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FAQs on Oscar Disease/Health 11

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Related FAQs: Oscar Disease 1, Oscar Disease 2, Oscar Disease 3, Oscar Disease 4, Oscar Disease 5, Oscar Disease 6, Oscar Disease 7, Oscar Disease 8, Oscar Disease 9, Oscar Disease 10, Oscar Disease 12, Oscar Disease 13, Oscar Disease 14, Oscar Disease 15, Oscar Disease 16,
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Tiger Oscar attack (Bob, Oscar damage or Catfish damage?)<<Likely the latter>> 9/3/10
I have had 2 Tiger Oscars in a 125 gallon tank for over a year with a 14 inch Pleco .
They have always gotten along well, as well as can be expected.
<Indeed! Oscars are not famously sociable except as mated pairs.>
The Oscars are easily 15 inches and 12 inches. I clean their tank every 3rd week, draining close to 75% of the water each time. I also use this time to "rearrange" the decor in the tank, to keep them entertained.
<Likely helps to break up territories a bit, which is good, because it prevents any one specimen become super-dominant. That's the theory, anyway.>
They are fed flake/frozen food daily, and they get about 25 feeders every Tuesday to chase around.
<No, don't feed them feeder fish! It's VERY VERY VERY bad for them. Gosh, I have no idea why shops still sell these "parasite bombs". Let's put the cruelty aspect aside (and it is cruel). In terms of nutrition, Goldfish and Minnows suck. They contain a lot of fat and something called Thiaminase that breaks down Vitamin B1. There is AMPLE laboratory and real world evidence that Thiaminase causes predatory animals including fish all kinds of health problems, from reproductive issues through to poor immune responses and deterioration of the nervous system. The use of feeder fish also increases aggression for reasons not altogether understood. There are absolutely NO good reasons to use feeder fish, and lots of reasons not to.
Thankfully you can't buy them here in England so it's mostly a non-issue, but the US pet trade still sells them, creating all sorts of problems for American aquarists. Want to give your Oscar something it would eat in the wild? See those massive jaws, they're for crushing things! So try snails or crayfish or whole shrimp. They love earthworms!>
It keeps them from fighting with each other.
<No it doesn't. For some reason it actually makes them more scrappy.>
Last week, I did not stop to buy them feeders. They were fighting by Thursday, and by Saturday morning the smaller Oscar was laying on the bottom of the tank, covered in white "fuzz" spots, and there is a side of their tank without gravel where you could see the scales on the bottom.
<I don't think this had anything to do with you not buying feeder fish.
Indeed, it's more likely that buy using feeder fish you've increased their tendency towards aggression, and this week it might have spilled over into outright violence. That said, by the look of the damage, I think the Pleco is to blame here. Oscars fight by wrestling, and usually you find damage to the jaws, face and fins as they bite at each other. This looks like someone scraped away at the flanks. It's possible one Oscar damaged the other, and the scent of blood was enough to get your Pleco hungry. Within the confines of your aquarium the stressed or otherwise weakened Oscar was an easy target.>
My wife thought she was dead. When I got home from work, I grabbed a net and was going to remove her from the tank, but as soon as the net hit the water she moved. I moved some plants and decor in the tank so she has her own little "cove" where she can be sheltered from the other Oscar completely and not have to worry about defending herself. She still shows an appetite at feeding time, and will swim around on occasion, usually after lights are out. What is the best medication to use, anti-fungal as a preventative, stress coat, or Melafix?
<Obviously needs excellent water quality and its own tank. I'd treat with an antibiotic given the scale of the damage; blood poisoning or Finrot-type infections are very probable otherwise. Melafix is largely useless, and this damage goes beyond what Stress Coat can do alone, though using it alongside antibiotics would be a good idea.>
And how long will it take for the scales to regrow?
<This will take months to heal.>
Any other advice would be greatly appreciated.
<Please do stop with the feeders. Ethics aside, they're just D-U-M-B dumb.
If you must use live fish for some obligate piscivore -- which your Oscar isn't -- you have to breed your own livebearers or killifish at home, as these lack Thiaminase and have less fat. Cyprinids such as minnows and Goldfish aren't an option.>
Thank you, Eric
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

This Has Stumped the Oscar Community 8/28/10
Oscar With Skin Slime on Head

Dear WWM, I might be able to have an ailment named after my Oscar. No one has seen it. Attached are pictures of mystery pots that come & go. He had them once in January, March, and April, and at least twice in June. The first day you can only see them up close at a certain angle. In 1-2 days you can see them from across the room. He flashes but not too much. In a day or two they're gone (until recently). They don't go beyond the dorsal fin and they aren't always round.
He's a year old and shares a 90 gallon tank with a Firemouth and 3 Silver Dollars (they are fine). The tank is filtered by two Eheim 2215s. I do 70% water change every 5-7 days. Ammonia & nitrites are always 0. Nitrate is orange before water changes. (API tests). PH in tank and tap is 7.4, KH is 6, GH is 8, temp 79-80. I use Prime, no salt.
This tank has been up since May. His first tank burst. I was hoping the mystery spots would stay there.
He eats Omega One pellets, Massivores, freeze-dried krill, Omega One Veggie Rounds. About 1/4 of his meals are soaked in Vita Chem. I'm trying to get him on an every other day schedule but he begs like a puppy.
I've tried removing everything from the tank except two plastic ornaments.
I've tried correlating the emergence of these ghostly spots with how long it's been since a water change, but there's no obvious connection. They're getting worse. For the last two months he's had them most of the time.
I've tried Seachem Paraguard, the Melafix-Pimafix combo, and Seachem NeoPlex.
I'm having trouble finding anyone who's even seen this.
Have you seen anything like this? What would you do? Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time and dedication to this site.
Best, John (More pics available upon request. It's unbelievable how fast this used to vanish.)
< I would call it a bacterial infection that starts on some of the pores around the head and spreads out when conditions deteriorate. I would recommend a treatment with Nitrofurazone and keep the nitrates under 20 ppm with water changes.-Chuck>

Oscar with one eye 8/28/10
Hello! We just set up a 55 gallon aquarium and I mistakenly purchased a black and orange Oscar with one eye. It appears that he was born with one eye because I see no battle wounds. We also purchased a Jack Dempsey and Texas Cichlid about the same size as the Oscar. I was wondering if you thought that the Oscar might be less aggressive since he has only the one eye? If so I would like to get one or two more fish (possibly a Red Devil and a Pleco). I know that they will grow and fill the tank more, however we are going to be setting up a larger tank within the year that we can transfer them into. Just curious to hear your opinion because I don't want to overfill the tank, but I also would enjoy a couple more fish swimming around! Thanks, Carrie
< The eye problem probably won't make a difference. I would recommend getting all the fish now and letting them grow up together. This will allow them to set up a pecking order before they get too big and can really inflict damage on one another.-Chuck>

Weird Bulge. - 8/23/10
I have a red and black Oscar, I've had it for about 2, 2 1/2 months. Today I was cleaning the tank, when I got him in the net, I noticed there's a pink like. Innard or something hanging from the bottom of his belly, like underneath.
I asked around a little, and got enough different answers, "its pregnant", "it got bit", "its organs are hanging out". (etc)
Can you please tell me what's really going on?
-Thank you, Cort.
<Hello Cortney. Almost certainly this fish has a prolapse of the anus.
Quite common when Oscars are kept in chronically poor conditions.
Apart from fixing the environment, add Epsom salt (not regular salt) at 1-3 teaspoons per 5 gallons, preferably with a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace as well in case there's an associated infection. Review also the basic needs of Oscars. Many folks start off bad by keeping them in small tanks and feeding them live fish; both of these things will quickly make a healthy fish sick. 55 gallons is the minimum for a singleton, and water quality must be excellent. No nitrite or ammonia, and nitrate below 20 mg/l. Weekly water changes essential. Filter should have a turnover rate not less than 8 times the volume of the tank per hour. Use either dried foods or live foods such as earthworms or snails. Don't use feeder fish unless you want to kill your fish. Water chemistry not crucial, but shouldn't be too hard.
Do need more information for a more precise diagnosis. Cheers, Neale.>

What is up with my Oscar
Oscar With Large Growth on Head 8/19/10

I have been referred to your site from the Houston Fish Box I am attaching two pictures of my female Oscar. About a month ago she started getting this knot on her head. Now is gross and huge and looks like some kind of ulcerated tumor! I have tried water changes, increasing aquarium salt, fungus tablet
treatments. Nothing is phasing this growth. Any suggestions what it is?
< I think it is an internal infection. I would check the water quality.
Ammonia and nitrites should be zero and the nitrates should be under 20 ppm. I would treat in a hospital tank with a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace. This combination treats a large range of

Urgent Oscar help! Am trying to find answers but really need some advise... please please please 7/29/10
Hello there!!
Firstly, I must say that I have been reading some of the wonderful advice on this forum and site... most helpful!!
I need to ask for a little bit of help right now, and I do apologise if I am asking something that has already been answered. I am searching through the answers to questions and articles on this site, and approx. 6 others,
<Oh joy...>
and am coming up a little lost in finding what I need.
My partner has built me a new tank, dimensions 150 X 60 X 75 cm. (630 litre capacity) which I am currently in the process of setting up and cycling. I also have a 2ft tank with a 55 litre capacity, which has previously been used for breeding guppies and Bettas.
<What volume or what size system is the Oscar in presently?>
Filtration is an AquaOne 101F Power Liquid Filter 400l/hr with the attachment to have the spray sit slightly above the water for agitation and oxygen, as well as one airstone for added oxygen. The tank parameters are as follows:
PH: 6.6
<Low, too low for Astronotus>
GH: 10 dH (approx. 175 ppm)
<Ammonia? Needs to be 0.0 ppm>
0 -- 0.25 ppm. (have treated for white spot with Methylene blue, tinges the test result ever so slightly and makes it hard to determine... I believe this would be closer to 0 due to water changes as explained in a moment)
Unfortunately, I have run out of reagents for both my Nitrite and Nitrate test kits, and am heading down to get the water tested at my LFS as well as purchase new ones, just wanted to shoot this off quickly!! I do however maintain my water changes religiously, monitor food waste and adjust feeding accordingly to minimise any waste and contamination in the water, I also observe my fish closely and so far have been travelling wonderfully, last recorded levels were nitrites 0 ppm and nitrates 0.25 ppm.
Occupants consisted of 3 x adult guppies, tank had been running for approx 12 months.
Nothing had changed in the aquarium other than the addition of an airstone and new plant. The plant I am uncertain about and has since been removed -- it was artificial, and made out of more like a silk/fabric. I purchased it from my LFS and claimed to be 'approved' on all packaging etc. However, I'd rather be safe and have taken this out just incase it was possibly breaking down or throwing off some kind of toxin.
The Oscars were added to this tank
<...55 litres? Too small for any but the smallest of Oscar specimens>
for the time being until their home has been sufficiently cycled which should only be another 4 weeks at the most. I figured if they eat the guppies then so be it, they are intended as breeders for feeder fish anyway.
I have recently (one week) purchased two juvenile Oscars. One tiger and one red. Both were approx. One inch at the time of purchase, were strong, healthy and paired up at the shop. I bought one to begin with, but 'she' (as I've dubbed her, when she's larger I'm almost certain it will actually be male judging by behaviour, but right now I'm calling her a girl) was rather sulky and unhappy,
<Very typical behavior for this species when moved>
so the following morning I went back and purchased her buddy, who was behaving the same way in the shop. However, when I got him home, approx. 5 hours after release his breathing became a little laboured and he was quite lethargic, hanging around under the heater. The Tiger O had claimed herself a cave and would head over to him and it appeared to 'snuggle'. Laying close, nudging him up and forward, quite friendly appearing, no tail shaking, fins not extended, no nips. He seemed to perk up after another hour or so and they were happily swimming around and cozying up under a rock. I put his earlier behaviour down to stress and settling in, gave them some blood worms and both were eating.
The next morning, I found one guppy dead and a little battered, figuring the Os had just ganged up on them and killed one. Nothing out of the ordinary for them. The Red O was again under the heater/filter and breathing heavily and more rapidly than the night before. I checked the water parameters and came up with the same result. The remaining 2 guppies and the other Oscar were behaving normally. A few hours later, he was displaying signs of weakness, still laboured breathing, and leaning to one side or the other, but was able to still swim around. The tiger O began to ignore him at this stage. I checked the water again, all fine. I decided to do a 25% change even though it wasn't due incase I was experiencing a nitrite/nitrate spike -- no ammonia though. It seemed to have no effect on him. I also noticed a little bit of white spot appearing on his fins and on one of the guppies, and treated with 10ml Methylene blue in 55 litres of water (dosage is 0.25 ml which works out as 12.5 ml -- I always slightly under dose with this just to be safer). Raised the temperature to 29C and the next morning the visible signs were gone from both fish. Treated again with a slighter lesser dose (approx 8 ml) 3 days later. However, prior to redosing, I found that the pH had swung dramatically toward alkaline, approx 8.3 I have never experienced a swing as dramatic as this or in this direction. I corrected and it has remained stable again at around 6.8.
<... I wouldn't correct this, but figure out why the difference, slowly/incrementally change the water to having the pH higher>>
The Oscar continued downhill with his breathing becoming extremely laboured and fast. He stopped eating and became rather agitated. Constantly cranky and displaying aggressive signs, tail shaking and charging anything/anyone (human or fish) who would happen near his corner. At this point my Tiger O became aggressive and would attack and pick on him. He ended up with some wounds an I separated the two within the tank to give him a chance of recovery. I completed another 50% water change at this point. Approx 3 days after this began and he stopped eating, he weakened to the point he became caught up in the current and had trouble staying upright. He would spin around and when he eventually died late last night, his mouth was gaping wide open. I also found the guppy displaying white spot symptoms to do the same thing, and died a little while before the Oscar. Mouth open. I had read some things about whirling disease before, but thought that it primarily affected cold water fishes especially salmonoids... I have been unsuccessful finding information pertaining to it in Oscars and how to treat. Is this even a possibility???????
<The environment>
This morning, I have found my tiger O beginning to breathe slightly heavier than normal. I have immediately upon finding this completed ANOTHER 30% water change, and she appears to have eased a little. She is still highly active and eating -- however not quite as piggy as normal. I have only had her for a week, but she is already taking food from my hand and coming to greet me when I approach the tank. This morning she was giving me a look as if to say 'I'm not well.. help me! Make it better' I felt so horrible. The remaining guppy is breathing quite fast but like the O is very active and eating also. I know it sounds like something terrible is going on in my water -- but I just can't work it out!!!!! Everything appears fine. I am double checking with my LFS once I have posted this, and will update shortly what results they turn up. Perhaps my tests are faulty? ?
Finally, she appeared ever so slightly bloated upon turning the lights on this morning, and then about an hour later after I had completed the water change when I checked her, she had done a HUGE poop and looks ever so slightly emaciated now.
<Might have internal parasitic issue>
This is making me think of internal parasites now, and I have had a look but so many different things seem possible, I think I really need a little bit of more experienced and expert advice to help me sift through the masses of information. Please help me work out what is going on and how to treat this. I am planning to continue daily (up to twice daily if necessary) water changes until I can figure out how to treat this. My thoughts are that if there is a toxin in there, perhaps from the plant I've removed (??) this will lower the concentration, and the same for if I'm experience Na3 & 4 spikes...
I really don't want to lose my girl, I've grown so attached already.
Thank you so much in advance for your time in replying!
<Umm... do re-read what you've sent here... This system appears to not be completely cycled... I do suspect metabolite "build up"/poisoning as a/the primary cause of trouble... See WWM re cycling. Bob Fenner>

Sick Oscar.. Help please
Oscar Lies On The Bottom Of The Tank 7/10/10

Hi Guys, I have a 2 yrs old Albino Oscar about 10" in length. Of late he has been lying at the bottom of the tank in an upright position, no labored breathing, no visible signs of parasite or any Ich on the fish. During feeding he does come up and shows enthusiasm but as son as he has his food he goes right back to the bottom of the tank and remains there. Have done water changes have also put in the required aquarium salt in the tank. The only change observed is that, irrespective of the water changes I do find a white slime in the water very often. Kindly advise what could be the issue and the remedy. Thanks & Regards, Manish K
<Check the water temp. Should be in the mid 70's. Could have an internal infection that has affected the swim bladder. Isolate the fish in a hospital tank and treat with a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace. You may have to look for the ingredients on the packages to find out what is in the remedies sold at the stores.-Chuck>
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 Issue
Swollen Oscar 7/10/10

Hi, My name is Stephanie. I have an older Oscar, maybe 8 years old. For the past 3-4 months, I have been battling Swollen Bladder Disease. He was not getting better. I basically gave up on medicine treatments and just kept doing water changes. He would not eat and stayed at the top of the tank as he was unable to swim down. Sometimes he was laying sideways on the top of the water. Several times when he had been on his side for days, I would decide that today was the day to put him out of his misery. As soon as I would say this, he would make himself upright
and I couldn't do it. If he was willing to try, so was I. (Yes, I was a bad fish owner and let the tank get very dirty. I have since changed my ways.)
Then, out of the blue on Sunday, he acted hungry. I gave him a pellet and he ate it. Next day, gave him 2 pellets and he ate those. Next day, I wake up and look in the tank and his bloating has gone way down and he is swimming normally. And he's hungry! I was shocked. This was a miracle.
2 days later and he is having problems. I did a 25% water change as it was time and I had noticed that he was swimming funny. He is upright but his nose is close to the gravel and he will do a somersault. Almost like he is floating in water. I know fish "float" but this is different and I don't know a better way to describe. He kind of just floats aimlessly bumping into things.
I also noticed that he is flaring his gills and he turns almost white/grey in color. I also noticed that his gills are very red and that the base of his side-fins are red and irritated looking. He also has some fraying on his fins.
He is in a 55 gallon tank that is cleaned regularly. I tested today and the pH is 7, NO-2 is <.03and the NO-3 is 12.5 mg. My ammonia test kit was empty so I don't have that number. Sorry.
I don't know if this is the next "stage" of swollen bladder disease or what. Just hate to give up on him now after we have been through so much.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you! Stephanie
< Check the water temp to be around 75 F. Treat with a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace in a hospital tank.-Chuck>
Re: Oscar Issue
Swollen Oscar II -- 7/12/10

Thanks! That is exactly what I did. He is actually doing much better this morning and is still eating! Stephanie
< Glad to hear you fish is doing better.-Chuck>

Oscar with HUGE eye -- 7/7/10
Oscar With Popeye

Hello, Can you tell me what is wrong with my Oscar? It has a huge eye and swelling underneath the eye as well. Went to the LFS. One said search the web and the other has me currently treating the tank with Maracyn. Today is the 3rd day of treatment and it's looking bigger. All the water chemistry is fine. I don't know what else to do. Charlie
<There is an internal infection behind the eye ball. As the parasites multiply they displace the eye out of its socket. Place in a hospital tank with clean water and treat with a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace. The eye may be damaged beyond repair.-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!>

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