As a fish owner, I care about the health of my fish. For that reason, I get a bit worried once I see odd behaviors in my tank. For example, quite frequently, I noticed that my guppies appeared to be shaking and vibrating. To solve that issue, I started researching the reasons for that pretty extensively.
Guppies typically shake and vibrate due to inadequate water conditions, including hard water, low pH, and cold temperatures. However, guppies may also start shaking due to elevated ammonia and nitrates, an underlying infection, bullying tankmates, or when introduced to a new tank too quickly.
As we move forward in this article, I will share five essential tips to stop your guppies’ shivering. I will also teach you how to introduce new fish to your tank correctly to avoid such an issue in the future.
Also Read: Stress In Guppy Fish
Why Do Guppies Shake & Vibrate?
If your guppy is shaking, it probably has the shimmies. This ailment causes fish to rock from side to side. From certain angles, the guppy might appear to shiver. It would be best to start by stating that shimmying is a symptom, not a disease.
In many cases, it is also accompanied by additional symptoms such as gasping and clamped fins. If your guppy is shaking, you are encouraged to identify and eliminate the cause before the guppy suffers lasting damage.
Common causes of shimmying in guppies include:
1. Poor Water Conditions
Shimmying is quite common in livebearers, and it is often associated with the quality of water in their tank. If your guppies are shaking, probably because they no longer enjoy any significant control over their nerves and muscles, test the water.
More than likely, it is too soft or acidic. Yes, guppies are hardy fish that can adapt to a variety of environments. However, they are sensitive to hard or acidic water. You should also check the other tank parameters, including the pH, temperature, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites.
Suppose a guppy came from a store, and your aquarium conditions differ from those it was accustomed to. In that case, the shock could lead to shimmying in the guppy, especially if you fail to acclimatize the fish appropriately before introducing it to your home aquarium.
If the parameters are correct and the water is clean, you should consider contaminants like chlorine. Some people use strong detergents for cleaning purposes that leave a residue that is guaranteed to poison your fish.
2. Stressful Conditions
Stress is responsible for a variety of illnesses and symptoms in guppies, including shaking. Low water quality is one potential cause of stress. However, there are many more factors that may contribute to stress in your guppies.
For example, exposure to toxins and harsh lighting may pose an issue. Toxins typically include ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites. It would help if you also avoided direct lightning or put your aquarium away from your windows.
I also recommend considering the presence of ongoing human traffic in the vicinity, the introduction of guppies to a new tank without proper acclimatization, unsafe shipping conditions, and aggressive tankmates.
3. Underlying Disease
Poor tank conditions can attract parasites and bacteria that can burden your guppies with diseases and infections. These diseases and infections, on their own, might not cause shimmying. However, they will induce stress, which can eventually produce shimmying.
Some illnesses like swim bladder disorders may cause guppies to move in ways that are not entirely natural. If your fish is seemingly shaking and shivering, I suggest that you look for swim bladder disorder signs such as a distended belly.
4. Overcrowded Tanks
As I will explain later on, one solution for a shaking guppy would be introducing plants and decorations to the tank. However, aquariums that are too stuffed may also contribute to shimmies in guppies.
That is because overcrowded aquariums elevate stress in guppies. If they are forced to share their territories with other fish, hostility is likely to occur. That could result in a stressed guppy who is consistently bullied by aggressive tankmates, such as angelfish and barbs.
Also Read: Why Is My Guppy Bullying Other Fish?
How to Treat Shaking Guppies?
Because shaking is a symptom rather than a disease, it can’t be treated directly. You have to improve the conditions surrounding the guppy instead. Unless it has a disease you can tackle, this is the only way to prevent and eliminate shimmying.
Some practical solutions include:
1. Adjusting the Tank Conditions
The average guppy grows to a size of 2.4 inches. It requires a tank of 5 gallons, 75-82 degrees F temperatures, and a pH ranging from 7.0 to 7.2 (though the fish can adapt to any pH between 5.5 and 8.5 where necessary).
Start by using a thermometer to determine whether the temperature is set right. I suggest testing those parameters weekly since they tend to change. To do so, I highly recommend the API Aquarium Test Kit (link to Amazon). That incredible bundle probably saved me hundreds of fish. It will measure your pH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites within minutes and is highly affordable.
If the parameters are wrong and you have identified toxins in the water, you should initiate gradual changes. For instance, change 10 percent of the water every day. A more significant water change will intensify the guppy’s stress, making the shimmying even worse.
If you need to raise the temperature, do so slowly. If the guppy is new, use the drip method in a bucket to acclimatize it to your new tank’s conditions. With the right parameters, zero ammonia and nitrites, and the lowest possible nitrate levels, your guppy will recover.
The hardness of the water should range between 8 and 12 dGH. Tap water is usually okay, although it would be best to test your aquarium’s water once in a while. I personally do that by using Water Hardness Test Strips (link to Amazon). If you find the water too hard, it would be wise to consider other water sources for your tank.
2. Adding Aquarium Salt
Livebearers like guppies typically respond positively to salt since it adds electrolytes to the water. The absence of those may compromise the guppy’s metabolism, leading to ailments like shimmying. Sometimes, guppies can even acclimatize to saltwater aquariums, as I elaborated in this article.
If your guppy also appears sluggish and lethargic, adding one tablespoon for each gallon of water may eliminate an underlying infection. To do that, I recommend using the API Aquarium Salt (link to Amazon). However, make sure that you treat your guppy in a dedicated, separate tank.
3. Introducing Plants & Decorations
Guppies prefer planted tanks, especially if they are stressed. The foliage provides hiding places, giving the fish moments of peace, particularly in tanks with aggressive fish. That may lower the stress your guppy is experiencing and mitigate its shimmies.
However, you cannot rely solely on the presence of plants to protect your guppies from bullies. It might prove necessary to either remove the bullies from the tank or add a divider in some cases. It would be best to assess the situation before acting.
Yes, plants and decorations provide vital hiding locations. However, if your guppy spends most of the day in hiding, then it is still stressed. The shimmying won’t alleviate until the guppy is at ease. And in some cases, that can only happen when aggressive tankmates are removed from the tank.
4. Consider Quarantining Your Fish
If you cannot identify the cause of the shimmying, you should place the fish in quarantine. That allows you to observe the guppy closely. You can make changes to the tank while recording the guppy’s reactions.
Given enough time, you will eventually narrow your options down until you pinpoint the shimmying source. Quarantine is also useful where diseased guppies are concerned. Rather than treating the entire aquarium, you can treat the guppy directly without worrying about the other fish’s consequences.
If you suspect that disease is responsible for the shimmying, I suggest talking to a vet. They will prescribe the appropriate treatment.
A significant number of guppy diseases require antibiotics. But if you don’t have any experience with treating guppies, it would be best to consult an expert. Guppies can have adverse reactions to the wrong treatments.
Some people have successfully treated shimmying in fish using commercial products such as shimmy blocks and Molly Bright (Liquid Treatment, Jungle Laboratories). That might help in your case, but make sure to test those in a hospital tank.
5. Elevate the Temperature
Like the salt baths, sick or distressed guppies may respond positively to a steady elevation in temperature.
Again, this change should be gradual. Drastic swings in temperature will do more harm than good. Start by raising the temperature by 1 degree F every two days, and see what happens. However, do not exceed 82 degrees F.
It would help if you also fed the guppy sparingly during this period. However, the quality of the fish’s diet should be maintained. Guppies are omnivores that eat plants and animals. A healthy diet is essential to the recovery of a shimmying guppy.
Also Read: Why Do Guppies Blow Bubbles?
Introducing New Guppies Properly to Avoid Shimmies
As was mentioned earlier, one of the most common reasons for shaking in guppies is abrupt water changes. That typically occurs when purchasing new fish. The water they were accustomed to in the store is naturally different from your tank.
Therefore, you must conduct a gradual introduction. Start by keeping your guppies in the plastic carrying bag. Then, you may place the bag inside your existing home tank. That will allow gradual temperature stabilization. Abrupt thermal changes are likely to cause shivering in guppies.
Fish can survive in a plastic bag for about 48 hours, so you shouldn’t be too patient. Once you feel that the water inside the bag is about the same temperature as your tank, you may pour your new guppies to your home aquarium.
If your tank features aggressive fish such as cichlids, it would be wise to take them out for a while. Let them sit in a different tank until your new guppy gets used to the new environment. Once you notice it has established certain territories, you may put back the aggressive fish.
I also recommend getting the right number of guppies in the first place. You’ll need more females than males to avoid competition over reproduction. As a rule of thumb, get three females for every male guppy. That is likely to ease stress and prevent shivers.
Typically, guppies tend to shake when they are experiencing stress. That is a general symptom that may be expressed due to several reasons. The best way of action would be to eliminate possible stressful conditions.
Start with the basics and test your water temperature, pH, and hardness. Then, move forward and check if toxins such as ammonia, nitrates, or nitrites are to blame. If your guppy also appears ill, move it to a separate tank and consult a vet for further treatment.
If you wish to take things into your own hands, you may put your shaking guppy in a hospital tank (using the same water from its previous aquarium).
You may then elevate the temperature a bit and add one tablespoon of salt for each gallon of water you’ve put in. That could potentially treat underlying infections without antibiotics.