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Old 05-20-2002, 04:03 PM   #1
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Saltwater disease treatment

Saltwater Disease Treatment

The first step in treatment of fish illness is prevention. Many times this can be accomplished through proper acclimation and quarantine. The main contributing factor in fish health (or lack thereof) is stress. Stress is greatly reduced through good acclimation procedures and proper quarantine.

Acclimation
Quarantine

Now, even though we acclimated and quarantined our fish, it got sick. The next step in treatment is to reduce the amount of stress on the fish, if possible. This is best accomplished by removing the fish to a quarantine/hospital tank for treatment. The reason for this is because:
  • 1) The other fish sense the weakness and will pick on the sick fish
    2) The other fish are in jeopardy of infection
    3) Treatment is easier and cheaper in a small tank

The fish is sick and has been removed to a hospital tank, what next?

Identification.
  • 1) Is the fish injured?
    2) Does the fish have a bacterial or viral infection?
    3) Does the fish have a parasitic infestation?

This document is not meant for disease identification, there are many websites and other resources for that. It is simply meant to show treatments for some of the more common S/W diseases.

Now, onto actual treatment.

Injury:

If the fish has been injured, it’s own body will do most of the work. Your participation will include:
  • 1) Remove to a quarantine/hospital tank
    2) Feeding; small amounts, several times per day (feed medicated food if possible)
    3) Maintaining good water quality
    4) Observation for secondary infection
    5) Return fish to display aquarium after it is completely healed

Bacterial or Viral Infection:

Viral:
In most cases, when a fish is diagnosed with a viral infection, the fish should be destroyed and the tank should be disinfected with bleach, an example of such an infection is Tuberculosis. However, there is one common viral infection, which the fish will usually recover from, Lymphocystis. It is contagious, and most sources recommend destroying the fish, but I feel it is more of a nuisance than a real threat.

Treatment for Lymphocysitis:
  • 1) Remove the fish to a quarantine/hospital tank
    2) Manually remove cysts
    3) Daily formalin baths (5 drops per gallon), to prevent secondary infection
    4) Do not return the fish to the display aquarium, until it has been cyst free for 2-3 weeks

Bacterial infection:
Harmful bacteria are always present in our tanks and on/in our fish. A healthy fish’ natural immune system is more than adequate to fight off these bacteria. It is only when our fish are injured or stressed that they succumb to bacterial infection.

Bacteria come in two basic forms: gram negative and gram positive. Antibiotics are designed to be effective against the same two categories. Therefore, it is important to choose the proper antibiotic for the specific bacterial infection. (Gram + antibiotics are not as effective against Gram – bacteria)

Probably the most prevalent bacterial infection in S/W aquaria is bacterial septicemia (fin/tail rot). It is typically preceded by an injury or stress from poor water quality. It is not a strong bacterium; sometimes the fish recovers without treatment (good water quality helps), but in the worst circumstances, can be lethal. Bacterial septicemia manifests itself by eating away the fins and/or tail of the infected fish, beginning from the outer edge of the fin/tail and working it’s way inward. Giving the fin/tail a ragged appearance that gets worse by the day. It can also affect the body of the fish; it is an opportunistic bacterium that will attack any wound site on the fish. Look for: inflammation of the wound, redness at the wound or red streaks radiating along the body from the wound. Since it is a weak bacterium, both gram – and gram + antibiotics are effective, my antibiotic of choice is Erythromycin.


Treatment for Bacterial septicemia:
  • 1) Remove fish to a quarantine/hospital tank
    2) Treat entire tank with antibiotics (follow directions on package)
    3) If treating with more than one antibiotic, be careful of interaction issues
    4) Keep a close watch on the ammonia and nitrite levels, all antibiotics have the potential to destroy the nitrifying bacteria as well as the harmful bacteria
    5) If possible, treat with antibiotics that do not color the water, it might make it impossible to read the test results for ammonia and nitrite
    6) Treat for at least 5 days
    7) Feed medicated food, if the fish will eat it
    8) Do not return the fish to the display aquarium, until all signs of infection are gone and original wound has healed

Another common bacterial infection is Popeye (swelling of the eye). When determining a treatment for Popeye, care must be taken. Not all cases of Popeye are bacterial in origin, most are actually caused by environmental factors, such as; metal poisoning (copper, iron, etc…), high ammonia and nitrite levels and gas embolisms. If environmental factors are not the culprit, the antibiotic of choice for eyes is Penicillin.


Treatment for Popeye:
  • 1) Remove fish to a quarantine/hospital tank
    2) Treat entire tank with antibiotics (Penicillin, follow directions on package)
    3) If treating with more than one antibiotic, be careful of interaction issues
    4) Keep a close watch on the ammonia and nitrite levels, all antibiotics have the potential to destroy the nitrifying bacteria as well as the harmful bacteria
    5) Treat for at least 5 days
    6) Feed medicated food, if the fish will eat it
    7) Do not return the fish to the display aquarium, until the eye has returned to normal size

Parasitic infestation:

By far the most common ailment of the S/W aquarium is parasitic infestation. Some parasites are simply a nuisance and some are quite lethal. There is a consensus that parasites are always present on our fish and a healthy fish is capable of dealing with the parasites. Due to the tremendous trauma on the fish during collection, transport and captivity, all new fish are at a greater risk of parasitic infestation. Through proper quarantine, incidents of parasitic infestation are greatly reduced. Parasitic infestation is also where the majority of collateral mortality occurs, that is why it is vitally important to remove the infected fish to a separate aquarium as soon as it exhibits signs of infestation:
  • 1) Increased respiration
    2) Holding fins clamped or erect
    3) Scratching (flashing) on rocks, substrate or decorations
    4) Gasping at the surface
    5) Visible parasites on the fish

Two of the most common S/W parasites are:
  • a) Cryptocarryon irritans (S/W ick, white spot)
    b) Amyloodinium occelatum (marine velvet)
Cryptocarryon manifests itself as small white spots (head of a pin size, grains of sugar) on the fins and body of the fish. Amyloodinium has a white dusty coating (baby powder) on the body and fins, it is more difficult to see than Cryptocarryon (best if viewed from an angle). Both attack the gills first, therefore, when you actually see the parasite on the fish, you must act very quickly.

Treatment for Cryptocarryon irritans and Amyloodinium occelatum:
  • 1) Remove the fish to a quarantine/hospital tank
    2) Add copper sulfate at a level of .15 - .20 ppm, maintain the level for 3 weeks, even if the fish appears to be better in a few days
    3) In extreme cases, F/W dips (5-10 minutes) or formalin baths may be necessary to save the fish
    4) Do not return the fish to the display tank until it has been parasite free for 3 weeks
  • A reliable copper test kit is required to maintain the proper copper level
  • Copper sulfate precipitates out of solution, fairly easily, additions will be necessary everyday or every other day
  • If you use a form of chealated copper, a chealated copper test kit will be required

There are many other forms of treatment for ick or velvet these days. I have had success and failure with some of them. Copper is the only treatment that has been consistently effective, in my experience. Copper is the treatment I recommend, copper sulfate in particular, because it seems to work a little bit quicker.

Other methods I’ve tried with limited success and some failure:
  • 1) Stop parasites (pepper solution, advertised reef safe)
    2) Formalin (tank treatment and baths)
    3) No Ick (increases slime coat production, advertised reef safe)
    4) F/W dips
    5) Hypo salinity (lowering the specific gravity below 1.015 for an extended period of time)
In conclusion, I will endeavor to enlarge this file as time, memory and opportunity permit. As I said this is not meant as a disease identification file as much as a treatment file, I hope it helps someone. Please feel free to post any comments, complaints or corrections.

Kevin
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