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FAQs on Freshwater Infectious (bacterial, fungal) Diseases: Columnaris, Chondrococcus, Flexibacter Disease

Related Articles: Freshwater Fish Diseases, Freshwater DiseasesFW Disease Troubleshooting, Choose Your Weapon: Freshwater Fish Disease Treatment Options by Neale Monks, Understanding Bacterial Disease in Aquarium Fish; With a gallery of bacterial infections, a discussion of Fish TB, and a listing of major antimicrobial medications with examples available to fishkeepers By Myron Roth, Ph.D.,

Related FAQs: Infectious (bacterial, fungal, viral) Disease 1, Infectious FW Diseases 2, Infectious FW Disease 3, Infectious FW Disease 4, Infectious FW Disease 5, & Infectious Disease: Identification/Diagnosis, Causes/Etiology/Prevention, Cures/Medications, Case Histories: Bacterial, True Fungal, & By Type/Organisms: Fin & Mouth RotMycobacteria/Tuberculosis, Whirling Disease, Bettas w/ Infections,


Often enough the generic secondary bacterial infection labeled as mouth, body "fungus"

probable Columnaris    5/1/12
Hi,
I have been reading your answers for a couple of years now and have learned a lot.
<Cool.>
I have had a problem with my 240 Gallon display tank now for over a year.
The infection started after I introduced some fish that had ICK in their gills after quarantine of 3 weeks with no outside symptoms. I raised the water temp to 85 over a week for treatment and it killed the ICK but brought on this infection.
<I see.>
My fish seem to have Columnaris. Not all the fish have symptoms and some of the fish that have the symptoms get better.
<Columnaris is also known as Mouth Fungus. It's similar to Finrot and Fungus in causes. It's not temperature-related, so any apparent connection there is unlikely. On the other hand, it is environment-related, so do check water quality, water chemistry, social behaviour, etc.>
The tank is filtered with a Fluval FX 5,a Sun Sun 305,a Maxi Jet 400 power head and an Aqua Clear 110 power head. I have both the power heads set up as DIY sponge filters. There are about 80 big fish and about 20 babies at this time. I have a mixture of African cichlids, South American cichlids, Rainbowfish and a few others. The water parameters are: Ammonia- 0,Nitrite -0, Nitrate -10, temp 76, ph -7.6 to 7.8.
<An odd mix of species (if your "African" cichlids are Malawian or Tanganyikan species) for this water chemistry. West African cichlids (like Kribs) would be fine with South Americans and Rainbows, but I can't imagine Mbuna or even things like Julidochromis from Tanganyika getting along well with South Americans. Differences in environmental requirements and personality are just too great.>
I have the tank decorated with wood and lime stone rocks. I do 35% water changes weekly with gravel vacuuming and clean the filters about every 2 to 3 months as needed. I feed HBH Natural 8 Veggie Flake twice daily and supplement with fresh veggies like Cucumber, Romaine Lettuce, Squash.
<Fine.>
The rainbow fish are the ones effected with their fins eroding and their bodies with patches of gray areas and some loss of scales.
<Ah, I see.>
I have treated the tank with Melafix/ Pimafix combo,
<Useless.>
Acuflavin, Kanamycin/Furan II combo, Triple Sulfur, Maracyn II, and probably some I can't remember. At this time I am doing twice a week 35% water changes and am keeping aquarium salt in it at 1 tsp/gal. I haven't lost any fish in over 4 months and lost about 10 fish at the start of the infection and 4 more 4 months ago. I had to remove all my live plants due to the salt use.
Please help. I don't know what else to do other than tearing down the tank and starting over again which I would hate to do since it has been established now for about 3 years. I have also spent a small fortune in meds for this problem. Thank you.
Sherry
<Columnaris is almost always environmental, but can be triggered by fighting. Rainbowfish do need to be kept in fairly large groups, with more females than males, otherwise the males can squabble. On top of this, they need good, oxygen-rich water, and my gut feeling here is that your tank is overstocked or otherwise "not right" in terms of filtration and/or water changes. I'd sit down and review the aquarium, thinking about the species being kept. Also, what's the hardness? Rainbows usually want fairly hard water, 10-15 degrees dH, and in soft water tend to be very prone to disease. Does this help? As for treatment, any reliable Finrot medication should work, but only if the environment is correct. Don't forget to remove carbon while treating (if you use carbon, and you shouldn't really). Neale.>

Help diagnose?   12/28/11
Hi crew,
<Rick>
I have a pair of female endler guppies housed with some Sailfin mollies and Flagfish in my 46-gallon planted tank. (They  One of these two fish has developed a cloudy white patch on her right side from about the gill to the distance of the anal fin.
<I see this in your successive email>
  she also seems to be somewhat swollen, possibly from fluid retention, though I have not seen any dropsy pineconing.  The fish is still quite active and eats normally.  I want to emphasize that this appears only on one side of the fish and does not appear to be spreading.  Her left side looks normal and none of the other fish appear to be affected.
Unfortunately, I have been unable to catch her for quarantine and I have not yet been able to get a photo.
<Use two nets. REMOVE the afflicted fish/es immediately>
My first guess was Columnaris.
<Mine too>

  Because she is still eating normally, I have been feeding with a flake medicated for gram-negative bacteria. 
After four days there is no sign of improvement, so I will be discontinuing this treatment to try something else.
<VERY hard to cure... see my writings on WWM... Neomycin Sulfate and a few other med.s have proven (at times) efficacious>
I still prefer to treat with medicated food since she does feed normally.
I have available food for treating gram positive infections, and food for treating Protozoans.  Problem is, I'm not sure what I am facing.
<Requires microscopic examination of samples... some staining perhaps...
sensitivity testing... See Ed Noga's work/s re...>
 Costia crossed my mind as one possibility,
<Nah, or not likely. Else all would be similarly afflicted>
 so I am leaning toward trying the protozoan flake next, but I have not seen this fish flashing.  In fact, the fish behaves as if nothing at all is wrong with her.
Can you think of anything I missed?
<Just (like me) knowledge. BobF>
--
Rick Novy

photos of affected fish   12/28/11
Here are some photos of the fish I wrote about last evening.  These aren't particularly good photos but better than nothing.  I'm including one of the normal and the ill side of this fish.
Rick
<Thanks. B>

Re: Help diagnose? Chondrococcus, Endler's  12/28/11
Hi Bob,
Thanks for the feedback.
<Welcome>
You know, this fish gave me fits the last time I tried to net her.  Two nets is standard operating procedure for me in any tank larger than a few gallons, and I chased her for a good 45 minutes the last attempt.  Today, I hardly got the net wet before I managed to snare her.  Go figure.
Anyway, I now have her quarantined in one of those 2-1/2 gallon mini bow front plastic tanks, so I can be a lot more aggressive.
I have two antibiotics on hand, API tetracycline and Mardel Maracyn (containing erythromycin). I have plenty of both for the small tank, but I'm inclined to go with the Maracyn if only because the product explicitly states Columnaris on the box.
I'll wait a few hours in case you scream "No! Use the tetracycline!"  
But, I suspect these two antibiotics will have similar effect.  If I see no improvement by Monday, I'll go hunting for something containing Neomycin Sulfate.
<Likely too late then>
Do you think I need to do anything to the tank she came out of?
<Too likely too late there to do anything of use either. The fish will resist the pathogen or not. I would bleach the system if all die. B>
  I can easily continue feeding those fish the antibiotic flake food for a few days.
Rick
Re: Help diagnose? 12/29/11

Bob,
I will let you know how it turns out.
Rick
<Thank you. B>

Re: Help diagnose?    1/14/12
HI Bob,
<Rick>
Update for you.
<Good>
It looks like it's probably not Columnaris as I expect this fish would be dead by now if it were.
<Agreed>

  Also, none of the mollies, Flagfish, nor the other endler female in the main tank show any signs if infection at all.
I treated the endler female with erythromycin and had some limited success, but it did not completely cure her. I left her in the bath for an additional week without any more improvement. I am currently removing the meds with carbon and will try tetracycline in a few days, putting her back on the medicated food at the same time.
Rick
<Nice to have a scraping, culture... Cheers, BobF>
Re: Help diagnose?    1/14/12

I could get a scraping. Unfortunately, I'm not enough of a biologist to really know what to do with it.
RN
<Requires just one bit of gear... a decent microscope... If you have interest, get hold of a copy of Ed Noga's "Fish Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment", 1st or 2d ed.... and have a read. Cheers, BobF>

Columnaris    9/29/11
Dear Crew
<Patrick... am thinking musically now... Bruno Mars, "Today I don't feel like doing anything"...>
Hope you are having as much wonderful weather as we are experiencing in the UK for this time of year!
<Is fab here in N. Fiji, though a bit rainy last night>
I have two 30 gallon tanks that are usually very settled. However, the past few days has experienced a rapid outbreak of Columnaris.
<Trouble... very aggressive w/ certain species... esp. Poeciliids>
I have removed those fish that appear particularly affected to a hospital tank but due to the amount of fish affected (basically about 25 guppies in each tank - a few adults and many juveniles) I decided to treat both tanks with Esha2000 (this is day 1 - the LFS advised double dose which I have tried in one tank).
<Mmm, I do hope this works. The olde timey remedy of choice used to be Neomycin Sulfate, and/but I can't recall what I heard a couple months back at the UNE fish health conf. re>
What I am experiencing is that the female guppies (with the double dose) that are maturing are tail nipping the older females constantly. Also, they all went very still when the medication was added to the tank and now all fish are flashing quite furiously. One guppy in particular appears to be going quite insane and darting around the tank as if chased by a bee (obviously not of course!). Would you say this is due to the effects of the treatment?
<Yes>
The double dose?
<Likely so>
I've tested the tank for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate - all fine at (0, 0 and 0.5ppm respectively).
I'm preparing myself for the worst! I just don't understand how it came about so quickly when there appeared to be no/little stress yet appeared in both tanks almost simultaneously.
<Likely introduced w/ a new fish>
I've since cleaned all external tank equipment in some eSHa 2000 with tank water as a preventative.
best
Dr Patrick Nunn
<And you, doo doo doo doo doot. Bob Fenner>
Re: Columnaris    10/1/11

Bob
<Pat>
Many thanks to you for your advice. I love your humour! I was thinking.... musically..... Donny Osmond - "And they call it, Guppy loooooove...."
<Have sung this tune w/ the changed lyric meself!>
I've not introduced any new fish for quite some time so I am not sure if that is how all the Columnaris problems began.
<Mmm, well... symptomatically... could be summat else than Chondrococcus>
Possibly from the maturing lyre tail guppies as they seem (both male and female) to constantly nip the dragon tail guppies. Also, some are getting rather old now (about 12 to 18 months?). Maybe as the juvenile guppies have turned into adults the tanks have just become more stressful environmentally for the older ones.
I'm on day three of using ESHa 2000. We have restricted medication here in the UK and although I do have some aquatic broad-spectrum antibiotics, I am loathed to use them due to the re-cycling issue in the tanks (our tap water is also quite high in nitrites making frequent water changes quite problematic). Overall, most of the fish appear to be stable (the older ones who are infected worsening slightly).
<Columnaris presents itself as rapid, total mortality. Coincidentally, am currently reading Frank Herbert's 1982 "White Plague">
I decided to do a mass salt dip today for all guppies and two fork-tailed rainbow fish that also show signs of the bacteria infection - 1 tablespoon of rock salt to 1 litre of tank water for 5 min.s. then gently re-introducing tank water to their dip to gradually lower salinity until almost diluted/reduced to zero for 30 min.s before returning them to the tank. I've also separated the female lyre tail guppies into a smaller net to give the dragon tails some breathing space from their harassment.
Fingers crossed it will help.
I'm not sure I can do anything else now - temperature reduced in one tank to 74 degrees F, the other regrettably in a room that is suffering from the Indian summer here in the UK with tank temperature around 80 degrees F.
<Mmm>
One male dwarf Cherry Gourami is now showing a little spot on his side (can't quite tell if it is an injury or the beginnings of Columnaris). Of course, I am unable to salt dip him due to the stress it will incur.
Any other things I can do to aid the situation?
<Not really, no>
Should I continue with ESHa 2000 past the three day treatment (with a water change in between)?
<I likely would; yes>
Continue daily salt dips for the guppies?
<If you think this is doing any good>
Do a large water change anyway to reduce the bacteria load (with the risk of slightly raising the nitrite level to say 0.1ppm?)
<Mmm, not too large... I'd limit such changes to about twenty percent a day>
Clean out the filters (usually cleaned once a week anyway)?
<Stick to this routine>
I've heard faster water stream helps - although not sure if I can do this on both tanks.
best
Dr Patrick Nunn
<And you and your fishes. BobF>

strange marking on Guppy mouth (RMF, Columnaris?) <<>>   9/26/11
<<Unfortunately appears so. I would IMMEDIATELY aggressively treat for (Neomycin sulfate), and euthanize/remove this most mal-affected specimen. BobF>>
Hi Crew
Trust you have all had a great weekend so far.
<Very good, thanks; and hope yours good too.>
Earlier today I noticed that one of my female guppies had strange white around her mouth and her left eye looked a bit cloudy see pix attached is this something to worry about?
<Yes.>
Ammonia 0
Nitrites 0
Nitrates 5
Tank size 100 lt
6 adults
25 juvenile females (small in size)
3 fork tail blue eye rainbow fish
2 Platies
1 Gourami Colisa labiosa
many thanks for your help in advance.
<Do think this is Columnaris, also called "Mouth Fungus" despite being a bacterial infection. Quite common among livebearers. Usually indicates some environmental stress, typically water that is too soft, too acidic, or too cold. Do review conditions. Fancy Guppies need middling to high temperatures, 25-28 C; moderately hard to very hard water, 10-30 degrees dH; and pH levels between 7.5-8.5. The addition of marine aquarium salt at 2 g/l (about a teaspoon per US gallon) is a major plus, but may stress the
Gourami (the Rainbows won't mind). In any case, medicate as per Columnaris, taking care to remove carbon from the filter. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: More re: strange marking on Guppy mouth (RMF, Columnaris?)   9/26/11
Hi Bob
<BJ>
Many thanks for your reply - I have treated the guppy with Furnol2
<? What is this? According to Google, furniture polish? A Furacyn product?
Not likely efficacious>
for 30 min.s in a separate container.
Have place her back in main tank with in a separate small birthing net.
<... not a good idea to put this fish back in w/ the others>
Is this ok or should I remove her completely (euthanise).
<I would do the latter. Do please search on WWM... the search tool on every page... w/ the term "Columnaris"... NOW. BobF>
BJ

Re: More re: strange marking on Guppy mouth (RMF, Columnaris?) 9/26/11
Love your sense of humour your a cool guy I meant JBL Furanol 2.
<Heeeee!>
Will follow your advice.
Many thanks
BJ
<As many welcomes. B>

Re: Columnaris   10/4/11
Bob
<Pat>
Just wanted to say that after five days of Esha2000 treatment and careful monitoring (as well as euthanasia of four badly infected fish / fish with dropsy), the tank appears to be settling and those with some cotton mouth / eye coverage are in remission.
<Very good news. Generally there's real trouble w/ these cases>
I haven't done any water changes yet but with a combination of less food (brine shrimp rather than flake food) Esha2000 treatment, lowering the tank temperatures (as far as I am able) to 74 degrees, it appears to be having positive results. Hopefully in a few days, all signs of cotton mouth will have gone and I can start to introduce some water changes to bring the tanks back to non-medicated states.
Thanks for all your help and support. I almost gave up on keeping fish but have decided to keep going, but not to replace my stock with guppies (they are just too genetically weak). However, some important learnings have been taken on board!
Many thanks as ever,
Pat
<"I'm in the mood for a moray, simply because they're finless... No P1's or pelvics, I'm in the mood for an eel". Cheers, BobF>
Re: Columnaris

"I'm in the mood for a moray, simply because they're finless... No P1's or pelvics, I'm in the mood for an eel"
what's the song Bob? I don't know the original fishless version.
Pat
<Ahh, sub "amore" for the corrupted " a moray"...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I'm_in_the_Mood_for_Love
BobF>

Treating Fish in Display Tank to Prevent Columnaris  1/29/10
Hello,
<Hello Lisa,>
I've noted over the last few days that my male red swordtail was not as evident in the tank as he had usually been.
<Oh?>
Tonight I made a close search through the plants and finally located him sitting low under a piece of driftwood. He had clear signs of Columnaris, with the saddleback discoloration, discoloured patches on his body and a mouth full of cotton. I immediately removed him to a hospital tank and will treat him with appropriate medications and fingers crossed!
<Do remember a small hospital tank with poor water quality offers no benefit at all; oftentimes it's better to treat the whole tank if that means avoiding some 2.5 gallon death trap. I wouldn't keep a Swordtail in a hospital tank much smaller than 10 gallons.>
Meanwhile, I now have a 30 gallon display tank and a number of fish who have all been exposed to this. Included in my tank are two angels, a Farlowella gracilis, a Corydoras,
<It's Corydoras; like "sheep", both the plural and the singular are the same.>
three Oto cats, two female swords, a school of six rummy nose tetras and one rock shrimp.
<Do be aware many medications will kill shrimps; copper in particular is highly toxic to them.>
Ammonia is 0, pH 7.2, KH 180 ppm, GH 150 ppm, nitrite 0, nitrate 5.
<Fine.>
At this point I don't see any other fish exhibiting signs of illness. What is the risk to the rest of the occupants in this tank? I have to assume that the male sword does not have the most virulent form of Columnaris because he's clearly been hiding for a few days with this.
<Perhaps.>
Should I go ahead and treat the rest of the tank on a preventative basis?
<No.>
And if so, what treatment would you recommend for a tank stocked with five catfish and a shrimp!
<Nothing with copper in. Because Columnaris and Finrot are latent in all tanks, "prevention" is meaningless. If the fish are healthy, they'll resist those bacteria just fine. If the fish are weakened somehow, then they'll get sick.>
Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks,
Lisa
<Good luck, Neale.>

Re: Treating Fish in Display Tank to Prevent Columnaris   1/31/2010
Thanks for your quick reply Neale.
<My pleasure.>
My swordtail is currently swimming by himself in a cycled, lightly planted tank, so not too worried about stress from him feeling crowded. Just crossing my fingers he's not too far gone.
<I hope so too.>
If I need to treat the display tank at some point if others get sick I can put my shrimp in with the swordtail (assuming he survives this).
In a worst case scenario like that, what treatment would you recommend, given all my various catfish...
<I don't know what medications are sold in your part of the world. Here in England, I've found eSHa 2000, which contains Rivanol, copper, and methyl orange, work safely with my catfish and pufferfish. It treats Finrot, Columnaris and Fungus. In general though, catfish keepers try to avoid copper and formalin if at all possible, so try to find medications that don't contain either of these ingredients. If you have no choice but to use something with copper or formalin, at least use them carefully, and observe your catfish for signs of negative reaction: gasping at the surface, laboured breathing, and so on.>
I know a lot of meds need to be dosed at half strength with cats in the tank...just wondering what would be safest and still likely to do the job?
<I'm not a big fan of the "half dose" approach; many of these medications work reliably only at the stated dose on the package, and I certainly don't have the training in veterinarian science to be confident about changing doses. Half doses can create problems by knocking back an infection without actually curing it, so the disease comes back a few weeks later.
Alternatively, a half dose might not even work at all, so you end up with a dead fish. I'd sooner choose medications that are safe for use around catfish, and use them at the full dose, i.e., ones that don't contain copper or formalin; Methylene blue for example has been widely used for treating catfish affected by fungus, and of course salt works very well against whitespot. It's important to be clear that catfish aren't uniquely sensitive to medications than any other fish. Indeed, there are lots of other fish groups at least as sensitive, or a good deal more sensitive.
Loaches, Mormyrids, stingrays, pufferfish and moray eels are all examples of fish equally or more sensitive to copper and formalin. On the other hand, other fish aren't magically immune to copper and formalin.
Livebearers, barbs, tetras and so on happen to be a bit less sensitive than, say, catfish, but slightly higher doses will kill them just as quickly. So it's all about getting the right amount of antibacterial medication to kill the infection while not killing the fish. Compared with antibiotics, which target just bacteria, antibacterial medications (copper, formalin, organic dyes) kill everything they touch, we just try to minimise the harm done to the fish by getting just the right dose into the aquarium.
If you have fish that may react badly to antibacterial medications, then antibiotics are the safest and best way forward. On the plus side, antibacterial medications are cheap, don't need a prescription, and generally reliable without being complicated by the gram-positive, gram-negative issue that makes choosing the right antibiotic difficult.>
Thanks again in advance,
Lisa
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Brain damaged Flowerhorn? 7/2/09
Flowerhorn With Columnaris

He has been improving greatly, taking pellets, then this am I see this.. I cannot find anything on your site and don't think it is Columnaris but I thought I would ask you. What is it and what med should I use?
<In a hospital tank, I would treat with an antibiotic like Nitrofurazone or Erythromycin type of antibiotics. The little white columns are actually a characteristic of Columnaris.-Chuck>

Re: Brain damaged Flowerhorn? 7/2/09
Indication of Columnaris

Is it the larger white spot with the surrounding red or the flaking white spiky things that indicate Columnaris? (for my forums understanding as I have posted pics) Thank you again so much. Lisa
< The spiky white things are Columnaris. The big hole could be hole in the head /trauma/or a bacterial infection. Treat with the antibiotics as recommended. Get the nitrates down to under 20 ppm with water changes and gravel vacuuming.-Chuck>

Mollies with Columnaris and Ich 03/22/09
Hello Crew,
<Hello Carla,>
I'm in a bit of a quandary. I purchased three mollies the day before yesterday, and placed them in my cycled 10 gallon quarantine tank (pH: 8.1, ammonia: 0, nitrites: 0, nitrates: 0 -- I had a bunch of extra cuttings so
the tank is stuffed with live plants).
<Mollies don't do well in small tanks. They're very sensitive to nitrate as well as ammonia/nitrite, and in small tanks it is very difficult to keep them healthy for long. Minimum tank size for small Mollies (Shortfin
mollies, black mollies, balloon mollies) is 20+ gallons, while large Mollies (Sailfin mollies, liberty mollies) is over 30 gallons.>
Unfortunately yesterday I observed that one of the mollies had what we used to call cotton mouth or mouth fungus.
<Very common with Mollies, especially when kept in freshwater conditions.>
I understand, from researching your site, that this is likely Columnaris (bacterial).
<Indeed. You will need a suitable antibiotic or antibacterial (as opposed to a make-believe solution such as tea-tree oil or salt.>
Today I also observed two Ich spots (sure glad I quarantined). I was going to go the salt + heat route, but I learned (also from researching your site), that Columnaris grows faster with higher heat.
<Your options are limited here, but in this case, I'd raise the salinity to deal with the Ick, and treat with an antibiotic/antibacterial at the same time. Since Mollies are best kept at SG 1.003, I'd recommend 6 grammes of marine salt mix per litre of water. There's not much point trying to keep Mollies in a freshwater aquarium because they rarely (seemingly, less than 50% of the time) do well. You're also fighting with one hand behind your back because the tank is so small, so a difficult job is being made twice as hard.>
My questions are: Should I raise the heat, and how I can treat both the Columnaris and Ich concurrently? Also, should I remove my plants?
<Plants will not be affected by antibiotics or antibacterials used correctly, and a salinity of SG 1.003 is fine for hardy, salt-tolerant plants.>
Thanks very much for your help and your wonderful website.
Carla
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Mollies with Columnaris and Ich   3/23/09
Thanks very much for your help. The Mollies are currently in a ten gallon tank because they are in quarantine (their permanent home will be a 40-gallon heavily-planted breeder tank).
<Ah, that makes sense. A 40-gallon system will be perfect.>
The water parameters of that tank are:
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0
pH: 8.2
Carbonate hardness: approximately 200 mg/L CaCO3
<That's 200/17.8 = 11.2 degrees KH. That's extremely high, and while perfect for Mbuna or Central American livebearers, a lot of other fish will find that a bit on the hard side for their tastes. Do be aware when choosing fish and plants.>
Their tankmates will be Wrestling Halfbeaks, Scarlet Badis, White Clouds, and Threadfin Rainbows.
<Halfbeaks will thrive, the others should tolerate, but may not show optimal colours or longevity.>
I was hoping the Mollies would do well without salt because of the high pH and hardness, and I wasn't sure (aside from the Halfbeaks) whether the plants and other residents would appreciate the salt.
<Plants that tolerate hard water generally do well in slightly brackish water too; species such as Vallisneria, Hygrophila, Java ferns, hardy Crypts, etc. If you have plants that need soft water, chances are they
aren't going to thrive a this level of carbonate hardness either, so it's a moot point. As for the fish: Halfbeaks tolerate salt well, but the others are truly freshwater fish.>
But I will add salt and remove some of the other residents and non-salt tolerant plants if necessary.
<Would be my recommendation. Mollies deserve a tank of their own: they're spectacular fish, and wonderful pets. But they are finicky in freshwater systems. They need perfect water quality. You might decide to medicate them in the quarantine tank, and when they're healthy again, try them out in a plain freshwater tank. With luck, you'll be okay. But if you find you're constantly having to deal with Fungus and Finrot, remove the Minnows, Rainbows and Badis, add a little salt, and maintain the system at SG 1.002-1.003.>
I've started to slowly raise the salinity of the quarantine tank, and I'm off to the LFS to pick up the antibiotic and a hydrometer. I believe we have Maracyn and Maracyn II available here (Canada), so I will purchase
both.
<Cool.>
A couple more questions, if you'll bear with me:
<Of course.>
Which Maracyn product would be most effective against Columnaris?
<Maracyn rather than Maracyn 2 is usually used first. It contains Erythromycin, which should work on Flexibacter Columnaris.>
If the Mollies recover, when would it be safe to place them into my main tank (so that Columnaris does not contaminate that tank).
<Columnaris, like Finrot, is a disease latent in all tanks, and the bacteria involved is presumably harmless most of the time. It appears not because a fish "caught" the disease, but because the fish was somehow
weakened, and its immune system overwhelmed. So provided the other fish are healthy, you shouldn't worry about cross-contamination.>
Thanks again...
<No probs.>
Carla
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Mollies with Columnaris and Ich - Update 04/03/09
Thanks very much, Neale, for your advice. Just thought I would give you an update on the Mollies. I used the salt + heat treatment for the Ick, and the Ick has disappeared.
<Good.>
For the mouth rot, I couldn't find Maracyn at my LFS, so I used TC capsules (tetracycline). The mouth rot hung around during the course of the treatment (5 days), and then I had an ammonia spike (the packaging on the TC capsules claims that they will not affect the biological filter, but I suspect otherwise).
<Oh dear.>
Unfortunately one of the Mollies died (oddly, it was the healthiest, dominant female).
<Sorry to hear that; I wonder why?>
I subsequently performed 75% water changes for the next several days to control the ammonia, used activated carbon to remove the tetracycline, then added some nice filthy filter media from my other tank to repopulate the nitrifying bacteria. Over the next several days, the mouth rot on the remaining Mollies disappeared, but I'm not sure if I can attribute it to the tetracycline or the water changes.
<It's a combination: the antibiotic kills off the bacteria, but improved water quality allows the fish's immune system to repair the damage and prevent re-infection>
Anyway, the remaining Mollies have recovered, and in a week or so, I will remove them from quarantine and place them in my 40-gallon tank.
<Great.>
Also, you were right, the salt did not seem to affect my plants (Hygrophila polysperma, Hygrophila corymbosa, Rotala rotundifolia, Java Moss, and Bacopa monnieri).
<Not sure about Rotala, but certainly the others are happy in brackish water, let alone slightly salty/warm water of the sort used to treat Ick.>
Thanks again for your help,
Carla
<Thanks for the update, Neale.>

Sick fish... Guppies, Columnaris?   11/6/07 Ok I have a 75 gallon fish tank perfect ammonia ph Everything! <... Punctuation...> However I have lost many female guppies to this weird disease, it only happens to females and it comes over there belly like over there gravid spot up to their back and its their scales that sort of puff up and lift off their body yet don't fall out. <Yikes!> Eventually I separate them and then after a while they die. I have given them a bit of salt everyday and some quick cure <Toxic> I lost about 5 to 7 guppies and for a while it went away, they had a billion babies ,and then all of the sudden it came back I don't get it. I thought for a while it was ich because they would flick themselves off rocks and stuff, but why would it only happen to the girls and it isn't how the books describe it. also I have one female that has been with me since the beginning and about 2 to 3 weeks ago she got this round golden thing under her skin on her back. It's so odd and now it's like starting to bulge out of her back. please help I have searched every here nobody can tell what it is. I love my guppies and don't want anymore to die. thank you. <Your situation sounds very much like "Columnaris" disease... see the Net, WWM re Chondrococcus... likely Neomycin sulfate... Bob Fenner> Re: sick fish. Guppies, Columnaris? Child?   11/07/07 Thank you I Have kept the most recent sick guppy and the scales have stopped protruding yet they are still white and a bit weird looking. I have not given her any salt for a while and she looks better, <See WWM re salt use> I was starting to think it was dropsy but I have never seen a guppy with dropsy or only happening to females? <No> but I'll keep searching. As for the fish that had the golden bulge on her back I checked her out today and it was red and it looked like it exploded in her back you can see a blood streak in her back stretching to her belly, what happened! was it a sea tick or something ? <... no... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/guppydisfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Sick guppies. Columnaris?  10/17/07 Hi, We have had quite a few guppies over the past few months. We recently introduced some new guppy fish and ever since they have been dying, most have developed a white velvety/moldy substance on their sides. At first we thought it could have been velvet disease however upon further reading we have come to doubt this as velvet is described to be yellowish in colour and this is pure white, we have also used velvet control treatment, however to no avail. Also one of the females has developed large white rings around her eyes which look like they could be some sort of fungal infection. <Mmm, much more likely bacterial> I have searched the internet and cannot find anything relating to this. <Look for the term "Columnaris"... or the genus Chondrococcus... and "fish disease"> We have a catfish, a spotted Plec and three black harlequins in our tank which we have had sense the tank was first set up which have remained unaffected. We have done tests on our ammonia levels, PH, nitrate which have all been fine. Can you think of anything which this could be and what is causing it? <Was likely either introduced with some livestock... and/or favored by "stress", some sort of deficiency...> We are going to completely change the water tonight and clean the tank which we are hoping will get rid of any infection in the water. Any advice would be much appreciated, Best regards Emily and John P.S they have also had more babies recently, will they be affected do you know? <Please see this piece: http://aem.asm.org/cgi/reprint/17/2/333.pdf re Neomycin, Polymixin use... Needs to be addressed ASAP. Bob Fenner>

Guppy Dying, Columnaris   6/24/07 Dear WWM, <Ws> Good morning. <And to you> I just setup a new fresh water tank for my daughter. 200L, I get the water ready 4 weeks ago and before I put in the new bought fishes, I put in a few of my current batch of fishes from my other tank (which I have it for >1 year). After confirming no problem, I then put in 8 Guppies (2 male, 6 female), 4 gold fish (small one, 1" length). <Not good to mix tropicals and goldfish... see WWM re> The tank is ok for first 2 days, then I put in some stone/rock. The 3rd day, I found 2 male guppies died + 2 gold fish. I notice another female guppy has discoloration at tail (the shape is ok, no broken/rotten). It die on the same day (3rd day night). <I see this and it's not good...> The discoloration is somehow from about 1mm.sq. area propagate to the whole tail then infect the body within 10 hours. On the 4th day, another one was infected and die on the next day too. Today (5th day), found another has discoloration again (attach photos). After reading some of your articles, I put in some anti-bacteria yesterday, but looking at I still get more infection, I quarantine the infected female guppy and put in some para-guard (from Seachem), and now it turn up-side-down. <Which antibiotic? Most will NOT treat for this> The 2 gold fish is fine, and I put in another 2 new bubble goldfish yesterday and didn't notice any abnormality too. Can you advise? Thanks. Rgds, Ws teoh <This looks very much like Columnaris Disease... see re this term and Chondrococcus on WWM, the Net... Again, I would not mix these fishes... WOULD likely just stick with the goldfish at this point. Bob Fenner>

Re: Guppy Dying - 6/25/07 Hi Bob, thanks. my daughter (8 years old) very surprise that there are "fish doctor" in the internet. Ha! Ha! She ask me to thank you (she has been asking a few times to make sure I do send out this message)... :) thanks a lot. Rgds, ws teoh <Welcome my friend. Life to you and your daughter. BobF>

Treating Columnaris in Dwarf Gourami - 11/09/2005 Crew, <Hello, Jason.> Yesterday I purchased two male Dwarf Gouramis who currently reside in a cycled QT of 10 gallons. To my dismay, when I checked in on them this morning one of them clearly had white fuzz/residue on its side. <Oh, dear....> After a bit of research I concluded that this fuzz was likely Flexibacter Columnaris, <Entirely possible.> a bacterial infection that, as per my understanding, causes fin rot, body rot and mouth "fungus".  <Essentially.> Now, I have a Betta that susceptible to fin rot, so I guess I am well acquainted with Columnaris. <Mm, possibly.... there are many other things that can cause fin rot.... bacteria and others.> My reaction was to treat both Gouramis with Tetracycline.  <IMO, a good reaction.> My fears were confirmed later on when the white fuzz developed into red sores on the side of the sick Gourami. Now both Gouramis are in the corner, panting near the surface of the water. Is there anything to be done aside from Tetracycline and hope for the best?  <Tetracycline is a good option. I would continue treatment with this for up to two weeks.... Kanamycin sulfate would be another good option. Perhaps my first choice would be Oxytetracycline in food. Be monitoring ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate closely; maintain optimal water quality. It would also be a good idea at this time to increase aeration to aid these fish in breathing a little easier.> -Jason <Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Clown loaches 'n' Columnaris Hi - I purchased 3 clown loaches about 3 or 4 weeks ago. They've seemed fine until about 3 days ago.  1 of them has white around his mouth. Could it be cotton mouth?  How would I treat this?   <This sounds like Columnaris (mouth fungus, mouth rot, other names).  I would treat with a broad spectrum antibiotic like Oxytetracycline, preferably in a medicated food, if possible.> I had something similar about a year ago that started with a Dojo and 14 of my 19 fish perished.  I treated it with Penicillin upon advice from a local fish store.  I have a 29 gal tank. Testing yesterday showed everything was fine. <What were your test results?  Usually this bacterial illness is brought on by high nitrates, perhaps a pH other than what the fish prefer, low oxygen concentrations, etc.> Thanks SG <Wishing your fish a swift recovery,  -Sabrina>

Stubborn Columnaris! Hi, A few days ago I sent a question regarding a stubborn case of Columnaris I seem to be having.  I didn't receive a reply, so maybe you didn't get it.  Anywho, what is the best/strongest med to treat this with?  I picked up some Ampicillex, which was expensive, but was hesitant to use it because it was very expensive, and other medications such as fungus clear tank buddies, MelaFix, Aquarisol, and Kanacyn have not worked.  It is a 55 gallon brackish tank, with 2 GSP's, 1 figure 8, 2 bumblebee gobies, 1 knight goby, and 1 green scat.  All inhabitants except for the BB's are still juveniles.  1 bumblebee has white slime on the edge of his fins, and they are fraying, the scat and the knight goby have a white sore on their upper lip.  The scat has a dot in the center of his eye, and a couple tiny holes in his tail fin.  ammonia and nitrite are 0, nitrate 20 or less, ph7.5, SG. 1.005.  I started using Ampicillex on Sunday, have seen some improvement with the scat's eye, and increased activity with the rest of the inhabitants, they seem happier, but the sores aren't going away.  Does this sound like Columnaris?  If this fails to work, is there a point where I should give up on meds?  If so, what else should I try? thanks, Dave >>Hello :)  Ampicillex, I assume is the same as Ampicillin, which I have used with great success on bacterial and fungal infections. It will kill your biofiltration, so take care to test your tank daily for any traces of ammonia and/or nitrite, and do water changes as needed. Re-treat every second day (following any necessary water changes). You started treating on Sunday January 25th? Three days is not a long time, you will need to keep medicating until you see signs that the disease is clearing up. This can be a slow process, I have treated stubborn cases that have taken minimum 2 weeks before improvement is seen. Treat for at least 5 doses, in other words, approximately 10 days, since you will be adding the Ampicillin every second day. Be patient and test your water!  -Gwen

Wooly Cotton, I think, and Ongoing Problems I have done an extensive search about Columnaris and have learned a lot.  However, my specific problems have not been discussed.  I will try to be brief, and appreciate any help you may be able to offer. I have a 29 gal community tank, established about a year ago without significant problems.  The fish are:  Betta, 3 barbs, 7 mollies (2 adult, 5 babies) 4 small Danios, a Pleco and catfish.  I had the Betta in the tank the entire time.  He had always done well.  One day I discovered a tiny spot of white fuzz, kept an eye on it, and concluded he needed help because it was getting bigger daily.  I hospitalized him, did major Internet searches and went to my fish dealer - and he suggested BettaFix.  After using BettaFix (Melaleuca) for one day I noticed a HUGE amount of fuzz floating throughout the entire bowl.  I continued medication; but after several days I decided I was doing something wrong (I could hardly see through the water by now, just full of what can best be described as LINT).  I did a water change with most of his water (using the tank water, I didn't want to shock him).  I went to the dealer again, explained the problem and he said to continue using the BettaFix - I had not given it enough time.  Highly skeptical I continued the treatment and did a daily water change of about 25% using FRESH tap water with a couple drops of TLC live bacteria and Stress Coat.  The fuzz in the water was reduced - but obviously controlled, not cured.  My Betta was hanging in there, as long as I continued the treatment exactly as I described.  After 2-3 weeks he just couldn't hang on anymore.  I waited over a month, and did weekly 10% water changes in my tank.  Purchased another Betta.  He developed the white fuzz over the entire main part of his body within 48 hours, and was dead only a few hours later!  My tank maintains a steady temp around 75, the nitrates are in the high-but-safe range, nitrites 0 - hard to tell with the color strips but definitely under .5, my tap is very hard water - around 300, alkalinity is blue - and I don't know what that means because the bottle only shows 'high 300' at green - but I'm certain it's above 300, and the ph level is around 8.4 (normal for this area).  I know that is high, but it is steady; I've been looking into ways to lower it (I saw something about rainwater, what is your opinion?)  My other fish have been absolutely unaffected in any way - even the babies - I have stable & happy fish! So in conclusion two questions:  1.)  Was it Columnaris and how would have been the RIGHT way to treat it (your suggestions in the site were spectrogram or fungus eliminator, right?); 2.) Do I need to treat my tank for it if I'm to put another Betta in it? < Bettas with other fish don't always work. The long flowing fins on the Betta wiggle back and forth and become too tempting for many fish like the barbs to leave alone. Typically I don't like to treat an entire tank if I don't have too. Medications affect the beneficial bacteria that reduce the toxic ammonia to less toxic nitrites and then to nitrates. First you need to determine what kind of infection you had. A true fungus does not attack healthy tissue. Damaged areas of the fish that may have been bitten or scraped sometimes developed fungus if the tank is not clean. So a body fungus as you describe sounds like a bacterial infection and not like a true fungus at all. It could have been Columnaris or some other bacteria. I have heard mixed results with BettaFix and personally don't use the stuff. Some aquarists have had favorable results but I am not aware on how the medication works and have seen any scientific data on in. I assume that it is a bacterial inhibiter but that is only a guess. I stick with antibiotics that I know work. I like Furanace to use on bacterial infections or erythromycin. Medications usually work better in softer water. Bettas come from soft acidic still pools in southeast Asia. If the conditions aren't right your Betta will become weak and have no immunity to diseases. That's why the Betta will get sick while the others seem unaffected. For info on changing water chemistry I would recommend you to Marineland.com and go to Dr. Tim's Library and check out the articles.-Chuck>

Discus pH shock/Columnaris Bob, I have a 75-gallon tank, containing nine 2" to 5" discus, several pairs of various Amazonian dwarf cichlids, a few Cory cats, a 7" diameter Guyana stingray (humerosa), and several other small dither fishes. All were doing well together, besides the stingray occasionally eating one of the smaller fishes, until I recently ordered online four (of the nine) young 2" to 3" discus, which quickly developed Columnaris.  I do at least a 25% water change twice a week. I use a Fluval 304 and an AquaClear 500 for filtration. I have about 15 plants (mostly swords and Anubias), which I supplement with a small CO2 system. I must have taken my previously good, stable water conditions for granted, for a day after adding the new discus I tested my pH: it was about 5 (the test didn't go any lower). The ammonia and nitrites remained at zero, while the nitrates hovered around .12 mg/L. The first night using 7.4 pH tap water, conditioned of course for chlorine and whatnot, I managed to raise the pH up to 6. The next day the older, larger discus also developed Columnaris; I've heard it can be quite contagious to other tankmates, or perhaps they developed it on their own as a result of pH shock. I believe that my original mistake was not correctly measuring the proper amount of discus buffer (to lower pH), which sent my normal 6.5 pH plummeting. For the first five days I treated the tank with tetracycline/hydrochloride, but the fish showed little recovery and one of the new ones died (a red spot green). I don't think they liked sitting in the dark all day and night long, due to tetracycline being photo sensitive, so after three treatments-I believe it was 200 mg (1 pill) for every 5 gallons (I added about 13-15 pills every 1.5 to 2 days) I switched to using erythromycin, particularly Maracyn. They are all eating frozen bloodworms, which I provide them a feast twice a day (the stingray is a bottomless pit that I refer to as a vacuum cleaner).  After two days of treatment using erythromycin three of the discus seem much better, and I know they appreciate the light. The rest still look pretty ragged. My pH is back at a stable 6.5, and I've added more Epsom salt than I normally use and also aeration to aid in their respiration.  I'm wondering how long Columnaris typically lasts, and when I can expect my discus to fully recover. I also am curious about the 5-day treatment Maracyn recommends, particularly whether I should do partial water changes between daily treatments. Surprisingly the stingray could care less about the medicated water and is his same mischievous self. The other fish also appear unaffected. . . . I'd like to know your opinion of my set-up and my predicament. I hope I provided enough information.  < You first mistake was in not quarantining your new discus. If they had been placed in a small clean aquarium the medicating would have cheaper and more effective. The erythromycin is a good choice for this disease, but the water changes help your fish recover. In about a week you fish should be better. Watch out for ammonia spikes because the medication may affect the good bacteria that breaks down the fish waste into less toxic nitrites and nitrates.-Chuck>

Re: Discus pH shock/Columnaris Thanks, Chuck. One more thing: After treating my tank with tetracycline for 5 days and erythromycin for another 8 days two of my eight remaining discus that had already seemed on the road to full recovery are now resting at the bottom of the tank. Their colors have darkened only slightly, and they don't appear to have anything new wrong with them.  Are there complications for extended use of erythromycin? I've removed the medication, but they've now stopped eating (they were eating during the medication). Also I've been adding salt at a rate of about 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons, maybe even a little more, which I heard may aid in their recovery. This has gone on for a couple months. Could the salt be the reason why the discus are behaving strangely? Something's up, my pH is 6.8, ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate .6 mg/L. I don't know what the hardness is. I have some plants in the tank as well, which seem fine. Do the fish simply need to rest for a couple days? I've had discus refuse food for weeks and then act normal like nothing ever happened. Any ideas? (Tank specs: 8 discus, 1 stingray, 6 Irian Jaya red Rainbowfish, several bottom feeders, 100 lbs. of sand, 2 96-watt power compacts, 15 plants, CO2 yeast thingy [not cylinder], no aeration, except current from AquaClear 500 and Fluval 304).  Adam Michels < Nothing brings discus back faster than water changes. I would do water changes as often as I could with soft acidic water. Offer a variety of foods and clean the filter often. They should be back at it in no time.-Chuck>



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