of air space facilitates gas (oxygen and
carbon dioxide) exchange. I also pass on
the large dollop of sticky water conditioner
that some stores squirt liberally in the
bag before tying off. However, if they are
using an ammonia neutralizer, that can
be beneficial—but request only a drop
or two. Overdosing with chemicals can
further stress your new animal.
Whether your livebearer is from a store
or a club, get it home as soon as possible.
Avoid direct sunlight and heat, and keep
them away from chills during the trip. I
use a portable and insulated or rigid foam-board cooler to maintain temperature, and
to keep them dark (this keeps them calmer,
and results in less waste in the bag).
Multiple dead fish in the tank
Tiny white or black protruded spots
Stringy extension from the anal vent
Cottony puffs or white/gray color patches
Lesions on body or near edge of tail
Overly thin body
Shimmying in place, often with clamped fins
Contagion or acclimation problem
Internal parasites or fish tuberculosis
Acclimation; ammonia poisoning
A Little Acclimation
Goes a Long Way
Regardless of how or where you acquired
your new livebearers, you will need to start
acclimating them to your aquarium water
before adding them to your tank. There are
two important steps to accomplish this. The
wrong way is the “float the bag and release”
method advocated by some pet stores and
old books. This will only acclimate the
fish to your water’s temperature, not its
chemical makeup. This may also release
potentially pathogen-seeded water into
your aquarium. Plus, it keeps your fish in
ammonia-laden water even longer.
The correct approach is to place the fish
bag at the bottom of your dedicated aquarium
bucket and gently release the fish and water.
Immediately add one cup of aquarium water
to the pail using a well-rinsed cup. Add a
drop or two of your ammonia-neutralizing
water conditioner. Add a little more water
only if the fish is not completely covered.
Wait 10 minutes and add another cup
of your aquarium water. Now repeat this
process every 5 minutes. After a total of
30 minutes in the bucket, your fish can be
netted. Alternatively, you can drip-acclimate
your livebearer using airline tubing that is
either tied off or regulated via a gang valve
to provide one or two drops per second.
This method requires close supervision,
but it is the safest way to go.
The other important step provides the
best way to avoid introducing a disease
to your established aquarium: place the
acclimated fish into a quarantine tank.
Put it in a small spare aquarium that will
serve the dual function of a quarantine and
hospital tank. For livebearers, a 2½-gallon
(10-liter) aquarium works fine for single
specimens or small pairs, while a 5- or
10-gallon (20- or 40-liter) works for trios
and larger groups. This aquarium should
have established filtration. This can usually
be accomplished by borrowing some plants
from the main tank and using half the
biological media from the established
aquarium. You may need a small, gentle
filter, along with a heater and light as well.
Acclimate the fish in the aforementioned
way, and for at least one week (longer is
better), observe any sign of disease before
adding them to their permanent home.
After acclimation, net them from the bucket
or tank (depending on which of the above
methods you use), and with your hand over
the net opening, place the entire net with fish
in your aquarium and let them find their own
way out. Never shake or push a fish out of a
net and plop it in the water. Also, never add
the bucket water to the aquarium. Dispose of
it either down a drain or outside your home.
MP. & C. Piednoir
Among the common pet-shop livebearers, green swordtails usually make some of the hardiest
Of the hybridized livebearers seen in retail stores, mollies are among the most fragile.
Tropical Fish Hobbyist www.tfhmagazine.com