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Old 03-04-2005, 09:51 AM   #1
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Ich and Copper Test Kits

Trying to treat a 37 gal. fish-only tank for ich. 1 Yellow Tang, 1 Royal Gramma, 2 Firefish, 1 Perc, and a Shrimp Goby.

Ich appeared shortly after I added the Tang. (He was intended as the last fish.) I lowered SG to 1.009, but the ich came back in the third week.

I treated with Marine Enterprises International copper sulfate, monitoring with test kit from same mfr. Instructions say 1 drop per gal., but there's a good bit of crushed coral, and I figure that's why I had to add a ton of copper to get the levels up.

Kept the copper between .15-.3ppm for 17+ days after the last ich spot disappeared, and then put carbon back in. Did a water change two days later, and then two more days later I saw the first spot again. Ich is back.

Copper still read .15ppm, so I put just a few more drops in, waited a three days and added some more, and then again three days later. Yet each morning I see ich again briefly.

Marine Enterprises now reading solidly above .3ppm! Bought a Salifert kit -- it's a lot harder to read, but it suggests I'm in the vicinity of .25ppm. Today the spots are on the Gramma. Yesterday they were on the perc.

Haven't lost any fish to the ich, but I'm starting to worry about losing fish to the copper. The tang's clamping a little, and he's got some blood streaks, but his appetite's fine.

How much copper can the fish tolerate? How high / how long do I copper to cure the tank? Is there a better test kit? Can ich become "resistant" to copper?

What does the presence of crushed coral do -- does it simply leach copper out of the water, or is the effect more complicated than that? The Marine Enterprises kit reaches peak levels in the first minute or so. The Salifert kit (drops, not powder) reacts within the normal 10-minute time, and does not get any darker with additional time. I assume this means my copper is not "bound" in any way.

I've been led to believe that the life cycle truly can be broken; that ich can be totally eradicated from a tank. Yet I see posts in forums where experienced fish-keepers have been forced to leave tanks farrow for a month or more because nothing else works.

I know this thing has a life cycle, and that spots on the fish do not indicate low copper unless they persist. How long should it take after an effective dose for the fish to start appearing spot-free?

If I have to, I'll let the tank go farrow. But I'd much rather megadose the copper than simply destroying these fish.
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Old 03-04-2005, 10:26 AM   #2
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Welcome to AquariumAdvice.com

You have many problems here my friend. Copper cannot be effectively maintained in a tank where any CaCO3 material is in any abundance. The copper will be absorbed making the treatment level sketchy and cannot be properly maintained without poisoning the tank.

Excessive levels will not only destroy the biofilter it will damage the internal organs of the fish. The red streaking and fin clamping are definate signs of that. If you do not have a QT then your best option is still hyposalinity. The problem you most likely had was using a hydrometer instead of a refractometer. The salinity must be maintained at 14-16 ppt for at least 4 weeks after the last spot is seen on the fish. The hydrometer is not accurate enough for this process and will typically give you fasle readings. They can be off by as much as 0.003-0.004.
http://www.petsforum.com/personal/tr...osalinity.html

Please do several large water changes with well aged/aerated SW to help with the red streaks in the fish. Most likely the high levels of copper are not boding well with the fish. Copper sulphate is effective between 0.15-0.20, anything above 0.25 is considered toxic.

BTW, a 37 gal tank is way too small for any species of tang. You should really reconsider this addition with a more appropriate fish for your tank size.
http://www.aquariumadvice.com/SWCompatibility.php

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Old 03-04-2005, 10:46 AM   #3
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I'm guessing that Nitrates were pretty high too w/that many fish in a 37g. May have been the source of the stress and outbreak. How are your water levels?
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Old 03-04-2005, 11:16 AM   #4
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Agreed the tank is overstocked but no amount of stress is going to produce ick or any other parasite for that matter. It's either there or it's not. Stress only speeds up the problem, it does not create it in this regard.

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Old 03-04-2005, 11:54 AM   #5
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I used a refractometer. I had very good control of the salinity, but the spots reappeared after three weeks and I didn't dare take it any lower.

The tang is quite small, though I am aware that he will get too big for the tank. Yellow tangs can streak with little stress, but I will see what I can do to improve the water quality. More on that in a moment.

I will remove the crushed coral today -- it's in media bags in one of my filters as a stabilizer only. (The actual substrate's a black silicate.)

Using a pitcher and some tapwater, I've been experimenting with the copper and the test kits. Assuming that my levels would have to be below .15ppm for ich to be active, I've recalibrated by eyeball.

I now believe the dosage instructions are basically correct (maybe a little on the low side), and that the Marine Enterprises test kit is far too sensitive. Some sites have indicated these kits can get too sensitive if they age on the shelf too long. It simply should not be possible for me to have ich if the indicated levels were correct, and since I used that kit for the previous treatment this would explain how I still have the parasite.

Taking this approach, the Salifert kit now seems more readable. The color standards represent .1, .25 and .5ppm, so I will be carefully aiming for .25ppm. One of the reasons I ordered Salifert was because I thought I was getting a more precise test that uses a powdered reagent, but that test has apparently been replaced with this one that requires a lot less math.

I generally don't exceed 30 on the nitrates. I don't expect this to be a problem for fish, and in the past I've even kept snails and crabs at higher levels than that. Ammo and nitrites are 0. However, I admit I have been stretching water changes a bit longer lately since I've been trying to manage copper and salinity so carefully. With the crushed coral removed, I'll step up the water changes and see if the stability becomes a non-issue.

This is actually a pretty capable tank. I can usually keep the water quality pretty high, especially considering its size. It's got 500gph of filtration, I vacuum after feedings, and I'm not afraid to change water three or more times per week. I kept African Cichlids for years before this saltwater tank. I'm very familiar with the effects of high bio-loads, and I will not hesitate to let go of a fish when he gets too big for my tank.
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Old 03-04-2005, 12:25 PM   #6
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Where are my manners!? Sorry.

Welcome to AA!

Hope ya hang around after you get thru this.
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Old 03-04-2005, 10:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpurick
I will remove the crushed coral today -- it's in media bags in one of my filters as a stabilizer only. (The actual substrate's a black silicate.)
Thought you meant the CC was the substrate. That amount won't have too much affect on the overall copper levels, but it's still safer to remove it. It will have no affect on the water chemistry anyway. Is there any rock in the tank?

So if I understand this you've really already gone through the copper process for 17+ days ensuring the copper level was 0.15 or more tested daily?

I mean no insult but are you sure what your treating is C. irritans?

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Old 03-05-2005, 01:10 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steve-s
That amount won't have too much affect on the overall copper levels, but it's still safer to remove it. It will have no affect on the water chemistry anyway. Is there any rock in the tank?
I figured, being in the filter path, that the CC might be acting like carbon to soak up copper. I removed it today, and replaced six gallons with 2 gals SW and 4 gals distilled. I estimate SG is about 1.018 now.

There is no rock in the tank, and all ornaments are plastic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by steve-s
So if I understand this you've really already gone through the copper process for 17+ days ensuring the copper level was 0.15 or more tested daily?
Well, that depends on whether my test kit was accurate, but I have doubts. It may not have been quite that high, though I checked it regularly. Toward the end it was stable and I wasn't checking it quite daily, but it never got any lower. Even after the current outbreak it was still testing .15ppm with the (highly suspect) test kit.

I am confident that as of today the Cu is at about .25ppm, based on tests of carefully dosed tapwater with a new Salifert test kit. If this test is correct, then the original kit was reading high, and may have been misleading me into under-dosing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by steve-s
I mean no insult but are you sure what your treating is C. irritans?
I appreciate the question. The spots are bright pinpoints. They have almost no size to them, but from certain angles you can see that they are "on" the fish rather than "in" it. They are relatively hard to see on the tang, but obvious on the perc and the gramma. They come and go in a matter of hours, and are most prevalent in the morning. Two hours later they can be completely gone.

The spots are often visible in the clear membranes of fins on infected fish. Firefish gobies seem pretty resistant. Infected fish seem to clear up magically, then get even worse 2-3 days later.

They seem to be affected by copper, and to a lesser extent, salinity.
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Old 03-05-2005, 02:09 PM   #9
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Hmm... the only thing I can suggest here is proceed with the treatment testing each day (twice preferabley) to be sure the copper levels remain steady. Two main reasons copper sulfate's not well recommended is it is much harder to maintain the correct levels and it is very stressful on the fish. You really should look for a chelated form or better still Cupramine by Seachem (with coresponding test kit).

0.25 is at the higher end of the treatment level so be sure the fish do not remain in this environment for more than 14 days. There is a good chance it could end up affecting the fish on a long term basis.

Be sure there is no UV running, no water treatment products are used, no carbon/polyfilter and any change water is treated to the proper levels before using in the tank.

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Old 03-05-2005, 02:33 PM   #10
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I also forgot to mention not to manipulate the salinity or temp in any extreme way. If salinity is too low in conjunction with copper use it will often stress the fish quite a bit and lead to death. Keep the SG somewhere between 1.019-1.022 (25-29 ppt) or normal reef salinities are fine as well. You'll find with the slightly lower salinity (25-29 ppt) the fish may have a better time of it and tend not to lose interest in feeding, but no lower.

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