Fishy Tips

Diagnosing Fish Ailments

INDEX  

ICK

Gill and Skin Flukes

Swim Bladder

Tumors

Dropsy

Fin or Tail Rot

Popeye

Filter Cycle

Fungus

Hole in the Head

Egg Binding

Bacterial Infections

Anchor Worms

Camallanus Worms

Constipation

Diarrhea

 

ICK

Symptom: If your fish looks like it has been sprinkled with salt or sugar, it probably has ick.
This is probably the most common parasitic diseases among tropical fish. It is almost always present in aquariums and infects fish that are in poor health or have had a recent infection that has left them without certain immunities. Ick can become visible on a fish if the fish’s natural resistance is weakened from shock, unsuitable water conditions, overcrowding or an improper diet. A fish that has been recently added to the tank can also be a carrier of ick. Therefore, like most fish diseases, the best prevention is to maintain optimum water conditions. 

Treatment: This should be done in a separate hospital tank. The most common external parasitic control drugs packaged for use against ICK are Malachite Green, Aureomycin, Benzaldehyde, Quinine Hydrochloride, or Quinine Sulfate. We personally, have had the best luck with the product called ICH-X. Ask your fish dealer to recommend the most successful one. Follow all manufacturers instructions. top

 

SWIM BLADDER

Symptom: The fish has a buoyancy problem. The fish may float to the surface, sink to the bottom, swim with its head down or do headstands in the gravel. At the later stages of the disease, the fish may lose its balance or swim upside down.

The key to swim bladder diagnosis is the no other signs of disease are present and the water conditions have been ideal. Since environmental conditions can affect the equilibrium of the fish, pay special attention to the density and temperature of the water.

Treatment: There is no specific medical treatment for swim bladder disorders. If the origin of the problem is not from disease, a fish may recover on its own. If the water conditions and feeding are normal, and no signs or symptoms are noticed, assume the cause is from a bacterial infection. The best treatment is a broad spectrum gram negative antibiotic such as Nitrofuran (Furan) or Kanamycin Sulfate. You should treat in a hospital tank.    top

 

FIN OR TAIL ROT

Symptom: The fish has a buoyancy problem. The fish may float to the surface, sink to the bottom, swim with its head down or do headstands in the gravel. At the later stages of the disease, the fish may lose its balance or swim upside down.

The key to swim bladder diagnosis is the no other signs of disease are present and the water conditions have been ideal. Since environmental conditions can affect the equilibrium of the fish, pay special attention to the density and temperature of the water.

Treatment: There is no specific medical treatment for swim bladder disorders. If the origin of the problem is not from disease, a fish may recover on its own. If the water conditions and feeding are normal, and no signs or symptoms are noticed, assume the cause is from a bacterial infection. The best treatment is a broad spectrum gram negative antibiotic such as Nitrofuran (Furan) or Kanamycin Sulfate. You should treat in a hospital tank.    top

 

DROPSY

Symptom: The body will have general swelling with protrusion of the scales. The eyes may also bulge. 

Dropsy is a bacterial disease that attacks nearly all the internal organs of the fish, causing a concentration of fluids in body tissue or cavities. Be careful not to confuse Dropsy with Egg Binding, natural spawning cycles of just an obese fish. The sales of a male Cardinal Tetra or Playfairi will stand out from his body during spawning periods. This is normal, but would give false symptoms of dropsy. Tuberculosis can also cause the body to swell and the scales to protrude. But the treatment for Dropsy is basically the same as for Tuberculosis. 

Treatment: Your should treat in a hospital tank with an antibiotic that is made for fin and tail rot. There are several manufactured for fin and tail rot. Follow all manufactures instructions. If you have a ultraviolet light, it should be left on in the main tank to help control the spread of the disease.    top

 

EGG BINDING

Symptom: The fish is severely bloated in the belly only (not the whole body). The fish may also be lethargic, exhibit rapid breathing and have a loss of appetite. Egg binding can occur in freshwater fish during their spawning cycle. If a fish can not find a suitable mate, has been fed a poor diet, or if the tank or water conditions of aquarium are not ideal for spawning, a fish may not be able to release its eggs. 

Treatment: There is no medical treatment for egg binding. The only treatment for this is to let the eggs be naturally absorbed into the fish’s body. This process can be aided with Epsom Salt soaks. Siphon a bucket of tank water and mix in one slightly rounded tablespoon of Epson Salt for every gallon of water. Add an airstone, place the fish in the water, cover the bucket and allow the fish a 15 – minute soak. Repeat this treatment daily until the fish begins to recover.    top

 

HOLE IN THE HEAD

Symptom: Fish has tiny, round holes in the head area. Close examination usually revels small, whitish strings (worms) inside the hole. This is a parasitic disease Hexamita, and it is primarily introduced into the tank from live feeder fish and tubifex worms. Poor water conditions or poor nutrition can contribute to the spread of the disease. 

Treatment: Net the fish and treat in a separate hospital tank. The product we have had great results with its called Hole – In – Head Guard by Jungle. There are several other products made specifically for this. Follow all manufacturers instructions.    top

 

FUNGUS

Symptom: The fish has patches of white or gray cottony, fuzzy puffs attached to its skin, fins or in wounds. The fish’s eyes may also be cloudy or have a film over them. There may also be excessive mucus production on the fish’s gills, or around the circumference of wounds. Fungus is usually a freshwater fish infection. In most cases, this is a secondary infection.

Treatment: If medicated quickly, fungus is usually easy to cure. There are several packaged medications for this. Most include such drugs as Acriflavine, Neutroflavine or copper sulfate. Follow all manufacturers instructions. Some fungus medications are applied directly on the patch of fungus with a cotton swab. If this is what the manufacturer recommends, net the fish and place it on a clean wet towel. Dip the cotton swab in the medication and then swab it on the fungus spot. Do NOT keep the fish out of water for more than 1 minute. Quickly place the fish in a hospital tank  that has already been set up. Since fungus is usually a secondary infection, treat the fish in the hospital tank for a bacterial infection with Nitrofuran (Furan) or Kanamycin Sulfate.    top

 

POPEYE

Symptom: One or both eyes protrude from the socket. Some fish also exhibit a lack of appetite. Popeye can be caused from bacterial diseases, abscesses and tumors, eye injuries, as well as over – aerated water. If left untreated, the eye may bulge out so far that the eye can pop out of the socket, resulting in the loss of an eye.

Treatment: First eliminate the possibility of over-aeration. If you have been using high powered power heads that shoot streams of water into the tank water, your fish may be the victim of nitrogen supersaturation. The tiny air bubbles enter the fish’s bloodstream and can accumulate behind the eye, causing it to protrude.

The treatment for nitrogen supersaturation, turn the power head water stream adjustment to its lowest setting. Temporarily shut off the air to the power heads, and allow the air pump to be the only source of air. Observe the popeye for a few days. If this was the problem, the eye should begin to recede. If no improvement is noticed or if it worsens, assume the problem is bacterial in nature and treat with Nitrofuran (Furan) or Kanamycin Sulfate. Treat in a hospital tank.    top

 

GILL AND SKIN FLUKES

Symptom: The fish scratches against the gravel or tank decoration, has clamped fins, exhibits rapid breathing, may swim wildly or near the water surface. The fish’s gills may have excessive mucus or turn a dull gray. Livebearers show signs of clamped dorsal or anal fins and become lethargic.

Gill and skin flukes are microscopic worm-like parasites that attach themselves to the gills and/or body of the fish. With a 10x magnification, only the largest flukes can be seen. These tiny transparent worms can be extremely distressful to the fish.

Treatment: Gill and skin flukes can be successfully treated with formalin baths or with medications in a separate hospital tank. Formalin bath is the desired treatment, and the fish is not too big, place the fish in a three – gallon bucket of siphoned, aerated tank water. Medicate the bucket of water with 600 mg of formalin to every one gallon of water. Place an airstone in the bucket, cover the bucket and leave the fish in the bath for 30 minutes. If at any time the fish shows signs of stress, becomes listless, exhausted or loses its balance, immediately place the fish back in the main tank. If you choose to treat the fish with Gill or Skin Fluke medication, do so in a hospital tank. There are several medications available, follow all manufacturers instructions.    top

 

TUMORS

Symptom: Lumps or growths on beneath the skin of the fish. If the lump or growth is underneath the gill cover, it is probably a swollen thyroid. Occasionally, internal and external tumors become apparent in fish. Although unpleasant to look at, many tumors are benign, and the fish seem unaffected by them and can live a normal life. However, some may be cancerous and will continue to grow to enormous sizes, causing distress and eventually death to the fish.

Treatment: If the tumor is small and does not seem to affect the fish, is not unpleasant to look at and is not growing at a rapid rate, it can be left alone. There is no reason to isolate the fish, since tumors are usually not infectious. If it is causing the fish great stress for the fish, a humane death may be in order. Thyroid tumors can be caused from the lack of iodine in the diet. If the tumor is under the gill of the fish and is causing the gill to remain open, the problem is likely a swollen thyroid and can be treated with potassium iodine. Place the fish in a hospital tank. Add 1 milligram of potassium iodine for every gallon of water. Re-dose proportionally after every water change. The treatment period could take up to 4 weeks.    top

 

FILTER CYCLE

 

Conway Tropical Fish - Filter Cycle

The biological filter cycle is the process that transformers new gravel filter beds into an established biological filter. During this period, fish waster decays forming bacteria and ammonia in the filter bed. As the bacteria level rises, it transforms the ammonia into nitrites. At this stage, the toxicity levels peak and are the most lethal to fish. The bacteria eventually transforms the nitrites into less toxic nitrates. When the ammonia and nitrite levels reach zero, the cycle is complete and more delicate fish can be added at that time.

The above example is a common model of a biological filter cycle. The actual toxicity levels and number of days required for completion of the cycle depends on tank size, number of fish, water changes and the amount of oxygen in the water.   top

 

BACTERIAL INFECTIONS

Symptom: Cloudy eyes, open sores (ulcers) on the body or lateral lines, abscesses, rotting or inflammation (reddening) of the skin, fins or internal organs, bulging eyes or rapid breathing are all symptoms of a bacterial disease.

Treatment: Fish with bacterial diseases should be treated in a separate hospital tank. The best medication is a broad spectrum gram negative antibiotic such as nitrofuran or kanamycin sulfate. It is real important that you give the full recommended treatment as well as for the full treatment period to prevent the disease from reoccurring. If you have a ultraviolet light, it should be left on in the main tank to help control the spread of the disease.   top

ANCHOR WORMS

Symptom: These are small parasitic crustaceans. Clear to white or brown string-like worms with forked tails and are visible to the skin, head, or mouth of the fish. Open sores may appear on the fish’s skin with the worms protruding from it. 

Treatment: If the worms are large it is best to remove the worms rather than medicating the fish. Net the fish and place it on a clean wet towel. With a pair of tweezers, carefully pull each worm from the fish “with the grain”. Dip a cotton swab in a broad spectrum antiseptic such as betadine. You an get this at any drug store. Dab the swab on the wound where the worm was attached, let the drug penetrate for 10 seconds and then place the fish back in the tank. DO NOT KEEP THE FISH OUT OF THE WATER FOR MORE THAN ONE MINUTE. If the worms are small, like fine threads, it is best to medicate the tank. Ask your local fish dealer to recommend an anti-parasitic medication for Anchor Worms or Fish Lice such as trichlorfon. Treat the fish in a hospital tank and follow the manufacturers recommendations.   top

 

CAMALLANUS WORMS

Symptom: Small red or brown worms that attach themselves to the rectum and intestines of the fish. A resting fish may have red or brown protruding from its anus. The fish may also appear pinched in the belly. 

Treatment: Ask your local fish dealer to recommend a proper (marine or freshwater) medication for internal parasitic worms. Most medications for this will contain such a drug as trichlorfon, yomesan or piperazine. Follow all manufacturers recommendations and treat the fish in a separate hospital tank.   top

 

CONSTIPATION

Symptom: A string of feces trails behind the fish, the abdomen swells, the fish has little interest in food, and the fish is sluggish or resting on the bottom. No symptoms of disease is present. 

Treatment: Do not feed the fish for two days. Separate it from its tank mates if possible with a glass partition at feeding time. After the two day fast, feed the fish herbivore plant and vegetable foods such as romaine lettuce, algae or green peas (remove skin) for the next two days. After the treatment period, feed a proper and varied diet. If the constipation is severe and this treatment did not work and the fish seems to be stressed, it can be treat with cod live oil. Net the fish and place it on a clean wet towel. Place two drops of cod liver oil in the mouth of the fish and place the fish back in the main tank. DO NOT KEEP THE FISH OUT OF THE WATER FOR MORE THAN ONE MINUTE. Do not feed the fish for two days after this treatment.   top

 

DIARRHEA

Symptom: The fish has extremely loose feces, is not interested in food and may have a swollen body. No symptoms of disease are present.

Treatment: Don’t let the affected fish eat for two days. Seperate if from its tank mates with a glass partition if possible at feeding time, if possible. After the fast, feed flake and carnivore foods for three days such as brine shrimp, beef hearts, small feeder fish, freeze dried tubifex worms or blood worms. Remember to feed a varied diet and proper diet for the fish you have.   top

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