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Old 09-24-2008, 01:43 AM   #1
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Pregnant guppies dying

Since a new tank set up from June, every female guppy has died around birth…

I have a 220 litre tank, 25 deg C with an assortment of fish including:
2 peppered catfish
some mollies, platies both who are regularly giving birth and fry surviving
neon tetra school
a few penguin tetras and glowline tetras
a few scissortails
a few danios

There is quite a bit of real plants in there too.

We have had about 6 female guppies over the last three months die around birth time when they have been looking very big and ‘boxy’.

Last week I purchased a breeder/try trap (which don’t seem too popular on here) and put two females in it with a divide between them. After two days they had both given birth to a total of about 40 fry. I then took the mothers out of the trap and returned them to the main tank. Within a day or two, two more female guppies had died (I assume the mothers, but not sure, as all my females look pretty similar!)

I put a third female in the trap over the weekend and three days on no fry, so I let her go, but within 24 hours she was also dead. It seems whether in a trap or not, no females are surviving, while I haven’t lost a male guppy. I have had a couple of other isolated deaths in the tank from other breeds but nothing like the poor female guppies.

I have kept the ratio of males to females at least 2:1 or 3:1 since we first got them.

My local aquariums have suggested the following:
  • They are being attacked… so get traps for them.
  • Diet - I currently feed them tropical flakes with frozen brine shrimp two days a week.
  • You need more females.
  • Water condition/temperature - set at 25 deg C and weekly replacing water and using water conditioner and Cycle when adding new water.

Are the females most susceptible at a particular stage of pregnancy?

I am at a loss as to what I can do to fix the problem. Would love your help!
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Old 09-24-2008, 02:18 AM   #2
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What are you're water parameters?
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Old 09-24-2008, 08:05 AM   #3
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What are you're water parameters?
I took a sample to the aquarium today, PH was spot on 7.0, but I have had a bit of an ammonia spike which I will work on in the next few days.
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Old 09-24-2008, 08:24 PM   #4
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It is possible that the strain of guppies you have isn't that strong and that they are not surviving due to stress. Try not adding them to the breeder net or cage and add more hiding spots to the tank.


To take care of your water parameter issues, do extra water changes until both ammonia and nitrite are at 0ppm.
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Old 09-24-2008, 09:47 PM   #5
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It is possible that the strain of guppies you have isn't that strong and that they are not surviving due to stress. Try not adding them to the breeder net or cage and add more hiding spots to the tank.

To take care of your water parameter issues, do extra water changes until both ammonia and nitrite are at 0ppm.
Is there a reason why my females are always the victims? So far, I have in the last three months had three die not in cages and three die in cages.... all pregnant females.

What do people recommend as a good "hiding spot"? High or low hiding spots?

I was told to put extra "CYCLE" in the tank to get ammonia down. So do the extra water changes as well? If so, how much, how often?
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Old 09-24-2008, 10:29 PM   #6
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Don't bother with the chemical Cycle. It is females because if the strain of guppies is weak, they are the ones that sustain stress from childbirth. Guppies are interbred and interbred until they haven't got much original breeding left in them.
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Old 09-24-2008, 11:45 PM   #7
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Childbearing, or fry bearing, is very stressful on females. If they are healthy to start with, things go well. An ill live bearer will have fry and then die--it's part of their life cycle. Some people look at the fact the female produced fry as a positive, when it could be a result of stress. Your females could be from a weak strain, or they could have died as a result of stress from the tank. Keep up on the partial water changes to get that ammonia down!
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Old 09-25-2008, 01:28 AM   #8
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Don't bother with the chemical Cycle. It is females because if the strain of guppies is weak, they are the ones that sustain stress from childbirth. Guppies are interbred and interbred until they haven't got much original breeding left in them.
"Cycle" not worth buying? Should I be using a different chemical to attack the ammonia problem?

The various guppies have come from different stores so I assume they are not interbred, or are you saying that generally this sort of livestock you buy is not so 'robust'? I wonder where all my local stores in Sydney get their stock from?

Any ways around this problem? My poor wife doesn't cope so well when all our females die! My concern now is that my male to female ratio is almost 1:1, but I know I shouldn't buy any more fish until my ammonia level goes down. What is the typical turnaround time for ammonia to drop down to 0?

PS I don't like seeing them die either, especially if I am the cause!

Adam
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Old 09-25-2008, 07:10 AM   #9
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You don't need any chemicals to get the ammonia down, do a large water change and test the water every day. If the ammonia starts to creep back up then do another water change. Once the bacteria in the filter and on the hard objects in the tank grow enough the ammonia will stay at 0.
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Old 09-25-2008, 09:17 AM   #10
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Buy a chemical test kit (like API's "Master Freshwater Test Kit") and monitor ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. It sounds to me like your tank is not cycled yet, and so it sounds to me like you have way too many fish in an uncycled tank (depending upon how many fish we are talking when you say you have "some" of this or "a school" of that). We can help you a lot more if you are able to post readings for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. Avoid going the cheaper route and buying paper test strips; while it "seems" like that's a good idea, they are notoriously inaccurate, to the point of being entirely worthless. The liquid test kit will run you about $25-30, which seems like a lot, but will be probably the best investment into your hobby as an aquarist that you will ever make.

The chemical "Cycle" is garbage, don't waste your money. The only product that has a proven track record at helping accelerate your cycle is one called "Bio-Spira," which is stocked by very few pet stores since it must be kept refrigerated at all points in the distribution process. And even then success is far from 100%. Rather, the best way to help accelerate a cycle is to get some "filter gunk" out of the filter of someone who already has an established tank and put that gunk into your tank (especially in your own filter). Some pet stores will also give you a bag of such gunk for free; "mom & pop" aquarium speciality stores are much better at this than your large chain pet stores like Petco or Petsmart.

As others have pointed out, fancy guppies tend to be horrifically inbred (not by the pet stores, but by the large fish farms who raise these guppies by the tens of thousands in outdoor ponds and then sell them to pet stores all across the country). You can buy fancy guppies from 10 different pet stores in your area, the odds are all of them come from the same bulk fish farm and thus are interbred from the same genetic stock. Thus these guppies tend to be relatively fragile to begin with. Add poor water chemistry (*any* ammonia = poor water chemistry), that's an additional stress. Add pregnancy, that's an additional stress. Add other fish in the tank, that's an additional stress. Add the fact that some of those fish are "nippers" (most tetras) and others are pretty hyper (danios), that's an additional stress. Add (from the sounds of it) a relative lack of hiding places, that's an additional stress.

It's not all that surprising that your guppies mommas are dying.

If you want to see some successful broods, one thing you could do is this. Go to your LFS and buy a small tank--even a small 2.5 gallon would work. Don't worry about substrate for it, nor a filter. Buy a tiny heater if your room temp isn't within a couple degrees of whatever temp you keep your main tank at. Fill the "birthing" tank (that's what we're setting up here) with a bunch of najas ("guppy grass"), maybe some java moss, perhaps a few stems of some fast-growing stem plants like anacharis, hornwort, etc. When you have pregnant females who look like they are close to giving birth, move them into the birthing tank. Since you don't have a filter, you'll have to do small partial water changes on the tank every few days or so (depending upon your plants and your light; if you have lots of fast-growing plants in there and are able to get the tank a fair amount of either sunlight or flourescent light, the plants may uptake almost all of the ammonia produced by the fish). Once the female gives birth, if she looks healthy you can move her back to the main tank; if she looks weak, keep her in the birthing tank for a day or two until she seems to recover. She will try to eat the babies, but if there is enough guppy grass and java moss, at least some will survive. It's best to set up this tank ASAP also, as the longer the plants are in there and growing (even if you don't have any female guppies in there), all sorts of tiny microorganisms and algae will start growing on your plants--this is great food for your newborn fry.

Once the fry have grown some, you can move them into your main tank.

And, after doing all this, your guppy females are still dying in childbirth, then you know it's not because of bad water conditions nor because the other fish are harassing them. At which point, if you really still want to have guppies, you might consider the (slightly more expensive) option of buying them online from an established guppy breeder. It will cost more, but in general you will get much healthier, stronger stock as a result.

Oh also, once the fry have grown a tad you will want to feed them with really finely ground up fish flakes. It wouldn't hurt to have a couple of snails in the tank to help clean up any uneaten food.

Good luck.
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Old 09-25-2008, 07:42 PM   #11
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you should heat the tank and put a couple floating breeder traps in the tank and more salt get rid of the ammonia and give the fish a better varitey of food right before birth (brine shrimp).
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