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why-swordtail-fish-die

Why did my swordtail fish die?

Why did my swordtail fish die? This is among the questions that people ask more frequently.

Each year, people buy millions of swordtail fish but what they do not know is that these fish have a lifespan of 3-5 years when in the aquarium but they are likely to die earlier due to the owner’s negligence.

The fish can live for over one decade in the wild, but some people have seen them die in less than one week after the purchase. Some of them die within hours because they are among the most mistreated pets in the animal world.

Actually, swordtail fish are very hardy animals, but they will never die without a reason.

Mostly, swordtail fish deaths occur due to beginner mistakes, disease or old age. These and some other factors can be easily identified and avoided.

Some of these errors are more common than others are. Most of the deaths happen soon after the swordtail introduction into an aquarium. Others happen soon after a massive water change and after heavy feeding. Anyway, most of them die within the first month.

Below, we will discuss the major causes of these deaths. But before that, it is good to understand the key symptoms of sick fish.

Common Causes of Swordtails Death

A healthy swordtail fish will move around the tank throughout the day – except when sleeping. Any variation in behavior will be noticeable and it should tell you that there are problems. Sickness will affect the swimming patterns of the fish, physical appearance and the eating routine.

By monitoring the fish closely, you will manage to identify problems as they arise. Earlier detection of unusual diseases or behaviors will prevent premature death of the swordtail fish. Here are the commonest symptoms of diseases.

  • The swordfish starts scratching itself against the rocks or plants. That is a sign of oodinium disease.
  • The swordtail stops moving and sticks to one end of the tank. That indicates more stress and sickness.
  • The swordtail faces breathing heavy breathing or any other breathing problem.
  • Presence of grey patches or sores on the skin indicates a parasitic attack.
  • The eyes of the fish bulge out in an unnatural manner.
  • The swordtail stops eating suddenly
  • Rapid loss of the curved spines and scales indicate health deterioration.
  • Red stripes appear on the body, the color of fins change, the fins tear or jag. That is a sign of ammonia poisoning.

As I have already stated, swordtails in home aquariums die sooner compared to those living in the wild. Mostly, the death comes due to negligence and that means you have to take all the necessary precautionary measures to ensure a healthier longer life. Here are the commonest causes of death in aquariums.

1. Water Parameters

You have to monitor the ammonia and nitrate levels in the water to ensure that your fish are safe. The ideal temperature for the swordtails should be between 72 degrees F and 78 degrees F. The PH level should remain between 6.8 and 7.8.

Swordtails prefer hard water ranging between 12 dGH and 30 dGH, and you should filter it properly. By setting the filtration system appropriately, you will manage to keep the water strong. Track the parameters so that you can act on time and prevent issues. That way, your fish will thrive and live to their full potential.

2. High Stress

Swordfish do not handle stress for a very long time and might end up dying. High stress is the commonest cause of mortality in aquariums. Here are some of the things that will tell you that your fish is stressed.

  • Glass surfing: If the swordtail is moving up and down continuously or they are turned upside down when swimming, you should know that something is wrong. They are highly stressed due to poor quality water or the tank is very small for them. A small tank will affect their swimming.
  • Hiding: Disturbed swordtails tend to hide in the plants or to stay at the bottom part of your aquarium.
  • Lost appetite: If the swordtails reject the food, they will get stressed. They will start losing weight at a faster rate and eventually die.
  • Over-crowding: If the space of your aquarium is very small, the swordtails will not be able to move freely. They will get stressed and sick. Buy a tank of the appropriate size so that the fish can remain stress-free.

3. Male to Female Ratio

Swordtails are known to breed faster when the males are dominating because they harass the females and try to mate with them severally. To ensure that your swordtails are healthy, you will have to maintain an optimal ratio. Swordtails are livebearers.

In other words, the female swordtails produce young ones without laying eggs. The optimum ratio of males to females is 1:3. With an optimal ratio, you will manage to control the breeding rate. The results of maintaining a male swordtail for every female is agitation associated with overbreeding.

4. Disease or Parasite

When a disease starts taking hold of the fish tank, it might be hard to control it, and before you know that your fish is sick, you will have lost several of them within a few days – in the severe cases. Thankfully, all fish diseases, bacteria and parasites are curable with medicines and treatments.

To prevent further harm, do not overmedicate them. Disease treatments are valuable additions to the aquarium kit when the fish start getting sick or some of them die. The treatments target problems and prevent their spread. However, you will have to work out the diseases, bacteria or parasites affecting your fish before you opt for a treatment option.

5. Old Age

The average lifespan of swordtails is 3-5 years. They mostly die due to illnesses and stress – old age is an unlikely cause of death is swordtails. However, as the swordfish ages, it gets weaker and becomes more susceptible to diseases.

The female swordfish die at the time of giving birth because the body is unable to handle the stress. Moreover, the color of this species of fish changes and dulls as they get old. Some are known to live for over five years.
How to make swordtails live longer

By understanding the water parameters of your aquarium, you will be able to prevent the death of your swordtail fish. Nearly every fish keeper will tell you that maintaining the proper quality of water is important for the survival of fish.

The water quality affects the breeding, appetite, overall health, coloration, lifespan, growth, activity level, water clarity and the chances of diseases for your fish. It is as important to the fish as the quality of air is important to you. No one would want to breathe pollutants toxic chemicals or live in waste. The same applies to your swordtail fish.

The water in your aquarium is more sensitive to external factors and a small mistake is likely to spread toxicity. For instance, if the water gets into contact with soap, perfume or any other chemical material, it will definitely get contaminated.

In such cases, the swordfish will become sick. To prevent that you will have to cycle the water. When adding food to your tank, remember to wash your hands with an anti-bacterial handwash or wear gloves. The small precautions will save the fish from most of the dangers associated with water toxicity.

Fish eliminate waste materials from their body, particularly ammonia, in the aquarium water. Accumulation of the ammonia waste can make the water poisonous, therefore, causing the death of the swordtail fish. To decrease the ammonia, you will have to change the water on a regular basis and install an effective filtration system.

What should you do with a dead swordtail fish?

Immediately you see a dead swordtail in your aquarium, you will have to remove it from water because the body is likely to rot very fast in warm bacteria-laden water. The dead fish can pollute the aquarium water and risk the health of the others.

If the death came as a result of a disease, the last thing you would want is other swordtails to consume its parts. After the removal, test the water to ensure that the quality is right. If the water is fine, check for other things like starvation, diseases, long-term stress and inappropriate conditions such as soft water, old age.

Which are the best tankmates for swordtails?

Swordtails are active and peaceful species. They are social and enjoy the company of other swordtails or the similar passive species. They make a good companion in similar cousins like mollies, platies or angelfish. The peaceful corydoras are good companions too.

If you like the large tetras, they will make a great companion, but you will have to keep schools of over five fish to prevent harassment. Swordtail males are more aggressive to the other males of same species. For a small tank, keep one male and two or three female swordtails.

What is the minimum tank size for swordtail fish?

The average size swordtail will not require much space due to the small size, but considering the fact that they are very active, you will have to provide them with adequate space to swim. One adult swordtail will need a 15 gallons tank.

If you need to add some other fish for company, you will have to plan for them and go for a 30 gallon aquarium. The optimal ratio of male to females is 1:3. That way, you will manage to distribute the harassment evenly.

Written by Fabian

Hey, I'm Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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