I think I have a problem in my guppy tank, help


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I've been noticing dead guppies at the rate of 1 a week at the bottom of the tank for weeks. Also a huge outbreak of carnivorous snails which are eating the dead guppies, which is great in a way I guess, balanced biosystem and all, except I would rather not have a snail tank, but a guppy tank and I worry the snails have brought in a weird neurological disease impacting the guppies. I'll include a few pics below, but the guppies are burrowing head-first into the rocks that I use as substrate while alive to die there like that (the one in the pics was between rock very deep, I move the rocks to see if he was alive and he is, and swam a bit then went back to this position here). I can shoo him out, but he just burrows back in there to die. No, I don't have a water testing kit, and yes it could be water parameters. I'll add a dash of Seachem Prime in case it's something that can solve, but outside of that there's not much I can do. I don't live in range of a pet center to take water to be tested and can't afford a testing kit. Any idea on why my guppies are doing this and what might be the cause? I just got these to be the colors/patterns I wanted for the pond next summer and now they are all suiciding! I'm tempted to add a good dose of salt to kill all these snails and keep vaccing them out as they die. If anyone knows what causes head down burrowing in fresh water fish, please let me know!

(I had just fed when I took these photos, there is a lot of left-over food in the tank at the moment but I was afraid I was under-feeding them and they were starving to death so I'd starting feeding more over the past week and I do plan to vac the gravel later today)
 

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I'd say the burrowing you're seeing is just the fish recognizing that there is something wrong and trying to find a spot to protect themselves. A sick animal knows it's vulnerable.

I do think you need to figure out a way to get a test kit - I know you say you can't afford it, but when you own animals it's kind of incumbent on you to be able to care for them. Are you on Facebook? Perhaps you could ask if anyone local has a kit they aren't using or one you could borrow. You can do multiple tests from one kit so perhaps someone has a partially used kit they would give or sell to you.

Good luck!
 
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I bet @Lisak1 is correct as to why they are acting that way. Short of getting your water tested, your only option is to do what aquarists did back in the early days before test kits were widely used. Low bioloads (just a few fish), judicious feeding, lots of plants and regular partial water changes. Here is my take:
You are greatly overfeeding your fish. Thus the snail explosion. The snails are not massively reproducing due to one or two dead guppies. Your lava rocks are trapping excessive food that the snails are foraging upon. If you kill off the snails you will have a putrid mess in that tank. Please don't remove your lava rocks until we learn a little more about your tank. How large is the aquarium? What type of filtration do you have? How long has the tank been running ie. is it cycled? And the feeding part: I know most food containers say feed twice daily blah, blah, blah... Do you think the 'food fairy' shows up twice daily in nature? :)
 
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Start a water change. My guppies are very hardy little things, that yours are dieing like that is very concerning. Stop feeding twice a day, cut it back to once, in fact, once you add plants, you can skip one day a week. Add plants. Most aquarium keepers have at least one hang on back filter around, add a pothos cutting, or several, that is a common house plant that loves aquariums. I’ll include pictures of my aquarium with the HOB filter with plant. If you aren’t using a hob filter, the pothos can free float, no problem! I also have spider plant in there, a diy scrubby pre filter, and plants in the tank.
Pardon the faucet sprayer, I noticed I need to top off my tanks! They needed about two inches or more of water added due to evaporation.
In my other aquarium, I have an old non functioning waterfall type filter covered in cloth, with plants in it, as well as potted submerged plants, for the shrimp.
Also, what temp is your tank? Have you looked the fish over for signs of ick? These could be playing a role in fish death too.
 

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Any change in the fish yet? Has any of our advice helped?
It's mycobacterium (fish non-tuberculosis), the recommendation is to cull the whole tank and start over (new everything, even the substrate has to be trashed). I've been treating it as I found one site that said it can be treated, but most sites say it's not curable and the recommendation is to cull the tank, throw everything porous away, and sanitize everything else with 1% Lysol and bleach. I just posted a thread on suggestions on the most humane way to accomplish euthanizing the whole tank now that I know I have a zoonotic bacteria involved since I really don't want to be spraying it all over my kitchen by smashing in heads with hammers. :confused:
 
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I bet @Lisak1 is correct as to why they are acting that way. Short of getting your water tested, your only option is to do what aquarists did back in the early days before test kits were widely used. Low bioloads (just a few fish), judicious feeding, lots of plants and regular partial water changes. Here is my take:
You are greatly overfeeding your fish. Thus the snail explosion. The snails are not massively reproducing due to one or two dead guppies. Your lava rocks are trapping excessive food that the snails are foraging upon. If you kill off the snails you will have a putrid mess in that tank. Please don't remove your lava rocks until we learn a little more about your tank. How large is the aquarium? What type of filtration do you have? How long has the tank been running ie. is it cycled? And the feeding part: I know most food containers say feed twice daily blah, blah, blah... Do you think the 'food fairy' shows up twice daily in nature? :)
The tank is 20 gallons, runs a HOB filter (a shitty one that I hate but my canister filter kept leaking and draining the tank when I wasn't home so couldn't be trusted anymore), is several years old, it's well cycled. It's always been extremely healthy up until this past fall. The fish get fed once a week, maybe twice a week. I am not new to keeping fish. The extra food you see in the photo is because I was afraid the fish were dying because I was under-feeding them (sunken in bellies is another symptom of the disease they have) so I over-corrected (you are right, that did lead to an explosion of snails, and yes, the lava rock is terrible about trapping the sinking pellet food). Sadly, it turns out I have a fatal bacteria leading to a untreatable disease in the tank for which there is no cure, so I will be euthanizing the whole tank (the recommendation for this particular disease). The bacteria likely came from some pond plants I ordered last summer (some of the guppies went out to the pond for the summer then came back in when it got cold), but could have come from some fish I got from a pet store to add some more color. Either way, it's a sad end for these poor fish, but they have been suffering long enough. I wish I could have gotten a diagnosis sooner, but it wasn't until the twisted spines started developing that I was able to identify the disease. I can post a photo if anyone would like to have the learning experience. I do warn you it is not easy to look at.
 
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I’m interested, pm the pics to me please. As for painless euthanasia, clove oil. Since you’ll be neucking the whole tank, I’d add a good amount directly into the tank, let it run till all the fish are belly up. You can google amount needed per gallon. If you were close enough, I’d give you a new colony if you wanted, but if I recall, you go for show quality? And are a few states away. I’ve got mutt guppies, a mix of orange, blue, black, which resulted in mixed colors including a strong strain of icy blue green.
 
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Moving fish from a pond to aquarium and back is something I've done many times and never experienced a fatal bacteria outbreak. I certainly wouldn't argue with an expert diagnosis but wonder, how many fish did you start with in that 20-gallon aquarium? Personally, it sounds like a serious case of inbreeding, poor water parameters and perhaps dietary deficiency to me. I have seen this happen a few times over the years where a bunch of guppies are crammed in a small tank, with less than optimal water conditions, who reproduce over and over within the same population and develop all sorts of genetic abnormalities. But if some expert has diagnosed it as an untreatable infection I guess you have no other choice.
 
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Moving fish from a pond to aquarium and back is something I've done many times and never experienced a fatal bacteria outbreak. I certainly wouldn't argue with an expert diagnosis but wonder, how many fish did you start with in that 20-gallon aquarium? Personally, it sounds like a serious case of inbreeding, poor water parameters and perhaps dietary deficiency to me. I have seen this happen a few times over the years where a bunch of guppies are crammed in a small tank, with less than optimal water conditions, who reproduce over and over within the same population and develop all sorts of genetic abnormalities. But if some expert has diagnosed it as an untreatable infection I guess you have no other choice.
Lucky you. I have also done that in the past with no ill effects. I don't think it had anything to do with moving the fish out into the pond and back, other than that the fish brought the bacteria with them when they came in. I think it had to do with buying contaminated pond plants or perhaps contaminated fish.

Yes, the tank is perpetually overstocked. Have you ever owned guppies? I constantly give them away and it's almost impossible not to have an overstocked tank if the tank has good water parameters because they breed like crazy! That came to a crashing stop suddenly last fall though! I am always on top of the water though. I clean the tank constantly and give away fish as often as I can, or did, until all this happened. Something drastic changed. Fish started dying.

I feed better quality food than most people do. Not top of the line, but better than most. I actually read the ingredient label, which is more than most people can say.

This is not inbreeding. I have had body deformity in guppies in the past and know what that looks like. I've culled body deformity out of my guppie lines in the past. I'm very aware of guppy body deformities and what they look like. This IS NOT THAT. I can't really explain the horror of what this is, so I am going to include some pics. They are... terrible. I know for sure that these exact fish (the larger, more dark yellows shown here, Tequila Sunrise) where purchased with perfect backs and now look like this! This is the last female left and she is just now starting to show the symptoms so you can see what it looks like early, the male is more pronounced, and the smaller darker fish in there with them has an advanced case. These two fish Tequila Sunrise guppies were purchased with perfect bodies went into the water with perfect spines, and now their backs look like corkscrews. I bought them sepcifically to add more orange color to my yellow cobras (ironically so the color would "pop" in the pond this summer, all for naught now). These deformities are not happening to their offspring: it's happening to the fish themselves. The smaller darker one is an offspring from the tank (actually from the pond), but it was NOT born that way. It developed, due to the bacteria. Read up on it. It's uncommon (thankfully). I wouldn't wish it on anyone. It's absolutely horrific. I hope for everyone's sake here that it did come from my local fish store and not from the pond plant store (Pond Megastore).
https://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/fishkeeping-news/should-you-be-worried-about-fish-tb/
https://www.thesprucepets.com/tuberculosis-in-aquarium-fish-4844011
https://fishlab.com/fish-tuberculosis/
https://thefishsite.com/articles/mycobacterial-infections-of-fish
https://microbewiki.kenyon.edu/index.php/Mycobacteriosis_(Fish_Tuberculosis)
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I’m interested, pm the pics to me please. As for painless euthanasia, clove oil. Since you’ll be neucking the whole tank, I’d add a good amount directly into the tank, let it run till all the fish are belly up. You can google amount needed per gallon. If you were close enough, I’d give you a new colony if you wanted, but if I recall, you go for show quality? And are a few states away. I’ve got mutt guppies, a mix of orange, blue, black, which resulted in mixed colors including a strong strain of icy blue green.
Thanks Jamie. I appreciate the offer. I'm not into show quality, I'm just a hobbist that likes breeding my own colors and patterns for the sport of it, but after this, I'm taking a nice long break and throwing everything away and when I start over I'm going to do it with a bigger, nicer aquarium (with the nice canister filter I have always wanted, so it's going to be a few years, because $$$). I'm going to concentrate on my landscape/pond game for a while without the fish distraction.
 
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Do contact you fish supplier, let them know they may have this issue. They may want a few fish to test. Clove oil can be purchased online or at a local health food store, or you might look in local small pharmacies. It’s commonly used to numb stuff, such as sore teeth and gums. I’ve never seen it at big chain stores like Walmart, but the local mom pop pharmacy has it. If I recall, it’s dosed in drops to anestesize a fish, and then like double that to euthanize fish.
 
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