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FAQs on Callichthyid Catfish Disease/Health 3

Related Articles: Callichthyid Catfishes, Summer loving: cats in the garden, kittens in the kitchen by Neale Monks,

Related Catfish FAQs: Callichthyid Cat Disease 1, Callichthyid Cat Disease 2, Callichthyid Cat Disease 4, Callichthyid Cat Disease 5, Callichthyids 1, Callichthyids 2, Callichthyid Identification, Callichthyid Behavior, Callichthyid Compatibility, Callichthyid Selection, Callichthyid Systems, Callichthyid Feeding, Callichthyid Reproduction, Catfish: Identification, Behavior, Compatibility, Selection, Systems, Feeding, Disease, Reproduction,

A continuing problem with sick dojo loach, and now my emerald green Cory cat has the same illness 9/22/09
I am still struggling with the problem Neale responded to in August.
<Oh dear.>
The latest news is one of my balloon belly mollies died last week, the one that gave birth a few weeks earlier.
<Too bad.>
I noticed that she was stuck to the filter and assumed she was dead, but when I unplugged it she swam away. Then shortly after I noticed she was swimming oddly, a little crooked.
<Physical damage, to the fins at least, perhaps more serious. Balloon Mollies are deformed right from the get-go, with a crooked spine and deformed swim bladder. They swim poorly even in the best of health, and Mollies generally are prone to poor health in freshwater tanks. A deformed, sensitive species...? No thanks -- I recommend against them.>
She would stay close to the bottom but swam up eagerly whenever it was feeding time. She got stuck on the filter a couple more times throughout a few days and then died. I wasn't sure this odd swimming was due to the filter mis-hap or if she was sick and weak before the first filter incident.
<Healthy fish don't get sucked into filters, so if you see a dead fish in a filter, it was moribund/dead before it got there.>
And four days ago my Cory cat (the only one) showed the same signs of illness as my dojo loach - red around the gill area and at the base of his fins. He was also swimming insanely and I saw rapid gill movement.
<Interesting that these are both bottom feeders. I wonder if there's something wrong with your substrate and/or water circulation. If this was me, I'd replace the substrate (or at least thoroughly clean in outside the tank, e.g., in a bucket using a garden hose) and then check the filter was shifting water along the bottom of the tank properly.>
I put him in the quarantine tank with the dojo loach and started Maracyn-2.
They have had four days of treatment now. The Cory cat developed mouth rot too, just like the dojo did. And yesterday I noticed a whitish lump on his underside. I'm going to try to attach a picture at the bottom of this e-mail somehow (I have not been successful ever at resizing pictures).
<Again, the mouth and the belly (and the whiskers, so check those) are in contact with the substrate. A dirty substrate promotes (though doesn't cause) bacterial infections by producing the conditions those bacteria prefer. One reason I like sand rather than gravel is that it's less likely to get dirty, and also less likely to physically abrade sore or sensitive tissues. The addition of Malayan Livebearing Snails to tanks with a sandy substrate is a good way to keep the sand clean and well oxygenated.>
I figured that since the dojo loach, although healed from mouth rot, was still looking a little pinkish all this time, that this bacterial infection was still lingering (or incurable and I should pick up some clove oil soon as you had suggested in the first place) and it couldn't hurt to do another treatment. The hole in his head hasn't gotten any bigger and looks like it is either just staying put or healing at a slow rate.
And here is all of the info about my tank:
(this is from my records from starting it up, figured I'd give you all the info - sorry if it's way too much)
55 gallons
first set up February 28th 2009 - I tried to do a fishless cycle and thought I was successful, though now I wonder.
on this set-up day I filled the tank, used Prime, poured some of my established 10 gallon tank water into the new tank, added purchased bacteria, added a tank decoration from the 10 gallon tank.
Day 6, I tested the water
GH 180
KH 120
PH 7.5
Day 7 added water softener pouch for 7 hours and tested:
GH 120 (test strips hard to read, but wasn't the solid 180 color it was on Day 6)
KH 120/180 (test strips hard to read)
PH 6.5
<Why the water softener? Why are you lowering the pH? Let's be clear: a pH of 7.5 is ideal for most aquarium fish. Multiple reasons, but the important ones are [a] the filter bacteria prefer a basic pH, and [b] hard, alkaline water is less likely to experience pH variation than soft, acid water.
Unless you're breeding fish that specifically need soft water, it's best to leave hard, alkaline water as it is.>
Added the established 10 gallon tank filter, plus another tank decoration (from the 10gallon tank)
added two of my zebra Danios
added more purchased bacteria
<The bacteria are in the system; adding more largely pointless. I'd sooner add a big clump of floating plants such as Indian Ferns. These carry lots of helpful bacteria on their roots, so help cycle tanks, and more importantly, suck up ammonia and nitrite as they grow.>
Day 8 tested water:
GH 120 ? (test strips hard to read)
KH 40 ? (test strips hard to read)
PH 6
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 0
<Again, we have this dropping pH, likely because your carbonate hardness (KH) is FAR TOO LOW for a freshwater community. Remember, Mollies MUST have hard, basic water, at least 15 degrees dH (~250 mg/l calcium carbonate equivalent), and ideally much more. There are VERY few community fish that actually demand soft water, and you certainly wouldn't keep them with Mollies.
Day 11
ammonia read > .25
<No surprise. When pH gets below 7, biological filters start to work significantly less efficiently, and below pH 6, the bacteria don't work at all.>
Day 13
ammonia read .25 or less
GH 30
KH 40
PH 6
Nitrite 0
Nitrate the test strip was faintly pink, but basically zero
Day 15
ammonia .25
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 0
PH 6.5
KH 180
GH 120
did 8 gallon water change, added 55 mL bacteria
<Still got ammonia; the pH is low, the filter crashed, and that's likely one key factor here.>
Day 17
ammonia .25
Day 20
ammonia <.25
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 0
PH 8
KK 40
GH 120
added three red Serpae tetras (from my 10 gallon tank)
<Why adding fish?>
Day 23 and Day 24
ammonia 0
Day 25
had water tested at store, tested fine. purchased 3 dwarf gouramis/added to tank
<Wouldn't touch these fish with a bargepole, and in an unstable tank, their lifespan isn't likely very high. Golden rule: don't add fish while you're still trying to keep others alive.>
added 55 mL bacteria
Day 27
ammonia 0
Day 36
Nitrite and Nitrate both at 0
Day 38
added 3 Rasbora tetras, changed Right filter
Day 42
8 gallon water change
Day 61
8 gallon water change
Day 67
8 gallon water change, changed Left filter this is about where I stopped recording. I tested during this time and everything was at zero. I Figured the tank was cycled.
My tests today read:
PH 7
Nitrate 0
Nitrite 0
Ammonia 0
ALK KH 180
Hardness GH 150
<Better. But still, let's get the pH to 7.5, if necessary by adding suitable amounts of Rift Valley cichlid salt mix; I'd say about 1/4th to 1/3rd the dose recommended for Rift Valley tanks should be fine. Don't alter the pH directly; just change the carbonate hardness, and the pH will follow, and in a stable way.>
I use an AquaTech filter - I had made my own filter cartridges for a few times, using the white fluffy filter material (it was the only kind the pest store sold) and charcoal, using one of the plastic pieces from inside a store-bought filter on the inside. I stopped doing this in case this is why the fish are getting sick.
I feed with:
TetraMin Tropical Tablets, "the rich mix for bottom feeders"
Omega One Natural Protein Formula shrimp pellets
Omega One Super Color Flakes (natural protein formula)
Tetra Min Tropical Flakes
I use Seachem Prime with every water change, adding it to the buckets before pouring into the tank
temp 76-78 F
I currently have in there:
4 Rasboras
2 black neon tetras
3 cardinal tetras
1 balloon molly
1 Pleco
all seem fine, except the Pleco goes a little pale in patches once in a while, but this was happening from the beginning and I thought it might be normal for them when they were resting (I had never had one before).
<The patches are mucous, and often a reaction to water quality problems.>
I think in my original email to you (or it is in the Disease Emergency post)
I mentioned that there were to mollies (or platies, I can't tell the difference) that I introduced a few weeks before the Dojos got sick. One of them died about a week after, and the other one died suddenly a week after that. When I scooped it out of the tank I saw that it had a bright red circle about 4mms wide on its side. This is what leads me to think that it was this fish that introduced disease to my tank, but I'm obviously no expert.
<Well, I am an expert, and I'll tell you if you keep lowering the pH like this, any livebearers you add will die. End of story. For optimal results, aim for moderately hard, moderately basic conditions: pH 7.5, 10-20 degrees dH (that's about 175 to 350 mg/l calcium carbonate equivalent). That will keep livebearers happy, while remaining acceptable to a wide range of community fish. Yes, Neons and Rasboras and the like come from soft water habitats, but they don't share them with Mollies or Platies! So you have to use your noodle a bit here, and figure out which species are most sensitive to water chemistry issues (livebearers) and act accordingly.>
The first dojo loach that died had those red spots, but smaller and not as bright, all over his body when he died.
<Still a bad sign.>
At least the Cory cat's getting sick has given the dojo loach some welcomed company in the quarantine tank. He did perk up to see his old friend and they hang out together most of the time now.
Of course I would love to save the two sick fish, but I'm even more concerned about the future of my main tank. There must be something wrong with it, especially since my Cory cat is sick with the same symptoms. Where do I go from here?
<See above.>
Any hope for the sick fish or is it time to let them go? the Cory cat is still quite active, and the dojo loach isn't acting like he is anywhere near death either.
<Likely can, will recover given good conditions and right medications.>
Thank you so much,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Pictures below - the dojo loach is looking good except for pinkish hue around gills and back end of body. Tough to see in the picture though.
You can see the hole in his head though - I hope it isn't a terrible case.
It seems to be staying put.
<Nothing came through. Please be sure to attach ~500 kB images to your e-mail. Images that are too big cause problems for us.>
Re: a continuing problem with sick dojo loach, and now my emerald green Cory cat has the same illness 09/24/09

Thank you for your reply - I have some questions and explanations and have tried to make them easy for you to find by using lines to separate my words from the original e-mail.
I wasn't able to get the resized pictures to attach to this e-mail and hope that it is acceptable that I cut and pasted them at the bottom.
<Nothing came through. Cutting and pasting images into e-mails doesn't always work. Do use the "attach" button on whatever your e-mail program is.>
I have sand substrate. It is children's play sand. I was told by a fish store employee that it is great because it is a more natural color and less expensive than the marketed kind for aquariums.
<Provided the sand is [a] smooth and [b] chemically inert, you can use whatever you want. Sand comes in two grades, "sharp" and "smooth", and sharp sand will damage your fish. As for the chemistry, the sand needs to be lime-free. Personally, I use smooth silica sand from garden centres as a 100% safe alternative. Play sand, pool filter sand, etc. may be fine, but there are no guarantees. The play sand from one shop may be different from another, so I can't give you any assurances. If the sand feels smooth, that's good, and if it doesn't react with acid (e.g., vinegar) that's good too.>
After Googling and reading the same online, I went ahead with this. I washed it thoroughly, in small quantities, by running water and stirring it until the water was nearly clear. Was this a mistake to use this kind of sand and do you still believe I need to change it or wash it again?
<Provided the sand is safe to use for the reasons stated above, cleaning it is more a visual thing. Most folks find that the silt in bags of sand makes their tanks murky for a few days, but nothing a water change and a good, strong filter won't fix. Replace/clean the mechanical filter media after the first week because that's where most of the silt ends up/>
and I am soooo uncomfortable with the idea of introducing snails into my tank again, as I had way too many in my 10 gallon at one point after one hitching a ride in with a fresh plant.
<Snails convert organic matter into baby snails. If you have too many, then you have other problems.>
This is also why I am super hesitant to ever bring fresh plants into my tank again.
<Non sequitur. There are plenty of ways to kill snails on plants before you put them in your aquarium. Snail-killing potions are sold in aquarium shops and work well as "dips".>
I had "pond snails" I believe.
<Typically Physa and Planorbis spp.>
Are they the same as Malayan Livebearing Snails?
<No, these are Melanoides spp.>
I will introduce the snails if you really think I should though...
<I have Melanoides snails in all my tanks. I find the good they do -- as substrate cleaners and aerators -- easily outweighs their nuisance value.
While they do breed quickly, a combination of physical removal, predators, and simply ignoring them works a treat. Clea helena, the Assassin Snail, is a great snail population limiter.>=
Well, I freaked out that my 55 gallon tank had harder water than my established 10 gallon tank and it was harder than the water straight from the tap. This confused me and figured I should get the water the same hardness as the established 10 gallon was. So I was trying to soften it just a bit, not lower the pH. I had heard so much about not being worried about or try changing the pH that I didn't think it a big problem that the pH changed (and figured it would level out with water changes). Lesson learned.
Why adding fish? Because I thought that adding the three fish (transferring from the established 10 gallon tank) would help the cycle to continue at a safe rate. I was more paying attention to the ammonia/nitrate/nitrite tests than the other areas.
<Ah, I see. Generally, so long as a tank has a few fish in there, the cycling process will continue happily enough. Adding extra fish is of marginal value, unless you plan to *dramatically* increase the population of fish in there at some point. For example, if you cycled with a couple of Guppies, and then added an adult Oscar, that would probably be bad!>
I didn't realize I was trying to keep others alive at this point...just thought I was helping the bacteria multiply at a safe rate for the fish.
They did not last super long (and they were so darn territorial with each other it was annoying to have them in there, too).
<Yes, many schooling fish stop being schooling fish when in groups of less than six, and in some cases, they become outright nasty.>
I am having trouble finding Rift Valley cichlid salt mix here. One store sells "cichlid lake salt",
<That's the stuff!>
and she told me that all of their salts will adjust the pH, not the carbonate hardness.
<She's wrong. By definition, these salts raise the pH precisely because they're raising the carbonate hardness. It's the carbonate hardness that creates the "stuff" that makes the water basic. It's the carbonate hardness that "mops up" the acidity.>
If I did more frequent water changes for a while, will that help??
<Up to a point, yes, the more water changes you do, the less background acidification becomes an issue. But this gets tedious, very quickly, so think about what you're trying to achieve here: an easy hobby that involves nothing more than daily feeding and water changes every week or two.>
I hope that doesn't sound like a stupid question. Or is this something that I would need to add to my tank on a fairly regular basis? (if I can find it - I suppose I can order it online somewhere)
<Do read here:
There's a recipe for making your own Rift Valley Cichlid Salt Mix for pennies a time. It's easy to do. For a regular community tank -- as opposed to a Rift Valley cichlid aquarium -- you'd use a smaller dose than described there; try reducing the amounts to one-fourth to one-third the amounts listed.>
I'm worried about this fish if he is reacting to water problems and am so frustrated I can't find the salt you mentioned. I noticed today that he was pale on about half of his body, and then when I turned the light on, most of the rest of his body went pale. I checked back later and he is dark as could be....tried to take a picture when he was pale but he had disappeared when I returned with the camera.
<Oh. For what it's worth, Plecs are quite tough fish, and given good conditions, generally recover from stress quickly.>
I'm sorry and feel stupid saying this - but I don't know what 10-20 degrees dH or the equivalent you mentioned means.
<Simply being precise. The other way of saying this: on your test kit, there'll be a scale of some sort, running from Soft to Moderately Soft to Moderately Hard to Hard to Very Hard, or words to that effect. For Mollies, the water MUST be Hard to Very Hard. For community fish, Moderately Soft to Hard is generally fine. In other words, Mollies only mix well with those community fish tolerant of "Hard" water, i.e., things like Platies and Rainbowfish, but not so much Rasboras or Cardinal Tetras. You have to pick and choose tankmates for Mollies very carefully.>
Possibly this is information on the comparison card for the liquid test tube version of the tests (and not test strips)? Aside from borrowing a friend's test tube testing kit for the last test I did to get you accurate info, I haven't used those for anything but ammonia (but plan to purchase a kit soon).
<I see.>
Would this Maracyn two be the right medication?
<Either than, or regular Maracyn should work. They treat different bacteria, on the average, people find trying Maracyn first works best, and only use Maracyn 2 if that doesn't work. But your own mileage may vary.>
This poor loach is now enduring a third treatment since this all started, and although he seems to be doing okay, he still has pink/red at the base of his side fins and a pinkish tone to his gill area. He looked this way when I put him back in the main tank and got sick again so I of course don't want to put him back until he's 100%. It seems that his recovery has plateaued and I don't know what to do about this. The Cory cat seems to be responding well to treatment thus far, but still looks red/pink and I assume he will have the same plateau.
okay, here is what I think the right sizes for you to see. The dojo picture doesn't look all that clear, but anywhere where it looks darker/pinkish is the pink that I am talking about that isn't going away.
I am cut and pasting them into the email and I hope this works.
<Didn't. If all else fails, try some free image hosting service such as Flickr, and include the link in your message.>
Thanks so much for your time.
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: a continuing problem with sick dojo loach, and now my emerald green Cory cat has the same illness 9/25/09

A link to the pictures! what a smart idea - here it is.
<I think you're meant to send an invitation to view this online album. As it is, I had to join Snapfish. Normally, we don't have time to go through hoops for this sort of thing. But it's a nice sunny morning here in England, so I joined up. Anyway, your fish don't appear to be especially "sick" as such, though the Corydoras looks a little underweight (if you can see the belly, it's concave, which isn't a good sign). My feeling is that these fish may have a mild bacterial infection, but it's more than likely we're talking about an environmental reaction. Variation in pH, a dirty substrate, marginal water quality may all be issues. In particular, take the time to review tank maintenance. Sand needs to be kept clean, and the best way to ensure this is to check there's a good flow of water along the bottom of the tank. Use a turkey baster to pipette out detritus between water changes. Feed your catfish and loaches their own food, ideally at night, so that they're not subsisting on leftovers; a good all-around food for both species would be Hikari Algae Wafers.>
Thanks again for your help. I have a few final questions
<Fire away.>
If my dojo loach continues to stay pinkish, what do I do? The two fish have had 7 days of powder packet treatments of Maracyn-two thus far. The instructions say to continue treatment until signs of illness are gone.
This could be a while if ever and I can't imagine the medicine is something good long term.
<I can't see anything obviously wrong with this Weather Loach. They can appear a little pink when the light shines through the thinner parts of their body, and if there's something amiss with the environment, they may appear irritated. But essentially these are hardy fish, provided they are maintained at below 25 degrees C (77 F). The same for Corydoras, and in fact I'd keep both species at the cooler end of the range, 22-24 C being ideal.>
And, do you suppose this sickness came about more because of the pH being below 7.5 or because there is some disease living in my tank that I still need to deal with?
<pH itself is rarely something that causes sickness unless it [a] fluctuates wildly within a few hours or [b] is outside the tolerances of a particular species. Loaches and Corydoras are fine between pH 6 to 8, so the value itself isn't an issue. But if exposed to pH that varies a lot, that can stress them. One key issue often overlooked is the toxicity of ammonia at different pH levels. In the acidic range, ammonia is less toxic than in the basic range, so if the pH goes from 6.5 to 7.5, while the pH change itself might be harmless, the sudden increase in toxicity of a small amount of ammonia in the system can cause severe stress.>
Can I treat the main tank with anything to make sure there isn't anything lurking in there waiting to cause more trouble?
<Right now, I'd finish the cause of meds you're on, and then concentrate on providing good, stable water conditions.>
How long would you to treat these sick fish before giving up?
<They honestly don't look that sick to me. Perhaps it's these photos?>
Until the hole in his head completely heals (how long does that take, anyway)?
<Should heal within a few weeks, should conditions allow.>
Until he is no longer pink? Both? The loach has been sick/pink for about six weeks now, poor guy.
<Are you sure it's simply not his normal colouration? Unlike Finrot, the classic bacterial infection, the fins on this fish are intact. If he had Finrot, I'd expect ragged fins.>
He doesn't look miserable now, at least, but I sure don't want to keep him in the 10 gallon hospital tank forever. The last time I thought he looked good to go and I put him back in the main tank, he was sick within four days and back in the hospital tank (and with a hole in his head appearing a few days after that).
<I see.>
I dropped some of the sand in a bowl of vinegar and saw no reaction. I am hopeful then that it is not the substrate that caused this problem and that I don't need to mess with it.
I have a hard time killing snails (or I should say I just can't do it) and will need to look into this Assassin snail if I go this route. Though I am picturing the slowest predator/pray chase I've ever seen, ha ha.
<Prepare to be surprised! When the Assassin Snails kick into gear, they're remarkably brisk.>
<Cheers, Neale>

Re: Question for the crew -- 08/26/09
Thanks so much, Neale, for your advice.
I was thinking the spots were likely Lymphocystis, hence some extra diligence on keeping a close eye on the water conditions, and more frequent water changes.
<Very good. Lympho takes a while to get started, so if you have a new fish, a fish that's been around in your tanks for only a couple of weeks or a month, then it's entirely possible the stress came from collection, shipping, handling, and maintenance at the retail store. That said, the usual things apply: weekly water changes of 20-25%, 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite, and a steady pH will all help. A varied diet is useful too, and do note that once packages of dried fish food have been opened, their nutritional content diminishes over time, and after 2-3 months, the vitamin content might not be terribly high. I tend to recommend buying two or three small packages of fish food -- e.g., one micro pellet food, one standard flake, and one algae-based flake food -- and then alternate between them through the week. This way, you should be offering your fish a nice rounded diet.>
As for the holes, some sort of physical damage definitely makes more sense than an infection, since he looks so good otherwise. I'll pick up some Melafix as it is the one thing I do not have on hand, but I put some Stress Coat in tonight in the meantime.
<A good idea.>
I turned off the air stone (1 inch in diameter with a pump appropriate for the tank size) for now in case that is causing some trauma.
<Unlikely, and do watch to see if water quality drops or the fish start breathing more heavily. While airstones rarely make or break tanks with adequate filtration, in summer the extra water circulation can be useful.>
It is in the center of the back wall of the tank and he passes through it more than he passes near the intake area of the filter. He certainly does not seem to enjoy it as much as my panda Corydoras do in our main tank!
<Corydoras panda come from a habitat where the water is cool and fast flowing, so they really do appreciate strong currents and extra air bubbles. When the water temperature gets above 25 C/77 F, they become stressed, and you'll see them swimming about most happily in the places with strong water flow because that's where the oxygen is. Ideally, you'd maintain them between 22-24 C/72-75 F.>
There are no other fish in the tank to cause damage (unless it could have been caused by his prior tank-mates). I'll keep him in quarantine until some sort of resolution to the problem is reached (hopefully that will be resolution of the holes and not progression to more serious illness).
<Makes sense.>
Again, thanks for your expertise and advice. The more I learn about this hobby, the more I enjoy all the time and effort I put into it.
<Good luck, Neale.>

Corydoras with a Possible Problem? Env. -- 08/23/09
Hello Crew -
You have been very helpful to me in the past, and I am hoping that you can help me again. This time, my issue is with some Corydoras catfish. I have three of them in my community tank, along with three platys and three mollies in a 23 gal tank. Two days ago, I woke up to one of my platys laying on the bottom of the tank dead, though she was behaving normally and eating just fine the day before. This upset me a lot, but I scooped her out and proceeded to put the rest of the fish into a bucket temporarily so that I could scrub out their tank since I did not know what had killed her.
<Mmmm... you may have "killed" your biological filter thus>
I scrubbed the tank walls down, vacuumed out the gravel thoroughly, and rinsed and wiped the ornaments thoroughly, paying special attention to the ornament that I found her lying half-against. I even changed the carbon in the filter, just to be safe. I put in my dechlorinator and stress coat (because I ended up changing about half of the water and cleaning the ornaments, and figured the slime coat might be altered some) according to the directions listed on the backs of the bottles. Honestly, I do not know if any of this has to do with the issue I am having, but I wanted to give you as much information as possible.
Yesterday, one of the Corydoras catfish started acting oddly. Usually, all of my Corys stay basically at the bottom, swimming around and foraging, and occasionally come to the top for air and swim right back down, as they should do. But yesterday, this Cory started swimming around close to the top of the tank. Not consistently - he still goes back down to the bottom and stays there most of the time, but I have never known any of my Corys to go to the top for any longer than their little breath-trips before.
Worried that he might have something wrong with him, since the behavior was irregular for him, I took him out, and put him by himself in a goldfish bowl (1.5 gals). I know that is not the best place for him, but I have no other tank to put him in where I can isolate him,
<I would return this fish to the main system. Not likely to live in the bowl, and very unlikely has anything "catching">
and I have been keeping the bowl very clean, and the temperature and pH steady at 78 degrees and 7.4 pH, and I have kept the water level low in there so that there is lots of water surface for him to get air from. I have been feeding him one Hikari Sinking Wafer at morning and night, and he does not seem to be touching them, though he swims around like normal now and does not head for the top as he did in the community tank. And now, back in the community tank, the other two Corys are acting the same way as
he was.
<Yes; environmental>
I have not moved them because I do not think there is room for the other two in the bowl with him. None show signs of any disease I am aware of (Ich, parasites, etc) - no white spots, no clamped fins, and the two in the community tank are eating fine. Is there something wrong with my Corys,
or am I freaking out a little too much?
<The water... system... is almost assuredly "at fault" here.>
And if there is something wrong - what, and what do I do?
<Look into boosting biological filtration. Read here:
and the linked files above till you understand>
Thank you for any answer -
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Sick Emerald Cory... Uncycled sys. env. dis. -- 08/23/09
I'm new to this whole aquarium thing and looking for a bit of help. I have a 25 gal. hex aquarium which is about a month old and still in the cycling process. This tank was a freebie from a friend. I set the tank up, filled it and let it run for a couple of days.
<Mmm... needs a few weeks...>
I wasn't sure if any of the bacteria had survived from when my friend had it so I purchased 4 Platies to get the bio-filter going.
<... not a good method. Read here:
Tested the water every day and after a week the ammonia hadn't gone up at all. Figured perhaps the platies weren't putting in enough of a load so the following week I purchased 3 Emerald Cory Cats.
Initially all was fine. The ammonia level started going up in the tank so I started doing 30-40% water changes about every other day and only feeding a very small amount about once a day. The ammonia level has hovered between .25 - .5 ppm
<Deadly toxic>
(I haven't been able to get it down to 0 yet and I figured that was just because the bio-filter hasn't fully established yet.) A couple of days ago I noticed that one of the Corys was just sitting on the bottom, it's fins were kind of folded over and it appeared to be having difficulty breathing. Whereas the other Corys were still their iridescent green color, this one was very dark. It also doesn't appear to have it's barbels anymore.
<"Burned" off>
I expected it to not make it through the day (and at one point saw it laying on it's side), but it's still hanging in there. I feel really bad for it, but don't know what the problem is
<... you killed it through your ignorance>
or how to correct it. I'm also concerned the other Corys could be impacted eventually. The other cats as well as the platies seem fine, are actively feeding when I provide food and swimming normally around the tank. From reading through some of the posts on your site I've discovered that my tank is too deep for the Cory's biology (22 inches), but at this point I (and they) have to make the best of it. Here are some details on my setup:
Size: 25 gal. Hex - a few decorations and artificial plants. The filter hangs on the back of the tank and since the tank is so deep I bought an airstone with the idea of improving bottom to top circulation.
Temp: 78-80 degrees
Substrate: small rounded gravel ~.5 cm
Ammonia: .25ppm
Nitrite: Safe - 0ppm
<Not for long>
Nitrate: Safe - 0ppm
Hardness: Soft - ~75ppm
Alkalinity: Moderate - ~80ppm
pH: Neutral - 7.0
The ammonia I test with a vial/water sample/etc, the other 5 I use a test strip. I've been avoiding doing massive water changes to try to get the ammonia to 0 because I figured I needed some ammonia in the tank to get the bacteria colony going and since I bought what I believed to be hardy fish, I figured they could take the slightly elevated levels in the near-term.
I'd prefer to not lose any fish,
<... read re methods of establishing bio-cycling through the link and linked files at top on it>
but I know that sometimes happens during the cycling process. I'm just trying to make sure that the problem with the one Cory isn't something that could pass to the other fish. Any insight you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Marc Venverloh
<Read. Bob Fenner>

Re Sick Emerald Cory, DavidB input 8/24/09

Hi Bob,
Appreciate your quick response. Whatever "ignorance" I have is partly a result of my newness to the hobby and my reading of The Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums by David Boruchowitz who supposedly has 6 decades of fishkeeping experience.
<He is a friend, associate... and known by me to be knowledgeable, a competent writer...>
His recommendation is to cycle the tank with some hardy species of fish
<Perhaps this is "old" information... This use/practice was common many years back>
or to use the borrowed substrate method that is mentioned in the link you provided.
<Another, better avenue>
Unfortunately, none of my friends have established aquariums in order to be able to borrow gravel or used media.
<... How about the local fish stores?>
I imagine I could possibly get some used media from a local fish dealer, but given that most articles I've read say NOT to put the water from a dealer into the tank to avoid introducing parasites, etc.
<Akin to "not drinking the water" in foreign countries, but eating food from plates washed with it... Buying livestock from LFS and eschewing the use of their substrates for establishing bio-geo-nutrient cycling is hypocritical. I have many faults/shortcomings, but being a hypocrite is not one of these>
I find it odd that using media, gravel, etc. from said dealer would be any less dangerous especially since I haven't been at this long enough to know for sure who a good dealer is vs. a bad one.
It's interesting to see your comment that .25 - .5ppm of ammonia is "deadly toxic" and that my Cory's barbels were "burned" off. Most articles I've read (including the book mentioned above) indicate that any ammonia isn't good but that the level considered "bad" is hard to gauge since different species respond differently and that you need to observe the fish for signs of stress.
<Read on my friend>
Since the platies are doing well in my tank and the other Cory's appear fine, i.e. no "burned" barbels, is it possible that this one fish was already ill and in a weakened state?
<A matter of degree; but yes>
I also don't understand how I'm supposed to build up the bacteria in the tank if I don't have at least some level of ammonia for the bacteria to feed on.
<Please read further where you were referred... any source of protein (e.g. food/s) can/will supply ammonia... the "amino bond" in amino acids... that in complexity make up peptides, polypeptides, proteins... Or even (though generally not recommended, and def. not necessary) exogenous ammonia (NH4OH) can be added...>
I've read some of the links that you provided in your response. The fwestcycling.htm link appears to suggest a fishless cycling which at this point is moot for me given that I have 6 fish currently in the tank.
<Yes; tis too late for this system>
Some of the other links suggest using feeder goldfish to cycle the tank, but the Boruchowitz book says to NEVER do that unless you're planning to have a goldfish tank.
<I do agree>
The "Tips for Beginners" link doesn't really mention cycling at all.
<I will send this note to DavidB (at TFH) with your very pertinent, useful notes here... for consideration in revisions of his in-print work>
Anyway, it just seems that depending on the source of the information, the recommendations and approaches can conflict or at the least differ. I guess
I'll continue with my testing and water changes and hope for the best.
Thanks again for your reply.
Marc Venverloh
<And you for your intelligent additional input. Bob Fenner>

Sick Corydoras 8/18/09
Hello everyone. I was hoping you could answer a question for me.
<Fire away!>
Today, I noticed one of my Cory cats acting kind of strange. It was kind of flipping out, scratching each gill simultaneously on the substrate while swimming. Seems healthy, swimming normal now. Does not have any marks on him, spots etc. Have you ever seen them do this before?
<Does happen, yes.>
I tried doing a search on your site and did not see anything.
<Do review possibly sources of toxicity: paint fumes, insect sprays, etc.
Corydoras, being air-breathers, are peculiarly sensitive to these things.
Naturally, also review the usual things. You should have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and a steady pH. Catfish are stuck at the bottom of the tank, so poor water circulation is another problem. Corydoras want shallow water (no more than 30 cm deep), low to moderate tropical conditions (22-24 degrees C for most species), and brisk water circulation (around 4-6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour).>
I do want to point out that back in June I had a bout with Whitespot
(probably velvet or Ich), which is gone now (had a temp drop and noticed this the next day). Treated with high temp (87 degrees 11 days) , extra salt (11 days), Maracide (10 days) and Melafix (7 days).
<Some medications stress catfish more severely than other fish, and using more than one medication makes things doubly risky. For Ick, the salt/heat protocol is the way to treat catfish.>
I hope this is not making a come back. All fish look fine, except for one neon with a little fin damage.
<Do review water quality; fin damage, i.e., Fin Rot, is a classic symptom of opportunistic bacterial infections.>
Tank - 40 gal, measurements amm - 0 nitrite 0, nitrate 15 to 20, PH 7.4.
I have done 2 - 25 % water changes per week since beginning of June. 2 Aquaclear 50s on tank, so I don't think it is water quality.
Fish - Neon Tetra - 12
Colombian Tetra - 4
<Hyphessobrycon columbianus; a fin-nipping species... could be nipping the Neons, Guppies, etc.>
Bleeding Heart Tetra - 4
Corys - 5
Peacock Gudgeon - 1
L183 Starry Night Pleco - 1
Clown Pleco - 1
Fancy Guppies (male) - 3
Maybe I am being too cautious. I appreciate any input you could give me.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Cory cat question, hlth. mostly 7/27/09
First here the specifics of my tank:
nitrates/nitrites= 0
pH= 7.2-7.4
Temp- about 70-75 degrees F
<While this low-end range is idea for most (though not quite all) Corydoras catfish, it is a bit low for most other tropical fish, so do be careful what you add. Platies, Otocinclus and Cherry Shrimps should thrive in cool, well-oxygenated water, but Bettas, not so much.>
Light- fluorescent for 12 hours a day total (timer is set for 2 hours on then a half hour off during the day so the bulb and ac/dc converter don't over-heat)
Plants- 6 small, broad leafed plants and driftwood
Size- 12 gallons
<Bit on the small side for adult Corydoras and Platies.>
Inhabitants: 1 male Betta, 3 female platy's, 1 small otty, 3 spotted Cory cats, a couple of cherry shrimp (I just noticed some babies too), more snails then I would like (and are constantly removing!)
<Keep your tank clean. Snails convert waste, particularly uneaten food and dying plants, into baby snails. The cleaner the tank, the less the snails can breed. Adding something like Clea helena (the Assassin or Snail-eating Snail) also works wonders. They're widely sold in England, and perhaps elsewhere.>
water change: 25% every 7-10 days, I treat the water with a water conditioner before adding it and match the temperature.
All fish have been together for about 2 months and get along very well (no biting or chasing, no one has damaged fins, all are active and eat well)
I had a 4th Cory who about a month ago (1 month after I got it) became sick. I first noticed it would stay by itself, it lost weight, and its tail fin was slightly clamped and a little red at the base. I treated the tank with an anti-fungus agent containing Nitrofurazone, Furazolidone, and potassium dichromate as per the directions.
<Why did you treat for Fungus? Were there symptoms of fungal infection?
Just to recap: Fungus looks like tufts of short white threads. It's often compared to cotton wool. If you don't see this symptom, then Fungus isn't likely, and use of anti-fungal medications is a waste. Do always remember medicines are poisons! Overuse, or careless use, will cause harm.>
There was no change in the fish and he/she became increasingly lethargic and started having labored breathing (the tail was still clamped and the redness was spreading from the base towards the tip of the fin). I retreated the tank after 4 days and a water change (as per the product's directions) and there was still no change in the fish and all the other fish showed no symptoms. Finally, after about a week the fish died. The tail had white fuzz on it, it was very red and there was some marked degeneration when I found him in the morning.
<Now, white fuzz, which can be Fungus, will often appear when a fish has died, or is close to death. Fungus is part of the natural, healthy ecosystem in your tank. Among other things, it breaks down fish faeces into the chemicals the biological filter can process. But the flip side is that a moribund or dead fish is every bit as delicious to fungi as a lump of fish faecal material. The fungi just eat whatever they can find. In your case, this Corydoras may well have been sick because of something else, and the fungus was just an opportunist that jumped onto the fish as it was dying.>
I figured this was just a weak fish but then 3-4 days ago (its been about a month since the above fish died) another Cory has the same symptoms and all my other fish look completely healthy (I haven't added any new plants or fish in the interim). I tried the same fungus killer and it hasn't made a difference. The fish is getting worse and I doubt he'll be alive by tomorrow morning but I am worried that this will keep happening to my other fish and I do not know how to treat the water.
<First of all, what is the water quality? Corydoras must have clean water, so 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite are critical. Secondly, the water must have too-extreme a set of chemistry parameters. Aim for pH of 6 to 8, 5-20 degrees dH. It doesn't matter precisely what the values are, just that they are stable from week to week. Corydoras are otherwise very hardy, but in tanks with poor filtration they frequently become the first fish to get sick. This is because the bottom of the tank is the bit with the least oxygen and the worst water quality.>
I did a massive water change after the first fish died.
<Don't change more than 25% in any one day, unless you are 100% sure the new water has similar temperature, pH, and hardness.>
I was thinking of treating the whole tank with an Ick-clear product to cover my bases if its a more resistant fungus
<No, no, no... medication doesn't work this way. All you're doing is randomly adding one medicine after another. Instead, identify the disease.
Check water chemistry, water quality, and water temperature to factor out environmental issues (which cause some 90% of the fish diseases aquarists encounter). Then, if you are sure the disease requires medication, select the right medication for the job, and use precisely as instructed. Do not use more than one medication at a time, and always remove carbon (if you use it) while medicating. Don't do water changes while the course of medication is being used (this applies to those that require several doses across several days). When you're done, do two or three 25% water changes across the next couple of days to flush out any remaining medication *before* adding any new medications (or additional courses of the medication used first time around).>
Other than that I do not have any ideas, please help!
<Cheers, Neale.>
As a side note, is there any safe product to combat snails that will not kill my shrimp Also, I don't plan on replacing the 2 fish that died because I think the tank was slightly over crowded even though the water was within healthy parameters.
<See above. Never, ever add anti-snail medications to an aquarium. They do far more harm than good. Cheers, Neale.>

Albino Catfish?? 6/26/09
I have what I think is an Albino catfish, it hasn't been well for the last 3 weeks now.
<Do you mean an albino Corydoras or an albino Ancistrus Bristlenose catfish?>
For the first week it was "tornadoing" and spinning in circles, couldn't swim straight if he tried.
<Often a sign water quality is seriously bad: check the pH is stable, somewhere between 6 and 8 but not varying much; also check that nitrite level is 0 and ammonia level is 0. Can also occur when water that is too
cold (barely above freezing) is added to a tropical tank, or when the water contains some toxin that hasn't be treated with an appropriate water conditioner, such as chlorine, copper or ammonia.>
It didn't seem right to me but I was told this was the nature of the fish to be a little crazy.
Now for about the last 2 weeks it hasn't moved from the bottom of the tank laying on its side.
It is still breathing but doesn't seem able to really move.
<Outlook is grim.>
It seems completely normal in that it isn't bloated or discolored at all, it seems its just gone lame?
<More likely you're doing something wrong (or rather, not doing something right) in terms of maintenance. Let's assume this is a Corydoras catfish.
These are schooling fish, and it's cruel to keep them in groups of less than 5 specimens. They need a reasonable amount of space, 20 gallons or more for a group of 5. They need warmth, but not too much, around 24 C/75 F being ideal. The water should be clean, 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite, and the filter should be working briskly enough that there's a good strong current.
The water used in the tank should have a hardness between 5-20 degrees dH, pH 6-8. You shouldn't be using water from a domestic water softener or heaven forbid de-ionised water by itself. All water should be treated with a dechlorinator before use.>
Any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated.
<Need more information than you've offered, to be honest, so can't help much at all than to suggest what you might be doing wrong.>
Kind Regards,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Dying Panda Cory Cats 05/21/09
Hello Crew, hope things are going well for you there. I have a problem and hope you can help. I recently set up a 75 gallon freshwater tank. For substrate I am using 3M color quartz sand which I have read about others using with no adverse affects. Also, it was rinsed very, very well. I am using driftwood I bought off E-bay from a reputable seller which I also cleaned very well. I have 2 medium sized rocks I used previously in a saltwater aquarium. (I think they are lava rock, I bought them in a LFS. I have plastic plants except for a couple of java ferns here and there. I decided to buy Corys for my first fish. I went out and bought 6. They all seemed active and ate well. The next day I noticed one was dead and
didn't think much of it since fish do die like people. That night I was 2 of the Corys bullying another and not letting it escape from their harassment. The next morning another was dead and I assumed it was the one I saw being harassed. I have tested my water which showed no ammonia or nitrite and very little nitrate (.15). Now each night when I get home and check my tank I find one or 2 more Corys dead. Now I only have 3 left. I have some sort of snails that may have come in on the driftwood but they do not seem affected. I have been doing regular water changes and keeping my power filters clean. Could you please help me determine what might be causing these deaths please. I am at a loss and your help would be greatly appreciated. Also, is there some way to test the water to see if it is indeed poisonous to the fish? Thank you for all you do.
<You have a great setup for Corys! I would not think that the sediment could be the problem or the lava rock either. How long has your tank been setup? Did you let it cycle for the four to six weeks required? I am also worried that possibly they could have internal parasites and along with being introduced into a new tank caused the deaths for your Corys. You should cycle your tank longer if you did not wait for the four to six weeks
<You are welcome! Merritt A.>

Strange nub near gills 05/21/09
I have an established 30 gallon tank that I recently added 3 Sterba's Corys to. They all seem happy and healthy (eating, bumbling and foraging), though the largest one has a strange orange nub growing near his gills on one side (same color as his fins). I don't have a quarantine tank so I'm hoping it's not something contagious, and if it's something that can be cleared up I want take care of it before it progresses. I don't know of any parasites that would show up as that bright orange color. The gill cover doesn't appear distended, and otherwise has normal coloration. Water parameters and ph are normal, substrate is fine gravel, and there are plenty of hiding places among the plants and logs. They seem to be
adjusting with minimal stress, and I'd like to see them remain healthy and happy. Do you have any suggestions as to what might be causing this nub?
Could it just be some sort of benign tumor, or should I be treating the tank for something else? I didn't find any specific information online, and I'm hoping you might have some insight.
Thanks for your help,
<Hello Eve. I've not come across this problem with Corydoras, and it isn't one for which I can offer much useful help. If the thing is clearly a cyst or benign tumour, i.e., looks like swelling rather than an attached parasite, then there isn't much you can do. If the animal is otherwise healthy, then you can ignore it. It certainly can't be cured (removed) without veterinarian help. A more serious problem is if the thing is a Microsporidean parasite such as Glugea, which I'm dealing with at the moment with some Sticklebacks. This looks like a swelling divided up into a few small "bubbles", and is very distinctive; see for example the advanced case show here: http://www.cob.lu.se/microsporidia/proj_descr.html
Most parasites require an intermediate host not present in aquaria, so do not spread, but Glugea, like Ick, can spread from one fish to another. As such, it is best to remove infected fish, and ideally euthanise them (described elsewhere on WWM).
Cheers, Neale.>

Sterbai Corydoras with White Lump on Nose 4/14/2009
Hi There
Two days ago I discovered that two of my five Sterbai Corydoras had lost their barbells and both have a white lump on the tip of their nose. The lump appears to be solid, see attached pictures.
I've removed them from the community tank and put them into my 25L holding tank. As per the LFS (here in Australia) I have begun treatment with Tri-Sulfa tablets. I've also added an airstone to the tank, in case they need extra oxygen. The other Corys and community fish appear to be fine.
Prior to the Corys getting sick, my community tank details are:
1. Water parameters
Temp: 28C
PH: 6.8
Ammonia: 0
Nitrites: 0
Nitrates: 5
2. Tank set up
Size: L 36' (92cm) X W 14' (36cm) x D 19' (50cm)
Substrate: As seen in above pic, small round smooth gravel
Filtration: Aquaclear 50 (HOB)
Furnishings: 2 logs (aquarium decoration bought at LFS), 2 slate rocks, a terracotta pot, a terracotta plate, 1 large piece of driftwood, 3 Amazon sword plants
Tankmates: 2 Bolivian Rams, 1 SAE, 6 Dwarf Neon Rainbows, 6 Neon Tetras, 9 Ember Tetras
Tank has been established for 11 months.
Does anyone on the Crew know what this is, and have I begun the right treatment?
Thank you in advance for any advice on this matter.
<Deanna, the treatment is very simple. Take out the gravel; put in smooth (not sharp!) silica sand or an aquarium sand expressly suitable for burrowing fish (many aren't, e.g., Tahitian Moon Sand).
What you are describing is extremely common. All that happens is that the Corydoras burrow into the gravel, or try to at least, and they damage their snouts. Bacterial infections set in, and the whiskers rot away. Corydoras shouldn't be kept in tanks with gravel, though a lot of people do so (and yes, they all have Corydoras with missing whiskers). Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Sterbai Corydoras with White Lump on Nose - Follow Up Question 4/14/2009
Thanks for your prompt response Neale. The choice of substrate did cross my mind, and I will change over ASAP. Should I continue with the Triple Sulfa treatment in the quarantine tank because they still have a lump on their nose, or can I move them back to the main tank?
<Hello Deanna. By all means carry on treating against Finrot, but in all likelihood these fish will get better by themselves. So finish the course you've started, but once done, simply wait for the Catfish to heal. Cheers, Neale.>

Dying Cory cats Hello all, been a while since I've emailed. Thanks for your continued advice. I have a problem with my Julii Corys that has me puzzled. I have a very well established 29 gal tank that I run RO water in since my local water is extremely hard. I have several species of Corys including, until last week, 9 false Julii Corys. The tank is well planted and water conditions are excellent albeit a bit on the acidic side. This never has been a problem and the fish have thrived. However last week I lost two Corys unexpectedly. They each went from perfect to dead very rapidly. I've never seen such healthy-looking dead fish. Similar behavior for both: hovering at the water line making bubbles to exhaustion, then losing balance, then gasping, then dead within a matter of a couple hours. This morning I've noticed a third Cory starting the same pattern. I've done two 50% water changes and added an additional water stone thinking perhaps the O2 content was low given the gasping. I've added some pH stabilizer each day over the last few so now I'm around 6.8. (I usually add some aquarium salt during water changes to augment the RO). Thinking perhaps swim bladder problems but can't imagine why multiple fish affected simultaneously. Any thoughts or suggestions? Appreciate you, Dean <Dean, do please check circulation in the tank. Corydoras are extremely sensitive to poor circulation. While they do gulp air if they need to, they are essentially fish that rely on dissolved oxygen. If you have, for example, a hang-on-the-back filter it is entirely possible that water circulation from the bottom of the tank (where the catfish live) to the top of the tank (where oxygen gets in) is poor. The fact the cats are spending time close to the surface suggests that this is the problem. Also check the substrate is clean (it should be given a bit of a rake through every couple of months, at least) and that the pH is stable between water changes. Another misconception with Corydoras is that they tolerate/prefer warm water. They most certainly do not! The maximum temperature for most species is around 25 C (77 F) if you want them to do well. Ideally, slightly cooler, around 22-24 C (72-75 F). Finally, do spend some time reviewing the basics. If you're adding salt to a freshwater aquarium, you're doing something considered (at best) obsolete and at worst harmful for the last few decades! There's no need to add salt. If you are using RO water, that should only be a portion of the water added to the tank. Unless you are keeping something very specific that needs super-soft water, then a 50/50 mix of RO with hard (non-softened) tap water is perfect. That'll give you a hardness around 10-12 degrees dH, pH 7.5, an absolutely ideal level for Corydoras and a wide range of community tropicals. Very soft water causes all kinds of problems, and for the vast majority of aquarists there are more risks associated with very soft water than benefits. Moreover, adding salt -- by itself at least -- to RO water, and assuming that makes it water acceptable for keeping freshwater fish is not correct. By all means use it dilute the hardness of tap water 50/50, but never, ever keep fish in a 100% RO water, even if you're adding a little salt. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: dying Cory cats
Thanks for the advice Neale, fish seem to be doing well. Appreciate you. <Glad the fish are well, and thanks for the kind words. Cheers, Neale.>

My Cory Has No Tail -10/26/08 I just realized that one of my Corys has no tail. <Significant...> Will it grow back? <Depends on how deep the damage has gone.> The poor thing can't swim. I feel horrible for him. I don't know how or when he lost it. I tried putting food right in front of him so he could eat, but he didn't go after it. Is there anything I can do for him? <Mary, it sounds like he lost it for one of two reasons: pH or nitrogenous waste troubles. Both would explain the loss of fin and sluggishness- have you recently done water changes, or tested pH, NH3, NO2, NO3? if any of these are out of line, do some 25% water changes a couple times daily STAT...with time and good water quality, hopefully the fish will recover.> Thank you for your help. Mary <No trouble. Benjamin>
Re: My Cory Has No Tail - 10/26/08
Hi Benjamin, First, thank you for your reply and suggestions. I just recently had to treat for Ich. (Jungle Ich Treatment did first treatment about a week and a half ago and then again two days ago with a 25% water change before the second treatment.) I had added some new fish to my tank and got a horrible outbreak of Ich. I have 6 Corys, including my little tailless one, and one black Sailfin Molly left in my tank - it is a 36 gallon tank. (I lost two speckled Mollies and two Swordtails from the Ich - all 4 fish were females.) I did do a water check with a master test kit and all levels are fine. Do you think the tail loss could be from the Ich meds? I have set up a hospital tank (3 gallon) in case I need to medicate. Thank you again! Mary <Hello Mary. The Ick medication wouldn't have caused the loss of a fish's tail. Let's be quite clear on something: Ick should never, ever be a cause of death among fish. It is very easy to cure, and because the symptoms are so obvious, it's easy to diagnose. In a tank with livebearers (guppies, swordtails, mollies and platies) raising the temperature to 28-30 C and adding 2-3 teaspoons of tonic salt per gallon will stop the problem within days, and after a couple of weeks the fish will be perfectly healthy. Livebearers all tolerate salt extremely well, and in the short term even Corydoras will put up with it. There are also numerous off-the-shelf medications, though most of these contain copper and formalin, and some fish, notably loaches, react badly to them. Anyway, the only reason Ick medication "fails" is because the user didn't take the carbon out of the filter. I'm dead set against the use of carbon in most freshwater tanks, not least of all because of this easy mistake. If your fish die despite treating for Ick, then two things are going on: either you left it too late to treat them, or else the Ick is merely a symptom of stress caused by something much more serious, for example poor water quality or the wrong water chemistry. I mention this because people often make mistakes with Swordtails and Mollies. Swordtails are riverine fish that require cool (around 23-25 C) water with lots of current and oxygen. A small aquarium (anything less than 30 gallons) isn't acceptable, and even in the right tank you need perfect water quality and generous filtration. If the fish aren't having to work hard to swim against the current -- you're not providing your Swordtails with enough water current. I'd recommend a filter offering upwards of 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. Don't waste your time with those stupid hang-on-the-back filters, but instead use a decent internal or better yet external canister filter that will really move the water about. External canisters are ideal because they suck water in from one end of the tank and push it out the other, really getting the circulation going. Next up, Mollies. These are, despite advertisement to the contrary, not community tank fish. Yes, they're beautiful and peaceful, but they need brackish water to do well, at least when kept by the average, non-expert aquarist. The problem is that Mollies are hugely intolerant of pH changes, nitrite and nitrate. Adding marine salt mix (not "tonic salt" or "aquarium salt") provides bicarbonate/carbonate salts that buffer pH and sodium chloride that detoxifies nitrite and nitrate. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/mollies.htm So despite Mollies being mostly freshwater fish in the wild (though they are also found in estuaries and even the sea) in aquaria they are simply best treated as brackish water fish. For this reason, based on my 25+ years of experience in freshwater fishkeeping and in depth study of brackish water fish, I routinely tell people to keep Mollies in their own tank away from freshwater fish such as Corydoras. Some hardy Corydoras species may tolerate very low salinity (say, 3-4 grammes per litre) but it won't do them any good. Oddly enough, the catfish Hoplosternum littorale is a close relative of the Corydoras and naturally occurs in brackish water, and as such makes an ideal companion for Mollies. Mollies can also be kept very well in true brackish water communities, and as such mix great with other livebearers (which generally tolerate salt well) as well as a wide variety of small to medium sized brackish water fish such as Knight Gobies, Glassfish, Limia, Halfbeaks, etc. I hope this clarifies things. Cheers, Neale.>

Corydoras deaths 10/6/08
Hi Crew,
I have to say that I love your site, every day after work I check out the new FAQs. You've saved me from all sorts of horrible LFS advice.
<Glad we could help.>
I have a 75 gallon planted tank which has been running for about 8 months now. I have 432 watts of T-5 lights sitting over this but the heat from them does not change the temperature of the tank noticeably, it sits at 26 C day and night. I tend to change out around 10% of the water every week. I do have an Eheim canister filter on here but it's wholly underrated for this tank. Only does 116 gallons per hour according to the box, likely much less since it's got ceramic tubes and a filter pad inside. It's mainly there just to keep the water slowly moving around.
<Would recommend beefing up the filtration a bit, if only to keep up with the growth of your fish and ensure adequate water circulation. To be sure, vigourous plant growth can have a strong filtration effect, but you don't want to rely on it.>
Everything I test for seems good: pH is 7.5, hardness is about 250 GH, Ammonia and Nitrite are at 0, Nitrate barely registers, maybe 5ppm.
<All sounds great.>
This is with most of the Flourish line of fertilizers being added a couple of times a week based on their recommended dosages. Plus there are some fertilizer tabs buried under root feeding plants. Substrate is about 3' deep at the front, sloping up to 4' at the back. The bottom half is a mixture of Laterite and Seachem's Fluorite, while the top is cheap rounded gravel, 3-4mm in diameter. I have various Crypts, Swords, mosses, Hygros and Val.s as well as Java Fern, Water Lettuce, a couple Rubra lilies, a Lace plant, Banana Plants, Glossostigma, Riccia and a mystery Cabomba like plant. I am not currently adding CO2 but several of these plants have oxygen bubble streams coming from them in the afternoons anyway.
<Quite so; CO2 improves good tanks, but you can certainly make good tanks without CO2.>
Fish include one very happy Plecostomus, a Striped Raphael Catfish, 10 Otocinclus, 6 SAE, 2 Madagascar Rainbows, 3 Turquoise Rainbows, 2 Redtail Rainbows, 2 'Pink' Rainbows which are probably some hybrid, 6 Threadfin Rainbows, a bunch of Sunrise Platies and a dozen or so Mystery Snails. Nothing has been added for a month or more. The Threadfins court each other, the snails lay eggs and the Platies are always pregnant. The point of all this is that everything is growing and all fish are colourful, active and have nip free fins.
<Would be surprised if the Plec doesn't start causing problems eventually: at 45 cm in length and happy burrowers, they're pretty hard on plants.>
A week ago I added a small school of 10 Corydoras. I bought them as Peppered Corys but they look more like julii or trilineatus.
<Peppered Corydoras should be easily distinguished from C. julii or C. trilineatus simply by colour: Peppered Corydoras are grey, not black. C. julii and C. trilineatus are routinely confused in the hobby, but luckily can be kept in the same way.>
I should say that they were not quarantined first as I no longer have a quarantine tank. Every time I set one up I just end up with a nursery tank or another community tank after a while. At the LFS they seemed fine, no damage or dead fish to be seen. For the first day or so they followed each other around the tank ignoring and in turn being ignored by everybody else in the tank. On day two I found a dead one. On day three I found another dead one. I tried changing water and retested everything I could but found no problems. After six days I only had three left, one of which was floating around on its side. None of them, living or dead had any strange colours, swelling or damage that I could see. Even though I couldn't find any problems I thought that for so many to die in such a short time the problem must be environmental, so I took the 3 survivors and put them into a neglected 20 gallon tetra tank. This tank had much lower lighting and no Laterite or Fluorite. Everything but Nitrate registers the same as my 75 gallon, Nitrate is way up at 80 ppm. Far too high, I know. The day after I transferred them all 3 survivors were happily following each other around the tank. This was a couple of weeks ago and they're all still alive.
<Interesting. Corydoras are generally hardy animals, but they sometimes respond poorly to abrupt changes in water chemistry. My gut feeling is that you failed to acclimate them adequately; indeed, because of the way you maintain your tank, leaning on plant growth rather than filtration, the water chemistry (particularly pH) may vary strongly through the course of the day. Although a secondary issue, your water temperature is slightly higher than the 22-25 C preferred by most Corydoras.>
I've dug through your articles and FAQs but can't seem to find my problem.
I have read that these fish prefer lower hardness and temperature than I have but also that they can quickly adapt to a wide range of conditions.
<Correct; but like most fish, while they can be maintained across a range of conditions, they don't necessarily adjust to substantial changes rapidly. In other words, while anything between pH 6 to 8 is fine for maintaining a school of Corydoras, if you take a Corydoras from pH 8 and dump it in pH 6, you will likely kill it.>
This seems evident by the fact that 80 ppm of Nitrate didn't faze them.
While the water is probably 45 cm deep there are plenty of plants they can, and do, rest on.
<Ah, another good point. This is far too deep for Corydoras. Depending on the size of the catfish, you are best with under 30 cm for juveniles and up to 40 cm for adults. Anything above that is not compatible with their biology. In the wild they live in very shallow streams. Much better to go with Brochis spp. Corydoras are clumsy swimmers, and expecting them to perch on plants as they swim up to the tank is unreasonable. They have a "breath" reflex whereby they dash upwards to the surface and then back down again to the sand quicker than a flash, I suppose to avoid being snapped up by predators.>
None of them dashed for the surface all that often either. I didn't once spot anybody picking on these fish. Even after death, before the snails moved in anyway, all fins were pristine, gills were not reddened and the eyes were not cloudy.
While I vacuum the gravel every few days there is still plenty of detritus to pick through, plus I toss in a few Hikari Algae wafers every evening before lights out.
I see that sand is their preferred substrate but none of them had abbreviated or missing barbels, red bellies or anything I could see that would betray cuts from sharp rocks.
<Yes, sand is preferable, but clean gravel shouldn't be an issue.>
I apologise for this long email but I would really like to figure out what happened to these guys before I try adding any more. Any help you could give is much appreciated, thank you.
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Albino Cory - red scrape marks on belly 8/12/08 Hi - I am completely new to this. I'm keeping my boyfriend's tank while he's out of the country. He's had the tank for a while now. It's a 20 gallon tank with Fluval filter. Population of tank: plant 2 rosy tetras 3 diamond tetras (2 new) 2 white fin tetras (new) 1 albino Cory cat 4 black mollies and some baby mollies <Please do consider upping the numbers of the schooling tetras, and the Corydoras certainly shouldn't be kept alone. Not a fan of mixing Mollies with Tetras.> I recently lost a diamond tetra and do not know why. I replaced it with 2 new diamond tetras. The existing one is very active, abnormally so. He now swims around a lot, in circles. Actually, all others seem to be very active as well. Not like before. <Diamond tetras are schooling fish, and on their own they do become neurotic, not to put too fine a point on it.> Water conditions; pH = between 7.4 and 7.6 KH = 30 (according to the conversion on the test kit = 1.68 dH GH = 120 (moderately hard according to test kit) Nitrite = 0 ammonia = 0 <OK. 30 degrees KH is NOT 1.68 degrees dH, so something is amiss there. Sounds like you have quite hard, basic water though. Fine for most fish.> Problem: albino Cory seems to have something that looks like red scrape marks on his belly. He swims to the top and seems to avoid lying down on his belly. Today I saw that he's laying on plant leaves on his side. What's wrong with the tank? Please help! <Usually when bottom-living fish show odd scars or blisters on their bodies, particularly their bellies and whiskers, it's to do with poor conditions. Specifically, they're in contact with the ground, and sharp gravel that damages them and bacteria on the gravel gets in causing an inflammation. Corydoras absolutely must never be kept in tanks with sharp gravel or sand produced as a by-product from glass manufacture (e.g., Tahitian Moon Sand). Those hideous painted (blue, red, etc.) gravels are usually very bad choices as well. You should use fine, smooth pea gravel, or better yet, smooth silica sand. Run your hands through the substrate. If it feels silky smooth, it's fine; if not, then it's not good for your catfish either. The substrate must be kept clean as well, at the very least by stirring it each time you do a water change and the muck that comes out being siphoned away. Do see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/nicebottoms.htm > Diana PS - I did try searching the forum but couldn't really find a match for my issues. Thank you so much for your help. <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Albino Aeneus Cory with Unknown Affliction -- 8/8/8 Hello there. I was referred to your site by a friend and I hope you can help me out. I've been keeping/breeding/raising tropical aquarium fish for a few years, but have yet to come across anything like this. A couple months ago, I noticed one of my Albino Aeneus Cory females was getting very plump in the chest. Since this normally occurs prior to spawning, I thought nothing of it. However, the area kept getting larger, so I started monitoring her more closely. Since the group had not spawned recently, I attributed it to being egg-bound, or possibly constipated/having a blockage. I have upped my tank maintenance, fasted, and generally just made things as perfect as possible. Last weekend the group spawned, and she was right there with them, basket full of eggs and all.....she's not egg-bound. I have also seen her passing waste, so she's not constipated/blocked. Unfortunately the 'bubble belly' remains. I have seen her with the light behind, and her chest area honestly looks hollow, like a water bubble. I don't believe it's air as she has no issues with floating and I've never seen her fight to stay on the bottom. Other then the large chest which makes her rest funny, she is a typical Cory. Roots around in the sand, eats and schools with the others, darts to the surface for a gulp of air and general acts perfectly normal. I'm attaching two pictures of her in hopes you can help. Please note, she has always had the kink in her tail so that is not a new issue. Thank you in advance for any help/advise you can give. Worried Cory Mom :) <Unless someone has a better idea, I'd put this down to a tumour. Not uncommon among ornamental fish, and possibly related to either dietary or environmental inadequacies. Given these are albino fish, they're also likely to be inbred and genetically weak (if nothing else, albinism makes animals more vulnerable to damage from UV light, but that's not going to be a problem indoors). If the fish is otherwise healthy, I'd not worry overly much, but be prepared to painlessly destroy the fish if it shows signs of suffering. Cheers, Neale.>

Leopard Corys in trouble 6/6/08 Hi! Thanks in advance for the help and support. I have a new 180L tank which I cycled with the fishless cycling method. There are no ammonia, nitrites or nitrates (I guess my plants are using up the nitrates?). <Possibly, though you need VERY fast growing plants in GREAT ABUNDANCE for this to be true.> When everything was ready I bought six Corydoras julii, but I made a mistake. One of them was whiter than the others (from when he was at the store) and I thought he was just a little different. It turns out he was sick. He wouldn't team up with the others didn't have much of an appetite and eventually died after a week. <Oh dear.> The others seemed ok at first but now (4 days after) I see another one standing still, being pale and his eyes bulging out a little. <Hmm... do check water chemistry and water quality. Corydoras spp. are generally EXTREMELY robust, and assuming water conditions are adequate, they rarely get sick. Corydoras will ADAPT to almost any water chemistry, from very soft to very hard, pH 6 to pH 8. But what they don't like is sudden changes in water chemistry. So check the pH is stable. If you have rapid acidification, for example because your water is soft, then the catfish will get sick. Similarly, while Corydoras will tolerate poor water quality for short periods, in part because they can breathe air, they will eventually sicken if things don't improve. So double check the nitrite and/or ammonia concentrations.> I asked at the store where I bought them but their answers weren't very convincing. They said this happened because there isn't enough oxygen in my water. <Likely not an issue, because Corydoras can breathe air. While they don't like stagnant water, they can tolerate it for short periods. You will sometimes notice them swimming up to the surface to gulp air. Normally they do this every few minutes, but if you see them doing this very frequently, then you may have a problem.> However I have two filters one built in and a canister filter) and they seem powerful enough (the canister is 440l/h). <That's a turnover of about 2x the volume of your tank per hour. My recommendation for any normal community tank is a turnover of 4x the volume of the tank (i.e., 180 x 4 = 720 litres per hour). This is the minimum safe level to ensure all the water goes through the biological filter often enough all the ammonia and nitrite is removed.> They said I should buy an air pump but it just doesn't sound right. <I agree.> Anyway I asked at another store and they said it maybe some kind of parasite and gave me a medication called Hexamita to blend with their food, but there hasn't been much of a change. <Hexamita is a protozoan, a disease causing organism in fact. So double check the name of the medication.> My pH is 7.5 GH and KH both 9. I do two 40% water changes a week and I always use a water conditioner. My temp is around 25C. <All sounds well within the tolerances of Corydoras spp.> There is only one sick Cory right now (since the other one died) but I'm afraid the rest might get sick too. <Do review water chemistry/quality. Consider upgrading filtration. A photo of the sick fish might be helpful; when fish go white, it often implies external secondary infections, so treating with something against Finrot/Fungus might make sense. I use eSHa 2000 with success, but there are other medications out there you might use.> Sorry for the length of this question but I am very new at this. They are my first fish and I have done everything I can for them to be ok. I really really don't want to lose them and I just love their digging and dancing all around. <You are talking to a dedicated fan of the genus Corydoras! They are lovely fish, and handsomely repay extra care.> Thanks again Elisabeth <Cheers, Neale.> Re: Leopard Corys in trouble 6/6/08 Hello! It's me again! I just wanted to say thanks for the quick answer. I think what you guys do is fantastic and has helped improve the lives of many fish all around the world (for example I am from Greece). And also a special thanks to Neale the Cory fan... <You're most welcome, and good luck with your fishes! Neale.>

Sick Cory cats? 4/8/08 Hi crew, hope all is well. I recently (Thursday) added 2 Corydoras Schwartz's to the 3 I already had in my 20 gallon freshwater tank. They came from the same small LFS and I was told they were the last of the group the first 3 came from, so I added them to the same tank (I know my first bad move). <Certainly can be...> I have had the others for over a month with no issues although I lost one the day after, but I truly think I was just inexperienced and did not acclimated correctly. So now I have 5 and they have been acting so cute, shoaling and everything! <Cool!> Last night I noticed a white looking area on one Cory's head which runs down behind the 'mask' to form a V when you look down from above. Actually a couple of them seems to have a 'V', but only one has the area on top as well. I am not sure at all if this is normal markings, as I don't remember it from before. <Does vary, but there are also look-alike species... often the problem with Corydoras.> I watch them every day and night. I love the way they appear to wag their tails like puppies. <Preaching to the converted... I enjoy keeping, breeding Corydoras very much. More sheer fun than any fancy-pants reef fish!> From all my reading last night and today I can't find anything like this so I am sending you some pictures hoping you can either tell me what to do ASAP, or put my mind at ease. Hopefully the latter. These pictures are the best I could get, these buggers are quick! <Too small really to tell... would prefer one decent sized photo around 400 px square rather than these.> I am pretty sure the one with the white on the head has been here for better than a month as he doesn't hide from me. The new ones run when I come up to the tank, while my others obviously know I am the food God and love to see me coming at dinner time. I did have some Algae issues from over feeding but I did a 50% water change and severely restricted light for a week or so, and I am still keeping short light times to discourage a reoccurrence. I was feeding 3 Hikari wafers a night! <My Corydoras love these too. Corydoras eat a lot of algae in the wild, and this aspect is often overlooked by fishkeepers.> But now I only feed 1 every other night with 1 little HBH shrimp pellet. I break all of these up into little pieces or they play tug of war with them! <I'd say one Hikari algae wafer (around the size of a small coin) per night for 5 catfish is about right. Maybe skip one night so they can earn their keep cleaning up the tank a little. While it is certainly true big catfish do best when fed only a few times per week, I'm not sure this is true for Corydoras which are simply so much more active.> The other nights I feed 2 1/2 shrimp pellets. These are little pellets, nothing like the Top Fin ones that are huge! They eat everything in under an hour so I feel they are not being over fed since they nibble a lot and play during feeding. Once or twice a week I throw in a couple of brine shrimp or blood worms(frozen). They seem very happy although I have one that hides a lot in the tree stump. This one is the biggest and I think she is a female, but that is not one with any white and I watch her more than the others for any sign of disease since she does hide. She just always has. When I had 3, 1 of the others would stay with her constantly, but now she stays alone mostly. <Corydoras frequently divide into subgroups, with one female to one or more male. The males will follow the female about. If they're happy, you'll often see some species of Corydoras spawn even in community tanks. Not sure Corydoras schwartzi spawns in aquaria though.> Not sure of these kind of dynamics but I can only guess it has to do with the make-up of the group. Here are my parameters:ammonia-0nitrite-0nitrate-Under 20chlorine/Chloramine 0GH-150KH-180pH-7.8 <All fine. Do keep the temperature on the low side though, ideally around 22 C and certainly no more than 25 C.> I do 20% WC's weekly along with vacuuming with battery powered Penn Plax vacuum. <Slightly more water changing would be recommended. 25-50% is my preference in freshwater tanks. Cheap, easy way to ensure good health.> I only use prime for my water conditioning, although I do add Bio Spira with new fish. <Redundant; a mature filter will adjust to reasonable increasing in stocking virtually at once all by itself.> It is a twenty gallon tall tank with a Penguin 150 filter. The only thing I can come up with besides that these are normal markings (then why don't they all have them) is that it could be a fungal or bacterial infection, or rubbing I have read about in wild collected specimen. <Fungal infections should look distinctly odd in texture, typically white and fluffy. While not uncommon on Corydoras, they are usually associated with serious physical damage and/or poor water quality.> Gee, that would mean my LFS lied to me. While I am sure not all that uncommon, it would really upset me as they have the best looking fish around and they are a small independent store that even carries Bio Spira. Thanks so much for you insight and this site, people like me who just don't have the experience to recognize these things appreciate all of your hard work very much. I spend a lot of time researching so I can only imagine how many years it took you to learn all you know. Thanks for sharing it with us. Debbie <Need a better photo to say anything sensible about the "white" patches. Cheers, Neale.>

Discoloured panda Cory 3/23/08 Dear WWM, <Melissa> I have a 15 gallon freshwater tank that's been running for about six months. It contains: live plants; some snails (unplanned, but nothing near an infestation); 1 platy; 3 guppies; 4 albino Corys; 1 panda Cory (I realise I need more of these, but my LFS has not had them shipped in for awhile) and about 8 or 9 platy fry which I am not making any particular efforts to keep alive. The substrate is sand. Water changes are done 25% weekly. <Good> About two days ago I noticed that the panda Cory has lost all its colour. It is pretty small, about 1.5 inches long. It is almost completely white - the black markings around its eyes and near its tail are barely visible anymore. <Unusual> What do you think this could be? Other than appearance, it is acting fine; no changes in activity level or appetite. There are also no physical growths or lesions on him that I can see. <Stress... from something...> I have a cycled 5 gallon quarantine tank with sand substrate; should I put the Cory in there just to be safe? Thanks. -Melissa <I would not... likely more stressful... Perhaps this one fish is changing color to "match" the albino congeners... Bob Fenner>
Re: Discoloured panda Cory 3/23/08
Hi Bob, Should I just leave the Cory be, then? -Melissa <Yes, I would. B>

Corydoras Concerns... hlth, acclimation... 2/18/08 Hi Crew, <Mike> Thanks in advance for your assistance with my question. WWM is a fantastic forum and reading the Q&As has become one of my regular daily activities. Keep up the great work! <We're trying!> I'm experiencing some problems with some Corydoras I acquired last Friday and am unsure how to proceed. The specs: 10 (U.S.) gallon quarantine tank. PH = 8.0 <Yikes! A bit high for most members of this genus...> NH3=0 NH2=.3 mg/l <Super yikes... very toxic. I'd at least be trading out prepared water, really discounting feeding... Reading on WWM re reduction...> NO3=0 Temperature=79F <Mmmm, what species of Corydoras are these? Some prefer cooler, warmer water...> Filtration = Whisper 10i in-tank filter Sequence of events: 1. 2/9: Tank set up. Water 50/50 from established main display tank and fresh - seeded with a pinch of fish food to start the cycling process <Good> 2. 2/14: Bio-Spira added. <Good> 3. 2/15: Received delivery from Drs. Foster & Smith containing 5 juvenile Carnegiella strigata and 5 juvenile (what were supposed to be) Corydoras trilineatus 4. Acclimated livestock by floating for 45 minutes and 2 hours of gradual addition of tank water to the shipping bags. <Mmm... I should make a few comments here... re measuring for incoming ammonia, pH to some extent... there are other preferred acclimation techniques for situations where animals have been boxed up for hours... vs. short trips from a LFS... Posted on WWM> 5. Upon release into tank noticed one of the Corys was struggling to maintain proper swimming orientation. Observed what I thought to be inflammation of the gills (gills appeared "bruised" reddish/blue) and clamped dorsal fin. Suspected a parasitic or bacterial infection of the gills. <Ahh! Very common... "burn" from the aforementioned accumulated ammonia, rapid change in surrounding water... the pH changing the "format" of the ammonia inside the fishes bodies, being much more toxic> 6. 2/16: Hatchets doing fine and taking food. All Corys foraging for food, but no improvement in the one showing distress. 7. 2/17: Morning: Hatchets doing fine and taking food. 1 Cory dead. 1 Cory showing distress (swimming erratically, struggling to maintain proper orientation, clamped dorsal fin). All surviving Corys displaying apparent gill "bruising" coloration. Researched on FishBase and believe specimens are Corydoras julii not trilineatus (based on spotted vs. reticulated head markings. A gill "bruise" appears to be normal coloration for julii, but not trilineatus). 8. 2/17: Afternoon: Hatchets continue to be doing well. Cory that was showing distress in the morning continued to degrade. Euthanized to end suffering. Surviving 3 Corys beginning to show distress, dorsal fin clamping. I've done a partial water change with water from my display tank (PH=7.3, NH3=0, NH2=0, NO3=0) <Good> reduced the tank temperature to 78 F (FishBase indicates julii likes a slightly cooler environment than trilineatus) and continue to monitor NH2. <Also good> Any idea what might be going on with these poor little guys and/or suggestions what I can do to help them? Thank you very much for you assistance. Mike <I do think they may have just suffered too much "shipping stress" and the mentioned gill burn... I would contact the fine folks at Dr.s F and S with your report, the likely incorrect species ID on their part, and ask for credit/replacement. Bob Fenner>

Cory Help... sel., hlth. 2/1/08 Hi! I have recently bought one albino Cory for my 20 gallon aquarium. Along side the Cory in the tank are 3 marble mollies, a balloon molly, 2 white fin tetras, and a zebra tetra. <No such thing as a "zebra tetra" -- do you mean a Zebra Danio? Small minnow with longitudinal gold and purple stripes.> My problem is my Cory is acting extremely weird. He swims up and down radically and never stays in one spot too long. Sometimes he just frantically swims around and around in the aquarium. I feed him using fish flakes and sinking pellets. But it seems as though he doesn't eat this food. I have had him for 4 days now. Could he be acting strange due to the presence of the other fish? Or is there something else that could be a contributing factor to this? <He's lonely, scared, and miserable -- and likely wondering why he was bought by someone who doesn't research their fish first, usually an omen of doom for unfortunate fish. Corydoras are *schooling* fish, and have to be kept in groups. Four is the minimum really, and you need six or more to see them at their best. So go to your retailer and buy some more. Albino Corydoras are usually Corydoras paleatus, so you can mix them with regular Corydoras paleatus (known as "peppered Corydoras" in the trade).> Sincerely, Michael <Cheers, Neale.> <<Well done Neale. RMF>>

Help! My panda Cory is dying! 1/27/08 Hello, <Ave,> I have tried searching for this specific answer on the website and could not find. I don't have test kits here at my office (I left them all at home) but I know what the problem is, my 10 gallon had an ammonia spike. <Easy enough to fix, at least.> 5 days ago I bought 6 dwarf Corys and one of them got sucked in the filter and I didn't notice till 2 days after. Its whole body was in the filter where sponge is. <Hmm... usually when fish get "stuck" in filters, the fish was dead and merely sucked into the thing. Healthy fish, even things as small as Guppy fry, have no problems avoiding the suction from a filter. So when you find a dead fish in a filter, the question is *why* the fish died in the first place, not *what's it doing in the filter?*.> On that same day, 2 of my neon tetras and 1 more dwarf Cory died. I took the sponge filter out (bits of dead fish caught underneath it), gently swished around the sponge in aquarium water (in a bowl and then threw that water out) put the filter back, and did a 50% water change. <Does sound like a bigger underlying problem rather than one dead fish.> It has been 3 days now. For each of those days I have been doing about %50 water changes twice a day because now my other panda and another dwarf Cory have been showing very rapid gilling for 3 days. <Do need to know how much stuff is in this tank, and when you set it up. A 10-gallon tank is too small for most Corydoras, and certainly Corydoras panda, so assuming you have the essential school of at least four specimens, you're already overstocked with them. (And only a very cruel person would keep fewer than four Corydoras of each species -- they're schooling fish that need company.) Likewise, Neons need to be in groups of six or more, and while they're acceptable inmates for a 10-gallon tank, together with other fish you may well be over the limit. If you set this tank up recently, you may well also have an immature filter, and if you're overfeeding the fish, things go from bad to worse. Have a read of this (February's) TFH -- I have an article all about 10-gallon tanks, and you'll find it useful. Stocking such small tanks is difficult, and keeping them healthy even more difficult, which is why experienced fishkeepers universally recommend beginners start with 20-gallon or larger tanks. The size/price difference is trivial, but the ease of care is dramatically better.> I'm so worried because I don't know what's going on, I thought that water changes would provide immediate relief? <Up to a point yes, but it's like wiping your nose when you have a cold: helpful, but doesn't actually make you better. If the water quality is poor because the tank is poorly set up or maintained, then your issues run deeper than anything water changes alone can fix.> Today I put in another bag of Zeolite into my AquaClear filter, added some bacterial cycle stuff (we don't get BioSpira in Canada) and added a .25 teaspoon of aquarium salt. Is this ok? <Most of the "Cycle" type products are of questionable value (to be polite). Only the ones with live bacteria in them have any beneficial impact. Those that simply say they "promote" bacterial filters are really not doing much of anything except channeling cash from your pocket into the manufacturer's bank account. Aquarium salt can help relieve the symptoms of nitrite poisoning -- in the short term. As a long term fix, it isn't one.> Am I changing out too much water? <No. If the ammonia/nitrite levels aren't zero, then a water change is indeed appropriate.> I know I have not tested the water yet (will do tomorrow) but I thought that large water changes would fix the problem even if the parameters were too high? <Nope. Doesn't work this way.> Why are the Corys not showing signs of relief yet? They seem to be getting worse. <I bet. They'll keep getting worse until conditions in the tank improve, and that can mean you will need to give more time, remove some fish, feed less food, use a bigger filter, or all of the above, depending on the precise situation.> 10 gallon <Too small.> temp is 76F <Fine.> ph 7.0 (out of tap 6.8) <Fine.> but I have gravel in there that brings it up <Eh? Gravel doesn't have any impact on water chemistry, unless you've been sold a calcareous substrate such as crushed coral or coral sand, neither of which is appropriate for a South American community tank.> established 3 months (the pandas have been in there for the entire 3 months and were happy till a few days ago) 6 neon tetras (1 inch size) 2 honey dwarf gouramis (1 inch in size each) 2 panda Corys (1 panda in distress) 3 dwarf Corys (all about 0.5 inches in size, 1 dwarf in distress) <Whoa... too many fish for a 10 gallon tank, especially one just 3 months old. Six Neons and four Dwarf Corydoras would be about right for this tank. Everything else is just a succession of straws breaking the back of the proverbial camel.> ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, not sure yet as I will be testing tomorrow. <Good. The only critical one is Nitrite, the others are nice to know, so if you can afford just one test kit, buy a Nitrite test.> Should I be doing anything else? help!! <Reading, learning, taking fish back/buying bigger tank. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: help! My panda Cory is dying! 1/29/08
Hi there thanks Neale for your wisdom! <No problem.> This message is for Neale please since he responded originally to my issues. Yes I know the whole thing about having 2 pandas (less than 4) but where I am located we don't get fish in very often and I live in the north so we hardly get pandas, and dwarf Corys, they usually die/and or get stressed from shipping so far, so hopefully I can get my pandas some friends soon. Also I know you think my tank is overstocked, but I do regular weekly water changes and do not overfeed my tank I am very careful to monitor them everyday and all of them are just babies not full grown yet. <OK, I take your point, but please understand that [a] fish don't stay small forever; and [b] the smaller the tank, the smaller your odds of success.> I will make my questions short, here is the situation: One of my pandas was affected by an ammonia spike from a dead fish getting stuck way up in the filter (see below). Distress symptoms first exhibited 5 days ago. Days 1-2 severe distress, lethargic did %50 water changes twice a day for both days Day 3-4 rapid gilling, severe distress, lethargic %50 water change twice a day, added 1.5 tsp salt/10 gallons, added an airstone (tested water, amm=0, nitrite=0.1, nitrate=5) and replaced accordingly to amount of H2O removed. Day 5 (yesterday) gilling improved, but slight shimmying exhibited. 1x %50 water change with salt (nitrite=0) Day 6 (today) no shimmying, rapid gilling again! What is going on...... <The problem with ammonia (and water quality problems generally) is that you don't see a one-to-one relationship between the problem and the symptoms. It's kind of like food poisoning in humans -- it can cause anything from vomiting to fatigue to hallucinations. So it depends on a range of things. At best, experience tells us that poor water quality causes a whole bunch of problems, and if things aren't turned around tout-de-suite, you end up with dead fish. All I can say here is that so long as you don't get zero ammonia, you're going to keep having stressed/dead fish.> this morning I did a 50% water change and cant figure out if I should add salt or not? ( my other baby Corys don't like it as they don't move much when salt in tank), <Small amounts of salt are harmless to Corydoras, especially compared with ammonia. I 100% do not recommend using salt as a standard additive, but in the short term, under these circumstances, a small amount can help.> How long should I add salt for as I see no improvement in my panda's condition? <Once the ammonia is at zero, drop the salt.> I don't see anything else wrong with her, but her rapid gilling is worrying me. Where I live they do not sell antibiotics, only fungal medication. Should I remove my panda into a quarantine and keep treating with salt? I'm worried that the stress of moving her will kill her. Please help!!!! <If your fish doesn't have Fungus, then don't treat for it. Simple as that. Concentrate on turning around the water quality right now. Review your feeding, your water changes, and the size/type of filter being used. Ask yourself if the filter is being used efficiently. In a small filter, carbon is a waste of space, and there are "deluxe" filter media like Siporax that offer more ammonia/nitrite removal per cubic centimetre than standard issue floss or sponge. Are you maintaining the filter properly? Washing filter media in anything other than aquarium water risks killing the bacteria. So there are little things you can do. Also check your tap water -- does it have ammonia? Is it treated with Chloramine? Both of these things are sometimes present, and if they are, you need specific types of dechlorinator to remove them.> thanks so much for your prompt reply:) <Good luck, Neale.>

Re: help! My panda Cory is dying! -01/30/08
Thanks so much Neale, <Terri,> I feel much better knowing that since I'm not sure what is wrong with her (she is breathing so hard, not sure if she has a bacterial infection or not ) all I can do is keep the water clean while she is sick. <Indeed.> Just one more question though: if say I can find some antibiotic treatment online or something, should I just treat her with an antibiotic in a quarantine tank, knowing that maybe she has caught something secondary from the ammonia spike stress? <If she isn't showing symptoms, there's no real need to treat. Maracyn (an antibiotic) is harmless enough, so if you want to use that as a precaution, then go ahead. Won't do any harm to her or the other fish. But standard antibacterials contain copper and formalin and other stuff that is more or less toxic to fish, so should be used as rarely as possible. Do look out for the early signs of Finrot, as this is the most likely follow-on from ammonia; typically the fins turn pink as the blood vessels therein become irritated. Only afterwards do the fins actually rot. So spotting the pinkness is a good signal.> Thanks so much for your knowledge. I really hope she recovers... <So do I.> Cheers Terri <Cheers, Neale.>
Re: help! My panda Cory is dying! 2/21/08
This is a message for Neale, <He's here!> I just wanted to say thanks so much for your informative response, I wrote several weeks ago in regards to help with a dying panda Cory. What happened was an ammonia/nitrite spike from a dead dwarf Cory (died from too much stress as they were new fish that were shipped long distances in very cold weather -40C!) rotting in my filter for about 2 days before I realised that it died and got sucked up into my filter. <Ah, the plot thinnens...> After your advice and 1 week of 2x 50% water changes/day, followed by 1 week of 1x 50% water changes/day with added 1 teaspoon of salt to 10 gallons, my little Cory was finally recovering. I was so happy that I did not have to medicate my panda and the water changes and salt helped so much. <Don't keep adding the salt indefinitely though. Once the fish are healthy, you can stop adding it. Salt doesn't do anything useful in a properly run freshwater aquarium, and some have argued it likely causes problems in the long run.> She was well for about 1 week with renewed appetite and I was so happy, but like you said Finrot started to set in and I monitored it carefully since she seemed well by last Friday. Now I left work (this is my office tank) for the weekend and all of a sudden on Monday my panda looked so bad, not moving I'm not sure what happened. All of the other fish in the tank are fine. Today alas she is dying I can tell that its the end of the road for her because she has gone very pale, lying on one side and pupils dilated, gasping for breath. I'm so sad because she was my first fish. <Oh dear.> Aside from going over the details again on my history (I believe my previous emails were already posted on WetWeb) my question is do you know what happened over the weekend? <Impossible to say, but as ever the two things you should check at once are nitrite and pH. These will give you a snapshot of the aquarium conditions. If there's any nitrite, that means there's a filtration problem; and if there's a big difference in pH relative to the normal value, then it's water chemistry that needs looking at. This said, Finrot can spread into the body, and once that happens, you're dealing with Septicaemia. If you don't treat Finrot quickly enough, this is what happens.> Her back fin was a little bit gone from the Finrot but just last week she seemed fine, what could have caused her to die so quickly when she was just recovering? <Difficult to say.> Just if anyone is wondering, from my experience now panda Corys are extremely sensitive to water conditions, as when the spike occurred nitrite levels were 0.1 ppm, where all my other fish were ok (as I understand 0.3 ppm and over fish normally begin to show signs). <Er, no. Any nitrite... ANY NITRITE is potentially dangerous, whatever the fish. There's no "safe level" other than ZERO. Yes, some fishes sometimes tolerate more than other fishes, but there are no guarantees. Panda Corydoras are relatively hardy in mature tanks, but I'd concur with your opinion that they aren't bullet-proof. Or put another way, if you're looking for a Corydoras for a new aquarium or aren't 100% sure about your fishkeeping skills, then there are other species to keep instead, for example Peppered Corydoras or Bronze Corydoras.> I will be burying her tonight: ( <Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.> Thanks Neale Cheers <Cheers, Neale.>

How to rescue some Corydoras hastatus 12/18/07 Hello Crew Members, <Amanda> I hope whoever answers this is having a fine day, and that it isn't as horribly hot and humid there as it is here. <I wish it were... am tired of the cold> I hope I give you enough information to help me. Any additional information you need, please let me know and I'll get it for you. As per my usual bleeding heart self I just came home two days ago with yet another sad animal case (this goes with my two one-eyed quail, deformed ring-neck, abuse rescue dog....just to name a few). To set the scene. I was visiting a friend when their brother came over for a visit. He was going on about this fantastic new fish tank he had bought for a bargain price (at this point I'm thinking sweet!) the only catch was that it came with fish included....this always seems to be where the problems start. He didn't like any of the fish, and instead of doing the responsible thing and taking them to a shop and selling them, he got the fantastically brilliant idea (this being said very sarcastically) of just not feeding them until they died and then he could go out and get the fish he wanted. <Terrible> I of course was absolutely mortified by this. I asked him how long he'd had the tank, he didn't remember, for at least 6 weeks he thought. I'm thinking poor fish, how about I lock you up in a tiny little room you never asked to be put into and then not give you any food for, oh somewhere around 6 weeks, and see how you like it....actually I probably said this all to him while getting increasingly upset as my face went redder and redder and I backed him into a corner pointing my finger and going on some tirade about animal cruelty and people like him needing to get what they deserve etc..... So I am now the owner of 5 Corydoras hastatus. There were 7 when I first got them 2 days ago. The first one died within 2 hours, it was pretty much done for when I picked it up, but I just didn't have the heart to leave it with him. Even though I knew it was going to die, I wanted it to at least die in clean water. The water they were in was filthy, I don't know how they were still alive. Ammonia - .5, Nitrite - off the chart, Nitrate - off the chart, pH - so low they might as well have been swimming in vinegar (somewhere around 4.8, I checked this on 3 different test kits) and the water was at about 34 C. The second one died this morning of what I think was Septicaemia (his abdomen was bright red with this spreading out into its fins lightening to a pinky colour). 3 of the remaining 5 also have less severe cases, again of what I believe to be Septicaemia. They are quite tiny, only about 1.5 cm (although I think I read that they only reach a max of about 2.5cm) so it is quite hard to critically examine them, but they appear to have intact fins and barbells (which I am taking as a positive sign that I may still be able to save them). Will just providing them with much improved water quality fix the Septicaemia? <Yes, likely so... but do the improvement slowly... over days, weeks time> I really don't like medicating so would prefer to avoid it if at all possible, but I will if you think that will help them. <I would just improve their world> I currently have them in a 45L tank. I have tried to find information on WWM about hastatus, but there doesn't seem to be much. <Not much on the Net compared to what there is in print re Corydoras, Callichthyids> I did see one post where it was indicated that they shouldn't be kept in a tank of more then 30cm depth, but it doesn't say what size the tank should be capacity wise. Is this tank size too small for them? Too big? <Is fine> Just right? I know that many Corydoras are temperate species and don't tolerate high temperatures well. Is that the case with this species? I currently have the house air-con set at 25 C and a heater in their tank set at 24 C. Is this an appropriate temperature for this species or should they be kept in warmer water (closer to 28C)? <See Fishbase.org re... is fine as well> My next big problem with them was the pH. I know you shouldn't change pH quickly as that can put the fish into shock. But I also know that a pH of 4.8 is WAY too low. I'd be much happier seeing them at a pH of closer to 6.5-7. I adjusted the water in the tank I was putting them into to a pH of 5, slightly higher then what they were in but not too much that I would shock them (or at least that was what I was hoping). I then gradually added water to the bag over a period of 2 hours to try to semi-slowly acclimate them to the new pH. <Best to do this more slowly... through water changes, dripping in new> I took filter media from one of my mature tanks and put it in the filter on the tank I have them in only I think the drastic pH difference has probably killed the bacteria off, so I've been doing 50% pH adjusted water changes twice a day just to make sure I don't get any ammonia/nitrite/nitrate issues. The poor little things have enough to deal with without adding foul water on top of it. After 12 hours of being in the pH 5 water I slowly raised the pH through water changes to 5.2, and it is now currently sitting at 5.4 (approximately 48 hours after having put them in their new home). Am I raising this too quickly for them in their weakened state? <I'd not change more than a tenth of a point in a day> Now food. They don't seem to recognise anything as food. I don't know if this is because they haven't eaten in so long they are too far gone to save or I'm just giving them something that they are recognizing as food. I have 5 larger specie of Corydoras in one of my other tank and I feed them a mixture of frozen blood worms, a high quality sinking shrimp pellet and occasionally some chopped up frozen Mysis shrimp. Those 5 are healthy and occasionally spawn, and are constantly cruising around the bottom of the tank browsing for food. These hastatus all huddle in one corner together they don't nose around for food and nothing I've presented them with has seemed to spark their interest. Should I try some black worms? Or is there some type of food which is irresistible to Corydoras, almost guaranteed to make them eat? <Better to just wait, leave some of the prepared food in... though a few live blackworms are advised> I really want to give them the best chance I can for them to get better. Any information at all you can give me to add to what I'm already doing or for me to change anything that I might be doing wrong would be greatly appreciated by me, and I'm sure the hastatus. They really are quite fascinating little fish. It would be fantastic if I could get them rehabilitated and breeding for me. Thank you Amanda <I wish you life. Bob Fenner>

Sick Cory, env. dis. 12/9/07 Hi crew! <Becky> I am having trouble with my peppered Cory catfish, Spike, and don't know what to do. I have had him over a year, and he has always seemed to have a reddish fin. <Ahh, a sign of something incompatible with this fish and its environment... chemical, physical, social...> But recently, it has gotten bigger and the skin is falling off. I have had this happen in this area before, and have treated it with just Melafix and it has gone away, but always seems to come back. His fin has become obsolete, he can't use it. Other areas of skin on his body seem to be falling off as well. I haven't heard of or seen anything like this. <The clue that the Melafix product had an improving effect leads me to speculate that the water quality is incompatible here. Corydoras live in soft, acidic waters by and large. What is your water like?> I have tried AquariSol and adding a little extra aquarium salt to my tank, <And Callichthyids do NOT like salts in their water...> but they don't work. My other fish in the 10 gal. tank all seem to be ok, except for Spike. <What are the other fish species? This is a very useful clue... as the others likely have dissimilar water quality tolerances> I isolated him in a smaller tank (1 gal) but he acted very weird, so I moved him back into the tank. Any clue what it could be/ what treatments I should use? Thanks, Becky <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/callcatdisfaq2.htm and the linked files above. Your answers are there. Bob Fenner>
Re: Sick Cory, env. dis.. NealeM addenda to Callichthyid dis., env. 12/9/07
Hi Robert, <Neale> More a bit of information than a correction really. Where you said today that "..Callichthyids do NOT like salts in their water..." that's only true up to a point. <Oh?> It is certainly the case that Corydoras do not come from brackish water. But there are true brackish water Callichthyidae. Hoplosternum littorale actually seems to prefer brackish water, growing more slowly in freshwater than brackish. It tolerates up to 16 ppt.* Unlike Callichthyidae generally, it is absent from soft/acid waters. I only learned about this a year or so ago, so it never made it into the brackish book. Shame, because it strikes me that this hardy and very robust catfish would be a superb addition to tanks with mollies and such. <Mmm, thank you for this> Apparently also thrives perfectly well in polluted, hydrogen sulphide > rich waters where other fish show signs of ill-health. I thought I'd share though. No need to publish this or anything. I happen to revel in these exceptional members of either freshwater or marine families that "break the rules" and do precisely what you'd not expect. I felt you'd be amused, too. Cheers, Neale * See 'Biology' section here for references: http://nis.gsmfc.org/ > nis_factsheet2.php?toc_id=188 <Thanks again. Will accumulate/post. BobF>

Re: gray spots on Orange Neon Cory 12/7/07 Hi, I have yet again another problem with my Corys. <Oh?> Last week my 30 gallon female Betta/ Cory tank experienced a bout of something that was best described as Epistylis. I was in contact with Neale and with his great advice and help I think we cleared that problem up. All is well in that tank. <Good-oh.> Neale suggested as a general rule for all my tanks to do 50% WC per week, which I have started doing. I was only doing 25%. I treated the Betta/Cory tank with Jungle's Tank Buddies for Fungus and then after two treatments of the Fungus meds, added Pima Fix for the Cory with healing fins and barbels and I have noticed regrowth on both areas. Should I do more Pima Fix and for how long? Something else? <I'd keep using it until the fish are 100% healed. Pimafix is pretty mild stuff and unlikely to cause any problems.> I am also running a 55 gallon community tank with two dwarf Gouramis, two gold gouramis, 1 blue three spot and 1 Opaline Gourami, 5 Schwartzi Corys, 6 Orange Laser Corys, 7 scissor tail Rasboras, 1 pair black mollies, and a pair of orange platies. <Ok.> The tank has lots of live plants, Fluorite bottom about 3/4 deep, an HOB filter and a sponge filer rated for 40 gallons. After I removed the carbon, as suggested, I placed 3/4 cup of Zeolite in the HOB filter for ammonia and left the coarse sponge like screens in for filtration, OK? <Zeolite is almost as useless as carbon. Zeolite removers ammonia. Nothing else. That's all it does. If you have a biological filter that is working properly, the Zeolite isn't adding anything useful to your filtration system. It's just as waste of space and money. Zeolite is primarily for tanks where biological filters can't be used, e.g., soft water tanks at pH <6, or hospital tanks set up at a moment's notice.> Water parameters are temp. 80-82 degrees, Ammonia 0, nitrate 0 and nitrates 0. PH is about 7.2 before and around 7.5 right after WC. <Ooh, a little on the warm side. Aim for 25C/77F. Corydoras especially don't like overly warm water.> Here's the problem. Two of the Orange Laser Corys have what look like gray patches on their heads. The patches are not perfectly round, one has a crescent shape patch and the other's is sort of oval. Both have a lighter, as in color and thickness, patch near one gill. These appeared after the 1st 50% WC, which I am careful about as regards to matching water temps. <Water changes shouldn't cause any problems if done properly. Water temperature isn't really a factor, because Corydoras LOVE cool water splashed into their tropical tanks. It's how you get them to spawn. But you do need to check you're using a suitable dechlorinator, for example one that removes Chloramine if you live somewhere that Chloramine is used.> The patches are not like fibers, about 1/4" in diameter, though irregular. They are not moving, I'm sure not Velvet, certainly not Ich. Do I have a fungus or a bacterial infection going on? <Sounds like it. Treat with combination Finrot/Fungus since we don't know if it's a bacteria or fungus at work here.> I treated the tank with Jungle's Tank Buddies for Fungus as I did the other tank since the color of the spots appeared, initially, the same as with the other Corys in the 30 gallon tank, but the results were totally different. The Orange Corys appeared to be responding to treatment, but then the gray soft ( as in non reflective or velvety) appearance of the spots seems to dissolve, for lack of a better way to explain it, and then the spots or patches seem to be concave as if there was just a wound left underneath. BTW, I treated twice, as per directions which were four day treatments with 25% WC between applications. The spots were concave after the first treatment, but no improvement and no change in the lighter affected spots near the gills. <Hmm...> I am at a total loss as to what to do now at the end of the second treatment. I have looked everywhere for an accurate picture of the condition on the web and nothing seems to match exactly. It could be sap, it could be Columnaris, it could be?????? But, now it doesn't sound like Epistylis! <Could be Columnaris (a.k.a. "mouth fungus") but could be something else, too. Use a combination Finrot/fungus medication and chances are good it'll clear up, even if you don't know what the precise problem is.> I should mention that the tank also had something else going on in it and the Jungle Buddies fungus cure worked in conjunction with medicated food. The largest Blue 3 spot Gourami had two red spots, one near the anal fin and one on the head. Hence the medicated food and they have now healed. Bacterial infection due to poor water quality? <Most probably.> One of the Dwarf Gouramis had what looked like it might be the start of a spot near it's mouth and that has also disappeared. More like an abrasion, but never got red or raw, just scales that didn't look "right". <Quite possibly damage from fighting.> None of the Schwartzi or other Orange Laser Corys have shown any signs of the spots and all but one Orange Cory is still very active and eating. No signs of fin or barbel damage in any of them, including the two affected. <Good. Treat and wait.> I have been to three LFS and bought whatever I can lay my hands on, Help! I think I've read so much on the web and your site that I'm now paralyzed with indecision as to my next move! <Combination Finrot/Fungus medication is the way to go.> Thanks for any advice and especially this site. It is so informative and the first place I go to now when I have any questions regarding fish, aquariums, plants, you name it. It is the best out there. Polly <Glad we can help. Good luck, Neale.>

Re: gray spots on Orange Neon Cory 12/07/2007 Hi Neale, <Hello Polly,> Sorry I didn't write back immediately. I did another 50% WC, instead of the recommended 25% on the Jungle Fungus Tank Buddies and dosed the entire 50 Gal tank again. This will be the third round of meds. <Sheesh... that's a lot of medication. I'd be switching brands, if that's an option for you. I've learned the hard way that sometimes one medication works where another fails. Mostly this is with Whitespot/Ick, but perhaps worth considering here.> The spots on the two orange Corys are now whiter and a bit ragged looking. One Cory is lethargic and the other is still active an eating. None of the other Schwartzi or orange Corys are affected with any signs of this condition. <White stuff is usually dead tissue, whereas grey stuff is mucous. So given this is white stuff, I'm guessing we have necrosis going on, meaning that things are pretty bad. If this was me, I'd be thinking about saltwater dips as a supplement. These are basically baths made with aquarium water and 35 grammes of salt (any kind, really) per litre. You dip the fish for a period of time, once per day. The idea is the salty water cleans the wound and destroys the fungi/bacteria causing the problem. It can work very well, but Corydoras are not especially salt-tolerant, so you'd have to do this carefully. Perhaps dipping at first for 1 minute, and seeing how things go. If the fish is fine, try two minutes the next day. Salt-tolerant fish can stand up to 20 minutes, and this does a great job, but in this case, I'd be limiting myself to no more than 3-5 minute dips.> I didn't mean that the spots appeared after the WC and the WC was the condition was probably already working it's black magic on those two Corys and the WC was most likely a lifesaver for the others in the tank, who certainly would have become infected too had it not been for the WC. Sorry. <Agreed. Water changes normally only do good.> How many times should I stick with this med if it doesn't appear to be working? And, what antibacterial med should I use with it? Should it be after this treatment or in addition to the treatment? ( the Jungle Fungus med does state that it treats both, but I don't see any signs of improvement on the Corys. ) <Stop using one medication when you start with another, unless it *expressly* says you can use in combination with some other named medication. My gut feeling is you're going to need a Maracyn-type systemic antibiotic to fix things here. Such drugs are available over-the-counter in the US, or you can get them through a vet. Maracyn is Erythromycin, each Maracyn tablet is apparently 200 mg Erythromycin and meant to be used one tablet per 10 gallons of water. So if you can't get Maracyn itself, an appropriate concentration of Erythromycin should work just as well. I'm not a vet though! So take this suggestion for what it is, my best guess!> I just spent an hour looking at each of the fish in the 50 gal tank and noticed that one of the yellow Gouramis is not tolerating the treatment too well. She/he is hanging out at the top of the tank in the corner and not interested in food. It was active and hungry this morning. The red/blue dwarf Gourami is not looking too active either. His abrasion, or whatever it was, is healed, but now he looks like he's growing a little double chin below his mouth! Nothing is red or raw, but it is worrisome to me. <I'd stop feeding, and also do something to increase oxygen concentration. Slightly lowering the temperature will help (to 74F/23C) as will adjusting any filters or air pumps to maximise circulation of the water. Lowering the water level slightly so that the spout of water from the filter makes more splashing can help, too, by driving off CO2 and improving oxygen absorption.> The reason I had the Zeolite in the filter was that I had to remove the carbon and thought it might control any ammonia during the first two treatments. Now I realize that with the sponge filter and the plants and other items in the tank, they will take care of the ammonia problem. Is that right? Sorry to be so dense. <Yep. Healthy filter bacteria do a better job than Zeolite anyway. But if you've had a lot of Zeolite in the filter, potentially the filter bacteria will be under-developed, so do check for signs of ammonia. That'll correct itself within a few days though, because you should have at least a semi-healthy population of filter bacteria. So it's not like cycling the tank from scratch.> You asked if I was conditioning the water. Yes, I use AquaSafe, but recently read that it might acidify the water more than other products. Is that true? <No idea, and can't imagine it'd be that big of a deal.> Is there something that is better for hard well water for conditioning in your opinion? <No. It's mostly about Chloramine, which some water suppliers add to the water. A few dechlorinators don't treat it properly, and you end up with extra ammonia. I'm not aware of any specific problems with well water.> I also age the water for at least a day and have four 5 gal buckets, and 5 or 6 gallon containers set aside. <Probably redundant, but certainly not doing any harm.> I keep reading different people's methods for their WCs and wondered if it's OK to heat a bit of tap water, condition it and add it to the aged/conditioned water to heat it up? <There's nothing wrong with mixing hot/cold water right from the tap. Dechlorinators usually treat copper from the pipes. The only bad water is water from a domestic water softener. Fish don't like this stuff at all.> I had to do that this morning to do the 50% fast WC before I caught the 10 AM boat to make a doctor's appointment. Now I'm wondering if it has anything to do with the two gouramis not doing so well tonight? <Unlikely, and in any case should settle down. I once added almost ice-cold water to a tank filled with parent and baby cichlids. I was in a rush, and not thinking. The fish went crazy, rolling onto their sides as if stunned. An hour later they were fine. Fish are actually quite robust animals, and when we see problems, it's usually because the problem has beaten their immune system and blown into something serious. Provided you keep the fish healthy in the first place, they almost never get ill. Honest!> Also, really stupid question now, how is it people use Python systems straight from the tap and add the conditioner at the same time and get that right? <The basic idea is you add the dechlorinator to the tank first, and then add the water so it instantly mixes with the dechlorinator in the aquarium water. I'm old school. I use a plain vanilla hose pipe and suck the water out to start the siphon.> Is that a good practice, or are they doing it out of necessity with large tanks or multiple tanks? <Lots of people like them. I'm not one of them though. I tend to mix rainwater with tap water, or salty water with tap water, to create specific water conditions. So Pythons aren't terribly useful for me.> right now to age is impossible and I was just wondering if I could do it too without adding more problems. <Should work fine. Ageing water isn't terribly important these days, especially if you use a decent dechlorinator and have lots of circulation in the tank to mix the old and new water properly. Anything that makes water changes easier is a good thing, because you'll do more of them in less time and with less frustration.> Thanks again, and I'll keep you apprised of what happens next. PS. Angelfish still looking good, just did their weekly 50% WC tonight, bought them their own 28 gallon tank and will move them out of the 12 next week. <Very good.> Polly <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: gray spots on Orange Neon Cory 12/9/07 Neale, <Polly,> OMG, we're into metrics...I don't do metrics well, too old for the change over! lol Nearest I can figure out, with a dilution of that percentage for Corys and rounding off, would be 35 grams to 1 litre = 2 tablespoons per 1/3 US gallon H2O, would that be best? Is that right even? <Ah, metrics are actually easier for this kind of thing, because normal salinity, 35 parts-per-thousand, is identical to the concentration in weight measurements, 35 grammes per litre. As it happens, I have a little computer program designed for calculating salinities and switching between metric and US units, called "Brack Calc", which you can download and play with at the link below. By my reckoning, normal seawater salinity is about 4.7 ounces of salt per US gallon. http://homepage.mac.com/nmonks/aquaria/aqua_soft.html You'll have to experiment yourself and see how that works out in teaspoons.> Both Corys doing badly now and I fear the worst. Should I do a 50% WC on the 55 gal tank to remove the Jungle Fungus Buddies med and do the E-mycin treatment instead, or let this treatment run the remaining three days of it's course? <Change water and switch medication. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.> Isolate them and do the E-mycin in the QT tank? <Leave them be. The stress of moving them won't help.> Or, continue treating the 55 gal since there might still be something contagious there? <I'd treat the quarantine and the display tank.> I know what you said last time, and that was the entire tank at this point, so am leaning in that direction, but want to hear you say that's right. <I almost always treat tanks rather than specific fish, except for things like saltwater dips, and even then the dip is to assist the medication, not replace it.> I'm going to change the positioning of the HOB filter and sponge filter to change the direction of the water flow a bit and then add an air stone near the bottom of the tank to increase the oxygen and movement. I used to have one there before this all started to turn sour and took it out as it ticked off the dwarf red Gourami, "Il Duce", who has been using all his spare time building floating plant islands and building bubble nests, also a great pain in the butt when it came to constantly clearing the slots in the bottom of the filter uptake, but he would have his way. <Hah! We see who wears the trousers in your household...!> I tried to control this plant yanking obsession of his by taking a piece of tubing and turning it into a floating circle for him, plopping his plant material in it and floating it in one corner away from the filter, but he plays with it too much and the other gouramis like stealing his plants for their own islands. We now have three floating islands for the gouramis! Does keep the floating stuff in check, but the air stone pushes them around and they are not happy. Tough love is called for I think. lol <In the old days people use to break Styrofoam cups into segments, and Gouramis seemed to love building nests under them. They (the cup fragments) float really nicely, curve upwards, gathering plant bits underneath them. Worth a shot.> The blasted heater is hard to adjust and I am going to swap it out for a different heater and see if it can more closely control the temperature level. Why is it that you can find a heater that works perfectly, from one company, buy another of the same brand and get totally different results??? UGH! <Heaters are often annoying. I find that some designs -- those with rubber caps over the entire adjuster-end of the device -- often become stiff with age. The effect of water and/or hardness I suppose. I prefer the ones where the adjuster knob is free from the rest of the cap. In any case, one old trick is to use two under-powered heaters for a tank. That way, if one gets stuck, it isn't powerful enough to boil the fish. Conversely, if one fails completely, the other heater will keep the tank from getting dangerously cold. So if your tank needs 150 W heater, get two 75 W heaters instead.> I had lowered the water level a bit after that fast WC yesterday and figured I would leave it that way for awhile to increase some splashing, and really a good rationalization since I didn't have the time to add the remaining two or three gallons before the boat time. <Cool.> Thanks for the info on the Python and WC ideas. Indeed, not worrying about ageing the water makes life easier and better with more WCs for the fish. <Agreed. Fishkeeping should be a low-impact hobby. If you're spending more than 45-60 minutes a week on maintenance, you're doing something wrong. The whole point of the thing is to relax, watching the colourful beasts swimming about merrily (or violently, if you're keeping cichlids).> Thanks, Polly <Good luck, Neale.>

Re: gray spots on Orange Neon Cory 12/10/07 Neale, <Polly,> lost the two orange Corys in the night. <Ah, too bad.> I hadn't changed out any water or the meds as of last night and when I got up this morning and checked the big tank, found the two dead Corys and the other orange Corys were acting distressed. One was "running" up and down the side of the tank and hid if I came within sight! The others didn't flash or swim up and down, they just hid on me too. I reckoned that the meds might be stressing them. Took out 10 gallons of H2O and then added that and the water I hadn't put back in two days ago. Makes about 12-13 gallons in to dilute some of the meds. Is it possible that it took two days for the meds to distress this much? <Possible. Unlikely, but possible. Most medications are more or less toxic to fish, and we use them on the basis that *most* of the time they kill the infection before they seriously harm the fish. But some fish are peculiarly sensitive to certain medications. I've not personally experienced this with Corydoras, but it may happen with some species and some medications I've not kept/used.> I see a bit of brightness, as in orange or reddish, near the gills of one of the orange Corys, which is hard to detect with their coloring, but the others aren't showing any signs of red at all, just hiding on me in their little cave. <I REALLY need a photo to understand what's going on here. We've pretty much run through the list of common infections & their treatments.> The other fish seem to be normal, just a bit curious as to all the new water coming in and old going out, but otherwise OK. The 5 Schwartzi Corys are still oblivious to anything different happening, are acting normal and eating, nothing unusual on their bodies or in coloration. No fin or barbel loss, redness, nothing that I can see with the naked eye or the magnifying lens and flashlight. This is true of the orange Corys too. No fin or barbel loss either, no spots or patches of fungus like things. <Good.> The only thing I can imagine is that it was too much medicine going in and I should have done either a lighter dose or perhaps pulled the two affected out of the tank and waited to see what would happen???? I tried to dose with the amount of water actually in the tank rather than the tank's potential capacity. <Sometimes it is worth doing half-doses of medication. If the infection is slight, half-doses might help with reduced risk of problems. But if the infection is serious, you usually need the full dose to get the desired results.> I have to believe something else is going on in this tank and there is something I can't see, or one is a carrier of something in there with the rest. What else can it be? Could they have some little parasite that is in the gills that is undetectable? <I really don't know. Without seeing a photo of the fish in question, it's very difficult to be sure what's going on.> OR, is this a progression of a disease which is just taking out the weaker fish in sequence? <Certainly possible. This is precisely how Neon Tetra Disease works through an aquarium, knocking off a fish at a time, usually once every few weeks.> I'm totally baffled by this. The orange Corys came through the Ich outbreak without any of them catching a spot, have been looking really good until this hit all at once. Probably not all at once, you're saying, but brewing away in the depths of the tank and had I done the 50% WCs all along this wouldn't have happened. <Ick is usually a very obvious disease, and if it becomes fatal, it is obviously serious with white spots all over the fins and flanks. So we can probably discount this. Ick can make fish sensitive to secondary infections, and it is possible that this has happened here. Since "secondary infections" covers a lot of ground, it's difficult to identify the pathogen without access to a microbiology lab. Pseudomonas and Aeromonas are the two commonest bacteria, but there are many others.> Should I still try the E-mycin or just do more WC tomorrow? <I'd try the Erythromycin at this stage. Do two big water changes before though, to flush out as much old medication as possible. Maybe 50% tonight, then 50% tomorrow morning, and then dose the tank. Do take care to siphon up any detritus in the tank while you're at it. The 'cleaner' the tank, the better the antibiotic will work.> I'm starting to wonder if the Dwarf Gouramis had something up with them when we introduced them to the tank about three weeks ago. <Dwarf Gouramis are fish I would never, ever keep. They are notorious carriers of viral and bacterial infections, to which they usually succumb very quickly. Whether said infections can jump to catfish I do not know. Anything's possible I suppose, but I haven't heard this particular thing happening before.> They were Qt'ed for two and a half weeks, showed no signs of anything, but were stressing each other out so much that we finally added them to the big tank. They have been doing OK, but might have carried something in as yet undetected. <Indeed. Hard to say.> Thanks for the quick reply, once again, Polly <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: gray spots on Orange Neon Cory 12/11/07 Neale, <Polly,> I have tried all day to get a picture of the Corys, but they aren't cooperating one bit. When they do come out they are in constant motion and once the flash on the digital goes off, they go into deep hiding. <Oh.> Interesting thing is that they look and act normally, when they come out of their cave and rock hidey holes. This is only when they don't see us and they were frantic to eat when I fed the tank! Could I have cleaned the tank bottom too well? LOL Doubt it, but its not nearly as bad, which didn't appear that bad, to begin with. ( also, we've kept their end of the tank without lights for most of the day to make them more comfortable about coming out.) <No, don't worry, clean is good!> I shined the flashlight on all the oranges, when I could sneak up on them, and they all look the same color in the gill area. Think it's a trick of the light with their Neon orange coloring. Depending on how they turn, the gills look reddish or gold. Now I think I must have panicked and they don't have a gill problem. They all look exactly the same in the gills. <Good.> My mother, whose chair is right next to the tank, has been watching them closely all day and she thinks they are more out and about than yesterday, none have "run" up and down the tank side, flashed or done anything unusual except the hiding. She admitted to dropping a little food into the tank to see if they'd come out and sure enough, they rushed out from under their cave, ate and then swam right back in when they were done. The Schwartzi are not acting this way at all and they all ate together, including our large blue 3 spot Gourami who loves the algae pellet too. That didn't upset them either. <Very good. I'm glad your Mom is getting involved. The more people who recognise healthy fish/behaviour, the better. It's like having more spies! You get a heads-up on problems when someone else in the family says, "Gee, that Catfish is looking a bit odd this morning".> The Schwartzi and the oranges used to like to hang out at the end of the tank with the sponge filter and I've changed the sponge filter to the other end of the tank. It seems unlikely that that could be the problem. I haven't read that they are territorial. The Schwartzi are now more at the sponge filter end of the tank. The oranges in The Cave. <Corydoras aren't remotely territorial. They live in schools of hundreds of fish in the wild, often mixed species groups but not always. Some species won't school together, and simply ignore each other.> Still no marks or spots or growths on them and no deterioration on barbel, fins or tails. Just this weird behavior. Could they be so stressed from the loss of the two other Corys? <Stressed is perhaps not the word, but Corydoras do become more nervous/less day-active when kept in too-small a group.> There were 6 and now are four, but there are still the 5 Schwartzi Corys who they eat with during their feeding frenzy. <Ah, I'd aim for at least 6 of each, ideally more.> This brings up the question of whether they are getting a proper diet. I give them half of an algae pellet every day and every other day a few shrimp pellets. They scavenge for any leftover food from the top feeders and I have cut back some on that food as I thought we might have fed them too much. They are fed twice a day and sparingly. Could their diet be deficient? <No. It's almost impossible to starve fish because they have very, very low food requirements. Most of what we eat is effectively "wasted" on thermoregulation (I think it's 80% of the calories, but I'd have to check). Most fish do not control their body temperature this way, instead relying on the warmth of the water to keep them at the right temperature. All they need per day is enough food for movement and growth. Literally a single flake will supply this for a small, inch-long tropical fish. Anything else is a bonus. Corydoras also eat a lot of plant material in the wild, and will graze on algae and decaying plant matter.> I'm totally baffled by this turn of events, think I will not add any other meds to the tank right now and wait another day to see what happens. Is this wise or should I really do E-mycin to the entire tank without any other indications? <If we think the gills are normal, and the fish show no other symptoms, it may well be time to leave things be.> If this is just some stress related behavior I really don't want to add to it. I'm going to do another big WC tomorrow and hope that they aren't even more reclusive, but it will make the water conditions even better and I'm hopeful that it will make them more comfortable. <Water changes are good!> Will try and get some pictures, but don't know if they'll be more cooperative or not. Thanks again, Polly <Good luck, Neale.>

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