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Disease FAQs on Loricariids, South and Central American Suckermouth Cats 3

FAQs on "Pleco" Disease: Loricariid Disease 1, Loricariid Disease 2, Loricariid Disease 4,
FAQs on "Pleco" Disease by Category: Diagnosis, Environmental, Nutritional (e.g. HLLE), Social, Infectious (Virus, Bacterial, Fungal), Parasitic (Ich, Velvet...), Trauma, Treatments,
Related Articles: Loricariids, Otocinclus

Related Catfish FAQs: Loricariids 1, Loricariids 2, Otocinclus
Other Loricariid Genera: FAQs on: Ancistrus, Baryancistrus, Genera Farlowella, Loricaria, Sturisoma, Rhineloricaria: Twig Plecostomus, Genera Glyptoperichthys, Liposarcus, Pterygoplichthys, Sailfin Giants among the Loricariids, The Zebra Pleco, Hypancistrus zebra, Hypostomus, Peckoltia: Clown Plecostomus, Lasiancistrus, Panaque, Pseudacanthicus, Scobanancistrus, L-number catfish,
Loricariid Identification, Loricariid Behavior, Loricariid Compatibility, Loricariid Selection, Loricariid Systems, Loricariid Feeding, Loricariid Reproduction,

Help!!  Pleco hlth.   8/7/08 Hi <Hello!> Firstly, sorry if this is the wrong way to contact you guys. I've checked through your (excellent) site but ended up with this email address. <Yep.> Ok, I have a Pterygoplichthys pardalis. I'm just back from hols and had my sister look after the fish when I was away (one week). Since I got back I've noticed that the Pleco has developed a pale colour along its extremities (i.e. edge of tail, outer fins(?), and seems paler around his mouth). <Sounds a lot like Finrot or Fungus. Treat promptly with a suitable medication; in the US Maracyn seems to be the drug of choice, but here in the UK I recommend eSHa 2000 as being reliable and safe with finicky fish. Do remember to remove carbon from the filter (if used).> I've had him for over a year, when's he's gone from 2 inches to 18! <Wow!> I asked in my local store, but was told he's probably ok.. as you can imagine, 'probably' isn't enough. <Agreed.> I'm quite worried and would really appreciate if you could give some guidance. <These are very hardy fish, and assuming you treat promptly, I have every confidence the fish will recover. A photo will help use make a positive diagnosis, but if you send a photo, be sure and follow the rules and keep the file size small (~500 KB). We have only limited e-mail space and big images cause other messages to be bounced back to their senders.> Again, apologies if this is the wrong way to contact you. however I cant find a similar post anywhere. Many thanks Alan <Cheers, Neale.> P Please consider the environment before printing this email <???> <<A spiel re the use of paper et al... vs. some sort of electronic storage/sharing... RMF>>

Re: Help!!  8/7/08 Hi Neale Many thanks for your fast and helpful mail. <Happy to help,> I'm off to the fish store to get the treatment advised (I'm in Ireland). <Very good. Make sure you avoid Melafix (or Pimafix), tea-tree oil products at least some of us here have found to be less than reliable.> Also, I will take a phone picture and send it on to you (if that's ok). <Yep.> Thanks again for your help, its very much appreciated. Best regards Alan <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Help!! Pleco hlth.    8/8/08 Hi Neale <Alan,> Further to the below, please find attached two pictures of our Pleco. I've tried to show the affected part (on his tail) and also a full length picture for information (hope there not too big file-wise). <Hmm... does look like a secondary infection of some sort. I wonder if the fish was scalded by the heater? Does happen. Would recommend putting a plastic guard around the heater where catfish are concerned because they do like to wedge between the heater and the glass.> I have a couple of other pictures if required. When I went to the fish-store, the treatment they had is "Interpet No. 8, Anti-fungus and Finrot", a UK product. <Haven't used this medication for years, but it should do the trick. Do follow the instructions and always remove carbon while treating fish.> Thanks again for all your help, and hopefully the above will help our man get better. <I suspect he will.> <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Help!!  Pleco hlth.   9/11/08
Hi Guys
Just a quick mail to thank you all for your help.
I followed your advice to the letter and everything is right with the world of my Pleco. He's back to full health and everything is in order.
Many thanks again to you all.
Best regards
<Hello Alan. Well, this is great news, and I'm glad that we were able to help. Enjoy your fishkeeping, and thanks for writing! Cheers, Neale.>


Pleco question... hlth... aggr. damage?  -- 02/07/08 Hello Neale, I've been big fan of your answers on WWM for long time. Excellent job, THANK YOU. <Very kind of you to say so.> I have a question about my leopard Pleco L085. <Do we really me L85? L85 is Baryancistrus sp. "Gold Nugget Plec", whereas Pterygoplichthys pardalis is one of the (several) species called "Leopard Plec" in the trade. I'm going to assume you mean the Gold Nugget Plec.> It is currently in 55 g tank with 2 Severums and 2 blood parrots. (I know you don't like them, but I have them, enjoying them and taking care of them). <It's not that I have something against Blood Parrots, they're just not my taste. Like fancy Goldfish and Pit Bull Terriers. I'm sure they're lovely pets. Just not for me!> Pleco had been in the tank for about 10 months and it's about 6 inches long. My water parameters: Temp-80'C pH-8.0 NH3-0 NO2-0 NO3-10-25ppm (50% water change/week) <All sounds fine, though very slightly warmer than I'd tend to keep them. There's no real advantage to temperatures above 25C/77F for most tropical fish, and indeed some positive disadvantages (faster metabolism, less oxygen in the water). But if this works for you, then great.> Food: Frozen food for algae eaters (I think you know what it is)-4 times/week <Actually have no idea! But sounds useful!> Algae wafers- 1 every night Fresh vegetables-occasionally I also have big peace of wood in the tank. <I would mix this up a little; Baryancistrus spp. are omnivores rather than herbivores, and appreciate things like bloodworms, chopped seafood, even the odd bit of whitebait. That said, most fish seem to thrive on good quality algae wafers (such as Hikari Algae Wafers), and my Synodontis pretty much eat nothing else.> Problem is that my Pleco is only fish in the tank who very often has torn fins and tail. (Could it be due to occasional fight for space and food with my parrots?) <Hmm... could indeed be scuffling with the cichlids. But don't rule out [a] water quality issues and [b] heater burns (catfish are wont to lie against heaters if that seems a good hiding place). So check these other issues as well. In any even, giving the catfish a nice burrow where the other fish can't harass it should fix this. Clay pipes and flowerpots are ideal. Get one big enough for the cat, but not for the cichlids. Problem solved hopefully, as the catfish will basically stay completely out of sight while the lights are on.> Also very often it has big gray spots all over the body. These spots disappeared when Pleco start swimming or eating. But when it is just lay down on the gravel it all covered with these spots and fish looks terrible. <No idea what this could be. If we're saying it changes colour from yucky to nice depending on whether it's swimming, that's one thing. But if we're looking at patches of dead skin or something that come off when the fish moves, that's another issue entirely. Really need a picture to understand this. It's also worth mentioning that the adults do somewhat lose their contrast as they mature. This is pretty normal with Loricariids, especially the ones with white spots on a black background. It's very obvious on Ancistrus, for example.> I tried to find any info about this in the web with no luck. Your help would be appreciated. Thank you again, Mark <Hope this helps, but honestly am a bit mystified. Cheers, Neale.>


Pleco with red spots   1/11/08 Hello, <Ave,> I have a 4 1/2 year old, 14 inch Pleco, the brown one with a squiggly line pattern and approx. 11 or 12 rays on his sail fin. <That would be one of the traded Pterygoplichthys sp., which attain a length of up to 45 cm/18" in captivity.> I had him in a tank with a pair of zebra Danios only. I decided the tank could handle a few more small fish so I got a couple more Danios and neon tetras about 2 weeks ago. He was very content with the "one pair of Danios". <No such thing as a pair of Danios; they are schooling fish, and the only kind way to keep them is in groups of at least 6 specimens. Anything less is, not to be too fine a point on it, cruel. Likewise with Neon tetras. Do note that both Neons and Danios appreciate cooler than normal temperatures, around 22-24C is ideal for Neons, and as low as 18C good for Danios. This is a bit cooler than your catfish wants, but it should be fine at 23 or 24C.> The tank seemed a little empty. As soon as I put the new fish in, my Pleco "Jaws" became very unhappy. He wasn't calm anymore. He became agitated, swimming from one side of the tank to the other, up and down, whipping his tail around taking out all of the fake plants and trying to push around the decor with his "nose". <Very odd. Do check water quality.> All of this because I added some tiny fish???? It seemed like he doesn't want anything in his space. Can a Pleco be a very solitary fish? <How big is this aquarium? Yes, Pterygoplichthys is territorial, but not normally towards midwater fish. So in the smallest possible tank for these catfish, a 55 gallon tank, the addition of a school of Neons or Danios should make no difference.> Now, he has started going up and gulping air - frequently. <Again: check water quality, i.e., nitrite and pH at the very least.> He used to do it occasionally but it has become quite often and when he comes back down he makes a splash with great force. I have even wondered if he has hit the lid. <These catfish will breathe air when water quality drops or it is too warm for them.> I recently noticed he had some spots on his head behind his eyes that appeared to be fungus after doing some research. They looked like matted hair but the same color as his skin. <Sounds like fungus, yes. Treat with a combination Finrot/fungus medication such as Maracyn or eSHa 2000. Don't waste your time with Melafix/Pimafix. Do remove carbon from the system (if you're using it) while treating. Do not delay! Treat right now!> Today, on his belly, some of the tiny dots in his pattern that are usually cream colored are now red dots. The edges of his fins are red, his rays on his sail fin appear to be red and the tail fin appears to be red on the bottom edge also. I also saw a couple of red circles on his side. <Sounds gloomy.> I checked the water quality and all things checked out normal. <Meaning what precisely? Give me numbers! Zero ammonia and zero nitrite are essential, and nitrate should be less than 50 mg/l, ideally less than 20 mg/l. The hardness should be in the "slightly soft" to "very hard" range, and the pH should be between 6 and 8. Salt is not required.> I have a 55 gallon tank. It has a 80 gal Eheim canister filter, plus I put a 60 gal Topfin filter and two bubble curtains. I think there is good aeration. <The ratings stuck on filters in terms of tank size are meaningless. Rather, assume a big, messy catfish needs filtration of at least 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. So a 55 gallon tank needs filter (or filters) that provide not less than about 300 gallons per hour turnover. You'll see the turnover rating on the pump someplace (either in GPH or LPH).> I keep the temperature between 76-78*. <A bit too warm for Danios and Neons, both of which come from relatively cool environments. Aeration is relatively unimportant in a tank with good water circulation, but certainly does no harm.> What could be causing the spots that look like matted hair, all of the red streaking/spots and is any of this related to the possibility of him just getting to big for the tank? <Finrot/Fungus is the immediate problem, and needs to be dealt with ASAP. Both are almost always caused by either [a] poor water quality or [b] physical damage, such as fighting or rough handling. This type of catfish should be happy enough in a 55 gallon system, though obviously 'the bigger, the better'. Do check the filter you have is properly maintained, and you're doing sufficient water changes.> Thanks, Julie <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Pleco with red spots   1/11/08 Hello again, <Hello!> Thanks for the quick response. <No problems.> What would be an acceptable temperature for my Pleco, Danios and tetras to live with? <I'd go for 24C, tops.> According to the test strips I am using from PetSmart to test my water quality, the results are: ammonia = 0 <Good.> chlorine = 0 <Good.> nitrite = 0 <Good.> total hardness = 50 which is at the top of the soft end and bottom end of the? moderate scale (done by color coding so it is a guesstimate) <This is mg/l calcium carbonate, I'm assuming. Yes, this is pretty soft, and one problem here could be lack of pH stability. To cut a long story short, all tanks acidify, and tanks with limited carbonate hardness (measured with a carbonate hardness rather than total or general hardness test kits) is that the pH plummets between water changes. There are various ways to deal with this, but all involve raising the carbonate hardness. See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oquality.htm > pH = 6.8 (done by color coding so it is a guesstimate) <Acceptable, though would be interesting to compare plain tap water with aquarium water a week after a water change. The absolute value is rather less important than the rate of change.> My test kit doesn't include a nitrate test. <Ah. In that case, pre-empt things by doing 25-50% water changes weekly.> I have 6 Danios and 5 tetras with my Pleco. They have been swimming at the bottom of the tank - could this be due to the water temperature being to warm? I thought they were mid-water swimmers? <Neons actually stay close the bottom; Danios at the top. Does rather depend on how secure/happy they feel.> I have done a recent water change and cleaned the filters. <Good.> I have done some quick research and my combined filters (if you can add them together) are doing about 400 gph. <Should be ample for a 55 gallon tank.> I will get the medicine to take care of the fungus. Any ideas on the red stuff? <It's irritated skin/blood.> My Pleco has been jetting all over the tank, hitting everything in sight, just like he is in a bad mood so maybe the redness is due to him slamming into everything. <very odd, and usually a sign there's something that's making him cranky. If water quality is acceptable, as seems to be the case, then do check other factors. Do you use dechlorinator when doing water changes? If your local water supplier adds Chloramine (call/check web site) you need a dechlorinator that removes that as well. I'd do a big (50%) water change now and another tomorrow. Why? If there's something in the water, like a poison, this will dilute it. Possible poisons include things like paint fumes. It's surprisingly easy to poison fish.> He has 2 small holes in his sail fin where he has tried to squeeze into between some fake plants. I have seen that before and it heals up. <Should do again, all else being equal.> Your advice is greatly appreciated. Julie <Happy to help, Neale.>


Mystery bumps on edges of Pleco fins (plus some other random questions involving goldfish)  12/30/07 Happy holidays to the WWM crew! <Thanks!> Thanks again to Neale for the helpful responses a few weeks ago -- Ginger the goldfish seems to have more or less recovered from the whole ordeal and has been back in the main [35g] tank for a couple weeks - Fancy (the little Ryukin) seemed quite happy to have Ginger back, if that's possible... though I'm wondering if Ginger is really male and Fancy a female, after reading the FAQs on fish sexing? <Goldfish are difficult to sex outside of breeding condition; in breeding condition, males develop very obvious white spots (tubercles) on their heads.> There was quite a bit of "tail bumping" and not-overly-intense chasing of Fancy by Ginger yesterday, which seems to have resulted in a tail tasting -- I assume the small 'ribbon' of missing tail will heal up uneventfully, but will it regrow? <Fin should grow back, though possibly a different colour.> I'll keep an eye on the tear to make sure no infection/fungus takes hold, and continue to maintain the water change/testing schedule for now. Fancy seems otherwise content and isn't having any trouble swimming. A photo of the 2 (Ginger's the orange one, Fancy's the calico; the arrows point to the tear in Fancy's tail, and what I suspect are 'breeding stars' on Ginger?): http://appj.com/photos/fish/gingerfancy.jpg <Looks like Ginger is indeed a male. The give-away is if the pattern of white spots on each side of the head looks about the same. Ick (Whitespot) never does.> [Grr... my stupid webmail client just ate the detailed paragraph I wrote on my Pleco... for lack of energy, here's an abbreviated version, below] <Oh dear.> My Pleco (Hypostomus sp?) has some strange, whitish-clearish-fleshy, gelatinous growths on the edge of the left ventral fin and the top of the caudal fin. The small bump on the tail fin appeared several days ago, but seemed smaller the last couple days and hasn't really changed much. The Pleco's still eating/moving normally, but was cleaning the front glass this evening despite the aquarium light being on -- not completely normal for him. That's when I noticed that a much bigger cauliflower bump had appeared on the edge/underside of another fin in the last day. There's no apparent injury underlying these bumps, which "saddle" the outer edge of a fin. There had been a bit of a spat between the Pleco and Fancy over a particular algae wafer last night (despite the other 2 identical wafers next to it in the tank!), so maybe the stress of that exacerbated whatever condition this is: http://appj.com/photos/fish/plecobump.jpg <Hmm... could be Lymphocystis, a viral disease with no cure other than time. Rarely fatal, but does take a long time (potentially many months to a couple years) to clear up. Fairly convincingly ascribed to less than perfect water quality issues. Lympho tends to be an issue with "advanced" fish, so this may in fact be more akin to Fish Pox, an equivalent disease found on carps.> Currently, there are no bumps quite like this on any other fish, though Ginger has had a small whitish bump/discoloration "in" her/his tail for several weeks now. I'm guessing it's unrelated, unless it's some sort of viral thing? I'm hoping the Crew may have a potential diagnosis / treatment recommendation. <Does sound similar. Either way, these sorts of cysts/tumours/warts can't be treated directly except by improving water quality. Do make sure conditions are otherwise optimal. Since Plecs are tropical fish, do make sure the temperature is adequate.> Thanks in advance :) - Jen [p.s. see "goldfish 911 (lethargic, anorexic)" FAQ thread from a couple weeks ago, for more setup/background info] [p.p.s. I'll be writing again soon with some questions on the new 125g tank I just purchased for my aquatic critters - too exciting!] <Hope this helps, Neale.>


Oto Quarantine Question (RMF please comment/correct)   12/29/07 Hi Crew! Happy Holidays to you! <Thanks!> I have some Otocinclus and Corys in quarantine. I got them the day before yesterday and all have been acclimated into the quarantine tank and seem to be doing fine. I have some driftwood in the quarantine tank with them. <Good. Also remember they need MASSES of oxygen, and will often suffocate under less than perfect aquarium conditions. These are fish of very shallow, fast-moving streams.> I have lightly fed frozen bloodworms (the Corys ate them, I didn't see the Otos eat these) and Ocean Nutrition Formula One flakes (I saw one of the Otos nibble on these). Today I am going to blanch some zucchini for the Otos. <Hmm... Otocinclus are really pretty much green aufwuchs/algae eaters in the wild, taking in the algae and the tiny animals hidden among it. In captivity they can be tricky to feed without healthy growths of green algae. Do try prepared alternatives such as crushed tinned peas, Sushi Nori, algae wafers, etc. But the best is nice lumps of green algae grabbed out of a clean pond. The lifespan of Otocinclus in tanks with no/little green algae is very poor. Brown algae, blue-green algae, red algae (hair algae), etc. are not substitutes! It has to be GREEN algae, the fuzzy leaf-green stuff that grows in clean, brightly illuminated tanks.> I've been reading WetWebMedia (love your site!) and saw that Otos can be a host to a number of parasites. While in quarantine, should I give them medicated food for parasites and or Treat with Fluke-Tabs for parasitic worms? If so, what type of food? I'm not really sure if the Otos will eat it. <Your main problem is diet: in my opinion the majority of Otocinclus starve to death, and if parasites are an issue, it's mostly after they've been starved into a state of weakness. So your quarantining is as much about fattening them up as fixing any parasites. In any case, getting these fish to eat medicated food will be tricky, so the simpler option will be to add something to the water, such as Fluke Tabs. That said, Otocinclus are peculiarly sensitive to chemicals in the water, and I'd tend to treat them only if there were signs of ill-health, or at least no signs they were fattening up. RMF may disagree/have alternative thoughts.><<I do not. Commercial importers might do this... to benefit, but most imported members of the genus are so "beat", starved, that it's best to not quarantine them at all... but introduce directly to the main/display and get feeding ASAP. RMF>> If I should treat the Otos, should I do while the Corys are in the tank, or after they have been moved into the main tank? <I'd do them together, if required.> Thanks for your answer, and for this wonderful site! Happy New Year. Michelle <Cheers, Neale.>


L-25 Scarlet Pleco disease ID  12/29/07 Hello once again WWM crew. Thanks again for the services you guys/gals provide and a Happy Holidays to all of you. Anyhow, I recently got a beautiful 10" L-25 Scarlet Pleco from a friend that can no longer house/care for it. It seems to be healthy at this moment with no abnormal behaviors, but when I got it, I did notice there was three whitish blemishes around the nostril area and one on the side of its body, slightly circular in shape about 3-4 mm in diameter. Reading through the FAQ make me think it might be a fungus of some sort, but just want to make sure. Might possibly be just slight impact damage that is healing but does look like fungus to me. Looking at it closely seems to be only on the upper layer of the skin/armor, not penetrating nor deteriorating deep into the skin. No signs of blood or anything. What do you think? Should I be treating it and if so, with what and how? Should I just wait it out awhile to see if the situation improves or advances before any medication is administered? Please help and thanks a lot in advance. Sorry if the pictures are so blurry. Andy <Hmm... difficult to tell precisely what the issue is here. But I would recommend using a combination Finrot/Fungus medication. This factors out the uncertainty with regard to determining the pathogen involved. Most of these combination treatments will deal with Finrot bacteria, mouth 'fungus' bacteria, and plain vanilla fungal infections. With catfish you do need to be careful to dose carefully and look out for signs of distress, as some catfish react badly to some medications. I've found eSHa 2000 to be safe with a variety of Loricariids including Panaque, Ancistrus, and Otocinclus, but your own experiences may vary. Do take the precaution of increasing aeration during treatment, and of course remove carbon from the filter (if you're using the stuff, something not normally necessary in freshwater community tanks). Cheers, Neale.>


Pleco with weird spots -- 10/30/2007 Hello, <Hello.> I have, what I assume, is a common Pleco (Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus). He looks like the picture that appears with this name. <Also check Pterygoplichthys pardalis; the two species are sold interchangeably as "Common Pleco" and are easily confused. There are other Pterygoplichthys that might be traded too. All very similar.> He is approximately 4 years old and 13 inches long. <Ah, still a young 'un! Maximum size of Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus is 50 cm. These are BIG fish.> I got him when he was less than 2 inches long and started in a 10 gallon tank to a 20 gallon tank and now in a 55 gallon tank. <Yes, they grow fast!> The tank has good filtration, 2 bubble curtains for aeration and is sparsely decorated so he has room to move around with ease but he can hide. Although, he likes to be out in the open and comes up to the front of the tank to see me. His only tank mates are a pair of zebra Danios. <Sounds fine. But you might want to add some more Danios.> I feed him: algae tabs, veggie tabs, cucumbers, occasionally water melon, he cleans up any left over fish flakes and he keeps the tank algae free.? <All good. But do also try carrot, sweet potato, Sushi Nori and courgette. Cucumber is 99% water, so not really good for anything much, though I agree that all Plecs seem to love it. Do also add some bogwood, which Plecs seem to use as a source of fibre. The odd prawn or mussel will also be welcomed, maybe once a week. Pterygoplichthys is an omnivore rather than a strict herbivore.> I was having a hard time keeping the tank water clean and water conditions stable. <No surprise. Welcome to the Big Catfish = Dirty Tank club. I was thinking of having some jackets made up.> He was producing a lot of waste. <You're effectively keeping a cow in an aquarium. So expect masses of faeces. On the plus side, there's hardly any ammonia in them, so the ammonia and nitrite will stay low. It's more a cosmetic problem, though obviously a clogged-up filter is a Bad Thing.> My filters were constantly dirty regardless of how often I rinsed them out or put a clean one in. <Normal. That's why you need something around 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover, and ideally 10 times. In other words, in a 55 gallon tank, you need filters with ~ 300 to 500 gallons per hour turnover.> It was suggested to me, to add "Waste Control Organic Waste Eliminator" by Nutrafin and "Nutrafin Cycle Biological Filter Supplement" to help break down my Plecos waste and any left over food. This has solved my water condition problems. <Can't think why. Neither product sounds magical, especially the latter, which is basically unnecessary in a healthy aquarium. The solid waste produced by your catfish is mostly cellulose. It will break down over time, but it is messy. Because it contains minimal nitrogen, its effect on water quality is virtually zero. Here's my strategy: arrange your gravel so one of the corners is shallower than in the rest of the tank. The filter current should push the faeces into this "crater" over time. Each day, you can siphon out the unsightly waste.> I noticed he had a round brownish looking spot on the side of his head towards the top. I actually thought he had gotten a burn from the heater. He likes to get close and suck on the heater at times. Today, I noticed he has several spots that are roundish in shape, brownish in color and have a light white fuzz like coating on top of the spots. I had to use a magnifying glass to see the white fuzz. I do not recall these spots before I added the "Waste Control Organic Waste Eliminator" by Nutrafin and "Nutrafin Cycle Biological Filter Supplement". <Hmm... the fuzz is fungus and needs to be treated immediately. The heater MUST have a "heater guard" around it. These are plastic tube-shaped grills. Some heaters come with them anyway. If yours doesn't, go buy a heater guard. Put it over the heater. That will prevent heater burns. What you are describing is quite common, and easily prevented.> His overall color is good, he is eating and moving around the tank as normal. Do you have a suggestion of what these spots are and what I should do? <The fungus is eating up dead skin caused by heater burns.> Thanks, Julie <Good luck, Neale>


Pleco L260 w/ Fungus... real "Fix"es    10/21/07 Hello, I have a Queen Arabesque Pleco, my daughter has named Darling, in a 44 gal planted tank. All of the Nitrates, Nitrites, Ph Levels are where they should be. The temp of the tank is 79ish. There are a School of Tetra (15 members), Rasboras (5 members), 2 shrimp, and a Clown Pleco also in residence in the tank. Everyone else seems to be ok. I noticed a couple of small non-symmetrical whitish fuzzy spots on one side (only on her right side) of the Queen (located at the tip of her tail, on the shaft of her tail and on her side). I talked to a couple of fish guys, to get ideas on treatment. I was told that is sounds like Fungus and told me to use MelaFix and PimaFix (they would not hurt the other tank mates). The tank has been in treatment for 6 days (as of 10/20/07). I also got on the web to see what I could find. My conclusion is that she has fungus. These do not seem to be working. Her fuzzy spots seem to be getting larger and now she seems to have a film covering a portion of her side. She is still active and her belly looks like she is eating. What types of cures are there to use. I do not have a quarantine/treatment tank to put her in. So I will have to treat the whole tank. I also have "Ich Attack" by Kordon, which is 100% organic and treats diseased caused by Ich, Fungus, Protozoans and Dinoflagellates. Which I have yet to use out of fear of killing the others. Ich Attack does not speak to its use on Plecos or scaleless fish. MelaFix and PimaFix say they are safe for Plecos. Can you help me please! Sincerely Steve <Steve, most of us here at WWM consider Melafix and Pimafix a waste of time. They may have some value against minor infections or as prophylactics where fish are slightly damaged but not infected with Finrot or fungus. But as a treatment against established Finrot and fungus, they have limited and very variable usefulness. For treating fungus I would be using a standard anti-fungal medication. I happen to like eSHa 2000, a Dutch medication widely sold here in the UK and in my experienced perfectly safe with sensitive fish. I have used in several times in tanks containing things like pufferfish as well as numerous different types of catfish (Corydoras, Synodontis, and Panaque, in this case a Royal Plec, but the same genus as your Clown Plec). If you can get this medication in your country, then definitely try it out. One thing I like about eSHa 2000 is that it treats Finrot, Fungus, and Mouth Fungus simultaneously, removing the need to diagnose these different but easily confused infections. There are other medications that will also work against all three (Interpet Anti-Fungus and Finrot, Seachem ParaGuard etc.). Ask your retailer. If you stick with Melafix and Pimafix, I'm concerned (read: certain) your catfish will simply die. The whole "medications are bad for catfish" discussion seems to be very ambiguous, and largely based on old fashioned medications less commonly used. Many brands of medication will specifically say "safe on sensitive fish" or similar, and these are worth using. I can only speak from experience, which is that used properly, medications don't seem to have harmed any catfish I've looked after. Do remove carbon from the filter, and don't forget to increase aeration. Have a read of the catfish disease FAQs: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/catfshdisfaqs.htm . Cheers, Neale>

Re: Pleco L260 w/ Fungus 10/21/07 Neale, Thanks for the info. I am running out this morning to try to obtain some new Meds. She has even got worse since I sent my original email. I will update you either way on the outcome. Lets hope it is a good one. She is a beautiful fish and a member of the family. Thanks again and Cheers, Steve <Steve, catfish are basically tough, so you have a wide window of opportunity to turn things around. Treat swiftly, keep tabs on the water quality, increase aeration, and pray to the Fish Gods. Yes, these big Loricariid catfish can become "one of the family". My Panaque has been with me since I graduated, which is substantially longer than any of my girlfriends! And in their own way, they do become tame and even friendly. So it's worth making an effort with them. Good luck, Neale>

Re: Pleco L260 w/ Fungus  11/4/07 Neale, After 15 plus days of treatment with meds, it looks as if the Queen Arabesque has come through with her fight with fungi. She seems to have a scar on her tail were the worst patch was. However, she is eating and totally active, with no signs of fungi for a few days. I could not find eSHa 2000; however, I was able to pick up some Seachem ParaGuard. It took awhile to work, but everyone in the tank seems to be OK. Knock on wood!!! I cannot thank you enough. So thanks again and stay well, cheers, Steve <Hello Steve. I'm glad things are working out. I've seen Plecos recover from the most amazing injuries. They are tough old birds! So provided you keep the water sweet and the diet offered the fish nice and varied, your fish should do well. Please do keep us posted! Good luck, Neale>


Constipated Pleco - 10/07/2007 My Hypostomus plecostomus a.k.a. sucker fish is constipated and usually he is decorating my tank like it was Christmas. His color is still good but his belly is a little bloated. I have had my tank for awhile his roommates are a killifish, a Sailfin molly, cream molly, 3 Dalmatian mollies (not to mention 8 babies from a 2 litters I know of), and a platy. All of them seem to be fine. The only thing I have done different is a few weeks ago I started giving them Tubifex worm cubes because all of the fish seemed to always be hungry except my Pleco he seemed to fancy the small cichlid pellets which he hasn't done his little dance for since his plumbing problem started, which he does try to eat but it reminds me more of an infant when they have trapped gas and they are restless and only want to keep sucking on that bottle. I also just read tonight that they need live plants and DRIFTWOOD well right now I am broke and I live in Arizona & I have no clue what wood would be okay. What can I do before he explodes?:( Thank you for you time, Jaimie <Hello Jaimie, First things first. You almost certainly don't have Hypostomus plecostomus. That species hasn't been in the trade since the 70s, though for some reason it's the name that retailers seem to stick on their tanks. You almost certainly have a species of Pterygoplichthys, likely Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus or Pterygoplichthys pardalis. Both of these get big (around 45 cm/18 inches in aquaria). Pterygoplichthys is an omnivore not a pure algae eater, so its diet does need to include a mix of foods. Sinking algae wafers are an ideal staple, but add to that are a mix of foods including mussels, prawns, carrot, potato, curette (zucchini), Sushi Nori, tinned peas, bloodworms and catfish pellets. Being big animals, they need quite a lot of food, which is why the minimum aquarium for an adult specimen is around the 200 litre/55 US gallon mark. In anything smaller all they do is create cloudy, messy water conditions that compromise the health of their tankmates. As far as dealing with constipation go, tinned peas work well. Bogwood is an ESSENTIAL addition to the aquarium. These catfish must have access to the stuff; it is, as you hypothesize, a source of dietary fiber. Given a small bit only costs a couple of quid, expense really shouldn't be an issue. You don't need a big bit, just something it can nibble on. You can collect your own hardwoods like beech or oak (as opposed to resinous softwood) to feed to these catfish, but the problem is you need a supply of wood that has never been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. Also, "fresh" wood rots, so before long it's covered with fungus and not at all attractive (though the catfish seem happy to eat the fungus!). So buying a little bit of bogwood from a reptile or aquarium store is simply safer and easier. Cheers, Neale>


Otocinclus With Parasites -- 10/09/07 Hello crew, My Otocinclus looks very sick. A light yellowish lump in his mouth appeared yesterday, now there's more lumps; and his breathing is a bit slower. Otherwise he's acting pretty normal, still active and trying to eat up algae; his color also looks fine except for 2-3 white dots that are possibly Ick. I've attached a picture of his sucker mouth. I had water condition problems a couple months ago, my tank was about 1 month old then. It's now about 3 months old; I was able to keep water conditions good since I had the previous problems: which were high ammonia, pH dropped. Unfortunately though, two days ago, I did a 25% water change, and probably scrubbed the pump/filter assembly a little too fervently, so the ammonia went up slightly; probably got rid of too much good bacteria? I used some ammo lock to decrease the toxicity level, and have been doing partial water changes daily to stabilize the ammonia level. I only have two fish in the tank currently, and the other fish looks fine so far. I looked on your site, and some fish disease information online, but I can't seem to figure out what the lumps are. Any tips what I should do? Thanks so much for all your help; you guys had great advice for me the times I've written so far!-Vanessa < These little sucker mouth catfish come from warm soft acidic waters of the Amazon basin. They are wild caught and can be a host to a number of parasites. Treat with Fluke-Tabs for parasitic worms and try to maintain good water quality to prevent further stress on your fish.-Chuck>


Treating Pleco Wounds -- 07/24/07 Hello One or All, <Hello.> I guess tank issues first right? 100 gallon tank. Everything is testing fine, and everything has been going just fine until last week. The tank's inhabitants are: 5 Rasboras, 1 Danio (who thinks he's a Rasbora), 4 Neon Tetras, 20 Corys (long story) and 1 Pleco. Nothing fancy about him, he's just your everyday kind, but I think he's exceptional. We've had him for 6 years and he's survived a lot of stuff: moves, poisoned tank, living in a 30 gallon tank for too long. He's grown from 2 inches to 15 inches, and has always been healthy. <OK.> Last week I noticed he wasn't eating his zucchini, and this guy is addicted to the stuff. The Corys were acting weird too. I also noticed some little white areas on some of the Corys. All other fish were fine. Then I noticed some small patches of white on Pleco too. <Fungus or Finrot. Treat quickly.> Long story short. Husband treated the tank for something. Used Maracyn and Melafix. Took out the charcoal. <Melafix largely useless, but OK.> The Corys got better, but Pleco was on death's door yesterday. <Oh dear.> He had a large white patch around his mouth, and his tail looked bloody. For a couple of days I noticed that I could see blue streaks in his tail and fins, but now these were all bloody or the fins were dissolved looking. <Bacterial infection moved from fins to body, and now very serious indeed.> He was breathing rapidly and unable to hang on to the tank sides. I yelled at hubby that I didn't care what the meds were supposed to do they were killing Pleco. <Some catfish do indeed react badly to common medications. That said, I'm not familiar with Plecs being among them.> So we did a 50% water change and washed all the fake plants and stuff in the tank. When the water was really low, he went to the corner where the water was pouring in from the filter. It actually seemed to revive him somewhat. Enough that I said hold off on the clove oil. <OK. Now, when you see a fish pep up after a big water change, that's often a sign that the problem is more complex than just disease, and that the disease may even be a symptom of a water quality/chemistry issue. Always worth following up this line of thinking. Test the pH, hardness, and nitrites. Double check for any potential toxins or sources of anaerobic decay. Make sure the fish isn't burning itself on the heater. That sort of thing.> This morning he's in another corner, breathing slower, but the white around his mouth has turned bloody. All other fish are fine. Is there anything I can do to save him? Treatment for the wounds? <Plecs are pretty tough, and I've seen them come back from worse. But it all depends. Treating the bacterial infection is clearly critical. I'd be wheeling out the antibacterial or antibiotic medications. perhaps not Maracyn given your bad luck here. But certainly something like a Furan or Sulfa drug. Seawater dips can also be excellent for cleaning up wounds.> If I can reduce this down better - started out with white patches on his mouth, and blue streaks in his fins. Now the fins are ragged, and the area around his mouth is bloody. Also some other bloody patches. <It sounds like Finrot to septicemia. Since Finrot usually follows from something else like water quality issues, double check the aquarium conditions.> Help if you can before I have to use the clove oil. I really care about this guy. Tara <Well, it sounds 50/50 right now, but I think you have time. Switch treatments, optimise water quality, increase aeration, and hope for the best. Good luck. Neale>

Re: Treating Pleco Wounds  7/26/07 Thanks so much for your response. I know there's a way to make a donation for the help, but not sure what it is. Let me know. <Hello Tara. Yep, there's a "tip jar" on the front page of the site. If you scroll down, you'll see an Amazon logo at bottom left.> Update: we were ready to euthanize Cos last night when he perked up, went upright, and is sucking on the glass. He has some bad wounds though that are growing a little fuzz on them. I know this can't be good. Is there anything we can put directly on the wounded areas to help him out? We retested the water and everything is good. All the other fish are fine now. Really hate to lose this guy if there's something I can do to help him. I put a piece of zucchini in just in case. He's still staying where the water flow is strongest....with his injured parts right above the bubble stones. Thanks again. Tara <OK, the white stuff is fungus or Finrot bacteria. You have to treat, right now! I'd also recommend that AS WELL as adding anti-fungus/Finrot to the tank (to kill the infectious organisms) I'd recommend doing some saltwater dips to clean the wounds. These are simple. Put a few litres of aquarium water into a bucket. Add 35 grammes of non-iodised salt (e.g., aquarium salt or marine salt mix) and stir well. When it's dissolved, dunk the fish for a short period. At first, do this for about 1-2 minutes, each day, for two or three days. This should clean up the open wounds, much like iodine does on wounds on humans. It isn't a cure for the pathogen, but by cleaning the wound it helps the medication get to the pathogens more easily and so helps the fish heal more quickly. As you've noticed, your fish is swimming into the 'cleanest' water. Fish do this when sick, and it's something that happens in the wild. When fish are sick they will swim towards warmer patches of water to speed up their immune systems, effectively "running a fever". So, there's your list of things to do: 1. Check water quality; 2. Add Finrot/fungus medication; 3. Dip fish in salty water. Follow that, and I think your catfish has a good chance of surviving. I've seen Plecs come back from far worse. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Treating Pleco Wounds -- 07/26/07 Me again. Quick question. I don't have a quarantine tank. Will it be ok to treat the entire tank? Reminder: 20 Corys, 4 tetras, 5 Rasboras, 1 Danio. I'll start treatment ASAP. Pay on the way. Thanks so much! Tara <Hello again Tara! You should be fine treating all these fish together in the one tank. Be sure and remove the carbon from the filter (if you use any) and always follow the instructions on the packaging to the letter. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Treating Pleco Wounds -- 08/17/07 Hi again, I just had to let you know how things turned out. Cosmus (the Pleco) was looking really bad. Laying on his side, bloody sores, etc. So we finally decided to euthanize him. My husband went out to get Clove Oil, and we put water in a bucket. Then we read the part about the vodka. No vodka in the house, so he went out again to pick up a bit. Comes back and gets ready to start the process. I told him that I couldn't watch and started to leave the room. Right then Cosmus straightened up and started swimming around! It was like a Monty Python skit (but I'm not dead yet). So we changed our minds. Did a major water change, and everything else we could think of, including cleaning everything in the tank. Here we are three plus weeks later. Didn't lose a single fish. Cos only has a very small place on his tail that we're still treating. He's eating and swimming, and coming up for me to hand feed. I think I read on your site that you shouldn't give up on these guys and you're right. He did lose some of his tail fin, shortening him from 15 inches to about 13 and a half, but other than that.... Thanks for your help. Tara <Hello Tara. Nice to have a story with a happy ending! Fish have amazing recuperative powers. His tail will grow back. Have you ever seen pictures of wild piranhas mating? They bite chunks out of each other, down to the spine sometimes. A few weeks later, they're right as rain. I'm always loathe to give up on an injured fish, and more than once I've seen a fish seemingly come back from the dead. Anyway, good luck, and enjoy your fish. Neale>


Unidentified Otocinclus illness 7/6/07 Hello all, I am new to posting on WWM, but I have found your site to be very informative. It has helped me better understand my tank and helped me prevent more than a few problems from happening. <Am very glad for this aiding> I have a 29 gallon freshwater, planted tank that is just under 6 months old. The tank has been cycled for approximately 3 months with ammonia and nitrite steadily at zero. The nitrate vacillates between 5 and 10 ppm. My pH is about 7.5 (I use tap water which has a pH of about 8.2 and I use a Neutral buffer, but 7.5 is as low as it goes; I also use driftwood in the water, but my pH is still around 7.5).I do 25% water changes on a weekly basis. The tank has both fish and shrimp. There are 5 zebra Danios, 4 dwarf neon Rainbowfish (2 male, 2 female), one young Bushynose Pleco, a 2" SAE (which I am working on removing from the tank), <Are not easy to catch!> a pair of orange platies, a pair of honey dwarf gouramis, 1 bumble bee goby, <Mmm, actually more of a brackish organism> 2 Otos that are gray/black and 1 Oto (labeled by the LFS as an "Oto niger") that is brown. In terms of shrimp, I have 5 red shrimp, 4 Amanos, and 1 green shrimp (that has changed color to a deep red). I do not have a CO2 set up (much to the dismay of many of my fellow planted tank enthusiasts). <Mmm, okay> I have had the Otos for nearly 5 months and one died unexpectedly (that is no sign of illness, discoloration, strange behavior) about three weeks ago. This happened to be the day after I introduced the Oto niger. <Mmmm> I was shocked since the Otos are always so active. However, now I have noticed that one of my gray/black Otos has some discoloration. The only way I can describe it is that it looks like it is wearing a yarmulke/skull cap. <I see this> It is a clearish sort of circle on the top of its head. I have attached a photo for you to review. The fish seems much more lethargic than usual (and than its fellow Otos) and I am not sure what sort of illness it is or if/how I can save this fish. I posted something on my planted aquarium web group and one woman said she had the same problem, but no idea why or how to deal with it. Her Oto just died from whatever this is. I am hoping I won't have to lose another fish. I look forward to your reply. Any advice you could offer would be great. Brian (in SF) <This marking appears at times from animals that have been damaged in shipping (their heads rubbed repeatedly by others in the bag)... and by negative interaction with other Loricariids... I would keep a sharp eye out to see if the Bushynose of congeneric (other Otocinclus species) is working this fish woe. No "treatment" other than separation is recommended. Bob Fenner>

Re: Unidentified Otocinclus illness (follow-up)   7/7/07 Hey Bob (and others), <<You've got one of the 'others' this trip, Brian. Tom with you this time.>> Wow! Thanks for the reply! You hit the nail right on the head with the other Loricariids. <<Bob's pretty good at hitting the nail on the head, Brian.>> About three hours after I posted this, my Bushynose Pleco was trying to devour the Oto. The Oto was actually still alive and I managed to startle the Bushynose Pleco off. The Oto swam away. However, the Oto was clearly wounded because about 10 minutes later one of my Amanos had the poor fish by its tail and was trying to drag it around the tank. I tried isolating the Oto, but it appeared to be dead - no movement, discoloration, etc. Of course, I went to dispose of it in the toilet and it started to move again. However, I figured once I had exposed it to the untreated water (Chloramine) of the toilet there was no coming back. <<A bad day all around for that poor, little guy.>> Is the only way to prevent this from happening again (my other two Otos are colored just fine) to make sure that I choose an Oto with deep color to begin with? <<Not necessarily, Brian. Otos are often transported in groups of mixed species. In fact, what might be marketed as an 'Otocinclus' could very well be one of the 'Parotocinclus' species, some of which are more of a light brown (to keep it simple) in color. The so-called Golden Oto is one of these. As a small bit of trivia, a true Otocinclus does not have an adipose fin -- a small fin along the back between the dorsal and caudal (tail) fins. An adipose fin on an 'Oto' marks it as a Parotocinclus. (If you're intent on boring someone to tears, share this with them. :) )>> The LFS from which I bought the Otos described them as high-risk fish (always!) due to the cyanide that is often used to catch them in the wild and the stress of transport. However, I figured after 3-4 months of living in a tank with good water quality that I was home free. I guess I was wrong. <<Cyanide harvesting is a valid cause but transport stress is probably more likely the culprit in the early deaths of these fish. Otos (to keep it 'generic') can't digest algae (cellulose). Rather they have anaerobic bacteria in their guts that do the work and the fish is 'nourished' off of the by-products of this process. During transport, so much of the bacteria may die off from lack of food that, even when the Oto is placed back into an algae-rich environment, the fish literally starves to death, i.e. the algae passes through the fish's system untouched, so to speak. Now, the biology lesson notwithstanding, one of the best methods of selecting a healthy Oto is to find a 'fat' one and only select specimens that have spent at least a couple of weeks at the LFS. If the fish's stomach is flat or concave, pass it by. The prospects for a skinny Oto's long-term survival are not good at all.>> Two clarifications to Bob's "mmms". I brought up the lack of CO2 setup, but neglected to say that I regularly use Flourish Excel (liquid CO2). <<Not 'splitting hairs' here, Brian, but the Excel product isn't 'liquid CO2' though it does supplement the tank with carbon, as does CO2, but rather from organic matter. (Guess that did sound like I was splitting hairs, didn't it? :) )>> Second, regarding the bumble bee gobies as brackish water species. I had read this and had crossed them off my original stocking list for that reason. However, a LFS which only carries freshwater fish (or at least only has freshwater tanks) raved about the success they have with this particular bumble bee goby in fresh water. Despite its picky eating (which seems to be common for this fish), it seems to be getting along just fine. <<I would share the same concerns that Bob, no doubt, has with regard to this animal, Brian. An LFS's short-term success with keeping a brackish species in FW doesn't equate to long-term success for you or your pet. Very often, brackish water species start out in FW but must make the transition as they mature in order to thrive/survive. Time will tell, of course, but it's best to keep an eye out for otherwise unexplained problems should they arise.>> Again, many thanks for your wisdom and your willingness to share it. <<More than happy to help, Brian. Good luck and best regards.>> <<Tom>>


Help my fish is dying - I can't help without more useful information!  -- 6/12/07 I have a Plecostomus floats on its side. <Not a good sign. How long has this been going on?> The tail fin is either nipped off or deteriorating off. <None of the fish you mention would below would likely cause this sort of injury (although I'm not sure what a "small ground feeder" is...); I'd be willing to bet this is tail rot, a condition typically caused by poor water quality. Have you used a quality liquid test kit (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals and Tetra both make good products) to measure the levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate in the water? The former should be at zero, while the latter can safely be as high as 20 ppm (though lower is better). How large is this tank and how often do you do water changes? What type of filtration is running on the tank? I need lots of information to be able to help you/your fish...> I have added three neon fish and a dojo fish to my tank that all ready had come with the Plecostomus another small ground feeder that has never changed sizes for the last three years and another fish not sure what it is. I haven't had any problems with them until I added this dojo and Neons. What should I do? <Test your water for starters. Most fish illnesses and diseases are caused by poor water quality; remedying this underlying environmental cause often times will solve the problems. However, I can't say for certain without additional information; see questions posed above. In the meantime, start reading: here's a good place to begin - http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsetupindex.htm Best regards, Jorie> Thanks Cassi


Plecos, hold the salt please -- 5/30/07 Hello, <<Hello, Julie. Tom with you.>> I have a question about adding salt to my freshwater tank. I have a 55 gallon tank. Currently, it contains black mollies, gold balloon belly mollies, zebra Danios and one 12 inch Pleco. <<Hmmm'¦okay. Mollies are typically categorized as 'brackish' water fish, Julie. Your Pleco has little, if any, tolerance for salt. Not ideal but let's see what we can do.>> My problem - the black mollies have Ich and I am having trouble getting rid of it. I read that my tank needs salt and this will aid in getting rid of and keeping the Ich out of my tank. <<Salt is one of the 'safest' ways to go, Julie, but not the only one. In this case, a 'treatment' level of salt for Ick will do your Pleco no good whatsoever. We need to look for an alternate course of action.>> I also read that my Pleco will not do well with too much salt in the water. <<True.>> Is there a certain amount of salt that I could add to my tank that might help my mollies but not hurt my Pleco? <<In this case, Julie, there isn't. Plecos can 'tolerate' no more than a dosage of one tablespoon of salt per five gallons of water and even that is 'iffy'. You'd likely need to up this to around two-three tablespoons per five gallons to effectively do battle with this parasite. Not an option, I'm afraid. You should consider Maracide here. Not quite as effective as other forms of treatment but 'scaleless' fish seem to do quite well with this treatment. 'Quick Cure' is a formulation of formalin and malachite green which is very effective, particularly when combined like this but, it does have 'safety' drawbacks as it's toxic to fish and plants if dosing isn't done properly or, if treated for a prolonged period. Treatments with this product can be very successful when half-dosed in 12-hour intervals, however. I'd go with the Maracide here, though. If this were a more serious outbreak, I'd direct you to go with the Quick Cure but I'd rather that you feel comfortable with this rather than put you on the spot. Also, remember to increase the temperature of the tank to 82-86 degrees F. over a period of several hours to speed up the life cycle of the Ick.>> Thanks, Julie <<You're welcome, Julie. Best of luck. Tom>>


Pleco problems   5/20/07 Dear Crew, <Hello!> It is so good to be able to write to experts. <Sorry, the experts are all out right now, so you'll have to talk to me instead.> I have a Pleco, named Plotya, whom I love very much. <Very good.> He started having a hard time navigating. Something makes him float up to the surface and he turns belly up and gulps. <Sounds like water quality issues. When Plecs are in polluted water, they breathe air. It helps them survive in ponds during the summer.> For three weeks he had one red-tinted side fin and a couple of red spots that looked like tiny wounds on his belly. The spots stayed throughout these weeks but the redness on the fin came and went. Now he looks entirely normal and it seems that everything has cleared on its own. <Which is good.> I changed his diet when I saw the red spots. I added shrimp pellets to his usual half wafer of algae to make him stronger. Last night I was not at home to feed him but I gave him more shrimp pellets before I left in the morning and then I fed him more pellets this afternoon. <All good, but take care not to overfeed. These catfish need mostly vegetables in their diet. 90% vegetables, 10% protein. I'd give him zucchini (courgette), cucumber, broccoli, carrot, potato, cooked cabbage leaves, dandelion leaves, etc. Use meaty foods only sparingly. Plecos are the "sheep" of the catfish world, and feed mostly on algae and plants.> And then he suddenly starts floating on the surface! I have made a 50% water change and he seems to be able to  hang onto the wall vertically, head up. Maybe this is my answer? <Indeed. Clean water makes him healthy...> He lives in a 10 gallon tank with 1 angel fish and 9 mollies. Is our tank overstocked and it makes him sick?    <Probably not sick, but suffering. Yes, 10 gallon tank is much too small. Must be at least 30-40 gallons for an adult Plec. Preferably more. If you have no space for a bigger tank, maybe you can find a friend with a bigger aquarium he can live in?> Thanks a lot! Anastasia <Good luck! Neale>

Re: Pleco problems    5/20/07 Dear Neale and Crew, thank you so much for your prompt response! <Hello Anastasia!> When I wrote the letter yesterday, Plotya was vertical but later he surfaced again belly up and had a hard time keeping his mouth in the water. This morning he managed to tack himself behind the plant at the surface to keep his head under the water. <So, he's not quite at death's door yet.> Part time he is attached to the wall by his mouth but it is obvious that his belly keeps him afloat. <Sounds very odd. Catfish breathe by putting air inside the intestine, and it is possible this is making him float. But I think the main problem is water quality in the aquarium. Your 10 gallon tank is too small for a Plec.> And so his head is at the wall and the body is twisted and upside down off of the wall, floating. And Part time he is just afloat sideways with his head under the water. He does not move at all but I can see he is breathing.   <Not good.> Unfortunately I cannot tell if he is bloated or not. He's always been plump. I gave him a fresh peeled pea from the garden but it seems that there is no way he can make it to the bottom to get it. <Keep trying different vegetables. Root vegetables (potato, carrot, etc.) are usually very good for Plecs, but sometimes they need to soften in the water for 24 hours before the catfish can eat them.> Does he have a swim bladder infection? <Probably not. These are quite rare. Usually when fish cannot swim normally, it is a neurological condition (brought on by, e.g., the wrong water conditions) or a dietary problem (constipation). Adding *non-iodised* cooking salt (NaCl) at a dosage of UP TO 1 gramme per litre is recommended as one possible therapy in one of my fish health books. Certainly worth a shot. Add salt in small doses, a maybe replacing 25% of the water per day with water with some salt. Adding too much, too quickly is sure to shock the fish.> Thank  you so much again! It is Sunday and I am desperate as to where to get advice and how to treat him! Anastasia <Good luck, Neale>


Pleco Problems   4/15/07 Hi! <<Hello, Aaron. Tom here.>> I've had my first 55-gal community freshwater tank for about 8 months now and I love watching all my fish interact.  I have 5 platies, 7 zebra Danios, 6 bleeding-heart tetras, 3 x-ray (official name?) tetras, 3 Glowlight tetras, and 3 Cory cats.  The last member of my tank that I'm having problems keeping is a rubber-lipped Pleco, Chaetostoma.  I just discovered my fourth one dead this morning.   <<Yep. That's a problem all right.>> I've only been keeping one at a time, but they keep dying 'the longest lasting about 2 months.  I don't know why they keep dying, I thought Plecos were supposed to be pretty hardy. <<Plecos are generally a very hardy and long-lived fish, Aaron.>> I do a 12-15 gal water change roughly every 7-10 days with a gravel vacuuming and clean some of the algae off of the glass.  I can never get all of it, plus some of the decor in the tank has plenty of algae on it, so I don't think I'm starving the Plecos.  I'll add the appropriate amounts of AmQuel +and Top Fin's pH Decrease when doing the water change.   <<I'd skip the Top Fin product, Aaron. Best not to toy around with the pH levels of your tap water. Fish do better at adapting to levels outside of their 'norms' than dealing with changes in the pH which depends on the buffering capacity of the water. Insufficient buffering can lead to pH spikes or crashes and these are as harmful as spikes in ammonia and nitrites.>> Water conditions are generally OK'¦pH is around 7.6, NH4 and NO2 levels are negligible, and I try to maintain NO3 to less than 20 ppm.   <<Keep in mind that NH4 (ammonium) and NH3 (ammonia) are different critters, Aaron. The combination of the two is referred to as 'total ammonia' and is what most common test kits detect. Though toxic, NH4 is less harmful to fish than NH3. The compound you want to really concern yourself with is the NH3. (For what it's worth, NH3 converts to NH4 at lower pH levels and reverts back as pH levels rise. Might not be an issue here but illustrates a case in point as to why it isn't good to artificially lower your tank's pH if you can't be certain that it will stay there. A sudden spike in pH can potentially lead to an associated spike in ammonia. A double whammy, if you will.)>> My water is moderately hard, roughly 100 -- 120 ppm.  I get all my fish from a local pet superstore that has the same water as I do, so most of the fish are already accustomed to the water conditions.  I feed the fish tetra flakes every morning, while occasionally dropping an Algae Thin or two for the Pleco (when I have one alive). Any suggestions would be great! <<One of the problems we face with new Plecos, in general, is that they can take a while to acclimate to new surroundings particularly if hiding places are hard to come by or non-existent. Typically, this manifests itself in the fish not eating. If you're getting your Plecos as new arrivals to the pet store, you could be buying fish that haven't eaten in quite some time and might be close to starvation. Transport and handling are very tough on fish and high levels of stress comes with the territory. First, make sure that the fish you purchase has been at the LFS long enough to have acclimated and, more especially, is eating normally. If you can't confirm this, I'd avoid making the purchase. Ideally, the fish will have been at the store for at least a couple of weeks before you plunge in. Second, I'd strongly recommend quarantining your new pet to make doubly sure that it's had time to acclimate and that it's healthy. Last, provide a good place in your display tank for the fish to hide and feel secure. By the way, I've a Sailfin Pleco that's wild about zucchini so you might consider providing a food like this rather than relying on algae wafers and the like. Might jump start the fish into eating and dramatically lowering its stress levels.>> Thanks, Aaron <<Happy to help, Aaron. Best of luck to you. Tom>>

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