Livebearers Are Becoming Weaker.
You’ll find many old magazines and books that describe how livebearers, such as Endler’s Livebearers and Guppies, are great for beginners. They’re tough. Although this was true once upon a time, many of these livebearers have lost their wild stock. Today, livebearers are almost all mass-produced. We all know that quality suffers when things are mass produced. I’m hoping to share some tips with you to make livebearers a success despite all the challenges.
How Livebearers Are Bred
First, let us understand how the majority of livebearers is bred. Livebearers are most commonly bred in warmer climates, even during winter. This is for economic reasons. Florida, Thailand, Hawaii are all popular spots for people to have a fish farm. A pond is all that is required to raise the livebearers. Place a large number of livebearers into a large pond. After they have bred, harvest them. This process makes it very easy to produce a very large amount of livebearers with much less work than aquariums.
However, these systems have several negative consequences. One is inbreeding among livestock. Genetic defects can be unchecked because there is no one to ensure siblings and children don’t cross, so they must be culled before they can be sold to wholesalers. Each farm will have its own way of breeding the fish. Some use cages to prevent culls from breeding etc) Many fish farms now harvest the fish from the ponds and then select quality specimens from sorting tanks in a warehouse. Unfortunately, even though they look acceptable, they can carry the weakened genes of their parents. To illustrate the point, all “potbellied” variety of platies, and mollies are genetic deformities that have been commercialized and become popular in the trade. These were an accident from downbreeding.
The introduction of parasites is another issue with pond breeding. While the farmers try their best to set up nets and keep pests out of their farms, the fish are exposed to outside influence such as bird parasites. This can have a devastating effect on populations of fish. Fish farms are quarantining the fish for a few days before shipping them out now to watch for parasites. However, if the fish isn’t stressed, they will be able to keep the parasite dormant. It is when the fish becomes stressed during shipping that the parasite is able to grab hold.
Concrete is another problem. This leaches chemicals into the water that raise the pH and Hardness. Brackish water may be used instead of freshwater because it is cheaper. Although this isn’t necessarily a problem, it can lead to uninformed hobbyists or stores falling into a trap. The fish are coming from a high pH and hard water to local water tap conditions normally. This can put the fish into osmotic shock. Which can kill the fish in a few days or leave it very weakened for underlying conditions to finish it off.
Livebearers for sale
We now know the breeding methods of the livebearers that we want to keep, but what can we do about it? One option is to buy locally bred fish. Even if their stock came from a fish farm, the fry will at least avoid osmotic shock from the huge change in water parameters.
You can also purchase wild animals. These will be much more genetically pure. However, this won’t help you with “Fancy” strains of livebearers. You might still find parasites in their blood or they may be subject to osmotic shock. It is worth considering whether or not the species may be endangered in the wild. Some aquarists intentionally breed wild, endangered fish to up the populations while others avoid them in hopes of keeping more in the wild.
Mimic Natural Water Parameters
Most people will choose the last option. Setup your aquarium closer to the breeder’s water parameters.
This was not an accident. Mollies were one of the first fish to be severely mass produced and hybridized to get all the great colors we have today. These mollies didn’t live for very long. Breeders discovered that mollies could survive in brackish water after quickly researching the subject. Many stores and hobbyists soon added aquarium salt to their tanks to make their tanks brackish. Miraculously, the mollies now did much better! We thought we had figured it out, but some people were using Aquarium Salt and others were using marine salt. Later, we discovered that the benefits of marine salt were derived from the minerals.
Keeping Livebearers Healthy
The battle plan to keep healthy livebearers coming from a fish farm starts with setting up your aquarium for the right pH and hardness of water. Then find out what day your local fish store receives fish. Acquire your fish ideally before they go into the store’s tanks (assuming your local fish store are not livebearer nerds who already set up these types of conditions), take them home and quarantine them in your own setup pH and hard water. After they have been acclimated, they should be able to thrive. Then, slowly but surely, you can bring them to the pH level of your tap water over a period of several months. Eventually, you’ll have fry and they’ll have never known anything other than your tap water. Then you can provide your hobbyists with a stable livebearer.
The trick to the common day livebearer is to minimize stress so that our super colored, extra long finned, genetically down bred fish don’t have to test their immune system. Every new strain of livebearer has its unique beauty and deformities.
I hope that you have a tank and are ready to give livebearers another chance. They are my favorite type of fish to work with. Once they’ve been stabilized they’re good for many generations.