Guppy Fish: What's Wrong?

what is wrong with my guppy fish

Guppies are a popular choice for fish enthusiasts due to their brilliant colours, lively personalities, and ease of breeding. However, they are susceptible to various illnesses and ailments that can affect their health and well-being. Guppy owners often encounter issues such as swim bladder disease, white spot disease, and fin rot, which can be caused by factors like poor water quality, overfeeding, or underlying medical conditions. It is important for owners to be vigilant and address any potential health concerns promptly to ensure the happiness and longevity of their guppy companions.

Characteristics Values
Common name Guppy
Scientific name Poecilia reticulata
Origin Northeast South America
Habitat Freshwater
Size 1.5-6 cm
Lifespan 2-3.5 years
Water temperature 22.2-27.8°C
Water pH 7.0 or greater
Water hardness High
Diet Not picky eaters, will graze on algae
Common diseases White spot disease, fin and tail rot, swim bladder disorder, columnaris, velvet, popped eyes


Swim Bladder Disorder

Guppies with swim bladder disorder may exhibit several symptoms, including:

  • Lapses in buoyancy, struggling to swim out of the bottom of the tank
  • Swimming upside down or sideways
  • Having issues balancing
  • A distended or swollen belly
  • A bent or curved spine
  • Loss of appetite

The disorder can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Physical damage or abnormalities, such as cysts around the kidney or fat residue in the liver
  • Constipation, often caused by overfeeding or high nitrate levels in the water
  • Shock, such as sudden temperature changes or exposure to new environments
  • Low water temperature, which slows down digestion and causes gastrointestinal issues
  • Infections, including bacterial or parasitic infections, which can affect other organs and impact the bladder
  • Pregnancy and egg binding, which can strain the fish
  • Problems with other organs, such as the kidneys, liver, or stomach

To treat swim bladder disorder in guppies, the following steps can be taken:

  • Stop feeding the affected guppies for 2-3 days and increase the water temperature to 78–80°F (or a few degrees Fahrenheit higher) to boost metabolism and kill any infections.
  • After the fasting period, feed the guppies medicated fish food or high-fibre food, such as boiled and cooled peas, twice a day in small portions.
  • Add aquarium salt or Epsom salt to the water, which can help reduce swelling, kill bacteria, and promote healing.
  • Provide a clean and stress-free environment, regularly test and maintain water quality, and ensure the aquarium is away from natural light and excessive movement.
  • In severe cases, consult a veterinarian or fish surgeon for advice on treatments such as buoyancy adjustments or partial bladder removal.
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Mouth Fungus

To treat mouth fungus, antibiotics that act against gram-negative bacteria, such as kanamycin, should be used. Antibacterial medications such as phenoxyethanol and nifurpirinol have also been used successfully. Tea-tree oil from Melaleuca tree species has been used to prevent bacterial infections, and salt may be added to the water to reduce osmotic stress on the fish.

To prevent mouth fungus, it is important to maintain a well-managed aquarium with proper cycling, appropriate social groups, a balanced and vitamin-rich diet, and satisfactory water quality. Non-zero levels of ammonia and nitrite are particularly associated with mouth fungus.


Popeye (Popped Eyes)

Popeye, or exophthalmia, is a condition in which a fish's eye swells and protrudes from its socket. It can affect one or both eyes and can be caused by injury, infection, or poor water conditions. The swelling is caused by a buildup of fluid behind or within the eye.

In mild cases, the eye may remain clear with only moderate swelling. However, in more severe cases, the cornea can become damaged, resulting in a cloudy appearance. If left untreated, the swelling can cause the eye to rupture and fall out. Popeye can also lead to opportunistic bacterial or fungal infections, which can be life-threatening.

If your guppy is displaying signs of popeye, it is important to act quickly. First, check your water conditions and perform water changes if necessary. Maintain optimal water quality and ensure that your tank is free of any hazardous decorations that could cause injury.

If your guppy is injured, provide palliative care using aquarium salt to help reduce the swelling. Remove any sharp or abrasive objects from the tank that could cause further injury. Monitor your guppy closely, as infections can develop and lead to loss of sight.

If the popeye is caused by an internal infection, you may need to treat your fish with antibiotics. Consult with a veterinarian to obtain the appropriate medication. It is also recommended to quarantine infected fish to prevent the spread of the disease to other tank mates.

To prevent popeye, maintain good water quality, perform regular water changes, and ensure your tank is not overcrowded. Feed your fish a high-quality, vitamin-rich diet to support their immune systems.


Hexamita (Hexamitiasis)

Hexamitiasis, also known as "Hole in the Head" or "Hole in the Body", is a disease caused by the protozoan parasite Hexamita. This disease is rare in guppies, but there are cases of guppy keepers struggling with it.

Guppies infected with Hexamita produce white, stringy faeces and their colours become pale. The infected guppy will lose its appetite and eventually refuse to eat. In other fish species, such as cichlids, one or more holes will appear on their heads. In guppies, these lesions appear on their bodies.

Hexamitiasis is usually treated with metronidazole (commercially known as Flagyl). The best way to treat Hexamitiasis is through medicated food. If the fish refuses to eat, the medication should be applied to the water – at a dosage of 250 mg / 10 gallons once a day for at least three days. In the US, metronidazole is available at most pet shops, however, in other countries, it can be purchased with a veterinary prescription.

Hexamitiasis usually appears in overstocked aquariums, where the filtration is not adequate. The lack of oxygen and water changes can also be a factor in Hexamitiasis.

To avoid this disease, it is recommended to oxygenate the water, set up proper filtration and perform weekly water changes.

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Fish Lice (Argulus spp.)

Argulus lice have two compound eyes, a suctorial proboscis, two anteroventral prominent sucking discs that serve as attachment organs, four pairs of thoracic swimming legs, and a laterally expanded carapace that forms respiratory alae. The parasite uses a thin, needle-like "stylet" located in front of the mouth tube to pierce the host and ingest its bodily fluids. The older stages of Argulus can be diagnosed with the naked eye and are visible moving on the host or swimming in the water.

Symptoms of Argulus infection include itching and visible parasites (seen as little green specks) moving around the fish in protected areas such as behind the fins, near the eyes, or gills. Fish suffering from Argulus infestations show clear signs of irritation and changes in their behavior, such as avoidance of parasitized individuals, jumping, and scratching against different objects. They may also become lethargic, lose their appetite, and exhibit erratic swimming. In addition, fish lice are known to be the vehicle for other fish diseases, including Rhabdovirus carpio, larval nematodes, and the fungus Saprolegnia.

To treat Argulus infection, remove any visible lice with tweezers and disinfect the wounds with hydrogen peroxide. Then, treat the water in the tank. The most effective treatment against fish lice is organophosphates, which are usually given as two or three doses at one-week intervals to kill emerging larvae and juveniles. For adults, diflubenzuron (a restricted-use pesticide) has been proven effective. Other compounds with a similar mechanism of action to that of diflubenzuron, such as lufenuron (0.13 mg/L), have also been used successfully. It is important to work with a fish health specialist when treating Argulus infections, as there are currently no FDA-approved drugs available.

To avoid a facility-wide Argulus infestation, screening and quarantine of incoming fish are essential. Wild-caught or pond-raised fish should be quarantined, observed, and sampled to minimize the risk of introducing the parasite.

Frequently asked questions

This is likely swim bladder disease. Try adding aquarium salts and fasting your fish for a day or two.

Your guppy likely has White Spot Disease, also known as Ich. This is caused by the parasite *Ichthyophthirius multifiliis*. You can treat it by raising the water temperature to 82-86°F and using Ich medication.

Your guppy likely has fin rot, caused by a microbial infestation, usually due to poor water quality. Use a quarantine tank to isolate the fish and treat with antibiotics such as Maracyn, Kanamycin, or Tetracycline.

This could be caused by a variety of issues, including gill flukes, protozoan illnesses, or respiratory diseases. Consult a veterinarian or experienced aquarist for specific advice.

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