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FAQs on Freshwater Social Disease

Related Articles: Freshwater DiseasesToxic Situations, FW Disease Troubleshooting, Ich/White Spot Disease, Choose Your Weapon: Freshwater Fish Disease Treatment Options by Neale Monks,

FAQs on Freshwater Disease: Freshwater Disease 1, Freshwater Disease 2, Freshwater Disease 3, FW Disease 4, FW Disease 5, FW Disease 6,
FAQs on Freshwater Disease by Category:
Diagnosis, Environmental, Nutritional,
Trauma, Genetic, Pathogenic (plus see Infectious and Parasitic categories below), Treatments 

& Aquarium MaintenanceFreshwater MedicationsFreshwater Infectious Disease, Freshwater Fish ParasitesIch/White Spot DiseaseNutritional Disease, African Cichlid Disease 1, Cichlid Disease


Our fish are dying! Help!     8/21/12
Good evening! We searched your website and were unable to find an appropriate article so we're hoping you can help us with our email. We have a 15 gal tank, fresh water that's established and been running for about 6 months now. We do a 25% water change every other week and do frequent water tests (always in range). But in the last week we've lost 3 fish (2 female Mickey's and a Zebra Danio) and 1 medium sized ghost shrimp. The 2 male Mickey's have become reclusive in the last week too.
<Mmm, something... toxic going on in the tank here... from inside or out... e.g. an ornament, mean tankmate... the tank being sprayed w/ an ammoniated cleaner, being placed too near a kitty litter box... >
We currently have 3 Zebra Danios, 3 guppies (we can't remember what kind), 1 ghost shrimp, 1 catfish, 1 male Sunburst wag, and the 2 male Mickey's.
Everyone was happy and social until last week. We noticed that the female Mickey's suddenly became anti-social and were hiding on the bottom for a few days before they died. The Zebra Danio appeared fine; until we found it dead tonight. Two of the guppies have "torn" tail fins also. We've used CopperSafe twice
<Toxic... should have killed the shrimp outright>
 in the last 2 months and use the aquarium salt
<Not a good idea either>

 and water conditioner @ water changes and change the filter every 30 days.
We also have a slight abundance of small snails. We had an algae eater
<?! What type? The common Chinese Algae Eater is a killer... See WWM re>

 that grew really fast so we moved him into another tank about 2 weeks ago.
We're at a loss. We hate seeing our fish die. With the exception of the catfish, shrimp and the algae eater...we brought home all the fish at the same time. We've had the others for several months now too. Any suggestions?????
<To keep doing the water changes, skip the salt and copper, read re the CAE (and remove if this is Gyrinocheilus). Bob Fenner>

Crayfish, cichlids; health ... English... "Buttons are not toys"    7/31/08 ok so I have had my electric blue crayfish for about 5 months now. he's appx. 5 inches long. <Cool. Now, make sure you don't keep him with any fish.> doing well until I accidentally introduced a seemingly well cichlid into the tank. <Oh dear.> he blew up and died about a week ago. I think the Cray may have eaten it! <Well, fish don't "blow up and die" for no reason. Crayfish can catch living fish and eat them, and they certainly will consume fish that are sick/dead for other reasons.> he's pretty lethargic now and he sits cocked up to one side and his legs on top just sway back and forth. he really wont eat and I know he's dying. is there anything I can do?? <No information here to work from. How big is this tank? What filter are you using? What is the water chemistry (at minimum: the pH)? What is the water quality (at minimum: the nitrite concentration)? Almost certainly water quality is an issue, if not THE issue.> pet smart gave me 'gel Tek' 'ultra cure PX' <Pointless, unless you know what's wrong and how you cure it. Since you have no idea what the problem is, how can you treat the animal?> they said it would be ok for him to eat too, but he really wont. and now my other cichlids are getting blown up looking too. <Ah, definitely water quality.> I noticed when the other cichlid died her scales were like coming up. don't know if any of that helps, but what can I do to save my Cray and my cichlids!??? I know by the way everyone looks I don't have long! thank you! <I'm assuming this is an overstocked, under-filtered tank, quite possibly with the wrong water chemistry for the species being kept. Without names for these cichlids, it's impossible to say what conditions they require. Some (e.g., Mbuna) need hard, alkaline water. Others (e.g., Severums) need soft, acidic water. All cichlids need spotlessly clean water with zero ammonia, zero nitrite, and ideally as little nitrate as possible, certainly less than 50 mg/l. In any event YOU CAN'T MIX CRAYFISH WITH FISH. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: crayfish, cichlids; health 8/2/08 well the cichlids are African Kribensis, and I've had them since birth. still have the parents in a diff tank. the water is fine, for all, checked it over and over. <If you say so!> the cichlid I introduced was already sick, I know that, now) and when he died, the Kribs ate it and I think so did the crab. <Letting fish eat dead fish is asking for trouble. Many diseases are spread that way. Remove fish as soon as they die, and ideally isolate them when they're sick.> they were all fine till about 3 days after the Wal-Mart fish died. he seems to be fine with my fish, I've never seen him raise a claw to them. not that it wont or cant happen! <Indeed. Many cichlids become territorial only once sexually mature, which may take 6-12 months, depending on the species.> I am well aware of that. so total in the tank I have 2 cichlids, and 5 small tetras, and the Cray. the cichlids are still juvenile, only about an inch and a half. all were fine until I put the seemingly fine Wal-Mart fish (which I didn't buy, a friend did.) in. <If you can't quarantine new fish, then you should be very carefully about selecting additional livestock -- so accepting fish from friends really isn't a good idea.> I have a 50 gal tetra filter, with two filters, and a 20 long, which will soon be a 30 long. I know I need at least a 50, but funds are low right now. there's plenty of room for them, the Cray doesn't seem to mind, he's usually busy and healthy, molted about 4 times successfully. <Seems as if you're aware of the potential problems but depending on luck. While we've all done that one time or another, it's hardly the best strategy.> its definitely a sickness from the Wal-Mart fish. <Why do you say that? Post hoc ergo propter hoc? Unfortunately, there's no guarantees that just because you've _added_ a new fish, the aquarium has _developed_ problems because those new fish were sick. While it can happen, it can also happen that the additional fish overwhelm the filter, or break up the social structures, or a variety of other possibilities.> I think by eating the dead sick fish they got sick. <OK, if you say so. Can't say I'm convinced.> the tetras I don't think ate any because they are fine and I'm sure the cichlids didn't let em get to eat any of the dead fish. <Hmm...> I noticed though that the cichlids scales look funny too. this just started. they seem to be itching on the rocks. no ich though. can you think of anything??? <Many things. If they're itching themselves, then Ick/Velvet are both possibilities, and both can make a fish sick *without* obvious external symptoms, because both diseases attack the gills before the skin. If the fish are breathing heavily, for example, as well as itching, that's a good clue that Velvet is in the tank. Saying the "scales looks funny" doesn't help much. Are we talking excessive mucous, making the body look cloudy? That's usually a water quality/water chemistry issue. Are the scales sticking outwards, like the scales on a pine cone? That's Dropsy (oedema) a symptom of a variety of things from internal bacterial infections through to inappropriate use of "tonic salt". Cheers, Neale.>

Re: crayfish, cichlids; health 8/2/08 ok so I'm not god, I don't know for absolute sure that the Wal-Mart fish did it but here's my evidence... got 2 cichlids (don't know what there were, just they were yellow.) <Likely Yellow Labs, Labidochromis caeruleus. A smallish, fairly well behaved Mbuna.> kept em quarantined for month and a half. one got fat, and died. <Right. If this happens *in the quarantine tank* then you obviously don't put the survivor into your display tank. You run through all the possible diseases, or ideally, and what I would have done, you take them back to the store. This of course assumes the water conditions in the quarantine tank were appropriate to the species in question. For a Mbuna, that would mean hard, alkaline water with zero ammonia/nitrite, and low levels of nitrate (less than 20 mg/l if possible). There is *absolutely* no point quarantining in a tank that isn't cycled or doesn't have an appropriate chemical filter to remove ammonia directly. You can't just stick in a new filter and hope for the best. If new fish are exposed to a cycling tank, OF COURSE they're going to get sick and die. You may known this, but I'm just putting this out here fair and square so other people reading this can understand things.> thought it was because of the water, they were in with goldfish, I know, but it was the only thing I could do at midnight (drunk friends do dumb but thoughtful things). I wasn't going to risk putting em in my good tank. not fair for the goldies I know, but what else could I have done??? <Hmm... no idea.> so when one yellow fish died, after being fine for a month I figured it was indeed the water. <Why "the water"? Think about this logically for a moment. Fish live in water. They like water. So why would water kill them? There are really only two ways that water *conditions* can kill them -- either the wrong chemistry or poor water quality. Pick and choose. If 50% of your new livestock die, then your plan of action is firstly to see if the environment was right. At minimum, you check nitrite and pH. In the case of Mbuna, you'd need zero nitrite and a pH around 8.0. If this tested fine, you would then look for possible symptoms of disease. But you would absolutely NOT move the remaining "healthy" 50% into the show tank until you'd at least checked off all the possible diseases and perhaps treated proactively.> so I moved the last yellow cichlid to my good tank in hopes it wouldn't die too. after about a week he did die, at night. <I'm concerned that these "mystery yellow fish" are Mbuna, and you're exposing them to completely inappropriate water chemistry and quality. Just to reiterate, Mbuna need water with a high level of carbonate hardness and a high pH. Adding "tonic salt" will not work. Kribs will tolerate -- but don't appreciate -- such conditions, and South American cichlids will be positively stressed by them.> nothing I could do. by the time I woke up he was already being consumed...I'm not depending on luck, but I'm trying to do the best I can with what I have. <We've all been here. Which is why I'm stressing research and water chemistry/quality so strongly. You have very little scope for error and seemingly no Plan B, so you have to get things right first time. This demands a slow, methodical approach rather than hoping for the best. In other words, carefully identify all your livestock. Write down what conditions they require. Determine whether you can provide those conditions. We can help with all of these things. But so too will a good book. Libraries are full of them.> I did not ask for these fish nor did I want them. like I said drunken present at midnight. not something I would have ever done. didn't need any more fish. now, the velvet thing sounds like what I have. a lot. would this cause my Cray to be sick too?? <Crayfish won't get sick from the disease, but they certainly can carry the infectious stages of the parasite life cycle on their bodies. In any event, any Velvet medication can, likely will, kill the crayfish because they contain formalin and/or copper, both highly poisonous to invertebrates.> and what do you recommend to fix it? <Remove the Crayfish to a quarantine tank. Treat the tank with a Whitespot/Velvet combo medication. Nothing tea-tree oil based! Remember to remove carbon from the filter (if you use the stuff). http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWsubwebindex/fwfishmeds.htm Once I'd finished that course of medications, I'd perhaps run something for systemic bacterial infections, for example Maracyn.> thanks for being prompt, I don't think I have much time! <Cheers, Neale.>

Please help me! ... Five gallon mis-stocked, sick/mis-treated, feeling, not thinking, acting Hello. I recently bought a five gallon tank, a pink kissing gourami <Gets way too big for this size tank> , and several platies. The platies have died, I returned them, and my new ones are sick. I've separated the gourami and three newborn platies from the sick ones. One platy has cloud eye, one ich, and the other dropsy. <Please read re these diseases (use the search tool) on WWM> I've treated them with what I can get - Ick Away; contains malachite green. The other is some tablet B.S. called Fungus Clear. These fish have been quarantined for a few days, and are getting worse.  Also, will it be safe (after the fish die or get better) to put the gourami and baby plats back in the five gal. tank till the gourami gets bigger? <Not a good idea... not very compatible...> I need someone to help me, before I freak out and have a nervous break down over a group of fish! Thanks. <Study my friend... think... stop emoting. Bob Fenner>

Dalmatian Molly - Dorsal Fin is green along the top? More troubles... incompatible fish mix in an uncycled system 8/5/05 Hi WWM, great site. I just have a simple question but have never seen someone else with the same problem, if it is a problem. 1st, tank set up.... I am still cycling, but everything seems to be going as planned, ammonia levels are almost zero, nitrates peaked but have since dropped to almost zero, and my nitrates are naturally high from the tap water. <Shouldn't be... a health hazard... for humans... if "high"> I have some Nitrazorb that I'm going to put in my Fluval 304 once I know the bio filter process is up and running properly. I have 3 platy's and a swordtail, 4 Mollies (2 Dalmatian, one Mexican Sail Fin and a 24k or Sunset) that are all juvenile. <Shouldn't be in a cycling system> I just added 5 table spoons full of aquarium salt yesterday and plan to gradually bring the water up to brackish levels to accommodate my two newest inhabitants, a couple of Colombian or Silver Tip Sharks. <... incompatible... and adding salt will forestall establishment of nitrification> My question is this, I just noticed that the very top of one of my Dalmatian's dorsal fins has taken on a green tint. <Natural, not a problem> The fish otherwise seems happy and healthy, as do all the other fish with the exception of one platy who's been hiding and not eating for about a day now. There are no obvious signs of any disease in the tank that I can find and the water is as clear as can be expected for a tank that is still cycling. I've been cycling for about 4 weeks now so I figure it was ok to add the sharks. Any idea about the green tint on the dorsal fin? I suspect the platy is just adjusting to the salt in the water and should be fine soon but thought I'd share any info that may be pertinent to the situation with the molly.   Thanks, Erik in Oceanside, CA <Be careful re feeding, look to getting another system going for your shark/catfish before they grow large enough to consume your livebearers. Bob Fenner>
Re: Dalmatian Molly - Dorsal Fin is green along the top? 8/6/05
Bob, <Erik> Thanks for the response, and that is my intent. I know the sharks will grow quite a bit and fast, I plan to relocate the Platies to a smaller tank soon. So far as having the mollies in a cycling tank, they were recommended by my LFS, something about Platies not generating enough ammonia to kick start the process? <... am not a fan of cycling with fish livestock, but mollies are more tolerant> The final set up I'm going for is 2 or 3 sharks, a puffer, I already have him, a Milk Spotted and some arrow fish and scats. Again, I know they will all outgrow this tank and plan to set up more tanks as I go. I'm watching the puffer and sharks very close for any sigs of stress related to the tank conditions and fin nipping on the other fish. If they show even the slightest signs of stress I'm going to return them to the LFS. They said they'd be happy to hold them for me until the cycle is complete. Again, the LFS recommended the aquarium salt. Apparently aquarium salt reduces the toxicity of nitrites to the fish on a temporary basis? <Mmm, to some degree, yes> The nitrates in my tap water are somewhere between 80 and 160 PPM. <... not safe for your consumption. Please do have your public health officials out... Pronto> That's straight out of the tap with no exposure to fish. I know that's not dangerously high, but it's high enough that I plan to use the Nitrazorb. <Is dangerous... for your fishes and your use> FYI, I did as much reading and research as I could stand before I bought fish. I didn't come across fishless cycling until after I bought the mollies and platies. I plan to use this method on all of my future tanks. The LFS sold me a product called "Stability". It says, and the LFS claims that it rapidly establishes the bio filtration system, reducing cycle time to about a week. Is this bunk? <Most all such products are placebos at best. There are a few that do work. BioSpira is the current best> I'm on day 5 which is the only reason I determined it to be safe to buy the puffer. <I would wait another few weeks> Again, any sign of stress and I'll either buy a 20 gallon tank and do daily water changes for the puffer and the sharks until the main tank is ready or let the LFS keep them in the mean time. It is my intent to be as conscientious as possible in raising my fish. <Good, and it does sound/read like you're dedicated, have been investigating> The blue platy is eating again BTW. Again, Thanks for your help. I've found your site to be one of the most informative. As a newbie to the hobby, I see and hear a lot of conflicting info. There seem to be a lot of "Experts" out there. You folks are among the most educated I've come across so any advice you have to offer that can save my fish and keep them healthy will be taken very seriously. Sincerely, Erik in Oceanside <Do always question folks "reasoning" behind their beliefs... I wish you well, Bob Fenner, in San Diego>

Fish cart before the apple snail Recently we bought a new aquarium and new fishes for our family.  We got two iridescent sharks, two Bala sharks, an Oscar, and a Plecostomus.  They were all getting along fine.  We got them on December 22nd and had them in a ten gallon aquarium.  On Christmas, we put them all in a 30 gallon tank. <Still too small... eventually, even for just the Oscar!>   On December 27th, one of the Bala sharks died.  At first, we thought the Oscar attacked it but the body didn't have a mark on it. <Could have died "from fright" just the same>   Then, the smaller of the bala's disappeared.  There is no way that it jumped out of the tank because we have a full lid. <Minnow sharks do get out of pretty small openings...> I think the Oscar ate it, but his stomach never grew like it does when he eats live food.  Now, the Iridescents are hiding a lot in the fake rocks that we have in the tank. <I don't blame them!> I can never tell if they are alive or not.  A friend of ours that used to work in a pet store says that the Oscar has ick.  We got some "Ick Away"  and put in the first dose.  it says the dose can be repeated every 24 hours until symptoms disappear.  I have no idea how to tell if the symptoms are gone or not. <Umm, what were the symptoms that led you to believe the fish had ich in the first place?> What should I be looking for that? <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwich.htm>   Also, should I be getting anything special for the Iridescents to make them happier? <Please read on WetWebMedia.com re minnow sharks> I know they get scared easily.  Should I get them any anti-stress stuff?  All of our water levels are within normal range.  We have soft water and I heard that the Iridescents like harder water. <Yes, good> Is there anything that I should do about that?  thank you for your help. <I wish we could go back to "square one" here... you've gotten involved activity wise way ahead of necessary workable knowledge... Take your time and read over WWM re the animals you have, stocking, ich... disease, water quality... better to raise temperature, get rid of the ich, trade in the Oscar... wait a month or longer, and consider your stocking options. Bob Fenner>

Re: Info on "community 10 gal. tank" please You may cringe a bit as you read: <I'll try not to!> Last November I got a 10 gal. fish tank from my dad that had been left in a house he had just purchased. Living in it (in extremely POOR water conditions) were a spotted Cory, albino Cory, black skirt tetra, a type of angel (silver with black stripes) and a gold colored koi. After getting the tank home I did a complete water change but did not rinse off the gravel, plastic plants or decorations so that there would be some algae and stuff left from the original water, refilled the tank and put the fish back in after acclimating them to the temp of the new water. All was well for about three to four days and then I lost the angel...found it floating dead one morning. I figured it was shock from the move and the drastic change in water. <Probably> I cleaned the tank again and put fresh water in and then all the fish. About one month later I bought another tetra, an all silver koi (looks sooooo sharp) and a Pleco. (( Here I will state that I found out a little later after buying the second koi that tropicals are not supposed to be mixed with goldfish/koi )) <OK, I won't lecture on the fact that they need different water parameters. *G* Do try to move them to separate tanks ASAP though.> All of the fish were doing well when about a week or so later I noticed that both tetras had cottony growth on their fins...and only their fins. I at first thought it was "ick" and got this stuff called "Tank Buddies Ick Clear". It didn't work. Then I found out that it could be either a fungus or parasite. So, back to the store I went and got "Tank Buddies Fungus Clear" and "Tank Buddies Parasite Clear". I tried the fungus clear first. After a few days nothing. I did a partial water change and then tried the parasite clear. Again, nothing. This cottony growth is only affecting the tetras and is not going away. All my water levels are good and I have a Penguin Mini and an under-gravel filtration system in the tank, so keeping the levels good is pretty easy. <It does sound like a fungus and I would recommend the product made by Jungle called Fungus Guard or Fungus Eliminator (I can't remember which name is correct!). I've had good success with it. Just remember that your tetras are small scaled so should only be treated with a half dose of any medication.> Oh, I did lose the gold koi in January. He had this like "wart" on him for a day or so and then it went away. But then, I came home to find him dead with blood coming from the area where the wart had been. After I pulled him out I did a complete water change. <Hmm'¦ take a look at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfshparasites.htm and the related FAQ's> Anyways, back to where I was...The tetras don't really seem to be affected by this growth too much that I can tell. The do swim around the tank a good bit and are not "lifeless". They eat well. Although, they have lost some color in their black stripes and tail fins and their tail fins look all ratty. Is there anything you can suggest I try? <That's good. Try the above medication and also look at the above URL to see if any of the descriptions fit.> The silver koi is getting rather big (about 5-6 inches) and I will be removing him when I can afford another tank and all the filters and stuff. They all seem to be living well together. No fighting, occasionally one tetra will chase the other. About three to four days ago I got two "Tequila Sunrise Guppies" (I was wanting some color in the tank) that are very small...but all is well with them also...they are eating well and staying to themselves...and the other fish pretty much don't know they are there. As far as the problem with the tetras, what advice can you offer? <This all sounds good> Something else I thought of...in my tank lid I have two "blue colored" tank lights. They heat up the tank water and I end up shutting it off after about 2-3 hours after turning it on. A guy in the fish store told me to try to keep the water temp between 70-80 degrees F. But, the lights get it up to between 82-84 within the first 2-3 hours. Should these lights be doing this? Will the temp being above 80 be bad for the fish? <The recommended temps for tropicals is 78-80 and for the Koi it should be 68-72 so it's not really good for any of them. If the bulbs are heating the tank that much I would recommend changing to a different bulb.> Any reply would be WONDERFUL! Thank you, Michelle   <You're welcome! Ronni>

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