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Guppy Bent Spine? Is it Untreatable?

Guppy Bent Spine? Is it Untreatable?

Guppies may be hardy in nature, but it doesn’t mean they don’t need any care. If you take your guppy’s health and well-being too lightly, there’s a good chance that the fish will end up with a life-impairing condition. One such example is a guppy bent spine, which is not at all uncommon. Let’s find out why it occurs and how to prevent it.

What Causes A Guppy Bent Spine?

Guppies can be born with a bent spine, and develop it suddenly or progressively as they reach adulthood. It’s characterized by a curvature in the spine that looks like the letter S. Guppy bent spine is caused either by scoliosis or fish tuberculosis, both of which are untreatable.

Now let’s explore the two diseases mentioned above in detail and tips on how to prevent them.

Watch this video of a school of guppies with bent spine:

Scoliosis In Guppies

Scoliosis means the sideways curvature of the spine. In guppies, this disease usually occurs in the larval or fry stage, where the spine develops either in an S or C-shaped curvature. In their postnatal period, female guppies are especially prone to scoliosis as they experience intense abdominal pressure while giving birth.

Why Does My Guppy Have Scoliosis?

The most common reasons behind scoliosis in guppies are heredity and inbreeding. If the female parent has a bent spine, there’s a high probability that the fry will inherit this condition. Likewise, other factors like poor diet, deficiency of light, and poor filtration and heating system can also cause scoliosis.

Result Of Inbreeding

If your guppy developed scoliosis at a very early stage of its life, it’s most probably an outcome of inbreeding.

This is mainly a sad reality for new guppies species as they have a relatively limited gene pool. Like dogs, guppies are often inbred to have specific desirable characteristics like bright colors, bigger fins, and unique patterns.

The curvature of the spine may progressively get worse or never change during the fish’s lifetime.

Diversifying the gene pool and avoiding inbreeding at any cost is imperative to prevent scoliosis in guppies.


Heredity is the second most common reason behind guppy bent spine.

In fact, reproduction by guppies that have scoliosis is a fool-proof recipe for guppy bent spine. If any parent suffers from a bent spine, the same future likely awaits its fry.

Moreover, it is estimated that over 90% of fry born to females with scoliosis inherit this condition from their mother.

If you have a pregnant guppy with a bent spine, you should allow her fry to live with the adults. Since guppies eat their own babies, the fry won’t live up to adulthood with a painful condition.

Unhealthy Tank Environment 

Inbreeding and genetics are two factors that you can’t control when dealing with a guppy bent spine. However, a bad tank environment is something you can completely work on. Guppies raised in cramped tanks with low levels of oxygen and light are prone to develop scoliosis.

A tank with low oxygen levels doesn’t only hamper respiratory functions but overall well-being in guppies. It takes a toll on their immune system, making them prone to conditions like scoliosis.

However, lighting can have a direct impact on the spine. Guppies need about 8-10 hours of daily light to boost their spinal growth. Lack of proper natural and artificial light can be a common reason behind bent spines in guppies.

Poor Diet 

For starters, guppies are omnivores that need hearty meals. Their diet should consist of high-quality flakes and pellets, frozen blood worms and brine shrimp, and even veggies. The most essential nutrients for guppies are calcium, phosphorus, and protein.

If they don’t receive adequate meals, the immune system weakens and ultimately invites diseases like scoliosis.

Guppies with scoliosis will have a tremendously difficult time swimming. Their growth is stunted as well.

As a result, guppy’s foraging and mating capabilities are seriously compromised. They will most often also bear the brunt of bullying, harassment, and fights in the tank.

Thus, if you have a guppy with a bent spine, it shouldn’t produce offspring.

You Might Also Like To Read:

Do Guppies Die After Giving Birth? Best Way To Know If Your Guppy Is Pregnant.

Can Guppies Live Alone? Or Is It The Most Social Pet Fish??

Why is My Guppy Laying on the Bottom of Tank? 8 Reasons Behind It.

Tuberculosis In Guppies

Fish Tuberculosis is yet another culprit behind guppy bent spine—caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium Marinum. It is highly contagious and will quickly spread to other fish in the tank if not controlled in time. Tanks that are crammed and not maintained well are highly susceptible to an outbreak.

Likewise, suppose the tank’s oxygen level is depleted. In that case, it will cause a spike in other harmful gases like ammonia, nitrate, and nitrites, which heightens a guppy’s chance of contracting tuberculosis greatly. And so does a tank with a weak filtration system, a feeble heating mechanism, and small dimensions.

Suppose you have a guppy suffering from fish tuberculosis. In that case, you should immediately transfer it to a quarantine tank and clean the community tank. The bacteria can grow prolifically within the tank—potentially infecting several guppies at a time.

However, it’s not just a polluted tank that’s susceptible to tuberculosis. Unfortunately, when you bring in a new fish home, it may have already contracted the disease. Always make sure you’re buying fish from reliable fish stores that always house their fish in optimum environments.

How To Tell Tuberculosis From Scoliosis In Guppies?

While the bent spine is one of tuberculosis’s main symptoms, it’s easy to confuse it with scoliosis.

Here are other symptoms of tuberculosis in guppies:

  • Discoloration in the abdomen, fins, and tail area
  • Lesions and spots
  • Loss of appetite
  • Protruding and red eyes
  • Loss of scales

The most effective way to prevent fish tuberculosis is to keep the tank clean and enriched so that guppies can live healthy and stimulating life.

How To Treat Tuberculosis In Guppies?

There are a few treatments available for guppy bent spine caused by tuberculosis, but it rarely works. Vets often prescribe antibiotics, but these aren’t very effective in alleviating the disease. Similarly, a few traditional methods, like adding salt and raising the temperature, don’t have good success rates.

A few antibiotic options are available like Isoniazid, Kanamycin, and Neomycin, which are widely recommended by vets. While medication may help to control the rate of disease spread to an extent, it can’t reverse a guppy bent spine.

Likewise, a few traditional methods claim to work just fine, but they often backfire more than they mend. For instance, adding salt to the tank and raising the temperature may aggravate bacteria growth, adding more to the fish’s woe.

Thus, the only right thing to do is immediately transfer the fish to the quarantine tank until you decide what to do with it.

It’s not at all an easy decision to make, but it’s what is best for your fish. Tuberculosis is a highly communicable disease, and prevention is the only tool we have to fight against it.

How To Prevent Tuberculosis In Guppies?

A colorful guppy
A colorful guppy

Ensure that your fish has a robust immune system backed by a healthy, nutrient-rich diet to avoid tuberculosis and subsequent guppy bent spine. Other than that, ensure a safe and sound tank environment with optimum parameters and space to keep tuberculosis at bay.

A simply stress-free environment can go a really long way in preventing a guppy from getting sick.

And never fail to quarantine new fish before you introduce them to the tank. It may sound farfetched, but you never know what diseases they are carrying. At least keep them in a new tank for about two weeks.

How To Euthanize A Guppy?

As there’s no cure for guppy bent spine, the only option that’s best for the sick guppy or fellow tank mates is euthanizing the ill fish. Adding clove oil into the water is the most humane way to euthanize a guppy since it makes them unconscious and initiates a painless death.

Once you transfer the sick guppy to the quarantine tank, you can add clove oil in high concentration.

Clove oil acts as a sedative at first before making the guppy unconscious. It induces hypoxia, a condition characterized by oxygen deprivation, causing the guppy to die within 10 minutes.

We’d recommend adding 400mg of clove oil to one liter of water for an instant and painless result. You can easily purchase this oil from a local chemist.

Dilute the clove oil with a bit of warm water and mix it before adding it to the tank. Make sure you do so gradually because a sudden change in water parameters will only scare your poor fish.

After about 10-12 minutes, you can check your guppy’s gill movement. Most probably, your fish will have passed away by then.

When disposing of the dead guppy’s body, don’t forget to wear protective gear like masks and gloves since tuberculosis is highly communicable and can be transmitted via the smallest scrapes or injuries.

We often come across fish parents that euthanize their fish by putting them in either too-cold or hot water, flushing them down, and even using carbon dioxide.

However, all of these methods are inhumane, and your guppy doesn’t deserve any of it.

Thus, we strongly recommend using the clove oil method to euthanize a guppy with a bent spine.

Conclusion On Guppy Bent Spine

Guppy bent spine is a serious and life-threatening condition that’s either caused by scoliosis or tuberculosis. These conditions can occur at different life stages, but irrespective of that, it is not treatable.

The best you can do to prevent a guppy bent spine is to gauge and apply the necessary prevention steps. While inbreeding and heredity are primarily responsible for this painful condition in guppies, tank health is another crucial factor.

If the tank is not well kept—low oxygen level, lack of space, weak filtration, and heating mechanism—it profusely increases the chances of a guppy contracting either scoliosis or tuberculosis.

Unfortunately, since these are untreatable conditions, you will have to euthanize the sick guppy, who’d otherwise lead an impoverished life. To euthanize, you can add clove oil to the tank, making your pet fish unconscious before taking its breath away.

Relevant Readings On Guppies:

What Fish Eat Guppies? Their Arch Enemies??

What is The Best Guppy Male to Female Ratio? Urbanfishkeeping

Do Guppies Sleep? | Your Ultimate Guide to Guppy’s Sleep Cycle