How to Treat Livebearer Disease

How to treat the Livebearer disease

Livebearer disease is a catch-all term used to describe many disorders that commonly affect livebearers (or fish that bear live young). These different ailments can include the shimmies, wasting disease, body fungus, and more. The first step is to properly diagnose your fish and then treat for their specific type of livebearer disease.

Why are so many diseases called “Livebearer disease”?

Livebearers are frequently raised in hard water or brackish environments (see this article for more details), and when they get brought into our fully freshwater aquariums, their bodies start to crash, their immune systems become compromised, and it’s easier for pathogens to attack. Unknowingly, many people buy livebearers that are stressed and then catch the next disease. This can wipe out all fish in the tank. This outbreak often gets labeled generically as “livebearer disease” because we hobbyists are not adept at identifying fish illnesses. There exist thousands of fish disorders in nature, but most likely your livebearer has fin rot, internal worms, fungus, or another commonplace disease. We recommend that you quarantine all fish entering your home and feed them high-quality food to improve their health. You also need preventive medications, such as vaccinating puppies.

Due to the many health issues new livebearers often face, we consult with ichthyologists. We extensively tested a variety of fish medications to determine which ones are the most effective in treating bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections. Based on our research, we narrowed down the search to three broad-spectrum medications – Mardel Maracyn, Aquarium Solutions Ich-X, and Fritz ParaCleanse. Our fish store has received thousands of fish over the years, and every fish gets treated with this trio of quarantine medications to ensure they have a clean bill of health. Read this article on how to use these medications to proactively treat your fish at home.

Quarantine medication trio

Shimmies, Shimmying or Molly Disease

Shimmying is a common symptom in mollies and other livebearers. It’s when the fish moves its body in a snake-like, slithering motion. The shimmies can be caused by:

– Fish may “shiver” to heat up at low temperatures. – Low pH levels, where their skin is burning from acidic water.

The last reason is one of the most common problems, since as mentioned previously, most farm-raised livebearers are cultured in hard water or brackish water environments. For the past 30-40 years, salt has been used to treat shimmying in African cichlids and livebearers. “Livebearer salt” not only contains sodium chloride salt (e.g., regular table salt and aquarium salt), but also a mixture of calcium, magnesium, electrolytes, and other minerals that are essential for healthy biological functions. However, one of the main reasons why we don’t always recommend salt is because it can harm plants and snails at higher concentrations.

Mollies can shimmy if they were raised in brackish (partly saltwater, partly freshwater) environments.

Livebearers that are shimmying should be provided with optimal living conditions. This includes higher pH levels between 7.0 and 8.0, warmer temperatures (76deg to 80degF), and a higher mineral level. You can add minerals to soft water with supplements like crushed coral, Wonder Shell and Seachem Equrium. If your tap water is extremely hard, simply doing more frequent, partial water changes may be enough to bring additional minerals into the aquarium. Just remember that the fish you bought may have been sitting at the wholesaler and fish store for a long time in fresh water with no minerals. It may not be possible for the fish to be saved if it was already damaged and wasn’t treated promptly enough.


Wasting Disease or Skinny Disease

An example of wasting disease is this: You buy 20 fish, and after a month five of them are very thin while the others look fine. Eventually those five fish pass away, and then a couple of months later, you notice five more fish are getting thinner and are also starting to die one by one. This is due to internal parasites like tapeworms and camallanus worms. The parasites steal nutrients from the fish’s body, causing weight loss and organ damage in the long term.

Tapeworms can infest fish’s digestive systems and cause blockages. Some symptoms include stringy poop and weight loss, but the disease can be hard to accurately diagnose without examining the feces under a microscope. That’s why we recommend that every fish gets a preventative treatment of ParaCleanse, which contains an antiparasitic drug called metronidazole and a dewormer called praziquantel. To ensure that any newly hatched eggs are eliminated, repeat the first treatment two to three weeks later.

Tapeworms are difficult to spot if you don’t have a microscope to look at the waste.

ParaCleanse may not be able to stop the wasting diseases. Fritz Expel-P is very effective for treating roundworms, camallanus red worms, hookworms, and even planaria in your aquarium. While most internal parasites are invisible to the naked eye, camallanus worms are easier to spot since you can visually see small, red worms sticking out of the fish’s anus. Medications like Expel-P that contain the active ingredient of levamisole or flubendazole work by paralyzing the adult worms so that they can be expelled by the fish and removed using an aquarium siphon. After two to three weeks, re-dose your tank with the dewormer in order to eliminate any remaining parasites.

Because their eggs can be passed through fish waste, worms are easy to spread. Livebearers are also good scavengers and will eat infected feces. Worms can also infect other species such as angelfish but they don’t usually kill them. The parasites that live on large cichlids are tiny, so the parasites won’t be too big to harm them. However, when a guppy or other small livebearer gets infected, they are much smaller in size, and it only takes a few worms to wreak havoc on their health.

How to Prevent Livebearer Disease

Your fish’s health is dependent on prevention. Follow these simple guidelines if you want to get new livebearers.

1. Provide the proper water parameters with a pH of 7.0 or higher and lots of minerals in the aquarium. You can boost your mineral level by using crushed coral, Wonder Shell, and Equilibrium. 2. For a few weeks, place all new fish into a quarantine tank to monitor for signs of illness. This will help prevent any outbreaks from spreading to your tank. To prevent most common diseases, you can treat them with the three quarantine medications. 3. While the fish are in quarantine, provide a low-stress environment to help them recover from their travels and rebuild their immune systems. You should keep them away from aggressive tank mates and give them lots of good food.

If you are unsure if your fish have livebearer disease but they display different symptoms, we have detailed information to help you.