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FAQs on Freshwater Head & Lateral Line Disease, HLLE, HITH (Hole In The Head)... 2

Related Articles: Head and Lateral Line Disease (HLLE), Freshwater Diseases, FW Disease Troubleshooting, Ich/White Spot Disease, Freshwater Medications,

Related FAQs: Freshwater HLLE 1, & FAQs on FW HLLE: Causes/Etiology, Cures, Non-Cures, FW Case Histories, SW Case Histories, & Marine HLLE: HLLE 1, HLLE 2, HLLE 3, Nutritional Disease, Aquarium Maintenance, Freshwater Medications, Freshwater Infectious Disease, Freshwater Fish Parasites, Ich/White Spot Disease, African Cichlid Disease 1, Cichlid Disease,

Freshwater tropical parrotfish; HITH      9/10/17
Could you tell me of something called Hith my fish has a tiny white spot on top of its head and someone on another website says it looks like hith but I've never heard of it
<HITH is an abbreviation standing for "Hole in the Head" disease. The "holes" go into the head of the fish, as opposed to the white pimples characteristic of Whitespot (Ick) so it is generally easy enough to tell the two diseases apart. HITH is a difficult disease to treat unless you use Metronidazole, which is the best medication available for the disease. HITH may be related to a parasitic organism called Hexamita, which infects and destroys the sensory pores in the skin, but the trigger is invariably environmental stress. In the case of cichlids -- which are more prone to HITH than any other freshwater fish -- low oxygen, high nitrate, and a poor diet (no fresh greens) seem to be the "holy trinity" of causal factors.
Prevention is better than cure, but in its early stages, HITH can be treated with Metronidazole, as mentioned earlier. Follow the instructions carefully, including removing carbon from the filter during medication.
Cheers, Neale.>

Oscars and Hexamita      1/31/17
Hello, i have had so much of a problem with Oscars and i hear they are supposedly hearty fish.
<Sort of. While they're big, they're also notoriously sensitive to water quality. This is true for most big cichlids. Virtually all problems with Oscars come down to poor environment or poor diet. Often a combination of both.>
I used to have 2, 3 inch Oscars one was a black and red tiger Oscar and the other is an albino.
<Used to have...? What happened to them...?>
I have/had them in a large hexagonal tank, when i got the tank i didn't know how many gallons it was cause it was donated to me. So, i took measurements of it and found out its a 20 gallon even though it looks bigger than just 20 gallons.
<Regardless of appearances, 20 gallons is MUCH TOO SMALL even for three inch long Oscars. Once they get past the "fry" stage, Oscars are jumbo fish. I'd be looking at 55 gallons, minimum, for juvenile Oscars; adults
should be provided with at least twice that.>
Last spring i got the Oscars to fill the tank and i love them very much except a couple weeks after i got the Oscars the tiger Oscar (his name was Julius Caesar) developed Hexamita on his left gill that just kept going and going until it ate down his lateral line and completely through his tail.
<Absolutely typical reaction to poor environment. Now, the thing here is that while everyone focuses on ammonia and nitrite (with an "i"), with cichlids, nitrate (with an "a") is the silent killer. Cichlids are extremely sensitive to nitrate. Because Oscars are big, greedy feeders the nitrate level in their tanks can go up very quickly. Anything above 20 mg/l
is stressful, and anything above 40 mg/l will make them sick. A big tank dilutes nitrate, while substantial weekly water changes removes nitrate.>
It infested his jaw so bad that when he died he didn't have a lower jaw left, i felt so bad for that fish. When i went to my very informed fish store owner who has had and sold fish for more than 20 years he recommended to me that i use Metronidazole, it was MetroPlex by SeaChem. a little bit in a bottle for 16 crappy dollars that didn't do anything to help my poor Julius.
<Metronidazole is the correct medication. However, it will not do anything if the environment is wrong
. It's kind of like trying to treat someone for burns without pulling him out of the fire.>
I treated that fish just about the entire time i had him. Up until about two weeks before he died (this went on for 6 months) he had a healthy appetite, had bright colors, wasn't swimming around erratically and bumping into the tank out side of the regular symptom of Hexamita where they will swim backwards or lay on their side and he would only use the one effected gill sometimes.
Some days id wake up and look at him and he wouldn't use it at all and then the next day he would be using it again. I did regular water changes and gravel vacs i tried MelaFix and PimaFix both were completely useless
<In this situation, yes, useless.>
but i ended up using all of it anyway because it seemed to help with their gill flapping a little bit , the store owner recommended to me that i separate the fish because they would contaminate each other, and i used the MetroPlex and Metronidazole treated food except none of it made the one Oscar better. I didn't have the space to separate them so i just kept them together instead of getting rid of the other one because i figured treating them both would help keep the other from getting infected also (i am too attached to these fish) but the albino Oscar never showed any symptoms or
had any problems.
<Oscars are inbred now, and there is variation among strains, some being tougher than others. Luck comes into play too, and being territorial, non-sociable fish, dominant fish will stress other fish kept with them, weakening their immune systems. So one fish getting sick while another stays healthy isn't unusual.>
He wasn't getting the hex his fins were nice he is bright and active all the time never had any Finrot or PopEye or constipation always has a good appetite. Except now he has been alone in the hexagon tank since September
2016 and its now January. I stopped the treatment of Julius two weeks before he died because he stopped eating completely the medicine wasn't helping and i didn't have the stomach to euthanize him myself, i cant handle killing with my own hand.
The week he died i was sick home from school and i remember watching him lay on the bottom and his gills just stopped flapping so i took him outside a buried him with a little gravestone and a small tree.
<Oh dear.>
However now the last day of January 2017 i noticed the albino Oscar has similar Hexamita pits by his but hole on his side and some very small holes on his head, they look different like somebody took a pencil and poked holes clean through my Oscars head, they aren't sores they're holes. He still has a good appetite. And looks/acts well, i removed the common Pleco and all the tank decor a week ago because i though they might be the source of my Oscars wounds, but the wounds haven't gotten better only bigger.
<You should not be keeping Oscars and Plecs together, certainly not in such a small tank. Plecs add substantially to water quality problems, and in some cases they will scrape at the mucous from large cichlids, causing physical damage and stressing the fish.>
Iv been doing small gravel vacs and water changes every couple of days. Not a 30% change but just a jug that i had it take about 5% of the water out and i just fill that with whatever i can get from the gravel every day or two.i feed my Oscars what ever fish food i have, i don't have a scheduled and marked calendar diet for them but they get a variety of food that being frozen brine shrimp, baby brine shrimp, live brine shrimp, krill, very little bloodworms, Hikari cichlid gold pellets, metro soaked pellets, wax worms, crickets, and sometimes flake food, and peas once in a while, I gave them
some cooked tilapia once too but it was a long time ago and im going out today to get him some live black worms and some ghost shrimp. I use test strips to test the water, ammonia and nitrites are always at 0 ph is 7, the water that runs from my tap is hard water but it has no chlorine.
<The fundamentals of the way you're keeping this fish are right, but I fear tank size is the killer here.>
The water is a little more alkaline than it is acidic, its was at 7.6 that last time i tested except i lost my job and have no more test strips so i have no idea where its as of this very moment The nitrates fluctuate a lot sometimes i find they are really high(which i then do a larger water change) and sometimes i find they'll be really low.
<See above why this matters.>
To put it at an average id say about 25-30 ppm. I have a 40 gal filter on it that has carbon filter pads in it (i would remove the carbon when treating my Oscars) and a light, i live in a very warm room and between the light and my room warmth with the sun by my window anytime i put my fingers in the tank the water is comfortably warm.
<Oscars are tropical fish, and exposure to low temperatures is quickly lethal. Anything below 22 C/72 F should be treated as dangerously low.>
I have an air stone that i rotate between my 5 gal my 10 gal my 2, 20 gals and a 75 gal that houses two very large jack Dempseys i have had fish for 4 years now and all of my tanks are established through the filter cycle.
Please help the fish store owner got stumped and told me i should euthanize Julius before he died and now my last Oscar is starting to get sick and i don't know what to do cause iv started using the metro soaked food and the sores on my albino are only getting bigger with every dose just like Julius had and i don't want to lose my Oscar. He is the light of my bedroom i fall asleep every night watching him swim.
<The 75 gallon tank is where the Oscars need to be!>
Could it be something wrong with the tank?
<Yes; it's too small.>
Is it possible Hexamita can be a genetic thing?
<Nope. Nitrate above 20 mg/l is a problem, and unless you're doing daily water changes, it's unlikely you can keep nitrate that low with one or two Oscar juveniles in a 20 gallon tank. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Oscars and Hexamita      2/3/17

Thank you Neale for your advice.
Ill put the Oscar in with the jack Dempseys and see how they get along
<Wouldn't hold out much hope here. Adult JDs can/will pulverise juvenile Oscars if they feel their territory is being encroached. Oscars are not really "fighters" outside of breeding, whereas JDs can be extremely territorial. Not always, but often. I'd be watching these fish very carefully. I'd remove the JDs first, rearrange the tank so territories are
broken up, add the Oscars, turn the lights out, leave it like that for half an hour at least, then re-introduce the JDs. Standard operating practise with territorial cichlids, really.>
and if they don't like each other ill get him a bigger tank
<Do suspect this is on the cards; I'd start looking now! Cheers, Neale.>

Uaru Hexamita       4/26/16
Hello. I am Svetlana. I have 3 Uaru 3”. I got them in January from local pet store. They was in the store for 2 month and was eating everything they would give them. I place them in my 55 gl with 2 butterflies and 3 clown loaches ( I will buy a big tank later). I take water to pet store to check, they told me everything is good, pH 6.5,
<What is the water hardness here?>
temperature 82F. They stop eating and got white stringy pop after 2 weeks I had them. I treat whole tank with Seachem Metroplex. They got better and was eating after dosing for 5 times every 2nd day.
<I'd stop... Metronidazole is too nephrotoxic...>

2-3 weeks later same problem ( not eating, white pop). I treat them in hospital tank 10 gl with 7 doses of metro aging. they did get better and were eating, but 2 weeks later same problem. Please l have a couple questions:
1.I think it is Hex and only treatment is metro??
<Is the best>
2. I am dosing them in 10 gl tank for a 5 days now without any improvement yet… they have not being eating for around 10 days now.
<Stop; the problem is something else>
They are in the 10 gal tank and I dose them with Seachem Metroplex 3 times now accordingly instructions. please let me know if I should increase the dose? or any other meds i should be using?
<I'd try an Anthelminthic... Praziquantel... see WWM re>

Please help, Svetlana
<Trying. Bob Fenner>
Juvenile Uarus hex?       4/26/16

On the pictures one fish has long white-clear long string (pop?).
<Appears to be... Need to sample and look under a microscope... for encapsulated eggs, or? BobF>
The other two do not pass any poo last 2 days...
I soaked mini blood worms in metro and garlic and refroze it. I know they should eat veggies but it is only one of them would have interest in. But spit it out and nothing is eaten....I even bought and put plants for them (they was destroying them before), no interest .... Thanks, sorry for long emails.
Re: Juvenile Uarus hex?      4/27/16

Hello Bob, I will try to find somebody to do the test with microscope.
Should I continue with Metro for now??
<See our first email: No; kills fish kidneys w/ too much exposure>
Do you think the salt in small amount would help?
<Perhaps Epsom; as gone over on WWM.>
higher temperature ( 85F now)??
<IF you can keep up dissolved oxygen. B>
Re: Uaru Hexamita        4/30/16

Hello Bob thank you for reply. I did PraziPro for 5 days prior the last treatment of metro and was no change. In the store they told me that I can use PraziPro with metro together.
<Yes; this is so>
I did not remove PraziPro from the water and started metro on april21 daily. Hardness was 9 last time I checked but I will go to pet store again and send you the correct reading of everything. Due to metro treatment I have no chemical filtration and I go 30%water change with bottom clean up daily using 1day aged conditioned water.
<Very good>
I redose the mess for new changed water amount. The tank is not cycled.
<Yikes; bad>
I do have established 55 gl tank with clear water, can I use that?
I live in small town and may be our water is not good?
<Can't say from here>
I can bring water from different city (it is what I did 2 years ago for 5 years) ?? I can even get osmotic water if you think it would help?
<Ask at your "water district"... the contact info. should be on your water/utility bill; for water quality analysis>
Any of your advise would be very helpful to me. Thank you, will send you a picture of them��
<Please do. Bob Fenner>

Sick 7 yr. Tiger Oscar, HITH       4/7/16
My 12 in. 7 yr. Old Tiger Oscar lives in 75 gal tank with 2 306 Fluval canister filter a 400 mainland hob. He developed hth. from over feeding !
<Hole-in-the-Head? Rest assured that this is treatable, though you do need very specific medications, and need to medicate promptly.>
I treated with MelaFix and then Ali general cure as directed.
<Both useless for this. Hole-in-the-Head is partly related to diet, partly to water quality, and partly to a parasitic protozoan called Hexamita.
Which is the most important of these remains a matter of debate! But you need to consider, and tackle, all three.
First, diet. Stop feeding if water quality isn't good. When you do start feeding again, you need to ensure plenty of fresh greens. Oscars are often overfed junk food, most dangerously of all, goldfish and other live foods. When hungry, they will eat plant foods, and these provide essential vitamins. Grapes, melon and other soft fruit are all worth a shot. Cooked peas are generally taken without fuss. Feel free to starve an adult for a week or more to get them
interested! Secondly, check water quality. Ammonia and nitrite MUST be zero, and don't feed if they're not. But crucially, nitrate must be low as well, 20 mg/l is the upper limit for good health; even 40 mg/l is stressful in the long term. So, a spacious tank, minimal food given to the fish, and lots of water changes are usually the key to success when it comes to nitrate. Finally, medication. For Hexamita, you need Metronidazole. Often used alongside an antibiotic, but Metronidazole is the silver bullet here.
Nothing else works. Be sure to remove carbon, if used, from the filter during medication.>
Every spot cleared except 2 holes near his eye that still look pink. He won't eat his works or any thing ! Does he need antibiotics ? Please help .
I'm disabled he's my therapy pet and friend .
<Well, I hope all of the above helps get him back into shape! Good luck,

Geophagus With Lateral Line Erosion...(all my fault)      4/11/15
Dear Wet Web Media Crew,
The past month was very hectic for me...traveling around the country to visit grad schools, working on research, lots of presentations to do...as a result, I STUPIDLY did not do a water change for four weeks...
<Uh-oh... To be fair, some fish handle high nitrates ("old water") rather well, and these were the popular ones through the 60s and 70s. Non-fancy Guppies, many of the hardy characins, Corydoras, etc. Provided the tank is
otherwise well-maintained with plenty of plant growth (even algae) to extract at least some nitrate, these fish don't seem too bothered even by 100 mg/l nitrate levels. However, as you correctly surmise, cichlids are not among this group! They are notoriously sensitive, jumbo cichlids, Tanganyikan cichlids and dwarf cichlids especially.>
I finally had a break in the schedule and decided to do a 50% water change (I did not do more than that because from experience suddenly doing a 90% water change after none for a while kills fish) and noticed that my Geophagus has lost skin in three small patches of his lateral line. It is not white, pus-filled...just skin missing. I know this species is sensitive to nitrate but he was perfectly healthy and growing larger until now, leaving the tank without a water change for so long. I did the 50% change and added 1.5x the usual SeaChem Prime amount.
Is it possible for the erosion to go away if I return to my weekly water change schedule and bring the nitrates back down?
<Probably not.>
I know there are antiparasite medications for HLLE but I want to avoid using them if I can, given that the disease is mostly environmental.
<Yes, the environment triggers the outbreak, and yes, there is some evidence of a link between HLLE and the Hexamita parasite that is very possibly latent in all farmed cichlids. But once "the cat's out of the bag", cichlids don't seem to (usually) recover under their own steam. You need to push back the Hexamita or whatever bacteria are infecting the pores, and that, in time, allows the skin tissue to heal again. In short: the Metronidazole and Nitrofuran antibiotic combination does seem optimal, though eSHa at least manufacturer an all-in-one product called eSHa
HEXAMITA that supposedly treats mild cases of HLLE and HITH reasonably well despite lacking both these ingredients.>
Thank you,
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: Geophagus With Lateral Line Erosion...(all my fault)      4/11/15

Will these products destroy my bio filter? Because to be honest I am afraid I don't really have time to set up a hospital aquarium and monitor it a lot...I am running up the deadline to my senior thesis right now.
<Used as directed they should be safe. If in doubt, reduce/stop feeding, and use Zeolite in the filter (changed every few days) as a chemical adsorbent of ammonia. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Geophagus With Lateral Line Erosion...(all my fault)      4/11/15

My hospital tank is much smaller and uses Zeolite, so I need to monitor it very closely when using it to know how often I need to replace the Zeolite.
<You can't predict this. That's why you test, daily, with ammonia detector.
Assume replacement every couple days, but really, depends on the size of the fish, how frequently you do water changes, how often you feed the fish, etc...>
I can definitely treat the Geophagus in the main tank.
<Often sensible.>
Out of curiosity I found an "electric blue" blue Acara, but it was sick. If I find a healthy one, I am going to probably replace the Geophagus with it.
How sensitive are Acara to nitrate?
<Fairly sensitive. Skip water changes for a couple weeks, and you'll know about it.>
From my experience Severums can tolerate a month without water changes ( I kept them when the tank was solely cleaned by the monthly service) but I don't know about Acara.
<Indeed. A good rule of thumb is that "old school" fish were often fairly tolerant: Port Acara, Severums, Jewel Cichlids, even Angels to some degree.
But all cichlids are more sensitive to nitrate than tetras, barbs or catfish, and I wouldn't recommend any of them for "near-zero maintenance" systems.>
I am not saying I plan on only doing water changes once a month, but as I said before I am leaving to grad school this fall and I want something that won't die if my family end up not changing the water for a couple of weeks...I know cichlids aren't as hardy as Cypriniiform fish but there aren't many of those with bright blues and greens.
<Understood. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Geophagus With Lateral Line Erosion...(all my fault)     4/12/15

I bought the medications you recommended but their instructions conflict.
Metronidazole bottle says I need to change the water every 24 hours.
Nitrofurazone says every 48 hours. Which one should I follow? I did another 50% change today. Nitrate was 5-20ppm this morning before that so it shouldn't be too high now.
<I would go along with what the Metronidazole says. It's the most important, and in any event, medications get metabolised in the aquarium pretty quickly, so I doubt much is left behind beyond 24 hours. But I'll leave the last word to Bob Fenner; he's got more experience of this/these medications than I do. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Geophagus With Lateral Line Erosion...(all my fault) RMF, second opinion!!      4/19/15

Dear Wet Web Media Crew,
So I have given the Geophagus four doses of the Metronidazole and two doses of the Nitrofurazone. I gave the latter in half doses as I didn't want to stress the bio filter too much. I ran out of the pure Metronidazole but I have API general cute, which has both Metronidazole and Praziquantel. Could I use it until I get more pure stuff, or is the unneeded Praziquantel too risky?
<Should be fine.>
I am curious: would it make the Metronidazole more effective if I gave it as medicated food? I have been using it as a bath.
<It's much, MUCH better as food... gets inside the fish more quickly.>
As for the Geophagus, the erosion is gone on his left side, but is still holding steady on his right side. To be honest I don't think it is Hexamita as the other usual symptoms (head erosion, stringy feces, pus etc) are not present. If it isn't then perhaps the antibiotic is more important and should be stepped up?...
<Metronidazole is an antibiotic, so should help in this direction too.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Geophagus With Lateral Line Erosion...(all my fault) RMF, second opinion!!       4/30/15

Dear Wet Web Media,
I am happy to report that the right side lateral line erosion in my Geophagus is healing over.
I've finished the recommended dosages of Nitrofurazone and Metronidazole. I was wondering how long you think I should keep medicating him.
<One round may be sufficient if the fish is improving, PROVIDED water quality and diet are excellent. I'd certainly wait a week or so before considering a second round of treatment, with a couple decent water changes thrown in to dilute any remaining medicine.>

Do you recommend any places online for buying medicine for fish?
<Can't help you here. In the UK these med.s. are strictly prescription only. Indeed, buying from a vet may be cheaper if the vet can prescribe a larger quantity at once go than you'd get from a pet shop. Otherwise online purchases may be helpful, but you never really know what you're getting from eBay and the like.>
Because buying it from my LFS has been very expensive. Just out of curiosity, in reading about lateral line erosion in cichlids, I've heard some people claim carbon in the filter can cause it, as well as poor diet.
I'm skeptical about the former, but the latter seems it could have some validity.
<Absolutely. The carbon thing has been around for years and seems to lack any science behind it. But diet is surely crucial. Many cichlids are strongly herbivorous in the wild, but we often don't give them much by way of fresh greens.>

Then again, I think most of the dietary claims were addressed towards people who feed their cichlids things they shouldn't like beef hearts and goldfish?
<Indeed. What we're talking about is giving cichlids a safe (i.e., parasite-free) diet that's varied (i.e., includes plant as well as animal foods).>
Just for future reference what are the tolerable nitrate levels for cichlids like Geophagus and blue Acara? I know in general <20ppm is a good idea but is that still too high?
<It's fine.>
Thank you,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Geophagus With Lateral Line Erosion...(all my fault) RMF, second opinion!!       5/30/15
Dear Wet Web Media Crew,
It's been about a month and I can't really tell if the Geophagus' lateral line is getting better anymore or not. Do you have any idea how long it generally takes to go away?
<A long time.
You should quickly see any loose material fall away and the holes obviously not getting any bigger (or any new holes appearing). But the pits themselves, once formed, take a long while to heal. Quite possibly months, and the fish may well never completely heal, with obvious scars remaining.>
It's restricted to a patch on his right side, and it's sort of just...there. I've gone back to my weekly 50% water changes.
<Do bear in mind that HITH/HLLE are strongly affected by diet and environment. Optimise both.>
I will say that I had to fast the fish for three days after one of my giant Danios ate way too much...they've learned to eat from the bottom now, and they're so much faster than the other fish. I've been able to get enough food to the other fish, but it's been difficult to prevent the Danios from eating too much for their stomach-less bodies. Could the fast have made the Geophagus' condition worse?
I know you said many cichlids are mostly herbivorous, but I think Geophagus mostly eat invertebrates.
<More specifically, they sift the sediment for insect larvae and organic detritus. They will be consuming a lot of algae in the process. Apart from the dedicated piscivores, pretty much all cichlids consume some combination of insects, algae and detritus.>
How often should they be given fresh greens?
<As often as they'll take them; certainly weekly.>
He'll eat carrots, and peas, but tougher things like leafy vegetables and cucumbers don't interest him at all.
<Indeed. He's not a specialist herbivore like a Severum, but anything soft and mushy is fair game.>
Thank you,
<You're welcome.>
P.S. I recently saw a really horrifying video of someone feeding their girlfriend's Finrot-infected Betta to their Oscar to put it out of its misery (or more likely, transfer its misery to the Oscar). Worst of all, someone I respected defended it with the standard "it happens in nature" response...kudos to you guys for standing up to this nonsense. (I once kept a pair of venustus whose favorite food was seaweed; this idea that predatory cichlids only eat live fish is complete nonsense.)
<Quite so. Back in the early 80s when I started keeping fish, I came across a pet shop with half a Goldfish (the front half) swill alive, gills and mouth moving as it breathed, but obviously unable to swim because it had lost its back half. They'd been feeding Goldfish to Oscars. This memory has stayed with me, not just for its inhumanity, but also because it's unnecessary. Thankfully, the "feeder fish" thing is virtually non-existent in the UK hobby, but it carries on in the US for some reason, despite the wealth of aquarium talent there. That's why I keep stressing the "no feeders" message on WWM, in the hope that I'll help to change that. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Geophagus With Lateral Line Erosion...(all my fault) RMF, second opinion!!      6/2/15

Dear Wet Web Media Crew,
I found some frozen algae, is it possible I could use this as part of the Geophagus' vegetable matter?
<Yes; worth trying... as is "Mud" filtration media... biological catalysts... see WWM re. Most celebrated for marine use, but does have discernible beneficial effects in freshwater systems>
The issue is that, like I've mentioned before, I've been hoping to replace the Geophagus with less delicate fish species before I go off to grad school. However, I am worried that, if it will take months for him to heal,
<Likely so>
then his wounds will just get reinfected from the stress of moving him.
I'm not quite sure what to do in this situation...I'm worried my parents won't always adhere to the maintenance he requires...I suppose I could add the other species now and then get my parents to remove him soon after I leave...
<Perhaps gifting to some one, place where the fish will get good care>
As far as what fish species would be best, I'm looking for something brightly colored, blue, red, green, yellow, etc. that isn't particularly aggressive, but not delicate either.
I know rainbowfish could possibly work, but how delicate are they exactly?
<Most very hardy... JUST read on WWM Re>
From my experience when I only had monthly service, and what I've read about them, they seem particularly prone to columnaris threading up their mouths and gills when the water quality isn't good enough.
Gouramis are nice, and I've tried keeping them with the silver dollars before, but they seem vulnerable in their pectoral fin threads. I'm concerned they'll get nipped.
I've seen you recommend platies as a good colorful but hardy fish, and my water is moderately hard so I think they'll like it, but what concerns me is that they're too small. From my experience, even though the silver dollars don't try to eat them, very small fish are stressed out by their presence.
Thank you,
(For the record, it was mentioned many months ago, but my water parameters are pH 7.9, GH of 11 degrees, and KH of 5 degrees. Could this be stressing out the Geophagus?
<Would be better if the pH and hardness were a bit lower...>
I doubt it is a large contributor given I've seen other people keeping very large, healthy Geos in Houston's alkaline tap water)
<Yes. Bob Fenner>

Re: Geophagus With Lateral Line Erosion...(all my fault) RMF, second opinion!!       5/3/15
Dear Wet Web Media Crew,
I think I have found why the Geo has been slow in recovering. Apparently my nitrate spiked up to 40-80 ppm all of a sudden, despite the water changes, and I think I know why.
<Yeeikes! Have you read on WWM re controlling NO3 yet?>
After I spilled juice from frozen fish food
and angered some of my family members, I've not been melting the food before putting it in the tank.
<You haven't been reading... all such foods should be rinsed ahead of placing>
I think the juice has been overwhelming me with nitrates.
<Ah yes; a good source>
When I let the frozen food thaw first, and did not let the juice get in the tank, my nitrates were under 20 ppm if I did weekly water changes. I knew the juice would raise nitrates, but I did not realize it would produce that much. I did a 60% water change after getting these readings...I'm sort of freaking out right now.
The reason is, I think that the Geo has become bloated, and I'm not sure if it's dropsy or what. I attached a couple of pictures. Should I go back to the antibiotics again?
<I would not>

His lateral line issues haven't gotten worse and seem to be healing still, but now I'm worried he's got a new problem...
I'm sorry if I seem like a complete wreck. Some of my family members do not appreciate my hobby, and so there are some things I just can't get help with.
<Fix the environment.
.. BobF>

Re: Geophagus With Lateral Line Erosion...(all my fault) RMF, second opinion!!      6/21/15
Dear Wet Web Media Crew,
After a combination of lots of water changes, cleaning the gravel/under gravel filter, and reducing the amount of high-protein food I have gotten the nitrates to 0-5ppm.
I also have been feeding the Geophagus cooked peas, carrots, and whole corn seeds, and well as New Life Spectrum cichlids pellets and Hikari Algae Wafers.
With the improvements in diet & environment the bloating is gone.

Perhaps I should have been clear when I said I spilled the juice...I didn't spill it in the tank, but on the floor, and it was bloodworm blood...
I started feeding whole frozen food after that incident for fear of messing up my parents' house. Before that I was able to keep nitrates under 20 ppm for a few months with weekly water changes, but skipping them for a month and then feeding frozen incorrectly messed up my streak.
After reading I know now I will go back to thawing the food off first and draining the juice off. If that isn't enough I will buy a brine shrimp net as advised and rinse them out outside.
Thank you,
<Thank you for this update. Bob Fenner>
Re: Geophagus With Lateral Line Erosion...(all my fault) RMF, second opinion!! /Neale      6/21/15

Dear Wet Web Media Crew,
I am sorry for this whole debacle. I had read that Geophagus "surinamensis" was nitrate sensitive before buying him, but I had also read that about most other cichlids, some of whom I had kept in the past and didn't find more delicate than other freshwater fish, so I thought this wouldn't be really that much of a problem.
<Indeed. Cichlids as a group are more sensitive to nitrate than, say, characins. But within the cichlids there is variation, and many of the farmed cichlids, particularly Angelfish, are tougher than their ancestors.
On the other hand, there are some cichlids that seem to retain a high degree of sensitivity to old water, and that's what we're talking about rather than nitrate per se. Infrequent water changes, overfeeding/inappropriate feeding, insufficient oxygenation, and excessively high temperatures seem to be the combination of factors that wear down the immune systems of many cichlid species. Nitrate is a good shorthand indicator of when these factors are at play, but I've seen perfectly healthy cichlids in high nitrate tanks were environmental conditions and diet were otherwise excellent, for example, through the cultivation of fast-growing floating plants in an understocked, over-filtered aquarium or tropical pond.>
However he has proven to be far more touchy than literally anything I've kept so far---this is the first time where just a month without water changes made a fish sick almost immediately. I guess I had taken on more than I expected.
<This is a common experience with Geophagines (and dwarf cichlids too). Success with Angels and Kribs doesn't predict success with the touchier cichlids.>
I will keep the nitrates low and feed him what I've been feeding him until his lateral line heals...then I will try to find somebody else better equipped for him.
I was also going to follow through on my rainbowfish idea as a "replacement" for the Geo (at least in terms of blue & red colors). I have a 12g quarantine tank and zeolite, so I think I could get them clear of diseases before I put them in the main tank.
What worries me is that both the Geo and my clown loach chase after the silver dollars during feeding. The dollars are faster than they are and aren't hurt by it, but I am concerned rainbowfish might not be able to take it. What is the risk?
<Agreed with you, this sounds inappropriate. A school of (large species) Rainbowfish adults might be okay in a rough-and-tumble community, but they're far less of a certainty than Silver Dollars and Spanner Barbs, the two "go-to" species for such set-ups. Spanner Barbs in particular are extremely hardy fish, and back in the 60s and 70s they were practically ubiquitous choices for such tanks.>
I know clown loaches are more docile in groups, but I don't think I'd be able to keep a whole group in this tank for long. I could possibly get a couple more at some point, but only depending on how fast they grow.
<Indeed. Clowns have a tendency to go nuts when kept singly. Most become reclusive, but some try to school with other fish, perhaps harassing them in the process. Again, recalling the 70s, it was common for people to report their single Clown school with Tiger Barbs!>
I looked into the mud and algae filtration systems, but I'm not really sure if I can set up something like that at this point.
<A simpler choice might be a sump, which you can illuminate with fluorescent tubes and stock with floating plants and fully expect an improvement in water quality. Or for that matter, throw some floating Indian Fern into your tank. These plants are AMAZING at keeping water quality good. They grow rapidly, turning fish waste into plant material you can physically remove (and share with other aquarists!). Of course this wonderful plant is also a source of green food for herbivorous fish, which love to eat it, so it's a win/win. Keeps the water clean, provides essential vitamins, useful shade, and a holiday food when you're gone a couple weeks! Do read:
Bob's as much a fan as I am, and truly, this cheap plant is one of the best investments for any freshwater aquarist.>
To be honest I'm not sure it's worth it, given that I could just keep nitrates down with water changes/less proteinaceous foods (most of my fish are big vegetable eaters anyway). My aquarium light rests on a piece of glass above the tank, and algae grows very much on the underside of the glass...
<Do remove the glass if you add floating plants.>
Is it possible leaving the light on longer could help?
<Theoretically, yes; but in practise extending the lights-on time tends to cause problems with undesirable algae (blue-green for example) and annoys those fish that dislike bright light (catfish, loaches, etc.).>
Even diatoms remove nitrate, right?
<Marginally, yes. But nothing like as effectively as higher plants such as floating Indian Fern. If you aren't removing handfuls per week, then it's not doing anything useful. Algae scrubbers rely on massive growth rates under intense lighting. They're not simply letting algae grow somewhere!>
Thank you for everything,
<Welcome. Neale.>

Green Severum with white pimples all over he's head 7/26/11
Green Severum With HITH

Dear crew, I have two large green Severums in my 3 meter tank. They occupy the tank with ten little Frontosas and a few small Malawi cichlids. The Severums have been breeding prolifically, but about two weeks I noticed the couple were having a bit of a squabble that resulted in the male getting a few little bites ( I think). Now two weeks later the male has white pimples all over he's head. I've attached a few photos. I really hope this is not the dreaded HITH disease. If so I've been advised to use a remedy called Octozin ( not sure about the spelling). So my questions
1. Is this in fact hole in the head?
< Sure looks like it. But you mentioned damage from bites. The bites may be infected causing the appearance of HITH.
2. Is the prescription of Octozin the right medication?
< Don't know. I am not familiar with this medication and couldn't find it on the internet to see what the ingredients are. Look for medications with Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace in it.>
3 I am hoping to get to red spotted Severums this afternoon.....is it ok for me to add them to my current setup given the problems with the male.?
< I would not add additional fish until the problems with the current fish are resolved. Chuck.>
Hoping you can help Mohammed Parker
Re: Green Severum with white pimples all over he's head 8/3/11
Severum with HITH II

Hi Chuck, Thanks a million for your response....I isolated the little man, medicated him and the whitish pimples went away leaving small little holes in he's head . It now seems he's one eye is swollen....Eeek is
that as a result of the medication or ???? What now :(
< Your fish is not out of the woods yet. The holes need to heal and close up. The swollen eye is a parasite behind the eye pushing the eye out of the socket. Check the nitrates and get them under 10 ppm. Treat with a combination of Metronidazole and Furan-2. It may take awhile to see some results but you have caught it early and that is important for a full recovery.-Chuck.>

Requesting information on Flower Horn disease
Flowerhorn with HITH Disease 12/9/10

Hello, My flower horn developed medium-size blisters (around 1/4 of an inch) on its head that eventually popped and they now look red as the skin is gone and they are raw (it turned into a big open, raw patch as the blisters exploded). This is the second time it happened. I apparently cured her the first time but he got it for the second time, one after the other, only 2 days apart. Just after I put the carbon in and it looked like the situation was normal, the blistered came back, exactly in the same area as before which is on the
fish's head. She is a female and almost 7 years old, the only fish in a 55 gallon tank running on two Emperor 400 by Marineland, pads and carbon are changed on a regular basis, one filter at a time so that the biological filtration is not affected. I changed the water in large doses (before and after and between
doses) and added cichlids salt and regular salt (the type intended for fish). She was never fed feeders, only pellets, shrimp and bloodworms. She was never overfed or underfed. The fish was treated with E.M. Erythromycin.
While being medicated, I used an Aqua Clear filter 500, the largest one from the manufacturer and two
large air stones. I did that in order not to infect the emperor filters and I used a 30 gallon tank as a quarantine setup. She is still in the quarantine tank as of now. What would be the next step?
Thank you in advance for all your help. Best regards.
< Your Flowerhorn has a case of Hole In The Head (HITH) disease. It generally affects New World cichlids. The cause is unknown at this time. It may be related to stress, diet or environmental factors. For now I would recommend checking the water chemistry. The nitrates should be under 20 ppm but the lower the better. I would change brand of pellets to see if that made a difference. I would skip the bloodworms for now. Try treating with a medicated food with Metronidazole in it. The open wounds can be treated with Furan-2.-Chuck>

Geriatric Severum with HITH
Severum With HITH Disease 10/14/10

I am writing because I have never seen a worse case of Hole-in-the-Head in person and because I am not sure how the advanced age of the fish will/should effect treatment decisions.
I have recently adopted a 14 year old male Severum. It is a magnificent old fish, 8-9 inches long and friendly. Unfortunately it also came a terrible case of case of HITH. It appears to act normally, however its head and jaws are covered with shallow pits and what I thought were two white stripes down its sides are actually a series of small pits. Its previous home (with a loach) was a 29-gallon tank covered with hair algae and cleaned monthly. I brought it home to a 40-gallon tank with live plants. I don't have room for
anything larger between my 120's, but I have very good, neutral well water and do a 50% change whenever the nitrates reach 10ppm. Ammonia and nitrites are currently zero. I am offering the fish New Life Spectrum as well as homemade gel food, and considering a course of Metronidazole once I see it beginning to eat more- but I don't know how much time I have, how fast the disease progresses, how age will affect the dosage, or how many years this fish has left. I am growing attached to this old fish already and want to know what I can do to ensure its recovery. Thank you for your time and any advice! Thanks
for keeping up this site too.
< Keep the nitrates under 10 ppm. Look for a medicated food with Metronidazole in it. Feed this in addition to the New Life food. HITH may be related to a calcium deficiency since fish that live in soft water tend to get it more than other cichlids. Your fish is old and will take some time to get better. progress may be slow so be patient.-Chuck>

Red Devil Cichlid, HLLE 7/25/10
Hello there. Thanks for the help you guys have given me before, and thanks for all the help you give everyone on a daily basis. What you have going on is a great service to the aquarium hobby. I have had a red devil cichlid for about 7 years now, and he is about 11 inches. I am embarrassed to admit it, but up until a year and a half ago, he had been seriously neglected and in a 29 gallon tank. Because of this, he started to get HITH. As soon as I noticed this, I did everything I could to stop the damage (including Metro+)
<Not helpful in cases caused by poor environment>
that was being caused by my laziness. I got him a 55 gallon (of course for only him...no other fish) which is the largest I am able to afford and keep in my house.
Anyway, in the year and a half he has been in this 55 the HITH has not progressed...however the holes have not healed either. Is this to be expected?
<The damage may not heal>
Water parameters are: 78 degrees Fahrenheit, 0 ammonia and nitrites and I try to keep the nitrates under 20, but by water change time it is usually around 30. The nitrates have me concerned, I am doing 50 percent weekly water changes, sometimes 70 percent. He eats two of new life spectrum 7mm floating pellets daily. Should I be
feeding him more than that?
<Yes... I'd think he'd eat a few times as much>
Should I increase the water changes?
<I would increase the amount of filtration, not change more than a third of the water at one go>
I realize that the tank is small for him and will make controlling nitrates more difficult, but it is the best I can do for the time being and I am willing to change water as needed. The other question I have is about my water hardness, I just found out that it is 330ppm.
I am finding conflicting information as far as if they need hard or soft water, and saw one thing that said hard water may lead to HITH.
Is this true?
<Not as far as I'm aware, no>
I would appreciate any advice you could give me, and thank you again for the service you provide.
<You may gain by reading others reports on FW HITH:
and the linked Related files above. Bob Fenner>
Re: Red Devil Cichlid 7/26/10

Thank you very much for you quick response.
<Welcome Kel>
Sorry I forgot to mention the filtration, his water is turned over 10 times per hour (550 GPH) between a Fluval 404 (which does the bulk of the work) and a Whisper HOB (I figured it is better used as a supplement than not at all).
<Good to have such back-up, alternative filtration>
I have increased his feeding to six of those pellets daily, and done some more reading on your site, including the link you referred me to.
As far as nitrate control goes, it sounds like I need to vacuum the gravel better as well as service the filters much more frequently.
Even with the large frequent water changes I was doing, not doing this often could still give me high amounts of nitrates, right?
<Yes... do see WWM re other means of NO3 control:
and the linked files above>
Previously I was thinking if you have x amount of waste, it releases y amount of ammonia (which is turned into nitrites than nitrates) than stops.
<Mmm, no... more dynamic, other factors at play here>
But if I understand correctly, ammonia (eventually nitrites than nitrates) is being released into the tank constantly by the waste that accumulates in the filter and gravel, not just the most recent (week's worth) of waste, but all of it in the system?
<Yes, w/ the exception of some that is converted into other materials that stay in the system and some that leaves as gasses above>
Regarding the my large frequent water changes, in your article on the red devil cichlid profile, you recommend 35%-50% water changes for that specific fish. So should I be shooting for the 35% range, with only occasional 50% changes? Or because he is in a 55 gallon, should I just do 50%?
<IF you can "trust" your source water, half changes should be (note the qualifier) okay... I would at least store the change-out water for the week in advance...>
So anyway, here is my plan...I would really appreciate it if you could let me know your thoughts on it and if you think that the nitrates should then be under control.
-Feeding 6 of the 7mm floating New Life Spectrum pellets daily.
-Vacuuming gravel every other week.
<I'd do half, one side per week... i.e., alternate weekly>
-Rinsing filter media in tank water on the weeks I am not vacuuming gravel -Water changes as you recommend
Thanks for all your time, and I hope I am not a bother. I cannot express to you enough how valuable your site is to fish keepers.
Thanks again,
<Thank you for seeking clarification, and sharing. Bob Fenner>

Re: Sick Oscar.. Help please
Oscar With HITH -- 7/12/10

Hi Guys,
Thanks for your advice, would like to update you about the recent development.
Just 2 days ago I have observed 2 small holes on the side of my Oscars head.
I understand it is the Hole in the head Disease and as per the same have got AZoo Anti Endoparasite from my fish dealer for treatment.
Anything else that you would recommend cause my Oscar only prefers live fish and raw chicken best part being that he still shows interest in food.
Thanks & Regards, Manish K
<Try getting your Oscar on a regular diet of high quality pelleted food.
Live fish carry parasites and raw chicken carries salmonella, which is not good for you either.-Chuck>

Oscar with HITH and little worms? Help please :( 6/22/10
<Hi Katie! Melinda here tonight.>
I'm writing because I have a 6 month old Oscar who has developed HITH. I am treating the tanks with API General Cure which has Metronidazole 250MG and Praziquantel 75MG and simultaneously treating with Jungle Anti-Parasitic food pellets (it says it is safe to treat with pellets during external water treatments as well).
<Yes, but what of water conditions, which typically lead to HITH? Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate?.>
My fish has exhibited no lethargy or appetite lost in
the least bit so he is gobbling up the pellets.
<Oscars are pretty tough critters. Honestly, they rarely exhibit signs of illness until very, very late.>
Prior to treating I did a 50% water change, used tap water conditioner to remove the chlorine and metals and also removed the carbon filter from my BioWheel.
<Do you test? You should be. Anyone who keeps Oscars should be. They're just so messy (I mean this with no disrespect to these lovely fish)!>
Tank size is 20 Gallons but will be upgrading soon as he's starting to become larger (about 2" long now).
<He needs a much larger tank, now. Please read here on HITH:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWsubwebindex/fwhllefaqs.htm. It can be caused by a myriad of problems, but the most commonly-seen issue is water quality.
Oscars are really great, but they make huge messes. You've got to be able to combat that, with a large enough tank and enough maintenance. If you don't, this is the issue.>
I had other cichlids (Blood Parrots) that required minimal attention water change wise, and lived 6+ years with not so much as a case of Ich,
<Ich is rarely an issue with established fish. By this, I mean fish which are in a tank, with no other fish added, and Ich wasn't present before.>
so I did not know that I needed to keep my tank in tip top shape for my Oscar, so admittedly the water quality was poor. By poor I mean Nitrates were between 80-160, Nitrites around 1 and I didn't even test for ammonia.
<Oh, gosh.>
Since researching HITH and desperately wanting to fix my fish and never have this occur again, I have purchased a whole arsenal of improvements.
<Yes, it's easy to buy stuff. But what of reading? Taking the time to understand, and fixing the root of the problem?>
I bought the meds as mentioned before, I bought a bunch of carbon filter replacements (I was only changing this around once every 3-4 months) to start doing replacements bi-weekly and I purchased the "Lunch Box" variety pack of frozen food (Bloodworms, Veggie and Brine Shrimp variety pack).
<I'm going to start with the following: Buy a larger aquarium. New filter cartridges don't make up for tiny tanks. Secondly, read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwfiltrmedart.htm. Your carbon filters (likely Hang-On-Back filters) aren't going to cut it. I'd recommend a 75-gallon aquarium for this guy, and either a filter or combination of filters which turn the tank's volume over 10 times per hour.
You're not looking at what the filter is "rated" for, but the turnover per hour. I see below that you're also keeping Blood Parrots. I'd recommend a 125 gallon for all of these fish, in the interest of (hopefully) peacefully establishing territories and providing ample volume to dilute waste.
That's a large amount of turnover per hour. I run a 180-gallon currently with three canister filters that do the job, so this is one route you could go. On the other hand, I ran a freshwater sump on a 125 while my Red-Tailed Catfish's pond was being built, so that's another option, and it's also cheaper. You build the sump yourself (search on Google for DIY sumps) and then add a strong, strong pump. If you can't afford a larger aquarium, buy a stock pond instead, and fit your DIY sump to that. There's a lot of research to be done, but a lot of information exists, and what you'll end up with is a hybrid of your own ideas and the research you've done.>
I am going to be doing weekly water changes of 25% going forward.
<Try for 75%. You've got to get Nitrates below 20.>
I was a negligent/ignorant Oscar owner but now that I have done my research I am going to be much, much better.
<That's great, but you're still way behind where you should be. Your fish needs you to do more.>
With all this said, I am at the end of the external water treatment and am going to be putting the carbon filter back in and doing a water change in just a bit. However, upon looking closely at my Oscar to see any signs of improvement, I noticed two things, 1. He was 'pooping' a clearish, whitish stringy type of waste.
It is usually red, like his pellets so I figure this must have something to do with his current treatment? Does it mean it's working or not working? He later pooped his normal color.
<I'd keep an eye out. Clear poop can indicate internal parasites. It could also be an effect of poor water quality and medication. Let's get one thing clear -- you can medicate until the cows come home (and your fish dies), or you can get water quality to where it should be. This is likely the problem, and medication isn't going to help unless your fish is living in optimal conditions (Ammonia and Nitrite of zero, Nitrate under 20. If your fish isn't getting better, and you're medicating as heavily as you indicate above, then I'd stop with medication (they can affect the biological filter) and just focus on water quality, and I'd watch his poop.
(I couldn't say that anywhere but here, really.)>
2. I am seeing these tiny, tiny, thread-looking worms floating all over the place in the water. They appear to be 'swimming' as they sort of curl around and straighten out, like they are wiggling. They are extremely small and some appear to be dead. I have never in my life, in 20 years of fish keeping seen these things in a tank before. Is this the parasite coming out of my Oscar?
<These "worms" are likely Planaria, and are a result of overfeeding. I don't mean that everything you feed isn't going into your Oscar's mouth.
I'm sure it is, because they're basically vacuum cleaners! I mean that the stuff that comes out of his gills (almost 50%, I'd say?) and lands on the gravel makes a great feeding/breeding ground for these critters. Oscars are messy. Those who love them accept this, and the maintenance that comes along with them. Start gravel-vac'ing. The Planaria should greatly
diminish once their food supply dwindles. Please read here:
My Oscar has a hole in the center of his head and about 3 smaller holes below his nose and around his eye. It is definitely HITH. In addition to this though, one of his pelvic fins seems to be almost completely gone, like it is being nipped. It seems 'hollowed out'.
<Finrot? Sorry, but anything is possible here. These Nitrate levels he's living in could cause any manifestation of poor water quality to, well... manifest. Please begin HUGE water changes now. This guy is trying to hold out.>
The other fin is fine. On his anal and dorsal fins, he has one perfectly symmetrical tiny hole. It looks like someone took a hole punch and punched it. He shares this tank with two baby blood parrot cichlids for now,
but again will be placed in much larger tank by himself shortly.
<Now, please. He's sick. He needs it. If he could speak, he'd say so. Since he can't, I'll tell you instead.>
With that said, does the fin damage seem like it might be aggression from the other fish (the Blood Parrots fight with each other and him on occasion), or does it sound like he might also have fin rot? I am most concerned with the HITH, his fin problems and those tiny little worms.
I now know nitrites and ammonia should be 0 and nitrates should be below 24ppm. I have test kits and will be monitoring this on a regular basis going forward. I feel terrible I did this to him :-(
Any ideas/suggestions? Thank you!! Your site has been extremely helpful in educating me on how to care for Oscars.
<Katie, please place these fish into a proper environment and begin proper maintenance. Your problems began there, and the only answer is there.
Please do write back if you have any more questions.>

Re: Oscar with HITH and little worms? Help please :( -- 8/3/10
<Hi, Katie!>
Thanks so much for your reply. I will update you on the changes that I have made since your email, but my Oscar is still very sick. I can't seem to get him better no matter what I do and it's killing me.
<Oh... let's see if I can help.>
I just bought him is very own 50 gallon tank and removed him from the old one and placed him in the new tank (I added the product "Stability" to cycle the tank.
<It's good that you've gotten him larger quarters, but I'm not really a fan of this product... I've just never had any real positive experience with it. I tried to cycle a 55 with it a couple of years ago, and after the subsequent ammonia spike, deemed it useless. I do like "Dr. Tim's One-And-Only," but it's more difficult to come by in retail stores.>
I felt if I left him in the old tank any longer to let the tank naturally cycle, that he would have died within a week or so.
<Unfortunately, he may be in the same situation in the new tank... as it is, basically, not cycled.>
When I first put him in the new tank (with a heater that supports up to 60 gallons and a Marineland hang on back filter that is made for up to 80 gallons with 4 carbon filters in it),
<Are you using the rule we discussed earlier... dividing the filter's gallons-per-hour by tank size, and coming up with a turnover of at least 8 times the tank's volume per hour? And, again, I'd like to point out that most HOB filters really offer very little in the way of biological filtration -- carbon is pretty much redundant in many aquariums, but what it does do is provide surface area for bacteria to colonize. When you change these cartridges, you remove all of that beneficial bacteria.
AquaClear makes a line of HOB filters which provide for all three types of filtration, but with Oscars, I really think a good, beefy canister filter is order.>
he was swimming back and forth, seemingly very happy to be able to finally do some laps without being bothered by other fish.
<Yes, and at this point, the water was likely much, much cleaner than in his old tank. It was only after he began to make waste for which there was no method of export that the problems began.>
However he then settled to the bottom and hasn't moved much since. It has been a week since I put him in his new tank.
Ammonia levels are just barely .25, nitrate is 20 and nitrite is .5 (nitrate is 20 right out of the tap).
<So, it is not cycled.>
I know nitrite is supposed to be 0 but I can't get it there without the BioWheel becoming fully established it seems.
<You're right, and Ammonia is also supposed to be 0.>
I didn't put in the water conditioner yet to remove chlorine since my chlorine reading is 0 and I don't want to put too much stuff in there.
<Yes, but what of Chloramine? This is a product which is in a lot of people's tap water, but does not evaporate as Chlorine does. Go ahead and use a product like "Prime" to be safe... and don't worry about putting it in. It won't hurt.>
His condition is as follows: His original holes have still not healed (the first hole being the deepest one right in the center of his forehead) and he has since developed several new ones along his head and body. His body seems to be losing scales too, not sure if this is new holes forming or what. His ragged anal fin still hasn't grown back nor has the ragged side fin. He has a hole in his dorsal fin and now near his tail. It just looks like he is getting worse.
<It sounds like it, too. Again, I can't stress how much more easily fish succumb to bacterial infection and fungus when they live in unhealthy conditions. It sounds like you're on the right track to getting this guy into an environment which will benefit him, but I worry that the ammonia and nitrite present will spike if you don't keep a close eye on their levels and perform frequent, large water changes. I wouldn't consider this tank cycled, by any means, and that worries me, as this fish probably can't handle much more.>
He has some cloudiness on the very ragged side fin near his fill and now the other side fin has some cloudiness on it too near the gill. I am treating with Melafix only right now to try to repair his fins from the raggedness and the cloudiness.
<Don't worry about this, as what your fish needs is clean water and then a real medication.>
I am afraid of over medicating because I know this can stress a fish so I haven't treated with anything else.
<It can stress him to mis-treat and over-treat, especially if you use several things at one time.>
The Metronidazole made him very sick. He had a very bad reaction to it (lethargy, almost like he looks right now) so I don't want to give him this again.
<The thing about treating fish which live in a poor environment is that the fish is already weakened. However, if right now, he's exhibiting the same symptoms as when you treated with medication, then you can reasonably deduce that his symptoms did not stem from the medication, but from environment, illness, etc.>
I purchased Maracide in case he had Velvet (the cloudiness on his fins), but I never administered it.
<I think what's going on with his fins is Finrot, but please read here and see what you think: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/FWFinRot.htm.
The "cloudiness" could be swelling, which then results in the actual fin erosion, and in the cloudy areas, you're simply seeing the precursor to the more identifiable symptom of the disease.>
I'm afraid because I don't know exactly what it is that he has, or if he has several issues.
<I think he does, but you've got to get his water clean, and then treat afterward. Please read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwfishmeds.htm. This should get you pointed in the right direction as to how to treat your fish properly after you determine what's wrong with him. Since we cannot deduce that his HITH is not caused by poor water quality, I think it would be wrong, at this point, to begin treatment for Hexamita. I would probably focus on the other lesions/erosion of his exterior, and treat with Maracyn. You can use the table on this page to determine what's available in your area that would treat his ailments.>
All I know is that nothing is helping. I switched his diet to a mixture of pellets, frozen brine shrimp, frozen greens (which he doesn't like at all),
and an occasional rinsed earth worm. He used to go crazy for the earth worm and then perk right up the next day but in the last three days he has lost his appetite completely. He won't eat the earthworm and sucked in only one or two shrimps, only to spit them out.
<He is not feeling well.>
I'm so worried. I have included a picture of him so you can see his condition, both under 300k in size. You can clearly see the poor state of his fins as well as all of the terrible holes. How can I help him any more than I already have? Why isn't he getting better? I have read that some Oscars "sulk" at the bottom of the tank after switching to a new tank but he's not eating which worries me the most.
<He has only been in his new tank one week, and his tank is mid-cycle, and so he was a sick fish placed into another poor environment. I would suggest attempting to find some "seeded" filter media to more quickly cycle this tank, but with most HOB filters, there's just no place to put it. You could try and fit some in somewhere, and this would greatly speed the cycling process. Or, if someone has a cycled HOB running for a quarantine tank or the like, maybe they would let you borrow it?>
Although I appreciated your last reply very much and it was very informative, it didn't arrive until weeks after I wrote it.
<I honestly have no idea why it took that long. We try to answer all queries within 24 hours, and I would never have pulled your e-mail from the inbox unless I could answer it promptly. I hope this one gets to you faster, but for future reference, you can find your e-mail on our Daily FAQs page, and there's even a new link so that you can see the past few days' queries in case you miss it.>
I'm afraid if it takes that long again, I might lose him. I'm not trying to be pushy, I'm just desperate.
<I understand, and again, I'm sorry it took so long for you to receive my reply.>
He is only 6 months old.
<I know he is in bad shape from your descriptions and your photos. I understand that you feel frustrated, but you must also understand that the root of his problems in the old tank did not go away when you placed him in the new tank, and in fact, the longer he is in this uncycled system, the poorer water quality will become unless you do the best you can to combat the Ammonia and Nitrite spikes. You can do this through large, frequent water changes or attempting to find a way to attach a "seeded," or cycled filter to the tank, or at the very least, some established biological media. As I said earlier, I would attempt to treat with Maracyn for what I think is Finrot... please do check the page I linked you to confirm my suspicion. I would not attempt to treat the HITH right now, since one of the contributing factors for its appearance is poor water quality, so without getting this fish into cleaner water, you'll never know if it's going to heal or not. Also, your fish is weak, and treating with one medication at a time is probably best. Do be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions. Again, I hope this e-mail reaches you in a more timely manner, and please do write back if you have any questions after reading.>

Re: Oscar with HITH and little worms? Help please :( -- 8/3/10
<Hi Katie!>
Thank you so much for the very fast reply, it is greatly appreciated.
<You're welcome, and I'm so glad it got to you faster this time! If it took three weeks every time we wrote, I think we'd be better off with tin cans and string.>
I am going to do some large water changes to try to combat this. I also have some cartridges that haven't been changed in a while as well as a BioWheel that is 2 years old in the tank the blood parrots live in that I can swap out to help the new tank become more established.
<This sounds like a good plan. Just make sure not to leave the Blood Parrots high and dry -- that is, make sure there's still at least 50% of the media remaining in their tank so that the colony can quickly make up for the difference.>
I am also going to
purchase a canister filter asap.
<It would probably be a good idea to get this tank good and established with the filter you have, so that you can use parts of it to jump-start the new filter. Since canister filters are so much easier to work with when it comes to media, even taking a cycled bio-wheel apart and just placing that material (the stiff fabric stuff) into the canister filter, along with your existing carbon, would probably do the job. This is one of the reasons I love my canister filters, though I'm also quite partial to the AquaClear HOBs -- I've got filters stuffed with everything from plastic scouring pads to old bio-balls. It really makes it easy to establish new tanks.>
I will read your link regarding fin rot and purchase some Maracyn tonight after reading.
I bought the Maracide thinking this was the same thing as Maracyn but its not, it's malachite green for ich and velvet.
<Medications can be terribly confusing, which is why I think that link I sent you with the table is so great. First, you diagnose, and then, go to the table for proper treatment and substitute treatments, just in case your local store doesn't carry a particular one.>
This is why your crew is so helpful to us Oscar owners. Your knowledge on these little guys is absolutely invaluable.
<I wish your little guy the best, and am glad I could be of help. Another thing you could do, just to sort of "bulk up" in the knowledge department, is to read the Oscar pages in your free time. You'll be amazed at what pieces of information that you hang on to will happen to be useful in the future!>
Thanks again and I will keep you updated.
<I look forward to hearing about your Oscar's progress. Please do write back if you have further questions, also.>

Re: Oscar with HITH and little worms? Help please :( 8/6/10
Hi Melinda,
<Hi Katie!>
Yes, that was definitely a typo. I meant to say 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons, so I put in 10 tablespoons since his tank is 50 gallons. These were the instructions on the aquarium salt box.
<Oh, okay. The aquarium salt people (probably API?) intend the product to be used as a "tonic" on a daily basis, which, in reality, does nothing but make them money. It's when trying to detoxify Nitrite, treat Ich, etc., that one needs a good recipe for success... both of which are included in that link, for your future reference.>
I ran out to run an errand and read your email on my cell phone. I rushed home to do a water change to get rid of all the meds, but it was too late. I am really sad to report that my Oscar has died.
<I am so sorry to hear this. He was a lovely fish with really great coloring.>
When my boyfriend came home, Oscar was on his side and hill gills were fully extended and he called me. I had him do a massive water change just in case there was anything left in him, but he has died. I feel horrible.
<You made mistakes, and then did what you could to rectify them. You have done more than a lot of people would have, and you've learned a lot. I think that we all have these stories about the beginning of our fishkeeping days -- whether we didn't know what cycling was, put the wrong combination of fishes together, only to find one beaten up, or failed to provide proper nutrition, etc. In the end, those who stick with it and learn from what went wrong are the folks who have had tanks set up for years now with no problems. There are others who refuse to learn/believe who quickly fizzle out as fishkeepers.>
After I read your email I was considering euthanizing him humanely so that he didn't have to suffer anymore.
<I suspected this may be necessary after hearing of his color loss, but I know that you're the only one who can make that determination.>
I sat there next to his tank last night just watching him and he came close to the glass to "sit" next to me and his eyes were looking right at me. I felt so horrible, I just wanted to help him. At least he is no longer suffering now.
<I know how you felt. The need to do something, anything, but feeling powerless... is heart wrenching. It is true that he has crossed the "rainbow bridge...">
To answer your question from your last response, I did leave the charcoal filter cartridges in there while treating with the meds as both of the Mardel products that I was using stated on the back to leave normal filtering in tact and removing the carbon was not necessary.
<Ahh, okay. Perhaps these have different "rules," but in my experience, it is always necessary to remove carbon. It just soaks everything up. However, you were right to follow the manufacturer's instructions.>
. I had just purchased a big box of Maracyn too, for when he got better. :(
<Keep it on hand. You may need it at some point in the future. Just keep an eye on its expiration date.>
I want to thank you so much for all of the advice you have given me and for the very fast responses when I needed it the most. This is the end result I was so desperately trying to avoid but at least now I know what it means to be an Oscar owner and exactly what it takes to keep these little guys healthy. I just wish I knew all of this before he even got sick. I'm no longer an ignorant Oscar owner.
<Then, at this stage in the game, you have gotten further than many. I'm sorry to hear of the loss of your little guy, but do hope that you'll try again. The next Oscar can look forward to having a loving owner who is indeed educated on his needs.>
Thanks again for everything, Katie
<You're welcome, Katie. I wish you the best in fishkeeping (and other) efforts. --Melinda>
Re: Update on my Oscar; Was: Oscar with HITH and little worms? Help please :( 8/6/10

I have been doing large (50%) water changes in the new 50 gallon tank daily since your last email. At that time ammonia was high .25 and then nearly .50 just hours later. I added media from my already established tank (replaced with a new charcoal pad for now as all levels are reading healthy in that tank, but still keeping watch on it). Literally the next day the ammonia levels are now at 0 and nitrite suddenly spiked to 3.0.
<This is a good sign for the cycle, but not much better for the fish!>
I know this is part of the cycling, but fearing this would cause even more stress I added aquarium salt (5 tablespoons per gallon so 10 tablespoons) which I heard helps fish cope with nitrites,
<I'm not sure about your math here (perhaps a typo?) because I was under the impression that this tank is fifty gallons, and besides, five tablespoons per gallon is a TON of salt! Using the dosage indicated within this article which detoxifies nitrite: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/SaltUseFWArtNeale.htm, you may want to adjust what you've added here. I hesitate to work with the numbers you gave me, because I'm not sure that they're totally correct, but the information you need is in the above-linked article.>
and I also started treating with Maracyn and Maracide (prior to adding the meds I did a huge water change, 60% and got the nitrites down to a little less than 2.0). The label says it's okay to use together. I started with the Maracide first because he appeared to be developing a case of ich in addition to everything else.
<Salt kills ich. Please read this in the link above. You really need to be careful, because you're sort of over-medicating here, and the use of the Maracide, even if your fish had ich, was needless. The salt would have taken care of your problem. I worry that this fish is very sick, and now he's being subjected to a cocktail of various medications and salt, and there's no need to subject him to more than necessary.>
The very next day all the ich spots were gone and amazingly, his holes from the HITH seem to be getting much better!
<What you saw was likely not ich, but in any case, it's good that it's gone. Good news on the HITH, as well, but I have to say that this is the fastest recovery from HITH I have ever heard of!>
Some of them don't appear to be holes anymore, just blemishes and the existing holes edges have all taken on a huge of black. I thought I read on here somewhere that this is the first sign of the holes healing. Anyway, I started on the Maracyn today but notice no signs of improvement yet. In fact, despite the positive appearance of his holes he is still extremely lethargic, his tail is twitching still every 15 seconds or so and more disturbing, his coloring has changed. He is noticeably losing all of his coloring, turning a grayish shade with no more deep black or orange colors.
<Your fish may not make it. It seems that the larger the fish, the longer they can hang on, and the easier it is to get them through treatment. I would like for you to read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/euthanasia.htm. I am not advising you to euthanize your fish immediately by any means, but it's better that you have products on hand to end his suffering if the time comes. Your fish is still quite small, in fact, smaller than he should be, likely due to the high level of Nitrates which existed in his first tank. By all means, continue to try and save him, but do be knowledgeable about humane methods of euthanasia if the time comes that it is needed.>
days. At the store I noticed there was another medication called Maracyn Two and I wasn't sure which one was the proper one to purchase. Maracyn Two said it's to be used for negative bacteria and is to be used on fish who won't eat. I almost bought it for this factor alone because that's what worries me the most, but I wanted to make sure I followed your instructions.
<I would not add another medication. My advice to you was to first establish the cycle by doing what you did, which was adding seeded media. Then once water quality was up to par, to treat for the Finrot and then see if the holes began to heal on their own (indicating HITH was caused by poor water quality). If it didn't heal, then I'd treat for Hexamita. However, this fish is now being subjected to a lot of medication, and his water still isn't clean. I totally understand that you want to help him, but I feel he may be slipping away.>
Do you think it's too late for my Oscar? Have you ever seen an Oscar actually come back and get healthy after he has stopped eating for days, sits at the bottom looking gray and noticeably thinner, and tail twitching?
<It may be too late for him. Not because he hasn't eaten, because fish can go a couple of weeks without eating. I worry because he is obviously stressed and he has been sick for a long time.>
Now that I'm medicating, I'm not sure when to perform the water changes or how often?
<That's sort of the problem. You can use the salt in the correct amount and detoxify Nitrite, which would negate the need for water changes. If you choose not to use the salt, then you would have to do the water changes, in order to remove Nitrite, but then you'll need to replace medication which has been taken out. What you do is up to you, but I'd probably use the salt in order to avoid accidentally over- or under-medicating due to frequent, large water changes.>
Will the salt help him tolerate the nitrite spike until the tank is fully cycled?
<Yes, but do read the article I linked you to above and adjust the levels in the tank so that they match what's listed in that link.>
It should be noted that nitrites have held steady at 2.0 which I know is still very toxic, but nitrates are now starting to show up at around 10ppm and ammonia remains at 0. I'm hoping that adding the filter media from the other tank really did help jump start the cycle and perhaps its almost complete.
<It obviously helped, and that's very good.>
It's not looking good.
<I agree. I'm sorry.>
This is my first Oscar and I have learned so much about what not to do and unfortunately at my fish's expense. That's the worst part of all this. Having never owned an Oscar before, I'm not sure how hardy they are and if they can really come back from this state but I am trying like he*l.
<They are quite hardy fish, but this fish's small size, the duration of his illness, the lack of a cycled tank, the mixture of medications, etc. do not look good for him. Have you removed the carbon from the filter? If not, it is likely that this medication has simply been absorbed by the carbon. The salt wouldn't have been, though, so even if carbon is present, the salt would still be in the water. I would, first, determine how much more salt you need by re-examining the first dosage you used then using the article. Then, I would not add any further medications. I'd allow the tank to complete its cycle and give the medications time to work. I know that this process is frustrating, because all you want is to look over and see your fish acting normally and healthy, but unfortunately, it took him a while to get sick, and it's going to take a while for him to get better. He may not pull through. If his condition continues to worsen and he decide to euthanize, you have that information above, as well. I'm sorry I can't give you any more encouraging news, because I can tell that you really do want to do right by this fish and heal him.>
Thanks again in advance, Katie
<You're welcome, Katie. I wish you and your fish the best, and please do write back if you have any more questions/updates.>
ps. Canister filter is in the mail on the way to my house. I hope it makes it in time. :(
<As I said in a previous e-mail, I do not think that now is the time to switch filters on this guy. I really would allow this filter which is on the tank currently to become established. After he gets better, you will need some heavy filtration to keep up with his growth/messiness (!!), but now, the real concern is fixing him, and the best way to do that is get the tank cycled, medicate properly, and wait.>
Re: Oscar with HITH and little worms? Help please :( 8/7/10


<Hi Katie!>
Thank you for the kind words. It was very hard to let him go. I have kept fish my whole life and blood parrots exclusively for the last 8 years so I know it's easy to become attached to fish over time, but I never knew I'd get attached so quickly to my Oscar.
<It's so easy to get attached to such great fish.>
He just had an awesome personality and was very interesting to watch. He was also very engaging the way he would specifically look directly at your eyes. Like you said, he had beautiful colors and I'm going to miss watching him every day. I feel terrible that I lost him so young. It's possible that he was sick right from the store and the symptoms hadn't progressed until I'd already had him a few months but who knows.
<That's possible.>
I'm sure it was the water quality as I was only doing water changes about once a month at that time but my blood parrots are healthy as horses, it's hard to say. Either way, we are going to try again with a new baby Oscar and hopefully he will live a long healthy life.
<Good! I'm sure you'll do well.>
Just so you know your words really made me feel a lot better yesterday when I was pretty upset. You were gracious, honest and understanding but mostly you were right, so I wanted to thank you. I guess everyone learns the hard way sometimes.
<I'm glad I could be of help to you. On the whole, owning pets is really bittersweet -- unless it's a Sulcata Tortoise, chances are, you're going to outlive your pet. Those of us with hearts big enough to take in and love animals also suffer huge heartbreak when they go, whether their death is timely or not.>
Take care and I'll email again if I have any questions regarding our soon to be new Oscar (once I'm positive the tank has cycled). I'll miss my buddy.
<Good luck and I'm glad you're not giving up!>

Oscar, HLLE -- 03/23/10
Hi, can you help me to find a cure to those with spots ?
<Mmm, yes>
I was looking on web but I don't see nothing like these, the fish is doesn't have any strange behavior, e eats very well he swim very well I don't see any strange behavior but the fact is that she have those white spots, already make a treatment with "Tetra Fungi Stop" and with "eSHa 2000" and the last one with "eSHa Hexamita", but those with spots never disappear, are always the same sizes same form.
<Mmm, the last is the item you need to address...>
She is in a 180 Litres tank with a Synodontis eupterus, and she have 30
centimeters. The External filter is a [image: EHEIM AuÃenfilter professionel
3 2080]<https://www.aquaristikshop.com/cgi-bin/neu/webshop.pl?userid=ztoHtMVnf7O7gsL0o0N4l8tBlecxGWBDSRE&f=NR&c=208001&t=temartic_e>
External Filter professionel 3
.<I use this series of filters myself>
Do answer here for my email ?
<Yes. And we archive all as well>
I was reading on the web site and I don't understand if you're respond here and put on the website to or if you only respond to the website.
Best Regards
Eric Cardoso
<Eric, your Oscar is exhibiting signs of HLLE... which is curable... through improved water quality and nutrition mostly. Please read here:
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re Sick Oscar, poss. Costia in addn. -- 03/23/10
> Hi Chuck,
> There's a photo of a sick Oscar in today's inbox. It looks to me like it has early stage Slime Disease (Costia) but it might be HITH. I didn't want to get this wrong, so I'd appreciate you taking a look, if you have the time.
> Cheers, Neale
<Oh! I've responded to this... and thought "it" was HLLE... might be Costia as well. B>
Re: sick Oscar
Hi Bob,
Precisely so. The lesions on the head are similar to HITH, but the excess slime and the texture you see above the scales reminds me strongly of Costia. May of course be both!
<Yes... not actually an uncommon parasite... particularly with folks feeding/using "feeders", or receiving fishes that have been cultured "outdoors", or kept in systems with fishes imported/cultured thus>
Costia can be treated with salt water dips (especially where secondary freshwater fish are concerned) so seeing if a dip or two helps might be worthwhile (see my recent WWM piece re: use of salt in FW tanks). I'd also have the aquarist check to see how symmetrical the lesions and/or patches are; if they're strongly symmetrical on each flank, then yes, HITH or HLLE may well be the immediate problem.
Cheers, Neale
<Will refer the querior in turn. Thank you, BobF>

Re: sick Oscar 3/23/10
So maybe Costia and HLLE or one of two.
I don't feed my Oscar with small fishes and her friend Synodontis eupterus lives with her at about 4 years or 5
<Should be a fine combination. How big is the tank though? The most common reason Oscars get sick is simply not giving them the space and the filtration they need. Do read Bob's piece, here:
I only feed them with Hikari food, always the same food, now I begin to feed them with Cichlid frozen food, probably the fact that I always feed them with the same food was one of the problems.
<Perhaps. But a good quality food like Hikari Cichlid Gold should be perfectly adequate for good health. The main problem with dried foods is constipation rather than vitamin deficiency. That said, dried foods have a shelf life, and once exposed to air (especially damp air) the food in an open packet loses some of its nutritional value.>
What do you think if I buy a Reverse Osmosis Unit ? 50% of Osmosis water and 50% of normal water with some drops of JBL Atvitol in the water changes maybe a good idea ?
<Oscars and indeed all cichlids will benefit from water with as low a nitrate content as possible. If your tap water has more than 20 mg/l nitrate, then yes, over time that does seem to trigger HITH/HLLE problems.
So mixing some of your tap water with RO water will reduce the nitrate content and improve overall health. But with that said, you'll do more harm than good if using softer water allows the pH to bounce around all the time. Mixing 50/50 hard tap water with RO water is generally fine, but if your tap water is soft already, you may want to use a pH buffer of some sort.>
A more variety of foods not only the same brand, its better to.
<Can be helpful.>
I saw the procedures to HLLE cure but it seems that is all about good food good water and good tank friends
<Well, HLLE and HITH seem to be triggered by [a] vitamin deficiency and [b] non-zero nitrate levels. Most of the time I've seen cichlids with these diseases they've been in tanks that were too small, poor filtered, or not getting proper water changes. Diet and water chemistry seem to be secondary issues.>
And where's that article about (see my recent WWM piece re: use of salt in FW tanks) ????
I was making a water test for PO4 and result was 1.8 in JBL test :|
The Nitrite and ammonia are good
<By "good" I assume we mean zero of both.>
The NO3 nitrate is in 20
<See, this is borderline.>
I have some problems in my tank, I am going to correct some procedures and wait and see the results
<Fine. Don't imagine for a moment that salt is a cheap fix; it isn't. But salt can reduces nitrate toxicity and it can be used to help treat Costia, so as part of an overall plan to improve environmental quality and diet, salt can be helpful. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: sick Oscar (the plot thinnens: the Oscar is in 39.5 gallons) 3/24/10
The tank have 50cm height x 90cm length x 40cm width. The filtration I think is good, 1200 liters hour
<By my reckoning this is 180 litres/39.5 US gallons, which is far too small a tank for an Oscar above maybe 10 cm/4 inches in length. Oscars are big, messy fish that place huge demands on their aquarium. A minimum aquarium for a single specimen is realistically around 340 litres/75 US gallons, and even in a tank that size you'd be having a constant battle keeping the tank looking clean.>
Yes, I understand, but I know how it is the Hikari package, I put some of the package in another box of an old Aquatic Nature brand food and the rest of the Hikari food I close and take of the most part of air in the package but, its impossible not have some as you know.
<It takes about 2-3 months for dried pellet foods to stop being nutritionally complete. So try to buy a package you can use up within that time period. Failing that, divide up big pots into smaller pots, and store all but the unused pot of food in the freezer or somewhere cool and dry, just like you'd store dried human foods. Obviously, don't keep dried foods anywhere warm and damp -- such as next to the aquarium!>
My tap water comes with 0 of nitrate, I have the careful to put the water in a 70 liters container with a heater in side and a aeration pump, and all of my changes come from there. My tap water Ph its 7.8. What do you think ?
RO is a good idea ?
<If your tap water has 0 nitrate, then RO isn't of any great value.
Domesticated Oscars adapt to both moderately hard and quite soft water equally well.>
Yes I'm going to buy from now on a food of each good brand's JBL, SERA, TETRA, Aquatic Nature .. Maybe I going to try the drops of JBL Atvitol in the food or the water changes, right ?
<All well worth doing. A good reason to have, say, two or three small pots of food going at once is that Oscars are less likely to become bored. Every day they have something different. Vitamin drops are probably redundant if you're using good quality flake and pellet foods. Do also try offering other fresh or live foods, such as prawns, snails and earthworms, as well as cooked peas, which many Oscars enjoy. Peas are good for avoiding constipation and bloating.>
I can't do this, the dips with an 30cm Adult Oscar
<In a 180 litre tank??? That's where your problems come from! You need massive water changes here to keep things even halfway decent. Given the size of the tank and the size of the Oscar, I think Bob's initial diagnose of Hole-in-the-Head and/or Head-and-Lateral-Line-Erosion is VERY likely the problem. To treat this you will need Metronidazole, which outside of the US is normally a prescription-only medication obtained from a vet.
Without Metronidazole, this disease will get worse and eventually the fish.>
its very very stressful, for me and the Oscar, I can try to add salt in my Oscar tank but the dips I can't do it, and what about Medicaments I was watching on the net and found something like Sera Costapur and TetraMedica Contralck they tell they can cure Costia do you know something about this ?
<There are indeed proprietary medications for Costia out there. By all means use them, but follow the instructions carefully, paying particularly attention to the dose and removal of carbon, if used. However, I don't think Costia is the issue here.>
Sorry the long emails but I really need to know and understand the best things to do
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Geophagus jurupari Question, comp. w/ Pacus, hlth, HLLE 3/4/10
Hi Guys,
I have a 55 gallon freshwater tank with 3 Red Belly Pacus and 1 Geophagus jurupari. Upon returning home from a trip I found my Geophagus, 'J.J.' looked as if he had been severely attacked by the Pacus. The fish-sitter had no idea what had happened so I am not entirely sure if J.J. developed some ailment or was simply attacked.
<Could very well have been attacked by these Pacu. Pacu generally should only be trusted with larger companions in very large aquaria. Despite being famed as herbivores, eating all sorts of fruits and seeds, they are opportunistic carnivores too, and will take a bite at anything they think they can catch. They have incredibly strong teeth and jaws. This is a real problem in cramped tanks where the other fish can't stay out of the way. Your tank is FAR TOO SMALL for these fish. The Red Belly Pacu, Piaractus brachypomus, gets to 88 cm/35 inches and weighs up to 25 kilos/55 pounds. These are food fish, and unless you have a 600 gallon tank lined up, there's no way you can properly house three specimens. Do make sure you look at his photo, on Wikipedia:
This is what your fish is going to grow into. To be fair, a typical size in captivity is 60 cm/24 inches, but that's still a mammoth fish almost as deep as it is long, and weighing as much as a dog.>
I had noticed little white spots on J.J. on previous occasions but assumed it was just little Pacu nips but I am extremely concerned now, since one spot, near his nostril, has a large white spot, fuzzy in appearance. The other spots are not as prominent, but the spot covering the nostril is quite alarming.
<These spots, if on the head, are more likely Hole-in-the-Head. This is extremely common when Geophagine cichlids (Eartheaters, like your Satanoperca jurupari) are kept in small tanks. Geophagine cichlids tolerate almost no nitrate, and certainly levels 20 mg/l or higher cause them immense stress. Treatment is with Metronidazole, plus fixing the environment.
Untreated, the fish will eventually die.>
Incidentally, J.J. is eating well and is behaving normally.
<Good, you still have time. Get moving!>
I am not sure if J.J. has developed HITH or has some type of systemic bacterial infection and I am unsure how to treat him.
<See above.>
I am afraid to use anything toxic and was advised to use a 'melaluca' based medication that added daily to the water
<This is tea-tree oil, and will be of no use against Hole-in-the-Head. The infection can only be treated with Metronidazole. This should also prevent and Finrot following the attack by the Pacu.>
but have seen no results.
<No surprise.>
Please let me know if you have any advice or suggestions.
<Much advice!>
Thank you,
<My pleasure.>
Carol Lyn
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Geophagus Jurupari Question 3/4/10

Wow! Thank you very much for the advice and insight.
<Happy to help.>
I had a Pacu in the past, and he was quite entertaining to say the least, but he passed away when he was not entirely huge.
<Oh. Well, there are several species. The Red-Belly Pacu is one of the *really* big ones.>
I was not aware of quite how large these guys will get- I will DEFINITELY re-think my aquarium. Thank you for that advice.
<No problems.>
Thank you also for advice on J.J. I will head to the pet supply store for the Metronidazole and will definitely test the nitrates.
<Very good.>
Thank you very much; I appreciate your help.
Carol Lyn
<Cheers, Neale.>

Red Devil with Pimple?
Red Devil Getting Hole-In-The-Head -- 02/02/10

Hi. I have a 14in. 1and1/2 year old Male Red Devil. He has always been in perfect health until recently. He seems to have a white pimple-like thing on the side of his head just above his eye. It is not swollen out like a pimple but rather has a white "head" that looks like a clogged pore (I know fish don't have pores in the traditional sense but that's what it looks like). This thing has been there for about 4 or 5 days and tonight I noticed there is another one developing above his eye (same side as the other one). He is behaving normally (for him). Still aggressive and
fighting with me through the glass, eating some but less than normal. I thought it might be the beginning of hole in the head but then he has no other symptoms of that (lethargic, refusing to eat, white poop) none of that. Just these "clogged pores". Any suggestions? It looks like the first one has gotten bigger. I appreciate your help. Grace
< You are correct to be concerned with the beginning stages of Hole-In-The-Head. Usually we get these questions months after it has started. It is good to catch this early. First check the water quality.
Ammonia and nitrites should be zero The nitrates should be under 20 ppm.
Change the diet. Your fish is already an adult and high protein foods may not be needed. Try to feed a high quality food that is about 30% protein.
These white pimples may pop leaving a hole or a cottony growth. Treat in hospital tank with a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace.-Chuck>

Hole in head 1/5/10
Hello, Lately I have noticed my albino Oscar has a few holes in his head as well as it seems his fins maybe rotting. I have done multiple water changes
<Test results?>
and used medication.
<What type and how administered?>
However when meds are used my fish just sat at the bottom of the tank and looked like they were going to die. I have two Oscars in a 75 gal. Any and all help is greatly appreciated. Thank You, Scott Newton
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/FWHLLECases.htm
and the linked files above... Bob Fenner>
re: hole in head 1/7/10

I threw away the package for the meds however it was a powder that changed the water to a greenish color. It did not work at all it just caused my other Oscar to act like he was dead for a few days. Hope you can help Thanks Scott
<... Please read where you were referred to. Some folks adhere to the belief that HLLE is resultant from Protozoan infestation... others (myself included) consider it more a symptom of "poor water quality" and lack of nutrition. BobF>

Tank help
Cichlids With Hole-In-The-Head 7/1/09

Hello WWM crew, My name is Ryan. I was referred to your site from Brian MacDonald "The Fishman".
He came out to look at my tank and get my water chemistry back on track, (my pH and alkalinity were always bottoming out) which we got to a 7.0 for pH and a good rating (120-180) for the alkalinity. My tank is 210 gallons, with 2 Xp4 Filters (added an extra one almost 2 weeks ago now as per Bob's advice to Brian) 2 Power heads, 2 heaters. Water temp is always 80. One of the filters has a snorkel attachment on it which I use on full tank till I get any scum on the surface then I switch it for about 30 min to full skim then put it back, while the other Xp4 has the factory blue downspout.
My Fish include: 2 Tiger Oscars, 4 Jack Dempsey (3 female 1 male, which have had eggs 3 times now) 2 Green Terrors, 1 Convict, 1 Green Severum, 1 Parrot, 1 Royal Pleco, and 1 Leopard Sail-fin Pleco.
2 Pictures of my tank with the canopy off are on Brian's site http://www.carefreeam.com/testimonials.html (these pics were taken before I added the 2nd filter)
I feed them Hikari Bio Gold Large pellets, Hikari Gold smaller pellets, Tetra Pro Flakes (the ones that don't break apart) Hikari Blood Worms, Sally's Brand Frozen Krill, and Hikari algae wafers for the Pleco. I feed 2 times a day the pellets (which I switch up day to day to keep them interested) and sometimes instead of pellets the second time of the day I will add one of the frozen food, a few blood worms or some krill. When I turn off the lights I wait for about an hour and then I will throw in some algae wafers, but that is only maybe 2 times a week.
Also I feed them live earthworms as a treat when I get them from the gardens, with my worm catcher. My cleaning schedule is 2 times a week Monday and Thursday water change and gravel clean, service the 2 filters every 2 weeks, and change the micro filter pads and the 4 bags of carbon (2 in each filter) every month to a month and a half depending on how dirty they both are in the rinse off process.
I was using a lot of Cycle product but after reading on your site I have stopped using it and as well as the Nitra Zorb pouches I was using in the past.
(Great info on your site)
Now with the stepped up water and gravel clean, those two products are not needed. Thanks for saving me lots of money.
OK after all of that back story this is my problem, after keeping the tank nice and clean and doing this scheduled maintenance for about 2 months now, If and when would I notice the fish to recover from Hole in head disease?
The 2 Tiger Oscars were given to me around a year ago, and they were kept for about 7-8 months in really poor conditions at the other guy's house, which I rescued them from. They both were in bad condition, but the whole time I have had them they have come back and have grown double in size. They both suffer from Hole in Head disease, and I am worried my other fish will get it or are getting it from them or my water. Brian suggested that I send in some pics and contact you guys direct for some help because he thought with my new schedule of water cleaning, they should have started to heal up. Also I forgot to say but every month I add some API aquarium salt to help them with the electrolytes and healing. I am including 4 pictures of close up night shots so they aren't moving, 1 of the 2 Oscars which you can see there hole in head, 1 of the Severum with a line running down his body I am not happy with, 1 of the female Dempsey with the same
line forming as the Severum and 1 of my bigger Green Terror who never seems to heal his 2 Pectoral fins, and he has them always ripped and fluttering.
Every time one side seems to heal for him his other is torn. So thanks for letting Brian know I needed better
filtration already. I am so glad to have people who know what they are talking about helping me since I was lied to and pretty much screwed by the Big Al's people of Brampton into spending about $2000 in chemicals and Nitra Zorb and Cycle and pretty much anything else they could sell me, and not ever get my tank into proper standing, as your site and Brian's help did. So Please let me know what to do from here, and thanks again.
< Check the nitrates regularly. You are feeding lots of different foods which is very good, but these materials create lots of nitrogenous waste. The ammonia and nitrite concentrations should always be zero. The nitrates should always be under 20 ppm. If the levels exceeded this limit you need to do more frequent water changes, change more water when you do your water changes or reduce the bioload by having fewer fish. The alkalinity issue you are having may be a sign of your problem. You fish may not be getting enough calcium in their diet. I have a theory that calcium is not found in soft acidic water. Fish found in these areas need to get the calcium from their diet since there is none to be found in the water. If you water is very soft and you have alkalinity problems then the problem may be that their is not much excess calcium to build and replenish bone structure. The skull is s very large bone on the fish and may be the first sign of a calcium deficiency. Many people who make their own fish food have added calcium to their fish food recipe and have had some success. Many of the foods you are feeding are very high quality but usually have high protein amounts that encourage grow. Growing fish need lots of calcium for growing bones. You could try to add some crushed coral to the tank to increase the calcium content of the water and try to get the alkalinity up to 200-300 and see what happens. This disease is very common on large new world cichlids but seems very rare on African Rift lake cichlids of similar size. The pH of the lakes is well above 7 with alkalinity well above 300. Some treat the fish with Metronidazole. This may he a case of treating the symptoms and not the disease.-Chuck>

African Cichlid problem
Malawi Cichlid With Hole In The Head 6/19/09

You have a great site, I have learned a lot browsing through it.
<Thank you for your kind words>
Please help me asap!
55 gallon tank
Inhabitants: One 6-7" female Fossorochromis Rostratus (6.5 years old),
1-inch female Aulonocaras
Filtration: Eheim 2213 canister filter
Nitrates: 5 ppm right before water change
Nitrites: 0
Ammonia 0
pH: 7.5
Water Change Frequency: 40-50% twice a week Food: homemade from internet recipe and Hikari Marine A Temperature: 76 F Symptoms: All inhabitants healthy with absolutely no prior medical problems.
The Fossorochromis recently began showing minor symptoms of hole in the head disease, much to my dismay. I went through a round of Metro+ and added liquid vitamins to her food with no discernible improvement, but no worsening either. Yesterday noticed a reddened area and "pimple" near her mouth and her fins were down. Suspected bacterial infection of some kind.
As I hadn't had time to research the situation fully (gram positive or negative or something else entirely) and haven't had to use antibiotics of any kind in the last 6 years of this hobby, I added the only thing I had on hand, Pimafix. Yes, I am aware that is like giving herbal remedies to an MSRA patient, but I had nothing else and live an hour from the nearest pet store. This morning her fins are back to normal intermittently but she is breathing very hard. I added an air stone and am in the process of changing the water yet again to increase oxygen content. She appears to be breathing easier now, but not back to normal. I own nine freshwater aquariums and fortunately have never seen this before so I don't know what is going on.
All the rest of the inhabitants in her tank are just fine. Any ideas are welcome! Thank you for your time and suggestions. Rebecca < There are ideas about the causes of hole in the head disease without any scientific evidence to back them up to my satisfaction, but you have eliminated some of the theoretical causes. Some people think it is bad water. This is not the case because you water conditions are fine and you are up on your water changes so it is not nitrogenous waste either. This comes down to diet. Usually food with fish meal contains enough calcium for fish to build their bones as they grow. Since you make your own fish food it is hard to tell if your food has enough calcium in it. Larger fish need more calcium to replenish the calcium needed to build their bones. Try Spectrum New Life pellet food for awhile and see if this makes any difference. I have never had a problem with HITH while using this food. If this works then in your situation we may have found a possible cause and cure.-Chuck>

Update on African Cichlid situation... hlth.
Malawi Cichlid With Hole In The Head 6/19/09

Thought I would add an update. After the massive water change, which rid the tank of Pimafix, the Fossorochromis in question returned to breathing and acting normally, so maybe her problem was due to that.
I don't plan to use that product again.
<I would not>
However she still has the small raised red bump by her mouth and the beginning HITH situation.
<Likely best cured by providing ongoing optimized water quality and nutrition>
I will refrain from adding any more medication, herbal or otherwise, without strong recommendation.
for your time.
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>
Re: African Cichlid problem
Cichlid With HITH 6/21/09

Thank you for your advice. The reddish sore resolved into another small HITH-like hole, but at least no infection. She is acting normally. I am purchasing Spectrum New Life pellet food online as I write this and implementing daily 25% water changes just in case. I will update you on the
results as soon as something changes. Thanks again. Rebecca
< Try to increase the calcium content of the water by adding some crushed coral to the filter. As it dissolves into the water it may be ingested by the fish.-Chuck>
Re: African Cichlid problem
Hole-In-The-Head Treatment 7/1/09

I purchased the recommended New Life Spectrum food. Until the food arrived, I added powdered calcium to the water and a little to her food as well as a big mesh bag of crushed coral. Since following your advice, one hole has gotten so small I have a hard time finding it, the other two don't seem to have changed too much yet (although all redness is gone), and no new holes are forming. She looks and acts normal and I have high hopes that she is recovering. Thank you for sharing your theory and giving a friend back to me! I will update again when something major occurs, such as (hopefully) her complete recovery. Rebecca
< Thank you so much for writing back. It is times like this that makes me glad that your question was asked and that all fellow aquarists and their pet cichlids might benefit from our WWM forum. Hopefully the recovery will continue and this disease will no longer become an issue.-Chuck>

Old Frontosa With Hole In The Head 06/03/09
Hi guys, I have a frontosa. He is about twelve years old. I have medicated him with every thing I can think of, Nitrofuranace and Metronidazole. If I am not mistaken it is hole in the head?, You cannot see it very well in the picture but that is a deep hole on the side of his face not just surface.
and he also has transparent grape like clusters by his eye and his face is pitted pretty bad, am I right about the hole in the head?
< That is definitely Hole-In-The Head.>
He has had this for a about two years, I have been thinking about putting him down with Finquel. I am sending you some pics. If the pics are to big, please let me know and I will try to make them smaller. Thank you Michelle
< Thanks for the pictures. Your frontosa is very old and may not respond to the medication. First lets start with the water quality. The ammonia and nitrites should be zero. The nitrates should be under 20 ppm. The pH should be as close to 8.0 as possible. The water temp should be around 82 F. The diet should include a high quality pellet with fish meal as a major ingredient. Now that he is sick you should try and feed him some medicated food with Metronidazole in it. Your fish has been sick for a very long time and his age makes recovery a very slow process. You used the right medications, it is just that in hard alkaline water these medications are not as effective.-Chuck>

Hole in the head?? Angelfish with Internal Infection 2/20/09 Hi Folks; I love your website. A goldmine of information I wish I knew about a year ago. My problem- I have an angel fish who started acting lethargic, and would float around the corners of the tank (55 gal) at an angle. I didn't know what to do, so I hoped it would just pass. I waited two days and my wife noticed a red spot near his gills that is now a hole. Two days after I first noticed his symptoms, I found your site. I immediately setup my old 20 gal as an emergency hospital tank. I couldn't wait for cycling so I transferred him. < Usually cycling is not needed because if you do medicate the tank, the treatment would affect the bacteria anyway.> Before I transferred him he had taken to lying on his side in the tank. I have removed the carbon filter from the hush 35 filter I use for that tank and medicated with Jungle Tank Buddies Parasite Clear, as it contains Metronidazole (which you recommend).Since transferring him, I can't say he is any better but he also doesn't seem to be worse. If I tap the tank gently, he gets up and swims around for a couple of minutes and then settles in again. I am unsure of how to proceed, what to watch for. or if he will make it. He came from my 55gal tank (which I have also medicated the same way. I have noticed some different skin markings on one of my Gouramis and one of my Bala sharks. History of the 55 gal tank is good. I almost always do a 20% water change every week. I did miss a week just before I noticed my angel fish acting strange. I keep a computer log of all my water readings, observations and treatments and I have a full year of data. My pH occasionally drops to 6.0 in a week, but usually only drops to 6.3 I try to maintain 6.8 to 7.0 My ammonia is almost always 0, same for nitrites. My nitrates usually climb to 20 or 30 in a week, but the water change seems to correct that. My water is almost always crystal clear. I use a penguin 350 filter with bio-wheels to keep the water clean. I have a leopard Plec, another Plec I inherited from my daughters tank (pepper Plec I think) a small striped orange and black algae eater, 3 Bala sharks, 2 Gouramis, a red tail shark 2 neon tetras and 3 fish I don't know the names of (sorry). Feeding has always been Nutrafin flake food and occasional freeze dried bloodworms. In the last 2 months, I have twice put zucchini in the tank, and today a small piece of carrot. < The squash and carrot contain land based plant cell walls that may not be digestible by the angelfish. If the fish cannot digest these things then bacteria in the gut start to work on them. This may cause an infection and a blockage. This may be the cause of the problem.> I think that the tank has been well looked after and maintained, and because of that I rarely have to add anything but tap water conditioner and Prime (by Seachem) at water changes. I keep the 55 gal tank at 76 F and my emergency hospital tank has been 78 to 79 F. I am currently raising this to 81 F because I understand that the angel fish will do better in the warmer water. Can you see anything I have missed? I tried to find Jungle hole in the head treatment, but it is not available in Canada. Regards Floyd Abbotsford BC < I would recommend using Nitrofuranace in addition to the Metronidazole. The Nitro is a wide spectrum antibiotic that may be absorbed into the fish.-Chuck>

Hole in the head?? FW Angel, dis. 2/20/09 Hi Folks; <Floyd> I love your website. A goldmine of information I wish I knew about a year ago. <Ahh!> My problem- I have an angel fish who started acting lethargic, and would float around the corners of the tank (55 gal) at an angle. <Unusual beh.> I didn't know what to do, so I hoped it would just pass. I waited two days and my wife noticed a red spot near his gills that is now a hole. Two days after I first noticed his symptoms, I found your site. I immediately setup my old 20 gal as an emergency hospital tank. I couldn't wait for cycling so I transferred him. Before I transferred him he had taken to lying on his side in the tank. I have removed the carbon filter from the hush 35 filter I use for that tank and medicated with Jungle Tank Buddies Parasite Clear, as it contains Metronidazole (which you recommend). <Yes> Since transferring him, I can't say he is any better but he also doesn't seem to be worse. If I tap the tank gently, he gets up and swims around for a couple of minutes and then settles in again. I am unsure of how to proceed, what to watch for. or if he will make it. <Mmm... best to wait at this point... Am suspecting something internal... not really/easily treatable> He came from my 55gal tank (which I have also medicated the same way. I have noticed some different skin markings on one of my Gouramis and one of my Bala sharks. History of the 55 gal tank is good. I almost always do a 20% water change every week. I did miss a week just before I noticed my angel fish acting strange. I keep a computer log of all my water readings, observations and treatments and I have a full year of data. My pH occasionally drops to 6.0 in a week, <Mmm, I'd be bolstering the alkalinity. Please read Neale's excellent piece here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsoftness.htm and the first linked FAQs file at top> but usually only drops to 6.3 I try to maintain 6.8 to 7.0 <This is a huge variation in a week... Again, I'd avail myself of a simple prep. even just Baking Soda...> My ammonia is almost always 0, same for nitrites. My nitrates usually climb to 20 or 30 in a week, but the water change seems to correct that. My water is almost always crystal clear. I use a penguin 350 filter with bio-wheels to keep the water clean. I have a leopard Plec, another Plec I inherited from my daughters tank (pepper Plec I think) a small striped orange and black algae eater, 3 Bala sharks, 2 Gouramis, a red tail shark 2 neon tetras and 3 fish I don't know the names of (sorry). Feeding has always been Nutrafin flake food and occasional freeze dried bloodworms. In the last 2 months, I have twice put zucchini in the tank, and today a small piece of carrot. <Ah, good> I think that the tank has been well looked after and maintained, and because of that I rarely have to add anything but tap water conditioner and Prime (by Seachem) at water changes. I keep the 55 gal tank at 76 F and my emergency hospital tank has been 78 to 79 F. I am currently raising this to 81 F because I understand that the angel fish will do better in the warmer water. <Yes...> Can you see anything I have missed? I tried to find Jungle hole in the head treatment, but it is not available in Canada. <Is largely Metronidazole/Flagyl as well... Again... am suspecting that this Angel has other than an Octomita/Hexamita issue. Only time can/will tell here.> Regards Floyd Abbotsford BC <Thank you for sharing, writing so well. Bob Fenner>

Follow-up to hole in the head?? question 2/22/09 Follow Up Treatment of Angelfish Thank you for your responses. I went out and bought Furan2, it contains Nitrofurazone (couldn't find a treatment with Nitrofuranace). I medicated with 2 capsules of powder ( the recommended dose on the label). I also bought a general and carbonate water test kit. General hardness was 3.92DH and the KH was 40mg/L as CaCO3. I will stay on top of the situation and hopefully save my little angel fish. Observation - after the Metronidazole treatment but before Nitrofurazone treatment, I found he had even less energy, but seemed to be gasping a little bit less. Also, his sense of balance seems to have improved slightly. I hope the resolution of this problem helps others as well. I had no idea that the pH swings were caused by poor reserve of alkalinity. Regards Floyd Abbotsford, BC Canada < The medications will take time to work. The Furan II should be as effective against internal bacterial infections. Go back to the WWM page and search alkalinity to give you some idea on where you are.-Chuck>

Help with sick Severum
Severum Starting To get Hole-In-The-Head 9/9/08

Hi, I have a 200 litre aquarium which has 5 angels, 1 Oscar, 1 silver shark, 1 bichir, and a breeding pair of Severums.
All fish are totally fine expect for the Severum which has been getting strange white bumps around his eyes and on his head for the last few days. I have attached a picture, I wonder if you could advise what is wrong with my fish and how to treat it?? Many thanks Jason Ingold
< It looks like you Severum is showing the first signs of Hole-In-The-Head disease. After the pus filled blisters pop a hole is left in its place. The holes continue to grow eating away the skull. There are some ideas to what the cause of this disease could be but no exact pathogen has been identified. The stress of breeding could have weakened your fish and made them vulnerable. If it was my fish I would place it in a hospital tank with clean warm(82 F) water. Treat the tank with Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace. If the fish is still eating then feed a medicated food with Metronidazole in it. Generally I would try to improve the diet with a quality pellet food. If you fish is still eating I would try a little trick I stumbled on a few years ago. I had an south American cichlid like yours that just started to get the disease but was still eating. He especially love black worms. I took the portion of black worms in a little plastic cup with some water and medicated the worms with the dosage of Metronidazole. The worms died right away and I quickly fed them to my fish. The fish were unaware that the worms were dead and ate them all up. The lesions turned black the next day. I did a major water change, cleaned my filters and got some fresh fish food that was high in vegetable matter. I felt that this would provide the minerals my fish may have been missing. Hope this helps.-Chuck>

Cichlid problem, hlth. 8/17/08 Hello again, My T-bar cichlid has got hole in the head, all my fish are scratching, twitching and have all there fins down. <Likely caused by Hexamita, and almost always trigger by environmental or dietary deficiencies, i.e., overcrowding, high nitrates, lack of fresh greens. Treatment is only possible via Metronidazole, couple with correction of water quality/diet. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/metranidazole.htm > They are all eating normally except my T-bar with hole in the head and they have been doing this for 3 days now and they have no signs of any spots so it cant be white spot. <Hexamita is most common when cichlids are overcrowded. Quite possibly latent in all cichlids, when their immune system becomes weakened the Protozoans spread from the digestive tract into the body and out to the lateral line. It's the ones in the lateral line that cause the distinctive pits and lesions.> What could be wrong with them all? Thanks <Review environment, diet, and act accordingly. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: cichlid problem 08/18/2008
Hello, When you said "review environment" what did you mean? My tank has lots of bogwood and a few plants with fine gravel. Thanks. <Simple. Take a look at all the requirements for the fish you have. Look in an aquarium book (or search this web site) to find out more about each species. Note things like water chemistry (pH, hardness), diet, space requirements, compatibility with other fish, etc. Write all these things down. Then compare them to the environment in your aquarium. Any differences between what your fish need and what you are providing will be likely sources of potential problems. Also check nitrite and nitrate; nitrite should be zero at all times, and with cichlids nitrate should be as low as practical, ideally less than 20 mg/l. Cheers, Neale.>

What type of filter media should I use? (RMF, comments on Hexamita, carbon?) 7/13/08 I have been searching for many answers in your forum for the past few days, and I must say "thank you" for all of this information. I have answered most of my questions using the search. To explain myself, I would like to give a little background. <Ok.> A friend of mine moved out of the area and asked me to take his aquarium. There is one very large Oscar in a 35 gallon Hex aquarium with an Marineland Emperor 280 power filter. <Ah, first problem: the tank is _way_ too small for an Oscar, arguably even for a juvenile, let alone an adult. A tank twice this size would be much more reasonable. All cichlids are sensitive to dissolved metabolites -- that means ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. So you need both good filtration (to deal with the nitrite and ammonia) and aquarium capacity to dilute the nitrate. Water changes of 25-50% per week are needed to further dilute the nitrate. Without this sort of regimen, cichlids are extremely prone to disease, especially Hexamita and Hole-in-the Head.> The Oscar started getting HITH disease even though I do weekly water changes and according to my LFS, all tests show very good water quality for this type of fish. <There you go. Am I good or what? The point here is that the tank is too small. While it is (theoretically) possible to keep cichlids in small tanks by doing massive (e.g., 90%) water changes on a daily basis, the only practical way to keep them as low-maintenance pets is to use a big tank so that water changes can be spaced out.> I read on your pages about Oscars that HITH may be caused by stress from the aquarium being too small, as well as the use of carbon. <Both these things have been cited in the past as possible triggers. But the balance of opinion nowadays relates HITH to the protozoan Hexamita, an organism that probably lives harmlessly enough in the digestive tracts of many aquarium fish, including cichlids. But when conditions decline, e.g., nitrate exceeds 20 mg/l, the fish's immune system stops working properly and the Protozoans can spread, causing harm. The precise symptoms depends on where the Protozoans end up, which is why Hexamita and HITH had been considered separate diseases for a long time. Both diseases fall under the category of "easy to prevent, difficult to cure".> My friend, and now myself, has always used Marineland Diamond Blend Filter Media in the Emperor 280's media basket 'which is carbon and ammonia remover combined. <Not a huge fan of chemical media, either carbon or zeolite, in freshwater tanks. Neither serves much purpose when compared with the much bigger benefits obtained by doing large (50% weekly) water changes instead. Zeolite is doing something your filter bacteria is doing anyway, so is utterly redundant except in tanks (e.g., hospital tanks, sub-pH6 tanks) where it isn't possible to use biological filtration. In the past the theory was carbon removed dissolved organics from the water, letting you minimise water changes. When I started in the hobby, "old water" was recommended for freshwater fish, with aquarium books often suggesting 10-25% water changes a month as reasonable. Over time the dissolved organics made the water more acidic and gave it a yellow colour. If you do big, weekly water changes, none of this happens, so the carbon is redundant. Furthermore, to actually work properly, carbon needs to be replaced at least monthly, something hardly anyone in freshwater fishkeeping does. So all you get is carbon behaving as an (admittedly reasonably good) substrate for filter bacteria. Instead I would recommend using exclusively top-notch biological such as Siporax together with mechanical filter media that can be cleaned/replaced according to your budget. You should also have a filter offering not less than 6 times (and ideally 10 times) the volume of the tank in turnover per hour (irrespective of the "recommended aquarium" size offered by the manufacturer of said filter, as these assume best-case scenarios of tanks with small, clean fish like Neons).> I purchased a 75 gallon aquarium, and an additional Emperor 280 power filter. I plan to use both of the 280 filters on the 75 gallon. <These filters offer filtration of 280 gallons per hour each, and for your tank I'd recommend at least 450 gallons per hour total and ideally up to 750 gallons per hour. With big, messy fish -- the more the better. I am not wild about hang-on-the-back filters though because they don't seem to be as flexible as canister filters. I want filters that can have the inlet and outlet put where I want them, not limited by the design. I don't like filters that use proprietary "modules" either -- I want to be able to put whatever media I want in the filter. Hence I'd always recommend a decent canister filter such as the excellent value and highly reliable Eheim 2217. At about 260 gallons per hour, two of these would provide adequate filtration and three would provide excellent filtration. They are basically empty buckets into which you cram in whatever media you want. For an Oscar, a mix of sponges/filter wool for solid waste and then lots of ceramic noodles for biological filtration would be ideal. Eheim filters may be slightly more expensive than generic Chinese brands, but they last forever (or at least 10+ years) and such spare parts as you might need (like the rubber seals that will wear out after a while) are cheap and easy to obtain.> From the reading on your site, I have used water from the old aquarium in the new aquarium. <Makes absolutely no difference. The bacteria are not in the water column or even sitting on the gravel (much) but in the filter media. Unplug a mature filter from one tank and connect it to another tank with similar water chemistry, and you it will carry on working perfectly. You can also donate 50% of the media from a mature filter to a new filter to instantly cycle the new filter without causing any harm to the mature filter.> I also placed the new filter on the old aquarium in order to ready the new filter's bio-wheel. Since you do not recommend carbon in a freshwater aquarium, and this could be causing the HITH disease, what would you recommend I use in the filter media baskets? <As stated above.> Also, the Marineland "Rite-Size E" filter cartridges come packed with activated carbon. Should I slice these open and remove the carbon? <Nope. Just consider them money down the drain. Or at least that's how I view them. Activated carbon is a posh way of saying "charcoal", and a great way for manufacturers to sell you something at a premium that costs very little to make. These "filter cartridges" are overpriced for what they are anyway, and that just adds insult to injury. Over the long term, a plain vanilla canister filter into which you can add whatever media you choose will work out so much cheaper, as well as working MUCH MUCH better.> Thank you for all your help, Jay <Cheers, Neale.> <<I am in agreement. RMF>>

Re: What type of filter media should I use? - 07/13/08 I understand what you are saying about filtration, but given my budget and what I have already spent, do you think the two Emperor 280's hanging on the back plus one Eheim 2217 (as you suggested as a good canister) would suffice for this 75 gallon with the one large Oscar? The 280s come with empty media chambers and I will pick up Siporax as you suggested to fill these with. The Eheim is 260gph and the two Emperor filters are 280 each. This would bring my turnover to approx 820gph (manufacturer spec). Thanks again, Jay <Hello Jay. What you propose should work. But you'd want to be clever about where you positioned all these filters to that they weren't all pumping water around just one end of the tank. With big aquaria, it's important to make sure the bottom of the tank receives lots of water current. So perhaps you'd arrange the Eheim so the spray bar pushes water downwards rather than forwards. Even better (and not expensively) you could couple the canister filter with an undergravel filter plate to create a "reverse flow undergravel" filter. This works by the filter pushing water into the filter plate via what would ordinarily be the uplift. The water then comes upwards through the gravel, further supporting nitrifying bacteria and incidentally also keep the gravel much cleaner than otherwise. While not much used nowadays, undergravel filters work amazingly well, and provide good water quality at low cost. A 75-gallon tank should work nicely for an Oscar (or a mated pair). Cheers, Neale.>
Re: What type of filter media should I use? - 07/13/08
Thank you for the quick responses and for the great information. I would have never thought about using an undergravel filter to create uplift. <Used to be very common during the 1980s, and much appreciated in tanks such as Mbuna systems where you want to combine good biological filtration with the chemical buffering provided by a calcareous substrate. Out of fashion nowadays because undergravels generally don't work with plants, and that's the direction advanced freshwater hobbyists tend to go.> The Emperor 280 filter's water intake tubes have a dual intake. I will have one at each end of the 75g aquarium, so water will be pulled into the filter from the bottom and middle of the tank and at both ends. Should I position the Eheim pickup in the middle of the aquarium near the water surface? <Without seeing these filters _in situ_ it's difficult to make any pronouncements here! But here's my test. Put individual flakes of food in the aquarium at different positions and depths. Watch the flakes drift around. If they move about constantly wherever you put the flake, then you're fine. If they collect in certain corners, then you have a "dead patch". If you find the flakes drift slower at some points than others, you have inconsistent water flow. In either case, review the position of the inlets/outlets and try again. As always, theory is fine, but actual experimentation is better!> Maybe even build a skimmer box that the Eheim pickup could pull water from in order to clean the water surface?? <Largely a waste in non-planted tanks. Surface skimmers are great for removing bits of leaves and such that float about. In non-planted tanks this isn't an issue. Rather, your problem is going to be faeces and uneaten food collecting on the substrate. Water changes will help (stir the gravel a bit each time) but my "tip of the day" is to buy a turkey baster. These are great for spot-cleaning waste in large tanks. Cheap and very effective. Also very useful for catching fry and separating eggs from mouthbrooding fish. No aquarist should be without one!> Your expertise is greatly appreciated. Thank you, Jay <Cheers, Neale.>

My Frontosa, HLLE tissue damage - 7/1/08 Hi, I wrote you before about my Front, Georgie and his hole-in-the-head problem, and that I treated him with Medizole and Furnace, I then noticed it looked like fungus so I treated him again with just the Furnace, It looked like it went away but his holes didn't look any better, so I then treated him with some medication called Hole-in-the-Head by JUNGLE, and he still looks like this, is there any hope? <To heal the wounds from the neuromast destruction? Mmm, yes... with time, good nutrition, water quality...> ( I sent you a couple pics) I have had him for a long time( we think he is around thirteen years) and he has always been healthy but know I am at a loss, usually when I treat my fish I have good luck if I catch it right away, I am sending you a few pics and see if you can see what you think, Thank you for your time, John Cline <Have seen worse cases remit. Do try feeding Spectrum pellets exclusively, being religious re weekly water changes... Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/hllefaqs3.htm and the linked FAQs files in this series above. Bob Fenner>

POSSIBLE DISEASED GOURAMIS, HLLE -- 06/28/08 Hi Team, I currently have a 35 gallon tropical tank, PH 7.2, Ammonia = 0, Nitrite = 0, Nitrates = 10-20. I have 2 Pearl Gouramis, 1 male and one female and both have small holes around the top half of their head around the eyes and 'nose'. They are not filled with puss etc. They are empty like bore holes. <Sounds like Head & Lateral Line Erosion disease (HLLE), a syndrome that may, or may not, be related to the Hexamita parasite. I would treat for Hexamita anyway, and also review water chemistry/quality.> The male is a much paler colour than normal. <Again, consistent with HLLE/Hexamita.> The female still looks a normal colour. The holes are only on the Gouramis. All other fish seem unaffected (1 queen arabesque Pleco, 1 Betta, 9 neon tetras, 1 swordtail). <Hexamita/HLLE doesn't affect all fish species equally strongly. Cichlids are by far the most prone, but Gouramis can develop the symptoms too. I've never heard of Catfish, Livebearers or Characins developing the disease. This isn't to say they don't, but it isn't common.> I feed them on Tetra Pro flake food/varied sinking pellets and a weekly treat of frozen daphnia or brine shrimp. I would guess that this is hole in the head disease from the info on your site but I change 10-20% water weekly and feed high quality and varied food so I am not sure how this would have happened as this often relates to poor water. <Indeed this is the case. But the infection can be latent in store-bought fish, only to develop a few weeks or months after purchase. Inbreeding may weaken the immune system of some fish species. Nitrate is likely the triggering factor with cichlids, but 20 mg/l nitrate is "safe", so not really sure what's going on here. Regardless, treat first, worry about the science later.> Is hole in the head disease infectious?? <Not really, no; Hexamita quite probably sits inside the guts of most fish harmlessly, and only causes problems when their immune systems are otherwise impaired. If it is in your system, then all fish have been exposed, so isolating any one fish won't make a huge difference. Since only certain fish develop the disease (or diseases) there isn't any need to worry about the catfish, tetras, or livebearers. By all means isolate the fish if it makes treatment easier/cheaper, but beyond that there's no overbearing reason to do so.> Are my other fish likely to catch it from the Gouramis?? <Possibly the Betta.> Are there any treatments available in the UK that you could recommend?? <Yes. eSHa make something specific for Hexamita/Discus Disease. Not used it myself, but I rate their other medications very highly. http://www.eshalabs.com/hexamita.htm > Or is it maybe too late to save them?? <Fish can, do recover from Hexamita provided they are treated and properly fed/maintained.> I would like to treat the entire tank anyway if poss. as a precaution. Thanks Brian <Cheers, Neale.>

".... like I need a hole in my head." Hi! <Hello!> I appreciate your time and any help or expertise you can offer. I have a 4.5 inch discus that we treated for hole in the head last month, it had white pussy matter coming out of holes above the lateral line. <Sounds classically like hole-in-the-head indeed.> We treated with Paragon II and it cleared up after 2 rounds of medication. Now a month later it has started again. Will this keep coming back do I need to retreat? <I would re-treat, but with Metronidazole in food rather than in the water.> Is there a better medication that you can purchase at a pet store that you would recommend? <Metronidazole can be found under the name "Hex-a-Mit" (Aquatronics). It would be best to administer this via food, *not* just in the water, as the package directs. Perhaps try mixing it into a frozen food (er, thaw the food to mix it in, then re-freeze). Aim for about 1% medicine by weight.> We are currently feeding quite the variety of foods so I would find it hard to believe it is from a vitamin deficiency. <Might be worthwhile to look into vitamin supplements anyway.> Lastly what is the minimum size you would recommend for a hospital tank, we just put our 75 gallon tank away and aren't too excited about setting it back up. <For a single, 4.5" discus? You could manage with something even as small as a 10-gallon tank (or even Rubbermaid container), if necessary. A 20g might be a little more suited to a good sized fish like that. Be sure to provide something for the fish to hide around and feel safe. PVC pipe elbows are good for this, and cheaper than plastic plants. Wishing you and your discus well, -Sabrina>

HLLE, Oscars, Etiology, Cures Hi Robert... <Hello> I am sure with the volume of mail that you receive, you don't recall who I am. I had the two gold Oscars that had HLLE. <I recall> Though I followed everything that was explained to do, tonight I lost one of them. For some reason, this one just did not respond to anything I did. The other seems to be at least remaining the same, if not slowly healing, it is difficult to tell. I have some generic questions that I have found no answer to. Is HLLE an actual disease, a skin condition, a bacteria, or most importantly, contagious? <There are a few theories as to root causes of HLLE... most favor nutritional deficiency syndromes (mainly vitamins, iodide/ine)... some suggest protozoan involvement (esp. Hexamita spp.), others stray electrical potential (sellers of grounding probes), general "poor water quality"... Myself? I believe the first is a principal cause with all others being contributory. Please read through "the three sets of factors that determine health" piece here: http://wetwebmedia.com/mardisease.htm For a "more rounded" view/glance of what goes on in the real universe> Everything I've read says that it cropped up about 15 years or so ago, and the likely hood of the causative action being Hexamita is slim. <Was about way before this time... know because I was there...> As this is what killed one of my Oscars, I would like to know more about what it actually is. <I understand your provocation... treatments more often kill off livestock...> You spent a great deal of time working with me on fixing this problem, and I truly do appreciate it. <An honor to help> One just didn't have it in him to make it though. I still have hope for the second one. Thank you again cj. <Please do read over the HLLE FAQs and environmental disease sections on the Marine Index part of our site (WetWebMedia.com) as well. The same etiology/ies for marine fishes pre-dispose them to this "disease". Bob Fenner> C.J. Moody

Re: Cichlid i.d., Vitamins, Iodide/ine I am sure I am about to drive you crazy.... but.... <<Mostly there already, no worries>> >Do you mean that I can actually buy baby vitamins for human babies and use them?? ><<Yes, the actual molecules are identical>> How do I know how much of this to give them? Should I treat the food with the same amount as listed for an infant? <<Hmm, a "few drops" total (irrespective of food amount, size of system) will be sufficient and no problem...>> >However, I know that table salt does have iodine in it. If I were to put a few teaspoons of table salt in there, would this be a bad thing or a good thing? ><<Better than nothing>> Sounds a bit ominous... Will track down some of the advised product:) <<Ah, good>> Thank you again:) cj. C.J. Moody <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>
Re: Cichlid i.d., Vitamins, Iodide/ine
>>1 random cichlid [about the size of a convict] >I would like to figure out what this cichlid is. ><Oh yes: fishbase.org The family cichlid is quite large... maybe start with Spilurum, the various re-do's of the genus Cichlasoma... and a very large pot of tea/coffee (to stay up late). Have fun.> *Thank You*!! I may well find out what she is with this:) <<Yes... a long, but fun search>> ><The same causative mechanism/s exist in both marine and freshwater... lack of essential nutrients> Can I overdose them on vitamins? <<Yes, this is possible... not practically though...>> ><There are prep.s that are made/labeled for fishes et al. aquatics, but the compounds involved are the same as for tetrapods (like you and me), so "baby vitamins" (liquids) will do... Do you mean that I can actually buy baby vitamins for human babies and use them?? <<Yes, the actual molecules are identical>> > or pet-fish ones like Micro-Vit, Selcon... Add these to the food a few minutes before offering.> Yesterday I bought something called Hex-a-Vital, and it is a vitamin product that specifies treatment for HLLE. I can see a difference in one of them, but the other still looks fairly nasty. <<This "curing process" takes weeks to months generally. Be patient>> In this product is A, D3, C, E, Calcium Phosphorous and Calcium Carbonate. There is no iodine. <<I would find a source and apply it. Lugol's Solution will do, potassium iodide would be better>> However, I know that table salt does have iodine in it. If I were to put a few teaspoons of table salt in there, would this be a bad thing or a good thing? <<Better than nothing>> I have always understood that iodine will kill fish, which is why one should use rock or aquarium salt. <<Hmm, much to say here... Iodine (the element) is indeed toxic... Iodide (same element, different valence state) is a way to supply this essential nutrient... not toxic in small concentrations>> ><Me too... do try the vitamins... they can/will effect a reversal at this point. Bob Fenner> I can tell there is an improvement. You are a wonderful person, taking the time to work with me on this. Thank you so very much. cj. C.J. Moody <You are welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

Hole in the head Hi from Australia, I have a problem with my tropical tank so first some background info (sorry, this could take a while); It's a 55gal and has been up and running for about 3 months with an Eheim 2229 wet/dry, It has been on 0 nitrites, nitrates and ammonia all the time (had LFS double check this), the ph has been 7 constantly. The tank is well planted and the plants are healthy and growing well (I used undergravel plant tablets for them). I introduced my fish slowly first 8 Neons, one week later 4 dwarf Gourami, 2 weeks later 3 small Bristlenose, 1 week later a small angelfish and a pearl Gourami all the time maintaining zero levels of everything. <This all sounds very good> First one of my dwarf gouramis got bloat and died, research done so more varied diet (peas, flake food, mosquito larvae.) introduced and reduced amount of feeding. By the way weekly water changes of 1/4 have been going on since 3 weeks in. <This is probably a bit much on the water changes. If you want to do them weekly cut them back to about 10% unless you notice your levels start to rise.> Then introduced Siamese fighter, (2 weeks later) left the tank in fathers care for 3 days when I returned it was hanging on the surface and looked like its fins were all stuck together, it refused to eat and consequently died and when I took it out I noticed blood oozing from its fins (the fish was a red colour so I didn't notice earlier) there was no evidence of damage to the fins though, up until then it had been very happy in the tank exploring and eating fine (Betta bits+mosquito larvae). <Sounds like he might have died of septicemia. Info here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfshparasites.htm > Now to the current problem, one of my other dwarf gouramis has hole in the head, the LFS had given me tablets to treat the previous bloat problem and they said this is also for HITH, I can't remember their name but they were large white tablets, sorry I'm sure that doesn't help much. <Unfortunately, I don't know what the tablets would be. Possibly Maracyn but there are others that look similar. And without knowing what they are I can't tell you much about their use.> I put 15L water from the tank into a bucket with some plants and a heater I worked out the tablet dosage as 1 per 25L as they had told me to put 10 in my 240L tank for the bloat so I put 1/2 a tablet dissolved in the bucket and left the fish in their overnight by morning it was swimming erratically and blowing bubbles at the surface, I immediately moved it to the old tank and it is almost back to normal now. Does it look like I could have overdosed the fish? The dosage for the bloat in the 240L (55gal) was 10 tablets every day for 3 days than a 50% water change. <You said you put in plants and a heater but did you put in an airstone or pump or anything? If not, this is probably what was making the fish go crazy instead of the medication.> What is happening to my fish? My LFS has no idea they say HITH and bloat are often caused by stress but with few fish, many plants and excellent water conditions I doubt it. The gouramis do occasionally chase each other but not excessively. The fish are neither fat nor thin so I must be feeding the right amount of food. <Most diseases can be brought on by stress but that's not always the cause. And even just the introduction of a new fish can cause stress. Imagine you live alone in a 4 bedroom house. Someone you don't know moves into the house with you. You still have plenty of room, the air is still good, you have plenty to eat, but you're still nervous right? It's the same thing for your fish. So this could have been triggered by stress even though their conditions are excellent.> Could there be any other problems with my water? I use 1/2 rainwater, (very alkaline) and 1/2 bore water (very acidic). Are there any other tests I could carry out? <This should be fine as long as you are acclimating all of the fish to it slowly.> The only thing I know I have done wrong is not having a quarantine tank so I went out and bought one yesterday and I will not introduce any more fish without quarantining them first. <Good. I would isolate the guy with the HITH and medicate him in that tank. Don't put him back in your main tank until you know he's completely well again.> Sorry for the long e-mail but I'm at my wits end I have told this story to 3 different LFS and none of them have a clue what is happening. Thanks Emma <Well, I hope I was of some help! Ronni>

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