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Related FAQs: FW Fish Parasitic Disease 1, & FAQs on: Diagnosis/Identification of Parasites, FW Parasite Treatments, Freshwater Protozoan Parasite Diseases, Diagnosing/Identifying FW Protozoan Diseases, ( Ich/White Spot Disease, Freshwater Velvet, Sporozoan Parasites, Whirling DiseaseHexamita/Octomita in Freshwater Systems,) Worm Diseases, Cichlid Disease, African Cichlid Disease, Aquarium Maintenance, FW Infectious DiseaseFreshwater MedicationsAfrican Cichlid Disease 1, Cichlid DiseaseBetta Disease 1

Stringy white poop, many deaths     1/15/18
I've been having a bit of a problem with my Dwarf Neon Rainbows and I'm at a loss at this point. I'll start the story by stating that through the whole ordeal ammonia and nitrite were zero, nitrate was less than 5, water
changes were done weekly at least and whenever else I thought they were needed. I ordered 9 online nearly 2 months ago; 3 males and 6 females all came alive but covered in ich. I was expecting ich, so they went straight
into a 10 gallon quarantine tank equipped with a cycled filter off an established tank. I raised the temperature to 86-87 and after 2 days all ich was gone but I left the temperature up for a week or week and a half just to be safe.
All fish initially ate well. I fed almost exclusively frozen foods (brine shrimp, Spirulina brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, etc. I had over 10 varieties) with New Life Spectrum, Hikari Micron, and Sera Onip fed on mornings when I was running late. After a week the male that got picked on a bit developed dropsy overnight and died within a couple days. Now, after having a bad experience at a local fish store with internal parasites I automatically treat all the fish I get. I treated with General Cure first (has never proven effective at treating internal parasites for me but it's proved useful for other things, so I use it before PraziPro) and during
that treatment, one of the males stopped eating and developed white stringy poop. He was like this for a few days before he began breathing very heavily then died. I researched and researched and everything came up as
internal parasites. I used PraziPro and at some point fed Hex-Shield (which I had forgotten I had) and the remaining 7 all had nice red poop. Yay! Or so I thought.
Some number of days later a female got white stringy poop, stopped eating, began breathing heavily, then died. Down to 1 male and 5 females. More research and forum exploration led to Hexamita or Malawi bloat. A Hexamita recommendation was to feed food soaked in Epsom salt. Everyone but one female ate. The recommendation for one that doesn't eat was to squirt the Epsom salt mixture down her throat. I figured since she would die as soon as she got to the heaving breathing stage anyway there was nothing left to lose. I filed the tip off a syringe I got from the vet, gave her some Epsom salt mixture, and the white poops stopped. Yay! Other recommendations were to use metro, so I ordered that just in case. I did it once more and then it was time to pack the fish up for a move across the state.
All rainbows survived the initial trip but the one female died the next day. They were kept in the ten gallon QT for a few days but since the remaining ones all appeared healthy and I really needed the tank off the floor, they went into a 20 high. One male and four females left. None of my frozen food made the trip. A relative lent me a cooler she swore was incredible, yet all my food turned to mush. Everyone got stuck with Repashy and pellets since finding pet stores here is hard, but at least that made looking for healthy red poop easy. The remaining 5 fish were all healthy in the new place for 3 weeks until the other day. One day a female was suddenly breathing heavily and bloated with white stringy poop. She didn't stop eating before then and none of the other fish, minus the initial dropsy case, had bloated before death. Now, I had been feeding pretty heavily because it kept them from decimating the shrimp population while the plants grew back (a bit of melt since they got packed up days before the move), so I fasted them. I was gone the entire next day and didn't look at my fish at all. Yesterday I counted 3 females and 1 male. The shrimp were picking at a small piece of white meat, the Hypancistrus was part way out of his cave (very rare). Clearly, the female was turned into a meal.
I'm at a loss as to what to try next. Your key leads to Malawi Bloat since there's no fungus or wounds appearing on the fish, but they aren't cichlids. They've been treated for internal parasites and every time I think everyone is healthy another comes down ill. What is there left for me to try? I have one male and 3 females left. They look healthy and the poop is healthy but I've learned that can change overnight.
Please help!
<Hello Sabrina. Like you, my gut reaction here (if you pardon the pun) is that we're looking at Hexamita or some similar intestinal parasite. While you have used Hex-Shield, this is a "good" food rather than a medicine.
While it contains vitamins and minerals essential to good health, it doesn't contain Metronidazole, which is the medication you want here. So that's where I'd be going. Something like Seachem MetroPlex, for example.
Epsom Salt is often used alongside Metronidazole because it does help to reduce swelling and constipation, but it isn't a medicine _per se_, so I wouldn't expect it to treat this problem as it is. Squirting Epsom salt into a Rainbowfish sound like a non-runner to me, more than likely causing severe osmotic stress even if the experience doesn't harm the fish psychologically. Ideally, use Metronidazole alongside a reliable antibiotic, Nitrofurazone being particularly popular among aquarists. If you have some other antibiotic kicking about, I dare say it'd be fine
though. At the same time, do ensure a number of other things. Firstly, lots of oxygen; secondly, appropriate water chemistry; thirdly, a varied diet with some fresh greenery (gut-loaded brine shrimp are handy); and fourthly, keep nitrate levels as low as practical. Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Stringy white poop, many deaths     1/17/18

Thank you for your help!
<Most welcome.>
I have a small bag of Metronidazole. The tank is full of snails and shrimp and I can't set up the quarantine tank right now, so do you recommend mixing the Metro into some Repashy or bloodworms?
<Getting medicine into fish via their food is usually more effective than adding to the water. But dosing can be tricky if the fish spit out some of the food. I'd tend to follow the instructions on the package, or advice from the vet, rather than simply improvising.>
In terms of feeding greenery, I used to have Spirulina brine shrimp and emerald entre but they went bad during the move and I can't find any around here. Tiny town problems.
Would crushed algae wafers, cucumber, zucchini, lettuce, or broccoli suffice?
<The algae wafers are a useful staple for any community fish, and should be part of their regular diet. Spirulina flake food (sold for livebearers) is also an excellent staple. The other green foods, if eaten, are all good additions to their diet.>
I also have some Cobalt pellets with Spirulina and probiotics. In terms of antibiotics, I have Kanaplex, Furan 2, ParaGuard, and Fungus Cure (says it treats secondary bacterial infections). I've always been partial to Kanaplex, but which do you recommend?
<Kanaplex would also be my first recommendation here. The others are more or less antimicrobials rather than true antibiotics.>
The tank does have an air stone. In terms of water chemistry, ammonia and nitrites are always zero, nitrates less than 5 (usually zero. I dose a little for the plants), pH around 7.5, 10 dGH, 11dKh.
<All sounds fine.>
Thank you again,
Sabrina H
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Stringy white poop, many deaths      1/18/18

The directions that came with my Metro recommend 2 teaspoons per pound of food.
<That's a lot of fish food!>
I did the math and I need approximately 0.014 tsp per cube of bloodworms, which is just slightly less than 1/64, which is the smallest teaspoon measurement I have. I'll just add a little less than 1/64 tsp and be generous with the Garlic Guard.
<What's the garlic for? I would not be adding random 'cure all' chemicals alongside specific treatments.>
The math for Kanaplex will have to be done later and hopefully the fish will eat it. Perhaps they just need to be starved for a day or two as encouragement.
Alternatively, I could mix it with daphnia (only other frozen food I could find) but I think the hypan is more likely to eat the bloodworms, since eating the last dead fish more than likely infected him too. Do you have a preferred brand of Spirulina flakes?
<Not really; they're all good!>
New Life Spectrum is my go-to brand but they don't make them and neither does my second favorite, Omega One.
<Understood. I've used the Tetra brand, but pretty much any should work a treat.>
I hope you're having a wonderful day!
- Sabrina
<Off to donate blood now, so wonderful isn't quite the word, but hopefully useful! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Stringy white poop, many deaths     1/20/18

I hope donating blood went well! At least as well as it can go anyway.
Personally, I despise needles.
<I think most people do. The burden of being O-neg... constant demands to be sucked by medical vampires!>
Frankly, I'm too lazy to deal with fresh garlic and without it, I find the Pleco won't eat anything medicated.
<Really? Fair enough.>
Thus far the remaining 4 rainbows are alive and still eating, though one female has begun hiding a bit. Should she, or any other infected fish, stop eating how do you recommend I treat it? All forums and sites online say if the fish are to the point of refusing food the medication should basically be squirted down its throat.
<Whilst viable with large fish, with very small fish there's more risk of either stress, handling, or the pressure from the nozzle doing serious damage. I'd be extremely cautious before doing this sort of thing. Many medications can be added to the water. Less effective, but less
I'll do it if I must, but is there another alternative?
<See above.>
The consensus seems to be that treating the water will do no good.
<It's less effective, but not ineffective. Fish do drink, and in freshwater, they can't help but absorb things from their environment.
Dosing is important, but also is removing carbon from the filter -- a common oversight that causes "false negatives" where people use a medication and find the fish stay sick. High oxygen levels and rapid turnover will cause medicine to be broken down by the biological filter, and simply high levels of biological activity, such as algae, let alone the fish, can have a similar effective. So yes, getting the food into a fish is better. But many medicines work reasonably well added to the water. My books recommend 50 mg Metronidazole per 4.5 litres (about 1.2 US gallons) -- so a single 200 mg label would be a bit under 5 US gallons. Furthermore, it is recommended doing 3 treatments, the first on day 1, the second on day 3, the third on day 5, with a 25% water change before the next dose. Make sense?>
Do you personally do any medicating or treatment of new fish? Does it differ whether the fish are captive bred or wild caught?
<Funnily enough, farmed fish are actually more risky! Wild fish tend to be in very good shape, though external parasites like flukes are not uncommon in a few cases (such as Bichirs). Farmed fish tend to be maintained in high numbers in small ponds or tanks, so cross contamination is very common.
Drug use is ubiquitous on farms, too. Of course once you mix the fish in the retailer's tank all bets are off, but no, I don't routinely medicate new fish, but I may well quarantine if that's a possibility. That said, I'm pretty ruthless about not buying fish from dodgy shops, and I avoid delicate species like the plague! Really, fish are actually astonishingly disease resistant, all things considered -- they're swimming about in what are effectively bacteria-laden Petri dishes! It's either bad luck, bad genes, or bad housekeeping that leads to problems. I haven't bought new fish in six years now, and can't remember the last time I medicated them.>
Oh and also, you said Hex-Shield is just a good food. What do you recommend its use be? I spend a fortune on it so I'm definitely using it one way or another, but is it actually helpful with ill fish or just a decent addition to their usual food rotation?
<I'd go with the latter. Hexamita -- or at least Hole-in-the-Head -- probably has some relation to diet, the lack of fresh greens being widely discussed. So, any food laden with greens or supplemented with vitamins has the potential to "shield" against Hexamita. That said, any number of ways to achieve the same thing -- good quality flake, slivers of various fish meats and seafoods, periodic offerings of Spirulina-loaded brine shrimp, cooked peas now and again -- all these things, if used together, should provide a good, balanced diet without the expense. It's much the same as vitamin supplements with humans: sure, we need what they supply, but if you're eating salads and fruits and oily fish and all the rest of it, you'll be getting those vitamins anyways, and it's not like your body can store them, so having extras doesn't help.>
Thank you for all your help!
- Sabrina
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Re: Stringy white poop, many deaths     1/23/18

The length of time to feed the medicated foods differed greatly between the Kanaplex and Metro so i went with the shorter duration, but now one female is bloated and breathing heavily. There's a small chance she is full of
eggs because there has been some spawning activity in the tank, but im leaning towards needing to medicate a bit longer.
<Indeed; seems reasonable.>
Your books recommend far higher dosages than my medication or what I've read online. May I ask what the books are?
<"A-Z of Tropical Fish Diseases and Health Problems" -- an oldie but goodie.>
Can they be purchased online?
<Oh, I'm quite sure they can.>
Maybe the dosage I mixed with the food is too low.
<Possibly. I double checked, and yes, it's 50 mg per Imperial gallon (about 42 gram per US gallon, by my reckoning).>
Would it be reasonable to expect the fish were sent to me already with Hexamita?
<Absolutely. There is some belief that Hexamita is ubiquitous in the aquarium hobby. It's more about asking "what's happened to these fish that's made them unable to resist the Hexamita" in which case we look at
things like poor diet, high nitrate, etc.>
They got a wide variety of frozen foods nightly, including Spirulina brine which was fed usually twice a week.
<A very useful fish food.>
Morning feedings are always New Life Spectrum, Hikari, Sera, or if I had time crushed Cobalt with Spirulina and probiotics or crushed Omega One shrimp pellets. I don't have time to crush things often. They also have always gotten Repashy Community, sometimes Grub Pie if I forgot to make more Community. If i got out too much fish for the Hypan they got flounder, clams, shrimp. All my tanks got peas and green beans a couple times a week,
though the green beans don't seem to be a favorite. I would think this is enough of a variety even if I wasn't feeding Spirulina flakes themselves.
<This all sounds fine.>
On another note about food, I recently saw freeze dried peas with a grinder lid being sold as a fish food supplement. Thoughts? Would it be any good soaked in water before feeding?
<If the fish weren't getting any greens, then sure; but your fish are getting such a good diet, this seems like a needless expense. Besides, fresh greens and Spirulina probably trump dried peas when it comes to vitamin content.>
Sent from my Galaxy Tab A
<Sent from my computer! Neale.>
Re: Stringy white poop, many deaths

Oh my I forgot to change my signature! I really must get around to fixing that!
I ordered a used copy of the book from Amazon for just under $12. I'm very excited!
<It's a brilliant yet frustrating book. Lots of info. It's really my go-to for fish healthcare. Masses of text. Very little filler. But the layout of the book is insane. Three chapters subdivided alphabetically using a system I still don't understand. Luckily, it's written by some very expert aquarists who are very well known in the UK, so it's well worth the effort.>
I can't find much direction for mixing Metro with food online, other than stumbling upon one WetWebMedia article saying to use a 1% mixture. That's too much math for me. Once I finished Calculus my brain checked out. Now all I get to think about is various sciences. Since one scoop didn't seem to cut it I'll try two, mixed with the directed amount of Kanaplex. The one female is looking really bloated. Would it be ok to mix a bit of Epsom salt
in? I'll be using daphnia instead of bloodworms to help in case it's constipation also.
<I would not add Epsom salt. Epsom salt will exert an osmotic effect on the fish that could be dangerous. It'd be similar to having someone eat a bowl of table salt.>
All the transport would definitely be what made them unable to resist Hexamita. They were shipped to me covered in ich, which started the whole ordeal, then I moved and the heat packs failed. All the fish definitely got
cold but not freezing. The only deaths were the female Rainbowfish that had white stringy poop already and my last Rummynose tetra from a fish store who's quality had gone way down. Every fish I bought from that store died
almost instantly, but the group of wild caught rummies I got from a new store were, and still are, in excellent shape.
<This is starting to sound like a very plausible explanation. Stress, bad luck, and the latent Hexamita infection could easily interact in the way you suggest.>
- Sabrina
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Stringy white poop, many deaths     1/30/18

Unfortunately, the female is not improving.
<This is a Rainbowfish, right?>
She's still breathing heavily, still bloated, and has refused to eat for a few days now. I can't set up a quarantine because my spare heater died and there's absolutely no money for a new one, but I do have a small (1/2 gallon I think) container that I can sit in the tank with an air stone.
<0.5 US gal in l.9 litres, pretty much. 50 mg per 4.5 litres is what's recommended. To be clear: that's 51 milligrams, i.e., 50 thousandths of a gram per 4.5 litres. So by my maths that's 21 milligrams per 1.9 litres. So
if you have a single, say, 100 milligram tablet, then you want about one-fifth of that per 1.9 litre/0.5 US gallon. If the tablet was a 200 mg tablet, you'd want one-tenth. Make sense?>
Based on your book (mine has yet to be delivered. Everything takes longer in this dang town), I believe I need to use 21 grams of metro for half a gallon?
<Not 21 grams; 21 milligrams! That's a thousandth of that 21 grams!>
I don't have a scale so admittedly it would be guesstimated. Would you recommend following that or using the instructions that came on the package?
<If all else fails, use the manufacturers instructions.>
It calls for using far less.
<I would imagine! See above.>
One tiny scoop (maybe 1/32 tsp?) per 2.5 gallons.
<Without knowing the concentration of Metronidazole in the powder you have, or the size of the scoop supplied, it's hard to say what 'a scoop' might represent.>
Thanks a bunch!
<Welcome. Neale.>

Mystery ember tetra illness     8/25/12
<Eight megs of poor pix... why don't people follow directions?>
Dear Wet Web Media Crew,
I'm a long time fish keeper, and run a small maintenance service business.
So I've seen my share of illness and have my own tools for dissection etc on hand and can usually pin down most common illnesses and pests.
<Ah yes>
Yet, I've an issue with my ember tetras in my home display tank that has me baffled.  I have 9 embers, 3 panda Cory, 2 albino Cory and 4 three-line Cory in a 60L (15G) planted tank.  It's been running years with zero issues and great plant growth.
However, i seem to loose <lose>  an ember every few months. I've lost 3 so far.  As they are somewhat transparent, I've notices the occasional tetra with black masses in various points around the internal organs.  They sometimes occur behind the gill, sometimes above the swim bladder, sometimes near the kidney etc, and once there seem to spread slowly in the body.  The affected fish is quite fine, active, eats well, good colour for 2-3 months, and finally looses colour, begins breathing rapidly, and at last keels over in about a week or so.  It seems like some sort of internal parasite which causes little trouble until the load becomes too much, and then the fish succumbs.  Most of the other fish are disease free, and it seems usually one is affected at a time.
I've tried catching infected animals to remove them (and hopefully the disease) from the tank, but in a heavily planted set up it's near impossible.
I've not tried anything for treatment save excellent diet and water quality as i dislike treating with meds unless I'm certain what I'm dealing with, and often I've found good care often helps most fish resolve problems themselves.  Tank parameters are: nitrates at 10-20ppm, 0ppm ammonia & nitrate, pH 7.2, GH 4 degrees, KH 3 degrees.  Weekly 30% water changes.
Tank is dosed daily with Flourish Excel, and every 2nd day with liquid ferts (Aquamaster brand).
I've attached a few pics of the latest case.  They don't seem to be nodules, flukes etc, so not sure if a very tiny helminth, bacterial or protozoal mass.
Any help is greatly appreciated.
Kind regards
<Sounds/reads like one of the many "mysterious" Microsporozoan, Microsporidean infections; quite common w/ imported Characins from the wild. Do see Ed Noga (the second ed. if you can... avail. as an e-book am given to understand) re.
Bob Fenner>
Acumen Aquatics - Premium Fin Safe decor, aquarium installation, aquascaping, assistance & service.
Canberra, Australia

both cropped

Re: Mystery ember tetra illness 8/25/12
Hello Bob,
Thank you for the very speedy reply - been researching around as just found that book last night!  I've got the worst case caught and now in quarantine.  When it passes (it's looking past the point of no return) i will check it under the microscope and refer to the book. I have The Manual of Fish Health by Chris Andrews et al and a few others, but not too much
info on Microsporozoans etc.
<I wish I had more, better news to report. As far as I'm aware there is/are no cure/s for...>

Thanks for the good book reference.
Kind regards
<And you, BobF>
Re: Mystery ember tetra illness 8/26/12

Hi Bob
<Salve Lea>
That's sad news, but again appreciate your expertise.  I did find one site pertaining to microsporidia which suggested possibly Metronidazole - though not specifically for fish.
Here's the link if you are interested, it's from Stanford.
<I thank you for this; these infestations can be... persistent, and heartbreaking... in slowly killing off all specimens. Providing "Ideal Circumstances" environmentally, nutritionally... seems to help, slow down the rate of incidence, attrition>
I will continue to keep water quality and diet excellent, and i can only hope the shoal shakes it with their own immunity in time.  I will try adding garlic to boost immunity, and have also given a treatment of a combo formalin, malachite green & Acriflavine to maybe assist in interfering with any water-borne spores (i consider this combo a good broad-spectrum against various gram positive, negative, Protozoans and fungi, which Microsporideans are in the same family). A long shot but i feel it can't hurt too much at this stage.  I will see how this goes after a week, and if no improvement i will discontinue and try Metronidazole in a week or two after the former meds have cleared.  I am always wary of over-medicating and stressing my fish.
<You are wise here>
Thanks again
<Certainly welcome. BobF>
Re: Mystery ember tetra illness     8/27/12

My pleasure Bob - i hope it is of some use.  I was a biologist in my former iteration, and i enjoy research and problem solving to this end.
Speaking of which, i euthanised my ill tetra last night and performed an immediate autopsy.  I found a large infestation of very tiny black particles approx 0.5 mm (barely visible) which seemed slightly oval under my 5x lit magnifying glass. They were not within nodules (like presentations of nodular disease images shown in the Chris Andrews book), but rather simply clustered together.  They were present in the stomach, around the liver, in the kidney, and up behind the brain to the extent that pop-eye was a final symptom. I'm picking up a microscope next week to investigate further and have saved samples of some of the heavily infected sections in water in the freezer (hopefully the main structures will not be ruined when i thaw).
<Better to use a preservative...>
 I'm am wondering what else they could be, as they seem to infect like Microsporideans, but these black specs are far to large (given i can see them just with the naked eye).  Maybe some internal protozoal infection, or a very small internal fluke? I guess it may also be possible that these are simply actual fish cells which have turned black by engorgement of smaller parasites.
If you wish I'll keep you posted and send some images once i collect my microscope.
<I thank you for this>
As you say, it is heart-breaking as that last thing i wish to do is tear down this beautiful planted tank.  Several of the tetras seem unaffected, but that's not to say they are not latent carriers.  Will monitor and let you know.  Also just found that Metronidazole is not available in Australia unless you seek out a vet, so it may take a little time to find a specialist i can obtain some from.
<Yes; the case there is common around the world>
Have you much experience or success with mixing Metronidazole and food?
<A great deal. For freshwater this is by far the better application mode>
 I feel given it's an internal problem, that may be the way to go.  Of course,
will yield to greater experience.
Thank you again
<Glad to share. BobF>

possible prolapse?      8/14/12
The black skirt tetra in question developed the condition sometime earlier today. After a little research, it appears to be a prolapse. She (he?) is acting perfectly normal and is still eating. I tested the water and it appears to be fine: 0 ammonia, 10ppm nitrate, 0 nitrite, GH 75ppm, KH 80ppm, pH 7.5. Is it a prolapse or something else? What should I do? A
quick response would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.
<Yes, you do seem to have a Black Widow Tetra with some sort of intestinal infection. As the pathogens (often Protozoans rather than bacteria) multiply, they cause the large intestine to become inflame and emerge from the anus. Metronidazole ("Flagyl") is the medication of choice here, and the only one that works reliably. The use of Epsom salt can be helpful too, at 1-3 teaspoons per 5 gallons/20 litres, alongside the Metronidazole.
Cheers, Neale.>

Great pix. B

Green Terror -- Internal Parasite Treatment Suggestions  7/7/09
I've pored over your entire website for the answer(s) to my problem (love the site:) My Green Terror cichlid has had white, stringy poop for about a week; in my research, the likely reason is internal parasites.
My tank's water parameters are perfect (i.e. 0 ammonia, nitrites, very low nitrates, etc) and my other 6 six (cobalt blue, 3 diamond tetras, peacock eel, krib) remain healthy and show no symptoms of any kind. The affected fish in question appears to have lost weight as well as any sort of an appetite. I bought Prazi-Pro and Jungle Anti-Parasite Medicated Food, did about an 80% water change, then dosed my display tank with the Prazi. I attempted to feed the Jungle Food over the span of 4 days--without offering other foods--to no avail. Afterwards, I soaked the food in water until spongy with crushed segment of a garlic clove, also to no avail. I've even tried to sneak it in with flakes and bloodworms, that my GT normally loves, but that was
unfortunately at the time that he stopped even eating regular food. The last--and only thing--he's eaten in 3 days that I've actually witnessed is the front half of a live ghost shrimp that I gut-loaded with the Jungle Medicated Food; I'm not sure if he or my cobalt blue ate the remaining 11 gut-loaded shrimp. My GT still has about a 4-6 inch trail of white poop and didn't eat anything that I know of tonight. What should I do now?
<If not eating... consider force feeding this cichlid. Making a bolus of food, medicant, holding the fish gingerly in a wet towel (get a steady friend to help), and pushing the food down the gullet, into the area at the back of the throat>
I'm at my wits end and am now contemplating force-feeding the Jungle Anti-Parasite Medicated Food pellets, unless you advice otherwise, or assure me that, worst case scenario, the Prazi-Pro should effectively rid my GT of internal parasites with time. Thanks in advance for all of your help and keep up the good work! Grant (Itasca, IL)
<Do search for a while on the Net re this procedure... till you're sure of the protocol. Bob Fenner>

Re: Green Terror -- Internal Parasite Treatment Suggestions 7/7/09
Thank you, Bob for your very quick response! By chance could you provide guidance on dosage, or if you won't for liability purposes, could you please give your opinion on how often per week you would do this force-feeding method, as to not further stress out my GT? Thanks again.
<There are such data... for Metronidazole/Flagyl... again, a cursory scan, bit of reading as prev. suggested... BobF>

Help with internal parasites, again...  Mollies   9/1/07 Hello Crew! <Greetings.> I've had a few long chats with Tom about my Mollies with internal parasites. This has proven as hard to get rid of as ich and killed many fish. <Curious. My first question when people have problems with mollies is whether they are keeping them in freshwater or in brackish/marine conditions. In the former case they seem to me to be irredeemably delicate, and successful maintenance requires excellent (i.e., zero nitrate) water quality. In brackish/marine conditions mollies are basically indestructible. For me, it's a no-brainer: if you want to keep mollies with the minimum fuss, keep them at 25-100% seawater salinity (~SG 1.005-1.018). Ich/whitespot cannot survive under such conditions, Finrot and fungal infections are extremely rare, and internal parasite "spores" (or whatever) cannot survive the saltwater conditions so cannot infect healthy fish.> It all started when we lost one small black balloon Molly, and then realized that her companion was getting way too thin and had the red worm-thing sticking out her anus. We tried Metronidazole and a variety of other medicines, but she died despite our frantic attempts at a cure. <Why did you use Metronidazole? That's a drug primarily for internal bacteria and to a less extent protozoan parasites. As far as I know, it has no effect on multicellular parasites such as worms. For those, you need something worm-specific (i.e., an anti-helminth drug) such as PraziPro or Sterazin.> So, when we got two new balloon Mollies, we treated them in the quarantine tank with PraziPro (which is supposed to be effective) before we let them join the two remaining healthy fish. We added them to our apparently unaffected two remaining bigger Mollies, who came from a different dealer (one orange male and one spotted female). We lost the male two weeks ago (within three days he stopped chasing the females, then one morning was lying at the bottom of the tank gasping, then he was dead, no symptoms of anything). My boyfriend just called to tell me the spotted female died today, and apparently she has this red worm-thing again. What's worse, one of the two living Mollies has a distended anus with some white tube-like stuff protruding. <This is a dumb question perhaps, but are you sure the problem here is worms? Parasitic worms generally don't cause quick deaths. What you tend to see is a gradual loss of condition or a failure to grow or put on weight. By their nature, most of these intestinal parasites have evolved not to kill the host outright, since they die when the host dies. Wild fish commonly carry a parasite load, but otherwise aren't harmed. Nine times out of ten, mollies die from nitrate poisoning, Finrot, fungal infections, or acidosis. This is especially true when the die "quickly". Gasping, for example, is a good sign of respiratory distress, which can be caused by poor water quality and a too-low pH. Just a reminder, mollies in freshwater conditions (if you're foolish enough to keep them thus) need three specific things: zero nitrate, pH 7.5-8.2, and hardness not less than 20 degrees dH. In brackish/marine conditions, the sodium chloride will detoxify the nitrate so that isn't an issue, and the other salts in the marine salt mix will raise the pH and hardness automatically. Please note that "tonic salt" or "aquarium salt" won't do anything other than mitigate the nitrate, so are a greatly inferior product when keeping mollies.> He's moving them to our quarantine/treatment tank as we speak and will start treating with PraziPro again. Should I also give them Metronidazole? I know they can be mixed, but it's not supposed to be super effective against those kinds of parasites. In any case, I'll follow your advice. <PraziPro yes, Metronidazole no. As a rule, unless a qualified animal healthcare professional has said otherwise, you should NEVER mix medications. The synergies between two or more drugs are unknown, and potentially lethal. But more importantly, sit down and review your water conditions and chemistry. If you're keeping your mollies in freshwater, please understand that you will always be fighting to keep them healthy. It's just the way it is with mollies. While they are certainly freshwater fish in the wild, in aquaria they just don't do well kept thus. Spend any time reviewing the livebearer e-mails here, or postings on fish forums, and you'll see that there are always bucket-loads of messages about sick mollies.> Now, the only remaining animals in the tank are a Nerite snail and two Amano shrimp (maybe a few Cherry shrimp too but we haven't seen them in a while). <Ah, now the good news here is both Amano shrimps and Nerite snails are salt-tolerant, so you can raise the salinity of the tank to SG 1.003-1.005 without problems, should you choose to do so.> Do I need to treat the main tank to ensure that all parasites are gone? The fish are apparently reinfecting each other, and I want to ensure that they don't get sick again when I put them in the main tank. Do I need to leave the aquarium fallow? If so, how long? Do I hunt the shrimp and move them out, then treat the whole tank? Help! <Yes, you need to treat the tank. Yes, you will probably need to remove the shrimps, as they tend to be sensitive to medications.> Do I need to treat the Betta and his Eclipse III too? He used to be in the same aquarium as the Mollies, he might have been exposed... <Probably not, unless you see some symptoms.> I know many people say that healthy fish "strike a balance" with their internal parasites and live in apparent health for years with them. This hasn't proven true for me, those are nasty little bugs (and tough too, after a week of PraziPro the worm was still hanging on) and I'd be extremely glad to be rid of them, once and for all. <My suspicion is that you're dealing with mollies that are fundamentally stressed, and the worms are at best an "excuse" for them to wave a little white flag and give up.> Those have to be from the LFS, and they must have lived for months with the things in their digestive systems without showing any signs, since we haven't given them anything else but Nori, flakes, sinking pellets and bits of corn for about a month. They also get frozen bloodworms, and occasionally brine shrimp, but they're both Hikari brand that's supposed to be well sterilized. <The foods you list should be fine. Do bear in mind mollies are primarily herbivores, and the ratio of green to meaty foods should be of the order 80% to 20%. In fact, feeding them exclusively on vegetable-based fish foods (livebearer flake, Spirulina flake, algae pellets) would be entirely acceptable.> I really don't want to battle internal parasites AGAIN!!! <If you want healthy mollies, keep them in brackish/marine conditions. If you want to have to deal with "disease of the month" with your mollies, keep them in freshwater. That's Neale's sage advice for the day.> Thank you so much for your advice... once again! Merci beaucoup! <You're welcome.> Audrey <Neale>

Re: Help with internal parasites, again... -- 09/01/07 Hi again, Neale! <Hello Audrey,> Thank you for such a detailed answer. It did make me feel slightly like I was a bad fish owner, but maybe I deserve it for waiting so long to do what I know I should be doing.... > <Curious. My first question when people have problems with mollies is whether they are keeping them in freshwater or in brackish/marine conditions. *blushing*... I know, I know... All right... I won't ask any questions again until I do the switch to brackish... I've been planning on it for ages, but I was waiting until after we got the new apartment more or less organized so we could move everyone to a brand new 30 gallons... Looks like this is the signal to get a move on... Incidentally, we never detect any nitrates. We have plants and a healthy dose of algae so I suspect they get used up before our test kit can detect them. We also had a light fish load, four very small Mollies (balloon variety, they never grew) in 10 gallons (I know, too small, we'll wait until we get the 30 gal we're planning on before we get any more fish, but with the move we've had to buy essential furniture before we can think of a new aquarium). The LFS tells us we can put 10 Mollies in a 10 gallons... (!?!?!?!?!?!) Let's just say we have learned very quickly to take their advice with a big grain of salt :-) pH was always at least 7.5 and climbed very slightly during the winter, high enough that I didn't want to risk most of the fish they sell in the LFS, who need neutral or slightly acidic water. I guess the big problem is with (hardness? alkalinity?), I need to learn what scale it is measured in but the water here is a steady 9. You're going to say too low, I know. We used to add livebearer salt, but after reading your advice (worthless, waste of money, etc. unless used for a specific problem), we stopped adding it to the tank a few months ago. We'll drop by the marine LFS this afternoon and pick up some marine salt. <Ah, you seem to understand what's going on, so there's not really much more to add. Mollies just aren't as easy as everyone thinks, with the result that lots of them (most?) get sick and die rather quickly. I'd compare them to goldfish in this regard -- they seem easy, but they're not. For aquarists who want to stick with freshwater, I always recommend platies or swordtails instead. On the topic of pH and hardness, it's almost always safe not to worry about these (within reason). Most common freshwater fish (as opposed to brackish water ones!) can adapt to a wide range of values, so Neons, for example, may *prefer* pH 5.5, near-zero hardness, but they'll *thrive* at pH 8, 20 degrees dH if acclimated to it carefully and otherwise looked after properly. What matters isn't so much the values as the *stability* -- what most fish hate is pH and hardness levels that bounce around. In other words, get fish that are already thriving at the retailer, keep them in your local water conditions, and use good filtration and regular water changes to optimise water quality while diluting the background water chemistry changes that happen in freshwater tanks anyway.> See... sometimes it takes fish dying so that we learn. Another red flag should have been that they've never bred... we thought our male was sterile because try as he may, he could never get one of them pregnant. In retrospect, maybe they were just in the wrong conditions to breed. <Quite possibly. But just as likely the fry got eaten or sucked up the filter or whatever.> > <Why did you use Metronidazole? Ah, well, because the only symptom we had was one dead emaciated fish and one very thin, formerly very plump, fish and we didn't know what she had, and this was recommended by the marine LFS and was the only thing we could find FAST! The local LFS have never heard of a cure for internal parasites. They just let them be. We did our best on short notice. And then we did more research, and found out about Praziquantel and other medicines, and tried to get some locally but *nobody* sells it around here, we called about 6 places, so I tried to mail-order it, but the two Canadian mail-order stores I know of didn't have it in stock, so we ordered Jungle Labs medicated food, which they wouldn't eat, and then we ordered Gel-Tek, which does contain some Prazi, but that didn't work, and finally the mail-order place got some PraziPro in stock, but by the time we tried that I think it was too late and the fish died, with three very visible red tails sticking out of her anus. But at least we'd finally got to the right medicine - I think. <I see. Sounds rather bad luck.> > <This is a dumb question perhaps, but are you sure the problem here is worms? Parasitic worms generally don't cause quick deaths. What you tend to see is a gradual loss of condition or a failure to grow or put on weight. I think this is exactly what we were seeing, but didn't recognize it in time. We've had some of those fish for six months and they haven't grown. It's just so gradual that we don't notice until the fish are too feeble to function properly. They seem fine, and then one morning they're not quite right, and a week later, they're dying. They never get to the not eating stage. I'm not saying their death can't be due to something else, and it might be more than one factor, but my test kit tells me the pH is steady at 7.5 and that there are no nitrates. What I see is fish that won't grow, and that after a few months just stop functioning. When the male died he hadn't chased the females for about a week, maybe more, we just didn't notice at first... I feel bad for not noticing those things, but they happen so gradually... and when we did notice something wasn't quite right we didn't know what the problem was. <OK. Again, you seem to have a sense of what's going on already, so all I can add here is a second opinion. Often, fish deaths come about from multiple small factors acting in concert. Much as with sickness in humans. So you need to watch for the small signs and act swiftly. Odd behaviour is often one of the very best clues, and a lot of experienced fishkeepers will hardly ever need to use test kits because they can spot when things aren't right in established tanks because the fish aren't doing what they should be doing. I don't recommend that approach for beginners of course!> > <PraziPro yes, Metronidazole no. As a rule, unless a qualified animal healthcare professional has said otherwise, you should NEVER mix  medications. Ah, but in this case, we know they can be mixed safely because most general anti-parasite medicines contain at least those two, and sometimes other medicines too. But if you say Metro is worthless in this case, I won't use it. This is my understanding as well, but sometimes we bow to people of superior knowledge, so I was asking just in case, because I have some in my fish medicine cabinet... <I'm not an expert on antibiotics for fish -- they're essentially prescription-only in the UK, so when you get them, the vet will tell you exactly how to use them. I'm happy to let others give you relevant advice here. But me, I prefer to use medications sequentially. It's also important to identify the problem before using the medication; scattergun approaches are risky because many medications can stress the fish, and if they aren't fixing one problem, they could end up causing another. Mollies should be fine, but things like loaches and pufferfish often react badly to medicines, and stingrays and invertebrates can be killed outright. So you need to treat medications with respect. Identify the disease, choose your drug, and look out for side effects.> > <Ah, now the good news here is both Amano shrimps and Nerite snails are salt-tolerant, so you can raise the salinity of the tank to SG 1.003-1.005 without problems, should you choose to do so.> Yup, that's exactly what I was planning on when we got the 30 gal. I didn't want to do it with the Cherries in there, because from what I read they're not salt-tolerant at all, and I can't put them with the Betta because he'd rip them apart (he did it before, so we tried some cheap Ghost shrimp, and only found shrimp bits...). I was also trying to find a supplier of Bumblebee Gobies, for the future, and I have lists and lists of salt-tolerant plants, and know the ones we have now *should* make the switch (Bacopa, Anubias, Java fern, and Vallisneria in "quarantine" so we can screen for snails). We're all ready. We just haven't done it yet. <Very good. I'm not sure whether Cherry shrimps are good in brackish or not. I'd personally risk it, at least to SG 1.003. Shrimps tend to be salt tolerant (many, though not Cherries) have a marine stage in their life cycle, as is the case with Amano shrimps. Acclimating slowly is perhaps the key. I keep (and inevitably breed!) Cherry shrimps and have found them to be rather robust animals, for their size. All your plants are good brackish water denizens, and assuming you have enough light and good substrate for them, will adapt readily. You've also got a nice mix there. When people rely solely on slow-growers like Java fern and Java moss, they end up with algae problems. Throwing in some Bacopa and Vallis should help a great deal. Indian fern is another good algae-beater that tolerates low-end brackish.> > <My suspicion is that you're dealing with mollies that are fundamentally stressed, and the worms are at best an "excuse" for them to wave a little white flag and give up.> Then I'll work under this assumption. I promise not to bother you again with my Mollie troubles until they're safely in brackish water. Then, if I'm still having problems, I'll let you have a go at it :-) <Heh! Brackish water doesn't fix everything, and it certainly won't cure infected mollies of things like intestinal worms. But what it does do is make them orders of magnitude more robust, and the salinity also suppresses many external parasites as well as the infective stages of certain internal parasites. This is why brackish water fishes have a reputation for being so hardy.> > <The foods you list should be fine. Do bear in mind mollies are primarily herbivores, and the ratio of green to meaty foods should be of the order 80% to 20%. In fact, feeding them exclusively on vegetable-based fish foods (livebearer flake, Spirulina flake, algae pellets) would be entirely acceptable.> Yes, they've been getting Nori at least a day out of two. I tried peas but they don't eat it, but they do like corn. I'll try broccoli next. Can you believe I haven't ever seen a vegetable-based flake around? Sometimes I feel aquarium shops around here are 20 years behind the times... Even the sinking "algae" pellets have fish flour in them, sometimes even as the first ingredient, so they're not really vegetarian... I've been looking for something called "Spirulina flake" but haven't seen it, just regular flakes with Spirulina among the other ingredients. *sigh*. Maybe I'm simply not looking in the right places. In the meantime, we got some Nori for free at the local sushi place, we just ask for a sheet when we pick up some takeout and with only four small fish, it lasts a long time... and the Amano love it too. <Interesting. I picked up Spirulina in a grocery store called Hy-Vee in Lincoln, Nebraska over Christmas. So I suspect it's a case of looking out for the stuff while you're on your travels. It isn't critical though. You might even grow your own: a plastic goldfish bowl placed outdoors and filled with water will quickly develop a nice flora and fauna including insect larvae and thread algae. Yum, yum! I love taking this approach, because my "live food ponds" become interesting aquaria in their own right.> Interesting unrelated tidbit, our Betta eats everything, either floating, sinking or lying at the bottom of the tank (flake, sinking pellets, Betta food, live shrimp, dead shrimp, bloodworms and brine shrimp, peas, corn, everything we ever put in his tank). He even tried Nori. Well... he tried it the first time we gave it to him, but stubbornly refused to taste it ever again :-) I guess even the most wide-ranging tastes have their limit :-) <Indeed! But that's the right approach to feeding fish. Let them have a little of everything.> Thank you again, and sorry to be such a bother :-) Audrey <Not a problem. Good luck, Neale>

Re: Help with internal parasites, again...  9/7/07 Hi again, everyone! I hope you're having a good week! I'm not - my Mollies are sick. <Oh dear.> I'm leaving the previous correspondence below so you can refer to it, but here are the latest problems. I treated the tank with PraziPro as Neal recommended. On the bottle, it says it may have to be repeated, but not to go over two treatments (3 to 5 days each). <Yes.> After about 6 days of treatment, one of the Mollies that previously looked fine started producing very large poo (more than twice the usual diameter), and then we noticed her anus is very enlarged, as if she's missing some tissue down there. And there's the usual red tail of the Callamanus worm (unconfirmed, but it looks exactly like every picture of Callamanus I've ever seen, so I'm pretty sure of the diagnosis). <OK.> The treatment is now reaching its end. The manufacturers say not to treat more than twice, but the worms are still there, and it's obvious she's not feeling right (who would, with such an injury?). <Indeed. You may want to treat a second time, after doing a couple of 50% water changes across a space of one week.> I've also started increasing the salinity of the water, I'm using real saltwater aquarium salt, not the livebearer salt. The density is probably around .002 now, and I'll keep increasing it over the next few days until it's around .005. <Very good. Monitor the ammonia/nitrite levels if you can, just to make sure the filter is happy. Normally, going up to SG 1.005 causes no problems. But I always recommend going to SG 1.003, and staying there for a week to two. If everything looks fine, you can raise the salinity further. For all practical purposes, most fish happy at SG 1.005 will be happy at SG 1.003.> So, what should I do? Can the fish be saved? <Perhaps.> She doesn't look like she's suffering, even if she's not exactly her usual self. She still eats, she'll be in brackish water soon, I've increased the water changes and she's undergone two PraziPro treatments that everybody tells me should work, but she's still infested. <Brackish water won't do much about internal parasites, that much should be obvious. But it'll help the all-round health.> Any ideas? Should I try PraziPro again? It doesn't seem to be working (and no, there is no carbon in the tank at the moment). Should I just let her be? <I'd certainly give her a "breather" for a couple of weeks before running any more medications. But yes, I'd run the Prazi Pro another time.> We've lost many fish to these worms and I'm starting to get really discouraged. <I've never once had fish with them. Odd. Not sure why you've had such bad luck.> Thank you, once again, Audrey <Good luck, Neale>

Re: Jungle Medicated Goldfish Food   5/28/06 Hello, Tom. <<Greetings, Alfredo.>> I have given the Jungle Antiparasite food to Mimi and Lucy for three days now but their feces remain the same (transparent, long segments that seem to be filled with air). Is it strange that they don't show an improvement?   <<Not really. Note that the directions call for three days on the medicated food followed by four days of regular food. This regimen is to be repeated over a four-week period according to the manufacturer. In my case, my Angelfish both showed an improvement after about one week. In fact, it wasn't until they were both on "regular" food that their feces started to return to normal. It's still early yet, Alfredo. >> Mimi has been having trouble with swimming into deeper levels of the tank again today. She is mostly staying near the top and seems to be making an effort balancing herself. Last time this happened she got better with Epsom salts, so I have given her a half a table spoon( plus another tablespoon that has been in the tank for 3 days now). Is this the right thing to do with her? Should I be giving them the Jungle antibacterial medicated food instead? <<The Epsom salts will help with constipation/gas but won't treat the infection. My concern here is that in cleaning out their systems, as it were, we're also purging them of the medication. I'd give the medicine some more time to do its job.>> As always, I appreciate your kindness and look forward to your reply. Thanks, Alfredo <<Hang in there, my friend. Tom>>

Help with my Black Moor gold fish - Internal Parasites 7/10/03 My sister just got 2 black moor goldfish, one recently died. But the other has been pooping out this whitish, stringy stuff. <Often a sign of internal parasites. Do seek and feed medicated fish food to correct> And tonight we noticed a  orange worm looking thing coming out of (I'm assuming its butt) it is not living or anything, but it was like 2 inches long with that white stringy stuff on the end, then he shook real good and it fell off and floated on the top.  Then a few minutes later he did it again. And meanwhile he ate the first stuff that was at the top. Can you tell me what this is, and if the fish is ok? Thanks Very Much......          Michelle & Spike (fish)   <If the fish is eating dry foods (flakes or pellets) then it may very well be suffering from internal parasites... else the feces would be solid and darker in color. Kindly, Anthony>Parasites Hello I was wondering if someone could tell me what the symptoms of internal parasites in a Jack Dempsey would be, How to treat it, and will the fish fully recover from it. Thanks < Internal parasites are usually pretty rare in Central American cichlids. Almost all of them are captive bred in either the U.S. or in the orient. They are transported at a relatively small size so they really don't have much of a chance to pick anything up. One thing they could get is bloat or dropsy. This is an internal bacterial infection caused by stress and the wrong kind of food. It is treated by cleaning up the filter and doing a 30% water change. Treat with Metronidazole as per the directions on the package. As soon as the fish stops eating it should be treated. Early detection is the key to a quick and complete cure.-Chuck>

Single celled question thank you chuck, but what is a protozoa?? < It is a pathogen that has a complex life cycle that is also very motile so they can spread disease rapidly in an aquarium.> Also I got this food its called Pepso or something and it said that it killed parasites. < That medicated food is used for internal parasites.> Another thing is my fish's eyes look like they popped out of their head. My pH is high but my nitrites are unsafe. < Do a 30% water change to reduce the nitrites and treat the fish with Metronidazole for pop-eye.-Chuck>

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