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Old 03-12-2004, 02:53 AM   #1
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An Ich thread, for the sake of discussing Ich

As a biologist, I started researching Ich because I strongly believe it is present in just about all fish tanks. Am I the only one that feels this way? Please feel free to debate this, giving reasons in your response.

Anyway, why am I even thinking of Ich? I am prone to sinus infections, so it maybe it’s the “non-drowsy” meds talking 8O , but I know the bacteria in my sinuses do not change, just how my body reacts to them. First off, I would like to thank my fiancé for passing on his cold to me and weakening my immune system, just enough that I now have sinusitis . Secondly, with all the talk of Ich on this board, I started thinking that Ich acts like the bacteria we all carry with us. Most often, we are fine, but when there’s an imbalance, the bacteria in our bodies can cause many problems . (For the record, I am not a disease specialist.)

Ichthyophthirius multifiliis (freshwater Ich) needs a host to live. That is well documented in the literature, including the article written by Ruth Francis-Floyd and Peggy Reed (UF/IFAS http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/FA006 ) that states, “Ichthyophthirius multifiliis is a ciliated protozoan which causes ‘Ich’ or ‘white spot disease.’ This organism is an obligate parasite which means that it cannot survive unless live fish are present”. However, it has been my experience that a stressed fish in a tank can come down with Ich when no new fish have been added (this includes no new decorations, and no new plants—real or fake).

After reading numerous articles on-line, I have come to the conclusion that fish can tolerate a certain amount of Ich in there environments. Once the fish become stressed, then they are prone to Ich. The article by Jilly Florio ( http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art3529.asp ) points out that “fish can develop partial immunity to low levels of pathogens,” but when the fish’s immune system is weakened, disease will occur. Additionally, in a Q and A concerning fish disease by Elaine Thompson ( http://faq.thekrib.com/disease-fw.html ), the following was stated:
Quote:
Stress weakens fishes' immune systems, leading to increased susceptibility to disease. Actually, diseases and pathogens are almost always present in tanks, but a healthy fish's immune system will prevent them from being a problem.
I know the introduction of new fish is a large cause of Ich outbreaks and after reading an article written by Robert Fenner ( http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwich.htm ), I can see why many people believe new fish are the culprits.
Quote:
Ich is almost always present in freshwater systems and is parasitic on most if not all freshwater fishes. All that it takes to become pathogenic (actively infectious, disease-causing) is a strong strain of ich (e.g. an import from a newly added specimen), a not-so healthy, poorly-resistant host and/or a poor environment for the fishes. Re the last: Note that all diseases are to degrees environmentally linked. If the fishes are initially in good health, put into a suitable, stable home, the chance of outbreak is small.
Finally, I reread the Ich article by Allivymar and the articles listed in the bibliography. This further supported my belief that Ich is present when fish are healthy. I visited Peter’s Aquarium (http://www.caloriesperhour.com/fish/index.html ) and found the site very useful—also got great tips on Diet and Weight Loss (really ). From Peter's Ich Notes for Freshwater Tropical Aquariums ( http://www.caloriesperhour.com/fish/...h.html#dormant ), I found information on Ich latency.
Quote:
When not caused by contamination, the reported cases of dormant Ich are actually cases of latent Ich. They occur when a fish carrying Ich appears to be outwardly healthy because its immune system is able to repress a full-blown outbreak of the disease, though not ward it off completely. It is believed that a fish may develop this temporary "immunity" after surviving an Ich infestation. The parasite will be feeding and growing, but at a greatly subdued rate.
Then, should the fish become stressed and its immune system weakened while the parasite is still viable, the parasite is given the opportunity to increase its activity and threaten a full-blown outbreak.
Ich can be considered an opportunistic infection because it is not be able to readily infect a fish unless the fish has a weakened immune system. This is why it will infect one fish more than another, and some not at all. At least not until the infestation becomes overwhelming.
I hope someone finds this helpful. (Next time I’ll try putting my energies and time into a fish profile.)

BTW—does anyone know of a good relief for sinusitis? Even though this is my fourth infection since July, I can never remember what works best and my doctor’s appointment isn’t until Tuesday
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Old 03-12-2004, 05:22 PM   #2
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Interesting thread and useful links, Menagerie.

Perhaps Ichthyophthirius multifiliis is similar to Staphylococcus aureus (staph).
Staph is a common bacterium that lives on our skin in low numbers. In most healthy people, it does not cause a problem, but it can cause a nasty infection if it enters the body through an open sore or cut. Hospitals are especially wary of staph since it is potentially life-threatening to immunocompromised patients. There is also an alarming increase in the number of antibiotic-resistant staph strains.

Likewise, perhaps ich is present on the skin and gills of most aquarium fish and becomes a problem only when the fish's immune system is weakened by stress, poor water quality, or bad nutrition.
Perhaps the all-too-common occurrance of ich on newly acquired fish is merely coincidential to the stress they must suffer being netted and transported.

If that is the case, however, why do some seemingly healthy fish get ich after the introduction of a newcomer while other 'old' fish do not? This happened to me once - I had healthy schools of black phantom tetras and zebra danios in my tank for weeks - no health probs at all. Shortly after I introduced a school of serpae tetras, the phantoms and the serpaes, but not the danios got ich. Since the phantoms got ich, they had to have been stressed/weakened. But if there is ich always present in the tank, then why didn't they come down with the disease sooner? This suggests that ich is not normally present in healthy fish populations, right?

Well....not necessarily. It's still possible that my zebras and phantoms were harboring a small case of ich that remained asymptomatic so long as they remained otherwise healthy. The serpaes simply may have been carrying a virulent strain that overpowered the phantom's defenses. And the danios may have already been exposed to a similar strain and therefore possessed immunity.

So, I agree that aquarium fish, like humans, live in and breathe a medium that is swarming with opportunistic viruses, bacteria, and parasites. The difference between health and disease can be attributed to the balance between host defense and pathogen virulence.

BTW, I too suffer from winter sinusitus brought on by the oppressive dryness of my apartment.
My method of relief is fast and simple. Using a 3/16 inch carbide masonry bit and a power drill, I bore a hole just below my eye socket....no, just kidding! Actually, I have been running a meticulously clean humidifier 24/7 all winter long. This has really helped, though there have been times when I did seriously consider using. the drill. You may also want to look into nasal irrigation and lavage. It seems disgusting and I haven't tried it, but I have some medical doctor friends who swear by it for treating sinusitus.
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Old 03-12-2004, 06:11 PM   #3
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QTOFFER--the link from wet web media talked about introducing new comers with a strong strain of ich and the seemingly healthy fish in the established tank come down with it.
Also thanks for the advice--I'm off to buy a drill before my head explodes . OH! I mean a humidifier. It's funny, I grew up on LI and we always had a dehumidifier going, so the thought of humidifying the air is strange. (Although I should—Calgary is D-R-Y!)
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You may also want to look into nasal irrigation and lavage.
YUCK—I had surgery to help my sinuses 4 years ago . What I REALLY need is a sinus transplant! Thanks again .
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Old 03-12-2004, 07:49 PM   #4
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IMHO, ich is not always prevelent; it requires previous exposure. It may not explode into a full blown case unless a fish's immune system is reduced for any reason. When a tank is successfully treated, ich no longer exists unless its reintroduced. Similar to sinus infections; without bacteria floating around to reinfect those sinuses, we all wouldn't have repeated infections without exposure. Heh, is why a meticulously clean humidifier is necessary, otherwise bacteria make themselves at home, and you're off with a whale in those lil sinus spaces again.
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Old 03-12-2004, 11:41 PM   #5
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I am with Alli on the ich - once it is treated you are done, until you get that new fish and introduce it. Many people can attest to that happening. I do think that healthy fish do not fall ill with it unless some stressor is present, which can be tankmate stress or water quality stress.

As far as the sinusitis goes, dryness will definitely make it hard for the cillia (tiny hairs that move healthy mucous over the membranes and "lavage" them naturally) to function, and the sensitive mucous membranes will swell, closing off the sinus cavities and creating a swamp effect. Frequent use of saline nasal sprays, hot showers and a humidifier in the winter months may help, but if you have allergies, the humidifier in the house can encourage mold growth, which is a major allergen for many people.

If you have frequent sinus infections even after an endoscopic sinus surgery procedure (assuming that is what you had) then you might want to look into food and/or airborne allergens being the cause.
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Old 03-12-2004, 11:58 PM   #6
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As for ich, I have never had it in any of my tanks, and have never had anybody I know ever have an infection of it, so in a way, I have a hard time beleiveing that all fish have it present in their systems.

BTW, my mom had the nasal surgery. Basically where they go and stick this big thing up your nose to widen it up and stuff...I think. She had some problem with it being deformed or something. She suffers from a stuffy nose 365 days a year and can't get by without nasal spray every day. So much for the surgery, it was a waste of money and time! My personal advice. Get a humidifier! I don't know what I would do without one!
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Old 03-13-2004, 12:10 AM   #7
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Totally off topic, but did you (and your mom) know nasal sprays are addictive Devilish? LOL Not like some drugs (not in a fun until you realise you have nothing left way I mean), but if overused it can become sorta necessary to use em?

Specifically, nasal tissues often have a rebound effect when nasal sprays are used. They work for a little while, and when they wear off the nasal tissues tends to swell up. Most folks then use more...and so on and so on until they wind up using them regularly to get any relief. How do I know? My mom was "addicted" to em.
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Old 03-13-2004, 09:47 AM   #8
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Now they have prescription nose sprays that are steroid based and anti-inflammatory (Nasacort, Flonase), and keep the inflamed tissues calmed down without having the rebound effect that you get wtih Afrin type sprays. Definitely avoid those, like Alli said!

Back to ich, I think if you have never had it and don't know anyone who has it you are definitely fortunate. At some point, though, you will likely run into it, so it is good to understand how it works and how to keep it at bay. I might venture to say it is the most common FW fishy illness.
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Old 03-13-2004, 10:09 AM   #9
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A very interesting discussion. I've noticed that ich seems to be more prevelant in certain species, and some species have a much tougher time recovering from it. That's why QTOFFERs' tetras showed symptoms, but the danios did not.

I agree that it is the most common FW disease, but I don't think the parasite is always with the fish. No argument that stress will induce the onset if it is present. But a fish that suffers from any disease is in stress. If the parasite is always present, why won't a fish develop the ich symtoms if it's suffering with gill flukes for example?
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Old 03-13-2004, 11:30 AM   #10
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There seemed to be 2 schools of thought on ich:
1. ich is everwhere & impossible to irradicate, you just keep the fish healthy so they won't show signs of it.
2. ich lives on fish & if you get rid of it from the enviroment, it is gone forever.

I tend to go for number 2. The problem is geting rid of it completely from a tank. Now there are reports of some ich strains that stays in the fish for the entire live cycle, protected from all the ich treatments. In that case, I guess it might truely be impossible to irradicate.


BTW tankgirl, you do get rebound from steroid sprays ... just not as quickely compared with the "decongestants" Your body kinda get accustomed to the steroids & you require higher dose/concentration. This just happened over weeks instead of hours. I used to have prob with allegies etc. but it seemed to have burned out as I am getting older (or maybe it is the new central humidifier I put in?)

Also, with all the interest in sinus problems, maybe we should startup sinusadvice.com!
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Old 03-13-2004, 03:26 PM   #11
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Quote:
maybe we should startup sinusadvice.com!
LOL
I'm just glad I'm not the only one suffering !

Back to ich--I was really interested in if it could be latent. After we moved, two fish in two separate tanks came down with it. No new fish were introduced in the 3-4 months prior to the move. The Jewel cichlid was stressed due to being the smallest cichlid and getting picked on--she came down with ich. The other fish to come down with it was a 5 to 6-month-old juvie cichlid (from our own cichlids) that was living with the community fish. The little cichlid had not been living in the larger tank for 5 months prior to the move. BTW--no other cichlid from the 80 gal had it, nor did any tetras or other community fish.
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Old 03-13-2004, 04:00 PM   #12
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LOL, funny you guys mentioned about my mom being addicted to it... I know she is, and I know it is addictive....she has tried to "ween" herself off of them, but to no luck. Funny thing is that it all started after the surgery that she had to fix the problem. I think if it would have been successful (ie: the doctor wasn't incompetent) that maybe she would'nt need them today. Anyways, thanks for the warning, but it is a touchy subject around my household.
BTW, you know what I get her every year for her birthday?? Afrin...the nasal spray =) It's not funny I know, but its all she can take to get through the day...
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Old 03-15-2004, 07:20 PM   #13
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Here's a theory: There might be something that feeds on the ich. The two live in balance until something changes allowing the ich to multiply.

I'm sorry about this example but I don't have a better one: Every time my mother takes an antibiotic she gets a yeast infection. The fungi (or whatever causes it) is held in check until conditions change - the the bacteria that eat the fungi are killed off and the fungi have a heyday.

I'm guessing that the same thing happens for Ich. Maybe there is a bacteria, fungi, or another protozoan that eats ich. Then when a new fish with a small amount of ich is added the ich grows out of control until the "ich eater" can catch up.

It's just a theory that makes sense to me. Feedback anyone? I might be totally wrong.
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Old 03-15-2004, 07:22 PM   #14
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Here's a theory: There might be something that feeds on the ich. The two live in balance until something changes allowing the ich to multiply.

I'm sorry about this example but I don't have a better one: Every time my mother takes an antibiotic she gets a yeast infection. The fungi (or whatever causes it) is held in check until conditions change - the the bacteria that eat the fungi are killed off and the fungi have a heyday.

I'm guessing that the same thing happens for Ich. Maybe there is a bacteria, fungi, or another protozoan that eats ich. Then when a new fish with a small amount of ich is added the ich grows out of control until the "ich eater" can catch up.

It's just a theory that makes sense to me. Feedback anyone? I might be totally wrong.
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Old 03-15-2004, 08:40 PM   #15
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[quote="Menagerie"]
Quote:
I was really interested in if it could be latent.

Hm... From what I read, ich cannot be latent without a host. However, the cysts do survive for a while out of the fish - several days in room temp, but can overwinter if it is kept real cold. So, if you added a rock or plant, you cannot add "latent ich", but you could add "Live ich". End result is the same, purely sementics!

In fish, ich apparently can act like it has latency. A fish may have ich, but strong enough to fight it so it grows very slowly, and the ich will not appear until weeks or months later (safely past QT). Also, there is also report of ich living entire live in the fish, immune to treatment, but releasing the tomites & infecting other fish. Both cases, the fish act as carriers. Strictly speaking, tho, this is not latent phase of ich.

A good technical discussion of ich can be found here:
http://www.skepticalaquarist.com/docs/health/ich.shtml
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Old 03-15-2004, 11:28 PM   #16
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Quote:
I'm sorry about this example but I don't have a better one: [left out]
That is an unfortunate side effect of antibiotics She can try to eats lots of yogurt to regain the good bacteria.
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Old 06-22-2004, 12:45 AM   #17
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Maybe people are sick of arguing this, but I find this to be a fascinating debate personally. I don't mean to flame anyone who has posted, that is honestly not my intention, as Menagerie has been one of the people who has given me the best advice on this forum.

I've noticed that most of these posts on this topic have included, "my opinion is." It is interesting that in a topic like this we can't find any hard scientific data. Many people (including those at my LFS) believe ich is always present in the water.

I find this hard to believe personally. Here is my reasoning: Ich is a parasite. Parasites feed off of other living things. If they have nothing to feed on, they die. End of story. So, let's take a newly set up tank. We add water from the local supply, dechlorinate, etc. I can't believe that ich would have survived through the treatments my city puts our water through, or with no host, so I can safely assume that my water has no ich in it. I introduce a fish that is not infected with ich. 12 months from now, I have no infestation. I am now being asked to believe that ich IS present in my water, and the only reason my fish has not succumbed is because he is healthy? This does not make sense to me.

I also found an article on the cichlid-forum that posted this:

Quote:
I came into the research phase of this article with certain misconceptions about this parasite. It is a commonly held belief that the Ichthyophthirius organism is always present in your aquarium and needs only the right opportunity, such as stress resulting in a weakened immune function, to attack your fish. Surprisingly, I found no scientific data to support that claim. Credible sources state that there is no long-term dormant stage this parasite can exist in. While its lifecycle is longer at low temperatures (like that of an outdoor pond in a cooler climate), at average home aquarium temperatures this parasite would likely complete a lifecycle in less than a week. Considering that a single organism produces hundreds (if not thousands) of offspring, the logical question is “where would they all go?” Dr. Peter Burgess, writing for Practical Fishkeeping magazine (who also co-authored the book entitled A to Z of Tropical Fish Diseases and Health Problems), refers to the dormant concept as “rubbish.”

The proliferation of this myth could be due to the fact that it is possible for a strong, healthy fish to resist severe infestations, especially if it was infected previously and developed some resistance. While the organisms attach easily to the gills of most fish (where they cannot be seen), the body may be sufficiently protected by a tougher mucus coating. Such a fish could serve as an asymptomatic carrier; potentially hosting many lifecycles without showing any visible signs. When introduced to a new tank it brings the parasite with it. Scaleless fish such as loaches and catfish often show symptoms first, but most likely every fish in the tank will eventually be infected; if not visibly on the body, on the gills at the very least.

It stands to reason that a stressed fish with a weakened immune function is an easy host, but only if the parasite is present in the tank to begin with.
Scientifically, I cannot find any reasons or proof that ich is always present in my water.

Here is my idea as to why ich could show up months after any change has been performed. Perhaps a newly introduced fish, as the article suggested, could be introduced infected and could host many lifecycles of the parasite with no visual symptoms. They are not unhealthy enough for a full-blown infection, and yet maybe SOME parasites can latch on without the white spot. Since the other fish in the tank are healthy, perhaps they can avoid infestation completely. The other parasites die, and the amount is kept in check. In this manner, it may be possible for ich to be present in the tank, feeding off of only 1 asymptomatic carrier for quite a long time until you get a stronger ich offspring, or until other fish get stressed enough to become infested. Either way, if at any point, the ich organisms cannot find a host, they all die and ich needs to be reintroduced once again.

Like I said, this is in no way a personal attack on anyone or their opinion, but I am interested in finding out the scientific facts of this matter. I would be interested in any comments on my idea, even if my idea is the work of a nutcase. hehe!

Paul
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Old 06-22-2004, 02:49 AM   #18
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Here's two things to think about:
1~this poor betta
2~From Kid's Health:
"Staphylococcus aureus bacteria are often simply called "staph" (pronounced "staff") bacteria. Staph bacteria can live harmlessly on many skin surfaces, especially around the nose, mouth, genitals, and rectum. But when the skin is punctured or broken for any reason, staph bacteria can enter the wound and cause an infection.
"Staph bacteria can cause folliculitis, boils, scalded skin syndrome, impetigo, toxic shock syndrome, cellulitis, and other types of infections."

I believe ich acts in this way. Not that it is sitting around in the water, but always present where fish are.
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Old 06-22-2004, 01:25 PM   #19
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I am with Menagerie, and of course I do not have hard scientific data, but I was always under the impression that it was present on the fish, lying dormant and not harming the host, and that the protective coating that fish have is able to keep it at bay, and it only proliferates and thrives when the fish is stressed or otherwise becomes impaired, similar to germs that we carry with us.

It is a wonderful topic of debate, and I am sure there is hard data about it, but I will have to look up some of my old magazines and re-read some articles and abstracts to find more info.

The bottom line is and will always be - maintain optimal water conditions and the incidence of ich goes down. It is also true that at some point or another all of us serious hobbyists will treat our fish for ich at least once!
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Old 06-22-2004, 01:44 PM   #20
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Some more pennies of thought...

I do not think that ich is ALWAYS present in aquariums. Brian brought up a good point earlier refuting this imho. I've had fish get stressed to the point of showing various infections but not Ich. Why didn't my fish get an Ich infection when their immune systom was clearly impaired? This seems to at the very least imply that those fish didn't have Ich.

I think Ich is like many other parasites. Most fish don't have Ich. Those that are exposed to it react in 3 ways.

1. Their immune systems fight it off and eradicates it.
2. Their immune system keeps it at bay such that the fish becomes a carrier of the disease for a prolonged period of time.
3. The fish succombs to the infection requiring treatment and/or dies.

There are many strains of Ich so the strength of both the fish and the Ich strain are factors in how it'll play out.

I think if you haven't introduced new fish and have a fish that was otherwise healthy for 12 months that comes down with Ich, it was probably just a carrier of the disease and finally succombed to it. I would suggest that this is not the norm though and that most Ich cases are from new fish introductions.
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