Guppy Bent Spines: Reasons | Treatments | Cures | Facts

Are you worried about your guppies having a bent spine? Or perhaps you are surfing the web looking for a diagnosis and/or treatments for the bent spine. If so, you are at the right place! I will tell you everything you have to know about bent spine syndrome and the measures, all tried and tested; you can take to avoid it!

Guppies are beautiful creatures, with unique and aesthetically pleasing patterns and colors. However, their beauty is sometimes affected by different diseases that they might be suffering from, like scoliosis and tuberculosis.

Guppies With Bent Spines

Fortunately, you need not worry about your fish’s welfare if it has a bent spine. Most of the time they live a happy life however sometimes the fish might be bullied by other healthier fish and might need to be removed from the fish tank and be euthanized!  

There are two main reasons for bent spine syndrome, Scoliosis, and tuberculosis.

Scoliosis

Scoliosis develops in guppy fishes in the frying phase. Female guppies can also develop scoliosis after getting pregnant or giving birth, due to the intense abdominal pressure. This is a fairly harmless disease as a fish can usually go by its life without any problems. Normally, they don’t face any problems at all but in some cases, they might face difficulty in swimming. Or even worse, they often get bullied by other fish, since they are weaker.

Main Reasons for Scoliosis

There are a few main reasons for scoliosis;

Inheritance

Firstly, the disease is hereditary. This means that guppy fish suffering from scoliosis can pass it down to their fries. Research shows that almost 90 percent of female guppy fishes suffering from scoliosis produce diseased larvae. Therefore you should always keep an eye out for female guppies with bent spines to avoid a bent spine epidemic in your aquarium.

Pregnancy at a later age

Secondly, pregnancy. Contracting scoliosis because of pregnancy is more common in older fish. As older guppies cannot carry the weight of 30 or so fry in their bellies, which may result in a bent spine, this is the leading cause of bent spine syndrome.

Inbreeding

Two main factors lead to inbreeding. Firstly, sometimes you want selective breeding to get specific colors and patterns. Secondly, if you do not add new guppy fish for over a year, which is a few generations of guppy considering their lifespan, the same “family” produces inbred (and diseased) larvae. This can generally be avoided by adding new fish every year or so.

Overcrowded Aquarium

Furthermore; overcrowded aquariums also lead to bent spine syndrome. Because of the large number of fish in the fish tank, there is less oxygen available for the fish, and food may not be distributed equally. This, in turn, results in fish with a weak immune system, thus more prone to diseases like scoliosis. Secondly, with a large number of fishes in the same aquarium, the chances of inbreeding rise. Which results in more deformed fish.

Cure for Scoliosis

Unfortunately, there is no cure for scoliosis. The orthodox methods to cure it seldom work. Most of the time, the fishes have to live with it, or in the worst-case scenario, have to be euthanized to cease their suffering. However, on the bright side, some measures can be taken to avoid contracting scoliosis; the best way to avoid a scoliosis epidemic is to remove infected fish from your tank. Either put it in a quarantine tank or put it down humanely to end its suffering.

Measures to avoid Scoliosis

 Here are some more measures that can be taken to avoid bent spine syndrome.

Avoid Inbreeding

Firstly, avoid inbreeding. This might be difficult as they reproduce fast!
however, to avoid bent spine syndrome in your fish, these measures have to be taken. the method I use to avoid scoliosis in my guppies is adding new guppy fishes from a different genetic line every year. This minimizes the chances of contracting this spine-bending disease.

Remove infected fish

As I mentioned above, removing infected fish from your fish tank is essential to avoid scoliosis. As we discussed earlier, scoliosis is a hereditary disease and can be passed on to new offspring. This may result in a large number of infected fish in your tank. And trust me, that is a difficult situation to control. Therefore, you should do it while it has not spread.

Change Tank’s Water

Thirdly, routinely change your tank’s water. This is pretty self-explanatory. clean water means healthier and stronger fish, with stronger immune systems. Strong immune systems can combat diseased like scoliosis and result in healthier fish! Judge the waters parameter yourself to determine when your tank needs fresh water.

Tank Environment

Fourthly, having a healthy tank environment. There has to be enough oxygen and living space for your guppies. having an overcrowded fish tank can decrease oxygen levels in your fish tank. This affects their immune system. as a result, the fishes are more likely to catch illnesses like scoliosis. Furthermore, having a large number of fish in a tank increases the chances of inbreeding. which results in the new generation of larvae being infected. Therefore, add only the number of fish that you can accommodate in your fish tank to avoid scoliosis.

Proper Diet Plan

Finally, have a proper diet plan for your guppies. Guppies are omnivores; and require a diet of flakes, meat, and even vegetables, dried shrimp, or frozen ringworms. Having a good diet is important as it strengthens their immune system and they are less likely to catch diseases like scoliosis.

Fish Tuberculosis

The second reason for a bent spine in your fish is fish tuberculosis. A bent spine, along with a few other symptoms indicates fish tuberculosis. Fish tuberculosis is caused by the macrobacterium marinum bacteria. This bacterium is a close relative of tuberculosis-causing bacteria, This disease is very dangerous as humans can get infected with it too. So, avoid sticking bare hands into the fish tank, especially if you are wounded.

Here are a few other symptoms of fish tuberculosis;

  • Scanty scales
  • Protruding eyes
  • Folded fins
  • Dark spots on your guppy’s skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of scales

If you notice the aforementioned symptoms on your fish, your guppies have contracted tuberculosis. This is a highly contagious disease. Therefore, guppies suffering from fish tuberculosis have to be removed asap to avoid the spreading of this disease.

Reasons your fish has Tuberculosis

There are a few avoidable reasons your guppies contact fish with TB, for example;

Poorly managed Fish Tanks

This disease is common in poorly managed fish tanks. A dirty and overcrowded tank increases the chances of an outbreak. as I said, having an overcrowded fish tank affects the immune system of guppies negatively. Therefore, make sure the environment of your fish tank is healthy.

Buying already sick fish

Another reason for guppies contracting tuberculosis is importing fish from less reputable wholesalers. They might give you guppies that are already infected.

A thing about fish tuberculosis is that once you start seeing apparent symptoms of tuberculosis, the internal immune system of the guppies is already affected. Therefore, you should only purchase guppies from reputable pet stores.

How to Treat or Prevent Fish Tuberculosis?

Unfortunately, there are no treatments for fish tuberculosis. Some sources suggest increasing the temperature of your fish tank; This does nothing but makes it easier for the bacteria to grow and reproduce, which increases the chances of a fish tuberculosis outbreak.

Some vets may prescribe antibiotics like isoniazid etc, but they rarely work. At the end of the day, there is no real treatment for fish tuberculosis. The best you can do is prevent it from happening in the first place. Remove the fish as soon as you notice some symptoms and either put them in a quarantine fish tank or euthanize them. It is a tough decision but it is necessary for the well-being of other fish.

Measures to avoid Tuberculosis in guppy Fish

Some measures can be taken to avoid tuberculosis in guppies;

  • Much like in scoliosis, having clean water parameters is essential as it leads to stronger fish with a strong immune system. This makes it easier for them to combat the spread of fish tuberculosis.
  • Secondly, quarantine the fishes you purchase. Tuberculosis symptoms take up to a week to be apparent, so it is recommended to quarantine new guppies for at least 2 weeks before eventually introducing them to other fishes in your fish tank.
  • Thirdly, if you notice symptoms of tuberculosis in a fish, remove the fish from the parameters immediately and euthanize it to protect other fish in your fish tank. This decision can be hard but it is very important for the well-being of your fish.

How to Euthanize Guppies?

Since there is no cure for bent spine syndrome, the only thing that can be done to help infected fish is to euthanize them to end their suffering.

There are several ways to humanely put your guppies down; some people tend to boil them or freeze them. these methods are not considered humane; neither is flushing them down the toilet.

The way I do it is after moving the sick fish into a quarantine tank, I gradually add clove oil in high concentration. This is a humane way as the fish eventually passes out and dies within 10 minutes, and it is not painful for the fish either.

After the guppy dies, I make sure to use protective gear (masks and gloves) to bury it or flush the dead body down the toilet. make sure you use gloves as tuberculosis is highly contagious and humans can get infected too.

The Bottom Line On Guppy Bent Spines

In conclusion, bent spine syndrome is a common deformity some guppy fishes suffer from. It doesn’t have a cure yet, but it is preventable.

Make sure to get your guppies from a reputable pet store to minimize the chances of your fish contracting. Lastly, make sure you add new fish every year or so, and remove infected fish to keep your stock healthy!


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