Swordtail with White Stringy Poop – Why? How to fix?

Diagnosing fecal matter of fish is tricky as there are many causes for unusual fish poop. Discovering your otherwise ‘healthy’ swordtail fish passing white, stringy poop can worry any pet owner.

So, how to fix your swordtail’s white stringy poop? Such type of poop can be an indicator of many things including parasites, diarrhea, constipation, stress, and even lack of fiber in your swordtail’s diet. Treatment options vary but prior to treating- it is important to diagnose your fish accurately.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the causes of white, stringy poop in your fish with ways to handle the same without putting your fish in danger.

The hazards of unjust medication

Although, abnormal looking poop can force you into jumping to conclusions regarding the health of your fish- it is not always the most viable solution.

Always remember that using antibiotics or anti-parasite medication without genuine concern can negatively affect your swordtail as they carry potential side effects.

This is why it is important that before you start any medication; assess the health of your fish. This includes checking its skin for any abnormal coloring, weight loss/gain, change in diet, and alteration to the tank. Adding any new tank mates can also cause fish to be uncomfortable and stress out resulting in long, stringy poop.

Nevertheless, we recommend isolating the potential disease-prone swordtail fish to a separate tank until you are sure that it is hale and hearty again. This is because fish diseases such as viruses caused by parasites are highly contagious and can quickly infect the whole tank.

Is your swordtail constipated?

Fish can become constipated by feeding on pellets or flakes. Bloated body and the production of stringy faeces can signify such constipation. Normal fish faeces will fall into the substrate but poop from a constipated fish can appear stringy and hanging from its anus.

A swordtail with chronic constipation is usually disinterested in food and appears lethargic or unable to swim properly.

Although, this may not seem like a dangerous issue, but not handling it properly can cause your fish to develop a secondary illness known as “swim bladder disease”. This can cause it to have trouble staying submerged and upright in the water.

The basic treatment to reduce constipation is to increase the intake of high fiber food for your fish. Pellet and flake fish food contains hardly any amount of fiber and fish that are exclusively given fiber-less food are prone to constipation and indigestion.

A swordtail accepts a variety of foods besides quality flakes. This includes live foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and fruit flies. They also eat a lot of algae and other vegetation present in their habitat.

Moreover, tinned peas work as classic laxatives for fish and can be fed to them as a whole or squashed.

Treating fish with parasitic worms, fish stopped eating and has stringy white pooh.

Indigestion due to stress

Regardless of the reason for stress, long-term exposure to it can lead your fish to digestive problems including indigestion and diarrhea.

As a responsible aquarist, take a thorough evaluation of the fish aquarium.

  • Has the fish producing white, stringy poop recently moved to a new aquarium?
  • Have you made any changes to the swordtail’s tank- for example, added new décor?
  • Does your swordtail have any new tank mates? Although, they are generally peaceful and compatible with many types of fish including Mollies, Platies, Tetras, and even Angelfish- the fish can sometimes show aggressive behavior, causing stress for the other tank mates.

Are the water parameters safe for your swordtail?

Swordtails are not a demanding type of fish and can thrive well when kept in a large tank with clean and fresh water. Perfect water temperature for the swordtail fish is in the range of 73°F – 79°F (23-25°С). While hardness and pH levels don’t matter much to this species, it does feel comfortable in water of medium hardness and pH level of 6.8 – 7.8.

It should also be noted that 20% water change every week is a must for a tank that contains swordtails. Additionally, you can test your water for ideal parameters through a testing kit which is easily available online and at local pet stores.

External parasites?

Parasites in fish can be both– internal or external.

External parasites can be spotted right away in the form of worms and leeches on the body of your aquatic friends. These types of parasites can be removed manually from the fish with the help of forceps and antiseptic medication.

Internal parasites?

Internal parasites (worms) are the main disease-related cause of white, stringy poop in fish of any kind including the swordtails.

The fish that is undergoing such digestive disorders also exhibits signs of lethargy and lack of appetite, besides the unusual production of faeces.

Many fish are infected before they are shipped to their new home and can infect the complete tank. Other reasons for the same are unhygienic water conditions, overcrowding of the tank, stressful conditions, and infected food.

The parasites can also spread and be introduced through new plants and décor in the aquarium.

Treatment options for internal parasites

The best way to avoid parasites is to always quarantine the new fish you add to your aquarium to ensure they are in good health. It is also a ‘poor’ idea to catch fish or décor items from the wild for the purpose of your aquarium. Always purchase living and non-living items for your aquarium from a reputable source that deals with items to be used for the fishkeeping hobby.

Anyhow, anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic medication is widely available in online pet stores and local shops. However, when using them, make sure to read the directions carefully and keep the infected fish away from other tank mates to avoid the risk of spreading.

What to do when you’re in doubt

Since underlying disorders in fish are hard to identify, you can always take your pet to a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis. Often incorrect treatment can increase the symptoms of infection in your fish and eventually result in death. This is why if non-disease conditions are not causing white, stringy poop in your swordtail fish– I’d suggest a trip to the vet or a consultation with an expert aquarist for a comprehensive and experienced take on the condition.

Related questions

Are swordtails easy to manage for beginner aquarists? Yes! Swordtails are easy to take care of and due to their ‘cooperative’ nature; many novice aquarists prefer them as pets. Moreover, they are very easy to breed and simply introducing a male and female swordtail to the same aquarium can initiate the breeding process.

Do swordtail fish produce more poop than other variety of aquarium pets? Actually, yes! Despite being omnivorous fish, in the wild, most of the swordtail diet consists of algae. This is why they are known to produce more faeces than mainly carnivorous fish such as tetras.

Are swordtails live-bearing fish? Just like guppies, moonfish, platys, and mollies, the swordtails give birth to their young rather than laying eggs in the aquarium. Dark spots on either side of the anus and a swelled belly are the signs of pregnancy in swordtail fish.


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