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FAQs on African Cichlid Nutritional Disease

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Related Articles: African Cichlids, Malawian Cichlids: The Mbuna and their Allies By Neale Monks, The Blue Followers: the Placidochromis of Lake Malawi by Daniella Rizzo, Cichlid Fishes,

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Mysterious cichlid sickness       2/5/15
Internal Lake Malawi Cichlid Disease

Hi, I have been looking all over the internet for an answer to my tank troubles but have yet to find an article that can explain what I am currently dealing with. I'm going to attach a picture of the fish I lost yesterday morning. I had 3 cichlids and an algae eater in a 20 gallon tank. Our white cichlid, not exactly sure what kind of cichlid sorry, died suddenly but for a few weeks he was acting a bit strange. He was constantly twitching, flopping on the pebbles, darting across the tank etc...Then I noticed his tummy looked almost black and I figured maybe he is actually a she and she's pregnant. Over about a weeks time the fish dug itself what I thought was a nest in the pebbles. He dug all the way down to the glass, this nest was about the size of a baseball around. He became territorial of that spot and wouldn't let the other 2 cichlids near it. He was eating normally and everything. I woke up yesterday morning to him floating upside down with a perfect hole in his stomach (or I guess anus) almost as if something ate him from the inside out....and on the bottom of the tank there were these weird jelly like balls about the same size as the pebbles. There were purple ones and see through ones, which I'll also attach a picture of. Now that same morning I woke up to the dead fish, my yellow cichlid who naturally has a black stripe down his top and bottom fins, is also struggling to stay alive. He has dark stress stripes down his body, his mouth was pushed as far open as he could get it as if he's gasping for air, and he was staying at the bottom of the tank in one corner. The lady we get our fish from told me its definitely ammonia poising but doing a water change did absolutely nothing. We put the yellow cichlid, our blue cichlid, and our algae eater in a makeshift hospital tank with an air pump for the time being until we set up a new tank and let it cycle thoroughly. The yellow guy seemed to thrive when we switched them over to the hospital tank but now after just one night he's not looking so good again. I have added some Melafix to the water and because there's no filter on this tank am doing frequent water changes and keeping an eye on the temperature keeping it around 80. Should also mention the yellow guy now has a "lump" under his mouth as if he's got something growing inside of his throat. This lump has a small diagonal "cut" through the middle of it that some what resembles the open wound found on the dead white cichlid. His mouth is not pushed open as far as it was yesterday morning but you can tell he's still having a hard time breathing. Love these little guys, this is the first time we've had a problem with the fish in this tank since we established it back in august of 2014. Hoping you can help me out here any info you may have helps!!
< Your Lake Malawi cichlids are vegetarians and should be fed a diet high  in vegetable matter. Foods that are too meaty will rot in their gut causing  the jelly belly affect you are seeing. They should be kept in the mid 70's.
The 80 F temp is way too high and that by itself could cause some of the  problems. Read up on Lake Malawi cichlids and how to care for them.-Chuck

My Electric Yellow is skinny between the fin and tail       1/29/15
I recently changed my tank from community fist to Chichlids and last Saturday I bought a couple baby African chichlids for my tank.
<Cichlids, not the gum sounding name>
The following day I noticed one of my electric yellows was looking really skinny. Between it's fin and tail it is very skinny.
<I see this in your pic>
Can you please help? I have spoken to the pet shop and they don't know what is wrong with it. I can not remember it looking funny when I bought it though I can not see how over night it would end up like this. I have attached a pic and in the pic you will see both my electric yellows. The bottom one is the one I am concerned about. I have since separated it from the tank incase it is bad but it is now only hiding and hardly eats. I am not sure if it was eating well when I first bought it. What should I do?
<Not panic... there might be some sort of pathogen, infectious or parasitic involved here, but more likely than not by far this one fish is simply "starved". Your good care (feeding and water quality) will see its rapid improvement. I'd be feeding a high quality small pelleted food (e.g. Hikari, Spectrum) three, four times per day; making sure the water is hard, alkaline and not too warm... as gone over and over for Malawians on WWM>
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

what's wrong with my yellow labs?
Lake Malawi Cichlids With Mystery Deaths 8/25/10

I have a tank of 25 Mbuna including 3 yellow labs (2m/1f)
ammonia/nitrite/nitrate all good
<ammonia and nitrites should be zero. Nitrates should be under 20 ppm.>
ph, temp, hardness all good
<pH should be well above 7. Water temp should be in the mid 70's F. Water should be hard and alkaline.>
I had a random Ps. demasoni death a week ago. He was hiding and wouldn't eat or come out of his spot. The next day I found him, well I found his spine - the fish ate him to the bone after he died. Didn't know how he died A few days later I found out my female yellow lab was holding. I didn't know who it was from - I had 2 yellow lab males.
A few days later my yellow lab male wouldn't move out of his hiding spot or eat or come out. The next morning he was dead.
Thinking maybe my labs were being harassed (because the female was holding?)
I put the remaining female and male in their own 20g tank (same water, filter, gravel) so it was not stressful and it was already established. My male started acting similar to the way the other male did before he died so I thought I better take him out
Its only been 24 hours, but the male isn't eating, He's breathing heavy, rarely moving and laying on his stomach/side. He is weak and exhausted.
He looks fine. His color is good, and there are no signs of aggression or white/black/gold flakes on his body, he looks physically normal
What are your thoughts?
< Too much food or the wrong kind of food. Feed only enough food so that all of it is gone in a couple of minutes. They should be fed a food high in vegetable matter. No earthworm flakes or foods like that. Look for something with spirulina in it.-Chuck>

T duboisi Breathing Hard 4/9/2010
Hi, I have searched your site for an answer and still haven't found anything. I have added 4 small cichlids to an established tank one of them being a duboisi. All of the new additions are fairing well except the duboisi. He doesn't move much and displays rapid gill movement. I hate to lose him and am at a loss on what to do. My parameters are fine I have checked and double checked. I have raised cichlids for the past 2 years and have never had a problem. Can you give me some advice??? Thanks in advance,
< The T. duboisi is a specialized algae feeder from Lake Tanganyika. He requires clean, 80 F ,hard and alkaline water. In the wild they eat algae. Animal based protein in their diet causes internal problems and blocks up the intestines. The blockage is then feed on by the bacteria in the gut.
The bacteria reproduce and extent the gut causing a bloated look. Treated early it can be cured with a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace. If the fish is still eating then a medicated food is the way to go.-Chuck>

Sterilizing FW Hospital Tank 10/27/05 Hello, I have patiently been trying to figure out what is infecting my tank.  Treated w/Clout did not completely work.  Treated with Rid Ich for six days, and it seems to have cured everything completely. A yellow lab who was not eating, was turning black w/stress and a lumphead who had a scale injury/fungus were removed to a hospital tank and treated with MelaFix for 5 days.  The Lumphead healed completely and the lab colored back up and started eating. Put them in a bigger 75 gal. They were fine but after 10 days the lab, which fattened up and was looking great, developed pop eye almost before my eyes (like a matter of an hour).  Water conditions are pristine! Removed the lab to the hospital tank w/ a mature sponge and started treating with Maracyn-two, salt, heat (83F) and a daily water change. Today is the third day of treatment and the lab is doing death spirals.  Did a large water change with no apparent help. Eyes still bugged, slight dark stress lines, but not as bad as when it didn't eat. Won't stop rolling, except when behind the air stone.  Water quality is very good with daily water changes. Meanwhile started feeding Jungle Medicated fish food to community tanks. Third day of this... My other labs are losing the slight dark stress lines they were showing and their color has become more vibrant.... I did not treat my stock fox Hexamita when I got them. I have been told that this should be done for all new fish regardless. Treat them with Metronidazole, takes care of Hexamita and most all bad bacteria without (supposedly) harming filter bacteria.  <<Antibiotics are indiscriminate except in regards to gram positive and gram negative bacteria, this is negated when using broad spectrum antibiotics.  MH>> I will be feeding my fish Tetra medicated feed (Metronidazole) a few days after I finish the feed schedule they are on now.  Any new stock will be properly salt dipped then treated with Metronidazole from now on.... Should I decontaminate the hospital tank and sponge filter, as this lab is clearly not able to be saved, and I don't know the reason (assume bacteria)?  How do I clean my nice mature sponge filter (took a while to get this way). <<Your nice mature sponge can only hold as many bacteria as there is food sufficient to feed them.  Bio-Spira will replenish colonies quite nicely.  MH>> Allen < The internal bacterial infection you are trying to cure may respond to a combination or Metronidazole and Nitrofurazone. Some salt added to the water wouldn't hurt either. This disease is brought on by stress. It may be water but it may be something like dominance by another fish that could cause it. I think there is a correlation to diet to with too much meaty protein in the food. early treatment is the cure to a successful and complete cure. I would only replace the water and clean the filter. Bloat and Popeye are not very contagious when the proper conditions are being met.-Chuck> 

Tropheus Cichlid Problems 10/9/05 All I can say is a picture is louder then words, I will attach the picture, it is not that great but you can at least get an idea! The fish is still eating, but ? When I first discovered it about a week ago I used Clout for a day and night, I know it is really strong and I don't like to use it, so then I put new charcoal back in the filter and let it cycle for a day, then I tried frozen peas cooked and Epsom salts.  That didn't seem to do any thing and he didn't like the peas, so now I am using (Parasite Clear) by Jungle. The thing, I don't know what else to call it is whitish in color and has a red line running through it, well check out the picture and see what you think, I would really appreciate it if someone could help me soon! Thank you for your time Michelle W. < Your fish has what is known as a prolapsed anus. It is caused by large feedings of food with {too} little fiber. Switch food to one that is high in Spirulina algae. Feed numerous small feedings often, like in the morning , after work and before bed. Watch it closely so it doesn't fungus before it is reabsorbed by the fish. If it does fungus you need to treat it with Nitrofuranace.-Chuck>

Tropheus Feeding Problems 10/10/05 Thanks Chuck, I do tend to feed my fish too much! I do feed the Spirulina but, maybe to much, I thought it looked like he ate a small stone and it couldn't come out so it was pushing out his insides, like what you said, I know Tropheus can get bloat easily!  I have to confess recently I had bought some NEW LIFE SPECTRUM CICHLID FORMULA and on the label it shows a Tropheus, so I thought for a change I would feed him some of that food, I am not sure if that might be the reason or what but it always gets my nerves going when things happen like this, I have had a lot of luck with bringing fish back and some not, it is always a trying time on my nerves! ha!  Thanks again and I will keep an eye on him. let you know what happens! Michelle Wrathell < Spectrum is actually a great food. I feed it to my Tropheus all the time. I do use the small pellets and this makes them forage all over the tank and not get too much at any one time.-Chuck> 

Cichlid Disease Hi, I have a 46 gallon freshwater aquarium which formerly had nine large healthy African Cichlids. We feed them Cichlid flakes in small servings a few times a day. < They may be fine on the cichlid flakes but Spirulina or algae flakes are better because your fish are vegetarians.> We recently have done a few things which might have altered the balanced system. We introduced a handful of new plants within the past 4 days (even after the break out). < The plants are fine. If your fish were healthy they would probably be eaten by the fish for the reasons stated above.> We also offered the cichlids thawed out bloodworms. <BAD IDEA!!!!! Your fish are vegetarians and the bloodworms are not easily digested by your fish. The worms are causing blockages in the guts of your fish, it is commonly called Malawi Bloat. Discontinue the bloodworms immediately!!!!! There use to be a medicated food by Tetra with Metronidazole in it. If you can find it , feed it to your remaining fish if they are still eating. If they are not eating then they probably will die soon. > And because of a slight algae problem we started using algae destroyer (which turns our algae brown). < The algae is a secondary symptom of excessive waste build up in your tank. Uneaten food, dead fish etc....Really not a problem. In fact your fish eat algae in the wild and would love to eat it> We started having a breakout in our cichlid aquarium this week. I think it is a bacterial infection that's spreading through our fish. It's horrible. So far 4 of our fish have been infected. With the first fish we didn't even notice any of his symptoms before he died. Then the second fish started exhibiting some weird things. He just kind of chilled out and stayed at the bottom of the tank. He keeps defecating and his color is really faded. Also none of the fish have their usual appetite. This fish is still going, but he definitely feels horrible. Third a large cichlid, which was one of our most beautiful and strongest fish, started having symptoms 2 days ago. He started darting around and swimming very erratically. He also was gasping for air and either lingering on the bottom of the tank or staying at the top by the filter. He died by the end of the next day. Now, another fish is darting around and exhibiting many of the same symptoms as the other fish. They seem to swim and turn very sharply before dying. It's frustrating, I know they're "just fish" but we get really attached. Have you heard of anything like this? < The Malawi bloat is common to aquarists new to Lake Malawi cichlids. The fish are suffering from the internal blockages that probably have begun to rot in their guts. As the bacteria break down the food in the gut they multiply and expand causing further discomfort to your fish like bloating or pressure on the internal organs.>   What should we do? < If they are not eating then they will probably die. Stop all feeding except for the medicated food if you can find it. Keep the filters clean and watch for dead bodies. Remove them immediately, look for bodies hiding in the crevices of rocks too. Other fish may feed on the bodies and then they will become infected too.> We've already changed the filter, changed out 10% of the water, and decreased the food we're giving them. We also have purchased some Nala-Gram and are going to introduce that to the tank shortly. Any help will be appreciated. < The Nalagram may have some affect and save the fish that are only marginally affected. . It may harm the beneficial bacteria in your filter. I would remove the filter and use an airstone while treating the tank. Good Luck and please email back when things settle down -Chuck> Please email me quickly! Thanks in advance.

- Problems with Tropheus duboisi Cichlids - Hi hope you can help <Hello, JasonC here... I hope I can help too.> I bought duboisi about 9 about three weeks ago.  Yesterday one died, before he died these where the main stages. First day - He spat out his food while others where eating. Then he remained at the bottom of the tank for the day and moved really slowly. Second day - Didn't attempt to eat his food. Started to swim awkwardly. Loss of colour and couldn't keep balance. Then died. <Sorry to hear of your loss.> I tested my nitrates ammonia and ph and all are perfect. No trace of nitrates No trace of ammonia And Ph of 8.8 <Do also test your alkalinity, dKH - these fish need rather alkaline water, between 10 and 12 on the dKH scale.> Now today another of my duboisi is showing the same symptoms spitting food, etc. I only feed them vegetable flakes and once a day! and its a pinch full they eat it up in 3-5 min.s. <Do make sure this food is 100% vegetable matter as proteins can cause them big problems. Also, I would look to water quality issues as everything I've read says these fish are pretty resilient, but get grumpy when their water isn't right.> Please help me thanks <Cheers, J -- >

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