Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments
There are several diseases that can affect the health of your fish. Only the most common of these afflictions are listed here. There are several precautions which can be taken to reduce the possibility of disease and keep it from spreading if it does occur. This information serves as a general guideline only. Always seek professional advice, and research any medications or treatments you use for your aquarium or fish. With the most recent advances in modern Veterinarian medicine you may be able to have your fish treated for various health conditions. Contact your local Veterinarian to see if they treat aquatic marine life.
- Buy only good-quality, compatible fish.
- Quarantine new fish before adding them to the aquarium.
(A hospital tank can be used for this.)
- Avoid stressing the fish with rough handling, sudden
changes in conditions, or "bully" tankmates.
- Don't overfeed your fish.
- Move sick fish to a hospital tank for treatment.
- Disinfect nets used to move sick fish.
- Don't transfer water from the quarantine tank to
the main aquarium.
- Don't let any metal come in contact with the aquarium
Common Aquarium Fish Maladies
The most common maladies seen in home aquaria, are usually bacterial or parasitic in origin. Such diseases are easily diagnosed, and can be treated successfully. With a proper diagnosis, an appropriate remedy can be purchased and administered. If the treatment is an antibiotic or copper based, remember to remove all carbon from the filtration system.
Bacterial diseases are usually characterized by red streaks or spots and/or swelling of the abdomen or eye. These are best treated by antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin, or erythromycin if available. The most common parasitic disease, called "Ich", can be treated most effectively with copper or malachite green in the right dosage. Most treatments will have copper as an ingredient. Many water treatments like "Aquari-Sol" will also contain copper as an ingredient.
When using any antibiotic make sure the biological filtration in your aquarium is not destroyed. Although most of the treatments available for purchase claim they will not harm your biological filter, they may. It is best to either monitor your ammonia and nitrite levels, or use an ammonia remover such as "AmQuel" to be sure your levels of ammonia don't become a problem.
Be aware that medications containing copper as an ingredient will be toxic to most plants, and will kill invertebrates, such as snails. In fact, most snail removers are copper-based.
Symptoms: White cauliflower-like nodular swellings on fins or body.
Lymphocystis is a virus which affects the cells of fish. It usually manifests itself as abnormally large white cauliflower-like lumps on the fins or other parts of the body. It can be infectious, but is usually not fatal. It is a rare disease, but unfortunately, there is no cure. The only options are to remove and isolate the infected fish as soon as possible for several months and hope for remission, which usually does occur.
Symptoms: Bloody streaks on fins or body.
Red Pest is called such, because of bloody streaks that appear on the body, fins and/or tail. These streaks may become ulcerations, which may lead to fin and tail rot. In severe cases, the ulcerations may even cause the tail and/or fins to fall off. Since the disease is internal, external treatments are usually not effective, except in very mild cases. For mild cases, treat the aquarium with a disinfectant, and clean the aquarium very thoroughly. To disinfect, use acriflavine (trypaflavine) or monacrin (monoaminoacridine) using a 0.2% solution at the rate of 1 ml per liter. Both disinfectants will color the water, but the color disappears as the disinfectants dissipates. If the fish do not appear to respond favorably, discontinue the disinfectants. Then add an antibiotic to the food. A good antibiotic is chloromycetin (chloramphenicol); or tetracycline can be used. Decrease feedings while the aquarium is being treated. When feeding flake food, carefully mix in and follow the manufacturers directions. If you keep the fish hungry, they should eagerly eat the mixture before the antibiotic dissipates.
Symptoms: White cottony patches around the mouth.
Mouth Fungus is so called because it looks like a fungus attack of the mouth. It is actually caused from the bacterium Chondrococcus columnaris. It shows up first as a gray or white line around the lips and later as short tufts sprouting from the mouth like fungus. The toxins produced and the inability to eat will be fatal unless treated at an early stage. Penicillin at 10,000 units per liter is a very effective treatment. Treat with a second dose in two days. Or use chloromycetin, 10 to 20 mg per liter, with a second dose in two days.
Mycobacteriosis, Syn: fish tuberculosis, piscine tuberculosis, acid-fast disease, granuloma disease.
Symptoms: Emaciation, hollow belly, possibly sores.
Tuberculosis is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium piscium. Fish infected with tuberculosis may become lethargic, hollow bellied, pale, show skin ulcers and frayed fins, have fin and scale loss, and loss of appetite. Yellowish or darker nodules may appear on the eyes or body and may deform the fish. The main causes for this disease appears to be over crowding in ill maintained conditions; ie. poor water quality. All fish species could be susceptible though some are more susceptible than others. Those most susceptible are the labyrinth air breathers like the Gouramis, Bettas, and Paradise Fish. Others include Neon Tetras, Discus, and the Ram Cichlid. There is no absolute treatment. However the most effective treatment known for this disease is to treat with Kanamycin and Vitamin B-6 for 30 days. Kanamycin can be purchased at your local fish store. Liquid baby vitamins work well as a Vitamin B-6 source. They are available at your local pharmacy. Add one drop per every 5 gallons of aquarium water during treatment. If the treatment is ineffective, the best thing to do is euthanize the infected fish. If either unkempt conditions or over crowding are the suspected cause, correct the condition. Use caution when dealing with any infected fish.
Symptoms: Bloating of the body, protruding scales.
Dropsy is caused from a bacterial infection of the kidneys, causing fluid accumulation or renal failure. The fluids in the body build up and cause the fish to bloat up and the scales to protrude. It appears to only cause trouble in weakened fish and possibly from unkempt aquarium conditions. An effective treatment is to add an antibiotic to the food. With flake food, use about 1% of antibiotic and carefully mix it in. If you keep the fish hungry they should eagerly eat the mixture before the antibiotic dissipates. Antibiotics usually come in 250 mg capsules. If added to 25 grams of flake food, one capsule should be enough to treat dozens of fish. A good antibiotic is chloromycetin (chloramphenicol). Or use tetracycline. If you feed your fish frozen foods or chopped foods, try to use the same ratio with mixing. As a last resort add at most 10 mg per liter of water. Also, if unkempt conditions are the suspected cause, correct it.
Symptoms: Protruding scales without body bloat.
Scale protrusion is essentially a bacterial infection of the scales and/or body. A variety of bacterium could be the culprit here, as can unkempt aquarium conditions. An effective treatment is to add an antibiotic to the food. With flake food, use about 1% of antibiotic and carefully mix it in. If you keep the fish hungry they should eagerly eat the mixture before the antibiotic dissipates. Antibiotics usually come in 250 mg capsules. If added to 25 grams of flake food, one capsule should be enough to treat dozens of fish. A good antibiotic is chloromycetin (chloramphenicol). Or use tetracycline. If you feed your fish frozen foods or chopped foods, try to use the same ratio with mixing. As a last resort add at most 10 mg per liter of water. Also, if unkempt conditions are the suspected cause, correct it.
Tail Rot & Fin Rot
Symptoms: Disintegrating fins that may be reduced to stumps, exposed fin rays, blood on edges of fins, reddened areas at base of fins, skin ulcers with gray or red margins, cloudy eyes.
Tail and fin rot appears to be a bacterial infection of the tail and/or fins and may be caused by generally poor conditions, bully, or fin nipping tankmates. If aquarium conditions are not good an infection can be caused from a simple injury to the fins/tail. Tuberculosis can lead to tail and fin rot. Basically, the tail and/or fins become frayed or lose color. Over time the affected area slowly breaks down. First, attempt to ascertain the cause. Then treat accordingly. Also, treat the water or fish with antibiotics. If added to the water, use 20 - 30 mg per liter. If the fish is to be treated add an antibiotic to the food. With flake food, use about 1% of antibiotic and carefully mix it in. If you keep the fish hungry they should eagerly eat the mixture before the antibiotic dissipates. Antibiotics usually come in 250 mg capsules. If added to 25 grams of flake food, one capsule should be enough to treat dozens of fish. A good antibiotic is chloromycetin (chloramphenicol) or tetracycline. If you feed your fish frozen foods or chopped foods, try to use the same ratio with mixing. As a last resort add at most 10 mg per liter of water. Also, if unkempt conditions are the suspected cause, correct it.
Velvet or Rust
Symptoms: Clamped fins, respiratory distress (breathing hard), yellow to light brown "dust" on body.
This disease has the appearance of a golden or brownish dust over the fins and body. The fish may show signs of irritation, like glancing off aquarium decor, shortage of breath (fish-wise), and clamping of the fins. The gills are usually the first thing affected. Velvet affects different species in different ways. Danios seem to be the most susceptible, but often show no discomfort. This disease is highly contagious and fatal. The best treatment is with copper at 0.2 mg per liter (0.2 ppm) to be repeated once in a few days if necessary. Acriflavine (trypaflavine) may be used instead at 0.2% solution (1 ml per liter). As acriflavine can possibly sterilize fish and copper can lead to poisoning, the water should be gradually changed after a cure has been effected.
Marine Velvet (Amyloodinium ocellatum) Saltwater fish maladies
Symptoms: Respiratory distress (fast breathing - gills opening more than 80 times per minute); White, yellow to light brown, or grey "dusty" appearance on body, loss of appetite, rubbing or scratching against decor or substrate.
Marine velvet is one of the most common maladies experienced in the marine aquarium, with the other being Marine Ich. It is found in all the oceans of the world and often infects wild and newly caught marine fish. It is a fast moving disease that can cause mass casualties. Primarily it infects the gills of fish but can attach itself to the body as well, burrowing deep into the skin's subcutaneous layer. Deaths are generally a result of interference to the respiratory system. This disease is highly contagious and fatal. Chemical treatments for this disease include using copper. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Natural methods include hyposalinity, a quarantine tank with a low salinity. A danger with with using low salinity is in re-acclimating the fish to a higher salinity. You must be able to accurately measure the salinity and must increase it very slowly.
Symptoms: Milky cloudiness on skin.
This is a rare protozoan disease that causes a cloudiness of the skin. The best treatment is with copper at 0.2 mg per liter (0.2 ppm) to be repeated once in a few days if necessary. Acriflavine (trypaflavine) may be used instead at 0.2% solution (1 ml per liter). As acriflavine can possibly sterilize fish and copper can lead to poisoning, the water should be gradually changed after a cure has been effected. Raising the water temperature to 80° - 83° F for a few days has also been effective.
Symptoms: The first symptom of slimy, white mucous feces, even while still eating and acting normal.
Further signs can include: the fish hiding in the corner with it's head down, head above the eyes gets thin, the fish blacken in color, and swim backwards.
Hexamita are intestinal flagellated protozoa that attack the lower intestine. Discus and other large cichlids, especially Oscars, are especially prone to Hexamita. As it is a disease of the digestive tract, a wasting away or loss of appetite may be experienced.An effective treatment is the drug metronidazole. A combined treatment in the food (1% in any food the fish will eat) and in the water (12 mg per liter) is recommended. Repeat the water treatment every other day for three treatments.
(This disease is often confused with another disease called Head and Lateral Line Erosion (HLLE), which
use to be called "hole-in-the-head" disease, because both these diseases are often seen simultaneously in the same fish. Head and Lateral Line Erosion disease looks like cavities or pits on the head and face. It is not a protozoan disease, but is actually caused by environmental conditions.)
Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis)
Symptoms: Salt-like specks on the body/fins. Excessive slime. Problems breathing (ich invades the gills), clamped fins, loss of appetite.
Ich or spelled Ick, white spot disease, is the most common malady experienced in the home aquarium. Luckily, this disease is also easily cured if caught in time! Ich is actually a protozoa called Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. There are three phases to the life cycle of this protozoa. Normally, to the amateur aquarist, the life cycle is of no importance. However, since Ich is susceptible to treatment at only one stage of the life cycle, an awareness of the life cycle is important. Below are the various phases:
Adult phase - it is embedded in the skin or gills of the fish, causing irritation (with the fish showing signs of irritation) and the appearance of small white nodules. As the parasite grows it feeds on red blood cells and skin cells. After a few days it bores itself out of the fish and falls to the bottom of the aquarium. Cyst phase - after falling to the bottom, the adult parasite forms into a cyst with rapid cell divisions occurring. Free swimming phase - after the cyst phase, about 1000 free swimming young swim upwards looking for a host. If a host is not found within 2 to 3 days, the parasite dies. Once a host is found the whole cycle begins anew. These three phases take about 4 weeks at 70° F, but only 5 days at 80° F. For this reason it is recommended that the aquarium water be raised to about 80° for the duration of the treatment. If the fish can stand
it, raise the temperature even higher up to 85°. The free swimming phase is the best time to treat with chemicals. Raising the aquarium temperature to 80° F will greatly shorten the time for the free swimming phase to occur. The drug of choice is quinine hydrochloride at 30 mg per liter (1 in 30,000). Quinine sulphate can be used if the hydrochloride is not available. The water may cloud but this will disappear. By reducing the time (with raised temperature) of the phases, you should be able to attack the free swimming phase effectively.
Some aquarists like to use malachite green, but it tends to stain the plastic and silicone in the aquarium. Most commercial remedies
contain malachite green and/or copper, which are both effective.
Marine Ich (Cryptocaryon irritans)
Symptoms: Include salt-like specks on the body and fins, along with rubbing or scratching against decor or substrate, excessive slime production and problems breathing. Ich also invades the gills, causes frayed fins, loss of appetite, cloudy eyes, and abnormal swimming.
Marine ich or white spot disease is one of the most common maladies experienced in the marine aquarium, with the other being Marine Velvet. This protozoa has four phases to its life, lasting up to 38 days depending on the temperature of the environment. This parasite affects marine and brackish fish. Aquarists are most familiar with the stage where the protozoa is infesting the host, the small white spots similar to a sprinkling of salt on the fish's body and fins. Unfortunately this visual clue is also the reason for difficulty in eradicating marine ich. Once the parasite has left the host's body many aquarists believe their fish is cured and the problem is solved and so they cease treatment, only to have another larger reoccurrence. For eradication treatment must be carried through to completion, so understanding the parasite's life cycle will greatly increase your chances of success. The life cycle is outlined here:
Trophont phase - when the parasite is growing in the skin or gills of the fish it appears as small white nodules, and the fish begins showing signs of irritation. It will spend 5 to 7 days (depending on the temperature) feeding on the fish. Once it reaches maturity it leaves the fish, reportedly after the lights go out. It is now called a protomont. Protomont phase - the protomont will free swim or will crawl about the substrate for several hours (2 to 18 hours) producing a sticky wall around itself with which it is able to adhere to a surface. Once it adheres it begins to turn into a cyst and is now called a tomont.
Tomont phase - at this stage there is rapid cell divisions occurring, resulting in hundreds of daughter parasites that are called tomites. This stage can last anywhere from 3 to 28 days. Eventually the tomites hatch and begin swimming about looking for a host and are now called theronts. Theront phase - newly hatched, they are swimming about looking for a host which they must find within 24 hours or they will die. Once a host is found they turn into trophonts and the whole cycle begins anew.
The life cycle of this parasite can vary dramatically and is dependent on temperature, they cycle faster in a warmer environment. Ideally the parasite would be eliminated while on the host or shortly after leaving the host. However, those that are buried in the gills are immune to treatment until they leave the fish. This along with the variability of the cycle makes it difficult to treat in a timely manner. So to rid the aquarium of this protozoa, it is recommended that you use a combination of water changes and chemical treatment, a multiple number of times.
- Chemical treatments for this disease include using copper, formalin, or a combination of copper and formalin. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
- Natural methods include either a quarantine tank with a low salinity (hyposalinity) or large frequent water changes. For low salinity keep the specific gravity of the water at approximately 1.009-1.010 with temperatures of 78 - 80° F (25 - 27° C) for 14 days. A danger with with using low salinity is in re-acclimating the fish to a higher salinity. You must be able to accurately measure the salinity and must increase it very slowly. For the water change method, replace 50% of the aquarium water daily for 14 days. This is perfectly safe method as long as temperature and salinity are the same, and this will remove the parasites while in a free swimming stage.
Re-portably some healthy fish can develop a limited immunity. This immunity is short-lived lasting only about six months and may not be a total immunity, being a small amount of infestation rather than extensive infestation.
Neon Tetra Disease
Symptoms: Whitened areas deep into the fishes' flesh. Muscle degeneration leading to abnormal swimming movements.
So named for the fish it was first recognized on. It is caused by the sporozoa Plistophora hyphessobryconis. Even though it is named
after Neon Tetras, it can appear on other fish. Whitish patches appear as if just below the skin. In Neon Tetras it destroys the bright blue-green neon stripe. The organisms form cysts which burst and release spores. The spores penetrate further and form more cysts. Eventually, the spores migrate to the water and are eaten by other fish in the food. These spores migrate into the digestive
tract, then the muscles, and a new infection starts. There is no known cure. It is best to euthanize the infected fish and clean the aquarium.
Glugea and Henneguya
Symptoms: Similar to Lymphocystis, the fish will have nodular white swellings on fins or body.
Glugea and Henneguya are sporozoans that form large cysts on the fish's body and release spores. Luckily, these diseases are very rare. The fish bloat up, with tumor like protrusions, and eventually die. No cure, as of yet. It is best to euthanize the infected fish before the spores can spread.
Symptoms: Dulling of the colors due to excessive slime, fraying of the fins, weakness, and gill damage.
This disease causes a blue white cloudiness on the skin and attacks the gills. Later the skin may be broken down and the gills destroyed. The fish may behave like they have irritations, by glancing off aquarium decor, they may have clamped fins and difficulty breathing. Acriflavine (trypaflavine) may be used at 1% solution (5 ml per liter). As acriflavine can sterilize fish, the water should be gradually changed after a cure has been effected. It also helps to raise the temperature to about 80° F.
African Bloat or "Malawi Bloat"
Symptoms: The first sign of 'bloat' is loss of appetite which is then followed by swelling of the abdomen, labored breathing, listlessness, reclusiveness, possible red striations on the body, and stringy white feces.
There seems to be no explainable rationale as to its cause of bloat. Once a fish becomes afflicted it is often fatal. A fish that is not eating must be treated immediately or it can quickly become incurable and die. Though It is not certain what this disease is, it is generally believed to be caused by a protozoal parasite complicated by bacterial infection. Bloat is a serious malady often associated with African cichlids especially those from Lake Malawi, thus the common name 'Malawi Bloat'. The Tropheus species from Lake Tanganyika are also very susceptible. The most common cause of this disease is stress and the first sign if illness is not eating. Stress can be caused by such things as transport, netting, poor water quality, insufficient diet, over feeding, and a lack of hiding places. Other causes, that are easily remedied, are an improper diet and adding too much salt to the water. Prevention is of utmost importance, and It is possibly to cure a fish if treated right away. Following are some techniques aquarists use:
- Any new specimens you obtain can have bloat or will often soon develop it. When you first acquire them try to provide them with the same food that the dealer was feeding, and then wean them onto a good vegetable based diet; Spirulina flake and pellet.
- Some will soak the food in dissolved metronidazol and feed them that for the first few days when first obtained. Seachem makes a metronidazol that can be bound to food when used with their Focus product.
- A good vegetable based diet is important.
- A healthy group of fish will eat with gusto. But even though they can be very active feeders it is important to not overfeed them. Keep an eye on them, and if one is not eating with vigor some aquarists will then treat the tank with Clout.
- One author says that they will segregate an ailing fish the second they see signs of not eating, and then will do water changes every day for 5 days in the main aquarium.
Metronidazol is considered the most reliable cure and some use Clout as another cure, but do not use them together.
Symptoms: Tufts of dirty, cotton-like growth on the skin, can cover large areas of the fish, fish
eggs turn white.
Fungal attacks always follow some other health problem like parasitic attack, injury, or bacterial infection. The symptoms are a gray or whitish growth in and on the skin and/or fins of the fish. Eventually, if left untreated, these growths will become cottony looking. The fungus, if left untreated, will eventually eat away on the fish until it finally dies. After ascertaining the initial cause of the fungus and remedying that, use a solution of phenoxethol at 1% in distilled water. Add 10 ml of this solution per liter of aquarium water. Repeat after a few days if needed, but only once more as three treatments could be dangerous to aquarium inhabitants. If the symptoms are severe the fish can be removed from the aquarium and swabbed with a cloth that has been treated with small amounts of povidone iodine or mercurochrome. For attacks on fish eggs, most breeders will use a solution of methylene blue adding 3 to 5 mg/l as a preventative measure after the eggs are laid.
Symptoms: Sluggishness, loss of balance, hollow belly, external cysts and sores.
Ichthyosporidium is a fungus, but it manifests itself internally. It primarily attacks the liver and kidneys, but it spreads everywhere else. The symptoms vary. The fish may become sluggish, lose balance, show hollow bellies, and eventually show external cysts or sores. By then it is usually too late for the fish. Treatment is difficult. Phenoxethol added to food as a 1% solution may be effective. Chloromycetin added to the food has also been effective. But both of these treatments, if not watched with caution, could pose a risk to your fish. It is best, if diagnosed soon enough, to Euthanize the affected fish before the disease can spread.
Argulus (Fish louse)
Symptoms: The fish scrapes itself against objects, clamped fins, visible parasites about 1/4 inch in diameter are visible on the body of the fish.
The fish louse is a flattened mite-like crustacean about 5 mm long that attaches itself to the body of fish. They irritate the host fish which may have clamped fins, become restless, and may show inflamed areas where the lice have been. With larger fish and light infestations, the lice can be picked off with a pair of forceps. Other cases can best be done with a 10 to 30 minute bath in 10 mg per liter of potassium permanganate. Or treat the whole tank with 2 mg per liter, but this method is messy and dyes the water.
Anchor Worm (Lernaea)
Symptoms: The fish scrapes itself against objects, whitish-green threads hang out of the fish's skin with an inflamed area at the point of attachment.
Anchor worms are actually crustaceans. The young are free swimming and borrow into the skin, go into the muscles and develop for several months before showing. They release eggs and die. The holes left behind are ugly and may become infected. The anchor worm is too deeply imbedded to safely remove. Treatment can best be done with a 10 to 30 minute bath in 10 mg per liter of potassium permanganate. Or treat the whole tank with 2 mg per liter, but this method is messy and dyes the water.
Symptoms: The fish scrapes itself against objects, whitish-green threads hang out of the fish's
This parasite is like the anchor worm, but is smaller and attacks the gills instead of the skin. Treatment can best be done with a 10 to 30 minute bath in 10 mg per liter of potassium permanganate. Or treat the whole tank with 2 mg per liter, but this method is messy and dyes the water.
Symptoms: The fish scrapes itself against objects, rapid gill movement, mucus covering the gills
or body, the gills or fins may be eaten away, the skin may become reddened.
There are many species of flukes, which are flatworms about 1 mm long, and several symptoms that are visible. They infest gills and skin much like ich, but the difference can be seen with a hand lens. You should be able to see movement and possibly eye spots, which is not found in ich. Gill flukes will eventually destroy the gills thus killing the fish. Symptoms of a heavy infestations are pale fish with drooping fins, rapid respiration, glancing off aquarium decor, and /or hollow bellies. Treatment can best be done with a 10 to 30 minute bath in
10 mg per liter of potassium permanganate. Or treat the whole tank with 2 mg per liter, but this method is messy and dyes the water.
Symptoms: Worms hanging from the anus.
Nematodes (threadworms) infect just about anywhere in the body but only shows itself when they hang out of the anus. A heavy infestation causes hollow bellies. Lighter infestations usually cause no problems with the fish. Short of destroying the fish, which is easier, two treatments have been suggested. First treatment; soak the food in parachlorometaxylenol and give the fish a bath or treat the aquarium with 10 ml per liter. The bath
should last for several days. Second treatment; find special food containing thiabendazole as a nematode (threadworm) cure and hope the fish will eat it.
Symptoms: Leeches are visible on the fish's skin.
Leeches are external parasites and affix themselves on the body, fins, or gills of the fish. Usually they appear as heart shaped worms (they are just curled up) attached to the fish. They are usually introduced to the aquarium via plants or snails. Since leeches are sucking and borrowing into the surface of the fish, removal with forceps can cause great damage, if not death, to the fish. If the fish is bathed in a 2.5 percent solution of salt for 15 minutes, most of the leeches should just fall off. Those that do not will be affected enough to remove with forceps with minimal damage. Another treatment is to add Trichlorofon at 0.25 mg/l to the aquarium. Live plants should be removed and treated with potassium permanganate at 5 mg/l before replanting.
Symptoms: Skin scraping, pale discoloration, loss of color, weight loss, dehydration, flashing, and rapid breathing
The saltwater parasite, Uronema marinum, is a free-living ciliated protozoa that can cause fatal infections in marine fish. It is an opportunistic feeder that normally eats on bacteria, but when the immunization of a fish is low it will attack, invading the fish's muscles and internal organs. This infestation is often the result of the introduction of a new fish, overcrowding, and poor water quality resulting from a high organic load in the aquarium. This parasite is difficult to identify as the symptoms can also be indicative of other parasitic and bacterial problems. However, it can be debilitating and ultimately fatal to a variety of marine fish including Tangs, especially the Yellow Tang, Angelfish species, especially those in the genus Centropyge, Sea horses, many species of Butterflyfish, yellow headed Jawfish, and others.
The best way to avoid the problem is to keep your current tank free from infestation. Quarantine all new fish for a period of three weeks, improve the water quality of the tank, and reduce the stress level in the aquarium by reducing the number of fish and incorporating places for fish to hide and rest. There are several types of medications that can be used to treat infected fish as well as treatments.
- Medications such as Malachite green, Copper Sulfate, or Methylene blue. Use caution and be sure to follow the manufacturers instructions.
- Freshwater bath - place infected fish in the freshwater bath for a period of
three minutes or until the fish shows signs of
- Low salinity
(hypo salinity) treatment - lower the salinity in the
quarantine tank to a specific gravity of 1.011 and
maintain at this salinity for 21 days. Do not use this treatment with invertebrates or especially
sensitive fish such as sharks and rays.
- Nitrofurazone - an antibiotic that has some antiparasitic action, and can be helpful when used along with formalin dips.
Head and Lateral Line Erosion Disease (HLLD or HLLE) also known as: Lateral Line Erosion (LLE), Lateral Line Disease (LLD), and Hole-in-the-Head Disease.
Symptoms: Begins as small pits on the head and face, usually just above the eye. If untreated, these turn into large cavities and then the disease progresses along the lateral line. Head and Lateral Line Disease is attributed to a nutritional deficiency of one or more of: Vitamin C, Vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus. Though its cause is not definitively determined, it is thought to be caused by a poor diet or lack of variety, lack of partial water changes, or over filtration with chemical media such as activated carbon. HLLE has been reversed by one or more of the following treatments:
- Increase frequent water changes.
- Add vitamins to frozen foods.
- Add the addition of flake foods, as they are enriched with
- Add greens, either frozen or in leaf form, to the diet.
- Decrease the amount of beef heart as it lacks many critical
- Remove activated carbon filtration.
(This disease is often confused with another
disease called 'Hexamita', because both these diseases
are often seen simultaneously in the same fish. Hexamita is a protozoan disease
that attacks the lower intestine. Discus and other large cichlids, especially
Oscars, are especially prone to Hexamita.)
Symptoms: Cloudy cornea, opaque lens, pop eye, swelling, blindness.
- Cloudy cornea can result from a bacterial invasion. Antibiotics
- Opaqueness can result from poor nutrition or a metacercaria
invasion (grubs). Try foods with added vitamins and changing the diet to include
- Pop eye (exophtalmia) can result from rough handling, gas
embolism, tumors, bacterial infection, or vitamin A deficiency. Gas bubble
or bacterial infection can be treated successfully with penicillin or amoxicillin.
- Blindness can be caused by poor nutrition or excessive light.
Lowering the light level and a change of diet to include lots of variety may
help prevent it.
Symptoms: Abnormal swimming pattern, difficulty maintaining equilibrium.
Swim bladder problems usually indicate another problem listed here. If you suspect swim-bladder problems in a fish, first check and treat it for other diseases as listed below:
- Congenitally deformed
- Cancer or tuberculosis in
organs adjacent to the swim bladder.
- Poor nutrition.
- Chilling or rapid fluctuations in temperature.
- Serious parasitic infestation
- Serious bacterial infestation
If you have eliminated other causes, make sure you are feeding the right food and make sure the fish is not constipated. Give it live food for awhile to ensure it is getting enough roughage. Also, check the temperature for your fish's requirements and keep the temperature stable.
Tumors can be caused by a virus or a cancer, but most tumors are genetic. The genetic tumors may be caused from too much hybridization, common amongst professional breeders. Practically all tumors are untreatable. If the fish is in distress, it may need to be euthanized. With the most recent advances in modern Veterinarian medicine you may be able to have your fish treated for various health conditions. Contact your local Veterinarian to see if they treat aquatic marine life.
Abnormalities usually occur when professional breeders are trying to acquire certain strains in breeds. Most are beneficial abnormalities like albinism or extra finnage. But undesirable abnormalities crop up and are usually culled out by the breeder. However, such abnormalities sometimes happen in the amateur aquarium. If the abnormality is not life threatening or degrades the quality of life, just leave it be and brag to your friends about the unusual inhabitant.
Even in the best of aquariums under the supervision of the most astute aquarists, injuries occur. Some times a bully fish is the culprit, or sharp decor. Sometimes there appears to be no explanation. As in the human world, accidents happen. If the cause of the injury is obvious, it should be remedied. Then the injury should be treated. The injury should be touched with 2% Mercurochrome, which is supplied commercially. Also, depending on the fish's tolerance to water conditions, keeping the fish in slightly acid water should speed recovery (pH 6.6). Minor injuries, if the water conditions are good, should just heal themselves.
Some fish are more susceptible to constipation than others. Usually fish with more compressed bodies like angelfish and silver dollars. Symptoms are loss of appetite and swelling of the body. The cause is almost always diet. Usually, with a change of diet, the condition rights itself. But in stubborn cases try dried food that has been soaked in medicinal paraffin oil. Glycerol or castor oil may also be used. If the diet is changed on a regular basis and live foods offered occasionally this condition may never occur.