will be out in the open more, and they'll direct all their energy towards their pecking order, instead of harassing the other fish (something loaches are wont to do). Think of Tiger Barbs and how they become nippy when kept in 2s and 3s, and these loaches aren't far off.> I am considering adding: 6 swordtails, 2 male and 4 females 7 neon rainbowfish (Melanotaenia praecox) <Also excellent fish.> And wondered about threadfins (Iriatherina werneri) and Corydoras (Corydoras sterbai). I am not sure what an over-stocked, bottom dweller equation is. <Threadfins are hardy and superb community fish -- but they are a target for nippy or aggressive fish. I wouldn't trust Swordtails around them. Swordtail males especially are very intolerant of anything in the upper level of the tank they prefer. In a 110 gallon you might be fine -- there's just no guarantee.> Your opinion on this would be greatly appreciated and any other suggestions that you may have. <I'd perhaps skip the Threadfins and leave them for their own aquarium at another time, perhaps mixed with gobies or Corydoras. You might try keeping multiple Bristlenose cats -- they are *relatively* easy to spawn, and the baby catfish are not in the least difficult to rear. They're not quite as easy as, say, guppies, but they're not far off. The "kittens" (as baby catfish are known) are adorable. I have a soft spot for Halfbeaks as well. These make a great alternative to livebearers, and while they are a challenge to breed in some ways, once the fry actually arrive they're easy to rear and remarkably big.> Aileen <Some ideas for you to play with. Good luck! Neale>

Swordtail Fry with Ich. HELP!!!  9/3/07 Hi, recently i purchased a trio of Swordtails from Petco (bad idea i know... but they were on sale for a buck each, i couldn't resist!) anyway i put them into a 10 gallon QT, after the second day the females started showing signs of Ich, i dosed the QT with an herbal anti-ich medication <These don't work...> i have had success with in the past, and performed 50% water changes every other day for 4 days. after the 5th day of treatment i noticed a few little orange specs hiding around the heater, it seems one of the females had given me about a half dozen babies. i immediately added some java moss from the display tank to the QT for the babies to hide in, and after two more days the parents were showing no more signs of ich, so i moved them to the display tank, i didn't want the babies to become snacks after all... anyway the fry seemed to get all the food they needed out of the java moss for the first few days, after which they started taking Hikari micro pellets, they have been eating well and growing fast for about 10 days now, but two days ago i noticed some signs of Ich of three of them, two had just one spot each, but one (the smallest, and the one with the least color) has at least 6 spots, i stopped adding the ich medication in with the water changes after i removed the parents. i have been slowly bumping the temperature up for the last 3 days, it is at 84 now, <Good technique> and the fry all seem to be hanging out within a few inches of the heater, although the increased heat doesn't seem to have done anything except stop the ich from spreading further. are the fry too young to put in water dosed with ich medication? <Mmm, depends on the make-up of such... I would use only half doses of anything with metal or Malachite Green content... and raise the temp. up to 86 F> what can i do to make sure i don't lose my babies??? Thanks. ~Bryan <And you have read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwich.htm and the linked files above? And the FAQs on Swordtail Disease? Bob Fenner>

Swordtails, not reading... "Fix", not!   8/2/07 Hi, there! A few weeks ago, I sent you an e-mail about my swordtails, asking for advice. My female swordtail gave birth, but I've noticed some changes in her. (She gave birth around July 20) For starters, she doesn't seem to eat. When I feed the fish, she just hangs around the water line, but never eats. She spends most of the time under the filter tube. (I have a 1-3 gallon Tetra filter, and a tube extends out into the aquarium to suck up the water.) Maybe she doesn't have enough air...? <Doubtful... the other fishes would show the same...> She has also lost her color, for she used to be a bright peachy color with dark chocolate fins, but now she's all pale. Her fins have also gotten thin, so thin you can see each bone individually. The thing that's the weirdest is that she has no visible sign of parasites, Ick, exc. I found this medication called MELAFIX. <Worthless... Please... read before writing us... the search tool, indices on WWM...> API Aquarium Pharmaceuticals MELAFIX ANTIBACTERIAL FISH REMEDY All Natural botanical extract of Tea Tree Rapidly repairs damaged fins, ulcers and open wounds. Promotes regrowth of damaged tissue and fins. BENEFITS: A safe, all natural way to treat bacterial fish infections. MELAFIX treats: Open red sores, fin and tail rot, eye cloud, pop eye, body slime, mouth fungus, and open body wounds. <Is a "tea" made from Melaleuca leaves... of dubious to no use> WHEN ADDING NEW FISH: Dose daily for three days. Maybe I should put this in, just in case? Do you know this disease? Maybe it's just a stage after giving birth? Please give me your advice. I thank you, Oksana <Please... read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/sworddisfaqs.htm and on WWM re this "fix"... Your problem is very likely environmental... Do you have water quality test kits? How much nitrogenous material is present? Bob Fenner>

Swordtail fish, beh.    7/19/07 Hi, my name is Mélida. I just started my first 10 gallon tank. This morning I was cleaning the tank, and when I went to put my fish back in the thank the net was broken so I grab each one with my hands, but when I put the swordtail male in, he looks like and S. Is he going to die? Or his going to get better? I feel so guilty of his condition and I dont Know what to do. Sorry about my spelling. Im from Panamá I dont know how to write in English. <Hello Mélida! When fish are alarmed they automatically bend into an S shape, and then open up again rapidly. It's called the "Mauthner Reflex" and allows them to quickly swim away from danger without "thinking" about it. It is similar to our reflex, when we pull our hand from something hot or painful. Anyway, if the S shape doesn't change, and the fish stays bent, this is more serious. It can be caused by physical damage. Fish are very "soft" and easily damaged. If your net is broken, then use a glass jar or something similar instead (in fact a glass jar is better for spiny fishes like catfish). Sometimes a fish will go into strange body positions when it is severely stressed. It may recover if left alone. So at the moment, wait and see what happens. Cheers, Neale>

Re: Swordtail fish   7/19/07 Hi Neale . Thanks for your help. My swordtail fish is doing great I'm so happy that his ok. And this morning I found a bunch of fries in the tank. (45). Gracias for your help and god bless you <Thanks for the kind wishes, and likewise, I wish you and your new baby fishes good luck! Neale>

Re: swordtail fish... hlth.? Sys.  8/7/07 Hi Neale: GRACIAS, for the info. I kept the fries in the same place. Know I have another question. I have a seashell in my 10g tank. and one of the angel fish (zebra) goes in there to hide for a long time. in two occasion I had to take out the shell to check if he is dead, but he comes out swimming. Should I take the shell out of the tank for good or his just hanging there. Grace, Mercy, and peace will be with you from good. Love, Mely. <Hello Melida! If your fish likes the sea shell, leave it in there. Sea shells will raise the pH and hardness of an aquarium -- so be careful of having too many in one tank. But otherwise they are fine. Once in a while, clean the shell out because dirt can get stuck inside them. Also, I have lost a Corydoras catfish to a sea shell. It got stuck in there, and its spines prevented it from coming back out. But a danio should be fine. All the best, Neale>

Male Swordtail Mouth Disease? 07/03/07 Hi WWM Crew, I have an established 30 gallon tank with 3 swordtails (1 male and 2 females), a queen arabesque Pleco and a pearl Gourami. All appears well in the tank with Ammonia and Nitrite at zero and Nitrites below 10. I perform regular weekly 20-25% water changes. Recently some swordtail fry were born and to save as many as possible I put the male swordtail into a 8" by 5" breeder net as he was chasing after them while I got the fry out and to safety in a second net. He wasn't too happy in there to begin with but soon settled. I needed to move most of the décor/weeds around to get the little guys out and although I tried to minimize disruption, this must have been temporarily stressful for all the adult fish. I rescued all 4 fry that I saw and released the male swordtail a few hours after he went into the net after the mother has stopped giving birth. All fish seem fine and are eating well and the male is pursuing the females as usual but he now has a white lump on his 'lip' about one third the size of his mouth. As soon as I saw this I treated it with 'Myxazin', a broad spectrum bacterial medicine made by Waterlife, raising the temp to 80 degrees and increasing the oxygen flow. Although the lump has decreased slightly after 3 days, I am a little concerned whether I am treating the problem correctly. I assume the stress caused when collecting the fry may have brought on this problem <Maybe... but could be this and/or just rubbing its "face" on the netting in the breeding trap> but I want to be sure to treat it correctly and swiftly. No other fish are showing similar symptoms and all have been quarantined for 2 weeks when bought before being released into the main tank so I do not think this problem was introduced by another fish. My questions are:- 1) Can you please confirm what this disease is and that I am treating it correctly as a bacterial infection?? <Cannot... would require microscopic examination, culture... but your system reads as fine, and I would have done about what you have under these circumstances> 2) The fry are currently in the QT in a breeder net but should I treat them too before putting them back into the tank (inside the net for safety)?? If so should I use a lower dose?? There are no instructions re fry dosage on the medicine bottle. I do not want to re infect the tank when I put them back Any advice you have will be gratefully received. I try to keep this tank pristine and am quite disappointed to be experiencing problems with disease, often associated with bad maintenance. Many thanks Brian <I would not treat the young, nor continue to treat the system. I fully suspect that the condition is more "environmental" at root than pathogenic... Time going by, your good maintenance, adequate nutrition should cure the one fish, prevent troubles for the others. Bob Fenner>

Help with possible parasites   5/25/07 Good Morning, <Its good evening here in Merrie Olde Englande.> I have a question regarding one of my female neon swordtails.  She is a full grown adult that I have had approx. 6 months.  First of all tank parameters: Ammonia - 0 Nitrites - 0 pH - 7.4 Nitrates - 25 Tanks size - 55gal, tankmates are platies, guppies, other swordtails, and one Pleco. <All sounds fine.> I noticed a strange growth inside the fish about 1/4" from her tail.  It appears to be circular.  The fish swam next to the light and I could see through the tail and that's the only reason I saw it.  She has been acting very healthy and normal.  Eating very well, in fact just dropped about 15 fry.  You can start to see the lump on the outside if you look very carefully, however, nothing is protruding outside the scales. The other fish in the tank are doing very well and also the many fry are doing fine. <If the swelling is inside the fish and in muscle tissue (rather than the abdomen) then almost certainly a benign cyst or tumour. Quite common in fish. No real cure, but no real threat to your fish either. But without a picture, impossible to say for sure quite what this is.> I have done considerable research to see what this may be and the only thing I can come up with is a digenetic fluke. <Rather unlikely, because of the complex life cycle most of these flukes have. Pond fish sometimes get them, but indoor fish almost never.> Any suggestions will be appreciated.  I understand that if it is a fluke the life cycle requires an intermediate host such as a snail.  I do have a few snails in the tank. <Indeed, but usually very specific snails. The chances of you having a worm that worked in both the fishes and the snails in your aquarium have to pretty small.> Doesn't look like there are many reliable cures for this other than removing the fish and the intermediate host.  Can I expect to have a major problem from this or is this something that healthy fish can live with or overcome.  Thanks in advance. <Since it's almost certainly just a cyst or benign tumour, there's not much to be done. Provided the fish can swim properly and the internal organs are impacted in any way by the cyst, the fish should remain healthy. Cheers, Neale>

Red sword and Levamisole Phosphate, use of anthelminthics, FW    5/21/07 Hello fellow crew member, This is Anna. We exchanged few e-mails a couple of months ago. Just to give you a recap - so far my tank is doing well; I got some plants that keep growing nicely; fish seems to be happy there.. in few words - "almost perfect." There is one issue I am not sure about. I presume my female red sword is doing well. It is first at the feeder, eating with no problems; it does not display abnormal behavior (except for the time when it hides under plants to "visit the bathroom") - it is well integrated within community. Yet, when I observe its feces I see something that other fish does not performs. Basically, the red sword is "on the toilet" :--) all the time, producing quite large amount of feces, mostly dark green (chewing my plants ??) or black, with some sort of whitish segments in between. After studying the book of Drs. Untergasser and Axelrod I concluded that my sword might be affected by tapeworm. The books says it is okay not to take any action if fish is doing fine (my is doing well).   Yet, I feel sorry for that fish having toilet problem all day long and would like to help it - if possible. My colleague at another fish community suggested I use LEVAMISOLE Phosphate (injectable solution). I got one (13.65), but before using it I would like to make sure it is: - safe for fish - manageable - with min. side effect. <Mmm, I would not use this format of Levamisole... nor inject this small fish... If you were to use "L", look for the HCl (Hydrochloride) radical... to be used in foods... Or better, look to an anthelminthic that can be simply applied to the water... my choice? Praziquantel...> Would you recommended that I use that medicine? How should I proceed with using it? <Please see WWM, the Net, Ed Noga's works...> As for my aquarium condition - ammonia is at zero; pH is between 6.6 - 6.8. I also trace phosphate (current level around between 0.5 and 1.0). I do partial water changes every day to help keep the fish healthy. Do you think there is anything I can do for my red sword with or without LEVAMISOLE? <Perhaps...> Please, help... Thanks much. Anna P.S. - I attached some pictures of my red sword to help you see what I can see ;--) <Mime... not useful> <Ah good... The Prazi... Bob Fenner>

Re: Red sword and Levamisole Phosphate   5/22/07 Hello Bob-- <Anna> Thanks much for the reply. For some reason I am not able to see your response on my Yahoo! address, yet I can pick it up from my GMAIL account. <This is an ongoing issue... some sort of conflict twixt software...> Yesterday I studied people's cases on tapeworm posted on WWM and found some useful info about Praziquantel. If you do not mind I will notify you :--) about after-treatment results. The longer I look at my red sword the more I am convinced it is affected by tapeworms. Thanks for your time and help. Anna <The response has cycled through our system to this point in the FW Daily FAQs: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwdailyfaqs.htm The second one down. BobF>

Swordtails Stressed to death?   - 5/18/07 <<Hello there. Tom with you.>> My mom just bought a 55 gallon tank that had been established, but neglected to the point that the owners didn't even know what lived in it (two beautiful adult angel fish and two adult common Plecos). <<Okay.>> We rinsed everything in tap water (I told mom not to, that is could/would kill the bacteria). But, she is insistent and I am only 17. What do I know about aquariums, anyway? <<On this count, youre right on the money. (Sorry, Mom, but this was a big boo-boo.)>> So, then she buys 2 Dalmatian mollies, 4 swordtails, two rainbow sharks, another Pleco (small) ((she got rid of one of the big ones to a family friend)) 2 silver dollars, 2 hatchet fish, a catfish. I told her not to start out with so many so soon (the tank was 2 hours old at our house) but again, she "knows a lot more about it than me" and could "get anything she wanted". <<You might have added that Mollies are brackish water fish, not freshwater and, no more than one Rainbow Shark should be kept in a tank as they arent tolerant of conspecifics (a fancy term for the same species). The Pleco and catfish arent going to be tolerant of salt and certainly wont tolerate it at the level that the Mollies prefer. None of the others need salt, either. Nuff said. Now, in fairness to your mother, you were only partially correct about not adding so many fish at once to an uncycled tank. In fact, NONE should have been added to an uncycled tank. None. No ifs or buts about it. (With all credit to Mr. Abraham Lincoln, when I hear about people arguing in favor of cycling an aquarium with fish I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on them personally.)>> So, we drive maybe an hour and a half away to the nearest PetSmart-type store and get the fish and drive them and hour and a half back, float them for 15 minutes and wish them luck. <<There isnt that much luck to be had, my friend!>> The sharks immediately begin chasing the swordtails, but we didn't think much of it because the pet store woman said they would settle down in a big tank like we have. <<The same woman who sold you the fish weve already discussed? Someone else needs to do some homework.>> Well, they didn't and kept chasing them. Now two swordtails are dead and the others are dying. <<What are the odds? (Not trying to seem sarcastic but this was preventable.)>> We got rid of the sharks (to the same friends) day before yesterday. <<Okay, but now theyve got the same issue as Ive addressed.>> My question is did all this stress kill them? <<It certainly didnt help matters. Transportation is very stressful. Introduction to a new environment is very stressful. Moving into a tank with questionable water parameters speaks for itself. Under these circumstances, even normally compatible tank mates can/will pick at one another. Again, this could have been prevented with better planning/more knowledge.>> The other fish are doing great. In fact, I think one of the mollies is pregnant. <<She likely mated before coming home. Im happy for you but this doesnt mean that everything is A-OKyet. Keep your fingers crossed.>> The temperature in the tank is at about 75-78. <<Good!>> There is aquarium salt in the tank too, but only half the recommended dose for a 55g and the swordtails seemed to be clean of disease and stuff when we got them. <<First, schools out on the efficacy of aquarium salt for FW fish. I wont, personally, dismiss its use out of hand but I dont feel its necessary in the vast majority of cases. Your Mollies present a different case, of course. I hate to seem a wet blanket here but you cant split the difference and expect all of your fish to thrive. Something is going to give unless all of the fish are placed in a proper environment. You simply cant keep brackish water fish with freshwater fish any more than youd expect to keep saltwater fish in your freshwater tank. Just wont work. Continue your research. Encourage your mom to do the same. Best of luck to you. Tom.>>

Baby Livebearer Changing Color  04/29/07 Hello WWM, I have a very peculiar problem. I have a tank with a couple of fish - a guppy, an orange swordtail and a black molly, with two of the surviving babies of the swordtail and the molly. One of the babies is orange, and the other is orange with big black patches on its tail. They are about two weeks old, and a little less than 2cm long. Now, I noticed that sometimes the black patches on the tail of the mulatto baby fade until they are almost gone, and the orange gets almost transparent! Then when I come back and look at them again, say, 10min later, the black is back and the orange is rich and bright again. The other baby is smaller and not very intensely orange yet as it is, so I can't tell if there's a difference, and the adult fish seem to be okay. I think the guppy fades too, but maybe I'm just paranoid. This has happened twice now, once just after I turned their light on in the morning (black was faded, but came back after light was on for a couple minutes), and the second time I can't remember, I think again after turning the light on. It doesn't happen every time I turn the light on after a night of darkness, just occasionally lately. Is this normal? Are they just trying to hide in the dark? I'm confused. They seem very happy otherwise; I haven't had any other problems. Please help. Thanks, Didi < The color changes are the result of mood swings. A confident little fish will be showing off. A shy, timid fish that is afraid it will be eaten, will try and blend into its surroundings by dulling its coloration.-Chuck.

Swordtail With Fading Spot 04/30/07 Hi again, Thanks for the response. I don't think that's the problem though. Of the two babies, the one with the fading color is the dominant one. It's about twice the size of the other one, even though they are of the same littler, and always eats with the big fish, as opposed to the little one which swims around the bottom and eats falling food bits. The small one hides more, too, while the big one swims around wherever it wants to. I didn't think mood mattered, so I didn't mention these details in my first email. So, assuming the fading baby is not shy and it's not mood swings, is there anything else that could be going on? Thanks, Didi <Still think its mood and here is why. The dominant baby is only dominant to the other, smaller fry. Not to the other adults. So in order to mingle with the adults it shows its submissive dull colors. If it showed its dominant coloration it would be chased by the other adults.-Chuck.>

Re: Swordtail Baby Changes Markings When The light Is On   5/2/07 But... but... but it changes back to intense colors when I turn the light on too feed them, a.k.a. the time when it mingles with the adults the most, to get food! When it's eating alongside them by the surface, its colors are bright. Dark black. Always. And it swims nosily around the big fish like that, unlike the smaller one which stays away. The only thing I can link discoloration to, from my observation, is lack of light in the tank. Maybe it loses color when it sleeps at night and is more vulnerable, to blend in? Sorry for emailing you again... :-D Didi < There are definitely color changes when the lighting is changed. Many fish communicate using their markings and colors. When it is dark, most fish try to blend in to their natural surroundings so not to attract a predator they cannot see. When the light is on and they feel safe, they will show off to the other fish. Your swordtail may be a male and be thinking about spawning or at least attracting a female. This may account for some of your observations. It doesn't sound like any disease problems.-Chuck>

Male Marigold Swordtail  3/28/07 Hello There, <Mary> I am very sad because I think that my beautiful male may be dying.    He has been acting different for about  a week - not swimming around as much - not chasing the females  - not being the first to come to the top to grab the food. <Bad signs... perhaps just a temporary funk...> Now, since last night, he is staying at the bottom of my tank (36 gallon with 2 adult female marigold swords, many little, tiny, tiny babies [ he has kept himself very busy] 4 Cory pandas and two small gold algae eaters)  or hiding in the castle.  He will move around on the bottom - it seems to get away from the other fish- but is not eating and breathing rapidly.  Everyone else in the tank is doing fine - well, the females, who are both pregnant again, seem to be trying to watch over and protect him - but are eating and swimming. I don't know how old he was when I bought him in October.  I read that swordtails only have a life expectancy of approximately two years.   <Yes... quite often> With as active as he has been constantly getting my two females pregnant, I fear he may have exhausted himself and be at the end of his life cycle.  My two females are always pregnant and giving birth.  I have given away baby swords and even have another 10 gallon tank with his little ones. <Neat!> I keep a very clean tank and constantly watch all of my levels and everything is great in the tank right now.  I have (knock on wood) been having a very nice run with fish health until my male now acting ill. I am contemplating setting up a hospital tank with water from the main tank, but don't want to stress him out even more by chasing him around with the net and moving him.  It is an extra 3 gallon tank that was my goldfish's first home - but has since been cleaned and put in storage.  I have also read about euthanizing sick fish so they don't have to suffer.  I do not want him to suffer, but am not absolutely positive that there is not something that I can do for him to get him well. <Mmm, I share your concern/s here... I would leave this male in place, and hope for a spontaneous recovery... does happen> I know that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible to diagnose through email, but any advise or words of wisdom will be greatly appreciated.  You are always so helpful!  Thank you for anything you can tell me. Sincerely, Mary Huddleston Waxman <Considering your report of the good health of the other fish of the same species, their reproduction, your diligence in providing good care, I do suspect that simple "old age", senescence may be at play here. However, I assure you this fish is not suffering... and I would do as stated at this point. Bob Fenner>

Re: Male Marigold Swordtail   3/29/07 Dear Bob, <Mary> Thank you for your advise! <Advice> The male very rapidly came up to the top of the tank this morning when I turned on the tank light, and then went right back down to the bottom again and wedged himself between some of the arms of my anemone. <?>   As soon as I put the food in the tank he came up rapidly again, grabbed a piece of food <Good> and then went right back to the bottom and into the opening at the bottom of the castle.  This is the first time I have seen him eat in two days.  He seems to be trying to live, so I will leave him where and hope for the best. Again thank you so very much for your advise and wisdom!! Sincerely, Mary Huddleston Waxman <Welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

Swordtail Missing Scales   2/3/07 Good evening Mr. Fenner, <Linda> My husband and I set up a 50g tank a couple of weeks ago.  Apparently the test strips we were using weren't  accurate, <Mmm, no, these are not> because when I bought the API reagents test kit, my levels were totally different.  Our ammonia was over 1ppm after a 30% water change. <Toxic...> The dealer suggested we do a 70% water change and replace the gravel. <... why didn't this same dealer dissuade you from placing life in this too-new system?> We did.  This entire process occurred last weekend, and stressed out my fish.  My male swordtail jumped out. He is now swimming like nothing happened.  Except for the fact that part of his swordtail fell off. <...> We have 4 Zebra Danios, 3 Swordtails (1m/2F), 5 Red minor tetra.  Everyone except for the Red female Swordtail has been doing well. She has a spot on her side that looks discolored (whitish) and broken scales. I have seen her hiding but not rubbing.  The dealer told me to treat with Maracyn Two. I started treatment on Monday and I am not seeing any changes.  My water levels are 7.2 pH, Ammonia .25, Nitrates O. My dealer suggested treating with Maracide. <... why?> I would appreciate any suggestions.  I am still learning the signs and symptoms of fish illness.  Have you written books on freshwater aquariums that might help us? <None that are in print... thank you for asking. But sections of the equivalent works are posted as "articles" on WWM for all's perusal>   My husband thinks that I am trying to "apply my new nursing skills" to  the fish. He thinks I am over reacting. <I don't think you are over-reacting, and am very glad to realize you have such skills and are applying them> Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Linda Davis <At this juncture I would dis-continue the use of the Minocycline, all "medicines" and simply do your best to maintain stable, ideal conditions... No more livestock and sparse feeding till your system totally cycles (no discernible ammonia). Bob Fenner>

Dead Lyretail Swordtail   1/15/07 Hello WWM Crew. <<Hello, Chris. Tom here.>> Sadly, I just lost a battle against an unknown assailant on one of my two lyretail swordtails. <<Sorry to hear this, Chris.>> I have a 20 gallon tank that has been setup for approximately 2 months. First, the specs: Nitrates : <10ppm Nitrites : <1ppm <<Nitrites need to be undetectable, Chris. Shoot for 0 ppm as with the ammonia.>> Ammonia  : 0 PH       : 6.9 Temp     : 78.7 As I am fairly new to this. I am unsure what other specs you may need. According to the water test I had done at the LFS, my water is pretty soft. Anyways, onto the problem. The tank currently houses 1 Rainbow Shark, 5 Bala Sharks, 8 Zebra Danios, 2 Whiptail Catfish, and was home to 2 lyretail swordtails (1 now deceased). The tank is running an Aquaclear 70 filter http://www.animalworldnetwork.com/aq3pofi110v.html a 150w heater, and a power jet with the air valve on it for O2 saturation. <<Chris, the Danios, Catfish and Swordtails can probably get along pretty well in a 20-gallon tank. The Rainbow Shark might get a bit territorial/aggressive in a smallish tank like this or, it might leave its tank mates be. (A little finger-crossing might be in order.) The Bala Sharks, however, require a tank much larger than the size of the one you have. Their adult size is 12+ inches and, as you might guess, they require plenty of swimming space.>> I came home this afternoon to see one of the lyretails floating on the bottom with a white mouth that looks almost like cotton. I immediately removed him/her from the tank into quarantine, using water from the aquarium it had been in, to prevent stressing the fish (it was coming up on time for a partial water change anyways). Some research on this site brought me to believe it was "Columnaris, Fungus | Mouth Fungus; appears as white or gray fluff on the mouth | Improved water quality, malachite, formalin, sulfa drugs" so I treated it with malachite at a mix of 0.07 ppm. <<From what youve described, Columnaris was the right call. Highly contagious, however, so youll need to keep a very close eye on the others.>> The fish seemed like it was stable, so I left it as it was and waited to see if things improved. 30 minutes later, I realized it's gills had stopped moving, so I went to scoop it out of the quarantine, and it swam away. 45 minutes later, it was pronounced dead and put into a test tube for a post-humous inspection by someone who knows whats going on. In the meantime, I figured I'd see if any of you highly skilled folks have any opinions. <<Other than already confirming your suspicions Id add that this may have been brought on by one, or more, issues. First, you may have had a male/female pair of Swordtails in which case the male may have stressed the female with his advances. Always better with livebearers to keep the ratio at one male per three-four females. Spreads out the often unwanted attention. Second, regardless of the current sizes of your fish, you still have too many fish in a 20-gallon tank. 18 fish in a 20-gallon is simply too many to house with any margin of safety for all concerned. Last, I would return to the Rainbow Shark who might already have been displaying aggressive or territorial behavior toward the lost fish. Difficult to know with any degree of certainty but something stressed your Swordtail and brought on the infection. (As you now know, Columnaris is a bacterial rather than fungal infection, a primary infection, if you will. Fungal infections are almost always secondary in nature, i.e. they follow some type of trauma to the fish whether from disease or injury.)>> I was checking the other fish to see if it might have spread, and none of the other fish show signs, but one of the zebra danios looks like it's tail is kind of shredded, and the rear 1/3 of it is almost white. Is this a symptom of the same thing? <<Almost certainly not, Chris. Sounds like some fin-nipping going on to me. Should heal up on its own with good water conditions but keep an eye on this to make sure the condition doesnt worsen.>> Any assistance is appreciated. WWM is now one of my first responders for my aquarium issues/advice. <<Glad to know were there for you, Chris.>> Keep up the good work, Chris <<As always, well do our best. Ill keep my own fingers crossed that this is the end of your problems. (Keep an upgrade in tank size for the Balas in mind, too.) Best regards. Tom>>

Possible Sick Swordtail  12/4/07 Hi <Hello> About a month ago I had gotten A red-orange hi-fin  swordtail, and it was always fine swimming and eating, now today when I had just  added some very nice show guppies.  <Ok> I had noticed on it's back fin two very small white dots, but they were not well like how ich is usually like a  white pimple they are just these fine white little dots.  <On the sword or guppy, either way not good.> and I have also noticed she goes up to the side of the tank and goes up and down almost like it is rubbing against the glass. <Not an uncommon behavior.>  Now it eats though and everything. <Good>  Now I do not know if this is ich if it is well I do not know, because I have way too many  nice fish for them to die over one fish. <Sounds like it very well could be ich, but tough to say for sure.  If so the rest of the tank is already infected.  Need to watch closely, and be ready to treat.  In the future QT your fish to avoid this situation.> Thanks  Louis~ <Chris>

White patches on Red Lyretail Swords  - 12/12/06 I have a question. I am somewhat of a newbie.. <Geez... I guess I'm coming to consider myself somewhat of an "oldbie"> We have a 48 gal community tank. (our first) We have 2 Red Lyretail Swords, (1 large, 1 small, so am thinking 1 each sex) 1 Gourami (had another, but it died...) 2 Tiger Barbs, 2 algae eaters, 2 Corys, 2 danios, 2 'scissors', and 4 platies. We recently lost 1 Gourami.  After reading up, it seemed that we lost it to an Internal Bacterial Infection. <Very common> It lost all of its color on the dorsal side, then finally bloated up and died. Now, I've noticed on the larger lyretail that its starting the same thing. Its dorsal fin is clamped, and I've noticed a whitish patch forming a little on the dorsal fin, and underneath it.  (It doesn't seem to be ich, its seems more like a slimy look than actual dots that ich would look like) I'm getting worried. <Me too...> This fish used to be a little aggressive, but now its lost the aggression... it seems to be darting a little more than normal... but that could just be me not realizing what the fish has done before. Also, I've started so see this same 'slimy white discoloration patch' now starting on the side of the other sword. <Oh....> We checked with the local shop - to no avail. They mentioned to try some MelaFix <... no> along with some aquarium salt. <The Corydoras don't like much salt...> Also, We raised the temp up to 80 Tested the water, and everything seems to be fine. They're all eating just fine. (Tetra flakes along with minikrill as a treat every so often) I've also heard of scraping out the inside of a pea - and use this as a laxative every so often - I plan on trying this soon. What could this sword have? (The wife is getting stressed out - from the sick fish!) Thanks Jason <I strongly suspect you have a case of "Columnaris" disease... brought in with the Gourami/s... Please see WWM, the Net... Quick! And prepare to treat the system aggressively with an antibiotic and/or copper compound... Bob Fenner>

Swordtails ... dis.? Beh.    11/28/06 Hi, I love your site. Anyways I got some swordtails from my LFS and I got 2 males and 3 females. Anyways they seem to have been settling in good, (for the past 3 hours I've had them) and I've noticed that one of the females is just sitting by the bottom. It is mostly black so I cannot tell if it is pregnant by looking for the fry's eyes. Are there any other signs? <See WWM re> Its fins towards its head (kind of look like arms) are moving pretty fast. Another question, all of my swordtails are staying towards the bottom of the tank, <This from likely just being new... recovering from transport, new surroundings... acclimation> I have a Gourami that likes to stay near the top, could it be the Gourami pushing them down? <Possibly, but doubtful> Also I have 2  yo-yo loaches patrolling the bottom, could those get aggressive towards the swordtails too? <Good question/s... but not likely here either> Thanks in advance, Tommy <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Injured Swordtail  11/24/06 Hello there, your website is very helpful indeed. Thank you for running such site.  <Thanks for using it.> I have 1 male swordtail, 6 female swordtails, 1 male molly and 2 female mollies in a 20 g water tank. I have one question regarding my smallest (1.2 inches) female swordtail who got an injury on her head when she got stuck between the water tank wall and breeding net. What shall I do with her? Shall I isolate her? How can I cure her injury? Thanks in advance Best, Tsogt <If she is getting picked on, not eating, or otherwise in poor health I would separate her to another tank where a broad based antibiotic can be administered if she begins to show signed of infection.  Otherwise just keep her feed and the water quality high and hopefully she will recover.> <Chris>

Injured Swordtail Part II 11/24/06 Thank you for your answer. Unfortunately, the poor sword died tonight (in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia).  <Sorry to hear.> Anyway, she was living in misery under constant harassment by other bigger swords. May her live a peaceful and happy second life. I have several other questions. 1. Can I feed my swords and mollies with "freeze dryness shrimps" (after grinding them with my fingers)?  <Can be used along with other quality foods, variety is the key.> 2. One of my swords and one of my mollies gave birth one month ago. I managed to have more than 50 sword fry and 3 molly fry. But after three weeks my baby swords started to die one by one (only weak ones have been dying). I have lost 18 of them so far. Is it normal to lose one third of one batch within one month? It is the first birth the female sword gave.  <Not uncommon.> 3. One of the 3 molly fry started swimming backward and can't reach the surface (the fry are kept in a 8 g tank). So, I separated him/her in a small 1 g tank with shallow water to make it easier for him/her to feed. What else shall I do?  <Not much else, sounds like it could be a genetic problem which would not be treatable.> Thank you in advance and best wishes. Tsogt <Chris>

Weird lumps on a swordtail under the scales  9/15/06 Hello, I'd just like to say in advance how much your site has helped me, I've spent hours some days reading through other's emails. <Glad this has helped> I've tried searching around for this problem but the search terms are kind of vague and I get hundreds of thousands of results. I bought a new velvet wag swordtail the other day who looked very healthy at the LFS, the past few weeks weren't good ones for their sword shipments. <Oh for the days when "local folks" used to supply most all such livebearers... the "product" from overseas (most now come from the Far East) are too often "forced" to produce more apparent males... in poor health, parasitized... and die easily> So I got her home and put her in my isolation tank (5gallon eclipse) and immediately put a dose of Maracyn two and MelaFix in the water to stave off any fin rot which every fish I buy seems to get, even with brand new equipment. A few hours later she had a lump under her scales which caused about 3 rows of scales to protrude dropsy style. She had no other signs of illness, she's very active and eats and passes the food on a regular basis, no clamped fins and no hanging at the surface. A few days later the scales started to subside but now she has one on the right side of her head, same deal, 3 or 4 rows of scales protruding dropsy style but now she's starting to sit around with her fins clamped. She's not hanging at the surface but she is remaining stationary for long periods of time near the surface and she's not trying to hide or anything. Any ideas what this could be? Thanks! <Could be a few things... but from the description of raised scales and timing... I fully suspect "Anchorworm" (Lernaea)... or the beginnings of same. This (and happily quite a few other parasites) can be treated with organophosphate-containing remedies. Please search the Net/WWM with these terms. Bob Fenner> New to Fishkeeping and having some problems... Swordtail systems, health, Electric Catfish... generally   6/24/06 Hi there... While I've been around fish of and on all my life (I'm 24 now.. heh), this is my first fishtank and I'm struggling a bit. I've done a LOT of reading here online and am continuing to do so. I've heard a lot of conflicting information however and well... I'm confused. <Soon to be less so> My tank is a 20g. Long. I use a Penguin 150 BioWheel for filtration at one end and have one medium sized airstone at the opposite end of tank. My ammonia and Nitrite is <are> at 0. I'm uncertain what my Nitrate is at as I don't have a test for it. I have a automatic ammonia monitor in the tank at all times. <These are notoriously inaccurate> PH is at approx. 7.6 . I say approx. 7.6 as the only PH test I have at the moment is a low level test. My tap water is naturally hard. When tested with the low level PH test, my tap water turns a color far darker than the color shown for 7.6 (the max. shown on the table). I added salt to my tank after it finished cycling...1 TBSP per Gallon however I haven't added anymore salt since then. I fishless cycled for two weeks with the use of Cycle and fish food to aid bacteria growth. My tank has had fish in for nearly 2 months now. This tank is for swordtails only so I wasn't sure they needed the salt. <Mmm, can tolerate a moderate amount. Don't need per se... but most Xiphophorus species do better in hard, alkaline water> I use only artificial plants as I don't have a green thumb and am afraid of messing with live plants...lol. I do a 25% water change EVERY week and DeChlor the replacement water with 2 drops per gallon of instant DeChlor. I also use Cycle in my filter once a week. Water temperature is right at approx. 78 degrees Fahrenheit . I feed a combination of food at the moment. I feed the following: *Pro-Balance Tropical Color Flakes *Tetra Color Flakes *Tetra Min Flakes *Tetra Spirulina Flakes *Bio Blend Color Enhancing sinking pellets After my existing food supply is diminished I will be feeding only the three Tetra products. I do have questions about a new food my LFS just got in stock however. My first fish in this tank were three red velvet females and a red velvet male. They were doing great for the first couple weeks and then trouble struck. Well I can't really say they were doing great as they flicked off the heater from Day 1. The male also flicked against a pot I have in the tank for them to hide in. There were no signs of ick however...no white specks. One of the females became somewhat bloated. She was pregnant so it made her look very very pregnant. She did not have any pineconing so I doubt it was dropsy. Her eyes were a bit bugged out and towards the end she began whirling. By whirling I mean she swam in circles aimlessly.. bumping into everything. Up until the time she began whirling she ate great. She never clamped her fins at all either, at all. She had her fins up even while I was putting her down. Shortly after she died I noticed that both other females and the male had thin white stringy feces. <Mmm, likely internal parasites...> One of the other females died before I could treat the tank for parasites (which I assumed them had). I just found her dead one morning. The last female died during treatment and the male died shortly after treatment ended. The last female had spent her last couple days with clamped fins, refusing to eat and laying at the bottom of the tank. The male was a surprise as he had been acting okay other than continuing to flick off of the pot. I had used Jungle Brand Parasite Clear Tank Buddies. I also noticed a growth of brownish algae on some of my plants and on the pot. <Evidence of complete cycling> After all of my first fish passed away I got a new trio. A brick red female, a red velvet female and a red wag male. These three came from a different LFS then my first did. I've had them for approx. 3 weeks or so now. All three of these fish exhibited the same thin, white, stringy feces as my first fish did so I made the decision to treat the tank again. <The tank/system itself is parasitized...> I used the tank buddies again. <Brand name... need the active ingredients listed> I did two doses over the course of four days with a 25% water change in between and a 25% water change afterwards. The brick red female went off feed during the second dose and continued refusing to eat afterwards. She did a lot of sulking at the bottom of the tank or up at the corner of the tank with her fins clamped. Her last day she was covered in a thick white film of what I assume was mucus...this film lasted a couple hours and then disappeared. Later on that evening I found her dead near one of the plants in the tank. This was approx. 1 week ago. Today I noticed my red velvet female is doing a lot of hiding at the bottom of her tank. The area between her eyes is slightly raised up...she looks like she's trying to become a rhino.....kinda. She also has some strange 'growth' or 'flakiness' to her left side of her face. It's almost like the scales are kinda lifted or something...it's hard to explain. I have seen her scrape herself on the pot and gravel a couple times over the past two weeks but its so infrequent that I attributed it to her pregnancy. Both male and female still have thin, white, stringy feces. Both are still eating extremely well. The male is still swimming around very active with fins up. The female also has her fins up but recently has begun swimming around with them somewhat clamped which is out of character.  She does have her fins up while she's 'resting' at the bottom of the tank however.  which is out of character for her. Both male and female have still been flicking on the pot on infrequent occasion. Still no signs of ick however.  The last week or so the male has been heavily harassing her trying to breed with her. Soon as payday comes I intend to get a few more females so he'll knock it off deeming the tank doesn't have anything infectious in it.. I also plan on getting some more plants for the girls and inevitable fry to hide in. Anyhow.. my questions... 1)Whats up with my fish? What's causing the white, stringy feces? <Lack of quarantine, bunk initial quality, parasites, parasitized system> 2)Do you know anything about New Life fish foods? <Yes. The owner, Pablo Tepoot is an old friend... have visited with him re for many hours> I thought of using their Tropical Fish pellets and Thera-A flakes <Wouldn't hurt> 3)Is my PH too high for my swords? Could that be the problem? <Not too high, not a problem> 4)Should my swordtails have salt in the tank? How much? <No more than what you've placed> 5)Are my fish getting an inadequate diet? Could that be causing my problems? <Could be a factor... need more "greens", fresh foods> 6)Is it possible the my tanks still cycling and this is new tank syndrome even despite my lack of ammonia? <Yes... likely the "Cycle" did little, is doing little... until the appearance of the "brown algae", likely the tank was not cycled> 7)If this is an illness what are some natural cures that could be used to treat them?  Colloidal Silver, Salt, PimaFix/MelaFix, Garlic, etc.  Would any of those have an effect. <None I would use/seek> I'm leery of commercial medications. 8)Any suggestions, comments or concerns please...I want to do good by my remaining fish. <... Please read WWM re FW Fish Disease...> I also have a three to four inch female electric catfish. <!? Not in the same tank?> She's currently eating frozen beef heart produced by AquaYums. She also eats Ghost Shrimp. I know a 10g. <Oh...> is not adequate for her... <Malapterurus... grow to how many feet in length?> she'll be upgrading soon. As with my swordtail tank her water parameters are normal.  She too gets weekly 25% water changes.  She has a corner sponge filter that stated it was capable of filtering either a 20 or 25g.  Anyhow.. is her diet adequate? <No> She's been getting fed every other day. Should she be fed more frequently? Less frequently? <Every other day is fine> Information on Electric cats dietary needs here on the net is pretty vague thus far.   Also...this gal's got sand as a substrate. Frequently she'll have crumbs left behind from her meals and won't clean them up.   Normally I just siphon them out if she's due for a water change.   Any tips on keeping the sand cleaned?  This is the first time I've had sand as a substrate. Thanks greatly for any advice you can give me. Sincerely, Heather <Where to really start here... Nowadays many Swordtails are imported from outside the U.S. (not too many decades ago, most were raised in Florida, even by local hobbyists through-out the U.S.)... These imported livebearers often have real troubles (as you've found)... and would be best treated by their respective importers, wholesale distributors before being sent further (this is exceedingly rare). Your system should now be treated with Metronidazole/Flagyl (see WWM re)... The Electric Cat, please see Fishbase.org re as well as the scant coverage on WWM. Lastly, do read the "Swordtail FAQs" files archived on WWM... Bob Fenner> Swordtails in bad shape   3/25/06 Good Friday everyone, <Am behind a day... already!> I have recently returned from Spring Break, only to find that my tank is in bad shape. I have a 29 gallon tank that I cycled with Bio-Spira a few weeks ago and had been keeping six zebra danios as cycling fish. A week before Spring Break, I decided to buy six Pineapple Swordtails, 2 males, 1 female. Within a few days of purchasing the swordtails, one of the females had died, although I'm not at all certain what the cause was, as all of my chemical levels were normal. After removing the dead fish, I continued to monitor ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate; the first two were at 0 ppm, while the third was around 20 ppm. I went on vacation for a week, putting in a vacation feeder tablet from Top Fin, and had performed a 25 percent change to bring down the nitrates before I left. <Sounds good> I had thought I had done everything properly, but imagine my horror when I returned to find the remains of the tail-ends of two of the swordtail females. I checked the nitrate levels, and they were in the 20-40 ppm range (unfortunately, the test kit isn't any more specific than that). I was going to do a water change the next day when I noticed that the three remaining swordtails had all developed ich! I was going to go out to the local fish store to get some ich medication, but I got snowed in for two days during that freakish winter weather we had in Nebraska this week, so I had to wait until this Wednesday. <Could raise temperature, add salt/s in the meanwhile...> I purchased CopperSafe and some aquarium salt, did a 50 percent (15 gallon) water change, and then added the medication and the salt. I normally keep my tank around 79 or 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I tested the chemical levels of the tank a couple of hours after the change, and the levels were .50 ppm ammonia, .25 ppm nitrite, and 5 ppm nitrate. As of today, the levels have changed to 0 ppm ammonia, less than .25 ppm nitrite (again, the kit isn't any more specific because it goes from 0 to .25), and between 5 and 10 ppm nitrate. <Might be time for better test kits...> The danios are all acting normally and do not show any outward signs of an ich infection. The swordtails, however, still have the white spores all over. Since I did the water change, they have either been at the surface in a corner, or resting down at the bottom, occasionally breathing rapidly. Is this a side effect of the medication? <Easily so. BTW, I'd treat these fishes for ich with Malachite Green, not copper-based med.s> And why did the levels of ammonia and nitrite go up after the water change, only to drop so quickly once more? <Temporarily sub-tended nitrification> In an ideal situation, I would have taken care of this immediately, but there was no way for me to get to a store to get the medication. This is the very first tank that I've ever owned, and I'm rather disappointed that it spiraled out of control so quickly, but I'm sure there's something I could have done. <Mmm... lesson learned or perhaps to be solidified in your conscious here... To quarantine new purchased livestock... and/or only buy when you can/will be about to carefully observe...> Because only those small sections of the fish that died over the vacation were left, I have no idea what killed them. Is it possible that I just got a bad batch of fish from PetSmart? <Yes... this is highly likely the larger/est cause here> How long should I wait before purchasing more fish to replace those that I lost? <A few weeks> Any help that you could offer on these matters would be most welcome, as I'd really like to be able to prevent these problems in the future. One thing I've learned, people aren't kidding when they say you should set up a quarantine tank, <Ahh!> but living in a dorm on campus doesn't make that an ideal situation. I'll just have to figure out some way to do it to prevent a tank-wide outbreak. <A small tank in a corner will do here...> Thanks in advance, Ivan St. John <Robert M. Fenner> Red Female Sword Tail  - 03/05/06 Greetings from Jacksonville, NC to the WWM Crew,   I have been an Aquarithusiast now for about two years or so.  I have dealt with several fish illnesses and deaths, sometimes to no avail.  I have a Female Red Sword Tail that I received for Valentine's day from my family.  She came with another female (died within days was skinned when I found her) and two small frogs.  I have about 79 young Guppy Fry, 3 Adult Male Guppies and 2 Female Adult Guppies.  One 5 to 7 inch Plecostomus, 1 Male Red Sword Tail, a Blue Tetra, and two Pink Tetra's.  21 Gal. Tank, Monthly water changes at 50% or more often when water tests show signs of need.   <Better by far to make smaller changes weekly...> This has kept my tank healthy for the better part of two years.  Yesterday my new Female Red Swordtail (FRS) started swimming in spirals.  I immediately placed her in a small tank with a minimal amount of water to isolate her as I do not have a hospital tank set up.  I have searched for the definition of "whirling disease" to no avail.  She is able to move all of her fins, she seems to be eating when I give her flake food.  Her body seems to be frozen in a curved position to the right side of her body.  NO2 = 0, NO3 = 160 <This is your problem... the fish/es are being poisoned> (bad, doing water change and adding NitraZorb to filter), pH = 8.3 and NH3/NH4 = 0.  Don't think that Nitrate issue is FRS issue.   <Is> What does WWM think and should I keep FRS quarantined until symptoms subside? Thanks, Wayne <Nope. Fix your water quality. See WWM re nitrates... Bob Fenner>

Re: Red Female Sword Tail   03/07/06 Thanks for your response, <Welcome>   I made a blunder in my terminology and stated that I was adding Nitrazorb to the filter.  What I was adding was Carbon and Zeolite granules" without mentioning any specific brands.  I apologize for the inaccurate terminology. <No worries. I understood/stand> My nitrates have dropped down to below 10 ppm.  My FRS is only getting worse it seems. <Mmm, such "challenges" take a "while" (weeks) to resolve, post fixing the environment> She is now lying on her side and just barely moving her fins.  I am afraid that I am going to lose her.  I just found a very informative site that gave me the symptoms of Whirling Disease i.e....(Symptoms:  Loss of equilibrium, Swims in a whirling motion, Bodily deformations, Nodules and boils appear on body, Dark coloration on posterior third of fish).  This is obviously not what my FRS has, however, getting the Nitrates down does not seem to be helping either. <Takes... time> I believe that it may be time to Euthanasia her, I sure hate to, but she just seems to be in dire striates at this point. Thanks for your assistance and such a great site.  I use it for research regularly. Wayne <Uhh, don't be so hasty... Bob Fenner>

Re: Red Female Sword Tail   3/24/06 Just an update,  FRS is now back to full health.  She has been removed from the nursing tank and is doing fine.  I will be getting her some friends soon enough.  I appreciate all your help and motivation to keep FRS and not to Euthanize her.  You all are awesome. <Welcome> Took the Tetra's that attacked the two Male Sword tails back to the fish store and used the credit to buy Hermit crab food for my daughter's buddy "Hermie". Thanks, Wayne <Congratulations on your success, life lessons. Bob Fenner> Swordtail and whirling disease - 2/28/2006 I just bought a swordtail about a week ago only to discover that she was pregnant.  She had the fry last night and most of today I have noticed that she has been acting strange.  She has been swimming as if she is chasing her tail or like she is spinning.  Her tail had turned black by this point.  She eventually died a couple of hours later.  The fry are still in the same tank.  Do I need to treat them or will they eventually come down with the whirling disease also? <Mmm, depends on the cause mainly. Impossible to state from here> Is there anyway to clean the tank to prevent further spread to future fish? <If indeed the root cause is/was bacterial, perhaps... I would not "jump" to this conclusion> It is a 10 gallon tank that it happened in and the only fish in it is the fry and the swordtail.  Any help is appreciated.  Steph <I would raise the young as if "nothing had happened" here. Bob Fenner>

Dying Sword Fry (Sorry if I just sent you the beginning of an email. I had an 18 month old helping...lol.) OK, lets try this again. I have 1 male and 1 female red velvet swordtails. (along with mollies, platies, barbs, killies, danios and 1 albino rainbow shark) I've had the tank (33g) up and running for about 3 months. The female swordtail had babies about 3 weeks after we got the pair. I separated the mom after seeing her give birth to a few fry. She had 6 more in the v-breeder (one of which she ate before it dropped to safety). That left us with 5 adorable little ones. Anyway, They were all fine for a few weeks in the v-breeder. Mom had been moved back to the community and the (v) had been removed from the breeder. I didn't feel there was enough water flow in the breeder so I purchased a net breeder and placed the fry in that. After about 2/3 weeks 2 fry died within a couple days of each other. They were approx. 5-6 weeks old at the time and seemed happy and healthy. Then everything seemed fine for a couple of weeks. As of last week, at approx 8/9 weeks of age, I've lost 2 more a day apart from each other. I'm left with one lonely little baby. What could be going on? <Perhaps "just" weak young... the first few batches often have trouble> I'm feeding finely ground flakes. I don't want my last one to die but I don't know what happened to the others. I also have found stray fry swimming around my tank and have put them in other breeders and don't want them to meet the same fate. They aren't swordtails though. They seem to be 4 platies and 1 Dalmatian molly. Can you help save my babies? Thanks so much! Kristy <Be careful re moving too-pregnant females... do make just small (ten percent or so) water changes in the fry tank... and keep otherwise doing what you are and you'll be fine. Bob Fenner>

Unexplained Swordtail Deaths 10/18/05 Hi there.  <Hey, Mike G here.> I am a 4th grade teacher, and my classroom has just set up an aquarium.  <Wonderful educational tool!> We have the proper filtration, heat (about 80 degrees) <A bit high - aim for 76-78F.> PH balance- everything. We started with 3 swordtails (2 females and a male), and in just six days the two females have died.  <Harassment?> The male seems okay, though he is sticking to one area in the aquarium near the heater.  <Never a good sign.> Any ideas about what might be causing this?  <Not without more info re: tank parameters, maintenance regimen, how long the tank's been established, etc. If I were to hazard a guess, it would be that your nitrogenous waste content is too high - do check your ammonia, nitrite, nitrate. Ideal ranges are 0, 0, 0 (ppm), but <20ppm is acceptable for the nitrates. Good luck!> I am afraid to get more fish, but I just can't figure out what might be wrong with the tank. Sarah Brown <Mike G> 

Re: Unexplained Swordtail Deaths  10/19/05 It's a 29 gallon tank, it's been set up for 8 days- 2 days without fish, six days with.   <I'm tempted to stay with my original guess of high ammonia/nitrite...> All my levels are 0.   <...but apparently, I guessed wrong.> I am following a book (the simple guide to freshwater aquariums by David Boruchowitz) and cycling the tank with just those three fish.   <Sounds good so far.> They didn't seem to be harassed at all.  I did have the heat at around 76, but because the one lone fish was hanging out by the heater I thought he might want it warmer.  I'll turn it back down.   <I believe it could be ich or another similar parasitic disease that took advantage of the stressed fish (from the journey, to new tank, fluctuating levels) and got 'em that way.> There's not much to say about maintenance regimen since we just set up the tank.  Thanks for your quick response! <You're welcome. Wish I could help more, most I can do with the info provided is take an educated guess. Best of luck! Mike G> Swordtail's tail damaged  11/14/05 Hello, <Hi there> I have a ten gallon tank with 3 red eye tetras, 2 danios, 1 Pleco and 1 Gourami. Several times I tried to add a swordtail 'couple' to my tank and the same thing happens each time: the female fish dies first, within 1 - 2 weeks. The male starts loosing its tail (the tip seems to 'die' and then falls off) and eventually the male fish dies as well. <Mmm, might be due to aggression (in part) from the Gourami... could be just poor initial quality of the Swords... perhaps water quality... they like hard, alkaline water of not too high temperature.> This has happened to me about three times. Meanwhile, my other fish are doing fine. I don't see any signs of aggression of the other fish towards the swordtails. Any suggestions? Thanks. <I would try another source for the Swordtails... and make sure they've had them on hand a week or more. Newly arrived livebearers are often "touchy". Bob Fenner> 

Mysterious swordtail disease   1/10/06 Robert,    I assume that's your name based upon your e-mail address...  I would greatly appreciate if you would be able shed some light upon my mysterious death of dozens of swordtail fish.  About a month ago, I added three catfish and a fresh water snail to a stable aquarium.  It seems as if they introduced some sort of disease that paralyses the fish. <Could be>   Their backs seem to start severely arching until the point they can no longer effectively swim.  I'm assuming this is some sort of paralysis...  I have a 30 gallon tank which had roughly 40 swordtail fish (orange & gold).  The fish began dying unexplainably and rapidly increased...  I noticed some sort of fungus growing on the aquarium rocks.  I assumed the two were connected and the fish were dying off quickly.  Thus, I started all over.  I replaced the rocks and soaked all remaining items in a 10:1 water to bleach solution.   Things seemed to be fine after two weeks.  However, I just noticed the fungus is returning, and we lost 2 fish in the last 6 days...  Any idea what is causing this, and what could remedy it?  Thanks a million for any input you could provide. Thanks again, Martin <There are some microbial infections that can produce the twisting backs, death (Myxosoma cerebralis is one)... likely the "fungus" growth is only secondarily related (nutrient from dead, dying fishes). There are antibiotic/antimicrobial remedies that can be tried... Nitrofuranace would be my first choice/try here... A bit late for this situation, I do encourage you to isolate/quarantine new livestock ahead of placing in ongoing systems. Much of this is covered on our site: WetWebMedia.com Bob Fenner> Salt Compatibility Hi crew <Greetings> I have some questions to ask...I have a female velvet swordtail and the coloration on her mouth alone is white.  Since the rest of her is a very rich dark orange color, it is very easy to spot this white patch.  It also looks a little flaky.  I also observed that a long almost transparent piece of stuff was coming out of her backside. Normally their feces is the color of the food they eat, so this looked quite strange.  She is fatter than usual, so I assume she might be pregnant.  Is this transparent stuff the beginning of her delivery possibly? And what is the stuff around her mouth. <She most likely is pregnant but the transparent feces and the white mouth are symptoms of a disease. Please read http://www/wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfshparasites.htm for more info.> My last question involves the use of aquarium salt.  I have a little Pleco, a Pimelodelid catfish, a Betta, 2 swordtails, 2 guppies, 2 Corys, and 3 zebra Danios who all get along peacefully.  Are all these fish salt compatible? <Youll need to do some research on these fish to find out their compatibility with salt. Do a search for each fish at http://www.wetwebmedia.com. http://www.fishbase.org also has a ton of info. You can also use your favorite search engine to search the web.> Thanks for your time. J.P. Luque <You're welcome. Ronni> Dying Female swords  Hi! I'm from Illinois. I've had 4 very pregnant neon swordtails die with out giving birth. They were in different community tanks at different times, so I can't blame one tank. I have eight more that pregnant swords, am I doing something wrong. They weren't in breeding cages.  Thank You, Pat  <<Hello Pat; yes, there are things you can do to help your swordtails. First is always to make sure the water quality is good. Good meaning low nitrate levels, zero ammonia and nitrites. If you don't own test kits, I recommend you buy some at your LFS. Test your water and keep logs of each weekly reading. Each tank is probably stocked a bit differently, so you will need to keep track of each tank separately in order to figure out which tank needs how many water changes per month/week. Next is to make sure you are feeding your fish proper nutrition. Do not overfeed! Females should have a high protein diet, supplemented with algae based foods. In other words, a balanced diet. Buy high quality foods, and feed interchangeably. They should be getting a good flake or pellet as a staple, with a protein content of 50%. Read the labels! Tetra Colorbits are a good choice. Also, get a good Spirulina based flake (make sure Spirulina is the first ingredient listed) and a few times a week you can also give frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, glassworms, etc etc.. Last by not least, make sure the females outnumber the males, three to one is good odds. They should have places to hide so the males cannot constantly harass the exhausted females. A heavily planted tank works well, either real or fake plants will do. Good luck! -Gwen>>

Dying Female Swords II  Thanks for your reply Gwen, Thanks for all your suggestions. I have always checked everything you mentioned. The only thing is I probably didn't have enough females at those times. I had a batch of a lot of males and then some late developers into males. Thank You, Pat  <<Hey Pat; good to hear. The problem with too many males is they tend to run the females literally to the point of exhaustion. Adding some more females will help. And yes, make sure you are not adding more juvenile males :P  -Gwen>>

A female swordtail with dropsy Hey Bob, I have a female orange swordtail that got pregnant. But then she came down with a case of dropsy, she's bloated and her scales are sticking out. I'm kinda new to these fish, but I did a little bit of research using your site (very helpful by the way) to find out that I need Furan compounds to cure her, but when I got to the pet store sites, I can't figure out where to get it. Can you please give me a suggestion? Thanks a bunch. Oh and also, another pineapple swordtail in the same tank got pregnant also and gave birth very successfully about two weeks ago, she had about sixty of them and so far the death toll has only been five! Thanks again!   < Dropsy or bloat is caused by stress. Water too hot, too cold, too dirty etc... Do a 30%v water change and clean the filter. I would recommend treating with Metronidazole and try that first. Look at the ingredients for the medications sold at the stores. They may have it under some commercial name. Nitrofurazone is sold under a few different names just check the ingredients once again.-Chuck. A female swordtail with dropsy Hey, I have another question regarding a large 80 gallon freshwater tank that was sold to me full of fish for $100 because they couldn't afford it anymore. It has a 17 and a half inch long red belly pacu, two Bala sharks (one nine inches and the other six) four five inch silver dollars, a couple of 2.5 inch Cory cats, a full grown giant Gourami, a full grown Plecostomus, and an 8 inch Jack Dempsey.  There were some injuries during the move that were unavoidable, the worst of witch happened to the silver dollars. We had them in a five gallon bucket and under all the stress they just beat the crap out of each other. They have flesh missing on their heads, fins missing here and there, and their eyes were injured and look like they have cataracts on them also, I think they may have hole in the head disease due to some large gaps above their eyes. I didn't know they could be that aggressive and to tell you the truth it wasn't my idea to put them in the bucket. I've been treating them with wide spectrum antibiotics to avoid any diseases, but I think one of them still got infected slightly. Is there anything I can really do about it? < Keep the water clean and use a water conditioner that contains additives for wound control.> Perhaps a more specific medicine, or a dose of Epsom salt? < Fishes from South America such as your Corys , Plecos and silver dollars really don't like any salt added to the water. If you see specific infections the I prefer to treat with Nitrofurazone drugs.> 's the most effective way to get rid of the hole in the head disease? They're beautiful fish, and they are still active and feeding. Please help! < Characins such as your silver dollars don't get hole in the head. That disease really likes to pick on cichlids. I suspect that what you are seeing is actually wounds from the rough transport so treat as if they were wounds.-Chuck> Strange Swordtail Behavior -Old or Sick? Hi there, Sorry to bother you but I am hoping you can help.  We have a mixed 15gal tank including some swordtails tetras and two clown loaches.  Recently the oldest of the swordtail females - (we have had her over a year and she is at least three inches long & full grown when we got her) - She has started acting very strangely and stopped eating. All the other fish in the tank look fine and eat and swim normally.  This one swims "frantically" around near the surface of the water with the top of her head just barely brushing the surface. I have not seen her eat anything for at least a week.  She has gotten very thin, but continues to swim despite apparent exhaustion which occasionally has her drift to the bottom for a "rest" period. She then returns to the surface and sticks her nose toward the air again.   We have both an internal Eheim filter (we live in the Netherlands so you may not know these brands) as well as some extra aeration via a bubble wand since the internal filter doesn't aerate. We have done two 25%-30% water changes in the last two weeks in case it was a water quality issue.  We have also tried treating with a locally available "broad spectrum" product "Exit" that claimed (in Dutch) to cure "most common fish ailments.   So if this is not simply old age. apparently it is an Uncommon ailment. I would like to know if this sounds like anything remotely curable. She just keeps getting skinnier and skinnier and she was so strong to last this long, but she is simply getting worse not better, but doesn't seem to want to die of old age....Any ideas? Thanks for any input! Laura < It sounds like an internal bacterial infection that may have been drought on by advanced age. In a clean warm quarantine tank I would try Metronidazole or a heavy dose of Furanace. You fish has been ill/weak for a while so it may not be strong enough for a triple dose of Furanace. So try a single dose and see if there is any effect.-Chuck>

(Not) Pregnant Swordtail Sorry if this has already been answered, but I have a swordtail who appears to be pregnant, and the scales are all standing out. Happened overnight - is this normal?  Thanks so much, appreciate your help as always! Pat <Not normal, not pregnant... Your Sword has a condition termed "dropsy". Please put this term in the search tool on www.WetWebMedia.com and read the links. Bob Fenner>

Swordtail with Single Spot I have a 55 gallon tank including a bunch of swordtails (started with 2 or 3 and they bred). Some of them are finally starting to develop swords. One in particular I noticed had a white spot where its sword was beginning to form. I immediately thought it might be Ick, but didn't remove it right away. The next day, the spot was almost completely gone. I wasn't sure what to think but didn't want to expose this fish to the shock of a isolation tank if there was nothing wrong with it, so I left him. A day or two later, I noticed the spot had returned. Once again, a day later it was gone. During this time, the tail has been growing steadily. Other than this spot, I have noticed nothing wrong with the fish. Its fins are not clamped, it swims around energetically with everyone else, there are no other spots anywhere on him, and there are no spots on any of my other fish. I'm wondering if this isn't just a normal thing that some swordtails do when they begin to develop their swords. Of course, if it is a problem, I need to get him out of there quick so I appreciate your opinion. Thank you. David <Might have been an injury or a little dead tissue. A single spot may or may not be Ick. Are the fish "flashing" against the bottom or rocks? If yes, or if you see any more spots, you need to treat before it gets out of control. Use salt. It's cheap, less stressful on the fish and 100% effective. Read here on it's proper use to kill Ick. http://www.aquariumadvice.com/showquestion.php?faq=2&fldAuto=32  Take note of the life cycle and treat for two weeks after the last spot drops. But I would hold off any treatment if that one spot is all you see. Pick up a test kit if you treat. Watch for ammonia spikes and do water changes to correct. Don>

Swordtail died...unsure why, carbon use Ok so about a month and a half ago I got a horrible flagellate (spelling) infestation in my tank. Along with some fungal infection.  <Mmm, might I ask how you could tell it was these organism groups?> I used both Maracyn 1 and 2 and Coppersafe. All by Mardel, all safe to use together. That got rid of the fungus but not the flagellates. So I went on to using Bowl Buddies Parasite Clear. That seemed to finally do it. I followed all the directions and continued the treatment for as long as it said to.  Three days ago I look in my tank and my female swordtail had egg infested poop. It was white with 1 to 2 millimeter grayish black eggs.  I thought, crap now I have to go out and get the medication again. When I got home from my LFS I noticed that this orangey reddish lump about 7 millimeters in diameter and 5 or 6 long with this 12 or so millimeter thread like thing on it. I had no have no idea what it was. Before I added the medication I went to consult my copy of Fish Diseases (the German translated one). Mine is really old like a first edition and didn't have anything that I could find on it. I looked through my other books and even called the specialty fish store 2 hours away consulting them. I found no solution.  When I went back upstairs to the tank to pondering what I should do I noticed the thing what ever it was, was gone. It wasn't on the bottom of the tank and wasn't anywhere. My only thought was, whatever it was its back inside of her. I wound up just adding some salt and waited to see if any other symptoms showed up. <This is what I would have done as well> None and this morning I found her dead. She was never stressed never any loss of color none of it. My three thoughts on it were: abortion, intestines, or her anus (to tough of a poop). I was hoping you could help me figure out what it was/ is. I was also wondering what are the chances it has spread to my other tanks since I use the some nets and siphons in all my tanks. <No clue... perhaps a biopsy, histological work-up might reveal something...> This is an unrelated question, but what does the charcoal do in the filters. When I add the charcoal to them I get pH and ammonia spikes even weeks to months later. When I just have the batting everything is fine. Is it a necessity that I add it to the filters? I've also never had problems with charcoal in the filters before and I have no idea what to do about it. <Carbons are variously effective as semi-selective filters (absorbents) for metals, some other cations, some organic molecules... as you state, they can significantly (and deleteriously) affect water quality... hence they should be used in small volumes/amounts and on a regular, though not too frequent time frame. Bob Fenner> 

Help! My Swordtail is sick! Hey, guys - We need some help - my daughters' Swordtail, Beyonce, seems to be sick, and I'm not sure what to do with her... We've had her for about 2 months. She had babies about 2 weeks ago, and has been acting and looking fine since then. However, this morning, she was lying at the bottom, near the filter intake, not moving... I nudged her, and she did move, to hide behind another item at the bottom of the tank. I put her in the breeding net we used for her last time, so I could get a better look at her - she seems to have lots of small, black spots on her back, as if she were dirty. She's alive, but really lethargic...  <Good descriptions, action> Can you give me some direction? By the way, the rest of our fish (about 20, including 2 other Swordtails)  seem to be fine, no changes. Water temp is about 75, pH 7.2, negligible  ammonia and nitrates... Thanks for any advice. <It may well be that this Swordtail is "just old"... the lethargy, spots point to this... But I would try to help it by adding a bit of Epsom salt to the tank's water (a level teaspoon per ten gallons) and not give up hope. Bob Fenner>

Swordtails, Bacterial Infections, Betta Fin Deterioration - 10/12/2005 Hi, I have 5 swordtails, 3 male and 2 female....I know, bad ratio...they were a gift, I didn't pick the sexes. One of the female swordtails has two large patches one on top her head and the other on the side of her head. When I look close at these areas, it looks as though the scales aren't there anymore, it looks fluffy.  <Sounds like a bacterial infection.... possibly Columnaris.> She also has one fin whose edge is white, I first thought fin rot, but am not sure.  <Likely related to the other problem(s) present on her.> So far I haven't seen any signs in my other swords. I also have a Betta and a Chinese butterfly sucker. The Betta has been a long time habitant of my tank, but I am noticing his tailfin is tattering on the ends, I was wondering if it was fin rot or aggressive swordtails?  <Perhaps either/or. Observe the swords for any aggression toward the Betta, but I fear this may be bacterial as well, related to the same problem as the female sword.> The swordtails are new and swim vigorously around the aquarium, so that is why I thought maybe they were picking at his fins. Thank you for any help you can give!! Tara <On top of this, be testing/maintaining water quality - keep ammonia and nitrite at ZERO, nitrate less than 20ppm, with water changes. Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Lumpy Swordtail - 09/21/2005 I have a male swordtail in a 20 gal tank.  I noticed a lump on his top of his body near the end of the top fin, and it appears to be getting bigger. I almost looks like a pimple that needs squeezed. I have 2 platy's, 2 female swordtails and another male swordtail in this tank as well. What is this? <Many possibilities, here; there's just not enough information to go off.  I would recommend that you look up information on lymphocystis, Columnaris, and mycobacteriosis for starters.> How can I treat it, and should I remove him from the community tank? <Well, without knowing exactly what you're looking at, my first caution to you is to test your water quality; maintain ammonia and nitrite at ZERO, and nitrate at less than 20ppm, with water changes.  From there, see if the fish improves, and again, look into those diseases above.> I would appreciate your help. Thank You,  -Kim Coursin <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

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