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Old 08-25-2010, 12:18 PM   #1
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Really really having a lot of trouble with ich

I had an outbreak of ich in my saltwater tank (30g). So, I took my fish out of the tank, and put them in QT for 8 weeks -- a little longer, actually.

Now, as I understood it, the 8 weeks should have been enough time for ich to die off in my main tank. So, at the end of 8 weeks, I returned my fish to the main tank. Three weeks later, my lemonpeel angel fish came down with ich and died, in less than 2 days. The other fish -- Chromis, firefish -- look ok, and are eating well.

The angelfish, the chromis and the firefish were all acquired after I evacuated the main tank. There had been three damsels in the main tank, up to that point. I gave the damsels to my local fish store, and picked up the new fish, a month into the 8 weeks. They never showed any signs of ich in my QT.

I'm very clear about the times that I have mentioned above. I was painstakingly conscientious about monitoring things. I know how long I waited, I know when I bought the new fish, I know how long I QT'd them, and I know when the spots first (re)appeared. I also know how long it took for my angelfish to die.

So, my questions are:

1. How long do I actually have to keep my main tank empty, in order to kill off the ich? Three months? Six months? A year?

2. Did my fish not have ich? It looked like little, white grains of sand, and it has now killed every fish that I ever had who showed any signs; each one in no more than about a day and a half. Is there something else that it could have been?

3. Should I just empty the tank, disinfect everything, and start over again?

I'm very frustrated and discouraged with this. I'm still pretty new to the hobby, and I seem to have done ok with everything else -- Half of the fish that I have ever bought are now dead from ich, but my water tests perfect, the fish all get along, the tank looks great (when there are fish in it). What sucks is that I have now been trying to deal with ich for almost as long as I have had the tank, and the tank has actually been empty for much longer than it has had fish in it. Nothing has worked yet, and I'm looking at several more months of empty tank, before I can do anything.

Any insight, advice, blame, recriminations, exhortations or commisserations that anyone can offer would be very welcome at this point. Thanks!
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Old 08-25-2010, 12:28 PM   #2
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Did you treat the fish with hyposalinity or some sort of ich treatment while they were in QT?
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Old 08-25-2010, 12:39 PM   #3
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Yes. Hyposalinity. I don't remember the decimal points, but I did a lot of research about what constitutes useful hyposalinity, and that's where I kept things. I was doing 2-3 gallon changes, every day or so, on a 10g QT, with no substrate (just PVC tubes), and monitoring the readings carefully. Salinity was always where it was supposed to be -- the much harder thing to control was ammonia and nitrites, but that's a different story, I guess...
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Old 08-25-2010, 12:41 PM   #4
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Also, the fish store tells me that they use copper and hyposalinity, as a prevantative measure against ich, although who knows what that means, or if it's true.
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Old 08-25-2010, 01:27 PM   #5
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Im curious if you lowered your salinity enough in treatment. There is some conflicting information out there on exactly where it should be, but the correct number is 1.009. If you didn't lower it enough you could have just kept the ich in the QT for 8 weeks.
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Old 08-25-2010, 01:39 PM   #6
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As I said, I don't remember the decimal points right now, and I'm not at home, but I think 1.009 is where I had it. I saw a lot of different numbers out there, and I went with the lowest suggestion that occurred more than once, in all of the articles I was reading. Anyway, I have the readings all written down, and I can check it when I get home.

Do you have other suggestions? Is there something besides ich that I could be dealing with here? I really think that I did everything right.

At this point, I'm leaning in the direction of emptying the whole thing out, disinfecting everything, and starting over again. It seems like the cheapest solution that doesn't involve 9 or 10 or 30 weeks of empty tank, and hoping for the best, when I finally decide to add new fish. I kind of have the sense that no one actually has any clear idea how to kill ich, once it gets into your tank, and that you are mostly hosed, no matter what you do, as soon as you first begin to see spots.

I'm not saying that I couldn't possibly have made mistakes, but I was pretty diligent and careful, and I tried my best to err on the side of more-extreme measures whenever possible.
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Old 08-25-2010, 04:50 PM   #7
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Also, the fish store tells me that they use copper and hyposalinity, as a prevantative measure against ich, although who knows what that means, or if it's true.
You do not want to use true hyposalinity (1.009) and copper meds at the same time. Copper meds are designed to be used at normal salinity levels and their toxicity (to the fish) increases at lowered salinity.

Your LFS might use some type of lowered SG (but not true hyposalinity) and copper with success - but they've probably spent a fair amount of years perfecting whatever method they use. I wouldn't necessarily try it.

I'm a little confused on your timeline during the quarantine...

You said you added new fish (I'm assuming into the quarantine tank) a month into the 8 week period. Were you still in hyposalinity treatment at that point, or were your salt levels back up to normal again? Seems possible that these new fish may have brought new ich into the QT, and they really didn't get the "full" hyposalinity treatment. Normally, if you bring something new into a quarantine tank during treatment (which isn't recommended) you need to restart your clock again for treatment.
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Old 08-25-2010, 05:42 PM   #8
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Thanks, Kurt. I'll try to be clearer about the timeline:

My main tank was empty for 8 full weeks. I never changed the salinity in there, because there's live rock.

The new fish were introduced to the hyposaline QT at the 4 week mark, and remained in the hyposaline QT for 4 weeks.

After 4 weeks in my QT, I transferred the new fish (with acclimation, by slow drip) to the main tank.

Does that clarify?

Are you suggesting that 4 weeks in QT isn't enough time to be sure that asymptomatic fish are ich-free? I thought 2-3 weeks was enough time for an ich-infected fish to start showing signs of sickness. Is that not true? And even if it's not true, wouldn't the full 7 weeks that I have had these fish been more than enough time for symptoms to show? If they came from the fish store, pre-infected with new ich, I would have expected an outbreak before the last few days. Am I wrong about that?

Somewhere along the line, it seems to me as if I am dealing with something that has a longer life cycle than is supposed to be normal for ich, or is more difficult to kill off, or something.

And, just to be clear -- I did know that hyposalinity + copper is a bad idea. That's why I wondered what they mean by that claim, or whether it's even true. At any rate, just to be clear: I don't do that. But thank you for the explanation anyway.
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Old 08-25-2010, 07:52 PM   #9
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...

After 4 weeks in my QT, I transferred the new fish (with acclimation, by slow drip) to the main tank.

Does that clarify?

Are you suggesting that 4 weeks in QT isn't enough time to be sure that asymptomatic fish are ich-free? I thought 2-3 weeks was enough time for an ich-infected fish to start showing signs of sickness. Is that not true? And even if it's not true, wouldn't the full 7 weeks that I have had these fish been more than enough time for symptoms to show? If they came from the fish store, pre-infected with new ich, I would have expected an outbreak before the last few days. Am I wrong about that?...
OK... I see what you meant. A few thoughts/opinions...

There are varying opinions on quarantine time. Some say that anything less than 4 weeks is useless. I kind of go by that. Others want longer times, and others go for shorter times. Ich is on no time schedule, so if it's present it will take its own time to do its own thing. In fact, the fish could have ich and NEVER show during a 8 week quarantine - it just depends on how bad of a case, and how strong of a fish you have.

Maybe I misunderstood, but did you take the "new" fish from a 1.009 quarantine tank into your main tank using drip acclimation? Or did you slowly - over the course of a couple weeks - bring the quarantine tank SG back up to your main tank's levels? If you went from 1.009 to 1.025 using just a drip over a few hours, then that's enough to stress a fish out (if not outright kill it) and perhaps lower its immune system enough that ich could really kick in, assuming the fish had it to start with. On the other hand, if that 4 week hyposalinity period did indeed include the time to slowly raise the SG, then I wonder if the fish was in there long enough to start with.

I guess where I'm going with all this is that I think the ich you're battling now snuck in with that new batch of fish you added. If you left the tank fishless for 8 weeks, there shouldn't have been ich in there.
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Old 08-25-2010, 08:04 PM   #10
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are you using a refractometer or a hydrometer?
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