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Guppies slowly dying

29312 Views 32 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  RackinRocky
Hi all. This is my first post, so please correct me if it is in the wrong spot, etc.
I had 6 red albino guppies and one set of fry (about 13.) 3 adult male, 3 adult female. One morning I woke up and one male was dead. Hm, well, ok, I checked water parameters, and everything was ok except pH (more on that later), but couldn't figure out a cause. Didn't worry too much.
Next day, one of the other males started acting odd- hanging out at the bottom, hanging face down into plants, hiding in weird cramped spots. I kept an eye on him, but didn't know what to do. Then the third male showed the same signs! Lo and behold, they both died (so this is about 4 days after the first male.)
Now one of the adult females is also showing signs- floating sideways mostly. She can right herself for a while, but it's like it tires her out. And she won't bother swimming away from my hand if it gets near (obviously I don't do that much, I don't want to add stress.)
The fry have showed very few signs. I had two die this morning, but they are fragile in general, right? So again, not sure that's something to worry about. I've treated ich in a different tank in the past, and no signs of that. I suspect something is wrong with water parameters, so please help!
According to the quick read strips, nitrate=20ppm (I did a 20-25% water change as normal this weekend.) Nitrite=0ppm, Hardness=75ppm, chlorine=0ppm, alkalinity about 40ppm, and here's the real problem- ph=6.2 (or lower, because the test won't go any lower than that.) Ammonia is at 0ppm. Tank temp at about 70*F, 20 gallon that now has 11 guppy fry (in a breeder net), 3 female adult guppies, 8 mini cory catfish, 4 nickel to quarter size mystery snails, and a handful of live and plastic plants. Filter includes a sponge filter and a biological filter. Light is from a simple floor lamp that I have directed at the tank and doesn't appear to affect temp. It IS in front of a window that gets indirect sunlight, but I am very limited in that location because I have a studio apartment and there's not much space to move things around.
I have done everything I can think of to raise the pH, and I am afraid that messing with it will simply add stress. Previously, when everybody was ok, I saw the pH problem and tried to adjust with chemicals, but the change was only temporary (and hard to predict!) so I gave up. I added empty shells from some dead mystery snails, then some cuttlebone- no change. Tried almond leaves, no change. Seems like nothing I do helps. After testing the pH of my tap water (after a 24hr period of sitting out,) it's 7.6 (or higher, test won't go any higher!) That really confused me- I'm adding water that's slightly basic, but ending up with a tank that's slightly acidic??
My main questions are: Should I get a heater to increase the temp? (Temp may fluctuate over night, from 69.8*F-73*F during the day. I worry about this too, but this is also not new.) Is there any OTHER trick to raise pH? Is there anything I can do for the specific fish having trouble right now, and how can I prevent this from happening to the others? Does this sound like anything anyone else has seen before?
Thank you for any info. This is my third try with red albino guppies (I just think they are so beautiful) and I would hate to fail again. :/ Well, aside from that, I really hate to see them suffer. Can't think of anything new that I did to cause this! Help is appreciated, if you need more info just ask. (Also, are the albinos more sensitive than non-albinos? I seem to get that sense.)
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Firstly, hello and welcome to the forum :wave:

Sorry that you're dealing with fish losses :(

You should really get a heater that you can set to the temp that you want. Ideally around 75-80F. If you tell us the size of the tank, we can help with how many watts you'll need.

As for raising ph, you're right not to add chemicals. Like you said, they're short term fixes and can actually do more harm than good by causing rapid fluctuations. Guppies are tolerant of a pretty good ph range but keep in mind that the best ph is a steady ph.

Neutral is ideal at around 7.0 so you could put a small chunk of calciferous rock in there and test the ph on a weekly basis to make sure it doesn't raise it too much. The rock will also increase the hardness of the water in your tank but I think guppies prefer medium hard to hard water.
Thank you for the info! I wasn;t sure if adding a heater was "messing" with the setup too much. And upon further inspection just now, the guppy seems to have some jagged edges on her tail with some white- I'm assuming this is tail rot! :( I'm transferring to a hospital tank for treatment (the chemicals can be risky with the snails in there.) I have Pimafix antifungal fish remedy; that seems like it should work, right? (Assuming it's not too late.) I hope I didn't miss this for too long! But I don't remember the males having this symptom. I'll take your advice, thank you! Oh, and the tank is 20gal.
Oh, and I also have Lifeguard All-in-one treatment by Tetra.
Hmmmmm... are you sure that it's rot? How long have you noticed that frayed tail? Are there any aggressive nippers in the tank? Any chance that it could have gotten injured or snagged on an ornament or plastic plant?

Your water parameters aren't bad so can you tell us how often you change the water and how often?

As for treatment, add a little AQ salt to the hospital tank (dose per carton directions). It helps a bit with electrolytes and is a good immune system helper. And keep the water pristine. Unless you actually know that it's bacterial fin rot, I wouldn't throw any meds at it.

Can you perhaps get a picture of it and post it here? Are any of the other fish showing signs of fin rot?

As for the heater, you'll need 75-100w depending on how cold it gets in the winter where you are. Be sure to get one that you can adjust the temp on since the preset ones never seem to keep the water where you want it when the room temp is either too hot or too cold. Something like this would work well for you: : EHEIM Jager Aquarium Thermostat Heater 75W : Pet Supplies
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Hm, well, I guess I can't say I'm 100% sure it is fin rot (and I didn't see such symptoms on the ones that died.) There is one other who has a slightly frayed tail w/o white, which I also transferred to the hospital tank. It was very hard to take a picture, so I settled for the one with the white instead of trying to get both. It was the best I could get; but that white is not supposed to be there. It is normally red all the way out to the end of the fin. There really aren't any nippers in the tank- the mini cories are extremely shy and tiny, and the guppies are the only other thing in there. (Well, except snails, but I don't think that's the culprit LOL) Haven't seen any of the guppies not getting along, and there really aren't any sharp objects in the tank, like rocks or anything. I would be very surprised if that was the cause of the tail problem.
I do water changes once a week, about 20%. I will pick up some aquarium salt at the store on my way to work (working from home for a while here, but I'm going to have to leave soon.)
Thanks for the tip on the heater; I do have one that I'm not using, but it didn't help with fluctuations in temp (as you mentioned.)


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Fishy looks pretty bloated as well based on that picture. There could be a bacterial issue going on in the tank based on the fact that you have multiple deaths. It's really hard to know how to diagnose when the fish don't show the same symptoms.

I'm not familiar with the effectiveness of the Lifeguard - Pimafix might work out better. You might want to pick up a gram-negative bacterial medication as well like Furan, Triple Sulpha, Tetracycline to have on hand.

Hopefully someone else will chime in here with some more ideas soon.
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I suspect that she is a little big due to being pregnant; but I am not sure if bloating from illness is different from a big belly full of babies. Again, thank you for your suggestions.
I've added the Lifeguard- I have a friend who swears by it. It treats both fungal and at least some bacterial infections. Gotta try something, right? Waited on the others to get better and that didn't happen, so at least I'll be trying something.
And yes, anyone with other input is welcome!
Update: The guppy that was in serious trouble died by the time I got home. :/ I also lost 2 more fry, so now I'm down from 6 adults, 13 fry to 2 adults and 10 fry. Hope nothing else goes wrong... I have an aquarium meeting on Wednesday, I'll be able to ask for more advice then. But if anyone has ideas until then, let me know. SO FAR everybody looks ok, but I'm not confident things will stay that way.
OK, PLEASE HELP! Things have gotten critical. The babies are dying off- I've moved them to a different tank (what can it hurt?) I've removed the snails so that any medication won't hurt them.
The mini cories are ALSO showing signs of this disease or whatever it is! Kinda sitting on their side, not swimming away from my hand or stimuli. Clearly I need to treat this aggressively; it was bad enough losing all but one (so far) of my adult guppies, but to lose my mini cories too??? What is the best procedure? Heat the tank to a higher temp (what do you suggest? Current temp sits around 70*F) Add aquarium salt (according to carton directions?) Use an anti-bacterial agent? ( Furan, Triple Sulpha, Tetracycline were suggested above.) Can I do all three of these things or is that too much?
Please help! At first I thought the albino guppies were just too fragile and I must have done something wrong, but this is clearly throughout the tank. Since I don't see any spots on the remaining fish, or any torn fins, it makes me think bacterial, not fungal. Advice, please!
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firstly id like to say how sorry i am at seeing this .... lets try to get you on the right track.

1. Dump the quick read strips they are notoriously inaccurate unless kept in the right conditions, and god alone knows what that is!!!! Get some proper test kits ans do some proper reagent based testing that way you will knwo exactly whats happening in your tank.

2. Test the pH of the water straight from your tap.... know whats going into your tank... Guppies like to have a pH of 6.8-7.8. and often the tapwater is not too far from this. Stop messing with pH .... untill you have done some tests to see exactly what its at.... this messing will be causing fluctuations in the water chemistry adn that will lower a fishes immune system

3. it seems to me that there are a number of fluctuation factors which will be upsetting the apple cart here... and yes you should get a heater to stabilise the tank temperature. Set it to around 77F ... this is a good ambient temperature where the fish will be happiest.... being cold will destabilise their immune system and not help. The heater will be a thermostatic one, you practically cannot buy anything else for fish tanks these days, so will keep this temperature stable and not allow fluctuations.

4. Pima fix is a good basic level medication which can be trusted at low levels.... treat as per the instructions and see how it goes, my suspicion is that its not fungus you have there but a bacterial infection, however i think it might be worth getting a medication which contains malachite green... its a little more powerful and used correctly can be fantastic as a medication..... most of all dont over feed, infact for the next day or two...dont feed at all, and try to put some sort of light coloured paper on the side of the tank facing the sun to reduce glare... a lot of fish dont react well to glare at all... and this can be a stress factor. The light you are using is not necessary unless its needed to actually see the fish. However for now leave it off... dark can help to de-stress fish.

I hope this helps ... but just one question... how mature is the tank?

All the best, Bill
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Firstly, MANY, MANY, MANY thanks for your reply! :notworthy: I put everything into action IMMEDIATELY. Thankfully there were no deaths overnight (at least that I can see, the cories hide pretty well.
Using a liquid test kit, the pH is indeed at 7.0 and the ammonia is at 0ppm. I have yet to get a test kit for nitrate and nitrite. However, in answer to your question, the tank has been running for over 5 months now. In fact, I got the cories somewhere around november 2013. I moved around february, and all has been well since then (miracle they survived the move, IMO.) So the tank should be well cycled by this point.
I added the appropriate amount of pimafix, as you suggested, cut the lighting (you're right, it was mostly just so I could see them), and purchased a heater to change the temp. I have to wait a while according to the directions before I can put the heater into action, but I may start heating after I get back from my doc appt in about an hour. (I don't see how letting the heater sit for 24 hrs in a tank is supposed to improve the performance.)
Tap water, after a 24hr period, was 7.6pH, but that's as high as the test will go.
Again, thank you so much! I wasn't expecting this sudden turn in the entire tank! I will keep you updated on the progress.
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I don't know where to start...
First: how long did you have those guppies for? What is your substrate?
Who told you almond leaves raises pH?
Did you find out why tank pH is lower than tap?
What do you mean by "sponge filter and biological filter"
What decorations you have?
How did you clean de dead snail shell?
1.) I'd gotten 2 batches of the guppies separately. The first one I ordered gave me fry that were WAY too small and I ended up having only one survivor (a bit of false advertising there.) This is the one which is still alive, and has been in the tank for approx 2.5 months. I had the other guppies for a month plus 1 wk quarantine time (a little short, I know.) They were breeding, swimming throughout the tank, and acting totally normal. Again, the tank itself has been running for longer, and with fish that I have since transferred to other tanks. (Ex. 3 platies.) Substrate is your standard pet store aquarium gravel.
2.) I was just searching online for how to naturally raise the pH without chemicals and almond leaves came up. I didn't try it for more than a day or two because I thought it was weird and generally not working. This was back in... geez, I want to say March?
3.) No, I have never been able to figure out why the pH is so different, but I am open to suggestions. I have another tank that has lovely pH without any effort (same tap water, obviously.) I don't see myself doing anything differently between the two, so I've never been able to figure it out. I thought the bioload may have been too much previously with 6 guppies, 6 snails, 3 platies, and 8 mini cories. That's why I transferred out the platies and half of the snails. 6 guppies, 8 pygmy cories, and 3 snails seemed decent in a 20 gal lightly planted tank.
4.) Sponge filter and a bio filter... I'm not sure how else to explain. One filter in there is a sponge filter, and the other is a bio filter, which utilizes bio-material (such as bio balls- but mine uses the ceramic types.)
5.) Decorations? I'm not sure this is relevant. As I've said, the tank has been running fine for months until this occurred- nothing new has been added recently EXCEPT the sponge filter, but I have trouble believing that would be the cause. I have an air stone (another attempt to increase pH several months ago, which didn't really help, but now I like the added aeration.) There is a plastic plant designed for fry to hide in, which the cories love. There is also a handful of plants, such as christmas moss, chain sword, and two others that I can't remember the name of- I purchased them from a my aquarium club. There is also a pagoda- a decoration designed for aquariums, from the pet store,
6.) The snail shells didn't need to be cleaned. They had been naturally cleaned in the tank in which they died; from the other snails. (They are not wild snails. They are ones that I bred in house. Snails are designed to have lots of babies, but not all survive, so this is totally normal.) It's not like, a handful of random wild snail shells. Just one or so. I've done this before with no problems- the shell just slowly erodes, and adds a source of calcium for the other snails living in the tank. In fact, I have a shell or two present in two of my mini tanks without any ill effects.

The sponge filter is new- perhaps something was lurking on the sponge? But it was a brand new sponge from an aquarium store (again, DESIGNED for aquariums, and rinsed with warm water before being added.)

I'm not TOTALLY new to aquariums, but this IS the first slow-spreading, bacterial infection I've seen. I've successfully treated ich before, for example (What a pain in the ***!), as well as fungal disease on axolotls. I think something just got in the tank, as unfortunately tends to happen every once in a while.
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Here is my story with guppies. Few months back I decided to breed them (to feed them to my larger fish). I went to the fish store and purchased a bushy plastic plant for the fry to hide in. I soaked the plant for few days and I was surprised to see that the color was leaching. Rinsed water was greenish-yellow. How safe can that be?
Two days after adding the plastic plant into the tank, one guppy was found hidden, stuck in the plant. It died. Next day, another one was floating, recovered, but later died. A third was between the sponge filter and aquarium glass (hidden in cramped space, like you described) dead. I found it strange that even though they were dead, the color was still good on their body.
I did not suspect bacteria or nitrogen cycle. I removed the plastic plant, change 80% water, add some calcium carbonate powder and all is good now.
I am not sure my story has anything in common with yours, even if fish died in very similar way. My idea is that changes in pH could affect solubility of certain chemicals. It is probably one of the reason why stable pH is safer than a fluctuating one.
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Hi again,
Just a couple of observations based on what you have commented ...
1. The reason your tank is mor acidic than the tap water maybe due to a lack of correct maintenance... Organic matter when allowed to decompose in the tank will make it more acidic... This is shown very often in older tanks where organic matter has decayed and seeped into the gravel... So the answer to this is to use an gravel vacuum syphon on a reasonably regular basis... This will remove the organic waste and help to maintain a higher pH but it will also help to release pockets of nh3 gas that can accumulate within the gravel and add to the problem.
Personally I see little reason why any leaf might INCREASE the pH ... More likely to decrease it.

2. You mention that you ringed your sponge in warm water... This is find to get the dust and debris of manufacture out... But you must take a good sample of the tank water out and do a second rinse in that... Then throw that sample of water away... This ensures that 1. You rinse it again and do a through job, but two it ensures that the sponge is soaked in water that is the same as that in the tank... And 3. It begins to populate it with the beneficial bacteria your tank requires.

3. The decorations CAN be a cause for concern... Especially if they are plastic and it has begun to deteriorate quicker than you might expect... Always if you can, go natural... That's relatively important.

4. Aeration does not make for more alkaline conditions... It's fresh air pumped into the water, that's all it is... However what it DOES do is help to move the surface if the water... This is beneficial because the water/air interface needs to move to allow the transfer of oxygen into the water... Kinda useful for the fish... So keep that water circulating!

5. The heater... Soaking it can help to stabilise the thermostat but that's only really relevant to heaters of about 20 years ago... Modern ones are thermo adjusted anyway so get it in and on... The sooner the temp is stabilised the sooner you can eliminate that as a potential problem.

I hope this all helps... Really I do... It's never nice to face this but it is part of the aquatic learning curve!

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Tank temp at about 70*F, 20 gallon (Temp may fluctuate over night, from 69.8*F-73*F during the day. I worry about this too, but this is also not new.) Is there any OTHER trick to raise pH? Is there anything I can do for the specific fish having trouble right now, and how can I prevent this from happening to the others? Does this sound like anything anyone else has seen before?
I'm so sorry to hear about losing your fish. I am pretty new here and to freshwater fishkeeping, but I looked up the temperature of guppies and they need to be at 78 - 82.
Cory fish prefer 60-75.

I know you've had them in there a while, but not providing them with what they need over a long period of time will wear down their immune system.

Romad gave you awesome advice on a new heater and testing kit. You also need to know exactly what all the fish you have need to thrive and if they are compatible in the same tank. I cannot remember all the fish you have in this tank, but you really should look up what each needs and provide them with that. Fluctuating temperatures and ph levels are not good and I think can be a cause to open the door for many diseases.

Your acidic water is very bad. You may want to do a at least a 50% water change that has been Primed and test daily.

Are you using Prime in your water when you do water changes?
Throw away the test strips and invest in a good kit such as the api master kit. You cannot know for sure what all your readings are unless you have the proper equipment.

I hope things were okay overnight and I wish you all the best. Please let us know how things turn out.

Also, if you have an infection in the tank, you may need to take everything out clean it and rebuild it with frequent water changes.
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Ello again!

Just another couple of points here....

I personally would not do such a big water change as AnnieH suggests because the water is good (at least as far as you have tested) except that it is too acidic.... If you do such a large water change with sick fish already, the likely hood is that you will stress them more and lose more. Similarly with taking everything out... This is a very drastic course of action and not really necessary... The pimafix will be doing the same job just "in situ."

Prime is important to remove chlorine... Given your success with your other tank I assumed you would know this but just in case.... Do make sure you de chlorinate any water you put in with any fish at all.

Temperature wise... For the fish you have 77 is a good balance and in any case fish will tolerate temps outside their preferred range... But not sudden variations!

:) Bill
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I was checking in to see if there was an update on your fish.

I understand what bill is saying and I am not an expert like he is. I do know that fresh water is very good for fish in general. You said you moved all the sick fish to a hospital tank, so there would be no issues in the main tank if you need to do a water change and clean the decorations if the main tank is infected.

Most of the serious bacterial medicines will require water changes during the treatment cycle. These can be done safely with limited stress to the hospital tank. The Mfg will have instructions on the back of the packaging (triple surfer etc).

I cannot recall if you did get a master test kit. If you are relying on strips, your readings may be inaccurate.

Hope all is well.
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Actually thinking this through again, and rereading the posts I do agree with AnnieH. Given that the fish are in a hospital tank you can be more liberal with water changes... My only word of caution is to try if possible to maintain the biofilter bacteria in the main tank... This saves re-cycling.
As AnnieH says there will be water changes during treatment cycles but follow instructions and you should be fine.
Annie is also right regarding test strips... As I said in my first reply... Ditch them on favour of a good quality test kit. Test for nh3 ammonia, no2 nitrite and no3 nitrate... That's a good baseline to work from.

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