Shimmying guppy in too-cold tank

Zonotrichia

Tank
What is the water volume of the tank? 29g planted tank
How long has the tank been running? 9 months
Does it have a filter? Yes, Aqueon Quietflow 20
Does it have a heater? Yes, Aqueon 100 W preset
What is the water temperature? The heater is dying, and it has been 72-73 these past two mornings. We've ordered a new heater that is arriving tomorrow.
What is the entire stocking of this tank? (Please list all fish and inverts.) Three male fancy guppies.

Maintenance
How often do you change the water? Weekly
How much of the water do you change? 20%
What do you use to treat your water? Prime
Do you vacuum the substrate or just the water? Vacuum the substrate (sand)

*Parameters - Very Important
Did you cycle your tank before adding fish? Yes
What do you use to test the water? API Master Test Kit
What are your parameters? We need to know the exact numbers, not just “fine” or “safe”.

Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 5
pH: 7.4

Feeding
How often do you feed your fish? 6/7 days a week
How much do you feed your fish? Small pinch
What brand of food do you feed your fish? Hikari guppy pellets or Aqueon tropical flakes
Do you feed frozen or freeze-dried foods? No

Illness & Symptoms
How long have you had this fish? 8 months
How long ago did you first notice these symptoms? 2 days
In a few words, can you explain the symptoms? Guppy is rocking back and forth while swimming and seems unstable. He had previously been being picked on by one of his tank mates, resulting in a torn tail and dorsal fin, but we put in a tank divider.
Have you started any treatment for the illness? No, other than separating him from his aggressor and ordering a new heater.
Was your fish physically ill or injured upon purchase? No.
How has its behavior and appearance changed, if at all? There is a split in his dorsal fin and a chunk out of his tail, but I think that is fin nipping.

Explain your emergency situation in detail. (Please give a clear explanation of what is going on, include details from the beginning of the illness leading up to now)

Two days ago, we noticed that one of our male guppies (the largest one) had a split in his dorsal fin and what looked like a chunk bitten out of his tail. This seems like an obvious case of fin nipping, as one of his tankmates is a certified aggressive jerk. We put in the tank divider so separate out the instigator. The next day our heater started to fail. It is supposed to be preset to 78˚, but was reading 72˚ in the morning and only got up to 74˚ by the evening. We ordered a new heater (adjustable!) that will be arriving tomorrow. In the meantime, though, I think the colder temperature is stressing out our poor guppy. Yesterday we noticed that he was swimming in an unstable way, kind of rocking back and forth and swimming in place. This is "the shimmies," right? I haven't noticed any bloating, weird poop, or clamped fins. I am hoping that once we get the new heater and temperature goes back up, his symptoms will resolve.

Is there anything that you recommend doing in the meantime? We have a quarantine tank, but it is currently housing 4 new guppies (on week 2 of a 4-week quarantine). The temperature in that tank is 78˚ and comfortable. However, I'm worried about putting our shimmying friend into that tank in case the other guppies pick on him. What would you recommend? We don't have another tank or filter to create another QT. The medications that we have on hand are Paracleanse, Ich X, and Maracyn, but I'm hesitant to medicate unless he's in QT (or showing other symptoms).
 

jkkgron2

I would try rearranging the decor. I’ve noticed that guppies sometimes shimmy when establishing a pecking order. You could also do daily 20% waterchanges for a few days to help prevent any infection.
 
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mimo91088

I would try rearranging the decor. I’ve noticed that guppies sometimes shimmy when establishing a pecking order. You could also do daily 20% waterchanges for a few days to help prevent any infection.
Agree with this. Room temp shouldn't cause an issue with guppies. Only other thing I'd recommend is hit them with some salt.
 
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Zonotrichia

Agree with this. Room temp shouldn't cause an issue with guppies. Only other thing I'd recommend is hit them with some salt.

Sorry if I was unclear—it's not the room temperature I'm worried about, but the tank temperature. The tank is reading 72-73. Are you saying that the sudden drop in water temperature wouldn't have an effect on the guppies?

They are in a planted tank, so I would really rather not add salt to my main tank...
 
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jkkgron2

Sorry if I was unclear—it's not the room temperature I'm worried about, but the tank temperature. The tank is reading 72-73. Are you saying that the sudden drop in water temperature wouldn't have an effect on the guppies?

They are in a planted tank, so I would really rather not add salt to my main tank...
It might have a small effect but I doubt it caused anything major.
 
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Zonotrichia

It might have a small effect but I doubt it caused anything major.

OK, good to know then. (Or maybe not good—I would rather there be an obvious cause to his distress!) We'll start with water changes tonight; the tank is due for a clean anyway, and we'll also move around some of the rocks and driftwood.
 
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Fae

I've never kept guppies so take this with a grain of salt- but I have had pretty bad temperature fluctuations recently due to the woodstove being in my bedroom with my fish and my roommate deciding to go ham and have it full blast all day while we were out one day, and the temperature fluctuation was absolutely enough to get my fish a little bit sick in both the 5.5g and the 50g. I'd say it swung a little less than 10° in the 5.5 and around 5 in the 50. My Betta in the 5.5 got ich and one molly who previously got a bit of a fungal infection in the 50 had it come back again. So I wouldn't doubt that a one time fluctuation could cause illness in your fish (especially if they had been sick before, both of mine had).

If you're able to, I would pick up some of those pocket hand or foot warmers from the dollar store (or wherever) and put one or two against the tank to get it starting to warm gradually before the heater comes. They do like a higher temperature and also you don't want another big fluctuation bringing it back up so might be good to get a slow start on raising it before the new heater comes
 
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mimo91088

I have guppies as we speak swimming around just fine in an unheated tank. I don't think the temp is the issue. Have you pulled the failing heater? It's possible stray electricity is shocking the water.
 
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Fae

I have guppies as we speak swimming around just fine in an unheated tank. I don't think the temp is the issue. Have you pulled the failing heater? It's possible stray electricity is shocking the water.

Note you said unheated, not unstable. The fluctuations are what the problem is, less than the actual temperature, within reason.

Part of it depends on what temperature you keep your house at, as well
 
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mimo91088

Note you said unheated, not unstable. The fluctuations are what the problem is, less than the actual temperature, within reason.

Part of it depends on what temperature you keep your house at, as well
You could be correct here. At first I assumed that the malfunctioning heater was removed. But that might be incorrect.
 
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Zonotrichia

You could be correct here. At first I assumed that the malfunctioning heater was removed. But that might be incorrect.

The malfunctioning heater is still in the tank, with the assumption that it was still providing some heat, just not enough (and some heat is better than nothiing). The water had been around 76-77 in the tank (depending on the ambient temperature of the house), and it now hasn't gone above 72-73 for the past two days. We keep our house at 70 during the day, 64 at night. We've since bumped up our night temp so that it doesn't get too cold in the tank. (We live in New England in a house that runs cold...and winter is coming. Though right now it's quite warm out.)
 
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jkkgron2

The malfunctioning heater is still in the tank, with the assumption that it was still providing some heat, just not enough (and some heat is better than nothiing). The water had been around 76-77 in the tank (depending on the ambient temperature of the house), and it now hasn't gone above 72-73 for the past two days. We keep our house at 70 during the day, 64 at night. We've since bumped up our night temp so that it doesn't get too cold in the tank. (We live in New England in a house that runs cold...and winter is coming. Though right now it's quite warm out.)
Only a few degrees drop in temperature shouldn’t hurt them too much. Guppies are really hardy and I’ve actually kept them in water that temp before and they’ve done fine.
 
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mimo91088

The malfunctioning heater is still in the tank, with the assumption that it was still providing some heat, just not enough (and some heat is better than nothiing). The water had been around 76-77 in the tank (depending on the ambient temperature of the house), and it now hasn't gone above 72-73 for the past two days. We keep our house at 70 during the day, 64 at night. We've since bumped up our night temp so that it doesn't get too cold in the tank. (We live in New England in a house that runs cold...and winter is coming. Though right now it's quite warm out.)
I'd pull the heater. Like Fae said, the rapid fluctuations hurt more than the cold. Guppies are pretty temp tolerant. I'm in Massachusetts myself and keep some unheated year round. Breeding slows way down but it won't kill them while you wait for a new heater.
 
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Zonotrichia

I watched Aquarium Co-op’s video last night about livebearer’s disease and had a lightbulb moment:

I realized that I neglected to add two important parameters in my original post, which might be causing the problem. Our water is VERY soft: last night's reading was 2 dKH and 4 dGH, and this is with crushed coral. However, we hadn’t replenished the coral since we initially put it in our filter back in July, and its placement in the filter may have been working against us as well. This may also explain some of the nutrient deficiencies in our plants that I’ve been seeing. (I’ve been using Easy Green fertilizer for the past couple of weeks, with no significant improvement.)

So I refreshed the coral in the filter last night. Will be buying some wonder shells at lunch today. We can’t add salt to the tank due to the plants, but maybe we can boost the hardness to make it more hospitable to guppies...even if this guy doesn’t make it.)

(Last night, our poor guppy was hanging out at the top of the tank, spasming/arching his back every couple of seconds in a distressing way )
 
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Zonotrichia

Hmmm. Upon looking at him closely, it looks like there might be a white spot near the base of his tail. What do you think?


9FAFE33A-7394-4E05-BC5C-7DF4C5957ED1.jpeg
(While I was initially worried about the dark edging on his dorsal fin—thinking fin rot—I think it might just be newer, different colored growth on his fin? It’s been that color since the summer, and his fins have always seemed very voluminous and healthy, except for the nips.)
 
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Fae

The white spot is likely a secondary infection. If you do large water changes and stabilize your temperatures/parameters, he will likely heal on his own. I would pick up a cheap heater from PetSmart or Petco until yours arrives
 
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Zonotrichia

The white spot is likely a secondary infection. If you do large water changes and stabilize your temperatures/parameters, he will likely heal on his own. I would pick up a cheap heater from PetSmart or Petco until yours arrives

Our new heater came on Wednesday (temp is now a comfortable 77/78) and we added Equilibrium to raise the GH a bit (now 7). He's still hanging in there—usually hovering up top, but shimmy-swimming around a bit. I'm planning another WC tonight. Crossing fingers he turns a corner soon.
 
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Zonotrichia

An update: Our guppy is still hanging in there, but it seems just barely. He spends most of the day hovering above the heater barely moving or sitting on the sand.

Today we noticed that his spine seems bent, and my partner is worried about tuberculosis. However, when he does actively swim, his spine and tail seem to straighten up. I am inclined to think that he is just incredibly weak and is just...drooping and exhausted. Is that wishful thinking? (I don’t want fish TB...)

AF1B68F8-1FEC-461F-83FF-828B5AC8A8F9.jpeg
Since my last post, we’ve managed to raise the dGH to 8, and the dKH to 3. Parameters are otherwise the same (Amm 0, Nitrites 0, Nitrates 0-5, 77 degrees F). He is eating when fed and is passing both mucus and food. We’re doing water changes, but it doesn’t seem like the water is the issue.

So three questions:

1. Is this a bent spine or just a droopy, dying fish?
2. This guppy is significantly larger than his tank mates (I think close to 1.5”, but hard to measure). We’ve just had him for 8 months, but could he just be old?
3. At what point is euthanasia the best option?
 
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Zonotrichia

This morning, we found him nestled in the leaves of our Amazon sword plant with his tail bent to the side as if rigor mortis had set in. He was still breathing and his pectoral fins were working, but he largely seemed to have lost control of his tail. He alternated between being in the plant, lying on the sand, and wedging himself between a rock and the glass. Occasionally he would swim normally when we got near to the tank, but it was really hard to watch.

I bought some clove oil at lunch today, and we just said goodbye to him. I wish I knew what had happened, and I hope his two remaining tankmates stay healthy. If not, I'm going to be worried.
 
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Fae

This morning, we found him nestled in the leaves of our Amazon sword plant with his tail bent to the side as if rigor mortis had set in. He was still breathing and his pectoral fins were working, but he largely seemed to have lost control of his tail. He alternated between being in the plant, lying on the sand, and wedging himself between a rock and the glass. Occasionally he would swim normally when we got near to the tank, but it was really hard to watch.

I bought some clove oil at lunch today, and we just said goodbye to him. I wish I knew what had happened, and I hope his two remaining tankmates stay healthy. If not, I'm going to be worried.

That's so sad, I'm sorry to hear about your guppy
 
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