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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi there,

I am having some issues with my office aquarium. Hopefully someone can help. I have a wee 5-gallon with a pair of platies and a dwarf African frog. The tank is fully cycled, with a few java ferns, and a nice full-spectrum lamp. I do 50% water changes once a week (left out for 24 hours and dechlorinated) The frog is healthy and is still shedding his skin about once every 2 or 3 weeks. The platies have no missing scales, no white patches, no red gills, no observable external parasites, are still very active and are eating well. The only two kits I have at work here are for ammonia and nitrites. Both are at 0. Temperature is at 78. Female platy just gave birth to 30+ fry yesterday morning, who are in a floating trap and are all healthy, swimming around, and eating well. (Anyone want a free sunset wag platy? Or 2, or 30?)

I am concerned about the two adult platies though. They have been rubbing mostly on one particular rock since I brought them here (about 6 weeks ago). They don't rub all the time, but they will rub 3-4 times, every few hours. Occasionally they have clamped fins and look uncomfortable. They often appear very hyper and frantic, swimming up and down one side of the aquarium. Other times, they are relaxed, foraging for food. Could it be that this tank is too small for them? Are there any diseases with no symptoms other than rubbing and flashing? If it's the tank size, I do have a 10 gallon at home I could bring in, but they would need to share it with my betta. Is that a possibility?
 

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Hi Cael:

The rubbing you describe is almost always a sign that something is irritating them. Parasites like Ich can sometimes infect the gills (instead of the fins or body), in which case it's really hard to make a diagnosis. Gill flukes can also be difficult to spot from a distance.

Sudden changes in ph can sometimes cause fish to "flash" (the rubbing behavior you described). Since you have a very small tank, a 50% water change (which is considered a large water change) can affect the ph significantly. If you have a filter, and since you obviously monitor your ammonia and nitrite carefully, it may not be necessary to change that much water each week. Perhaps you could try a smaller weekly change, say 20-25%, and see how it goes? It would be worth it to invest in a ph test kit.

5.5 g is a bit on the small side for platies; they'd definitely appreciate an upgrade to a larger tank. If your betta is male, though, there could be trouble between him and the platies.

I would say try the smaller water changes and, if possible, test the ph before and after the changes to make sure it isn't swinging wildly. If the fish are still flashing, or if you do spot any visible signs of possible parasites, it might be time to consider trying a mild, broad spectrum antiparasitic in the tank.

-Yorg

Hi there,

I am having some issues with my office aquarium. Hopefully someone can help. I have a wee 5-gallon with a pair of platies and a dwarf African frog. The tank is fully cycled, with a few java ferns, and a nice full-spectrum lamp. I do 50% water changes once a week (left out for 24 hours and dechlorinated) The frog is healthy and is still shedding his skin about once every 2 or 3 weeks. The platies have no missing scales, no white patches, no red gills, no observable external parasites, are still very active and are eating well. The only two kits I have at work here are for ammonia and nitrites. Both are at 0. Temperature is at 78. Female platy just gave birth to 30+ fry yesterday morning, who are in a floating trap and are all healthy, swimming around, and eating well. (Anyone want a free sunset wag platy? Or 2, or 30?)

I am concerned about the two adult platies though. They have been rubbing mostly on one particular rock since I brought them here (about 6 weeks ago). They don't rub all the time, but they will rub 3-4 times, every few hours. Occasionally they have clamped fins and look uncomfortable. They often appear very hyper and frantic, swimming up and down one side of the aquarium. Other times, they are relaxed, foraging for food. Could it be that this tank is too small for them? Are there any diseases with no symptoms other than rubbing and flashing? If it's the tank size, I do have a 10 gallon at home I could bring in, but they would need to share it with my betta. Is that a possibility?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi Yorg,

Thanks for the reply! I have done some shuffling and now have the betta, the frog, the pair of platies, and 2 new female platies together in a 10-gallon tank. I put a sponge filter in the 5-gallon tank and let the babies free.

The adult platies do look much happier with more room, and although the betta ignores them most of the time, he does occasionally pester them when they get really close to him. He has also attempted to mate with the smallest platy a couple of times now, which seems odd to me, but I guess after living alone for 2 years… I am going to see if he settles down, but if not, I'll have to bring him home and put him in a 3-gallon I have there.

I also did use the net to hold the platies up to the side of the tank so I could look right up into their gills, but I couldn't see anything there, and I have only noticed them rubbing on that rock once since the tank change. I'm hoping with more room and smaller, less frequent water changes, they might feel more comfortable. I think you might be right about the water changes affecting the pH. I have rainbow fish at home, who love the 30-50% weekly water changes, so I guess I just assumed the platies would too. I am going to buy a 2nd pH test kit to keep at work so I can see if that is a problem next time I do a change.

On a separate note… how fast do platy fry grow? They're a week old, and still only about 8-9 mm long. They're active and certainly look healthy… just tiny.
 

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That's wonderful, Cael. It would be the best possible outcome if the added room and the more stable water parameters took care of the flashing behavior.

In my experience, it takes platies about three or four months to grow to maturity. It'll go by fast, believe me! :)

-Yorg

Hi Yorg,

Thanks for the reply! I have done some shuffling and now have the betta, the frog, the pair of platies, and 2 new female platies together in a 10-gallon tank. I put a sponge filter in the 5-gallon tank and let the babies free.

The adult platies do look much happier with more room, and although the betta ignores them most of the time, he does occasionally pester them when they get really close to him. He has also attempted to mate with the smallest platy a couple of times now, which seems odd to me, but I guess after living alone for 2 years… I am going to see if he settles down, but if not, I'll have to bring him home and put him in a 3-gallon I have there.

I also did use the net to hold the platies up to the side of the tank so I could look right up into their gills, but I couldn't see anything there, and I have only noticed them rubbing on that rock once since the tank change. I'm hoping with more room and smaller, less frequent water changes, they might feel more comfortable. I think you might be right about the water changes affecting the pH. I have rainbow fish at home, who love the 30-50% weekly water changes, so I guess I just assumed the platies would too. I am going to buy a 2nd pH test kit to keep at work so I can see if that is a problem next time I do a change.

On a separate note… how fast do platy fry grow? They're a week old, and still only about 8-9 mm long. They're active and certainly look healthy… just tiny.
 

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My 55 caught some nasty sort of protozoa (sp?) that caused alot of flashing.... Also no sign of ich......

Without a microscope I doubt you will find out what it is thats causing the flashing......

Also like to say that when I attempted to breed platties I had alot of adults die off for unknown reasons (not the water quality I have just about every api test kit under the sun)..... It is really had to tell whats wrong with a fish when its only a inch or two
 

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Platie should really be kept in a group of three at the minimum and in a 15 gallon tank or larger. For a community like this I'd recommend a twenty gallon and one more platy.

Reasons for flashing, the itching on the rock, is a sign of parasites and PH swings can also make them itch. Stress can hurt their slime coat and make them itch as well, they feel more secure in a larger group.


As for growth....actually they're the slowest growing livebearers around. I bred them for several years and though a lot more space helps them grow faster, they're still pretty slow. They typically don't hit full adult size until a year and a half old or more, usually getting two to two and a half inches long with very thick bodies. These guys like space and can get stressed or aggressive without it. In a pair, they can get aggressive and bond with each other, being very possessive of the other, sometimes attacking others that come near. They aren't tight schoolers like say, tetras, but they DO need a group. All livebearers should be kept in groups of three or more(for other livebearers four or five is a required minimum, but platies and often swordtails do ok in a trio). This is why they do better in a trio or larger, but once set they can be difficult to add to.

A betta community tank shouldn't be any smaller than 20 gallons. They get bored and eventually may get territorial, regardless of gender or how well they got along with others prior to any aggression.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Update

Okay...

I moved the Betta back into his own 3-gallon tank, so he should be totally fine again. He's happily building a bubble nest up in the corner.

I have had the platies in a group of 4 (1 male, 3 females) for the last week, but I just got another large female platy because the male has been pestering that one poor female relentlessly. She's got several caves and plants to hide in, but he always seems to find her. He's very interested in the new one, so hopefully he can split up his harassment between them. He seems to leave the two smaller females alone (except the occasional mating attempt) The one female platy (the one being pestered) is still flashing, but none of the others are. I also think she's looking a tad pregnant again. This morning I noticed a faint lighter area just in front of her dorsal fin, so I'm going to put in some Nutrafin water conditioner/slime coat. She just looks pale and stressed overall, and spends most her time hiding with clamped fins. Still eating well. Anyone know what that could be? It isn't ick, and it's not velvet. Just looks like a couple of scales are paler and slightly raised. I'll try to get a picture.

Tank stats are:
Temperature - 78
pH - 8.0 (I checked - no swings with water changes or anything else so far)
Ammonia - 0
Nitrites - 0

I don't have any other measurements, as the rest of my kits are at home.

I cannot upgrade to a 20-gallon unfortunately. This was just supposed to be a little office tank for the students to enjoy, which has now morphed into 3 tanks (10-gallon, 5-gallon, and 3-gallon). Quite the achievement when I only have a closet-sized office with one electrical outlet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Ok, I don't know if this picture will work, and the spot isn't super visible. I swear she was clamped and hiding until I took out my phone and then of course looks healthy as can be on the one clear-ish picture I could get. But if you can look very closely, there is a small, light patch in front of her dorsal fin. It looks much more obvious in real life. That's what I'm concerned about. Could it be an injury or infection from flashing?
 

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Ahh....she's certainly uncomfortable if she's banging into things, and she's definitely pregnant. That's a gorgeous sunset-wag platy you have.

I've been breeding livebearers for several years now and have noticed that, especially with platies and mollies, they get constipated easily when pregnant, and will sometimes flash, bang into things like they itch. During labor, or pregnancy when they have trouble pooping. They often clamp up fins too.

Try giving her a blanched, shelled pea. Fresh green pea, no canned stuff, frozen is ok. Boil it until it's soft and squishy and feed her a piece of one at least twice a week, three times even. See if that fixes her after a week or so. Don't over-feed them though, they work sorta like a laxative, and though VERY good for them, it is one of those things in small amounts. For just the one fish I usually take one, halve it, then cut a chip off the half and let them have the quarter. =) Your other fish can have them too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Ah yes. I give my rainbows and glass cats peas every once in awhile for the same reason. Yet somehow never thought of that. Thanks! I will do that as soon as I can. I looked a bit closer yesterday and I'm pretty sure all the females are pregnant, so peas for everyone! I didn't realize they got constipated when pregnant.

As for more drama... Yesterday sure was Friday the 13th. I came to work to find the heater had malfunctioned and the tank was at 85. I panicked, unplugged the heater, and slowly added cold water over the day. Had them back at 78 by 2 pm. Bought a new heater at lunch and set it up. It leaked, so I took it back after work and bought a new one. I thought it was working fine, so I went to just make sure the suction cups were firmly attached and as soon as I stuck my hand in the water, it shocked me! Being an idiot, I did it again and it shocked me again. So I unplugged it, but the building alarm was about to be set, so the only heater I had to put back in there was the one that had malfunctioned. It seemed to be working fine, so I put it back in, set it to a few degrees lower, left, and bought a new one that I'm going to install. Usually the school is open on weekends for events, so I planned on doing it today but I've been calling and calling and it's still closed. Since it's a long weekend, I might have to wait until Tuesday to make sure the heater hasn't malfunctioned again if they don't open the school today. STRESSED!

I've had fish since I was a kid, but never live-bearers. Everyone said they were so easy, compared to what I have/have had at home, but right now they're much harder. On a brighter note, the babies seem to be fine so far, and that nice deep black is developing on their fins.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Heater success! The school opened up for an event and I was able to go in and set up the new heater. So far so good. The poor things had dropped to 70, but they should be fine now. I put a bit more slime coat in because I know these temperature swings can be really hard on them.

I also made sure all of them got a bit of blanched pea today, even though the others don't look uncomfortable. Hopefully when I get back to work on Tuesday, she'll be feeling better and the heater will still be working. Fingers crossed for no more clamped fins and flashing. Thank you everyone for the good advice!
 

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congratulations on your tanks, and hopefully everyone begins to do welll! for me, livebearers are NOT easy to care for! i do much better with cichlids and anyone NOT a guppy LOL.

keep us updated on the pea trick...i noticed my pregnant females are flashing a bit too. at this point it could be ANYTHING and everything and i'm trying things bit by bit to see what helps and what doesn't...hoping for the best. if the pea works for you, i'll try it too.
 

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Endlers are easier for livebearers. The rest can be a bit harder. Mollies are easy if you are good with brackish tanks, but they're the dirtiest of the livebearers with a high bioload and require a lot of space, and groups. lol Platies are just picky, but pretty easy as far as water stats go.


You sure had some bad luck! Bleh. Glad you weren't injured, and how are your fish after being shocked? If it shocked you, I assume it shocked them too. Or were they not in there?

When you have temp flubs like that, it's actually better to do it nice and slow, a few degrees per day until back to where it should be, otherwise they get extra stressed. The stress coat will help, but they'll need some TLC. =)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Yes, the temperature change certainly needed to be done quicker than I would have liked (that's the trouble when a tank is at work over the weekend, rather than home) but they all seemed to come through it well enough. Thankfully the new heater is working like a dream. I still feel nervous to stick my hand in the water though. That heater shock hurt! It couldn't have been the full voltage though, because from what I've read it should have been worse. I imagine it didn't hurt the fish because they wouldn't have been grounded, but I don't know for sure.

I haven't noticed the pea working yet, but I gave them all some more this morning. Both of the larger females are looking uncomfortable now, but are also pregnant and being pestered constantly by the male. I will keep an eye on it, but might take him out and move him home to live in the big tank where there are no female platies for him to bother. I imagine he should be fine with rainbow fish, glass cats, and various loaches?

The pale scales on the one female seem to have gone back to normal, but she's still flashing and clamping. Ugh. This is so frustrating. I guess the next step is to take the male out of there and see what happens. Is it common for a male to stress out the females enough to make them sick?
 

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Yeah, you have something going on. Very likely an internal parasite going on here, and you need to get it treated. Wish I could say which one, but I can't since that's impossible without having their insides looked at, or a poo sample checked out. Your best bet is to get a potent internal parasite med. Also recommend feeding them fresh, seriously minced garlic once a day(suck it out if they don't eat it). Combined with a parasite med, garlic will keep them from breeding until they're all dead and gone. It's also a good treatment for some, but it can take weeks and isn't fully reliable.

As for shocking the fish, doesn't sound like it messed them up. I shocked one of mine a couple weeks ago. I felt really bad, I had reached in to move a decoration so I could clean under it and I musta been static-y because I shocked one of the fish come over to eat. It swam in a circle for a day. c.c
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Update

I think I've found the magical cure! I took the male platy home to the big tank so the female platies could have the 10 gallon tank to themselves. They are healthy and happy! No clamped fins or flashing. Their colours are bright again and they aren't hiding at all. The male must have been stressing them out even more than I realized.

The 3-week old babies are doing well also, and are actually starting to look like tiny platies. They have turned from pale yellow into a beautiful bright orange.

As for the male platy, he's being gently followed all over the aquarium at home by my ancient female cherry barb, who keeps trying to rub up against him. She has outlived the rest of her school by 2 years (she's 6 now) and up until the platy showed up, was schooling with the rainbow fish. But now she's found a nice, bright orange boyfriend to follow around. This is fish karma for sure.

Here's a (blurry, sorry!) picture of the happy girls-only tank at work.
 

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That's terrific news, Cael. Glad everything worked out for you and your fish!

-Yorg

I think I've found the magical cure! I took the male platy home to the big tank so the female platies could have the 10 gallon tank to themselves. They are healthy and happy! No clamped fins or flashing. Their colours are bright again and they aren't hiding at all. The male must have been stressing them out even more than I realized.

The 3-week old babies are doing well also, and are actually starting to look like tiny platies. They have turned from pale yellow into a beautiful bright orange.

As for the male platy, he's being gently followed all over the aquarium at home by my ancient female cherry barb, who keeps trying to rub up against him. She has outlived the rest of her school by 2 years (she's 6 now) and up until the platy showed up, was schooling with the rainbow fish. But now she's found a nice, bright orange boyfriend to follow around. This is fish karma for sure.

Here's a (blurry, sorry!) picture of the happy girls-only tank at work.
 
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