help for split tails
by E.T. Mellor
Just so there is no confusion let me describe, what in my mind, split tails are, and are not. To me, the term split tail refers to a tear in the caudal tail, which occurs very quickly, and is usually not accompanied by any other type of caudal deterioration, fraying, or rot. This tear runs horizontally from the trailing edge of the caudal back in towards or in some cases all the way to the base of the tail where it joins the peduncle. The fish usually does not display any sign of illness or loss of vigor. It just suddenly shows up with a large split in its caudal.
This tear usually does not get progressively worse; the first time you see it the tear is as severe as it will likely get. Split tails are very different from frayed tails or tail rot, where when present there is a gradual deterioration of the quality of the caudal's trailing edge in an uneven pattern. One condition that can look very much like a split tail occurs when a fish suffers from a bite from another fish. This injury may look like split tail except that the rip is wider in size. The key place to look is at the point of the tear closest to the peduncle. If the shape of the tear is blunt or circular at that point it is not a true split tail but rather that part of the tail has been plucked out by a bite. Sadly, I have no advice on how to repair this problem.
There are probably a few different causes of split tails. It is conceivable that a male could, in attempts to display for a female, simply try too hard to spread his tail too wide and cause a split. It is also conceivable that fish as they swim vigourously simply push too hard against the water which could cause too much stress to the caudal and this could also cause a split. I have a good friend who swears that he saw a male split his tail "dive bombing" a catfish in his tank and catching his caudal on the catfish's dorsal spine, splitting it the entire length. Needless to say, he no longer keeps catfish.
Early on I tried to find some remedy for the problem of split tails. In the literature I found two approaches. One was to add Vitamin B-12 to the water Water soluable B-12 was advised. The other cure was to put the males in a shallow tank. I imagined this latter approach was advised so the fish would not have to push hard with their tails going up too far. Not having a separate tank to use for such a purpose I tried to fmd a water soluble Vitamin B-12 that I would add to tank water. The ones I found discolored the water and just didn't seem to work. When a male split his tail it might heal up a little but not very much and certainly not enough for my tastes. This use of Vitamin B-12 didn't work for me.
I continued to get along as best I could with this problem, until I attended the East Coast Fancy Guppy Association Show in May of 2000. My friend Robert Carpentieri was speaking to me and said, "You need to meet Tom Miglio, he has a great cure for the problem of split tails." Tom Miglio told me that he had been taking care of his problem by adding Vitamin B-12 to his brine shrimp water on an ongoing basis. At the time Tom was showing half black reds, half black AOC's and some varigated snakeskins. I had heard of the idea of adding things to the brine shrimp water, that you want your fish to take into their system, thus the idea made sense to me. I went home anxious to try this new tip on my fish.
In a day or two of arriving home I went to the local health food store. Those of you that know me can probably guess that I am not too familiar with the insides of a health food store, o~ very knowledgeable abouttheir wares. Nonetheless, I bravely entered. By a stroke of luck I did manage to find the vitamin section. Immediately, I asked a store worker if she could recommend a "water soluble" brand of Vitamin B-12. She looked at me rather strangely because after all, they are designed to go to the same place. Not wanting to go through a long explanation about my actual plan with these vitamins, I just stressed again that I wanted ones that dissolved in water real well. She handed me a bottle indicating that these would work as well as any. It was at this point I realized I had not brought my reading glasses into the store with me, however, being able to make out the letter B, I brought the bottle home with me. As it turned out I had purchased a bottle of B Vitamins not just Vitamin B-12
Tom had indicated that he would cut the tablets up into two or three smaller pieces for use in his brine shrimp hatchery. I started adding a half tablet to every batch of brine shrimp, which is about one and half liters of water. Like most practices related to the care of my fish this became automatic, such as feeding brine shrimp twice a day to all my fish, and went on for some time.
About four months later it dawned on me that I still hadn't been able to see if the addition of the Vitamin B would heal a split tail because there had not been any. Not a single occurance of a split tail in months! This was unheard of in my tanks, as they had occurred seemingly all the time. Slowly it dawned on me that since the addition of the Vitamin b was the only thing I had done differently that I the addition of the Vitamin B-12 might be a preventative instead of a cure.
As luck would have it, about two weeks later I looked into the tank, and there was a real nice male with a split tail. His tail was split all the way to the peduncle. It was exactly the kind of split that would never have healed well back before May 2000. The short story here (as you can see I don't specialize in short ones) is that I watched it heal gradually to the point that in 7 days I couldn't tell which male had split his tail. Over the next several months I had two different males split their tails from the trailing edge to the peduncle and true to form within 7 days they were completely healed. Healed to the point that you could never tell they had ever had a split tail. . At this point I became a believer in the power of Vitamin B to prevent and heal split tails. I believe that having the brine shrimp absorb it made all the difference in the delivery of the vitamin to the fish.
In preparing this article I gave Tom Miglio a call to make sure I was getting everything right. It was at this time that he indicated to me that he too was using Vitamin Band not just Vitamin B-12. He stated that complete B had worked better for him and stressed the importance of getting one that wasn't oily and dissolved well in water. He also indicated that a formulation containing high amounts of Vitamin C could adversely effect the pH of the brine shrimp water.
For those who like technical details; the type of Vitamin I use are High Potency whole B made by Whole Foods. It contains the following amounts of the various B vitamins: 50mg Thiamin, 50mg Riboflavin, 200mg Niacin, 1100 mg B-6, 400mcg Folic Acid, 750mg Vitamin C and 150 mcg Biotin. (Biotin, I remember from my horse interests, is an essential amino acid which is very useful to horse digestion when they are under physical stress.) This formulation also contains 100mg. Calcium, 100 mg. Magnesium, 50 mg Chromium and 200mg Pantothenic Acid.
If you've had problems with split tails occurring too often or not healing well, I would recommend that you try this solution. Remember it is best to use it as a preventive by putting it in the brine shrimp water on an ongoing basis instead of just starting to use it when a split occurs. It certainly has worked well for me.