Info On Common Diseases
Info on diseases to help you
There are a lot of infections and parasites that can afflict our fish. Many of them will never be encountered by the average aquarium hobbyist, and if something unusual does show up in your tank, chances are that you would probably never know for sure what hit you. There are however several which appear commonly in aquaria, and a few of them are even easy to diagnose.
First off, how do you know if your fish is ill? It is good to get into the habit of watching your fish every day. That way, you will be more able to notice subtle changes in their appearance or behavior which can indicate that something is wrong.
First, watch how your fish behave. If you notice your fish doing strange things, there is probably a reason for it. There are some behaviors you don’t need to worry about, at least from a health standpoint. If your fish is ripping out the decorations or seems to be trying to break the glass, he’s probably just bored. If two fish seem to be at each others throats, they are probably either fighting or breeding. Just watch to make sure nobody gets seriously injured. Stress and illness can cause more worrisome behavioral changes that you should pay close attention to:
Eating—While it is not uncommon for a new fish to fast for a day or two (some more exotic species may even go a couple of weeks), if a fish who has previously eaten suddenly stops, it’s time to worry (unless of course it’s a female mouth-brooder with fry). Worry even more if the fish even refuses treats such as live or frozen foods. Not eating may indicate that an internal parasite is present, or may just be a sign that the fish doesn’t feel well.
Clamped Fins—Another sign that a fish doesn’t feel well is that he holds his fins tight against his body. Again, this won’t tell you what the problem is, but will clue you in to the fact that something is not right. (Note: some fish normally keep their fins down when they are not swimming.)
Hiding-Some fish are habitual hiders, but if they miss several feedings, you can start to worry. If a fish who is normally out where he can be seen, suddenly disappears (and can’t be found on the floor outside the tank) he is probably sick, stressed, or breeding. Keep an eye on him.
Sitting on the Bottom-Regular bottom dwellers don’t count here. If a mid- or top-water swimmer starts sitting around on the bottom of the tank he probably doesn’t feel well.
Swimming in the water flow—If your fish are hanging out near your filter and swimming against the flow, they don’t feel well. Check for other symptoms.
Breathing—Rapid or labored gill movement, or gasping at the surface are indicators that your fish is having trouble breathing. This is a serious concern because whether your fish is infected with some parasite or is simply suffocating due to poor water conditions, the result will be the same. First, check your water. If you have high levels of toxic substances you want to correct the problem as quickly as possible to avoid serious gill damage. If the water checks out, take a look at your bio-load. If there are a lot of fish in the tank, you may just be a little low on oxygen. Try adding supplementary aeration. If the fish don’t look better within several hours, you may have a gill parasite. Treat with appropriate medication.
Erratic Swimming—Fish is turning in circles. Probably damage to the nervous system. Not much to be done here. Dispose of the fish to limit the spread of causative organism and keep an eye on your other fish.
Abnormal Position—If your fish is holding its body in an abnormal position and seems to have extreme difficulty righting itself, there may be a swim-bladder problem. (Note: fish orient themselves to the light source, so if there is a stronger light coming in from the side than from the top of the tank, this may be the cause of tilted fish).
Shimmies-If your fish appears to be swimming in place, check your water quality and make sure all conditions are correct. Also check for other signs of illness.
Scratching—If your fish seem to be scratching themselves against the gravel or decorations in the tank, they probably itch. Itching is often caused by external parasites. Try medicating.
Worms & Bugs—Worm- or bug-like protrusions are not normal and should be given immediate attention.
Fish Lice-look small (¼ inch), semi-transparent, lacy circles and can be found anywhere on the fish’s body. They can be removed by very carefully restraining the fish and gently scraping the louse off if the fish is large enough and can tolerate gentle handling, or you can treat with an external parasite medication.
Anchor Worms are recognized by white worm-like protrusions that can be found anywhere on the fish’s body. They can be removed by very carefully restraining the fish and using tweezers to gently remove the anchor-like head from beneath the fish’s scales or by treating with an external parasite medication.
Camallanus are red worms that can be seen protruding from the anus of the fish, especially after eating and when the fish is at rest. From what I’ve seen, livebearers and Gourami seem to be the most susceptible to it. It is very difficult to treat and multiplies using an invertebrate as a host. Destroy infected fish and medicate to (hopefully) kill hosts and larvae. (or you can tear down your tank, sterilize your equipment, and start over). If you leave exposed fish in the tank, wait a few months before adding new fish.
White spots—Ick is a very common parasite that often attacks sick, stressed, or weakened fish. It looks like small salt crystals have been sprinkled over the fish’s body. If caught very early (only two or three parasites visible) it can often be treated by adding freshwater aquarium salt to the tank—roughly 1-Tablespoon to 5 gallons of water. Ick medications are very effective at destroying this parasite. Treatments won’t kill this parasite though until it drops off after several hours or days (depending on tank temperature) to reproduce. The medication actually prevents re-infestations.
White, Milky Slime—Patches of milky slime on the body or eye of your fish usually indicate a bacterial infection which should be treated with an antibiotic. Such patches can also be caused by small external parasites. You would need a microscope for an accurate diagnosis, but if the infection doesn’t seem to respond to antibiotics, try treating for external parasites.
White Nodule—Lymph, a viral infection, is often found on the fins. It looks like a tiny piece of cauliflower. It can often be left untreated, or may be gently removed manually.
White Fuzzy Patches—Fungal infections are usually easy to recognize by their white, cottony appearance. They are commonly secondary infections of open wounds and can be found anywhere on the body of the fish. Eggs may also develop fungal infections. Treat with anti-fungal medication. Preventative medication is often used when eggs are present. Columnaris is a bacterial infection that is usually found on the mouth of the fish, often called cotton mouth. It may respond to antibiotic treatments.
Ragged Fins—Fin rot may be fungal or bacterial. A bacterial infection will have a more stringy appearance while a fungal infection will look smoother (though still jagged) and may appear as a white border on the fins. Use appropriate medication. Some medications will treat both. Fin damage may also be a sign of Tuberculosis.
Bloody Streaks-Septicemia is a bacterial infection that causes bloody streaks or patches on the skin of the fish. It should be treated with an antibiotic. Bloody patches may also be present due to injuries or parasites such as fish lice.
Red, Swollen Gills—Red swollen gills may be caused by gill damage due to ammonia poisoning or other toxins present in the water. Check water conditions, partial water changes may be necessary. A parasitic gill infection, such as gill flukes, will also cause swelling and should be treated with a parasite medication.
Yellow Powder—Velvet is an external parasite, similar to ick, but the parasites are smaller and yellowish in color. The fish will often look like he has been dusted with yellow powder. Treat immediately for external parasites.
Color Changes—It is normal for a fish to change colors. They will fade to blend in to a dark background and will often fade at night or when they are under stress, though some fish turn almost black when they are under stress. Colors often intensify at feeding time, or when a fish is breeding or fighting. A brightly colored fish may lose its color over time if the diet is inappropriate. Things to worry about are patches of dark or light coloration (though stress coloration is also a worry if it is prolonged because stress makes the fish susceptible to infections). White patches may indicate bacterial or fungal infections (see milky white or fuzzy white patches). Bacterial infections include illness such as true and false neon-tetra diseases (both of which cause opaque white patches under the skin and are incurable), and Columnaris (see white fuzzy patches). Darkened areas may indicate cancer or damage to the nervous system from injury or parasites.
Sunken Belly—If the fish is eating and continues to lose weight, there is probably an internal parasite present, especially if the waste is stringy. If he is not eating and appears emaciated, his loss of appetite may be caused by parasites or by something else. A sunken belly may also be caused by Tuberculosis. Try to identify other symptoms. (Make sure that you are feeding the fish an appropriate diet—some of these guys are very picky)
Stringy Poop—A good sign that there is an internal parasite present is stringy, whitish poop. Normal waste should be solid looking, opaque, and a color that reflects what the fish is being fed (mostly shades of brown and green).
Misshapen Spine—A bent spine is a common birth defect, but if a fish suddenly develops a bent spine, poor nutrition from an inadequate diet or Tuberculosis may be the cause.
Protruding Eye—Popeye may be caused by Tuberculosis or by another infection. Look for other symptoms. There are medications which claim to treat popeye and may be worth a try. If Tuberculosis is the cause, there is little to be done in the way of treatment. Under good water conditions, the fish may live some time. Chilling the water and adding salt will often prove a useful remedy if it is not Tuberculosis.
Swollen Belly—Females with eggs can have large bellies, as can fish who have overeaten. If the belly is very large, especially if the scales are protruding, suspect Dropsy. This is a serious bacterial infection which will be difficult to treat, but may respond to antibiotics. Swelling may also be caused by internal parasites or by Tuberculosis.
Protruding Scales—If your fish takes on a fuzzy appearance as if all the scales are sticking out instead of laying flat against the body, the fish likely has Dropsy. In this disease, the belly will also be swollen. This is a serious bacterial infection which will be difficult to treat, but may respond to antibiotics.
Holes—Sometimes sensory pores in the face and sides of a fish become irritated and the holes become enlarged. This condition is often referred to as Hole in the Head, or lateral line disease. It affects mostly large fish such as Oscars. The cause is uncertain, but water conditions play a very significant role in the development (and sometimes treatment) of this problem. Large fish need a lot of space (way more than a gallon per inch) and it can be very difficult to keep the water clean. Very frequent (maybe daily) water changes may help this condition once it has appeared, and can do a lot to prevent it in the first place.
Holes may also appear as a result of a mechanical injury (being bitten by a tank mate for example) or advanced infection.
Scales Falling Off—Loss of scales is usually due to a mechanical injury. Keep the water good and the fish healthy and they will grow back.
Lumps and Bumps—fish too can contract cancer. External tumors may be malignant or benign and will look like boils on the fish’s body. Internal tumors may also occur. Some thyroid tumors can be treated, but most tumors cannot.
Prevention, of course, is the best way to handle diseases. Most can be entirely prevented by excellent aquarium maintenance. Keeping disease causing organisms out of the tank in the first place is a good start and may be accomplished by practices which include quarantining new fish, thoroughly washing plants to remove possible disease carrying organisms such as snails, and promptly removing any dead or dying organisms. Keeping your water conditions at an ideal range will go a long ways towards keeping your fish strong enough to fight off infectious organisms. Make sure your pH is not too extreme. Watch your ammonia and nitrite levels and keep an eye out for other toxins in the water. Don’t overcrowd your tank (the popular inch to gallon rule applies only to very small fish; larger fish have a much greater body mass per inch and require much more water to remain healthy). Perform regular partial water changes (regular meaning at least every two weeks, not every two years) whether or not the tank looks dirty. Larger fish or more crowded tanks will benefit from more frequent changes. Provide an appropriate and adequate diet (but be careful not to overfeed—make sure your fish eat everything you give them and are not getting too fat or skinny). Most fish do well on flake but can benefit from the addition of freeze-dried, frozen, and live foods (be careful about possible infections when using live foods), but some fish require specialized diets.
In spite of our best efforts, our fish will sometimes get sick. Providing quarantine tanks for sick fish or new comers can be helpful. Many infections can be treated with medications, but it is important to remember that NO TREATMENT IS GOING TO BE EFFECTIVE IF YOUR WATER CONDITIONS ARE POOR.
Notes on Medications:
Most medications you find will indicate what they should be used for. Try to find an accurate diagnosis, then treat for the most likely cause first. Some medications will treat for multiple illnesses, and some may be combined to treat more than one illness at once, but make sure they are compatible before you mix them together. (There should be information on included with the medication, and most have a phone number that you can call if you have questions).
Most fish bacterial infections are gram-negative. This is important for two reasons. One being that you should purchase antibiotics that treat gram-negative infections. The other being that gram-positive antibiotics can actually kill off the good, gram positive, bacteria that are keeping your tank clean and your ammonia and nitrites in check.
It is my understanding that oral medications (medicated foods) tend to be more effective than bath treatments where the tank water is mediated, though the latter is more commonly available and is a must if the fish is not eating.
There are many medications available for treating external parasites. It can be a little more difficult to find treatments for internal parasites, but medicated foods are the best treatment for internal parasites.
Some illnesses, such as ick, will respond to salt treatments (1-Tbs. salt/ 5-gal. water) if they are treated in the very early stages.
Can you catch an Illness from your fish?
The good news is, probably not. Some sources indicate that there are no diseases that humans can contract from fish, others claim that some forms of Tuberculosis may be communicable. Just to be on the safe side, avoid drinking tank water and don’t expose an open wound to tank water.
Sometimes there is no treatment for a disease, or the fish is too sick to recover. In these cases, the fish will need to be euthanized. As difficult as this may be for many of us, it is sometimes necessary. Freezing is a fairly quick and very effective method, but there are others. Try to keep it humane and as painless as possible for the fish. Whatever you do, never release a sick fish (or any fish for that matter) into the wild. Such actions can have devastating results.
Did you do your water change today
"You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist." - Friedrich Nietzsche
Don`t help others because others have helped you,help others because its the right thing to do!!!
madmike140$gmail dot com
Vice President Bostonguppyclub: MADMIKE