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Old 02-09-2005, 07:33 PM   #1
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At the end of my rope

This is a follow-up to some posts from the last couple of weeks here.

I have 5 dwarf rainbowfish that have columnaris--almost entirely of the mouth "fungus" form. All attempts at treatment have been unsuccessful. I am at a loss for what to do.

-- for the first few days, when symptoms were very mild, I tried treating with MelaFix and PimaFix. When I noticed symptoms getting worse, I discontinued that.

-- I then treated for a full 5-day cycle with the combo of Maracyn and Maracyn-II. Besides the mouth area not getting better on any of the fishes, one or two began developing the early signs of fin rot.

-- I then began treating with Kanamycin, both laced in their food and dosing into the tank water itself. As of today, I have finished up a full cycle of that. Net result: some of the fish I have seen no change, in at least two the mouth lesions are even worse, and one of the fish has begun listing to the side from time to time, like it is having a hard time staying straight in the water.

At this point, I have now spend more than twice as much money on drugs as I did on those 5 fish to begin with. I have enough kanamycin left to do a second 5-day dose, which I will do, but if that doesn't work then quite frankly, I am not going to spend even more money to keep trying drug after drug after drug.

Just so you know, it was bad water that probably led to the initial infection (had a funeral in the family, no tank maintenance for over a week, friend feeding fish, came home to ammonia 1 ppm and nitrite 0.5 ppm), though I am also thinking the fish probably were diseased before I bought them, as I had had them less than two weeks when this happened and last time I went to that lfs I would say about a third of the rainbowfish they had in their tanks had the same lesions/cottony growth on their mouths.

However, a few pwc's in those first days I have been back, and since then my ammonia and nitrites have been 0 and nitrates 5ppm and under. So no way to explain away the lack of healing to bad water.

So that leaves me with two options, it seems. Option #1 is to stop drug treatments altogether and either let the ranibows fight this off on their own or die. The advantage to this is it gives them a chance to live; the disadvantage is that I also have 6 zebra danios and 3 cory cats in this aquarium...and I worry that if I leave the rainbowfish in there after I have discontinued antibiotics, then I might end up losing the entire tank. (Seems that while these antibiotics have not cured my rainbows, at least they have prevented my other fish from getting sick.)

Option #2 would be to euthanize the rainbows now, use the second 5-day kanamycin cycle to eliminate any leftover columnaris from the tank and/or my other fish, and basically at least have a healthy tank with those 9 fish in it and then decide where I want to go from there.

If anyone has reason to recommend one of these options over the other, please let me know. Or if there is a third option, I am all ears.
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Old 02-09-2005, 07:41 PM   #2
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I'd personally treat them again, but that is no judgment on what you decide to do. This is a common problem with rainbows, and sometimes columnaris can be almost impossible to get rid of. Sometimes copper sulfate treatments and salt are in order, but this depends a lot on tankmates. Did you remove the carbon from your filter for this treatment?

This is a testament to the benefit of a quarrantine/hospital tank. This way the other fish don't have to suffer with the medicine, you won't risk killing off your bacterial filter, and you can use less medicine because of a smaller amount of water to treat.

Best of luck to you and your rainbows!
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Old 02-09-2005, 07:52 PM   #3
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Yes, I did remove the carbon for all the treatments--though of course I did put it in for about 24 hours after finishing the maracyn and then removed it again just before the first dose of kanamycin.

I considered copper sulfate, but currently have some ghost shrimp (forgot to mention them before) and hope to continue to have ghost shrimp and possibly a bamboo shrimp in the future, so I think that basically eliminates copper as an option.

And yes, I have become very aware through this process of the value of a qt/hospital tank. *sigh*

I am leaning towards the euthanizing option at this point, mostly because I too have read about columnaris and it does have a reputation for being almost impossible to get rid of. But since everyone here is so helpful, I did want to at least get a sense of what some of the "experts" here would recommend before I make a final decision.
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Old 02-09-2005, 08:11 PM   #4
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Kudos to you JohnPaul. All we can do is try our best at curing the fish we care for when disease strikes. Sometimes we just have to face the fact that these little fragile lives can pass the point of saving. Bitter pill, but that's life too.
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Old 02-09-2005, 10:58 PM   #5
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Whatever happens, you certainly went to great lengths to save your fish. And at least you have a good isea of what caused the illness - I hate unexplained fish illnesses the most.

The only med that ever cured columnaris for me was Jungle Fungus Clear. One of my blue acaras was covered in columnaris from the pectoral fin to the tip of the caudal fin. Two rounds of fungus clear in my QT at lowered temp (74o F) with 25% water changes/med redosing every other day cured him. He lost his entire caudal fin and only half of it grew back.
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Old 02-10-2005, 05:39 PM   #6
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Just to let everyone know, I made the difficult decision today to euthanize my five rainbowfish. It was hard to do, but in the end I felt it was best for the tank as a whole, and quite possibly best for them...I'd rather see them go quick & easy then to slowly waste away and watch the bacteria just eat away at their bodies.

I'm older & wiser for next time. If I buy rainbows down the road sometime, I will search out a breeder and buy directly.
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Old 02-10-2005, 06:14 PM   #7
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I'm sorry you were unable to save them, but there is often only so much you can do.

It might be a good practice (I've started doing this after my own rainbow colmnaris experience) to use Melafix and Pimafix on ALL new fish in quarrantine, no matter what kind they are, with the exception of bettas and gouramis with a labyrinth organ that many maintain are sensitive to these two meds. I think the use of this mild antiseptic while the fish is in quarrantine will help eliminate any bacterial or fungal nasties that might be lurking and not visible yet, as a prophylactic treatment.

High quality stock from a reputable breeder is also excellent insurance, and the older I get the fewer and fewer fish I get from the LFS anymore, with some exceptions. If I know specifically what I want, I'll find a breeder, local or online. I think you save money in the long run, as you know only too well with what you must have spent on meds.
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Old 02-10-2005, 06:50 PM   #8
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Good idea about the Mela/Pima while in quarantine.

As for avoiding lfs's when possible, next week for the first time I will be going to a meeting of the local tropical fish/aquarium society...hoping that I might make some good contacts there and find out where others buy their fish.
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Old 02-10-2005, 09:26 PM   #9
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That is excellent about the fish club - it is a fabulous way to get some very nice fish. Often they hold auctions, and you can get your fish straight from the breeder. You'll have fun, no doubt
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Old 02-10-2005, 11:16 PM   #10
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Sorry to hear about your fish. You did the best you could to save it.
Do consider setting up a quarrantine tank - it doesn't have to be fancy, or even made of glass. Do a search - there were two really good threads recently about setting up a quarrantine tank.
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Old 02-11-2005, 12:52 AM   #11
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Yes, even though I don't want to spend much more money right at the moment, I have learned my lesson from this, and a QT is definitely my next purchase. I am figuring on getting something like a 5 or 6 gal one.

I will do a search like you suggest and see what advice is out there for setting one up correctly.
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Old 02-11-2005, 12:45 PM   #12
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Sorry to hear about your Rainbows, JP. I had a similar issue with an Australian Rainbow. The white stuff just kept eating at his mouth. I quarantined, did the Mela/Pima/Salt thing, but did not touch it. I tried several antibiotics...nothing. I ended up euthanizing as well.

I agree, poor water quality lets this stuff take hold. My problems would usually crop up after a change in routine...water changes not as often, somebody else feeding, etc. It may also have something to do with my hard water. The rainbowfish I have listed in my sig used to be pairs.

If you buy rainbowfish from the LFS, I'd quarantine for at least 1 month, perform around 10% water changes every couple of days, and watch them very carefully. Mela/Pima wouldn't hurt either.
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