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Disease FAQs on Loricariids, South and Central American Suckermouth Cats 4

FAQs on "Pleco" Disease: Loricariid Disease 1, Loricariid Disease 2, Loricariid Disease 3,
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,

Red mouth on albino Ancistrus       1/25/19
Hello, I was hoping you could help me with this question as I wasn’t able to find any similar cases and this has not happened to my Ancistrus before.
I have several albino Ancistrus that were born in the same tank and have been healthy for a couple of years now, I’ve had other fish get sick and die but the Ancistrus never seemed to have any problem. A female died about two weeks ago and I wasn’t able to find the reason why, but it seemed to be the mother of the others, that is the only one of my Ancistrus that has died so far. My question was about another female Ancistrus, I noticed today that her mouth and gills are bright red (much more than usual), also its stomach seems to be a bit swollen (I am not too sure about this) and it is sticking to the glass a lot although I think she always does this.
As for recent changes in my aquarium I have changed my filter for a bigger one, it has a black sponge, activated carbon and I added a couple of ceramic rings from my previous filter. The tank has a heater and some plants (both natural and artificial) there are hiding places and the substrate was green gravel but I added white sand some weeks ago. There are Angelfish, Tetras, and Corydoras in the tank; one of the Corydoras had what I think was an infection (it lost its barbels and dorsal fin, I think this scales were a bit raised around its tail) I got him separated and gave him antibiotics for about a week of more until the scales were looking better, the barbels and fin are still not completely cured but the fish is now in the main tank and behaving normally.
This is about all the information I can think of right now. I hope it is enough for you to help me, I am not able to know the nitrate, ammonia, etc. levels because it is really difficult find aquarium specialized shops in my country, usually they just sell fish and fish food, I will however try to find a water test kit a soon as I can. I will attach some photos of the fish I am asking about and also one which I just noticed has a bit of redness in the tip of one of it’s pectoral fins (doesn’t seem too worrying but just in case). As I was taking the photos I noticed another female (last photo) which seems to be developing the same symptoms... this worries me a lot, to better describe the symptom I would say it red in the whole lower part (the part that faces down, including the mouth) of the head, and it has some extra red spots. The first photo is makes it more visible.
<This looks to be some sort of Septicaemia. It tends to be seen on catfish and loaches where the substrate is too sharp, but other environmental factors could be responsible. In particular, bottom dwellers are exposed to low oxygen levels if the filter doesn't "push" a lot of water along the substrate. This makes diseases such as Septicaemia more common. Finrot-type infections can also occur, and likely explain the Corydoras that lost its whiskers. Antibiotic or antibacterial medications are required; here in England, I'd be going with eSHa 2000, but if you live somewhere antibiotics are sold in pet shops, like America, then something like Kanaplex is what you'd want. Review the environment before you add medication, because if something is wrong, medicine won't help. Good luck, Neale.>

Bristlenose Plecos sick      7/8/18
Hello, I really appreciate your attention in this time of need. I have been struggling with this and come to no solution - would not want to risk more damage, so I feel I need experienced help. I have been into aquaria for three months only. I set up a 150-liter tank, with two juvenile (3 cm) Bristlenose Plecos, 6 gold barbs, 3 corys, two snails, some shrimp (of which 2 survived) and later one xypho. I used JBL Manado for a substrate, which is just finely rough. I have used Aquael 3 plus as a filter, one that is nominally capable of filtering up to 250 l. First, I lost lots of shrimp due to an ammonia peak. 2 corys got fin rot, which I treated. They lost most of their barbells though. Later, I used some sand that I got from a creek - this caused algae and agitation in the fish, so I got it out.
Everything seemed fine, except for the algae. For that, I got two SAEs, reduced the lighting, scheduled a siesta, and all was fine. Then, suddenly my two SAEs died (haemorrhaging around one gill in one of them, haemorrhaging on the belly in the other), and my other fish got sick. Since I read a slight ammonia peak, and people told me the filter was insufficient for a substrate tank, I added an external filter with 1 liter of Sera Siporax, and ammonia and nitrites came down to 0. The sickness didn't go away though. Most symptoms - sudden movements, rubbing against object, torn fins in the Plecos, redness in part of the body, weight loss - pointed to flukes, so I treated that - first by universal solutions with formalin and such, then with Praziquantel, taking the Nerite snail to a smaller tank (other invertebrates are fine).After 2 weeks, after a treatment with Prazi repeated on day 6 and 7 there is no improvement in my Plecos (see the pictures - redness in varius spots, weights loss, ripped fins, large reduction of movement). The corys have a slight rosiness on their bellies, the barbs a more pronounced one, and are all unhappy. Could they have a different parasite? Could it be bacterial? Could it be just starving (no algae) in the Plecos and a natural behaviour in the others? I have no nitrate test, but have lots of filtration now and a large external plant sucking up nitrates having its roots in the water...I deeply appreciate your help. best Aron
<Looks like an opportunistic bacterial infection, likely caused by the ammonia peak. As always, avoid 'general' cures as these simply waste time. Formalin is toxic, while Praziquantel is specifically for treating worms, for which there's no evidence here. The fact it's the catfish generally that are struggling is a good clue that the problem is environmental. Rough gravel can scratch catfish and loaches, and poor water movement along the bottom of the tank means a lack of oxygen, which means scratches quickly become infected with opportunistic bacteria such as Aeromonas and Pseudomonas. These cause inflammation of the skin and ultimately the death of skin tissue, especially around the fins and whiskers. The disappearance of the barbels on your Corydoras is an extremely reliable sign that this is the problem. So bottom line, review the aquarium! Is the gravel nice and smooth? Ideally, use smooth silica sand. Also remember some 'plant friendly' substrates are too sharp for catfish. Next up, ensure there's a good strong flow of water along the bottom. Plenty of oxygen needed! Once these issues are reviewed and fixed, then a standard issue anti-Finrot medication (such as eSHa 2000) should do the trick nicely. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: re: Bristlenose Plecos sick    7/9/18
Dear WWM, dear Neal, thank you for the kind answer. I will look into this.
best Aron
<Glad to help, and good luck! Neale.>

Sick Pleco       5/6/18
Hi there,
We have a Pleco (Plecunga) that has grown huge over the last few years - we think he's about 10 years old, and he's about 20-21" long. He's in a 320litre, 7ft tank. Tank is high GH (180 ppm) and KH (approx 100ppm), which is not ideal for a Pleco but he's always had this.
<Actually, am glad to find you have a modicum of pH resisting hardness here. This large catfish produces copious wastes... would be trouble if there was little buffering capacity>
PH 6.9, no detectable ammonia or nitrites, nitrate about 40ppm - nothing of concern.
<Mmm; the pH is okay, but I'd work on the NO3... at the very least increase the percentage or double the interval of water changes. In the meanwhile do read on WWM re Nitrate, control. I'd keep this under 20 ppm>
Tank mates (1 ghost knife fish, 3 silver dollars, 3 Gourami, 2 large clown loaches and 2 angel fish) are all fine, as is the smaller (~10") albino Pleco. He is the alpha male and nobody in this tank has ever been seen bullying him - though he occasionally chases the albino. But his skin is "cracking" on both sides of his body and looks raw/bleeding near the tail.
<I see this in your images>
He's also almost continually shimmying, like he has an itch.
<Likely both issues are environmental... the low pH, high NO3... Though of all the other fishes listed, the smaller Pleco might be "riding" the larger, causing damage>
Dorsal fin not overly affected just some minor splitting, but quite some splitting of the tail fin (sorry, no photo-he seems stressed enough without me pulling his tail fin apart). I don't think he's eating. As we are in Australia I don't have access to the same level of antibiotics that would be available in the US. Best I could get is aquari-cycline (from blue planet), a broad spectrum antibiotic based on tetracycline, which we started treating him with, but not seeing any improvement.
<Mmm; I would NOT treat this fish as such; as the root problem is either environmental or social. >
We have a 60cm (2ft) fully cycled hospital tank (with some guppies) which we could isolate him in but I think this would be torture.
<Yes; too large a biomass in too small a volume>
We are very fond of him, and would really appreciate any and all advice you can think of in our mission to get him better!
Reneke and Metis.
<Appreciate your concern; share it. Again, I would have you read here:
and the linked files at top, and:
Bob Fenner>

Odd parasite or injury     1/11/18
Hi! I have a Pleco (I honestly am not sure what breed) who is about 15 years old.
<Likely Pterygoplichthys species of some sort -- by far the most common of the "Common Plecs" in the hobby.>
I rescued him in 2010 from a foreclosed on home in the middle of the Las Vegas summer. The previous owner had left a fish tank in his home in a living room in front of uncovered windows. For several months I would jog past this place and see the tank and decided to ask the bank if I could remove the tank, not knowing there was a fish in it still. It’s a miracle he was still alive.
<They are tough fish, that's for sure!>
The original owner’s children informed me he was almost 8 years old.
<Nice. They can live a long time, given good conditions, easily well over 20 years.>
Needless to say this fish has bonded to me.
<It's lovely when these Plecs become tame. They're so shy otherwise, and reportedly nocturnal, but once settled, they'll come out during the daytime. My Panaque is right now at the front of the tank begging for food. If there was anyone else in the room, or any noise, she'd be inside her cave hiding away.>
I have had no idea that a fish could have such an awesome connective personality, he sits in my hand, follows me from one side of the tank to the other and greets me when he sees me come home from work.
He even plays soccer with me with his own little aquarium soccer ball that he also sleeps on.
The problem is that he got a spot on his nose a few months ago and I treated the water with a multi-purpose fungus and parasite treatment. It didn’t go away but didn’t seem to get bigger. Then one morning it had a weird transparent mushroom bubble looking thing growing out of it.
<Understood. Bubbles or blisters under the skin are a sort of injury, with gas or liquid collecting underneath the skin, creating a sort of bubble. Sometimes they're caused by supersaturation of the water with oxygen. This almost never happens in freshwater tanks, but is slightly more common in marine tanks. Either way, it's caused by ridiculously too much aeration, so that too much gas dissolves in the water, and for some reason it comes out of solution inside the fish, rather like when you open a can of soda-pop and the bubbles all fizz out. The bubbles cause substantial damage to nearby tissues, and can develop into visible bubble-like growths just under the skin. Anyway, toning down aeration helps, and eventually the "gas bubble disease" fixes itself. Now, if the bubble is fluid-filled rather than gas bubbles, we call it a blister, and these are usually caused by a bacterial infection. They can respond well to anti bacteria treatments. The fact the bubble is around the snout suggests some sort of physical injury, such as the gravel being too sharp, and catfish generally are particularly prone to these odd problems because they rest with their nose, whiskers and belly on the substrate. So unlike other fish, which float, they're more prone to becoming scratched and/or infected with bacteria living on the substrate. It's more or less similar to what we'd call Finrot, and might be treated with the same medicines. But I'd also recommended reviewing the tank, cleaning the substrate as thoroughly as practical, and ensuring that there's nothing rough in the tank that the catfish might abrade itself with.>
I treated his tank again and it fell off or went away and he seemed happier. Then a month goes by and now there’s a new one there and the first one is back and is red like it’s full of blood. I have done so much research and can’t find any information on it. Can you give me some suggestions as to what this is and what I should do?
<Do see above.>
My buddy is in his senior years and I want him to continue to be healthy and happy. I feed him zucchini and algae wafers (which he doesn’t eat, he prefers the zucchini). I once gave him a piece of mango which he promptly spit out of the tank at me so mango is a NO! Spinach just became a rotting tank plant, so I supposed I have a picky eater. I named him Old Greg. I love him so!
<Do try some other foods to vary the diet. Algae wafers will be eaten, but also offer slivers of white fish and shrimp, bits of mollusk such as cockles and mussels, sweet potato, cooked or canned peas. A lump of bogwood may also provide useful fibre for Plecs of all types, even those that don't actually digest wood (as Panaque spp. do) and merely consume it while rasping away at any algae.>
Thanks for your help!
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Is this normal?    1/8/17
Hi crew,
<Hey Lisa>
My Plecostomus has been in hiding since moving to the tank
<Oh; not unusual for sucker mouth catfishes to hide; especially when new to a system>
and this is the first time I’ve seen it’s under side. Is this normal?
<Looks fine to me. What is worrisome is when the area is reddish>
Lisa Nelski
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Red patches on albino Bristlenoses     1/5/17
Just wondering why the light yellow Bristlenoses tend to have those red patches on them. Is it stress or just the fact that they are albino?
<Judy, if you're talking about the pinkish-red colouration most obvious on the underside, that's simply their blood seen through the skin. Albino and leucistic (yellow) catfish lack skin pigment (except, obviously, yellow on the leucistic ones) so it's easier to see beneath the skin. See the attached photo (that hopefully Bob can use on the website) of a perfectly healthy, but albino, male Ancistrus. But anything that looks like pink to bright red inflammation, especially somewhere without a strong blood supply, such as the fins or whiskers, is likely to be incipient Finrot.
While perfectly treatable when caught early on, the easiest approach is to avoid such specimens. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Red patches on albino Bristlenoses (RMF, please see my attached photo)<Yes>

It is just a patch on top of the head.
<Do see my previous image and commentary; read; do draw your own conclusions from there. Cannot really say anything else without seeing the fish. Neale.>

ill Pleco    9/17/17
hi I'm new to everything about fishes and keeping them in aquarium , in my country isn't much of knowledge about Pleco and I'm not sure i can even find the right medicine . but i don't want to keep a Pleco infected with
fungus or parasite so i wanted to ask you about a red bump on the nose of my baby Pleco . what is it ? is it a fungus or parasite or worm ? please help me.
<Appears to me to be a physical injury... perhaps a scrape against something hard, or rub?>
i don't know which specie it is but i can send you a picture of an adult Version . my Pleco is 5 cm long (nose to tail ) . i gust got it 2 days ago and i saw the red bump (i send the picture).
<I would not treat this fish, injury with medication/s, but just keep the  system stable and water quality optimized. I want to have you read here Re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlecTraumaF.htm
Bob Fenner>

Re: ill Pleco. Now fdg....     9/17/17
thank you soooo much for you're help , i was scared to death that maybe it's a parasite . they are very very expensive here���� thank you again .
sorry for bad English �� and i will definitely read the page you send me .
forgive me but one more question if i may�� does these small Pleco eat fish food or just microplants ?
<Mainly feed on algae... tablets are fine; some folks supplement with a bit of animal matter (bloodworms, frozen/defrosted, or dried/soaked so they sink are best here). >
and do i gave them any vitamins ?
<Likely prepared foods will provide these>
thank you for
all you're hard work and help ��
<Glad to help/share. Bob Fenner>

Medusa Pleco and stress     7/25/17
I have a couple of pieces of driftwood in a 38 gallon with a couple of angelfish and a medusa Pleco. Just wondering if the Pleco needs another decoration he/she can hide in. There is a piece of PVC pipe in there, that is about 4 inches in diameter and about 4 inches long that I put in there today. I was thinking of getting another 4 inch piece and using aquarium safe glue to glue the PVC pieces together to have something longer. Do Bushynoses really enjoy a good hiding place for the feeling that they are safe?? Thanks
<Does really depend on the tank, but generally a male Bristlenose will commandeer a single tunnel or burrow, and that'll be his home. He won't need another burrow provided he can use and defend this one successfully.
Additional burrows or even rocky nooks will be welcome, particularly in a busy tank with bright light. But in quiet tanks with lots of shade and vegetation, Ancistrus are much less retiring. The main thing is that each fish should have at least one home so that competition between individuals isn't serious. Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco with Heavy Breathing     2/24/17
My common Pleco has been breathing hard a while. What I mean by that is that her gills move rapidly and her mouth does too.
<Do try (a) doing a substantial water change; and (b) making sure there is plenty of aeration, and if necessary upgrading such using an airstone or spray bar; and (c) checking the water isn't too warm, 22-26C/72-79F being optimal for most of the common Plec species and varieties. Many aquarists keep their Plecs much too warm, with the result their fish are somewhat stressed, especially as the fish get bigger and consume more oxygen than they did as youngsters.>
She appears to be normal other than that. Her appetite is good. Her body is light at times. She gets faded patches on her and faded stripes. It appears to get better in the dark, but they are still there. She does have a more white patch towards her tail (it seems different colored than the others), but it is not raised. She doesn't appear to be thin. No breathing at the surface. I am current trying to watch her poop for parasites. It appears it is always the color of the food she eats, and it occasionally gets small clear connections between.
But not all the time. Would that still mean parasite?
<Hard to say, but de-worming is usually worthwhile with Plecs and L-numbers generally.>
She seems normal, just breathing hard all the time. I just started feeding her veggies. I didn't realize the importance of them. She was just eating algae flakes. I am highly concerned. I would be devastated if something happened to her. She lives by herself right now, she has since I have had her for the last year. She wasn't very healthy when i got her. What I mean is she was pale all over, never fed, and lived in ammonia (this was at her old home). Here current tank has 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and, 40 nitrates.
The tank recently had tons of nitrAtes! Very high, I could not tell if it was over 80, or over 160.
I don't know how long it was like this. It could have been a long time. I started doing daily water changes and got it to 40. It appears I have to do one everyday to keep it to 40. There are no or low nitrAtes in the city water. I know my tank is over stocked.
<See above; Plecs are riverine fish that are sensitive to low-oxygen levels and will breathe faster (and in extremis, gulp air) under warm, stuffy conditions.>
I am about to move her to a 150 gallon, but I don't want to move her if she is sick. I bought this tank just for her! She also jumped out of her tank a few months ago. I do not know how long she was out. Could this is damaged her gills, and cause rapid breathing?
<Certainly gill damage, e.g., from Velvet, can cause these sorts of symptoms, but I'd review environment first.>
We also moved a couple months ago, but her tank is just like it was. Could nitrate poisoning have caused this? I thought maybe she had gill flukes but I don't see her scratching.... Since their gills are underneath them would they just rub on the rocks? I don't know what to do! I am worried sick, I have been researching for days! What should I do? Thank you!
PS. OK so I have been watching her poop. I have been giving her sweet potatoes so I could see the color of her poop better. Most of the time, like 80% of her poop is the color of the food. However about 20% of the time her poop is the color of the food with clear, whitish sections in between and sometimes you just get a very thin, kind of curly looking dirty white stand.
<Mucous; it's fairly normal for Plecs and L-numbers to consume silt and organic detritus in the tank, and this binds with mucous to form stringy parts to their normal faeces. Some bogwood to rasp away at is worthwhile, offering extra roughage!>
Way thinner than normal poop. And just like I said in the last email. She is active and eating just fine. Parasites? Stress? I don't know. Would this cause the heavy breathing?
<Hope the above helps. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Pleco with Heavy Breathing     2/24/17

So my temperature is 76 always. There should be a good amount of oxygen because I have bug filters on the tank with a lot of surface movement.
<Do you mean "big" filters?>
Should you suggest moving her to the new tank where she may be more comfortable?
<Adult Plecs need at least 55 US gallons, and realistically 75+ gallons.
They also need a filter with turnover rated at least 8 times the volume of the tank per hour; i.e., for a 55 US gallon tank, the filter should be rated at 440 gallons/hour. Obviously filter media needs to be mature.>
Also, I'm assuming you mean it would be a good idea to deworm her? What would I use? Is it safe to do it not being 100% sure?
<Antihelminth medications are widely sold in aquarium shops; for example Prazi Pro. They are generally safe to use.>
Also is it normal for her to hold her head up? She holds if off the ground all the time. Like an inch usually.
<Sometimes this means the bottom layer of the tank has poor water quality, for example little water flow, or an abrasive substrate that irritates the fish, as is sometimes the case where "funky" coloured gravels are used instead of smooth river grave. Review, and act accordingly. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Pleco with Heavy Breathing     2/24/17

She started holding her head up with the heavy breathing. And it is common for nitrate poisoning to cause breathing problems right?
<Nitrate isn't normally toxic to catfish like Plecs; regular water changes should dilute nitrate sufficiently. Of course nitrate levels above 100 mg/l aren't healthy, even for robust fish, hence the need to control the amount of food that goes into the tank, the frequency of water changes, and the overall volume of the tank.>
Thank you!
<Welcome. Neale.>

Plecos dying suddenly      2/20/17
Hi Crew,
<Hey Katelin>
I have 2 tanks with Bristlenose Plecos one with a mated pair and 4 Cory cats and some of the babies that I was letting grow out. The Bristlenose fry suddenly started dying last night, I've had 4 deaths so far and the rest seem very ill, including my mated pair whom I've had over 2 years. I had noticed odd white specs all over my driftwood in that tank and didn't think much of it but now I'm wondering if it was a sign as the Plecos all have tiny white dots- very hard to see and not many but they are there.
<Mmm; no to their being the same disease... white spots on the wood and Ancistrus... BUT, the decomposition of the wood may well have a direct or indirect effect on water quality, the issue w/ your BNs. I would be checking what parameters re water here that you can, and in any case removing the wood for now, executing a good percentage water change (like half) while vacuuming the substrate... to remove organics>
I know driftwood cannot get ich, but didn't know if the eggs could have been attached to it like they would the gravel?
<Mmm; Ich is very often present in captive systems; just in a non-clinical phase... enough "stress" level and it expresses itself... in numbers and aggressiveness>
I have not introduced anything new into my tank for 1 year 6 months+ (including driftwood) and the Cory cats seem to be acting fine. Before the sudden deaths I noticed the Plecos had started going to the surface for air a lot and were hanging out at water line, some even with their heads above the water.
<The above... removal, water change: Stat!>

I know the tank was overstocked but I did one-two large water changes a day to combat any issues and my water parameters were always correct when I tested.
<Ah good; and who knows what... that is untestable by you re the second>
I was actually about to take them all to the LFS when this happened. My male albino also looks bloated and his tail area is very red in color, plus his sides are white almost as if he has lost his pigmentation. To a degree he has always been like that on his sides, but it seems to be worse. I took a lot of the Plecos out and moved them into other tanks
<Very good>

and have done a big water change already and will do another before bed. Should I treat this like ich and raise the temp to 86?
<I would not; as the fish going near the surface... the higher temp. will result in higher metabolism and less dissolved oxygen>

I have raised it a little but am afraid as they already seem to have trouble breathing. They are acting very lethargic and not eating and I am worried more will die if I don't treat them soon. I did add some extra air pumps to their tanks to increase oxygen as well. Thanks for any advice you can give me, it is greatly appreciated.
<The added air is a good idea; and moving them to known good quality settings even better. I do not think the problem here is really pathogenic, but environmental. Bob Fenner>
Re: Plecos dying suddenly      2/20/17

Just an update- lost 4 more Plecos since I wrote you, mostly the smaller ones that are only a couple months old,
<A good clue... re the cause here being env.>
but also a few up to 5-6 months.
However all seem very ill, not eating, lethargic, showing some very small white granule like spots, and have noticed some with eyes that appear sunken. A lot of the dead ones eye's are sunken into their sockets and have dark grey patches of slime, not sure if this is just normal with death or not. Thanks so much for the help!
<MOVE THEM. Bob Fenner>
Re: Plecos dying suddenly   2/22/17

Thanks for the response...I have lost about six more from the main tank and tank I moved others into, the tank I moved them in seems to be stable now, have not lost any for over 24 hours, but lost 2 from main tank that I found this a.m. The tank has the weird tiny white stuff all over the filter, glass, heater, and floating through water and it looks like what is on the Plecos.
<Organic... likely decomposition products from the wood>
The Plecos have more of it on them and even have it in their mouths. The cories are also starting to get white spots and acting sick.
It looks like the exact stuff that was on the wood as well. What Im wondering is, should I set up a new tank and new filter, new everything to put them in even though I won't have the beneficial bacteria?
<I wouldn't... the previous mentions of removing the wood et al. should do it>
(To even assume the bacteria in there is beneficial at all at this point) Or leave them in their tank and continue with the gravel vacs and water changes twice daily even though they still seem to be gasping for air, ill and dying?
<You did remove the wood...>
Do I need to treat for ich, and if so what is safe to use?
<No treatment necessary or advised. I think I've mentioned this already as well>
Thank you so much for your help, I am very worried about doing the wrong thing and losing more of my fish.
<Understood. Bob Fenner>
Re: Plecos dying suddenly   2/22/17

Hi Bob,
So I figured out what was in tank- they are some type of worm, I'm guessing gill/body fluke due to their symptoms and appearance. They were difficult to see, had to use high power flashlight and magnifying glass but there were definitely worms squiggling everywhere and one was attempting to burrow into my boyfriend's hand (actually how we discovered and starting investigating further.) I have moved them to a new tank, but since they are already infected do you have a recommendation for medication safe to use on Plecos and cories, including my Pygmy Cory? I am in the U.S. Much
<Yes; there are a few Anthelminthics of use... Prazi/quantel is a fave. I'd have you read here first:
and the linked files above; where you lead yourself... till you're aware of your options. Do this soon.
Bob Fenner>
Re: Plecos dying suddenly    2/23/17

Will read the link you gave me, thanks SO much for all your help
<A pleasure to share, aid your efforts Katelin. Bob Fenner>

Egg-bound BN Pleco     2/8/17
I have 3 Albino Bristle Nose Plecos (2 female 1 male all of breeding age) in a 30 gallon tank that has been running for over 6 months. A few days ago my 6" long female plumped up with eggs. They have several suitable caves to breed in, but they have been unwilling to seal the deal. I know she is plump with eggs as she has dropped at least 5 over the last 24 hours. This evening she has stopped dropping eggs, and a large round bump has developed with a few bursting blood vessels please see the attached picture. Is she egg bound? Will this kill her? Is there something that I can do to help her
pass the eggs? The tank is planted with CO2 and lots of hiding places.
Running a Fluval canister filter. Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 20, Copper 0, Salt 0, GH 8, KH 5, pH 7.0. Other fish in tank are 7 Zebra Danios and 5 Mollies.
<I'd be treating as per Dropsy at this point; i.e., 1-3 teaspoons Epsom Salt per 5 gallons/20 litres, raising the temperature by a degree or two as well. While I don't think she has Dropsy as such, the laxative effect of the Epsom Salt should help her pass out the eggs. I'd also optimise diet (more fresh greens for example) and ensure water quality is appropriate (relatively cool, 22-24 C/72-75 F is optimal for Ancistrus species across the long term, but regardless, high levels of water movement and oxygenation are essential). As you seem to realise, Ancistrus breed freely giving suitable conditions, and assuming your have a fertile male, you'd expect spawning to happen quite readily. Do review the types of caves on offer: long, hollow tubes are preferred, while more open caves, such as coconut shells, are less favoured. Cheers, Neale.>

Albino Bristlenose plecostomus      2/1/17
Hello I was told by a PetCo employee to ask you about my plecostomus.
<Fire away.>
The end of December we upgraded to a larger tank. He used to be very active always out where we could see him. since we set up the new tank he has lost most of the webbing on his fins and he has a sore on his belly.
<I can see this. It's a bacterial infection (so I'd be using a reliable antibiotic, not MelaFix or salt) but the question is why is it like this. Usually when catfish show this sort of damage, it's because the substrate is either too sharp, too dirty, or some combination of the two. What you've got there are ulcers, you see. I'm not a huge fan of funky substrates and would instead always recommend smooth, plain vanilla gravel rather than anything sharp or jagged. Failing that, a thin layer of smooth lime-free sand (such as silica sand or pool filter sand) works well too. While sharp or coloured gravels are often fine for midwater fish, catfish drag themselves across those substrates, and in the process can damage themselves. Bear in mind that your Ancistrus naturally comes from shallow streams where the water flows over sand, boulders and bogwood. So he's adapted to smooth surfaces and has a very tender belly. Review, and act accordingly. Fix the substrate, keep it clean, treat with antibiotics, and all should be well.>
We check the water levels regularly and they are always fine. He lives with three zebra danios, three Dalmatian tail platys and a Japanese algae eating shrimp. Two of the zebra danios have died though. I'm putting stress coat and MelaFix into the tank and he is now being more active but he still doesn't look healthy. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for him!
Thank you
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Re: Albino Bristlenose plecostomus      2/1/17
Thank you for the prompt response!!
I will switch out the substrate for a softer one. What antibiotic do you suggest and where can I get it?
<Depends where you live. In the US, various antibiotics are sold in aquarium shops, such as Kanaplex. Outside the US, antibiotics are normally legally sold only with a prescription, which you get from a vet. So alternatives to antibiotics are sold in aquarium shops that work almost as well. Here in the UK, I recommend a product called eSHa 2000 as inexpensive and reliable. Cheers, Neale.>

Red bumps/ sores on Bristlenose Pleco /RMF      8/23/16
I noticed today that my Bristlenose Pleco has two lumps/sores on it and wondered what it might be. It lives in a 240 litre tank with harlequins, rosy tetra,
<Best kept in a school, can be/come nippy>
phantom tetra, minnows, Oto's, Synodontis catfish,
<Mmm; which species? Might be picking on your Pleco>

Cory catfish, 2 small Pakistani loaches, 2 small clown loaches. The tank is 6 months old. Ammonia is 0, Nitrite is 0 and Nitrate is 20. The Bristlenose has been in the tank for about 3 weeks and is about 2 and a half inches long. I have tried researching antibiotics in the UK but do not know what is good to use if it becomes infected.
<Am referring you to Neale Monks here... he is a Briton... and think he will suggest eSHa's line>

There is nothing sharp in the tank. Thank you for your time.
<Saw your pic... could be a trauma at work here (as I suggest above); or?
Bob Fenner>
Re: Red bumps/ sores on Bristlenose Pleco /Neale       8/23/16

Sorry. I forgot to attach a picture.
I noticed today that my Bristlenose Pleco has two lumps/sores on it and wondered what it might be. It lives in a 240 litre tank with harlequins, rosy tetra, phantom tetra, minnows, Oto's, Synodontis catfish,
<As Bob has mentioned, Synodontis spp. can be boisterous. Much variation though. Synodontis nigriventris is a schooling species that is fine with Ancistrus spp., and even "gentle giants" loners like Synodontis eupterus are pretty good. But there are some species in the trade that are less reliable; Synodontis nigrita for example is often sold as Synodontis nigriventris when young, but grows twice the size, isn't sociable, and throws its weight around quite a bit!>
Cory catfish, 2 small Pakistani loaches, 2 small clown loaches. The tank is 6 months old. Ammonia is 0, Nitrite is 0 and Nitrate is 20. The Bristlenose has been in the tank for about 3 weeks and is about 2 and a half inches long. I have tried researching antibiotics in the UK but do not know what is good to use if it becomes infected. There is nothing sharp in the tank.
<Oh yes there is! That substrate looks horrific! Definitely not catfish friendly
. Catfish like to stick their heads into the substrate, thrash about a bit, and extract any bits of food they can find. Fine "pea" gravel or smooth silica sand are ideal. I'm wondering if these "sores" are actually more like cysts or blisters, perhaps even viral, but undoubtedly related to the environment somehow.>
Thank you for your time.
<I would recommend eSHa 2000 as a good all-around antibacterial. Don't forget to remove carbon (if used) while medicating. I'd also review the substrate and strongly recommend changing it. Not only is it much too coarse, it's a bright colour guaranteed to make your fish "fade" their colours and look washed out. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Red bumps/ sores on Bristlenose Pleco      8/23/16
Thank you for your response.
The catfish is a Synodontis Petricola which was sold as a Pictus Catfish.
He isn't aggressive.
<Indeed; definitely one of the better Synodontis. But does have rather specific environmental conditions. Hard, alkaline water for example, which makes it an odd choice for life alongside tetras! That said, if yours is thriving in soft or medium hardness water, then obviously not a big deal. Flip side, if your water is very hard, keeping tetras can be tricky.>
He lets the Pleco in his cave. The Pleco is still very small.
<Can we not call him a "Pleco" or "Plec"? He's a Bristlenose, genus Ancistrus. Although they belong to the Plec (UK)/Pleco (US) family, the Loricariidae, they're no more closely related (or similar) than, say, house cats are to lions. Much better to think of his specific needs rather than those of a "Plec". In other words, he's relatively small (to 14 cm), prefers coolish conditions (22-25 C), needs a secure hiding place, and feeds primarily on algae and tiny invertebrates rather than scavenging for leftovers. They're actually MUCH better aquarium fish than the Common Plec, but they aren't interchangeable. As your specimen shows, they're a bit more delicate. Whereas the Common Plec is able to survive in oxygen-poor habitats in the wild by breathing air, your Ancistrus comes from quite fast-flowing streams where the water is shallow, well-oxygenated, and as mentioned earlier, relatively cool. Ideal companions for tetras in this regard, many of which come from similar habitats.>
It is also very active. I was watching the tank in the dark and the only thing it avoided on it's endless laps around the side of the tank was the clown loaches. I have two and they are about 5 centimetres long. I had 3 but one died. I was told they are peaceful fish but these are new to the aquarium (3 weeks) and seem aggressive. Is it normal for them to attack other fish?
<Yes. All Botiine loaches have the potential to throw their weight around. On top of that, Clowns are social (to the point they misbehave in groups smaller than 5) and get extremely big, certainly over 20 cm, and I've seen specimens 35 cm long and almost as round as dinner plates! While they do grow slowly, long term, 240-litres isn't nearly big enough for the species.>
There are 6 black phantom tetras, 6 white finned rosy tetras and 6 rosy tetras. They generally all stay together. They are not overly aggressive but I have seen one go to nip a tail of a different fish.
<Quite so. Tetras are normally well behaved, but like a lot of schooling fish, can be nippy if bored. None of your tetras are serious nippers like Black Widow tetras or Serpae tetras, but if they misbehave, adding a few more of the species in question often fixes things. In a tank your size, I'd be keeping at least ten of each. Their impact on water quality will be minimal.>
The gravel is a pea gravel but seeing it enlarged so much in the picture I do agree it does look incredibly sharp and not fine enough for the catfish so I will change that.
<Understood. Garden centre smooth silica/silver sand or the finest grade gravel is easily good enough and very cheap. Just needs a lot of washing, and check that it's lime-free. If using sand, just a thin layer, a couple cm, is all your need unless your tank has rooted plants. Search WWM re: sand in freshwater aquariums for more. As for gravel, this is the substrate of choice for most, being nice and dark, and so bringing out the best in the colours of the fish.>
Other than the substrate is there anything else that usually would cause cysts or blisters that I should change? The water parameters are fine.
<Really hard to say. Blisters usually indicate either heat damage (such as burns if the catfish hides wedged by the heater) or else physical damage (including scratching on the substrate, bites from other fish, and even clumsy handling by the owner). Usually they heal in time, and while treating as per Finrot with something like eSHa 2000 is useful to stop any bacterial infections, good water quality is the main thing. Viral infections (such as Lymphocystis) often go along with some type of environmental stress, from the wrong water chemistry through to heavy metal exposure. No actual treatment is needed, as these viral infections tend to clear up after a few months or so (sometimes a year or two!) but again, reviewing the tank is a good idea.>
Thanks again
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Red bumps/ sores on Bristlenose Pleco        8/24/16
Some really helpful information thank you.
What size tank is suitable for clown loaches?

<A tricky question. Let me direct you to the Loaches.com website if you haven't already seen it:
Anyway, they suggest a minimum tank for a school of adults around 6 x 2 x 2 feet, which works out at about 650 litres. That's a big tank! While it wouldn't be the best way to keep them, I think you could probably get away with a trio in 450 litres, but with the proviso that these loaches are prone to being either nervous or aggressive when kept in too-small a group, and the benefit of a really big tank is the potential to keep 5+ specimens, which is the best approach. For sure these fish grow slowly, and it can be several years before they're even 15 cm long, in which case a tank around the 450 litre mark would work okay. But when all is said and done, these are a demanding species not well suited to the average aquarist (or the average budget!) despite their wide sale. If you remember the Red Tail Catfish debacle of the 1980s, much the same thing pertains to Clown Loaches; i.e., far more of them are bred and sold than can properly be looked after. Pangasius Cats, Silver Sharks, Oscars, even Common Plecs fit into this category too.>
I don't want to buy more in the hope that they settle down and not be able to care for them when they get bigger.
I am a bit worried because I did suspect that one had injured another of my fish that died.
<Personally, I'd hang onto the ones you've got, but with a view to rehoming them once they become too big. Maidenhead Aquatics are a chain of stores in the UK that are very good at rehoming fish. Indeed, the branch in Crowland (near Peterborough) actually specialises in loaches!>
I do have other tanks but they are smaller. I have a 120 litre with 2 musk turtles (under a year old) and 2 sucking loaches which are larger than the turtles.
<Do they all get on? Given how nasty the Sucking Loaches can be at times, keeping them with Musk Turtles makes good sense!>
I don't really want to put them with the turtles in case they feel a bit peckish and decide they want a snack. I have a 90 litre with female Betta, 3 Otos and 3 sterbai Corys in it. If I moved them into the larger 240 litre tank would it be adequate for the clown loaches until they started to get larger?
<For a while, yes; but I think once they go to, say, 10 cm, I'd be looking to rehouse them. 240 litres is a brilliant size for a community tank. Can't be beaten, in fact. It's just bad luck that Clowns are too big for community tanks. There are any number of smaller loaches, like Yo-yo loaches, that would work better.>
Lastly I have been looking on the internet at different substrate, mainly soil as there is a layer under the gravel. It is very expensive and wondered whether there was a cheaper alternative.
<Heavens yes! If you're setting up a serious planted system with CO2 and all the rest of it, then a proper plant-specific substrate is probably a good idea. But if you're just sticking in a few hardy plants (Crypts, Amazon Swords, Vallisneria, etc.) then plain gravel is just fine. Just remember to stick plant fertiliser pellets into the substrate near the plants every month or two. That's all you need to do. Plants normally fail because of lack of light. If the substrate is at fault, their leaves still grow but go yellowy, in which case you add fertiliser to the water or, I think with better results, as pellets for their roots to 'suck up'. In fact unless you have super-fast plant growth, a rich (i.e., expensive) substrate will more likely spur algae into becoming a pest. If you really want to pamper your plants, leave them in their rockwool-filled pots, and the hardy plants will happily spread out from these, sending runners or daughter plants out all over the gravel. Easy peasey! The thing to remember about aquarium plants is that the easy ones are basically weeds, and need no more fussing over than dandelions, though just like weeds, they grow in sunny spots away from competitors, hence the fact light is the limiting factor.
Don't forget also that Java Ferns, Java Moss and Anubias couldn't give a rip about the substrate because they aren't stuck in the ground but stuck to rocks and woods, and obviously floating plants don't care either. In other words, the fact plain gravel is what you want/can afford is NEVER a reason to worry about not having a nice green tank!>
I used to have sand in one of my smaller tanks and found that difficult to clean.
<Understood. But you don't actually need to clean sand. If you use it in a tank with plants, their roots send oxygen down into the sand. Snails or catfish will skim the top layer, especially if you choose snails that burrow but don't breed quickly, such as Tylomelania species, or Assassin Snails. Set up thus, sand should basically stay clean, though it will darken a bit in time, and that's fine. The idea of "bad gasses" coming from deep sand is a bit of a myth -- look up deep sand beds in marine tanks, and you'll see they're actually a good idea, and the freshwater hobby is a bit paranoid about them!>
The Bristlenose's name is Mr. Plexy so that is why he was referred to as Plec and I agree he is different to the common Plec and quite lovely in his own right.
<Even better when this species starts breeding!>
Thank you.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Red bumps/ sores on Bristlenose Pleco      8/25/16
Wonderful advice Neale.
I have separated the Clown loaches and the Pakistani loaches from the community tank. Unfortunately too late as not sure which of them attacked my Betta and it has died.
<Could be either, to be honest. But Bettas are, basically, bad choices for most community tanks. Sticking one in a community tank is like keeping a Pug alongside a pack of wolves, on the theory they're all dogs. We've bred Bettas to such a degree they don't really work with ordinary fish.>
As for the sucking loaches and turtles they actually are really good tank mates. They are both full of attitude and won't take nonsense.
<I bet!>
Have lots of space and hiding spaces too. I have very clean turtles as the loaches clean them regularly haha.
<I was going to ask you about that! Mixing fish with turtles is done, but it is tricky, and only certain combinations work. I think you've hit on one of them! Cheers, Neale.>

Angelfish parasite? HITH?         5/1/16
Hello! I have two questions please:
1. My established veil koi angel stopped eating about a week ago. No outward symptoms of illness (clamped fins, labored breathing, twitching)....just won't eat. She stays at the top of the tank at night in the front right corner and sits near the bottom by the heater during the day.
Sounds some at night.
<Not understood!>
Today she had a 1/4" string of white poo....after reading your site for a long time seems it may be a parasite?
<Does sound consistent with irritation of the gut, which causes extra mucous in the faeces. While worms can do this, Hexamita is a more likely bet with cichlids also showing symptoms such as lethargy and poor colour, and doubly so if there are also signs of lateral line erosion ("pits") on the head or flanks
which seem to be related to Hexamita in a way not clearly understood (by me, at least). Treat as per Hexamita or HITH; in other words: Metronidazole alongside an antibiotic (Nitrofuran recommended); optimise water quality especially nitrate level, temperature, and oxygenation. Remember to remove carbon during medication, if you use carbon, and really, there are better ways to waste your money!>
She looks perfectly normal otherwise. 2. New larger veil koi angelfish added to tank today. Purchased at LFS. Watched the fish for quite awhile at store before making my selection.....checking skin/scale condition, fins in good shape, activity, etc. Once acclimated and added to tank, she is pretty constantly moving her head from side to side/twitching? Just her head. Also tapping/hitting glass with her mouth. She looks pristine. I see no issues with outward condition at all. Could this be situational or stress related?
<Twitching in Angels can be aggression, as they do grate their jaws and flex their pelvic fins when agitated. But irritation of the gills is another reason, Velvet and Whitespot being the two commonest explanations here. The old salt/heat method works extremely well with Angels, 2 gram salt per litre of water doing the trick nicely, and tolerated across a couple weeks without any problems by Neons, Corydoras, etc.>
I have a 55-gallon tank stocked as follows: the 2 angels mentioned, 4 small marbled angels (about quarter sized), 6 neon tetras,
<Be aware that these can be Angelfish food!>
6 peppered cories, and 3 Longfin albino Bristlenose Plecos. No issued with Amy of my other fish in 2 years. Parameters all normal....pH 7.5, no ammonia spikes, worst reading is hard water at 180, but always that way.
Recently had 3 angels with fin rot from LFS moved to hospital tank all died. The two angels I ask about now have no symptoms of that. I have a natural 24-hour cycle LED light system so lights are not harsh. I feed a combo of flake discs, freeze-dried bloodworms, algae/shrimp wafers (for Plecos and cories but angels like them too) and fresh cucumber every two days. I SO enjoy the angels (and all my fish)....any suggestions for diagnosis/treatment? There are absolutely no other symptoms I can see.
THANKS in advance! Kristi
<Hope this helps, Neale.> 

re: Angelfish parasite? And Loricariid dis.         5/2/16
Hi, Neale! Furst off, thanks for the response.
Unfortunately my angel with the stringy poo and no appetite passed this morning.
<Sorry to hear that.>
She was at the bottom of the tank barely breathing. All gentle attempts to rouse were unsuccessful. I euthanized with clove oil. She was very special to me.
<Understood. And thank you for euthanising humanely. You'd be surprised how many fish are still flushed, half-dead, or worse.>
The new koi has settled somewhat though still about 50% of original head twitching action....NO evidence of holes or indentions in head or body.
It's almost as though I could compare him to a "hyper" person who just cannot sit still. I will try the salt treatment if you feel warranted at this point.
<It will do no harm, at least. Just keep at the low concentration described, and be sure to use some type of non-iodised salt; kosher salt, aquarium tonic salt and pure (cooking) sea salt are all fine. Don't use marine aquarium salt unless you have to; it contains other chemicals to raise pH and hardness that aren't especially useful in this context.>
Yes, aware the neons can be "angel appetizers"...I must be lucky. ...same 6 neons and many angels over past two years and they're all still kicking.
<To be fair, most farmed hybrid Angels rarely exceed a body length of 10 cm/4 inches, and these aren't as dangerous as full-sized wild-type Angels that can be 15 cm/6 inches across.>
So, I can treat entire tank without worry for the HITH and not affect the Plecos, cories or neons? Is HITH contagious?
<Hexamita has been reported from a very wide range of fish. However, it seems to be latent in many fish rather than contagious. It's something that happens to the fish that makes it become a problem. To be clear: with cichlids such as Angels, some combination of poor diet, high nitrate, and bad luck (perhaps genetics) seems to be involved. The diet aspect seems to be vitamin deficiency; the nitrate link seems to be with infrequent water changes. As for luck and genetics, hard to pin these down. Some Angelfish breeds to seem to be more delicate that others; all-black and koi Angels at the more delicate end, standard wild-type, marbled, and golden Angelfish at the hardier end. As with dogs, a crossbreed is usually a sounder animal compared with a pedigree, so for example a nice-looking marble Angel with patches of gold is probably a good choice for the average community tank.>
One other unrelated question if I can....my big male BN Pleco has a red mark on his fin "rib" and recently lost a piece of the opposite "rib".
"Jet" is a robust active tough Pleco who has gathered two beautiful batches of babes. He's acting normally -seems like another injury. .....any advice?
<It does look inflamed. I'd review the substrate for a start. Is it sharp enough to scratch him? Has it been cleaned recently? I'd medicate as per Finrot, but otherwise I'd expect this catfish to make a quick recover.>
See attached pics of new angel and Pleco.
<Welcome. Neale.>

Re: Angelfish parasite?     5/3/16
Thanks so much for the additional info, Neale! I do appreciate it so much.
The angel with the "twitching" issue seems to be continuing to improve slowly. I'll keep an eye on him and add the recommended salt to the tank.
<2 gram per litre. No more! You can of course use standard Whitespot medications, but these can be toxic to some fish (loaches, catfish especially) and obviously cost a lot more. Raising the temperature to 28 C/82 F alongside the salt helps greatly.>
I feel confident on cleanliness of tank and my water changes are done religiously. As for the Plecos, they do seem to be VERY hearty little fish. I'll treat as Finrot per your suggestion. Substrate is very fine sand.
The only thing in my tank with "sharp" edges might be the cut end of his favorite piece of driftwood, where he and the two females constantly fight over the prime spot (a very small crevice they squeeze into headfirst. I have a huge piece of driftwood on the other side of the tank, but "Jet" prefers the little one.
<While it's possible a splinter is at fault, I'd wager not. Perhaps simple bad luck... "one of those things"... and if the fish recovers, nothing to worry about overmuch.>
Thanks again, your advice has been invaluable. :) I hope to be able to update you with good news on both fish as they progress.
<I shall look forward to it! Cheers, Neale.>

Catfish with fin damage      11/7/15
I apologise if my grammar are bad, English is not my first language.
<No worries. I understand you>
I have a catfish with a damaged fin and a pink/red spot on the side of the back, the fin is also of that color.
<I see this in your pix>
it has had this for 2 weeks now and i am worried it might be sick or if it just is a scratch?
<Looks to be both... a physical injury, and a bacterial "fungal" wound site>
I have 2 catfish and the other one is all fine. All water levels is good and he is acting as if there is nothing wrong.
<Mmm; At this point I'd not treat the system.... some very old time remedies might encourage daubing a mercury compound on the site (Merthiolate likely); and some later ones might suggest 250 mg. per ten gallons of a Sulfa Drug.... A most recent method might include using a gram positive and negative antibiotic... E.g. Maracyn I and II.... Again; if it were me/mine, I'd just keep water quality optimized and hope for a self cure here. Bob Fenner>

Catfish with fin damage Neale's take      11/8/15
I apologise if my grammar are bad, English is not my first language.
<Better than my Dansk!>
I have a catfish with a damaged fin and a pink/red spot on the side of the back, the fin is also of that color. it has had this for 2 weeks now and i am worried it might be sick or if it just is a scratch?
<Bit more than a scratch. Looks like he's damaged himself. Or been damaged.
Would treat for Finrot if it gets worse, but otherwise leave alone and it should get better on its own.>
I have 2 catfish and the other one is all fine. All water levels is good and he is acting as if there is nothing wrong.
<Hope this helps. Neale.>

Long-Fin Albino Ancistrus with a fin injury     7/31/15
Hello WetWebMedia,
Thanks to your wonderful knowledge I have been a fishkeeper for many years now. My favorite fish, a full-grown long-finned Albino male Ancistrus, suffered an injury this morning and I'm trying to determine which course of action to take. About a half-inch tip of one of his side fin rays seems to have been completely severed, but is still hanging on thanks to the clear fin tissue. Is it better to net him and clip this off?
<Nope. Will detach itself. Keep a close eye out for Finrot though. Normally damaged fins grow back without problems. Occasionally you'll see the membrane go a bit cloudy around the wound. But if you see small red specks on the fin membrane and a distinctive raggedy edge to the fin, then Finrot may be happening. In itself a little bit of bleeding might not be abnormal.
But when the blood vessels become congested with bacteria and dead cells they create reddish (often pink or even white) swellings. The lack of blood flow means fin membrane beyond the congestion dies, and the fin gradually erodes. This is Finrot.>
The severed end is a little less red right now, but earlier it was quite red and other fish (discus) kept coming near probably thinking it was a worm. He's smart so he swam away and doesn't seem to be in distress. I know Ancistrus with their claws can have trouble being netted, so I hesitate to do that. Will it resolve itself if left in perfect water conditions?
<Yes. Absolutely. In the wild fin damage is very common, through fighting, accidents, narrow escapes from predators, even bites from dedicated fin-eaters. All fish have the ability to regrow damaged fins provided the very base isn't damaged.>
Or is it better to net him and clip it off, then put him in a separate tank?
<Almost never a good idea.>
The back story is, a few days ago I added four 2-year-old Discus and two less than half-grown brown male regular Ancistrus to my long established 90-gallon tank. The big tank held 5 adult discus (parents of the additions) my long-finned albino & a Siamese algae eater. All seem to be getting along beautifully, but one of the little brown male Ancistrus is
kind of aggressive, always has been... Could that little bugger have bitten this damaged fin on a fish over twice his size?
<It's possible because they do have quite strong teeth. But it's more likely damage from some type of misadventure. Do bear in mind "long-finned" varieties of fish have been bred to have longer fins than they evolved to have. Consequently the things that maintain and protect those fins aren't there. The bones may not bone strong enough, and the behaviours needed to
avoid damage to extra-long fins aren't there either. Kind of like women who grow long fingernails. Might look good, but not natural, and hard to keep that length if you're doing manual labour!>
Or could it be that because I added all the tank decor from both tanks (to change the surroundings) he somehow hurt himself. Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Albino Ancistrus solved his own problem!     7/31/15

Hi again WetWebMedia experts,
Just wanted to report that my favorite fish, my male Longfinned Albino Ancistrus, solved his own problem of the severed fin ray. It tore off once the transparent fin gave way, and he seems just fine. I'm so glad, I wasn't looking forward to chasing him around with a net!
<Cool. Should heal and grow back just fine, assuming good water quality.>
So thanks again for all your expertise, you have taught me so much. You are an unbelievable resource!!
Thanks for all you do,
<And thanks for the kind words. Neale.>

Worried about my new Pleco       5/3/15
Hi I have just started a tropical tank I set it up and took a bucket of dirty water from my friends goldfish tank when she cleaned it out and poured it into my tank to start the cycle off after a few hours it was crystal clear I added a few plants and then yesterday bought a few starter fish ten barbs 5 tigers and 5 leopard also I bought a couple of albino long fin Bristle nose Pleco's they are only babies but I have just noticed that one of them has a red lump on his belly I have sent some pictures for you to look at .
Sent from my iPad
Please advice
<He's starving. You're seeing the blood around/inside his internal organs. Hmm... how to be clear? Plecs, including Bristlenose Plecs, aren't scavengers. Even algae is a small part of their diet. These very young specimens slip from starved to dead within a week or two. Run to your fridge and find some fresh vegetables he can eat immediately. Cucumber is popular but contains little nutrition. Courgette (sometimes called Zucchini) is better. Serve both raw. Canned or cooked peas are usually taken as well. But in a starvation situation, something energy-rich is important too. A small piece of prawn or mussel will work nicely (though these are Thiaminase-rich, so shouldn't be used too often, once a week maybe). Most of all, buy some "algae wafers" such as those from Hikari or Tetra. These make excellent staples for Plecs of all types. Specimens under 5 cm will get by on half a wafer every couple of days; above that, a whole wafer ever day for specimens 5-10 cm long; above that, pro rata, to maybe 2-3 wafers for an adult Plec alongside the usual fresh vegetables and meaty treats you're offering. Feel free to give more if your specimen looks hollow bellied, but don't overfeed. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Worried about my new Pleco         5/6/15
Thank you so much I have been putting Algi wafers in only half a wafer but I have crushed it up
<I would not do this. Tiny crumbs will not get eaten and simply pollute the water. Instead, snap the wafer into as many pieces as you have Plecs, so if you have two Plecs, then snap into two pieces. Plecs can graze the piece as it softens up, which will be the right way for them to feed with minimal waste. Other fish can't feed so easily this way, so they'll be less likely to steal food from the Plecs as well.>
also I have put in a little bit of cucumber, I will buy some zucchini for them I have two about an inch each they are so cute I don't want to lose them, I noticed their poo was very pale that is why I crushed the wafer and spread it about a bit so they could find it . Thanks again for your reply
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Re: Worried about my new Pleco        5/9/15
Hi thanks for all your help he is looking much better here is a photo of him
<Definite improvement! He should be fine now. Good luck, Neale.>

Pleco...        5/3/15
We put some new fish in the tank a few weeks ago and all but one of the four new fish died. The majority of the fish that were already there before have also died off over the past week. When they all started dying, I moved all of the fish to a new tank for a few days while I thoroughly cleaned this tank and let the filter run for a few days. Shortly after putting the
remaining fish back in the tank, three more died and my Pleco developed small white spots on his eyes. Now he has one red bump on each eye. Do you have any ideas what might be happening? As soon as all of this started I started testing the water everyday and everything keeps coming up fine..
<Hello Michelle. Need some data here. At first glance this all sounds like New Tank Syndrome. All very generic symptoms of environmental stress. The fact your photo is a picture of a Pterygoplichthys species catfish, which grows to 45 cm/18 inches within two years suggests you have a very large aquarium. Or should have, anyway, as anything smaller than 55 gallons won't work (too much ammonia excreted), and anything smaller than 75 gallons will look filthy (these fish turn defecation into an Olympic sport). So please confirm the aquarium size. Also, your idea of "fine" might not be my idea
of "fine", so rather than a subjective editorial, can you let me have the actual nitrite, pH and hardness values. These are important. Things like Neons have totally different requirements to Guppies, so a tank that contains both will be bad for one of them. Make sense? Nitrite values tell me something about how well the filter is doing its job. Anything above 0 is toxic and explanation enough for sickness and fish deaths, while nitrite values above 0.5 mg/l are quickly lethal to fish, killing them within days of exposure. Put another way: if one fish dies for mysterious reasons, you could be unlucky. But when numerous fish die within a few days, it's almost always the environment. Exposure to toxins of some sort, whether intrinsic (ammonia, nitrite) or extrinsic (household cleaning products, paint fumes).
Conceivably, you can introduce diseases with batches of new aquarium fish, but almost always these are obvious problems such as Whitespot or Velvet. Even then, you wouldn't expect all the fish to die for no obvious reason.
Instead you'd see a succession of fish coming down with obvious signs of parasitic infection. That's not what happened here, so we're back to the environment as the problem. Review, and act accordingly. Cheers, Neale.>

re: Pleco       5/3/15
Nitrate is just above 0,
<Check your test kit. This is virtually impossible in a 55-gallon tank with an adult Plec.>

nitrite is at 0, GH is at 75, KH is at 60, pH is at 7.0, and ammonia is at 0.
<Given the dubious quality of the nitrate reading, I'd be skeptical of any of these. Could well be the source of your problems: thinking things are fine, when they're clearly not. Plecs are filth factories. They eat massive amounts of green and dried foods, and produce a lot of solid waste as well as dissolved metabolites. Unless there's massive amounts of plant growth, by which I mean you're pulling out overgrown plants pretty much daily, there's no way nitrate will be zero. Nitrate is the end product of biological filtration, as you probably know. Only water changes dilute it, and unless you change 100% of the water, you reduce nitrate level by a certain amount, you don't reduce it to zero. That's why I simply don't believe your nitrate reading. Double check you're using it right, and if
you get the same answer, then the test kit is shot.>
Currently they are in a 55 gallon (they being the Pleco, a rainbow shark, and two unidentified fish that I have attached a picture of),
<Both Trichopodus trichopterus, the "Three Spot Gourami". Nice fish, hardy, but males can be aggressive in small tanks.>
but we do have a 100 gallon tank that we will be buying soon.
<Much better.>
We inherited these fish from my parents as they are moving a few states over and it's kind of difficult to move fish that far. Currently the Pleco is about 10 inches long, 3 years old.
<Stunted somewhat. Quite common, especially when left to "scavenge" or eat algae rather than properly fed. Nonetheless, even at this size will be producing a lot of waste. Anyway, I'm 99% sure the environment is the issue here, notwithstanding the test kit results. The low hardness is a little troubling too; do bear in mind that low hardness can mean an unstable pH,
and sudden pH drops are harmful to fish. Low hardness and acidic pH levels also reduce the efficiency of filter bacteria.>
Our tank is about 5 feet wide, just over 2 feet tall.
<Cheers, Neale.>


Loricariid Disease Question; and microscope use f'      12/9/14
Greetings WetWebMedia,
I've recently adopted a few fish from a friend of a friend who is draining their pond due to leak in there waterfall and was possibly leaking into the foundation of their house.(I was bribed with several bottles of wine to adopt these fish)
<Heeeee! I surrender!>
Included are 2 large albino common Plecs, a male and female and their offspring( six babies). My concern is brown pigmenting on body that looks like fungus.
<Mmm; more likely algae (happens) plus some other Protists, Monerans... not a worry... just need to as smoothly as practical transition these animals to a warmer, biologically cleaner setting>
Some spots are fairly flush and look like freckling, although some spots are raised (fleshy appearance) and resemble fungus. I've never seen a fungus/bacteria of this color. I've also never seen albino Plecs with brown spots either. What would be the best way to sample/ID.
<A glass slide passed head to tail over the area, scraping off a bit of this material... not to worry, the scutes of the Loricariid will protect the fish otherwise. Spreading this in turn on another slide, covering with a slip, and dabbing a part of a drop of water on the edge of the slip to prevent drying.... no dying/staining necessary>
I do have a scope powered to X400.
I'm a little new to the whole sampling thing. I've generally used it to ID parasites. Any chance I could swab the area?
<Yes... there are prep.s, even just the mercury-containing ones used on humans for topicals... rinsed off after ap.>
My scope maybe underpowered to do any good.
<It is not for most purposes... microbes, culture... distinguishing by way of are a bit more advanced... that might call for higher power (a K or two)>
(I am shopping around for a better scope) I should mention the other fish in pond are a large red Oscar, CAE and swordtail/guppies that look healthy.
Although filtration had been cut off, I'm sure their were some nitrate issues IMO. Currently these fish are in a 300g quarantine tank. I am unable to send a picture. Thank you very much for your time. Aloha Brandon
<Thank you for such an interesting and informative email. Bob Fenner> 

Bristlenose Pleco - Red Sores     8/29/14
About two months ago after selling off my Bristlenose Pleco fry (52 cuties ♡), I kept two after noticing each had a red bubble-like sore on their bodies.
<I can barely make these out... you need to learn to crop your pix ahead of sending>
I had quickly set up a 10 gallon hospital tank dedicated to the two Bristlenose Pleco (now 10 mths old). After this being my third surprise (2 yr newbie to freshwater fish or any fish))
of seeing eggs laid & hatching (what a thrill I might add), I separated the parents (finally got wise). But now to my question...how should I treat this?
<Mmm; with just good care... High, consistent water quality and good nutrition. I fully suspect these sores are physical injuries... Not worth the risk of medicine/s addition; nor warranted. Will heal in time on their own>
I've attached photos. They seem to be fine in regards to moving around the tank -as well as eating...they especially love when I give them blanched zucchini & peas also.
<Oh yes!>
I've treated them with all natural meds (PimaFix)
<These "tea" treatments are worse than worthless. can/do interrupt biological processes... like nitrification. I wish they'd be forced off the market>
but no change, as well as, Epsom Salts (1 tsp?) which I was looking on your web site for confirmation of the correct dosage for a 10 gallon tank. Suggestions??
<You can read Neale's piece here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/SaltUseFWArtNeale.htm
and the linked file above. Bob Fenner>

Pleco problems... gen. hlth.     6/8/14
I recently moved my albino Pleco (along with some of his fishy friends) to a bigger tank. All the other fish (.guppies, mollies, x-ray fish) are doing fine, but my Pleco can't seem to stay stuck to the side of the tank. He fixes himself to the glass but then slides to the top of the tank (almost like reverse gravity is dragging him to the top). Please help, he is my most favourite fish!
Thank you!
<Sarah, it's not essential for Plecs to latch onto the glass, and some are definitely better than others. Focus more on ensuring he's in good shape, feeding properly and getting a nice range of foods. He doesn't need to scrape the glass for algae. It's possible he's weaker than he was before, perhaps because he's not eating enough, a common problem with Plecs; do remember they aren't primarily algae eaters in the wild, and need a good range of things to eat. Algae wafers, pieces of cucumber and courgette, cooked peas, small pieces of fish and seafood, frozen bloodworms, etc. As always when a fish isn't behaving as you expect, check environmental parameters. Zero ammonia and nitrite, aquarium size at least 55 gallons,
and so on. Cheers, Neale.>

Sic <sic> Ancistrus (another Mela-doesn't-fix-it story; Bob, some input re: treatment) <<>>    8/28/13
I have  two Ancistrus one of which has something growing on it's stomach. I was told to bath them in Indian Bay Leaf oil but there was no improvement.
<Unfortunately most of these plant oil medications are pretty unreliable, and some would say do more harm than good.>
I have included two photos, one showing the pair feeding an a close-up of the stomach showing the parasite/ fungus?
<Yikes, pretty messy. Not really sure what we're looking at underneath this catfish. Would treat as a combination fungal-bacterial infection (e.g., with something like eSHa 2000 or Seachem Kanaplex) because it's hard to specify the exact kind of infection here. If you can, I'd use Metronidazole as well because this treats some of the more challenging bacterial infections well, and also works well against protozoan infections.
Basically, we're taking a broad-brush approach here. I'd also look at the aquarium. The fact the underside of the fish is far worse than the flanks or back suggests a problem with the substrate. Often, these infections start because of anoxic, polluted conditions on the substrate. Poor water circulation is a very common cause, and your big pebble substrate looks a bit off too, not just in colour (bright colour substrates do stress fish) but because it's too big and rough for your catfish to move around easily, and catfish can easily scratch themselves under such conditions. Sharp, jagged rocks for decoration aren't a great idea, either. These are speculations on my part, but nonetheless you'd be wise considering what started the problem, and looking critically at the bottom half of the aquarium in particular.>
The growth is pressed against the glass in the photo, it hangs down about 1/2" while swimming. The problem is getting worse but they still have good appetites. Something needs to be done soon but the more I research the problem the more I realize I nor anyone I have talked to have a clue as to what the growth is or how to cure it. Thank you for your time.  Robert
<Don't think this fish is Ancistrus, by the way. Or at least, none I've ever seen! Too many rays in the dorsal fin (there appear to be 1 spine and 13 rays) and the barbels around the mouth are far too long for Ancistrus.
Looks more like a Pterygoplichthys species to me, rather like Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps though the colours are back to front compared to that species. In any case, Pterygoplichthys get very big, and I do suspect this catfish is suffering environmental stress. Pterygoplichthys are intolerant of one another for a start, so stress or outright aggression could have started the infection or even caused the wounds. Singleton Pterygoplichthys need at least 55 gallons and realistically 75+ gallons to do well, as well as very robust filtration, turnover rates 8 or more times the volume of the tank per hour, and frequent water changes. If you can, try joining the Planet Catfish forum and posting a photo of your catfish up. Someone should identify it very quickly, and maybe will have experienced the same problems as you have, so will be able to give you some more specific advice. Cheers, Neale.><<I do concur re this being environmentally mediated... tumorous... Would improve water quality, nutrition and hope for the best. RMF>>

Genetic defect/health query- Albino Bristlenose    7/20/13
<Hi there>
I have noticed in my Albino bristle nose brood that one has a puffy looking enlarged mid-section, I was wondering whether it could be a genetic defect or whether there was something I could do to assist him/her.
S/he has been this way for months.

I have attached a photo. If you are able to assist, please advise me of your thoughts.
Thank you.
Kind regards,
<This grossly appears to be some sort of bacterial/microbial infection (internal); but as you state it's been this way for half a year... Perhaps genetic/developmental. I would leave this fish and all else as is. Bob Fenner>

Re: Genetic defect/health query- Albino Bristlenose  7/20/13
Thanks Bob, this fella has been this way since s/he was quite small.
<Yes; as I understood you. Am asking Neale Monks here to respond
separately. BobF>
Genetic defect/health query- Albino Bristlenose     /Neale  7/20/13

I have noticed in my Albino bristle nose brood that one has a puffy looking enlarged mid-section, I was wondering whether it could be a genetic defect or whether there was something I could do to assist him/her.
<A good varied diet with fresh algae will help clear any constipation. You might also try using Epsom salt, which is an effective laxative for fish and completely safe. If used with an antibiotic can also help with early stage Dropsy.>
S/he has been this way for months. I have attached a photo. If you are able to assist, please advise me of your thoughts. Thank you.
Kind regards,
<Do read here...
Suspect constipation may be an issue, often is with herbivorous fishes.
Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Genetic defect/health query- Albino Bristlenose     7/21/13
Thanks again Bob, Neale suggested we change the feeding and we will try some blanched skinless peas. Can't hurt to try!
<Ah yes>
<And you; BobF>
Re: Genetic defect/health query- Albino Bristlenose     7/21/13

Hi Neale,
Thank you for your advice. We'll give the peas a try.
<Most welcome and bon chance! Cheers, Neale.>

Plecs gill has popped out  6/24/13
I have a problem with my Plec that I cant seem to find an answer to so any thoughts would retreat please, it's gill on the right has been swollen for a few weeks but now it seems to have completely popped out I think see pic, He seems ok and is behaving normally, he is in a tank 140l with 1 kissing gourami 2 opal gourami 3 golden barbs and 2 goldfish, one of the goldfish has a small growth on his side but has had this since I inherited them over 18mths ago so I don't know if there is a link there.
Thanks for reading and any help you can offer x
<Hello Lisa. "Gill Curl" is almost always environmental; specifically, the fish in question is kept in an aquarium that's too small, inadequately filtered, and/or not given enough water changes. Given an adult Plec needs upwards of 200 litres, minimum, to do well, my money would be on a combination of all three, especially when you factor in the other fish,
some of which, like the Kissing Gourami and Goldfish, need a fair amount of space themselves. No "treatment" as such; Gill Curl usually fixes itself once conditions improve. If you can't move the Plec to a bigger tank in your home, a phone call to your local aquarium shop may be useful in rehoming; in the UK, the Maidenhead Aquatics chain usually takes in fish and rehouse them without any hassle. Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Plecs gill has popped out– 6/24/13
Thanks for your help, i am moving the goldfish to the pond outside so hopefully this will help and i will save up for a bigger tank. Many thanks
Lisa x
<Ah, sounds like a good plan. Good luck! Neale.>

Plec injury    1/6/12
Hi there,
I have a Plec about 4-5 inches long in a 50l (UK) tank - we plan in getting him a bigger tank soon, he was about 1.5 inches when we got him!
<Do you really mean 50 litres? Not 500 or 250 or something? For sure 50 litres is way too small, and the small volume of water makes a bad situation worse.>
He is currently with 5 neons. During a water change two days ago we think he got injured.
<Apparently so.>
He hid in his cave as usual, but when I came back in the evening he had upturned his cave and his belly/fins looked sore. His belly had a whitish patch by his fins, and his dorsal fin seems to have a cut where it joins his back. I added stress coat to the water the next day to try to help him heal (assuming it was an injury and not bacterial).
<Stress Coat is largely a preventative, and should not be relied upon as a treatment.>
I have also now removed the cave and put a larger hiding place for him to live in. This evening though, his injuries seem worse.
<Small tank means the water quality is almost certainly inadequate, and this environmental stress means his immune system is weakened. Plecs can and do recover from this sort of injury without problems, but only in good conditions.>
He doesn't seem to be suffering in character (still active in the evenings)
but attached is a picture of the wound today, looking quite bloody with some kind of lesion by the fin.
Are injuries of this sort supposed to look worse before they look better when healing, or do you think this looks like some kind of fin rot?
<Certainly treat with an anti-Finrot medication. Finrot isn't a single bacterial disease any more than gangrene or septicaemia are in humans.
Finrot simply means ordinary bacteria that live in the aquarium have got into a wound, taken advantages of the weak immune system of the host fish, and started to multiply. As they do so, they cause blood vessels to become congested, and that leads to redness and eventually further damage to the surrounding tissues.>
My 5 neons are unaffected, although we are currently getting over a small snail infestation (I don't think this would affect the Pleco though?)
<Indeed not, assuming you didn't use an anti-snail "potion" as these are fairly toxic and not much recommended by modern fishkeepers.>
Many thanks for your time and thoughts,
<Move to a bigger tank (250 litres minimum for a Plec) and medicate as per Finrot; I'd recommend eSHa 2000 as inexpensive, reliable, and seemingly Plec-safe. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Plec injury    1/6/12
Thank you so much! Bigger tank is imminent, and I'll go out for the fin rot treatment today.
As for the snails, we haven't used treatment, just a good old fashioned pair of fingers to pluck them out, and a cabbage leaf for the rest of them!
<Sounds safe enough!>
Thanks again,
<Most welcome, Neale.>

Re: Plec injury    1/11/13
Hello, just a quick note to say thanks very much for your advice! We found the treatment you suggested and after a 3 day dosage Pleco is looking much better :)
<Great to hear some good news! Hope things work out well, Neale.>

White 'sore' on left side of the mouth of my BN Pleco    3/15/12
<Hi there>
I purchased a BN Pleco yesterday and I put him in a quarantine tank.  I noticed when I got home from my LFS that he seemed to have a white spot on the left side of his mouth.
<Mmm, yes; I see this... where a/the usual "bristle/barbel" of these fish's would be. Evidently damaged, worn off... too likely in transit, rubbing against others in the bag>
  This morning, it looks like the 'sore' became open.  As I am relatively new in the hobby (about 1 year), I do not know a whole lot about diseases.  I did do an extensive search on the internet, but to no avail.  Can you identify what is wrong with the Pleco from the attached picture and maybe suggest a cure?
Thank you very much,
<Just good care should see this fish recover... water quality, nutrition... No medicine advised, needed. Bob Fenner>

Re: White 'sore' on left side of the mouth of my BN Pleco    3/16/12
Thank you so much, I am very relieved to know that he'll make a full recovery with time.
<Ah yes. This genus of Loricariids is very tough. Cheers, BobF>

Tank troubles, iatrogenic    3/14/12
Hello, I was given a tank a couple of years ago with a group of fish including 1 now 10inch id shark
<Grows to a few feet... why don't you, others search, as directed, on WWM ahead of writing us?>

(he was alot
<No such word>
 smaller when i got the tank) 4 Tetras and a large Pleco 8 inches . I wasn't told anything about fish keeping just keep the temperature right do water changes watch out for signs of infection (knowing what i do now i wish i did my research earlier).
My tank is 4ft by 2ft by 1ft. Since i upgraded to this tank. A few problems have occurred.  Iv never had disease in the tank. In all the time i had it, However i decided to buy some new tetras and then the problems seem to start (fin fot).
Also my Pleco fights with my Id shark  and in diving around the tank damaged the end of his two front fins very slightly. It appeared to be heeling very well so i didn't put any treatments in the tank as i was already treating for the fin rot and i didn't want to add more chemicals after reading the id shark having no scales is very sensitive to treatments
 and i don't own a hospital tank. The end of the fin healed over but after some days turned red on the end of both fins. Also he seems to be covered in tiny air bubbles. Im not sure if this is normal.
<Not; again, env.>

Apart from this he eats like a horse, Holds his fins out and dances for me still and is showing no other signs of disease. After seeing the red develop on his 2 fin tips i treated the tank with anti bacterial for ulcers and infections and so on (what the pet store advised). I cant get rid of the red in his 2 fin tips, Im presuming it is an infection.
<READ here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/PangCatDisF.htm
and all the linked files above; compatibility>
After treating him twice no change i feel stuck not knowing what to do help please!
<... help yourself>
Also i added two albino red fin sharks to the tank last week  just over an inch long
<Likely will be inhaled, killed by the Pangasiid>

(since i have the tetras who are small i didn't see a problem with the bigger fish eating them he leaves everyone alone mostly) All was great they seem to hide alot but i read that was normal. Last night before i went to bed they were both swimming around happily playing, In the morning i woke up and found one of the small albino sharks dead. The only sign of possible death i can see is bleeding under the skin where i think the heart is only no where else. His colours are still bright a beautiful like before. Im worried something is going on in the tank now. I love my 2 large fish alot i don't want anything to happen with them. Also i never knew much about water testing and when i read online or go to the pet store Im abit overwhelmed with so many different things with expensive prices! i don't have alot of money, Please can you advise me of the main and most important tests i need to carry out to determine what is going on in my tank and tips how to treat my Pleco and save my tank before all hell breaks lose and everyone dies.Thank you for your time
<Learn to/use the search tool, indices on WWM, and run your writing through a spell- and grammar checker before sending to us if writing again. Bob Fenner>
Re: Tank troubles. Why we eat the rude    3/14/12

Thank you for your rude reply, Firstly I know exactly how big the catfish grows that's why I didn't search this.. I didn't even ask you for the size so not sure why you needed to be rude there.I was nervous about posting anywhere else in fear of a rude response and I find it hard to use your site and read through things to find what I need unless sent there by google!. So I thought it would be better to describe my tank and get the right advice and ask you my self! Thanks for the English lesson, I wont be writing your site again for advice :) not sure why you linked me to the Pangasiid page i have already been there a million times. It is the Pleco who is sick not the id shark as I said in my previous email to you. Have a nice day!
<And you>

Swordtails golden nugget... ? Env./hlth of both I guess 1/6/12
Hi I know this sound like a weird combo this will be sorted, but at the moment I keep 5 golden nuggets
<Suckermouth Catfishes, Baryancistrus sp.?>

( unfortunately now four) a group of seven syrillis cories, along with roughly 5 large female and a mixture of baby swordtails.
To the point I recently have lost a few swordtails to a problem that creeps up every now and again where my large swordtails look slightly unwell then within 24-48 hours there scales fall off and there flesh looks flakey as if it's falling off but this only happens from there belly up and from tail towards head that's the direction the problem
Move along there body over this short period of time, I have been keeping these fish together for over three years with no problems what is causing this?
<Mmm... could be pathogenic... there are some bacterial issues and protozoan parasites that appear like this... Requires microscopic examination of sample smears to detect/identify specifically. Or, could be a matter of water quality issues... Like quite different conditions than the catfishes>
My next question is could my golden nugget have suffered a random heart attack it had been fine as usual and died in the blink of an eye when I was looking at my tank no joke so I am baffled to the nuggets problem.
My tank is 220 liters plus extra ten from filter which is a Fluval 405 my water is fine and constant and doesn't change I do two to three water changes per week between 20-50 liters and once a month I do a 50% ( expensive I no but only the best for my golden nuggets) No2 0ppm No3 0ppm ph 6.8
<Ahh, this could be the problem w/ your Swords. Xiphophorus need hard water...>
( my water is very hard in my area so I struggle to get soft water
<How do you do this? All aquarium life needs some Biominerals, alkalinity>
but I am setting the nuggets up a 350 liter river setup and paying for ro on just there tank (once that tank frees up when I get my new 2500 litre Oscar Arowana setup)) no ammonia no chlorine chloramine all heavy metals are barely detectable for what I can test.
Any thing you can suggest
<See above for my questions, input thus far>
I generally cure any illness using natural methods i.e. I have cured hith in many a friends fish just using Epsom salts I even saved my local fish shops Oscar) any help too the swordtail problem would be appreciated, any conformation on the nuggets would be appreciated but I know they are a niche for information
Thanks yours sincerely aleck Fletcher
<The swordtails really need to be raised in a separate system... Cooler, harder water... Bob Fenner>
Re: Swordtails golden nugget
As soon as I repair my another spare 180 litre I'll move the swords thank you very much, what would I be looking for under the scope ?
<... please learn to/use the search tool and indices on WWM>
I have never had experience under the scope but have done swim bladder deflation on my Frontosas before so should be capable with research on scraping etc
but what exactly under the scope am I looking for?
<... posted>
How do I soften the water?
<This also>
I just have lots of plants and have homemade soil substrate under the gravel and lots of bogwood and it just seems to sit around 6.6-6.8 I'd like it bit lower but cannot afford r/o how hard should I also make the water for the swords cooler?
<Yes, depending on the current temp....>
What sort of temp mines at 28c ATM and it goes up to 30-32 in summer and it cools at night to 28-29c, any more clues to nugget death would be appreciated too.
<... see/read on WWM under Loricariid health/disease.>
I'll move the swords once I repair there old tank
<Cheers, BobF>

Red blood cysts 12/22/11
So i have a yearling Pleco and i noticed his tail had these red bubbles at the end of his tail. So when i went to check it out his tail was slimy and it had little white things under it. His tail is getting more and more
ripped. I was just wondering if you knew what it is and how to treat it.
Thanks so much, Emily
<Sounds like a bacterial infection, e.g., Finrot. So, what's the environment like? How big is the tank? What sort of filtration are you using? Plecs are extremely hardy animals, but they do have minimum
requirements in terms of aquarium size and filtration. Cheers, Neale.>

(email 1) Baby Plecostomus Deaths 12/16/11
Hello Bob and Crew,
This incident happened a few years ago, so please forgive my inability to completely remember all specific details.
I have researched the issue in my fish/aquarium books and extensively on the web, but have never been able to find any information on what caused the odd death of these fish....I am still curious as to what could have happened to the little guys.
I had purchased two small baby Blue Eyed Albino Plecos If I recall correctly they were Bristlenose Plecos. I believe they were somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 of an inch. They initially looked healthy and acted and ate well. I think it was somewhere between one and two weeks later when the first fish started to have issues
<As is often the case with catfish.>
It developed a thin and increasingly dark band around the mid area of its body, which looked as if it was situated just beneath the skin I am fairly sure the band was just before the Dorsal Fin, although if my memory does not serve me correctly it would have been just behind that at the front portion of the fin. This band seemed to get tighter and tighter as he seemed to be trying to grow around it while it constricted him. It seemed and looked just like a rubber band was wrapped around him and was squeezing him to death yet the dark band was definitely internal. As this was happening he lost his appetite and became increasingly pale (from the usual yellow coloration to white), until he died which I believe was 3 to 4 days later. Just before the first baby died, the other baby developed the dark band and died in exactly the same manor.
There was nothing in the tank they could have ingested that they should not have.
<With juvenile catfish the problems are twofold. Firstly, they're living in what is normally the low oxygen part of the tank. That's because many filters, particularly hang-on-the-back filters, don't suck in water from the bottom of the tank. So the bottom layer tends to have little current and little mixing with the oxygen-rich surface of the tank. Undergravel filters are much better because they suck water through the substrate, but such filters aren't much used these days. So if you want to keep catfish in peak health, especially juveniles, you need to ensure strong water current right down to the bottom of the tank. Try placing a filter close to the bottom of the tank or installing an airstone or two right at the bottom of the tank so water is pulled upwards with the bubbles. The second issue is feeding. When newly hatched, the Ancistrus or Corydoras fry can feed on algae and micro-organisms they find in the aquarium. But as they grow, they need more of these foods, and eventually they exhaust the supply of edible microbes of the type they want to eat. At some point, and it is indeed around a couple weeks post-hatching, they can start to starve unless you make a special effort to provide them with 4-6 meals of appropriate type and size.>
I attempted to treat with small doses of Melafix and Pimafix, to no avail. The area pet stores I had contacted had also never heard of this condition and were not able to help.
The fish were in a 5 gallon tank, which I was planning to keep them in until they grew large enough to escape the mouth of the 6 inch Raphael Catfish in my main tank (who is soon to be 19 years old!).
<Not bad!>
I set this 5 gallon up only when needed as a hospital or quarantine tank, using 3 to 4 gallons of water from my main tank - The main tank is a fully cycled 29 gallon which has been up and running for many years. I then top the 5 gallon tank off with 1 to 2 gallons of new water. The main tank has never had any water quality issues when tested although the PH in this area does run a bit high at about 7.6. I have had a few other Plecos over the years (including the Albino Bristlenose currently in my tank), who have never seemed to have problems with the higher PH, although they were much larger than these little guys when I acquired them.
The 5 gallon the babies were in had a power filtration system with floss and carbon suitable for the tank size I also had added a small piece of floss from the 29 gallon tanks filter to aid biological filtration. I had a heater in the tank which was sized for 2 to 5 gallon tanks, and had a factory set temperature of 78 degrees. I always use water conditioner whenever adding water or making a water change.
I have been an aquarium hobbyist since I was a very small child, and have never seen or heard of such a thing. What possibly could have happened to these fish?
<See above.>
Thank you so much for your help and advice, and for your wonderful website!
<Most welcome! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: (email 1) Baby Plecostomus Deaths 12/16/11

Hello, Neale. Thank you for the quick reply.
<You are welcome.>
Could it all have been due to the oxygen issue you mentioned?
<Yes. Low oxygen level will stress fish without immediately killing them. Ancistrus are adapted to cool, shallow, fast-flowing streams with lots of oxygen. They're tough fish, and adults can do well in ordinary aquaria. But the juveniles are less resilient.>
I don't believe lack of food was an issue....I had been feeding them small bits of algae wafer, some crumbled flake food, and 'smooshed' frozen peas minus the pea casing - all of which they were eating well.
I monitored them closely (checking on them several times a day), making sure they had food at all times .
I also made sure older food was removed and replaced with fresh.
Thank you for the information. If I ever purchase any Plecos that small again I will certainly include an air stone! I am also going to add another air stone to my 29 gallon tank for my adult Pleco, just to be safe!
I'm curious to know physically what this brown band and 'cinching' of their bodies could have been,
<Starvation, stress, secondary infection hard to say.>
as well as the initial cause of it. Any ideas as to what that thing was and how it constricted their bodies like that?
Thank you so much.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco 7/15/11
Dear WWM Crew-
I have a 11 year old Pleco that became acutely disoriented last night. He is frequently ramming into the sides and lid of the tank. The only other thing noted is that his eyes are suddenly sunken. He does not seem to be breathing rapidly or have any other signs of distress (other than the disorientation...) The tank is a 75 gallon and also houses a clown loach, an angel, half-dozen tetras, and two small catfish. None of the other fish are showing any of these symptoms. I tested the water quality last night and everything tested fine. The nitrate was at about 30-40 mg/L so I went ahead and did a 25% water change last night. So far, no improvement in his symptoms. Any other suggestions?
<Do check you haven't used a copper- or formalin-based medication in the tank, as these can upset catfish. Also check the substrate is clean and if you're using gravel, the gravel has been regularly stirred and siphoned, because anoxic decay can cause more problems for bottom-dwelling fish than other sorts. Do check the filter is working well and water chemistry is appropriate ("everything fine" means nothing to me) -- for a Common Plec, Pterygoplichthys sp., we're talking about 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 2-25 degrees dH hardness, and a pH of 6-8. With all this said, I'd expect Loaches and Angels to react more quickly to environmental problems than a Plec. At 11 years of age yours is in middle age, but not old, so I don't think old age will be the problem here. But your Plec is an air-breather, so do check you aren't using paints or other chemicals in the room that might introduce toxins that could harm the Plec (it's a good idea to switch off airstones when painting rooms with fish tanks, and to keep windows open for at least 24 hours so that the air in the room stays as fresh as possible). Sunken eyes are a bad sign for newly-imported L-number Suckermouth cats, but most commonly suggest starvation, so do make sure your Plec has been well fed with lots of greens. Your tank is rather small for a Plec and Clown Loach together, and I'd be surprised if they both get enough to eat AND water quality stays good at the same time. The fact you have a rather high nitrate level may well be a clue, especially if your tap water nitrate level is lower than 10 mg/l (check it). Cheers, Neale.>

Odd growth on my Pleco's mouth 10/25/10
Hi there, I'm hoping you can help me.
Roughly a week ago I noticed this fluffy looking growth on the edge of one of my Pleco's mouths. I'm not sure how long it's been there but it doesn't appear to have grown any over the last 7 days. My other Pleco is unaffected and the one with the growth is still eating and behaving normally. The rest of the tankmates detailed below are also fine. Any help or advice would be much appreciated.
Tank 200 litres
Temp 25 C
pH 7.2
Ammonia 0
Nitrites 0
Nitrates <5mg/l
2 Plecos, 2 small angels, 5 red wag platys, 6 Scissortails, 5 zebra/pearl Danios, 2 African dwarf frogs, 4 japonica shrimp
Many thanks in advance
<Hello Claire. First things first, your aquarium will soon be much too small for your Plec, which is a Common Suckermouth, Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus. While I doubt that's the reason why this chap is sick, in the long term water quality problems are going to stress your other livestock. Plus, two Common Suckermouth will rarely cohabit in a tank this small, and often they fight, in some cases causing such damage the weaker fish dies. As for what precisely is going on here, well, your Plec has some sort of growth, but whether it's viral or bacterial is hard to say. Either way, it's likely to be "benign" in the sense of not causing any immediate health problems, but on the other hand there's no particular cure for these
sorts of things outside of a trip to the vet for surgery and suitable wound cleaning and antibiotics. It may heal in time, given optimal environmental conditions and a balanced diet. One last thing Claire, please do note that we ask for images to be resized down to 500 KB each, rather than the 3 MB images you sent, presumably fresh from the camera. Big files clog up our e-mail allowance and cause other people's messages to be bounced back.
Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Odd growth on my Pleco's mouth 10/25/10
Dear Neale, Many thanks for the very quick reply and the helpful info. I plan on getting another, larger tank and will now do that sooner rather than later. I'm obviously pleased that the growth is likely benign as I'd hoped that would be the case. With regards to the file size of the photos I must apologise. I had put them from camera into the computer and had a set with reduced size as well as the originals. I sent you the wrong ones. I will be more careful should I need to send pics again. Many thanks again for your help. Claire
<Glad to help, Claire, and no harm done. Good luck, Neale.>

Pleco belly turning white? 2/8/10
<... 16 Megs in pix?>
I am concerned about my Pleco , who I have had for 10 years.
Recently his belly has turned a grayish white color.
<I see this>
It doesn't seem to bother" Mr. Bigfish" ,as he is still eating , sucking, swimming, and pooping away....
Always swims to the top of the tank on the side to say hello when I talk to him...He has always been a happy healthy fish.
The only thing I have read as this is normal with older age but I really want to make sure as we love our Mr. Bigfish.
He is very well fed, clean home, vacuumed regularly and great temp and PH...all checked daily , as he is a big pooper...
His belly used to have a very black and white contrast of a maze like the color on his sides...I started using Melafix today just in case...
<I would not use this product period. See WWM re>
I have included some pictures..Please tell me if this is normal or of there is something I must do for him.
*Pictures can be enlarged for you.....Thank-you very much for any help!
<This fish is likely fine. Some such changes in colour are due to variable water quality... in turn accounted for in being in too-small volumes, inadequate filtration, maintenance. Please read here:
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: Pleco belly turning white? 02/08/10
Hello Bob,
<Hello again>
Thank-you for answering so fast.
First, I must say I am very sorry for the size of my pictures I thought I had made them smaller and included a link for the larger size....
<Ahh! I understand>
I fear with what you have told me that Mr. Bigfish needs a larger home.
<Some Loricariid species get REALLY big indeed... I got to be in a "mud wrangling contest" at a Tampa fish farm once with Pterygoplichthys that were well over two foot in length!>
He lives in a 30 gallon tank all to himself as he doesn't play well with others...He is 17".
How big of an aquarium should he have to be happy?
<Really? About six plus foot in length>
I change 50% water weekly and vacuum , I use a AquaClear powerhead undergravel filter that pumps 175 gph, I keep his PH 7.0 and temp 75.
I also add PH up to keep up with the PH between water changes, as well as using a net to scoop the poop daily.
I read the link you sent...Thank-you. I couldn't find anything regarding not using Melafix on WWM...
<Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/phonyfwmeds.htm
or just use the search tool... on every page>
Although I did stop using and did a 50% water change this morning ...could you please send me a link?
Love this site as your articles have helped me in the past to establish this clean home.
<Am very glad that we have aided your efforts>
I never expected to have such a big fish but he is my beloved pet and I want to spoil him as best I can.
Thank-you again for your time in helping me...
<Certainly welcome. BobF>

Sick Pleco, Really Need Help 1/29/10
Hi. I've been researching online and reading posts on your site, which is really excellent.
<Thank you.>
After what I think has been a pretty good search, I'm still not sure about how to help my sick Pleco and am in desperate need of expert advice. I don't know the gender, age, or type of Pleco, but "he" is about 6" long and I've attached some photos in case that helps.
<Pterygoplichthys pardalis, likely a male given the size of the genital papilla.>
I apologize in advance for the long history that follows. It may not be relevant but so much has happened in my fish tank that I am including it in case it provides some clue to the best treatment plan.
I am a relatively new aquarist but have had more than my share of problems with this tank.
<Problems of your own making, I'm afraid. Looking over the selection of fish for example, you've made bad choices, and then misdiagnosed problems and probably caused them through poor water quality. While I'll do my best to explain where you went wrong, I fear you're going to get a bit annoyed with me.>
It is a 25 gallon tall tank with an undergravel filter and a Marineland Magnum Pro filter/bio wheel.
<This aquarium is less than half the size needed for your Plec.
Pterygoplichthys pardalis is barely viable in a 55 gallon tank, and realistically needs something 75 gallons upwards. Be under no illusions here: healthy fish reach a length of 45 cm (about 18 inches) within two years. They are incredibly messy herbivores, and will completely overwhelm your filtration system.>
It was given to me by a friend 5 months ago, along with the Pleco, 2 lemon tetras, 1 angelfish, 1 cardinal tetra, 1 phantom tetra and a Cory cat.
<Some friend...>
The tank and fish were not very healthy (pH was lower than 6.0 and the angelfish had lip fibroma, big white granules that were not Ick, scales falling off, problems with slime coat, etc.).
<Not a "Fibroma" but either Columnaris or Finrot, two very common bacterial infections that set in when fish are exposed to chronically poor conditions.>
The cardinal did not survive the move. I did a lot of research to try and prevent any more casualties and kept a close eye on water quality (tank cycled quickly because biofilter was already established) but despite heroic measures, the angel died about three weeks later, and the phantom tetra about a month after that. He had no visible problems but just stopped eating and did not respond to any treatment.
<Again, I suspect you misjudged water quality and water chemistry. For a tank like this, you're aiming for slightly soft to moderately hard water, with a neutral to slightly basic pH; in other words around 10 degrees dH and a pH around 7 to 7.5. Do read:
All seemed stable for about a month so I started adding more fish in two week intervals. I was aiming for two schools of 7 tetras plus the Cory and the Pleco, which based on my reading seemed OK but the more I learn about Plecos still may be too many for this tank (?).
First I added 3 phantom tetras, then 2 lemon tetras, and finally 3 more lemon tetras. Unfortunately, I did not quarantine these fish. One of the last three I added died within 48 hours and another stopped eating and then started swimming sideways so I moved her to an already established hospital tank. This happened late last November. On advice (always) from a local fish store I treated her with Maracyn Two. She stopped swimming sideways within a day but still was not eating after full treatment. Then I tried General Cure and something called "Lifeguard", which killed the biofilter in the hospital tank but she finally started eating again. Joy!
<Adding random medications without diagnosing the problem will merely kill your fish. Imagine if your doctor just gave you the first packet of pills he laid is hands on! You might get aspirin, or you might get warfarin! So you have to be sensible here. Relying on your pet store is, frankly, foolish. Grab an aquarium health book -- I assume you have at least one aquarium fish for beginners book -- and read through the diseases. There really aren't that many diseases to worry about, and in almost all cases they're caused by bad fishkeeping.
Do remember that some medications (e.g., ones with copper in) are toxic to catfish, loaches and certain other fish. Do also remember that carbon -- if used in your filter -- will remove medications before they have a chance to cure your fish.>
In the mean time, however, one of the original (male) lemon tetras in the main tank was becoming increasingly aggressive, chasing the others around until they hid behind filter inlets.
<Schooling rarely behave properly when kept in less than six specimens.>
He was especially mean to the other original (male) tetra, who along with several others was starting to look like he had fin rot. FYI, the lemon tetras also have a white tip on their nose, which gets worse when they are stressed but is not furry. I showed this to someone at a fish store told me they thought it was some kind of color variation but that doesn't seem right to me. He suggested that I remove the aggressive fish, and put the previously sick (but now eating) fish back in the main tank. BAD IDEA.
Within 24 hours she was swimming sideways again. So once again, I cleaned and changed water in the quarantine tank and put the aggressive one back in the main tank. I tried two more rounds of antibiotics in the hospital tank but she never swam upright again. After much soul searching I euthanized her. This was a week ago but it still feels awful.
Back in the main tank, the one that had been getting picked on originally has now become the new bully and the formerly aggressive one who left and has now come back to the tank is hiding and not eating, though he still chases the females around. There seems to be lots of spawning going on in this tank, which makes me think the water quality is OK. Right now ammonia is 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 20, and pH 7.6. It is a planted tank and I use RO water with equilibrium, alkaline/acid buffer, Flourish, and Flourish excel added. I haven't been able to get the pH lower, it always climbs back up and sticks around 7.6. GH is 4, KH is 4.
<This water chemistry is fine, provided it is stable.>
Finally, back to Mr. Pleco. He seemed absolutely fine through all of this except that about a month ago I noticed that he was coming up to the top of the tank when I fed the other fish and eating on the surface, which seemed like very odd behavior for a Plecostomus.
<They will gulp air when kept in poor water quality. Indeed, a tank this size with so many fish may not even have enough oxygen. This is especially problematic for catfish because they are at the bottom of the tank where there's least oxygen anyway.>
I had been feeding him a slice of zucchini or broccoli about once a week and the fish store salesperson said he was probably starving. He sold me some wafers about the size of a nickel and I started feeding him one each night. Then I noticed that his belly was kind of bloated so I thought it might be too much and started alternating days.
<That's fine.>
About a week ago I noticed him belly up and breathing heavily for a short time and the last few days he seems to be struggling with his buoyancy, not sucking on the side of the tank as much or slowly floating upwards when he does. He hides under plants, as if he needs them to hold him down, and he seems to be active a lot during the day whereas he used to hang out under the rock. From the posts, I thought he might be constipated, but he has actually been making huge amounts of poop - long strings about 4" - 6" long or more. It is all over the tank. They are dark greenish color, a bit like the color of the wafers. It also sounds from the posts that a problem like this could be an internal bacterial infection, eggs, or tapeworms. I can see from one of these photos, though I had not noticed it earlier that his gills are very red inside. He is clearly not a happy guy (or girl), but I just don't know what to do to help him. Should I stop feeding him the wafers?
<These are fine, but wouldn't use them every night; 3-4 nights per week is fine.>
Move him to a hospital tank or maybe treat the whole tank? If so, with what? I'm not really trusting the fish stores for advice any more.
I love my fish tank, it gives me so much pleasure to watch them and care for them but I'm not sure how much more suffering and death I can handle.
<Do start by reviewing stocking density, and then thinking about what types of fish to keep. Not all fish work in all tanks, and not all the fish commonly sold either get along or are easy to keep.
I feel so responsible for these little lives and my small garden is running out of burial space. I've thought about tearing down and sterilizing everything but the idea of cycling a "new" tank with all these fish,
<No, this wouldn't fix anything. Once an aquarium is cycled, treat the live filter bacteria like gold dust!>
especially when they are not healthy doesn't seem like the best idea either.
<Much fish health is opportunistic. When fish are provided the right conditions, their immune systems fight off the bacteria; when fish are weak, the normally harmless bacteria cause problems.>
I can understand why so many people give up on this hobby.
<Usually the ones who fail created their own problems. If you read and plan ahead, and do things precisely "by the numbers", it's actually a very easy hobby.>
Thank you so much, I am grateful for any advice you can offer.
<Suspect nothing actually wrong with the Plec beyond poisoning by overuse of medications and/or poor environmental conditions. Do a series of water changes to flush out the tank. Optimise water quality. Stabilise water chemistry. Stock the tank sensibly. Return the Plec or move it to a much larger aquarium. Buy a book.
"A Practical Guide to Setting Up Your Tropical Freshwater Aquarium" is cheap and covers all the key aspects nicely. "Manual of Fish Health" is heavier reading, but a good book on fish health, water chemistry, and other practical aspects.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Sick Pleco, Really Need Help 01/29/10
Hi Neale and thank you so much for your quick and very thorough response.
<Always happy to help.>
It sounds like despite good intentions I have been my fish tank's worst enemy.
<You are not alone in this, so don't feel too bad. We aquarists create most of the problems we have to deal with. On the up side, most problems are easy to avoid, and fixing them once they've occurred isn't necessarily difficult. But, as is often the case in life, forethought is the key.>
Specific to the Pleco, I want to clarify that I have never put any type of medication in his tank, the main tank, so that leaves environment/water quality as the most likely cause of his problems.
<Does sound probable.>
From what you are saying, even though the chemistry is fine (those numbers have not changed very much for months), the water quality is likely bad because the current population mix is causing too much waste for the system to handle.
<Again, sounds a logical deduction.>
Since a larger tank is not an option right now I will focus on 1) getting the water in pristine condition and 2) finding the Pleco a better, larger home.
<I suspect that (2) will largely make (1) happen all by itself. A 25-gallon tank is actually a pretty good size for, say, 15-20 small, Guppy-sized fish. Throwing in a Plec is where the problems begin...>
I did a 40% water change last weekend but will do another right away with a very thorough gravel cleaning and continue to do so weekly (? I had previously been doing 5 gallons every 2-3 weeks) until he is feeling better
and can be adopted.
<Yes, water changes will help. Cleaning the gravel tends to be neither here nor there, though a good stir before you siphon out the dirty water is very beneficial.>
I do own and have read cover-to-cover a guide to freshwater aquariums.
<Cool. But you'd be surprised how many people haven't read a book since they left school.>
I have scoured the Web for info, and consulted with "experts" (fish stores, fish forums). There is so much info out there, often conflicting, that it can be confusing and difficult to know who or what is right.
<Yes, I appreciate this. It's difficult to know who to trust. One advantage of having a book is that you can compare what the book says with what your advisor says. Books are edited, and the people who write them are normally experts. So book content is generally good. Yes, some books contain errors or old fashioned ideas, but mostly what books say about the basics is very reliable. To our credit, at least some of the crew here at WWM are book and magazine writers, and all the crew will have been "screened" by the older crew members before being set loose on the Daily FAQs. So while we may sometimes be a bit harsh, you can at least be sure what we're saying is based on real expertise rather than bluff.>
One place swears by salt, another says salt is really bad, etc.
<Often times, it's the shades of grey that cause problems. Catfish aren't "allergic" to salt as some suggest. Indeed, some catfish live in brackish water, and some even live in the sea. But not all catfish are equally tolerant of salt, and the amount of salt matters. Your Plec for example will tolerate a little salt rather well, and compared to copper-based Ick medication, adding a little salt to treat Ick would actually be kinder and safer. On the other hand, adding salt on a constant basis doesn't provide any benefit, and those catfish that need soft water, like Corydoras, may be stressed by it over time. So the problem is when people make sweeping generalisations without considering the outlying data points.>
I guess the best thing is to pick a source I feel I can trust (your site and one of the books you recommend) and then do it, as you say, "by the numbers".
<Quite so. Your tank is probably more or less stable in terms of filtration. Remove the surplus fish, and the filter should settle down nicely, and a couple of schools of midwater fish, and maybe five Corydoras, could happily be maintained with few if any problems.>
Thanks again for your feedback, it stung a little but I very much appreciate the help.
<Then my work here is done.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco hlth. 1/7/10
Hello. I have looked over many and many of your links on Plecos and haven't seen this question at all. So I'm going to ask.
I have a Pleco in my tank, I have had him a couple years now. I noticed a couple weeks ago he was hiding a lot, not really coming out of that place much at all. Finally he did, he had what I thought looked like a cloudy eye.
<Generally caused by poor water quality.>
So I used some Melafix in the tank. I thought it might have been helping some. He was out a lot more an back to cleaning my glass again. Tonight I noticed that same eye looks kinda bloody.. raw? It looks bad. Was wondering what I can do to help him out. I would really hate to lose him.
<Any sharp decor? Territoriality/aggression from the Cichlids, which vary in aggression, depending on type, but are generally an aggressive fish, especially when in small, overstocked tanks?>
I have a 15 gallon tank. He is in with 3 cichlids. My tank is pretty normal.
<Some may call it normal... sounds overstocked to me... from moderately to heavily depending on what kind of Cichlids these are.>
Temp is about 74 or so.
<This is a little cool. Do you use a heater? I'd keep it at 78 with the use of a heater. If you're not using a heater, then this small volume is likely experiencing radical temperature fluctuations from night to day, when the house heating/cooling system comes on, when it goes off, etc.>
Any help would be greatly appreciated. And will you write me back here or should I try to find this on your website for an answer? Thanks for anytime you can offer me on this.
<Hi, Jami. Firstly, if you would have read the information on the same page where you found our e-mail address, you'd have noticed our request for folks to use proper capitalization, punctuation, grammar, etc. when writing us. If you don't, we have to fix it, and it takes time. "I" is capitalized, and the end of a sentence can be adequately signaled by the use of one period. Secondly, please write back with useful data, i.e., your Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate levels, as well as what kind of Pleco you own, and what kind of fish his tank mates are. Melafix is generally useless once you see a problem on the scale that you're seeing here; however, this is likely a problem caused by poor water quality in an overstocked, underfiltered tank. Even if the primary reason for the problem is otherwise, i.e., aggression from tank mates or a scrape by sharp decor; there's a reason this isn't healing on its own, and that reason is likely water quality, and possibly continued aggression from tank mates, or a piece of sharp decor that has not been removed. I'd like to help you get your guy back on the road to recovery, but you just haven't provided much of the information that I can use to help you. Please feel free to write back with that information.

Plecostomus bump by dorsal fin 9/23/09
Hi there!
<Hello Louanne,>
One of my 2 plecostomus fish has a red bump (like a pimple) just in front of it's dorsal fin. Could this be a tumor?
<Almost certainly not.>
Both fish are friendly and let me hand feed them and pet them.
<Hmm... Plecs are not famed for being friendly towards one another, so keep an open mind here. Territorial males will attack other Plecs under some circumstances. Look for mysterious scrapes on the body and fins.>
This one is not the dominant one but it was the first to hand feed. For 2 days it didn't come out during the day for food. It hid and wouldn't come out when there was any light. Today it is back to eating and isn't so shy but the bump seems to have gotten a fraction bigger. The bump is the size of a large pimple and is very well defined (pert).
<Most likely a reaction to something in the environment, perhaps triggered by physical damage. Review living conditions, especially ammonia and nitrite levels. Make sure the pH is stable and ideally somewhere around 7 to 7.5. Make sure the fish aren't being bothered by each other or other types of fish, and check they can't burn themselves (a very common problem here).>
A few weeks ago we had a major shut down with the pumps and lost 10 fish.
I had to transfer all the fish to a holding tub and I dropped the plecostomus on the floor when transferring it back. It was okay but visibly shaken.
<Could easily have damaged the skin in the process.>
The 2 Plecos consoled each other and were very close for weeks after. I have a 55 gallon tank.
<To be honest, too small for two adult Plecs, assuming we're talking about Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus or similar. They are gross polluters, and even in a 55 gallon tank you're going to have a lot of solid waste as well as ammonia in the water. A big tank dilutes this, and this is as important as the high-turnover filter. On that score, the filter needs to be upwards of 8 times the volume of the tank, i.e., a turnover rate of not less than 440 gallons per hour for a 55 gallon system. Actually, I'd want more than that, given how small this aquarium is.>
I moved most of the knick-knacks out then so the big fish could move around. Now there is only a large PVC pipe to hide in. It could have bumped itself on that but never has in the past. Also, we have a perpetual problem keeping the tank clean and 4 days ago we did a 25% water change.
<A clue here: the tank's too small. In a 100 gallon aquarium with massive filtration, you'd find 25% water changes once a week adequate.>
Could stress have triggered this bump?
<Well, a combination of being dropped, being exposed to nitrite/ammonia some weeks ago, and being maintained in an aquarium that's fundamentally too small, could all be playing a role here.>
For instance - maybe it was afraid of being transferred again?
<Not, animals don't have "fear" as such, since their memories and thought processes don't work in the way ours do. If exposed to a stimulus and then a shock again and again, yes, animals will often learn to avoid that stimulus, and show signs of stress when exposed to that stimulus, even without the shock. But a one-off event isn't going to traumatise them. If you think about it, animals spend their entire likes making narrow escapes from danger, be they predators or changes in the environment. If they became "scared" they'd never leave their burrows, and end up starving to death and not interacting with other members of their species. So animals can't afford to be fearful. Instead they tend to be more nervous than scared; they do stuff, but they always try to keep an eye open for danger, and have an escape plan handy.>
They are very sensitive and emotional.
<Loricariid catfish are nocturnal by nature, and while they will learn to swim about in the daytime if they get fed, they're always nervous, and their instinct is to hide away if something alarms them.>
I know it sound funny but it's true.
<Preaching to the choir here. Some of my fish do exhibit distinct personalities. But we always have to be careful about anthropomorphising; that is, putting human behaviour interpretations on what animals do for
completely different reasons.>
Since I started hand feeding the dominant Pleco gets mad if I miss a day or a feeding. It won't let me pet it and will brush my hand away with it's fin.
<How sweet!>
Thanks and kindest regards. Louanne Wilson
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re Plecostomus bump by dorsal fin 09/26/09

Hello WetWeb Crew,
First, I'd like to thank you and commend your fabulous web site. Thank you for the great advice. I was wondering why my tank was getting cloudy and filthy so fast.
<Glad to help.>
One more question, it seems like the specific gravity of my water is a bit off--things seem to be suspended in the water sometimes.
<Uh... no... specific gravity is a measure of density, and related in fishkeeping circles primarily to how salty water happens to be. Unless you're adding salt to the water -- and you shouldn't be -- this isn't an issue.>
I have well water and use the tap water for the tank without any additives.
We live next to the river and the water tests real good for drinking.
<The issue is likely lack of mechanical filtration. A tank with Plecs needs to have very robust filtration. We're talking turnover rates around 8-10 times the volume of the tank. That is performed best by external canister
filters, but other systems might be used at a pinch. Regardless of the filtration method used, the system will need a strong pump and lots of mechanical media. That's the media that collects silt. If there isn't enough mechanical media, the water stays silty, i.e., murky. Note, mechanical media isn't the same thing as biological media: you can have
silty water with 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite, just as you can have silt-free (i.e., clear) water with dangerously high levels of ammonia and nitrite. In general though, a big, strong filter will ensure both clear and clean water.>
Again, thanks for the advice. I hate to get rid of my fish but it might be the best option. I also figured out that one is a male and the dominant one is a female.
<Sexing is difficult, and indeed, two males are more likely to fight than any other combination. In general, mature males tend to develop longer odontodes ("bristles") on the cheeks and the pectoral fins. But this isn't an easy characteristic to judge unless you've looked at a bunch of mature fish of that species, so know which ones are bristly and which ones less so, since even the females have *some* bristles.>
When I bought them I thought that they would stay small like the catfish.
<What, like Corydoras? No, Plecs certainly don't do this. Average size in captivity is 12-18 inches in length, usually within 2-3 years. Big fish. Of course, not the biggest catfish: there are catfish that get far, far larger. Among the biggest freshwater fish in the world, in fact. Google "Pangasianodon" and prepared to be impressed. If you want a small Plec, look for things like Ancistrus (Bristlenose cats) and Peckoltia (Clown Plecs).>
I was too eager to fill my tank with fish and didn't do proper research.
<Ah, I see...>
I will try to send a video of my Pleco's hand feeding. I have found that most any animal will do odd things for food--good food.
<Sounds cute!>
Best regards, Louanne
<Cheers, Neale.>

Bristlenose with fungus? 08/04/09
<Hello Kate,>
I have a Bristlenose Pleco who has been sharing a 40-gallon aquarium with a handful of African cichlids for the past 3 years. They normally get along quite well; the cichlids ignore the Pleco (but maybe there's a first time for everything...), and he usually stays out of sight in a cave among the rocks during the day.
<Ancistrus are at risk of being harmed when kept with the more aggressive African cichlids, particularly Mbuna.>
I had noticed that algae had been building up on the glass over the past few days, but I assumed the Pleco was holding out for an algae cookie, as he tends to do - he's a bit spoiled in that respect! This evening, when I moved the rocks around to do my weekly water change & vacuum the gravel, I was horrified to discover that the Pleco's snout was a mottled pale colour, and that his bristles were almost all gone. His snout also has a coating of some fuzzy white stuff that looks like fungus. He usually scuttles out of the way when I clean the tank, but this time he barely moved. He looks awful!
<Assuming it's fungus, which looks like white cotton wool threads, treat accordingly.>
I had some Maracyn (about a year old - is this ok?) on hand, so I dosed the tank with that,
<Unlikely to cure Fungus. The same goes for Melafix (tea-tree oil). You do need a genuine anti-fungal medication.>
and I added a bit of extra aquarium salt as well.
<Don't. Salt won't help, and some African cichlids, such as Mbuna, may develop bloating when exposed to saline conditions.>
All of the water parameters are normal.
<As in...? I need numbers, not judgments! Fungus is caused either by poor water quality or physical damage. So, check firstly you have 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite. Secondly, think about the companions. Some African cichlids are harmless enough when kept with Ancistrus, notably Kribs. But Mbuna would be a very bad choice of tankmates, since they'd persistently nip and buffet these poor catfish, causing physical damage.>
I realize that a separate tank would probably be best, but my old 10-gallon tank is in storage and doesn't have a proper cover (and with a new kitten in the house, this just spells disaster). Is it ok to continue dosing the main tank? Is the treatment even worth it?
<Yes. Fungus clears up pretty well.>
The Pleco seems to be in really bad shape and I don't want him to suffer needlessly if it's a lost cause.
<Well, the "suffer needlessly" bit assumes you're going to euthanise a fish in a way that doesn't cause pain. See here:
Thanks for any advice you can provide,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco swollen gills, env. 6/10/09
<Hi there>
Thanks for having such an informative website! My Sailfin Pleco, now about 4 years old, is living alone in a 25 gallon tank with natural substrate and plants.
<Mmm, is this a Glyptopterichthys gibbiceps? Needs much more room... and what goes with it... better, more stable water quality...>
There is also a driftwood in there for him. Recently I noticed a small red sore around his gill area on one side while he was sucking the tank glass. Today (about a week later) the sore has spread on both sides on or around his gills. His temperament is the same as always; he swims around, sucks on the glass and eats fine, but I'm worried about these sores. I've never dealt with Pleco illnesses so I'm not sure how to diagnose this.
<You have... just not acknowledged the root cause... Poor environment>
I clean his water and filter regularly, the water is properly aerated with an air tube, and he eats algae pucks. The tank is rather clean so I'm not sure where he could have contracted the sore from.
<Cleanliness is not sterility... Do you do water quality tests?>
The only thing I can think of is that a month ago my absolutely gorgeous, healthy and very spunky fantail goldfish who shared the tank with him died very mysteriously.
<Mmm... not likely too mysteriously>
Literally. One night he was totally fine, feeding well, and the next morning he was just still behind his plant (his sleeping spot), not belly up, just hovering there, but clearly dead (broke my heart). There were
absolutely no visible signs of any illnesses. But could my Pleco have contracted something from him?
<Just shares the same too small world>
Problem is, I have no idea what killed my goldfish.
Thanks for your help in advance!
<Please read, at least on WWM, re the needs... system and water quality (and stability) wise re these species. The overall most likely "cause" here is environmental. Bob Fenner>

Sick Pleco 4/18/09
I have a 6 year old, 14 inch long "basic" Pleco.
<Pterygoplichthys sp.; a challenging fish in many ways because it needs a large tank. If yours isn't well, there's a very good (90%) chance the issue is environmental. Should be hardy in a 55+ gallon tank with a strong canister filter rated at 6+ times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. Anything less than this, and your problems are very likely "fixable" by moving the fish to an appropriate aquarium.>
There are only 4 very small neon tetras in his tank and they do not show any signs of illness. Two days ago, I cleaned his tank and filters.
<How did you clean the filters? Did you replace any media? What's the water quality and water chemistry here?>
He was fine. When I woke up this morning, I thought he was dead. He was laying extremely still on the bottom of the tank, had a white film over both eyes and has white spots starting at the tip of his nose moving down his back to the beginning of his front fins.
<Sounds like an opportunistic bacterial infection, if we're talking about white patches and white films; these are usually environmental. So while there are cures (for example eSHa 2000 or Maracyn) these MUST be done in conjunction with fixing the environment. At minimum, do a pH test and a nitrite test, and then give me the results. It's dollars to doughnuts that something's amiss.>
He appeared not to be breathing and didn't move at all. I had to know if he was alive or not so I prodded him a little and he moved. It was very slow at first. He began to swim around the tank bumping into things.
<Again, common sign of systemic bacterial infection.>
But he was not moving in a way that made me think he was panicking. Through the day, he is swimming around as usual, not bumping into things in the tank, hanging out in his favorite places and sucking on the side of the tank as usual. It appears the white film on his eyes is not so thick. I can see the "round brown" middle of his eye slightly. Any ideas of what I should do or what it is since it just popped up overnight?
<Very likely a water quality, water chemistry, or possibly a toxicity issue (e.g., detergent, paint fumes or bug spray got into the tank). So: [a] test the water; [b] review conditions, and fix them if necessary; and [c] treat
for Finrot using something reliable (as opposed to salt or Melafix).>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Ancistrus help! 3/25/2009
Hello again..
A little question about my Bristlenose Ancistrus.. I had two, one with more bristles than the other.
<Likely a male and female.>
About 4 or 5 weeks ago they became a lot less active in the day, co-inciding with the arrival of some adopted fish, which were two upside down catfish, and a red tailed black shark amongst others. My research suggested that maybe they were just getting older, as I have had them 7 or 8 months now.
<Ancistrus are nocturnal fish in the wild, so it's entirely normal for them to be 'shy', especially in a busy tank.>
Anyhow, I found one dead yesterday. No signs of any lesions or anything, water parameters were fine (nitrites 0, ammonia 0, nitrates less than 10) I do a 30% water change every 10 days or so, and have a 180ltr Juwel Rio with the internal filter it comes with.
<Hmm... if the water quality is good, then may just be "one of those things". But I would be alert to possible problems, and keep an eye on both fish behaviour and water chemistry/quality readings.>
Other tank occupants are (BTW - is this overstocked? They are all very small at present..)
<Certainly busy rather than overstocked, though the Red-tail Shark shouldn't be here. The addition of a secondary, external filter will help with water quality as the fish mature, and should be on your Christmas list perhaps. Something like an Eheim 2217 or equivalent will work well, and that's what I have on my Rio 180.>
14 x 5 banded barb Puntius pentazona

Around 14 zebra Danios (they move too fast to count!)
5 adult platies (2 male, 3 female) 2 juvenile platies
3 x Siamese Algae Eaters
1 x Trichogaster Leeri
2 diamond tetras
3 rosy tetras
3 Columbian tetras
<Fin-nippers these, especially when kept in insufficient numbers, as here...>
2 upside down catfish
<Gregarious, would add at least one more...>
1 red tailed black shark (NB - he is under surveillance for signs of aggression, with plans to move him soon. He is no bigger than the Platies and so far has shown no interest in anything other than food, no territorial behaviour)
<Non-aggressive now because he's young. Once sexually mature he will become much more aggressive. The Siamese Algae Eaters will get chased, a lot. This tank is certainly below the size recommended for Red-tail Black Sharks
because of this aggression issue.>
Around 5 weeks ago, when the Ancistrus became less active, I had slowly lowered the tank temp to 25 C from 27C, as I had lost two small platies and wondered if this was due to the tank temp being too high for them. I also lost two small Danios (around 10 weeks old) at the same time. As these were inbred (!) and all other tank inhabitants were fine, water parameters read normal, I had not overly worried.
<Temperature unrelated to the death of the catfish; 25 C is a happy medium for all these species.>
The remaining Ancistrus is very inactive. Should I quarantine him?
It has been suggested he could be guarding eggs (he has taken to the same place all the time, when I am cleaning the tank they he tries very hard to stay around the same log).
<Could certainly be brooding, but they are territorial anyway, and rarely stray far from their resting site during the day.>
There are no external signs of illness, but I have not seem him feeding for at least the last week. I wondered if they have just become a bit more nocturnal, but when I found one dead..
<I'd not worry unduly beyond the comments already made above.>
Same with the upside down catfish. I haven't seen them since I put them in the tank to speak of. I know where they are, each has chosen the underside of a log, and there they stay. How would I know if there is anything wrong
with them if I cannot see them?!
<At best, Synodontis species are nocturnal fish that often move about very little during the day, but because this is a schooling species, this shyness is doubled if they aren't kept in big groups. Keep six of them, and they might be more day active. Certainly try and keep three or more specimens, and you'll likely see them somewhat during the day. I have three
in a Rio 180, and while not massively active by day, they will scoot about when I feed bloodworms, and periodically they chase one another about. Charming, hardy fish.>
Any advice would be appreciated, I was very fond of the Ancistrus, they were such fun to watch.
<Quite. Perhaps buy some more?>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Ancistrus help! (selection; also Colisa chuna; toxic fumes) 3/26/09
Thank you Neale - your responses are always helpful and prompt which is just great!
<Happy to help.>
I think the 'shark' will have to find a new home soon, before he chases anyone or harasses them. My local pet shop has some baby Ancistrus bred in the shop (very nice they are too) I will see if he will do me a swap. Will also consider a few more upside down catfish in a couple of weeks.
<Cool. Baby Ancistrus don't always travel well, or more specifically, they can become starved in pet shop tanks, and so lack the energy reserves to handle transportation and being settled into a new home where they may have to compete for food. If their specimens are clambering about on the glass, take a peek at their bellies: they should not be concave. Some of the better pet stores keep bits of cucumber in their tanks for the Ancistrus to nibble on, in which case, so much the better.>
Sadly today I lost a little Gourami (I missed these off my list, they are small golden or honey Gourami, also adopted from someone just before Christmas) yesterday evening it did not feed, this morning before school run it was struggling to swim against the current of the filter - dead when I got back from school. No external signs of any illness at all.
<Colisa chuna is not an easy species to keep, despite its wide availability. Indeed, when I started keeping fish as a teenager back in 1980s, they were considered quite "specialist" fish because of their need for soft, acidic water. So when you saw them, they were usually expensive. Nowadays they are mass produced on farms, including some non-natural colour forms like the one in your image. While they may be less expensive and certainly easier to obtain, I'm not yet convinced they're "easy" fish. I wouldn't really consider them community fish, but rather better kept in either a single-species aquarium or in a tank with very small, non-aggressive fish such as Marbled Hatchetfish or Dwarf Corydoras.>
I tested the water again - it was as it was on Monday after the water change, 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 10 nitrate.
<All sounds fine.>
Now I am a bit paranoid. Last weekend I varnished some wood nearby, but I kept the doors to the room the tank is in shut, and all the windows around the varnished area open. Other than this nothing has changed.
<Ah, in theory, yes, paint and varnish fumes can kill fish. Since Gouramis breathe air directly, they'd be especially at risk; fish that breathe water will only be exposed to the smaller percentage of the toxic chemical that dissolved in water. That said, if you open windows, you certainly can paint rooms and whatnot without expecting all your fish to die. I would recommend leaving the windows open for at least 24 hours after using paint/varnish though. If you were worried, this would be one of those times where adding fresh carbon to the filter would make sense; carbon removes organic chemicals, reducing the risk of harm. As you may know, carbon is used for precisely this function in gas masks for humans as well as in emergency medicine for removing poisons.>
I am keeping a very close eye for signs of unusual behavior now. At present everyone else is feeding well (flake and algae wafer this morning) and all darting about merrily.
Attached is a pic of my Gourami (pre death!) He had a big bit of dorsal fin missing when I got him (he came from another local person getting rid of fish), which did not seem to affect him at all.
<Fins usually grow back in time, so unless there's Finrot or Fungus, damage to the fins isn't something that I personally worry about when selecting fish. If you look at photos of wild fish from the Amazon, they've all got bloody great chunks of fin missing thanks to the numerous fin-eating characins!>
(enjoying my new subscription to PFK and spotted your name in it..)
<Glad you're enjoying the magazine.

Re: Ancistrus help! (selection; also Colisa chuna; toxic fumes) 04/07/09
Hi Neale,
<Have been on vacation, forgive tardiness in replying.>
I am so sorry to keep on bothering you - but I am still encountering unexplained deaths in my tank.. :(
Today I found my other Ancistrus dead. I am so sad - I thought she was OK - she's been coming out in the evenings and whilst not zipping about, was moving around more. I took a really careful look at her - she hasn't been dead long as I have only just found her, and I saw her moving about yesterday evening. I cannot see anything about her at all to indicate cause of death (I am too squeamish to dissect - and no longer have my college kit anyhow!)
<Hmm... dissections and autopsies not much help unless you know what to look for. Mystery deaths usually down to water quality problems, sudden variation in water chemistry, or extrinsic factors such as poisoning.
Simple age may be a factor, if the fish was 5+ years old.>
Yesterday I noticed a Danio in the tank with what appears to be dropsy - I have isolated it in the QT and am treating with eSHa 2000 but I guess it is probably too late. I am baffled though, as nitrates are around 10, 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite. But these deaths indicate poor water quality?
I am due a water change (it has been 10 days) and always do 30% - but the tests do not indicate a problem.. I will do more than usual, and repeat it in a few days.
Have you any idea what could be causing this?
My tank has been running 6 months now, and I do changes of 30% every 10 days approx. I use tetra aqua safe, mixing it in the bucket with our tap water, adding water from the kettle to heat as I do not have a facility to warm the water anywhere else.
<Boiling the water is redundant. Removing 30% of the tropical water and replacing with cold water from the tap should cause little harm to your fish. So long as the thermometer doesn't dip below 18 C after a water
change, I'd not worry.>
I check temp with a thermometer before it goes in the tank. I make sure that I use the mains tap, as we have a water softener and we never use softened water in the tanks.
All the fish are behaving fine (even the one with dropsy is eating and swimming about well)
<Well, that's a good sign.>
Help! I really do not want to lose any more fish. I haven't put any meds in the main tank as I do not know what is causing the problem...
(needless to say, I'm not buying new fish at the moment)
<Also sensible.>
Yours worriedly
<My gut feeling is let the system "shake itself out". Don't add fish; do moderate water changes of 25% weekly; be careful with things like food and removing organic wastes like dead plants. Generally, adopt a wait-and-see approach. A lot of aquaria "just work" with a certain number/combination of fish; likely has much to do with water chemistry stability, filter, etc.
See what happens for a month. If no other fish get sick, I'd expect the tank to settle down by the end of that period. Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco... damaged? 2/5/09 Hi I couldn't find an answer to my question on your website or through Google. If I missed it I apologise. I have a 15" Pleco that seems to be in good health except that it appears to have one scale missing from it's side, showing what looks like the bone (white skin ?) underneath. There are no marks, sores, scrapes, red or cloudy areas, it just looks like one small scale has been removed. I have put a fin-rot medication in the tank as about 8 months ago it lost about 1 inch of one fin spike to what I presumed was fin rot - this never grew back but it stopped rotting and has been good since, but the medication seems to have had no reaction either way, good or bad. Could this just be where the Pleco has rubbed against something in the tank or should I be more suspicious ? Thank you for being there and apologies for the long winded question Regards Chris <Hello Chris. Catfish don't have scales, and what look like armoured plates on Plecs are in fact thick pieces of skin. They do get damaged sometimes, most commonly either through heater burns or through Plec-to-Plec violence. Heaters can be very dangerous with catfish generally, because if a catfish nestles under a heater that is cool at the time, and the heater switches on, the catfish might not realise until it's been burned. (Presumably, their plates of skin aren't sensitive to heat, so they can't tell they're being burned until the heat has travelled deeper into the body.) Aggression between Plecs is common and yet often ignored by retailers and hobbyists. If adult Plecs are kept in the same tank, e.g., at a pet store, it is not uncommon for the dominant Plec to scrape the skin away from the weaker ones. Some Plec species are worse than others, with Acanthicus, Panaque, and Pterygoplichthys spp. particularly nasty towards rivals. In extreme cases, deaths can result. Now, Finrot or some similar bacterial infection is a possibility, so treating against them is wise. Do also check water quality: Plecs are big, messy fish that put a lot of stress on their environment. It's hard to keep an adult the size of yours in a tank less than 250 litres (55 Imperial gallons), even allowing for a robust filtration system and copious water changes. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Pleco, injury, heater? 2/5/09
Thank you so much for the comprehensive answer. I am going to keep an eye on the Pleco for any repeat sores. There is only one Pleco in the tank, (tank is 48" x 24" x 18") so it may be water (which is changed (20%-25% weekly) and well filtered, or the heater. Thank you again for your excellent help. Regards Chris <Happy to help. Do look for a heater guard (a simple plastic mesh that encases the heater) or else use an external heater like the Hydro ETH units or the Eheim Thermo--filters. Tank is a bit small, so be aggressive water changes, and check the nitrite level periodically. Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco hlth. strange bubble 12/31/08 My father has asked me to research a problem he has with his Sailfin leopard Pleco. He is about a year old and is about 8+ inches long. My father does not test his water and when I checked it last, the ammonia levels were through the roof , the Neons had mouth fungus and he had a white spot problem which has meant the death of most of the other fish. Having found strange worms in the water he decided to clear out his 120 litre tank which meant a complete scrub out including the gravel. He has 3 uplift tubes and an under ground filter and he does a 50% water change about every 3 weeks. I know this isn't the "ideal" maintenance program but I've given up telling him he needs to watch the water quality. However he comes to me when things go wrong! His big catfish had caramel patches on it after the ammonia poisoning and looked very dehydrated but has recovered well since we cleared out the tank. We put in some Methylene blue when we cleaned the tank and some filter start and saved "gunge". The catfish initially looked very well, put on weight, lost his caramel colour and became a lot more active. Of late he has been jumping out of the water and gasping lots of air and then flushing his gills at the bottom of the tank. Anyway now ( a week later and 2 30% water changes) we see that around his anal vent he has a large bubble (polo mint size)with a small cotton thick strand from the centre of it. He is not showing any other signs of distress but hasn't eaten all week and isn't pooing. He is not bloated or sunken. He usually gets algae wafers and catfish pellets. He has 2 tank companions(only ones left)... a neon and a platy. Prior to the changes the water was acidic (6) nitrate (5)ph (6.4) ammonia (4). Now the levels are good but the blue tint remains from the Methylene blue. Is this chemical not good for catfish? Great site. I've learnt loads! Karen <Hello. Saying this tank isn't "ideal" doesn't begin to cover things! This tank is a death trap, and nothing I can say here will fix things unless your father is prepared to return the fish he can't keep (i.e., the big catfish) and properly maintain the tank so that the rest of the fish have a chance of surviving. The Plec is swimming about because water quality is poor; normally they rest during the day, but when poisoned they surface regularly to gasp air. The various signs of Finrot (damage to the fins) and systemic bacterial infections (around the anus) may be fixed with a suitable antibiotic (e.g., Maracyn) or antibacterial (e.g., eSHa 2000) but without fixing the tank, treating the fish thus would be spitting into the wind: they'll get sick again within weeks. Ditto any fungal infections (anything that looks like white cotton threads) or Mouth Fungus (slimy tufts on the face and body). Your "levels" don't make any sense to me: acidity and pH should be measured with the same test kit, and a pH of 6.4 is low, and dangerously low so far as Platies are concerned. The ammonia level is just plain lethal. Cheers, Neale.>
e: strange bubble, Pleco dis. ~ 01/01/09 Neale Thanks for your prompt reply. <My pleasure.> We shall get some of the treatment you suggest and work on the water quality. <Cool.> You will be pleased to know that after another water change today the levels are better but still a way to go. A 30% water change and addition of stress zyme and stress coat hopefully with help. <The water change will certainly do a lot of good; the other "potions" certainly do no harm, may even help a little.> Can you tell me if it would be ok to do this every couple of days or is this too drastic? <Just fine; so long as the water going in has roughly the same chemistry and temperature of the water going out, you can change as much as you want!> I am mindful that it is not good to alter conditions too quickly. <Quite so; does depend on whether you're in a hard or a soft water area. Most of Southern England for example is hard water, and water chemistry changes hardly at all between water changes. So if you're in a hard water area, the bigger the better so far as water changes go. In parts of the UK with soft water, like the Scottish Highlands, things are different, and it's best to do multiple small water changes rather than big weekly or two weekly changes.> I think the problem occurred because he doesn't test the water and because he cleared everything out he hasn't been maintaining the bacteria to restore the biological filter. <Sounds a good hypothesis.> He has however reduced the feeding to a fraction of what he was until the catfish starts eating again. <I'd not feed at all while ammonia is not equal to zero; fish can go many days, even weeks, without food.> Have you any advice re improving the biological filter in the short term? <Rinsing out the sponge or ceramic noodles in a bucket of water from the tank is a good way to clean away silt without losing bacteria. The "cleaner" the biological media, the more bacteria it will host. Of course, brand new media contains no bacteria at all, hence the art is keeping mature (6+ week old media) as silt-free as possible.> How often could the stress zyme be added safely? <Weekly should be ample. It isn't a product I use myself, but I have no objections to others using it as they prefer.> I think this problem has encouraged him to take notice of the levels as what arrived as a small sucker fish to keep the glass clean has grown into the ugliest and biggest thing I've ever seen but he is really quite attached to it and is very sad he has caused it distress. <Big catfish can be fun pets; I've had a Panaque nigrolineatus Suckermouth cat for some 15 odd years, and am very attached to her -- despite the fact she destroys any plants or wood I stick in the tank!> Regards Karen <Happy new year! Neale.>

New Pleco has white lines on underside... Need info. 12/28/08 I recently added a Pleco to a 20 gallon tank that already has one cichlid in it after my last Pleco passed away. <What species of Cichlid, Pleco?> He was very light in coloration when we first got him and has darkened a lot in our tank, <Will change with mood... conditions> and his coloration now resembles the one we had before (before he died). I have notice whit lines on the underside of the Pleco and I was wondering if Plecos have plates on the bottom, <Yes they do><<Mistake... Only on the rear area underneath, not the "belly". RMF>> and if it is common for them to have this or if it is a fungal infection. Unfortunately I do not have a quarantine so he's in there with the cichlid now. Do you think it's a fungus? <Mmm, no. Not likely... else it would be dead in short order> If so I can treat with Mardel powder I have on hand. Thanks, Brett <Brett... like the show "House" on TV, we need more information (and your test results) to make accurate "diagnoses"... Need to know the species involved here, your set-up and maintenance history, water quality tests... to help you. Bob Fenner>
Re: New Pleco has white lines on underside 12/28/08
The cichlid is Julidochromis ornatus. The Pleco is Liposarcus anisitsi. <Mmm, gets much too large for this tank: http://fish.mongabay.com/species/Liposarcus_anisitsi.html> The tank is my dad's and does not get cleaned very often, it's a 20 gallon with a bottom filter. The cichlid is about 4 inches long and the Pleco is about 3. pH 6.4-6.8; <Mmm, low for the Juli...> alkalinity b/w 120-180; hardness 250-425; <Good... sufficient buffering> Nitrates are at 40 ; <Yeeikes! Much too high... see WWM re...: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwnitrates.htm...> nitrites are 0.5. Temp is 72 F. Let me know if you need to know anything else. Thanks Brett <For you to read the linked files above. BobF>
Re: New Pleco has white lines on underside 12/28/08
Thanks, those links were very helpful, I'll take care of the nitrates and pH. <Bob didn't mention, but will add, that nitrite levels not equal to zero are dangerous in freshwater tanks generally, and highly dangerous to Tanganyikan cichlids. Suspect this tank is overstocked: a single large Plec-type catfish would overwhelm any but the most heavily filtered 20 gallon system.> I also noticed that there were chunks missing out of the Pleco's left rear fin and was wondering if that might be fin rot. <Could easily be.> Also, do you think I should worry about the white lines around the plates on the Pleco's underside? <Plecs don't have plates on the underside of the body; they bellies are leathery skin. This is distinct from the other armoured catfish family, the Callichthyidae, such as Corydoras, which have plates all around the body forming a robust "box". By contrast Plecs (family Loricariidae) are armoured on the flanks and dorsal surface only. Plecs generally do not suffer from many diseases, but Fungus and Finrot are certainly possibilities and worth being on the alert for. Fungus usually looks like fluffy white stuff, whereas Finrot on the body at least reveals itself as patches of dead white tissue around red inflammation. These two diseases have similar causes and often occur together.> Brett <Cheers, Neale.>

Clown Pleco Skin Patchy-ness... medication poisoning, reading 10/11/08
Well, to start I have 9 Zebra Danios, 10 Neon Tetra's, 6 Harlequins, 2 Cory's, a rather peaceful Siamese Fighter, and a Clown Pleco. My tank was recently infected with the Whitespot disease which killed off all 6 or my Bleeding Hearts, my other Clown Pleco, a male and female Dwarf Gourami's (I still have 1 other female Dwarf Gourami but I suspect she won't make it) and all 7 of my Emperor Tetra's. (The Emperor's where the ones to bring it into the tank.) We used Exit
<www.eshalabs.eu/pages_eu/product_engels.html?zoom=2&download=1 - >
for the Whitespot and the treatment worked on the rest that didn't die but its started to come back on the Neon's and Siamese (who is dubbed Jackie Chan ^_^).
<Good name>
We're treating the Ick again
<I would be reading on WWM re... at least elevating temp. to bolster a cure here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwichremedyyes.htm
and the linked files above>
but my main problem at the moment is my Clown Pleco. He's chocolate brown with kind-of yellow spots and stripes.. So far he hasn't been affected at all by the Ick but I've noticed he's gotten some lighter patches on his skin.
<Is affected... more by the eSHa product likely...>
They seem to be crescent shape and go down his back (though this is in a regular pattern). He's also gone very quiet (whereas before he was quite active) and isn't eating as much. He's barely moved at all day.
<Being poisoned... have you measured any ammonia, nitrite...?>
I did a water test and the results came back fine aside from the pH which showed between 5-6.
<Dangerously low... likely not well buffered either... Do you know much re alkalinity AND pH? Please see WWM re, and possibly at least mix in some source water with appreciable hardness>
I don't know if there is something wrong with the Pleco but I'm quite fond of him and am not keen on losing any more fish. ^_^;
<Then... I'd be reading... Stat>
Any help would be much appreciated.
Jasmine Law
<Read. Bob Fenner>
Re: Clown Pleco Skin Patchy-ness, Ich 10/12/08

Many thanks for your help, it is greatly appreciated. I read on your site about raising the temperature to kill the Ick, and I've now raised it to 80 F however I am concerned about raising the temperature to the level required to kill off all stages of Ick as I know some of the fish I have, such as the Danios, tend to prefer cooler temperatures.
<Ah, yes>
Would it be ok, bearing in mind the different species I have, to raise the temperature?
<Yes... better by far than to suffer, perhaps perish from the Ich itself... or more medicine exposure. If they were mine, I'd go ahead and raise the temperature to 83-84 F.. This is not too high for Danios in the short term>
What temperature do you consider tolerable for the different fish in the tank?
<For all the species you list (below) in your original email, this temporary elevation will be fine... Do take care in a couple weeks however to lower it slowly... no more than a degree per day or so>
I've done another water change. And another water test. The results came back as:
GH - 180
KH - 180
PH - 7.0
Nitrites CNO2 - 0
Nitrates - 20
<Mmm, the Nitrates are borderline high... going forward I would read re such on WWM:
and the linked FAQs file above... and do what you can to reduce this level>
Also, in the past week I have done two 50% water changes (leaving a few days between each change) and another 25% earlier today.
I checked the Clown Pleco and I couldn't spy any patches on him. I hope this is an improvement. Though he is still quiet and not moving as much.
Thanks again for your help.
Jasmine Law
<Bob Fenner>

Plecostomus Question 10/5/08
I have reviewed a ton of websites regarding my plecostomus.
I have had him for ~ 3 years and he has been? very healthy. Just recently I noticed near his tail fin a small (about the size of a pencil eraser) area of white/pink, almost bubble-like tissue.
<Hmm... would assuming from the colour/texture this is some sort of external, opportunistic bacterial and/or fungal infection. Would begin by assuming this to be the case, and treat with Maracyn.>
I went to the fish store and tried to describe the area and he told me to just watch it for now OR try to "pick it off!"
<No... more likely to expose healthy tissue, making things worse.>
Unfortunately, besides the fact that this information does not sound right, even if I wanted to I could never catch that fish!? It doesn't look anything at all like Ick, so I don't know if its a mass of some type or something I should be treating.
<Yes; also review water quality and water chemistry stability.>
He lives in a 72 gallon tank with 4 parrot fish.
<Sounds busy, but assuming you have decent filtration, should be fine.>
Any thoughts or ideas?
<Cheers, Neale.>

Fungus on Pleco's head? 8/29/08
I have a Pleco who is about 12" long. I'm not sure of type or age since he was given to me. He is very healthy and looks great except for his nostril. I think it is a nostril on top of his head. It looks like it was full of a pink, flesh colored worm. I have treated with an Ick and anti fungus medicine.
<Could be Fungus, but equally likely Finrot or Mouth Fungus (this isn't actually a fungus despite the name). Need to treat with a combination Finrot/Fungus medication such as Maracyn or eSHa 2000. Do remember to remove carbon when medicating. A photograph would help us confirm.>
I have also done a good water change and am using metaflax.
<Melafix is pretty useless.>
The longer it goes, the more this pink pop-corn looking stuff keeps coming up out of the hole.
<Probably decaying organic matter, or pus to put it another way. Needs fixing, fast.>
Can you tell me what this is and how to get rid of it?
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fungus on Pleco's head? 09/07/08
Thank you for your quick response. Although things are not better. Sunday I started a treatment of Maroxy from Mardel. <Don't know this product, and looking over the list of ingredients it isn't one I'd recommend. With fungal infections and certain bacterial infections looking so similar, you want something that zaps them both. Hence Maracyn (in the US) or eSHa 2000 (in the EU) are my standard recommendations.> I also gave 3 treatments of Tetracycline tablets. <Do you mean Tetracycline? Again, not a recommendation I'd make (had made). There's a reason we recommend specific medicines: from experience, we know they work. While there's nothing to stop you experimenting with other medications, I have no more idea if they'll work than you do!> I also kept the tank in the dark since when I did a water change, I had fuzzy little pieces floating around. <Could be anything! Whatever they are, siphon out.> Today, I have taken the tank down and cleaned and re-set up. <Not what I'd do. When you're treating fish, you need to avoid causing problems by stressing the fish or upsetting the biological filter. Stirring the gravel and doing a decent water change prior to dosing the tank on Day 1 of treatment is fine, but after that leave it alone. The medication is often designed to be used over a series of days, and the people who did this assume you're NOT doing water changes in between. By altering things by removing water you're going to throw the medication off track.> In the process, I tried to pick the fungus off his head...now it is bleeding and only a small part came off. <I bet. Don't do this. Just like your mom said when you grazed your knee -- don't pick at it! Secondary infections set in because the skin is damaged; by picking at the skin you're exposing more of the delicate tissues under the skin, making things worse.> What now? <Grab either Maracyn or eSHa 2000 depending on where you live. Don't mess about with other medications. We know these medications work! Dose and use EXACTLY as the leaflet says. Do not alter anything through the treatment. Make sure there is no carbon in the filter. If this catfish is on its own, don't feed it while treating; that'll keep the water a bit cleaner.> Chris <Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fungus on Pleco's head? 9/20/08
Today is the 19th and I have done the treatment that you recommended. do you think this looks good? It is getting bigger.
<That's actually pretty nasty, and looks like an ulcer, seemingly coincident with the nostril. If Maracyn isn't working, switch to Maracyn 2 (Minocycline). These two medications have complimentary actions, one working on gram-positive bacteria, the other gram-negative. In other words, if Maracyn doesn't work, Maracyn 2 should do.>
Also, I have another 55 gallon tank that is overrun with bright green, furry algae. I have tried everything to get rid of it - closed tank for months and have taken it down, cleaned and put back. What do you recommend? Chris
<I'm guessing these is Blue-green Algae. This stuff looks like slimy, matted threads, and can have a dark blue-green colour. When removed from the water it has a very distinctive musty smell. Anyway, it's impossible to "eliminate" unless you fix the conditions in the tank. Blue-green Algae (BGA) is almost always a sign of three things: poor water circulation, high nitrate/phosphate concentration, and direct sunlight. Could easily be two or three of these. Often a real pest in overstocked, under-filtered tanks. Review, and act accordingly. The stuff could be Red Algae. Despite this name, freshwater varieties are green! Anyway, doesn't have the same smell as BGA and looks more like turf or long (often dark blue-black) threads. Most commonly infests solid objects and around the edges of plant leaves. Again, plague levels of Red Algae are difficult to fix because nothing much eats it vigorously, though Siamese Algae Eaters and a few other species will peck at minor infestations sufficiently well to keep them in check. The only 100% reliable way to control Red Algae is to provide intense lighting and use lots of fast-growing plant species. Somehow, and no-one really understands why, fast-growing plants have a strongly negative effect on these types of algae. Ensuring the nitrate/phosphate level is low will also help, particularly if you manually remove Red Algae on sight. It's worth mentioning that none of the fish or snails sold as "algae eaters" have much use in controlling outbreaks of either Red or Blue-Green Algae. Controlling algae is almost entirely about getting the environment right, in particular by balancing the fish with healthy, fast-growing plants. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Pleco? Hlth... 9/29/08
Hello it's me again. My Pleco still looks no better and I've done the treatment twice...just wait a little longer?
<If you've tried Maracyn, try switching to Maracyn 2. These two drugs treat different sets of bacteria, so often when Maracyn fails, Maracyn 2 works. Certainly do a water change between starting a different medication.>
thanks for your help Chris
<Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco head -10/28/08 Hi I've been speaking with Neale about a Pleco with some kind of growth on his head. The water is fine, he is acting fine but the growth has not went away. I have tried 2 5-day treatments of Maracyn and Maracyn 2. It is in his nostril and has ripped it open. the ulcer itself looks like fleshy, popcorn. Any suggestions? Chris <Hi Chris. If I recall correctly, the nostril has been infected. On the plus side, on fish the nostrils don't connect to anything important, so the infection isn't likely to be fatal. But the infection will certainly take a long time to fade away; the dead tissue will need to fall away, and then the wound close up. This will surely take some months. Antibacterial medications are the best you can do to speed things up, so far as I can judge. Use them carefully and not excessively (wait a few weeks to a month after one treatment and then decide if it needs to be used again). You're essentially trying to make sure things don't get worse, and then wait for the fish's immune and repair systems to put right the damage. Cheers, Neale.>

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