Cherry Barb Mouth Stuck Open

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Aquarium Advice Regular
Apr 17, 2008
Norwich, England
Hi. I have a tropical aquarium and a few months back I bought 5 Cherry Barbs - 2 female and 3 male. One of the females has now for around 5 weeks spent practically all the time resting on the gravel with its mouth wide open. Its like its mouth is completely jammed fully open and it never ever closes. Also, its head appear to be nodding and gills pumping all the time. The fish does move about quite often but rarely off the surface of the gravel. I read about a guy who had a cherry barb that got a piece of gravel stuck in its throught so Ive tried looking inside its mouth when it faces me. All I can see is something that looks white about as far back as the gills. It appears to be tissue as opposed to a foreign object. I dont know whether that is normal though.
All of my other fish appear fine but last week one of the male cherry barbs I noticed was suddenly sitting on the gravel too and the next day was dead. The sick female is still alive though so I guess it must be getting some food though I have not seen it eating.
Does anyone have any clue what the problem could be?
My aquarium is at 24.5degC or 76degF. It is a standard Juwel Rio 120 setup with gravel in the bottom. As well as the 4 Cherry Barbs I have:
2 scissor tails
2 torpedo barbs
2 hara hara catfish
1 leopard catfish
1 botia
2 black tetras
7 cardinals
8 neons
2 male guppies
3 leopard danios
2 rosy tetras
1 ansistros plec
2 white mountain minows
8 algae shrimps
1 red tail shark
3 five striped barbs
1 honey gourami

Last time the water quality was tested it was fine and I try to do a 20litre water change and gravel vacuum every 2 weeks. I change the carbon sponge every 6 weeks. The tank is planted and has a small piece of bogwood and other ornaments. I feed with catfish algae pellet food and either flakes or a cube of frozen red worms/brine shrimps. I try to alternate the food each day.
Any advice is appreciated.
I have no idea whats going on. 120 litres is about 30 gallons if I'm not mistaken. If that's correct the tank is extremely over crowded and my guess would be that is part of the problem. Is it a planted tank or fish only? If planted ar you using CO2?

I'd lower the number af fish and keep the tetra's, white clouds, danio. botia, cory (leapard catfish) and barbs in schools of the same species (cut down the variety of species in each familily). All these fish are schooling fish, the barbs and botia can (will) become agresive toward othe fish. For example: tiger bars with other tiger barbs, black tetra with other black tetras (like you have the neons and cardinals). I'd consider choosing the redtail shark and botia as fish to get rid of since they can be more aggressive. Barbs pick on other fish if not kept in groups of 5 or more of the same species of barb.

The shrimp are most likely going to become tasty snacks. The bristlenose needs hiding places and bogwood/driftwood to keep him/her happy and healthy. The BN also needs plenty of algea and/or other veggies to keep it healthy. Giving him/her a slice of blanched zuccini on the bottom of the tank, a few times a week is a very good thing especially if it's a fish only tank.
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I would say that this is a very sick fish and probably the best option is to euthanize. There are many ways to humainly do that. It could be a tumour in the throat quite easily. But if this has been going on that long I would suggest that it isn't going to get better. Has she gotten thinner yet? It can often take fish awhile to die.

I have had a fish with a broken jaw before from hitting something. After awhile I noticed how skinny it got since it couldn't eat anymore. It was sad to do, but was sadder to watch it suffer.
Hi. Thanks for your reply. I did mention in the bottom of my post that the tank is planted and has bogwood although my plec seems to ignore it! The shrimps seem to like it though. To be honest, although there are alot of species it seems to me that the tank is very peaceful and I dont notice any aggression. Although the Leopard Catfish is a pretty big fella and everyone gets out of his way when he cruises around. I also forgot to add a Peppered Cory and another little algae eating fish whose name I forget to the list. The shrimps are great for cleaning and are bigger than the neons. I've had all 8 for months now and noone seems to have tried eating them. I'll post some photos later so you can see what the setup looks like.
Here's a pic of my aquarium. You can see the ill cherry barb on the gravel at the back, a little left of centre of the photo. Unfortunately I dont think the forum allows me to post it at full resolution.


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Jees. I've just managed to get a better look inside the mouth of the cherry barb and I think it may actually be a small white stone stuck in its throat! Anyone got any suggestion how on earth it could be removed?????
Well with clove oil you can sedate a fish and then try to remove the stone. I don't know what sort of dose you would need for such a small fish. Clove oil will also kill a fish at elevated levels (and is good for euthanizing). Of course you would have to sedate the fish outside of the tank so your other fish didn't nod off.
Hi guys. Well after I saw that I thought it was a stone inside the cherry barbs mouth I fished her out with a net and tried holding her by the tail to see if I could get the stone to drop out. But it didnt work and obviously I couldnt shake her about too vigorously. So I put her back in the tank. Then yesterday I thought she was getting a bit thin and that I would have to euthanize her. So I put a tub of water in the freezer to get it icey cold ready to drop her into.
In the mean while I had the idea of poking the blunt end of a sewing needle in from the back of the gills to try to push the stone forward and out of the mouth. So I decided to give her one last chance and give it a try. After alot of fiddling about I finally did manage to push it out of her mouth although it was a tight squeeze! The stone was kind of triangular and at least 3mm wide in all directions. After I got the stone out there was a little blood and I put her back in the tank. She then had a few fits alternating between madly swimming about and then laying motionless. Unfortunately she died soon after. So I guess the trauma was all too much for her. Its a shame I didnt think to try this sooner as she was probably quite weak by now. But maybe someone else could use this technique to remove a stone from a fishes mouth in the future so it may not all have been in vain. I read a post by someone else who had a cherry barb that got a stone stuck in its mouth too so maybe this is not such an uncommon thing.
Anyway, laters.
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