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FAQs on Ropefish Health

Related Articles: Bichirs & Ropefish, Family Polypteridae,

Related FAQs: Ropefish 1, Ropefish 2, & Ropefish ID, Ropefish Behavior, Ropefish Compatibility, Ropefish Selection, Ropefish Systems, Ropefish Feeding, Ropefish Reproduction, & FAQs on: Bichirs 1, & Bichir Identification, Bichir Behavior, Bichir Compatibility, Bichir Selection, Bichir Systems, Bichir Feeding, Bichir Disease, Bichir Reproduction,

 Sick Ropefish... hlth.     2/4/17
Hello,
My smallest Ropefish was all roly-poly, sort of speak, this morning,
<? Turning about randomly? Not good>
now he's just lying at the bottom, like he wants to float upright but cant, then floats to the bottom again.
<Yikes; do you have another system to move this animal to? I would, now>

His tail fin is white now, it wasn't this morning, we've been treating the tank with bacteria and parasite stuff
<Brand, ingredients please. Ropefish and their kin, Bichirs, are sensitive to chemical burning>
bc we did a 50 per.
<?>
Water clean last night to balance out our chem.s, but the nitrites were .5-1.0 high
<Deadly toxic. READ here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwno2faqs.htm then ACT!>
and the alk was low, like 40
<Units?>
low. Could that be the cause of this?
<The former; yes>
Our other 2 Ropefish who are several inches bigger, don't seem to be as effected, though when I got home, I found 1 of our bigger ones laying on his back, barely breathing... The 3rd still looks like he can swim normal, but so did the other big dude before I left for work. And before we woke up this morning, the 2 bigger ones had their eyes bulging out lil yesterday, hence why we cleaned the tank. What should I do with the 2 sick ones?
<As stated above; move them to another established system; if not possible, READ and correct the NO2>

Was it us who caused it? Or could it have been the milliworms or bloodworms we feed them?
<Can't tell from the information provided; but environment is definitely a factor here.
Bob Fenner>
I just want them to be ok...
Re: Sick Ropefish     2/5/17
2 of them died.. One left, and it looks like his scales are dying? I don't know..
<Uhh, did you read where I referred you?
..... B>
Re: Sick Ropefish.... and Koi mixed in?      2/6/17

Thank you Bob, but sadly our smallest Ropefish passed yesterday, and one of the bigger ones died the night before, we still cant get the nitrites and alk to be what it should,
<? STOP: DID you read where I referred you?>
and my friend informed me that the koi may be the cause
<Koi? Are there carp in this system? They're not tropicals.... are NOT compatible
>
of high nitrites because their poop contain high levels of ammonia, now were are down to our last Ropefish, and he doesn't seem to have the same symptoms as the others, his butt is swollen and red, patches of his scales are dying, i don't know how to help him. We have Fluval brand water conditioning stuff, and Fluval cycle bio booster to help with ammonia and nitrites, but it doesn't seem to be helping him, we set up another tank yesterday, how many days should i wait to move him? Is he gonna die anyway?
<....... You need to read>
Also, i don't know the units for alkalinity, it was on the ph bottle we got, it just says 40 is low and 120 to 140 is ideal. The ammonia levels were pretty high unfortunately.
<.... the issue here is and has been environmental; and apparently mis-stocking. You'd do well to study ahead of your actions. BobF>
Our other tank has been running for about 24 hours with a carbon based filter and all the levels are normal..

Re: Sick Ropefish      2/7/17
This is what the last one looks like now, and his butts all swollen.. Cant swim well.. I don't think he's gonna make it. :c Was it a disease ?
<Have already stated... killed by poor environment>

Or from the water conditions? I wanna know how to prevent this if i want more fishies..
<Sorry; can't help you if you won't read. B>




Yes; a koi...

Re: Sick Ropefish... child; inexperienced      2/7/17
The Ropefish were presents from my mom, it was kinda trial and error.

<My young friend.... these are life; not inanimate objects to play with; see "if they'll make it" or no>
I've never had a fish before, i didn't know what the little guys were when she brought them home..
<Ahh! Wish you had stated so earlier...>

I know i need to learn more, thank you for your time though, i really appreciate it..
<PLEASE read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/polypterids.htm
and the linked files above. Better; PLEASE have a look at Neale's suggested beginner books HERE:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/bksfwbrneale.htm
Most of these are available free at local libraries.>
And i did read the link you sent me, i got what i needed for my incubation tank but i guess i still need to let it cycle,
<Yes!>
the nitrites and nitrates are better now, all 0, ammonia is 0 too but the ph is off the scales...
And the tank he's in now, still have a lil bit of nitrites in it, .25, if that, and maybe about .25 of ammonia, we cant keep them down.
<Stop feeding period.... Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Rope fishes health problems     6/11/16
Hello. I have 2 rope fishes in 270 liters tank. Recently i have noticed that face of one of them became a bit darker, also there are some dark sports on his spine. And today i just saw the tale of other fish all covered with dark spots. Please, could you tell me what it possibly is?
<Hello! Black spots on Bichirs and Ropefish are not uncommon. There's some debate about what causes them. Some type of parasite seems most likely, given these are wild-caught animals. Likely a flatworm of some sort. They do not, usually, cause any specific health issues provided the Ropefish or Bichir is otherwise healthy. Given Ropefish are salt-tolerant (they do occur in slightly brackish habitats) using 2-3 gram salt/litre would be one thing to try. But if this didn't help after a few weeks of trying, you could try an anti-helminth medication such as PraziPro. I'd also suggest you visit (and join) a forum like Monster Fishkeepers that specialises in predatory fish. You'll see *many* threads on Bichirs with these black spots, as well as ideas about their cause and treatment. Bottom line, don't worry over much so long as your Ropefish is otherwise happy. Indeed, there's some evidence fish can "fight off" parasites provided they're healthy and receiving a vitamin-rich diet. Avoid the use of things like crustaceans (shrimps, prawns, mussels) or cyprinids (carp for example) that contain thiaminase. Instead provide plenty of earthworms (from a safe source!) and small pieces of white fish, cockles and squid. Cheers, Neale.>


Neale; I'd like to relate a meeting w/ a Nigerian collector of Ropes et al... they're corralled in reeds, circled by a net and poisoned... some sets more than others; with consequent deaths and these dark spottings. RMF

Re: Rope fishes health problems          6/13/16
Thanks so much Neale, i will try on your advices and will look info in that forum! Best regards!
<Most welcome and good luck, Neale.>

Rope fish health problem, please help me        9/8/15
Hello WetWebMedia team. I have 2 rope fishes. Their sizes are about 25-30 cm long, living with me for about 10 months in 270 liters tank, with external filter 1800 l/per hour. I change about 20% of water every week and regularly do tests (nitrites =0, ammonia = 0, nitrates 5-10 mg/l). Usually my fishes eat blood worms
<I'd leave these off the menu. See WWM re these sewer worm/fly larvae. Implicated too much in disease. Read here re food/feeding of Ropes:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/RopefishFdgF.htm
and snails (snails are from the same aquarium). Earth worms they didn't like to eat. Unfortunately i do not regularly give vitamins to my fishes and suddenly i decided to fix it. I have put 5 drops of ESHa Minaroll on blood worms and forgot about it, then gave food to my fishes after about 4 hours((( After couple of days i started to notice all bad results of my doings. Fishes are having red faces, quaking when swimming, shaking their heads, yawning and constantly open-and-closing their mouths, but most frightening symptom is that they are trying to jump out from the tank with the crazy speed and then going down and clashing by the bottom and repeat again many times. I'm so sad and really afraid of their health mind now, please could you give any advice what is going on with them now, how can i help them and really i did so much harm?
<Water change... like half; NOW. And addition of activated carbon to your filter, water flow path>
(I've read that ESHa Minaroll contains copper, maybe it's poisoning effect). Or if overdosing vitamins is not such dangerous the maybe the reason is that something happened with the water or filter system?
<Perhaps a bit of all>
I would be very thankful for any help, because in my place there is nobody who can tell anything about my problem.
<Act NOW. Bob Fenner>

Rope Fish    /RMF try      8/19/15
Hello, I've been having some problems and I'm left stumped. A few months ago I was at my local aquarium shop when I came across a rope fish. I fell in love. I spoke to the owner about them and then brought one home. Later that day I did so much reading on these guys. I went out and bought all the food I read that this site recommended, and I started looking for a bigger tank. I was told my 10 gallon tank was fine for it. After reading here I learned that wasn't the case.
<Correct... need at least twice, thrice this>
The day after I got my rope fish, I noticed a white spot on one of the spikes on its back. I freaked.
<Mmm; careful here... though most likely a "reaction zone" from some simple physical bump>
I brought a sample of water to the aquarium store. Ammonia was 0, nitrates 0, nitrites were good (I can't remember, but
I was told it wasn't my water quality as it was all excellent). PH 7.0, and my temperature was around 77. I do weekly water changes of 15-20% and use Prime. I kept all feeding on a schedule, and I never had any issues.
I purchased the medication that was recommended to me (again it was months ago so I really can't remember it). I started the treatment after I performed a 15% water change. I removed the filter as the instructions suggested.
I woke the next morning to find the little spot had grown. It had grown to about an inch going down on the sides.
<Real trouble.... the death of many Ropes... consequent from collection practice>
I freaked again. My rope fish seemed to have difficulty swimming and just seemed to float. He died with in 24 hours of me noticing the spot. I cried. I will admit it. In the tank with him there was a kuhli loach, 3 danios, a Pleco, and 4 ghost shrimp. My loach ended up dying from the same thing the next day. They were the only ones affected.
Fast forward to now. I have a 40 gallon with an external canister filter with a UV sterilizer. It is a planted aquarium, with a oxygen pump. Again, water was the same as above when tested. So I went back to the aquarium store and purchased the 2 rope fish he had. One of the rope fish was still there from the other I had purchased that passed.
Later that night I see a light spot on one of the spikes on his back..
(this is from the same stock as the first one). It wasn't white, it just appeared to be a different color only slightly. The next morning the spot was white. I about lost it.
I moved him to a hospital tank. All I had was a 10 gallon that had been running since the last time I had issues. No other inhabitants. I thought I was prepared. Water showed zero across the board, 7.6 PH, and 77 for the temperature.
After reading online here, I saw salt is pretty amazing. So, before I placed him in the tank I did a 20% water change to be safe, and added in aquarium salt that was recommended. I turned the temperature to 82. With fingers crossed I kept checking in on him. He seemed to be doing great.
The next morning, the white spot grew the same as before only not as big.
I did a water change, and added malefix (I know it's not everyone's favorite, and I kept seeing different opinions). My options on medications were limited by the time I got off of work. But I couldn't find that much information that seemed to match up with my issues. This problem is only affecting this family of fish.
I did forget to mention, on Saturday, the day after I got the rope fish, I noticed a white algae on one of my plants.
<Not algae; likely a mix of decomposers... Monerans, Protists>
No idea where it came from,
<The air; water... and some source of nutrients/food in the water>
never seen it before, but I removed it and did a 30% change of water and added some aquarium salt. Last night I saw something on the back of the glass. It's kinda clear, and I've never come across it. Nothing new has been added to the tank, except some water from when I got the fish accidentally spilled into my tank during acclimation.
So back to the rope fish, the problem seemed to take longer this time.
Instead of 24 hours it took 48. I even tried to stimulate him (with clean fingers). I did not want to give up. But all my efforts failed. Whatever it is that he had had moved to his gills. There was no darting and swimming fast, but I did see him kinda bite it once. The white, which was a transparent kind had moved to his face.
<.... Perhaps something resultant from the Tea mix/API... The Mela (non) fix>
I'm heart broken. I thought I followed all the rules. I know I must have done something wrong somewhere. I did all the reading I could that this site had listed.
<Go back, read on WWM re these and Bichirs (same family) disease, the use of Oxolinic acid with these fishes>
I don't understand how he was fine in the store for a few months, but like the last one he did the same thing.
<Some thing/s about their water is/are different likely. Ask the shop what they do in terms of prep. and filtering. Large/r semi-open recirculated systems often have much lower overall microbial "levels" (and their consequences)>
Even though they were purchased months apart, they came from the same shipment. The one that came from a different shipment doesn't have any issues. But I have gone ahead and kept salt in with her, just not as much. So I am at a loss. I
can't figure this out. Is there something in my tank that I don't know about?
<Almost assuredly>
She needs companions asap, but I'm almost too afraid.
<Take your time; isolate any newcomer for a few weeks>
I don't know if she will get it as well. Because this is only happening to this family of fish, because again, those same fish from before are not affected.
Thank you, and I'm sorry this was so long.
Kelsie
<Again, read all we have archived re Ropes/Bichirs. Bob Fenner>
Rope Fish     /Neale's Go     8/19/15

Hello, I've been having some problems and I'm left stumped. A few months ago I was at my local aquarium shop when I came across a rope fish. I fell in love. I spoke to the owner about them and then brought one home.
<Are happier in groups...>
Later that day I did so much reading on these guys. I went out and bought all the food I read that this site recommended, and I started looking for a bigger tank. I was told my 10 gallon tank was fine for it.
<Nope.>
After reading here I learned that wasn't the case.
<Indeed.>
The day after I got my rope fish, I noticed a white spot on one of the spikes on its back. I freaked.
<No need to be. The salt/heat method works very well with these fish.>
I brought a sample of water to the aquarium store. Ammonia was 0, nitrates 0, nitrites were good (I can't remember, but I was told it wasn't my water quality as it was all excellent). PH 7.0, and my temperature was around 77.
I do weekly water changes of 15-20% and use Prime. I kept all feeding on a schedule, and I never had any issues. I purchased the medication that was recommended to me (again it was months ago so I really can't remember it).
I started the treatment after I performed a 15% water change. I removed the filter as the instructions suggested.
I woke the next morning to find the little spot had grown. It had grown to about an inch going down on the sides. I freaked again. My rope fish seemed to have difficulty swimming and just seemed to float. He died with in 24 hours of me noticing the spot. I cried. I will admit it. In the tank with him there was a kuhli loach, 3 danios, a Pleco, and 4 ghost shrimp. My loach ended up dying from the same thing the next day. They were the only ones affected.
<Curious.>
Fast forward to now. I have a 40 gallon with an external canister filter with a UV sterilizer.
<Do bear in mind these have very limited use. They don't prevent diseases other than those with mobile larval stages (specifically: Whitespot and Velvet) and they don't treat any diseases once established. The UV tubes need replacing every 6 months of use. Easiest/best approach in freshwater tanks is run them for a couple weeks after introducing new livestock but otherwise switch off, remove, and thoroughly clean (if the glass inside is dirty they can't work).>
It is a planted aquarium, with a oxygen pump. Again, water was the same as above when tested. So I went back to the aquarium store and purchased the 2 rope fish he had. One of the rope fish was still there from the other I had purchased that passed. Later that night I see a light spot on one of the spikes on his back.. (this is from the same stock as the first one). It wasn't white, it just appeared to be a different color only slightly. The next morning the spot was white. I about lost it.
<Understandable.>
I moved him to a hospital tank. All I had was a 10 gallon that had been running since the last time I had issues. No other inhabitants. I thought I was prepared. Water showed zero across the board, 7.6 PH, and 77 for the temperature. After reading online here, I saw salt is pretty amazing. So, before I placed him in the tank I did a 20% water change to be safe, and added in aquarium salt that was recommended. I turned the temperature to 82.
<Is this the salt/heat treatment?
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/SaltUseFWArtNeale.htm
Ropefish are reasonably salt tolerant, so you can safely up the salinity a bit to maybe twice the stated dose if the infection is severe. Similarly, you can keep using the salt for weeks or months if the Ropefish aren't recovering as quickly as you'd like.>
With fingers crossed I kept checking in on him. He seemed to be doing great. The next morning, the white spot grew the same as before only not as big. I did a water change, and added malefix (I know it's not everyone's favorite, and I kept seeing different opinions).
<Melafix is an unreliable medication, but one of the problems is that it's often used when people don't know what the problem is, and unsurprisingly, a lot of the time it's not what was needed. So even though Bob F. and others find it unreliable, it's "cure all" reputation is way overblown and an invitation to disappointment.>
My options on medications were limited by the time I got off of work. But I couldn't find that much information that seemed to match up with my issues.
This problem is only affecting this family of fish.
<We'll get to what Ropefish need in a moment.>
I did forget to mention, on Saturday, the day after I got the rope fish, I noticed a white algae on one of my plants.
<Likely bacteria. Indicates some fundamental problem with the tank.>
No idea where it came from, never seen it before, but I removed it and did a 30% change of water and added some aquarium salt. Last night I saw something on the back of the glass. It's kinda clear, and I've never come across it. Nothing new has been added to the tank, except some water from when I got the fish accidentally spilled into my tank during acclimation.
So back to the rope fish, the problem seemed to take longer this time.
Instead of 24 hours it took 48. I even tried to stimulate him (with clean fingers). I did not want to give up. But all my efforts failed. Whatever it is that he had had moved to his gills. There was no darting and swimming fast, but I did see him kinda bite it once. The white, which was a transparent kind had moved to his face.
<Curious.>
I'm heart broken. I thought I followed all the rules. I know I must have done something wrong somewhere. I did all the reading I could that this site had listed. I don't understand how he was fine in the store for a few months, but like the last one he did the same thing. Even though they were purchased months apart, they came from the same shipment. The one that
came from a different shipment doesn't have any issues. But I have gone ahead and kept salt in with her, just not as much. So I am at a loss. I can't figure this out. Is there something in my tank that I don't know about? She needs companions asap, but I'm almost too afraid. I don't know if she will get it as well. Because this is only happening to this family of fish, because again, those same fish from before are not affected.
Thank you, and I'm sorry this was so long.
Kelsie
<Right Kelsie, let's recap some basics. Ropefish are basically hardy animals, but they have a couple weakness. The first is escaping from open tanks. If they can get out, they will. The second is a sensitive to copper and formalin. Never use medications in tanks with these fish unless rated as safe for loaches, stingrays, etc. I mention this because the retailer might have used such medications. Now, because they've got armoured bodies and don't move quickly, they're easy targets for scraping or nippy fish. Puffers and aggressive cichlids for a start, but even things like Otocinclus and Plecs can cause problems when they latch onto their bodies and try to scrape away at the mucous. Another issue with them is they are
benthic fish and consequently sensitive to conditions down there. Scratchy sand is a common problem (Tahitian Moon Sand for example) and once damaged, their wounds can take a while to clear up (though again, salt helps).
Finally, they're finicky feeders, and malnutrition can lead to all sorts of problems. Bloodworms aren't enough. They need a mixed diet, with those old standbys, mussels and prawns, in the minority. Mussels and prawns contain Thiaminase, and this leads to vitamin B1 deficiency. Earthworms are better, or cockles, or strips of white fish fillet. In short, I can't pin down the
exact problem, and to some degree you may be suffering from bad care on the part of the retailer, I think you can optimise aquarium conditions ahead of next time. One last thing, Ropefish aren't the easiest Bichirs to keep, and Polypterus palmas or (the slightly bigger) Polypterus senegalus are very similar in nature, only slightly more predatory (they will Neon-sized
tankmates), and being less eel-like, they're less likely to escape from small holes. I like them a lot. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Rope Fish; hlth        8/20/15

Thank you so much for the responses. I had made sure to prevent any possible escape attempts buy purchasing lids that completely cover the tank and still allow for breathing. Nothing is sprayed around the tanks to prevent chemicals in the air as best I can.
I never considered sand being a possible problem. What sand is best, or should I start using soft river rocks with grass type plants?
<Optimal is smooth silver sand, sometimes called smooth silica sand or pool filter sand. It's bright yellowy-gold in colour initially, but in the aquarium darkens up after a few months. It feels silky smooth rather than gritty when you handle it. Garden centres in the UK sell it cheaply, alongside sharp silver sand which is what you don't want, so don't confuse them!>
I don't just feed them bloodworms and shrimp. I did buy beef heart, earthworms, and fish. But sadly they seem to get sick before what I have ever becomes an issue or possibility.
<Understood.>
I had applied the salt/heat method and it didn't work for him.
<Assuming done correctly, that rules out Whitespot and Velvet, though Costia is somewhat more salt tolerant, and may take some weeks to shift this way and/or use of a higher salinity; say, 3-4 gram/litre salt rather than the standard 2 gram/litre.>
I do know that I purchased them from a tank that housed semi-aggressive fish.
<Oh dear.>
But I still don't know how they are fine in the store, but immediately get sick when I bring them home.
<Worrying; is quarantining an option for you?>
No other fish has had this issue.
<Because Ropefish are such primitive and specialised fish, they can become damaged or poisoned by certain chemicals while other fish are fine. On the other hand, they're not particularly delicate fish, so you shouldn't be afraid of keeping them, and if the other fish are fine, there might be a more serious problem at the retailer or wholesaler.>
I have read the recommended links that were provided. I came across someone else explaining a white spot turning to a saddle back type of problem. I believe it was said to be a somewhat common problem with wild caught, but with them being kept so long prior to me buying them, I'm more lost.
<Bichirs generally (of which Ropefish are a kind) are mostly wild-caught, though some are farmed in increasing numbers. Anyway, because they're wild-caught, naturally occurring parasites are characteristic of the group.
Commonly, small black flatworm-looking things on their heads and flanks.
Having said this, such parasites rarely seem to cause serious harm unless the fish have become stressed somehow.>
If it is something I have somehow already had with in my tank, then what should be my best options to ensure that I rid the tank of any possible containments, bacteria, toxins, you name it. I am willing to do whatever you recommend.
<I would not do anything as serious as this. It may be a bad batch of Ropefish, in which case pass over them for now, or else, wait a month or two and then buy whatever (apparently healthy!) specimens remain. Let the retailer take the risk. Since the other fish are fine, there's no point adding chemicals. Put another way: most infections are opportunistic, and
occur when fish are stressed, even if only by being moved from one tank to another. Once settled in their immune system takes over and fish diseases aren't a major threat. Almost always, once fish are settled in for a few weeks they never become sick unless we do something silly (skip water changes for a few months) or allow a problem (such as fighting) to occur unchallenged. Fish are actually astonishingly resistant to disease; if you think about it, a tropical aquarium is basically a Petri dish ideal for culturing bacteria: it's wet, warm, and full of dissolved organic nutrients. Yet mostly fish thrive in conditions that land animals (living in relatively sterile air) could never survive.>
As for the UV I only turn it on during cleanings and when I brought them home. I was hoping it would help considering you're right in which I didn't know what happened the first time. So I had my fingers crossed. Since I didn't seem to have much luck with the salt method, is there anything else you'd recommend to combat this problem.
<Since the salt didn't work, probably ruling out Costia, I'd recommend treating as per flatworms, using something like PraziPro. Treat the Ropefish in a quarantine tank if you can, but if not, treat alongside the regular fish. Deworming won't harm them. Couple relevant threads over at MFK that might be informative, here:
http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/threads/worms-on-bichirs.155783/
http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/threads/ornate-bichir-16-has-pale-white-patches-bleeding-pics-disease-bruise.551781/
You can also use PraziPro alongside salt/heat safely. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Rope Fish; sys.         8/21/15

Thank you so much. I double checked my sand and I do have the other type, so I will make sure to replace it.
<Wise. Sharp sands are fine with midwater fish like tetras, just not with anything that puts its belly on the bottom.>
I am able to replace it and wait it out since I have multiple tanks.
<Cool.>
I never allow my tanks to go with out water changes weekly (I think it's mean to allow fish to live in a dirty environment). I will pick up the medication for worms. And I am able to keep any new comers separated in a different tank before placement into mine.
<Wise. Deworming new wild-caught fish is a pretty sensible thing to do.>
I am so glad you mentioned the sand though. I never thought the type I had was a potential problem.
<It isn't always, but it's a factor and one to think about.>
Although it wasn't the problem at this time, I bet it would be in the future. Also, I have a axolotl coming in tomorrow in its own tank, and I will remove the sand from there and replace it as well.
<Oh my yes; Axolotls have rather delicate skin (like most amphibians) and many people keep them in tanks with bare glass bottoms.>
I am so glad I found this site. The information provided is priceless, and I'm glad I found a trusted site that can help me better maintain the health of my aquariums with out having to second guess what I am reading.
<Glad to help.>
I will also make sure the store uses the proper netting method when grabbing the rope fish, and I'm so glad I read that. I also only did the 2 gram ratio for the salt treatment, and if things happen again I will definitely see about a stronger ratio.
<Indeed yes; Ropefish naturally occur in slightly brackish water as well as freshwater, so they have a built-in ability to put up with salt for longer and at higher concentrations than most tropical fish. I wouldn't stick them in a brackish aquarium as such, but at these low salinities, 2, 3 or 4 gram/litre, you have plenty of flexibility.>
Thank you guys again. I have definitely bookmarked this site, and I read it daily.
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Re: Rope Fish       9/3/15

Hello again. I figured I'd give you an update on my rope... (Jupiter). For a week it was touch and go. She developed a sore that was a nasty shade of red on her under belly, she kept floating, and wouldn't eat.
<Oh dear.>
I kept the air stone in the tank, applied 4 grams of aquarium salt per liter and kept it at 82°f. I checked my water again, and everything was reading as before. Ammonia 0, nitrate 0, nitrite 0, PH 7.
<All sounds fine.>
I had ordered PraziPro, and had to wait for that to come in since it wasn't available in my area.
<Understood.>
I called a every shop around town and I was told to put her down because once she stopped eating for a few days she would never recover. Well, that didn't make me happy one bit. So, I took a chance. I decided to try colloidal silver. I tried to find information on it and the problems it can cause to invertebrates. All I found was conflicting information.
<Not a medication I'm familiar with.>
I know it was careless of me. But I noticed how intelligent she was, and I noticed many more things about her. She would swim to the glass where my finger was on the other side and she would try to rub her head against it. For comfort...I don't really know.
<Indeed.>
I placed 6 drops in the tank. I removed the carbon, and my biological media went into cycled tank that currently is empty. She ate the next day. She took a few bites for me, and I did my triumphant dance. PraziPro came in along with Furan 2. I treated her with Furan 2 first. After that was done I did the PraziPro. Her spot is now healing. I know I took a risk with the silver. But I didn't have any other options available to me at the moment. But I believe that it saved her life.
<Agreed. Or at least, hardly matters now if she's getting better.>
I also changed my sand to the softer sand you recommended. It took me forever, but it was worth it. It looks way better.
<Quite so.>
I have a tank that has a black ghost knife, 3 Cory cats, a Pleco, and 8 ghost shrimp (I don't use them for food, I really like them). Can I use PraziPro in that tank with the Ghost Knife? I'd rather double check and be safe from now on.
<Should be safe.>
I am planning on getting 2 more ropes in about a month.
<Nice.>
They will be the only inhabitants of the tank. I plan on asking my retailer if he can keep them in a separate tank and call me the minute they arrive. I am looking for a softer net, and plan on bringing it in case the netting had something to do with my problems.
<Sounds wise.>
Thank you again for everything. This site and you were a lifesaver.
<Glad this story has had a happy outcome, and thanks for sharing! Neale.>

Hi sick rope fish /RMF    12/14/14
Hi I have had 3 rope fish for about a year and the one died after 3 months and I never knew why and I put it down to just one of those fish that don't make it but now around 4 months after a second rope fish is going the same way. The symptoms are Not eating, losing weight fast, lying on it's side panting and staying in its house. Curling up tight. Please help. My tank
is 75gal uk or 350l water changes every week 25% ammonia ect 0 and low nitrates always.
<Foods, feeding? Other life present? Mmmm; will have Neale Monks look at your msg. In the meanwhile read here:
http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/RopefishDisF.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Hi sick rope fish /Neale    12/14/14

Hi I have had 3 rope fish for about a year and the one died after 3 months and I never knew why and I put it down to just one of those fish that don't make it but now around 4 months after a second rope fish is going the same way. The symptoms are Not eating, losing weight fast, lying on it's side panting and staying in its house. Curling up tight. Please help. My tank is 75gal uk or 350l water changes every week 25% ammonia ect 0 and low nitrates always.
<Well, there's really nothing about your tank or water quality that stands out as problematic. So let's review the basics. First, water chemistry. Some latitude here, but the addition of a little salt is often helpful with Ropefish (2-3 gram/litre). This is unlike Bichirs, which are generally hardier than Ropefish but don't like salt. Secondly, as air breathers, they need easy access to humid air, and of course you must avoid any sort of airborne toxins such as spray cleaners, paint fumes, cigarette smoke, etc. Make sure the water level isn't too high, and that there aren't any midwater fish that harass them on their way to the surface. Thirdly, diet. Like all carnivores they're easily prone to malnutrition. Why? Because while they'll eat things like shrimps and bloodworms, they need a much bigger diversity to get all the vitamins they need. Earthworms, cockles, strips of white fish fillet should all be regular items. Earthworms (or gut-loaded river shrimp) are useful for getting "greens" into them via the diet of these prey animals. Alternatively, the use of marine aquarium vitamin supplements can make life easier. What you must avoid (minimise, anyway) are mussels, shrimps and prawns. These contain Thiaminase. Read up on this issue elsewhere on WWM.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_6/volume_6_1/thiaminase.htm
Finally, as with all wild-caught fish, there's the risk of bringing internal parasites into the tank. Hexamita is the classic example, but by no means the only one. Some are harmless in themselves, but if the fish becomes stressed (e.g., by a vitamin-deficient diet) the parasites multiple and become troublesome. Many medications can be toxic to Ropefish (copper and formalin specifically) so choose medications with care. In the US, a combination approach of Metronidazole alongside an antibiotic is often good for dealing with protozoan parasites, but in the UK you can only obtain Metronidazole through a vet. But you might be able to use eSHa HEXAMITA with good results. It's not as good as Metronidazole, but it's cheap (around £5) and sold by many aquarium shops. Don't forget to remove carbon when medicating. Do keep a close eye out for external infections as well, whether Whitespot, Velvet, Fungus or Finrot. Various medications for these, but again, the eSHa products (EXIT, 2000) seem to be less toxic to sensitive fish than many of the others. Salt should shift Whitespot and usually Velvet though, without the need for medications, and frequently inhibits fungal infections to some degree as well. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Hi sick rope fish /Neale    12/14/14

Hi salt is a no go I have Cory cats.
<A myth. At therapeutic doses of 2 gram/litre, salt is much, MUCH safer than commercial Whitespot medications containing copper or formalin. Salt at this level could be beneficial to the Ropefish and will do the catfish no harm. The idea salt is a poison to catfish is not only erroneous but (a) bad science, confusing osmoregulation with toxicity; and (b) has meant many
aquarists have used copper and formalin for treating Whitespot, poisoning their catfish, loaches, eels and other "sensitive" species. Might surprise you to know a close relative of Corydoras, Hoplosternum, occurs in brackish water in the wild and actually grows better in such conditions than soft water, and at least two families of catfish are actually marine!>
But I feed them supermarket frozen prawns and muscle and pellets once a day.
<Right, I think we have a clue here. Mussels and prawns are treats. Once a week. Pellets are not usually taken by Ropefish, but if yours take them, great. Otherwise, look to Thiaminase-free foods: earthworms, cockles, squid, white fish fillet (tilapia for example). Thiamin deficiency causes all sorts of rather generic problems -- wasting, lack of vigour, odd behaviours, infertility -- so could easily account for what you've seen.>
They have no problem getting air there is nothing that bullies them I fact they are quite high up in the hierarchy. They share with clown loach that have the same diet so I'm surprised to here it may be food.
<Loaches take pellets more eagerly, so Thiaminase in a portion of their diet is less of an immediate hazard.>
The reason I feed this food is because I also have Ctenopoma in the tank also leopard and Kingsleyae. My tank is peaceful. My other fish are between 6-8 years old and some Synodontis nigriventris that are 10+ so I'm all on same diet the rope fish are fairly new but how can I feed them different to the others when they love prawns so much I just remembered that I feed the frozen prawns as its the only thing I could get them to eat including blood worms and earth worms feed on composted veg.
<Do persist with appropriate foods.>
I was thinking something internal but I have no clue what treatment to try.
<Diet, or use of marine aquarium vitamins.>
Also I do have sea shells in for a small amount of salt and minerals they been in 10 years plus also most thinner than paper now so it's not those if you wondered.
<Seashells don't contain salt. They are made of calcium carbonate. Will raise hardness. They dissolve slowly, as you've seen.>
My filtration is massive 1 internal 2 external equaling the one external is for tanks up to 1000l internal tanks up to 400l with loads of mechanical and biological media. I can't think of any more info. But have one other question is the diet bad for my other fish. I use catfish and cichlid pellets to but the only the one reed fish eats them the one that's not ill.
<Bingo! Pellets contain vitamins, including thiamin. If your fish only eats mussels and prawns, it will slowly sicken and die. Must get a better/balanced diet.>
I can send video or photo of the sick fish if this might help.
<No need. I think we know what's happening here. Your move now. Good luck, Neale.>
re: Hi sick rope fish /Neale    12/14/14

Should the white fish be cooked or raw?
<Raw. Cooking damages/destroys all sorts of important nutrients. Tilapia is often cheap and easy to get, but haddock, Pollack/coley, and cod are all viable choices. Oily fish such as raw salmon are sometimes taken enthusiastically because of their strong smell, but are messy, so use very sparingly.>
And the salt definitely killed my Corys.
<In all honesty, it didn't. Done this many times with Corydoras, Cardinal Tetras, Angelfish and all sorts of other soft water fish. Indeed, it's about the only option for Clown Loaches, Stingrays, Mormyrids and various other sensitive species that make your Corydoras catfish look like junkyard dogs when it comes to hardiness! Unless you used too much, but then too
much salt will kill saltwater fish too. But I trust you to know how to weight salt in grams and to understand what the aquarium capacity is in litres. Let's be crystal clear about this. 2 gram of salt per litre of water is a trivial dose compared to the 35g/litre needed to make seawater, or even 5-6g needed for brackish water. Salt used correctly is much, MUCH
less toxic to Corydoras catfish than copper and formalin based medications.
Again, you're only using the salt/heat combination for 10 days or so. It's not a full time addition to the aquarium -- something if you read elsewhere on WWM you will see I'm dead against. What to suggest... do read some fish health books, perhaps find out about how osmoregulation works. A little science will help you understand fish healthcare much more deeply, and that in turn will help prevent some of the problems you're facing. Cheers, Neale.>

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Sick Rope Fish! and to NealeM      9/10/14
<Can't open your too-large files here in Bali... see our instructions re writing us>
Hello,
As of recently, we are having trouble with our two rope fish :( They are about 9 years old and have been always been healthy and active. We have always fed them blood worms,
<Poor: see WWM re these sewer fly larvae>

but recently we bought them some feeder fish from PetCo (this is probably where we went wrong), and now it seems they have some sort of skin infection?
<Possibly>
I have included some photos (sorry they're not the greatest)- This guy looks so bad :( They are very lethargic and the infection is getting worse. We did also recently move, so we are not on well water anymore, but we have checked the nitrite, ammonia, and nitrate levels as well as pH, and everything looks normal. Is there anything we can do to help these guys? Any insight would be GREATLY
appreciated.
Many thanks!
lindsey.
<Uhh... need more info. Let's just have you read:
http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/RopefishDisF.htm
And the linked files above. In the meanwhile, successive water changes, and possibly the use of Furan compound/s.
Bob Fenner>

Sick Rope Fish!     9/10/14
Hello,
As of recently, we are having trouble with our two rope fish :( They are about 9 years old and have been always been healthy and active. We have always fed them blood worms, but recently we bought them some feeder fish from PetCo (this is probably where we went wrong),
<Agreed. There are no problems in the hobby for which store-bought feeder fish are the solution. None. You may as well invite Typhoid Mary to cater your Sunday lunch. Seriously. Problem is that we simply don't know what problems these feeders brought into the tank. I agree with Bob that bloodworms aren't a good staple, though irradiated frozen ones (such as the Gamma brand) should at least be sterile, which makes them safer/better than live ones. Ropefish feed on all sorts of foods, with cockles, stripes of white fish fillet, and (in smaller amounts) pieces of mussel and shrimp all being readily accepted. So far as live foods go, earthworms are safe and nutritious.>
and now it seems they have some sort of skin infection?
<Might be a symptom of a systemic bacterial infection, but if this is just a few days after you used the feeder fish, a skin parasite cannot be ruled out. Since Ropefish have a good tolerance for salt, the old salt/heat method (2 g salt/litre + raising water a couple degrees in temp.) could help if Velvet or Whitespot was to blame. But Costia is another possibility, and salt isn't a reliable/sole treatment here, though seawater dips can be useful alongside proper treatment. I find seawater dips (2-20 mins in salinity of 35 g/litre, remove as/when the fish becomes seriously distressed, e.g., rolls over) clears up the mucous extremely quickly, but you will probably need to medicate as well. Salt at 3-5 g/litre can work on its own, but will take a couple weeks, and ideally you'd keep the aquarium pitch-black as well (the Costia parasite has a photosynthetic stage in its life cycle). Ropefish should tolerate this salinity okay if acclimated slowly (they do enter brackish water in the wild) but these fish are pretty hammered already, so start at 3 g/l and see if they settle okay like that for a day or two before raising the salinity further. Consult with your local retailer for medications for Costia (also known as Ichthyobodo and Slime Disease). Unfortunately the two commonest med.s., Copper and Formalin, are both quite toxic to Ropefish. Acriflavine is safer.>
I have included some photos (sorry they're not the greatest)- This guy looks so bad :( They are very lethargic and the infection is getting worse.
We did also recently move, so we are not on well water anymore, but we have checked the nitrite, ammonia, and nitrate levels as well as pH, and everything looks normal. Is there anything we can do to help these guys?
Any insight would be GREATLY
appreciated.
Many thanks!
lindsey.
<Hope this helps. Have cc'ed RMF if he wants to add anything. Cheers, Neale.>
Re Sick Rope Fish!
     9/11/14
Thank you Neale. I'd responded ahead of you; thinking this was a bit of an emergency, and placed the query in your in-box for your response in return. Cheers, BobF

Re: Sick Rope Fish!     10/7/14
Many thanks to both of you for your input. Both of our rope fish are still alive, but seem to be recovering slowly. We did increase the salinity and continue with frequent (weekly) water changes.
<But do keep salinity low, 2-3 gram/litre is ample, 5 g/l absolute tops.
Ropefish aren't really brackish water fish in the sense of adapting to a broad salinity range. But they do inhabit river deltas and vaguely saline swamps, so do tolerate some small amount of salt very well. Useful for treating Whitespot, Velvet, and to some degree issues such as Costia.>
We did also treat with "copper power" (1.26% copper sulfate).
<Use with great caution here. Ropefish are not known to be tolerant of copper.>
We have tried to feed them a few earthworms, and they seem only mildly interested,
<Let them go hungry. They *will* eat them. They are an excellent food.>
but they are eating their Tubifex worms eagerly.
<Not the safest food! Frozen are just about defensible, but live Tubifex shouldn't be used.>
We will try and get them some whitefish in the future. Again, many thanks for your help with this. We truly thought we were getting them a "treat" with the feeder fish as they seem to gobble up any other small fish we put
in the tank (neons, tetras, etc...). Live and learn I guess :/
<Indeed. Good luck, Neale.>

Ropefish health problems    /RMF      1/8/14
Greetings, all!  Several of you, Mr. Monks especially, helped me with a Ropefish problem about 2.5 years ago.  They were panting/gulping, not eating, etc.  It turned out to be mostly an environmental toxin: I’d purchased a tank ornament that was labeled for fish, but I discovered it had been coated with some antimicrobial substance for reptiles.  Of the three Ropes, one died and two recovered.  I later got a few more Ropes, and they had all been fine for over two years.
<Thank you for this summation>
Unfortunately, we’re having trouble again.  I’m afraid this is a very long message – I’m trying to provide all the information that might be relevant.  I did use the WWM Index and search tool, but I did not succeed in finding answers that I thought applied well to my situation.
First, the particulars of the tank: 55 gallons, with 2 AquaClear 70s (600 gallons per hour filtration, approximately 10 times the aquarium volume); I have two filters because they break down once in a while, and I like to keep at least one running while I fix the other.
I use mechanical (sponge) and biological (ceramic beads/BioMax) filter media, but I don’t usually bother with carbon, since I rarely have a need for it.  The only additive I use is Prime, when I do water changes.
<Ok>
Ammonia 0; nitrites 0, nitrates 0-20, chlorine 0, chloramine
0, pH 6.8-7.4 (usually around 7); GH 75 ppm; KH 72 ppm.  Temp 76-77 F.
<All fine>
Side note about the water chemistry: the GH and KH are the same as my tap water.  The fluctuation in pH seems related to water changes; that is, my tap water pH is 7.4, so the tank pH rises a bit when I change water, then gradually drops down to about 7.  I’ve wondered if increasing my KH and/or GH
would help the pH resist those fluctuations, but I’m not sure it’s wise to fiddle with the chemistry, since the fish seem to tolerate these values.
<You are wise here. I would not fiddle>
I used to do a 25% water change every week, but I noticed my fish seemed happier and less stressed when I did it every other week.
<A good clue. I would store your change out water for a/the week ahead of use.>
 I feed sparingly, and chemistry generally remains very stable between water changes.
Ten days ago, I had four Ropefish, four Pristella Tetras, two Angelfish, and one Pleco – Hypancistrus L333 or L066; I can’t tell which, but it’s pretty!  The Ropefish used to eat primarily krill and tilapia bits, but they developed a taste for cichlid pellets, so I’ve mostly fed those for the past year.  Local fish store says the pellets are better for them since they’re more “balanced,” but I’m not sure I believe that.  Anyway, all the fish seemed healthy, and I hadn’t
had problems or any deaths in a long time.
The store where I buy my livestock has a policy of quarantining incoming fish for several weeks.
<Excellent; kudos to/for them>
They treat for any detectable illnesses and prophylactically for parasites before the fish are moved to the sales floor.  This does matter, as I’ll explain below.
Nine days ago, I purchased a fifth Ropefish
<Your 55 is too full of this species already>
 and 8 Diamond Head Neon Tetras.  I thought maybe the Ropefish wouldn’t eat the Neons, since the new Rope is so small and the old Ropes have been eating the pellets.  Wrong!  Between the Ropefish and the Angelfish, the Neons disappeared very quickly.  This is why I think it matters that the fish store quarantines their livestock: the Neons were healthy, at least in theory.  I gave the Angelfish to my friend.  I then had five Ropes, four Pristella Tetras, and the one Pleco.
Six days ago, I got eight Denison’s Barbs (Sahyadria Denisonii).  Five are very small, maybe 1.5 inches, and
three are bigger, about 2 inches.
<I hope you have added aeration here>
Four days ago, I gave the tank a deep cleaning: scraped algae, scrubbed lid (with plain water), picked out snails, changed about 25% of the sand, 30% water change.  Fish stayed in the tank.  I also gave my plants and decorations a hydrogen peroxide dip (5 parts water, 1 part 3% H2O2). 
<.... Mmmm, some times H2O2 prep. uses have unseen circumstances>
After the dip, I rinsed them thoroughly in tap water, then soaked them in de-chlorinated water.  The H2O2 dip was meant to kill algae.  I don’t have tons of it, but it’s ugly, and I try to keep it to a minimum.  During this process, I protected my filter media by keeping it in a bucket of tank water until everything was finished.
Three days ago, I got 12 Danios.  That brought my inventory to 12 Danios, 8 Denison’s Barbs, 5 Ropefish, 4 Pristella Tetras, and one Pleco.  The Tetras, the Pleco, and all of the new fish (Danios, Barbs, one Ropefish) are doing great.
Yesterday, I woke up to some very sick Ropefish.  All of my “old” Ropes (all but the new one, I mean) were affected to varying degrees: wobbly, lethargic, and, mostly alarmingly, bulging eyes!  I immediately removed them from the main tank and started setting up the hospital/quarantine/treatment tank.  All of the Ropes went into the treatment tank, even the still-healthy new one, since my LFS recommended I assume the whole species was infected.  I changed 25% of the water in the main tank immediately after moving the Ropes to quarantine.  I’m treating the quarantine tank with antibiotics (Kanamycin) and Epsom salts (the salts per this article by Neale Monks, http://www.fishchannel.com/fish-health/disease-prevention/popeye.aspx).  No Melafix or similar nonsense.
<Good>
Two of them died within an hour.
<Something environmental here
... not pathogenic/biological at work. Somehow these animals were poisoned>
 A third looked so bad that I euthanized it later in the day – its eyes were bulging horribly, and its body started to swell so much that its scales were looking like a pinecone.  After 12 hours, I put the still-healthy-looking new Ropefish back in the main tank because I didn’t want it to be in the treatment tank with the sick one if the sick one died during the night.  The main tank still looks great, and the water parameters have remained stable at the values mentioned above.  I’m testing twice per day.
So there’s one Ropefish remaining in the treatment tank.  This one didn’t look nearly as bad as the others; in fact, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it was ill right away if the others hadn’t been so obvious.  Its condition, while not terrific, has not deteriorated either.  I’m torn between hoping it will recover and worrying that I’m allowing it to suffer pointlessly.
What do you think might be the cause of this disaster? 
<My best guess is that some toxic chain reaction was brought on via the peroxide exposure... I would be reading, doing what you can to discount the algal issue in other ways. See WWM re>
Disease brought in by the new Ropefish, like an asymptomatic carrier?
<Not considering such rapid onset, losses; no>
 Ingestion of Neon Tetras?  Weak immune systems pushed over the edge by stress?  I think I made too many changes in too short a time.  This is the first time I’ve tinkered with the tank for at least a year, probably longer.
The gentleman I usually work with at the local fish store said I’m the only person he’s every helped with Ropefish problems, which could mean one of two things: either nobody else has problems with them, or nobody else bothers to ask for help if/when they do have trouble.  He went on to say that whenever he loses 3-4
of a particular species, he stops trying to keep those and moves on to something else.  Considering the issues I’ve had, do you think I should call it a day and give up on having Ropefish?
<Mmm, up to you>
 I thought 2.5 years without any losses meant I was doing ok with them, but as much as I love them, I don’t want to persist if I’m not doing a good job and the fish are paying the price.
As always, I appreciate your time and your assistance.
Regards,
Jane
<Let's have you read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwmaintindex.htm
scroll down to the "Algae Matters" tray... you'll find that some algae are very troublesome , can bring on symptoms, losses as yours here. Bob Fenner>
Ropefish health problems    /Neale       1/8/14
Greetings, all!
<Hello Jane,>
Several of you, Mr. Monks especially, helped me with a Ropefish problem about 2.5 years ago.  They were panting/gulping, not eating, etc.  It turned out to be mostly an environmental toxin: I’d purchased a tank ornament that was labeled for fish, but I discovered it had been coated with some antimicrobial substance for reptiles.  Of the three Ropes, one died and two recovered.  I later got a few more Ropes, and they had all been fine for over two years.
<Good.>
Unfortunately, we’re having trouble again.  I’m afraid this is a very long message – I’m trying to provide all the information that might be relevant.  I did use the WWM Index and search tool, but I did not succeed in finding answers that I thought applied well to my situation.
<I see.>
First, the particulars of the tank: 55 gallons, with 2 AquaClear 70s (600 gallons per hour filtration, approximately 10 times the aquarium volume); I have two filters because they break down once in a while, and I like to keep at least one running while I fix the other.  I use mechanical (sponge) and biological (ceramic beads/BioMax) filter media, but I don’t usually bother with carbon, since I rarely have a need for it.  The only additive I use is Prime, when I do water changes.
Ammonia 0; nitrites 0, nitrates 0-20, chlorine 0, chloramine 0, pH 6.8-7.4 (usually around 7); GH 75 ppm; KH 72 ppm.  Temp 76-77 F.
<Sounds good.>
Side note about the water chemistry: the GH and KH are the same as my tap water.  The fluctuation in pH seems related to water changes; that is, my tap water pH is 7.4, so the tank pH rises a bit when I change water, then gradually drops down to about 7.  I’ve wondered if increasing my KH and/or GH would help the pH resist those fluctuations, but I’m not sure it’s wise to fiddle with the chemistry, since the fish seem to tolerate these values.
<Likely so. Doing frequent, small water changes may be the best thing here. Yes, fish can adapt to small changes in pH. Going from 7.4 to 7 isn't going to cause any serious stress to most fish.>
I used to do a 25% water change every week, but I noticed my fish seemed happier and less stressed when I did it every other week.  I feed sparingly, and chemistry generally remains very stable between water changes.
<Good.>
Ten days ago, I had four Ropefish, four Pristella Tetras, two Angelfish, and one Pleco – Hypancistrus L333 or L066; I can’t tell which, but it’s pretty!  The Ropefish used to eat primarily krill and tilapia bits, but they developed a taste for cichlid pellets, so I’ve mostly fed those for the past year.
<Sounds ideal.>
Local fish store says the pellets are better for them since they’re more “balanced,” but I’m not sure I believe that.
<Some truth to this, certainly as far as nutrients go. Pellets lack fibre, which whole krill will provide, so a mix of both is useful.>
Anyway, all the fish seemed healthy, and I hadn’t had problems or any deaths in a long time.
<Good.>
The store where I buy my livestock has a policy of quarantining incoming fish for several weeks.  They treat for any detectable illnesses and prophylactically for parasites before the fish are moved to the sales floor.  This does matter, as I’ll explain below.
<Okay.>
Nine days ago, I purchased a fifth Ropefish and 8 Diamond Head Neon Tetras.  I thought maybe the Ropefish wouldn’t eat the Neons, since the new Rope is so small and the old Ropes have been eating the pellets.  Wrong!
<Indeed!>
Between the Ropefish and the Angelfish, the Neons disappeared very quickly.
<Yes. Neons are dozy at the best of times, and they also sleep/rest at the bottom of the tank, making them especially easy prey for nocturnal hunters. To some degree, more active fish of similar size seem less prone to being eaten.>
This is why I think it matters that the fish store quarantines their livestock: the Neons were healthy, at least in theory.  I gave the Angelfish to my friend.  I then had five Ropes, four Pristella Tetras, and the one Pleco.
Six days ago, I got eight Denison’s Barbs (Sahyadria Denisonii).  Five are very small, maybe 1.5 inches, and three are bigger, about 2 inches.
<Somewhat risky, and also these fish do need fairly cool water, so I'd approach with caution when keeping in a mixed community.>
Four days ago, I gave the tank a deep cleaning: scraped algae, scrubbed lid (with plain water), picked out snails, changed about 25% of the sand, 30% water change.  Fish stayed in the tank.  I also gave my plants and decorations a hydrogen peroxide dip (5 parts water, 1 part 3% H2O2).  After the dip, I rinsed them thoroughly in tap water, then soaked them in de-chlorinated water.  The H2O2 dip was meant to kill algae.  I don’t have tons of it, but it’s ugly, and I try to keep it to a minimum.  During this process, I protected my filter media by keeping it in a bucket of tank water until everything was finished.
<Sounds fine.>
Three days ago, I got 12 Danios.  That brought my inventory to 12 Danios, 8 Denison’s Barbs, 5 Ropefish, 4 Pristella Tetras, and one Pleco.  The Tetras, the Pleco, and all of the new fish (Danios, Barbs, one Ropefish) are doing great.
<Good.>
Yesterday, I woke up to some very sick Ropefish.  All of my “old” Ropes (all but the new one, I mean) were affected to varying degrees: wobbly, lethargic, and, mostly alarmingly, bulging eyes!  I immediately removed them from the main tank and started setting up the hospital/quarantine/treatment tank.  All of the Ropes went into the treatment tank, even the still-healthy new one, since my LFS recommended I assume the whole species was infected.
<Or at least stressed in the same way.>
I changed 25% of the water in the main tank immediately after moving the Ropes to quarantine.  I’m treating the quarantine tank with antibiotics (Kanamycin) and Epsom salts (the salts per this article by Neale Monks, http://www.fishchannel.com/fish-health/disease-prevention/popeye.aspx).  No Melafix or similar nonsense.
<Good.>
Two of them died within an hour.  A third looked so bad that I euthanised it later in the day – its eyes were bulging horribly, and its body started to swell so much that its scales were looking like a pinecone.  After 12 hours, I put the still-healthy-looking new Ropefish back in the main tank because I didn’t want it to be in the treatment tank with the sick one if the sick one died during the night.  The main tank still looks great, and the water parameters have remained stable at the values mentioned above.  I’m testing twice per day.
<Good.>
So there’s one Ropefish remaining in the treatment tank.  This one didn’t look nearly as bad as the others; in fact, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it was ill right away if the others hadn’t been so obvious.  Its condition, while not terrific, has not deteriorated either.  I’m torn between hoping it will recover and worrying that I’m allowing it to suffer pointlessly.
What do you think might be the cause of this disaster?
<This sounds to me like exposure to some sort of toxin rather than a disease. Copper or formalin, for example. The Neons might have been recently treated with copper and carrying copper with them, but I'm not sure how quickly fish metabolise copper out of their system after exposure. More likely is something got in during the water change, perhaps a cleaning agent of some sort. This sort of instant, deadly change in the condition of a large number of fish is very rare as a disease, but very common after exposure to a poison. Failing that, a sudden dramatic change in pH could cause a problem, or exposure to something else, perhaps in the new sand or gravel adding to the tank. Hard to say for sure, but I'd be thinking about exposure to an environmental factor rather than a disease or parasite.>
Disease brought in by the new Ropefish, like an asymptomatic carrier?  Ingestion of Neon Tetras?  Weak immune systems pushed over the edge by stress?  I think I made too many changes in too short a time.  This is the first time I’ve tinkered with the tank for at least a year, probably longer.
<Ah, yes, often best to avoid "deep cleaning" tanks even if it sounds like a good idea. If you must do this, do so over a few weekends, doing the filter one weekend, the substrate the next, and so on, each time minimising other sorts of changes. I'm a big fan of benign neglect with aquaria, preferring to understock and over-plant (with floating plants that are easy to crop) so that the tank has some degree of ecological balance, like a garden pond.>
The gentleman I usually work with at the local fish store said I’m the only person he’s every helped with Ropefish problems, which could mean one of two things: either nobody else has problems with them, or nobody else bothers to ask for help if/when they do have trouble.
<I do suspect the latter to some degree. With oddballs there are a few people who keep them for years, but lots of people who keep them for a few weeks or months. So we have a skewed perception of their needs. Some think they're easy, some impossible, while the truth is something between the two.>
He went on to say that whenever he loses 3-4 of a particular species, he stops trying to keep those and moves on to something else.
<A wise approach in many cases, and there's much to be said for only keeping fish you find easy to keep!>
Considering the issues I’ve had, do you think I should call it a day and give up on having Ropefish?
<I would not, but you might think about a singleton Bichir instead. They're similar, but you don't need a group, and they aren't quite so tricky to keep in some ways. Definitely benign neglect is the way to keep all of these swamp-dwelling air-breathers. Moderate feeding, regular water changes, but otherwise leave them alone so far as practical. Have kept Bichirs this way for many years.>
I thought 2.5 years without any losses meant I was doing ok with them,
<True.>
but as much as I love them, I don’t want to persist if I’m not doing a good job and the fish are paying the price.
<Do think you were unlucky somehow here. Do also remember mortality in the wild is huge -- often these fish would survive only one or two summers (dry seasons) so yours were doing very well. Better you buy them and offer them a fair chance of survival than someone with no clue at all how to keep them.>
As always, I appreciate your time and your assistance.
Regards,
Jane
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: Ropefish health problems ((Bob, couple paras you'll want to reply to)<<>>    1/9/14

Bob, Neale: thank you so much for your prompt and helpful responses!  I appreciate it tremendously.
<Welcome.>
Bob, when you mentioned aeration for the Denison’s Barbs, were you thinking airstone/bubbler?  I have increased the filter turbulence, but I’m happy to add an airstone or something similar if it would benefit them.
<Bob?><<Yes to whatever means of aeration and circulation here. This system is crowded... the cooler water barbs will need. B>>
Neale, when you said my addition of the Barbs was “somewhat risky,” did you mean risky for the Barbs, or risky for the other fish in the tank?
<For the Barbs.>
I read their water temperature preference was 65-79 F,
<Just seen this number in Wikipedia; is rubbish. Denisonii Barbs are typical subtropical barbs, and you're aiming for (in American numbers) high 60s, low 70s F. Anything above 25 C/77 F is going to stress them, and you don't really want to keep them above 22 C/72 F. This is one reason this species is perceived as short-lived in some quarters -- they're too often kept excessively warm.>
and I thought 76-77 F might be a happy medium that would work for all of the fish in the tank.  I was actually concerned with their needs in terms of hardness more than temperature.
To be clear, the Ropefish started looking sick almost 2.5 days after the big cleaning project that may have introduced a toxin/poison.  Does that time frame make sense to you?
<Hard to say really. But possible even though I agree, the timing seems a little off.>
The Neons were consumed in the 3-4 days leading up to the cleaning project, and I would only be guessing whether the culprit is more likely the earlier exposure (Neons) or the later exposure (cleaning). I wish I could figure out the source of the toxin!
<Something outside the tank? Paint fumes maybe? Insecticide? As air-breathers, they're that bit more sensitive to airborne toxins than regular fish.>
I would like to ensure this never happens again.  I am careful to net new livestock out of their carrying bags once they’re acclimated instead of dumping the bag water into the tank with the fish.  I put a new (artificial) aquarium plant in the tank the night before they got sick, but as always, I rinsed it thoroughly before putting it in, so I hadn’t considered it as a possible cause.
<Good.>
There is one other factor that just occurred to me: two days before the fish got sick, I added an Acurel brand “Ammonia Reducer Infused Media Pad” (http://www.acurel.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=7&Itemid=68 )
to one of the filters.
<Should be safe. I don't bother with zeolite though.>
I did this because my LFS tested a water sample from my tank and thought there were traces of ammonia, even though all my tests were negative.  I bought a fresh ammonia test kit, went back home, and it was still negative.  I called the store again, and we concluded that the sample must have been contaminated in the carrying container. (At no point did the carrying container come in contact with the tank – I used my designated tank cup to scoop out a sample – and I certainly didn't pour the sample back into the tank.)  Subsequent water tests at home and at the store were negative.
<I see.>
Any theories as to why only one species was sickened, and only four out of five?
<Not really, but see comment above about air breathing.>
What would you recommend I do next?  I’m considering a series of 10-25% water changes in main tank, once or twice per day for the next few days, to flush out any remaining toxin.  Would it help to run carbon?
<Yes, fresh carbon. Remove/replace after a few days though to prevent whatever was collected being leached back into the water.><<Agreed>>
Would you suggest continuing to treat the sick Ropefish in the hospital tank for a bit longer, or returning it to main tank?  I hesitate to put it back because I’ll be out of town Saturday – Monday, and I dread the thought of such a large fish dying and contaminating the tank while I’m gone.  But if this isn't an infection, it seems pointless to continue with antibiotics.  It’s also hard to control the ammonia in the hospital tank without an established biofilter in there, and I wind up doing daily water changes and using Prime frequently.
<Okay.>
About biological filtration in hospital tanks: I don’t have the space or the inclination to keep it running (and therefore cycled) all the time.  Should I keep an extra filter running on the main tank, then move it to the hospital tank when needed?
<Is worthwhile, or at least, choose a backup filter that can accommodate media from the main tank. Since mature filters can donate (some of their) live media without problems, this way you'll be able to set up a new mature filter at a moment's notice.>
Obviously I would use fresh filter media when returning it to the main tank.  Is there something easier or simpler that you’d recommend?  I will search for an article on Wet Web Media, but I thought it might be worth asking.
Thanks the “Algae Matters” link, I will go read that right now.  Bob, are you thinking the algae itself may have been a source of poison?
<<Yes. RMF>>
<Again, will let Bob comment here.>
Off to read.  Thanks again!
Regards,
Jane
RE: Ropefish health problems (Bob, couple paras you'll want to reply to)    1/10/14

Again, thank you both for your replies.
<Welcome Jane>
Bob: you said the system is crowded.  After all the changes, I currently have the following in a 55 gallon tank: 8 Denison’s Barbs (5 of those are very small), 10 GloFish (Danios), 4 Pristella Tetras, 1 L333, and 1 very small Ropefish (the new one, who still looks healthy).  A second Ropefish is still in the treatment tank.
What would you recommend I change, in order to maximize the health of all the animals?
<These will be fine... Thought you had five Ropes>
About algae: I am working my through the “Algae Matters” section.  Lots of material!  So far it’s talked about what causes it, how to control it, and given some overviews of different types.  I’ve yet to come across any details about
toxicity, but I will keep reading until I get through the whole section.
<Mmm yes; an interesting citation on Advanced Aquarist (.com) re algal toxicity study in Fiji currently. There are several (as in the Middle English meaning many) types of toxic algae, fresh and marine... some are real trouble at times to aquarists. Best to keep all at a minimum through regular maint.>
 A few days before the Ropefish fell ill, I scraped a bunch of algae off the glass.
It was the common-looking green stuff.
It had been there a long time, not because it was spreading, but because I’d never bothered to remove it before.
I waited a few minutes for the scrapings to settle on the sand, then vacuumed up everything I could see.  Now
I’m wondering if the bits I missed had some kind of harmful impact after being liberated from the glass?
<Perhaps... some unleash powerful chemicals...>
 The filters
were turned off while I did this maintenance.
<And take up a good deal of diss. O2. B> 
RE: Ropefish health problems (Bob, couple paras you'll want to reply to)    1/10/14

Again, thank you both for your replies.
<Welcome.>
Bob: you said the system is crowded.  After all the changes, I currently have the following in a 55 gallon tank: 8 Denison’s Barbs (5 of those are very small), 10 GloFish (Danios), 4 Pristella Tetras, 1 L333, and 1 very small Ropefish (the new one, who still looks healthy).  A second Ropefish is still in the treatment tank. What would you recommend I change, in order to maximize the health of all the animals?
<From my perspective, I'd say the Denison Barbs are probably the ones ill-suited to this aquarium. They do get quite big, around 10 cm/4 inches, so while a 55-gallon aquarium should offer 48 inches of swimming length, that's the absolute minimum for this species. Another factor is the L333 catfish; this is a Rio Xingu species of Hypancistrus, so actually prefers somewhat warm conditions, traditionally 26-28 C/77-82 F being recommended for Rio Xingu fish. That's well outside the comfort zone of Denison Barbs (and to some degree, the Danios and the Pristella Tetras, though the tetras will probably be fine). Ropefish are unfussy about temperature, and aquarium specimens never seem to exceed 40 cm in length, despite the 90 cm length quoted in many older aquarium books. So a couple specimens in a 55-gallon tank isn't unreasonable given these are slender fish.>
About algae: I am working my through the “Algae Matters” section.  Lots of material!  So far it’s talked about what causes it, how to control it, and given some overviews of different types.  I’ve yet to come across any details about toxicity, but I will keep reading until I get through the whole section.
<Unlike Bob, I don't really subscribe to the "algae is toxic" school of thought, at least so far as freshwater aquaria go. For sure there are numerous toxic marine algae particularly among the planktonic kinds (dinoflagellates for example commonly are) and because of the intense competition and predation pressures in the marine realm, marine algae often contain lots of nasty chemicals that if not poisons as such, are certainly unpleasant to eat. But freshwater algae seem to be less offensive, presumably because freshwater habitats are so different (more nutrients for the algae to consume, shallow water = more light, fewer herbivores). So my take on algae toxicity in freshwater tanks isn't that algae themselves are toxic, but that certain algae prosper in environments that have already become toxic. Cyanobacteria are the classic examples, and while often accused of poisoning fish, by interpretation is that they're symptoms of an aquarium that's become hostile to fish, so when the fish dies, it's not the algae but the tank that killed it. Do also understand that when a lot of algae dies at once, e.g., following use of algicides, all that decay can remove oxygen from the water, stressing the fish. This is actually one reason algae blooms cause problems in the wild, let alone volumes of water as small as fish tanks.>
A few days before the Ropefish fell ill, I scraped a bunch of algae off the glass.  It was the common-looking green stuff.  It had been there a long time, not because it was spreading, but because I’d never bothered to remove it before.  I waited a few minutes for the scrapings to settle on the sand, then vacuumed up everything I could see.  Now I’m wondering if the bits I missed had some kind of harmful impact after being liberated from the glass?  The filters were turned off while I did this maintenance.
<Which is not a problem if you're quick. Simply switching off a filter for 20-30 minutes should do any serious harm, and for longer periods, open the filter up and lay the filter media out flat in some shallow water so they keep wet but aren't far from the air, letting oxygen get in.>
Neale: Is there a temperature that you think would be cool enough for the Barbs, but warm enough for the others?
<25 C/77 F is about the best you can hope for. Longer term, yes, you might want to think about whether you're going to keep them all in the one tank and hope for the best (and certainly extra aeration and circulation can help) but with the understanding the barbs may "live fast, die young" in warmer water, or else you might over the next year or two sort out your different fishes into tanks better suited to their long-term needs. To be sure many people keep Denison Barbs in warmer water, or for that matter L333 in water that's cooler than the wild -- and these people keep them for many happy years. But do read up about the needs of their species, so you have a better idea of what to look for if things start to turn sour.>
It sounds like I need to get a separate tank for the Barbs (how big?), but in the meantime, where would you recommend setting the temperature?
<See above.>
Regarding poisons: no paint, no pesticides, and no cleaning chemicals – the tank is in my living room, and the only cleaning I do in there is dusting and vacuuming.  HOWEVER!  Yesterday my little girl alerted me to a different possible source of toxicity.  She informed me that she’d given the Ropefish a “present” before they got sick, but “it melted.”  (She’s three years old.)  Apparently she put some little bits of play-doh in the tank, which must have dissolved, although I can’t imagine the Ropefish ate it.  The play-doh website states the following:
“The exact ingredients of PLAY-DOH compound are proprietary, so we cannot share them with you. We can tell you that it is primarily a mixture of water, salt and flour. It does NOT contain peanuts, peanut oil, or any milk byproducts. It DOES contain wheat. PLAY-DOH compound is not a food item and is not intended to be eaten. PLAY-DOH compound is non-toxic, non-irritating & non-allergenic except as noted: Children who are allergic to wheat gluten may have an allergic reaction to this product. Also, due to the high salt content in PLAY-DOH compound, the product can be harmful to pets if ingested.”
<Ah well, that might make sense. Ropefish actually occur in slightly brackish water, so in itself adding salt to the aquarium (for example to treat Whitespot) isn't a problem. But any fish swallowing chunks of Play-doh could have problems.>
I’m not sure which elements might be harmful.  Maybe the food coloring?  I doubt the salt would be problematic, at least for the Ropefish.  Needless to say, she and I had a long talk about not putting ANYTHING in the tank.
<Good idea! Pennies are another common "addition", with the copper in them being acutely toxic to many fish.>
Fresh carbon is running, and I’ll change it out for another fresh batch in a couple of days.
<Wise. But if everyone looks fine now, it may well be that the trouble has been-and-gone.>
While I was at the store buying the carbon, I noticed that their Ropefish were a much darker brown than the newest one in my tank (this is the one who hasn’t appeared sick at all).  Mine is much more yellow.  I confirmed that those brown ones were part of the same batch that mine came from.  It’s interesting, because mine looked the same as its tankmates when I bought it about ten days ago.  I didn’t think their color varied quite that much.  Could it be a difference in lighting?
<Perhaps, but there's much variation in the species.>
The Ropefish is behaving as though it feels fine.  It’s very active, and this morning it ate a Danio.  (Neale, you had commented that “to some degree, more active fish of similar size seem less prone to being eaten [than the Neons].”  Would you consider Danios to be in this category/less likely to be eaten?  They are not disappearing as quickly as the Neons – two Danios were eaten in 5 days, as opposed to eight Neons in 3 days.  But they are expensive (GloFish), and I’d rather not feed my Ropefish live food on purpose.
<Quite so. Basically, anything small and torpedo shape will be fair game; the best tankmates are deep-bodied things about the size and shape of Bleeding Heart Tetras upwards if that makes sense. Adult Denison Barbs should be fine, but bite-sized ones could be expensive meals too.>
I was thinking I could either give them to my friend, or transfer them to another tank until the new Ropefish is well-fed on other foods and perhaps starting to like the Cichlid pellets.  Then again, maybe the little fish would be appetising no matter how well-fed it was.  At the very least, I’ve learned that I don’t have to chop up their food anywhere near as small as I have been!)
<To a degree predatory fish will become lazy, just like cats do, but as with the well-fed cat that occasionally brings home a mouse, even the best fed Ropefish will have a snap at a sleepy tetra that comes within range.>
Thanks (thank you, thank you!),
Jane
<Most welcome, Neale.>
RE: Ropefish health problems (Again Bob, dip in if warranted; especially the algae section where I disagree!)     1/12/14

Neale, Bob: I do so appreciate your continued responses.  Your site really is an incredible resource.
<Thanks for the kind words.>
When it rains, it pours, I suppose; at least with aquariums.  I haven’t had problems very often, but when they do occur, they seem to come in clusters.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, the last sick Ropefish died in the treatment tank yesterday.  The new-ish one, who never had symptoms, was still doing fine – eating, swimming, etc. – until this morning.
<Oh dear.>
The second wave of problems started last night, when I noticed my Denison Barbs were flashing, flicking their bodies against the sand.  I’d never seen any of my fish doing this before (and I KNOW it’s a new symptom, since I’ve had my face glued to the tank for a solid week), but it didn’t look right, and when I called the local store they said it was likely a parasite.
<Certainly one of two things, one of which is a parasite irritating the gills or skin, most commonly Whitespot and/or Velvet. But the other cause can be something irritating in the water, most commonly ammonia or nitrite, but potentially could be other things I suppose, even sudden pH changes.>
Per their recommendation, I started treating (the main tank) with a Metronidazole/Praziquantel combo.
<Fair enough. Mightn't have done that myself (prefer the salt/heat method for Whitespot) but if this combination works on Whitespot and Velvet, it should be useful. Metronidazole is a general purpose anti-protozoan and anti-bacteria medication; Praziquantel is used to treat worms, but do note it has no impact on things we call worms but aren't, such as Anchor Worm.>
This meant I had to remove the carbon for now, and I also raised the heat to 80 F; you weren’t kidding about the L333 liking the warm water, its having a PARTY!  I’ve never seen it behaving so gregariously.  Obviously it’s not a good temperature for the Barbs, but it’s short term, so I hope it doesn’t make things worse for them.
<Short term, no, provided there's ample oxygen, which will be useful for the Hypancistrus too.>
Twelve hours after the Barbs started flashing, the new-ish Ropefish – now my only Ropefish! – began showing signs that seem like they might be consistent with parasites: it was huffing/puffing, and periodically flaring its gills open as wide as it could while thrashing its head against the sand.  Like it itches.  Its body looks a little puffy, too, like it’s a bit swollen.
<Indeed.>
Would you think that these are signs of the (theoretical) parasite that’s affecting the Denison, something caused by the medication I added to the tank, or something entirely different?
<Well, there's some anecdotal evidence that fish can have "safe" infections of Whitespot and Velvet without becoming sick, which is why these parasites sometimes appear out of the blue years after the last fish was added to the tank. Basically, their immune system keeps the parasites at a very low level. Only when stressed somehow do the parasites then become a problem.>
In your comments a couple of years ago, you said, “When one fish gets sick, it can be a one-off. When several fish of a single species get sick, then it's likely a species-specific disease. But if several fish across several species get sick, the environment is usually at fault.”  I’m suspicious that ALL of these problems, from the dying Ropes to the flashing Barbs, have a common cause.
<Indeed. But the common cause, e.g., a poison getting into the tank, could manifest itself in various ways, such as outright poisoning through to parasites being able to become serious problems.>
When I did that big cleaning project eight days ago (2.5 days before the Ropes got sick), I knew that I needed to keep my filter’s Biomax beads wet, but I hadn’t considered the oxygen factor.  The beads were in a deep bowl of tank water.  The entire project took several hours, and I started worrying that the bacteria might be getting too cold, but now I think they may have been compromised by lack of oxygen.
<Conceivably. Temperature isn't something to worry about much (after all, they're fine in coldwater tanks) provided any changes are gradual.>
This would explain why my water parameters have been consistent and stable, except when I feed: then I get traces of ammonia, do a water change, and it disappears.  Now I’m just not feeding at all.
<Does sound like the filter is "touchy". Consider all the usual factors. Is it big enough? Have you chosen the right variety of media? Should you increase the amount of biological media? Would a finer media be better than you have now, to support more bacteria? How do you clean the media? Is there ammonia in your tap water anyway? Do you treat the water for Chloramine? Does your test kit give false positives? (This latter can happen if you have Chloramine and treat accordingly.)>
The rest of the fish look fine (for now!), and the Barbs really don’t look sick or distressed outside of the flashing.  I really hope my Ropefish recovers.  If it dies, I think I will try one more time to keep this species.  Once the tank and all fish are healthy and stable, how long would you suggest waiting before getting either a companion for the current Ropefish (if it lives), or a new pair (if it dies)?  Two weeks, a month, two months?
<Certainly weeks rather than days, with 4-6 weeks being sensible. But if you have a quarantine tank, you may want to get healthy Ropefish as/when you see them, to minimise any problems that come from their long-term maintenance in tropical fish shops (such as lack of food) depending on what your retailers are like.>
I can’t help but wonder if the new-ish Ropefish caused or contributed to this series of disasters, and whether getting a second one (or a replacement pair) would destabilise the tank again.
<This being the case, quarantining makes even more sense. If the Ropefish are healthy in the QT tank for, say, 4 weeks, then they're unlikely to cause problems in the main tank.>
I care quite a bit about my fish and their health, and therefore I do make an effort to know the specific needs of each species before making a purchase.  I wish the information that’s widely available on the Denison were more accurate; I would not have acquired these fish if I’d known how different their temperature requirements were from the other occupants of the tank.
<Do get to know the SeriouslyFish.com website; it's probably the best for modern perspectives on tropical fish requirements. A lot of the "old favourites" like About.com tend to rehash stuff that's been around for years, and in some cases isn't up to date with latest research. What I like about SeriouslyFish.com is its written by a fish collector as well as a hobbyist, so there's a lot more focus on what a given fish experiences in the wild. While not all fish do best kept in aquaria how they live in the wild, particularly with things like Goldfish, Mollies and Guppies that have been much bred away from their wild ancestors, it's a very good general rule to follow on the whole.>
As always, I thank you sincerely!
Regards,
Jane
<Welcome, Neale.>
RE: Ropefish health problems (Update)        1/18/14

Hello all,
<Jane,>
The situation with my Ropefish and my tank has not yet resolved one way or the other, but there have been some developments.
The white spots that are the classic sign of an Ich infection showed up a full four days after the Barbs started flashing.  Now I'm reading up on Ich (never had this before).  Does that time frame - four days between the start of the flashing and the appearance of spots - seem odd to you?
<Not really, no. You see, with Velvet especially, but sometimes Whitespot, the parasites attack the gills first. That causes irritation including "flashing". It may be one or two more generation of parasites before you can actually see the cysts on the fish's skin.>
I can only see spots on the Ropefish, the L333, and one of the Danios.  I can't find any spots on the Barbs.
<Indeed. Some fish are more resistant than others, and some more prone.
Clown Loaches are classic fish for picking up Whitespot before anything else, whereas fish with very slimy skins are often resistant. Plus, fish develop a degree of immunity. In short, there are lots of reasons why fish develop symptoms of Whitespot at different rates.>
When the spots appeared, I changed water to discontinue and dilute the Metronidazole/Praziquantel and Kanamycin (which I'd added at my store's recommendation), raised the heat a couple more degrees (it's at 84 F now, so I've added quite a lot of aeration), added one tablespoon of salt per 5 gallons of water (I think that's 150 grams in a 208 litre tank), and added
"Super Ick Cure," which is a Malachite Green/Nitrofurazone combination.
<Do wonder if these are appropriate to Velvet; see below.>
I don't care about the staining, but I can't get a straight answer from Google about whether the Malachite Green is going to harm my live plants (I have a great Anubias "forest") or my biological filter.  Thoughts?
<It shouldn't.>
My Assassin Snails definitely don't like the medications, or the salt, I think.
<Salt won't harm them at this concentration; but other medications are dicey with snails, yes.>
Neale, you had said that a poison may have either caused all of these issues, or stressed the fish enough that a parasite had an opportunity to become a problem.  In absence of a good candidate for poisoning or toxicity, and now with the appearance of Ich, my retailer believes that perhaps Ich has been the problem all along, but with an atypical presentation.  (The owner/manager is now handling this case personally, so I don't have to worry about different clerks' varying opinions).  Does that sound like a possibility to you?
<Yes.>
I'm still researching the subject; have you ever heard of Ich as an internal infection, or the heavy breathing leading to swelling?
<See above; laboured breathing and flashing are both symptoms of Ick and especially Velvet parasites on the gills, which is absolutely something that sometimes appears without the cysts being visible elsewhere on the fish. Will make the observation Velvet is tougher to treat; the salt/heat treatment can work for Velvet, but often requires longer exposure to salt/heat and ideally higher concentrations of salt. Likewise with Malachite Green, which certainly does work against Velvet, but may require longer or repeated treatments.>
My one remaining Rope seems to be hanging in there -- still active, no panting, no swelling, just itchy and miserable.  There is one thing that's worrying me a bit: although I haven't seen the Rope eat in a week (the tiny amounts I've fed were gobbled up in seconds by the Barbs, so I don't think it's been eating when I'm not looking) it has what looks like a typical "food lump" in its belly, and the lump isn't moving or shrinking.  This is likely wishful thinking, but I hope its digestion has simply slowed way down while it's not feeling well.  It does get excited when I put food in the tank, but it doesn't exactly appear to be seeking the food, at least not the way my Ropes normally do.
<Indeed.>
My filter is still very touchy, so I can't put in so much food that it sits there until the Rope finds it.  I can only change water every 2-3 days because of the medications.
<Indeed.>
Regarding my filtration system: I think it's big enough, I'm running two AquaClear 70s on a 55 gallon tank, which is supposed to be a combined 600 gallons per hour.  I have a block of coarse sponge/floss for mechanical filtration, and a large net/bag of "BioMax" ceramic beads in each filter for biological filtration.  I recently added a third net/bag of BioMax, both to boost the filter and to supply seasoned media to a hospital tank when necessary.  To clean the media, I rinse out the floss in a bucket of tank water, and occasionally I'll replace one of the floss blocks, but only one at a time.  Rarely, I'll shake out the BioMax beads in a bucket of tank water to remove gunk and debris, but I never, ever replace them.  No ammonia in my tap water.  I don't think there's chloramine either, but my water conditioner (Prime) treats for chloramine anyway.
<Good.>
I'm absolutely open to suggestions; what can I do to improve this system? 
I'm wouldn't mind adding a third filter (canister, maybe?), but I'll definitely keep the AquaClears; I like the flexibility of customizing the media simply by opening up the box.  It's very easy to add and subtract things like biological filter beads, carbon, Poly-Filter pads, etc.  My impression of canisters is that they have very specific compartments for filter media.
<Sort of. Old school filters like the Eheim 2217 filter are basically big buckets usually sold without media, and you then fill them with a stack of Eheim sponge discs or else fill them with whatever bags of media you want, such as ceramic "noodles". (In the UK at least, often these filters are sold in special offer bundles alongside useful media, so it's worth shopping around.) In any case, old school fishkeepers like me love these filters because we already have a ton of media kicking around and like to use cheap or specialist media as the situation demands without being forced to use something sold under a fancy label. Others, like the modern Fluval filters, have spaces for both (supplied) sponges and compartments into which you can stuff smaller amounts of whatever media you want. Generally, external canister filters are very flexible, and internal canisters
somewhat flexible, though often including proprietary sponges. Internal canisters score highly in terms of being easy to use and pretty much idiot-proof when it comes to servicing, so a lot of folks prefer them over external canister filters that can look tricky to set up without flooding the floor! Really, if you follow the instructions this isn't much of a risk, but I can 100% understand why some folks just don't want to deal with all the wires and pipes.>
I like your idea of collecting healthy Ropefish as they become available and housing them in the quarantine tank.  I will do this as soon as I think the media for the quarantine tank is sufficiently seasoned.  Is there anything I can do to the media to avoid spreading the Ich to the quarantine tank, but without damaging the bacteria?
<Ideally, set up a with new media, mature using a fishless method for 4-6 weeks, and then maintain in strict isolation. Alternatively, run a full treatment of a reliable anti parasite medication on the tank before add the new fish.>
Thanks for the tip on SeriouslyFish.com.  I love that site.
<So do I.>
I will keep you posted on the progress and the outcome.
Thanks,
Jane
<Most welcome, Neale.>

Re: Ropefish health problems - another update    2/25/14
Hi all!
You may recall the problems that started in early January with my Ropefish:
they were panting, then swelling, and some of them had bulging eyes.
<I do recall>
 Four out of the five Ropes died almost immediately; the new one (which I believe introduced the problem) survived. 
<Not an unusual scenario>
Later in the week my Denisonii barbs started flashing, and Ich spots appeared four days after that.
<What have you learned re the value of quarantine?>
 I treated the Ich with heat, some salt, and a Malachite Green/Nitrofurazone combination.  It was a very stubborn case of Ich; when it wasn't gone after a week, my retailer gave me some of their pure Malachite Green, which finally did the trick.
Here's what's happened since: not 24 hours after the Ich infestation was finally cleared, my Denisonii came down with a bacterial infection: red streaks/splotches in the body, ragged fins with white edges.  The owner/manager of my LFS actually came out to my house with her husband, who runs the wholesale side of their business. 
<Impressive service; kudos to them>
They diagnosed the infection and instructed me to treat with a cocktail of Kanamycin, Metronidazole, and Tetracycline.
It worked, and all of my fish survived.  My bio-filter, sadly, did not.
<Ah no... You TREATED the main tank? Almost always a mistake>
  For 5-6 days I battled ammonia and nitrites.  The nitrites were actually much harder to control than the ammonia, and at one point the nitrites were up to 5.0 ppm.  I lost track of how many water changes I did to dilute it.
<There are other means... did you search WWM?>
 I tried some of those bacteria-in-a-bottle products, but they were not helpful at all. 
<A few are real... the others... ALL covered on WWM>

My L333 Pleco nearly died.  Then my owner/manager down at the LFS gave me an infusion of poop from one of her shrimp tanks.
<Ahh!>
 It worked like a miracle -- my nitrites were dropping within hours, and all the parameters were perfect the next day.
I decided to celebrate the end of this trifecta of misery by upgrading from a 55 gallon to a 125 gallon tank.  Per your comments on canisters, I equipped it with two of the Eheim "Classic 600" (model #2217, I believe).
<Oh! I have a couple of these as well. Good units>
 I have two Cobalt "Neo-Therm" heaters, 150 watts and 200 watts, respectively.  I also got a 300 watt Hydor in-line heater to attach to one of the Eheim filters.  Between the three heaters and the two filters, I have very precise control over the temperature, which is nice.  The Eheims came filled with media: ceramic rings, then coarse sponge, then "Substrat" balls, then a fine sponge, then a thin carbon pad.
Do you think this is adequate filtration? 
<I might add a third... A hang on power filter... for many reasons>
I might be able to find room for more, but the flow/current in the tank is already pretty strong.  The Denisonii seem to be enjoying that.
I got 7 new ropes (that's a total of 8, including my sole survivor) and put them in a quarantine tank.
<Yay!>
 Good thing, since I saw Ich spots on them by the end of the day (the spots were not visible to me in the store).  LFS manager made another house call and brought me 14 days worth of medication in pre-measured, labeled containers. 
<Excellent technique>

She used a Metronidazole/quinine combination, which I'd never heard of before.  I also raised the heat and added salt.  It took about 7 days for the Ich to clear up, but it did finally work.  They're still in the quarantine tank; I plan to acclimate and move them to the big tank in another 2-3 days.
Looking at seriouslyfish.com, it appears that keeping the temperature at 75 degrees F should accommodate all the species I'm hoping to keep (I made a chart with the pH and temperature ranges for each fish).  Here's how I'd like to stock the tank: 1 L333 Pleco, 2 Siamese Algae Eaters, 12 Ropes, and 14 Denisonii.  I'd also like to add 1-3 Electric Blue Jack Dempseys.  Does this seem appropriate?
<Mmm; no. I would leave out any large Neotropical Cichlids.
There are many better, less aggressive/agonistic choices>
 Any adjustments to the number of each kind?  If I need to scale back, I'd prefer to get fewer Ropes and Denisoni; I already have the L333 Pleco, 8 Ropes, 8 Denisonii, and I have my heart set on the Siamese Algae Eaters and at least one Electric Blue Jack Dempsey.  Please let me know what you think!
A thousand thanks, as always--
Jane
<The SAEs may be predated by the Ropes; definitely by the EBJDs... Bob Fenner>
Re: Ropefish health problems - another update. Neale's addenda   2/25/14

<<I would second Bob's point: JDs are not community fish, and never have been. The Electric Blue Jack Dempseys do seem marginally less aggressive (perhaps the inbreeding has helped) but they're still potentially nasty fish, as well as opportunistic predators. I have seen even mild cichlids (Yellow Labs) strip the fins of Bichirs, let alone Ropefish, so I would never trust either Bichirs or Ropefish with anything other than the most peaceful cichlids (Angels, Kribs, etc). Denisonii Barbs are subtropical fish, and while you can push your luck with them up to about 25 C/77 F if water turnover rate and oxygenation are excellent, the warmer they're kept, the shorter their lives will be. Much better to choose appropriate subtropical or low-end tropical tankmates -- many of the barbs, almost all Corydoras, numerous L-numbers, many loaches, pretty much all the Danios and Minnows... pretty much anything that'll fit into the 18-22 C/64-72 F bracket that suits Denisonii Barbs best. Cheers, Neale.>>
Re: Ropefish health problems - another update   2/25/14

Hello Bob, thanks for your reply!
<Ah welcome Jane>
> <What have you learned re the value of quarantine?>
Quite a bit.  I didn't quarantine in the past because I had a sponge filter for that tank, and I couldn't figure out how to seed the sponge filter with bacteria from the Aquaclear filters on the main tank.  Dealing with sick fish, medication AND a cycling tank was a nightmare.  After the Ropefish disaster in January, I ended up getting another Aquaclear for the QT, and setting it up with mature media from my main tank when I got the new batch of Ropes about  10 days ago.
<Good>
Even though I now have the Eheim canister filters, I should be able to continue doing it this way: take a handful of media from the canister, put it in the Aquaclear, and add a handful of new media back into the canister.
 Given the size of the canisters and the fact that I'm running two of them, I don't think that would have a huge impact on the filtration in the main tank.  I don't have the space to keep the QT running and cycled all the time; in fact, when I do need it, it winds up sitting on the floor in front of the main tank.  Manageable for a few weeks, but very undesirable on a permanent basis.
<Sounds/reads good>
The other reason why I didn't quarantine in the past was because I (mistakenly) believed that the point of quarantine was to medicate.  I wouldn't buy a fish that looked sick, and I wouldn't medicate a healthy one, so I didn't see the point.  Now I understand the value of the QT even if it's purely for a period of observation.
> <Ah no... You TREATED the main tank? Almost always a mistake>
Indeed.  Unfortunately, I could not move 8 Denisonii barbs into my 15 gallon quarantine tank.  I can put 8 Ropes in there, since they don't dart about as much, but the barbs would have been a disaster.  Nosebleeds and stress, especially for them.
> <There are other means [of handling nitrites]... did you search WWM?>
Yes, but I'm still not very skilled at it.  I don't use very good search terms, apparently.  From what I was able to find (this, for example:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm ), I was doing everything I could: changing water, not feeding, not adding fish, bottled bacteria (what was available, anyway), and using "Purigen" (forgot to mention that).  I didn't have anywhere else to put my fish, and I did eventually get some good bacteria from the LFS.  I did not, however,
search for Macro-Algae.
<I would have you read here as well:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwmaintindex.htm
scroll down to the yellow tray>
> <A few are real [bottled bacteria]... the others... ALL covered on WWM>
The ones that are the highest rated (Dr. Tim's, Fritzyme) were not available locally.  I can't simply keep those on hand, since they expire. 
I chose what seemed like the best products from a questionable selection.
<I see; a shame. They may be ordered from worthy etailers like Dr.s Foster & Smith (.com)>
> <I might add a third ... A hang on power filter... for many reasons>
As it is, the current in the water is strong.  There are several spots where even my Denisonii have to work to swim against the current!  My plants were getting blown out of the substrate until I found a few spots where the flow was less intense.  Any suggestions for adding a power filter without adding to the strength of the current?
<Oh yes; most all hang ons just return the water in an overflow (low P) "wave"... I like the Whisper and Hagen lines>
> <Mmm; no. I would leave out any large Neotropical Cichlids. There are many
> better, less aggressive/agonistic choices>
I thought the EBJDs were less aggressive?  I was attracted to them as a large, colorful "centerpiece" for the tank.  Any suggestions for a good alternative?  I'm thinking mid-level or top swimmer, big, bright, and few (between 1 and 3).
<As Neale has remarked, added; they're still too likely to be problematical>
> <The SAEs may be predated by the Ropes; definitely by the EBJDs...
I have not had SAEs eaten by Ropes in the past, but I do take your point.  The Ropes are babies, and I can get SAEs that are already a good size, about 3-4 inches.  If the EBJDs are also very small to begin with, maybe 2-3 inches, would this work?  Would a full-grown EBJD eat a full-grown SAE?
<Oh yes; assuredly>
If I leave out the EBJDs, do I have the capacity for the rest of my plan? 
(1 L333 Pleco, 2 SAEs, 12 Ropes, and 14 Denisonii in 125 gallons with two
Eheim 2217s.)<Yes>
Thanks again,
Jane
<Welcome again. BobF>
Re: Ropefish health problems - another update   2/25/14

Hi, Neale!  Thanks for the reply; you've already answered some of the questions I asked in my response to Bob.
<Cool.>
You have convinced me to not to risk my Ropefish (my all-time favorites) with an EBJD.
<Wise.>
Regarding temperature: 75 F is at the warm end for the Denisonii Barbs and the cool end for everybody else, but it seems like it SHOULD be workable, at least for the time being.
<Agreed; just do be aware the Denisonii are at their upper limit, so oxygenation of the water becomes critical.>
I'd like to move the Denisonii to another tank that could be kept cooler.
<Is the ideal; a low-end tropical system at the least. Many barbs, loaches, L-numbers etc will prosper in such; just avoid the "hothouse flowers" like Angels, Clown Loaches and some of the Gouramis.>
My problem is that I don't have space for another tank downstairs, due to the locations of big windows and electrical outlets, and I need to have a construction specialist tell me whether and where my upstairs could support the weight of a large tank.
<I see.>
I recently read an article that questioned the need for heaters in home aquariums, even for fish that supposedly need warmer water, as long as the temperature in the tank is kept STABLE and above 65 F.
<Sounds dubious.>
I will try to find the reference.  What do you think?
<Bad idea. Ample, and I mean ample, evidence that tropical fish (particularly cichlids) are stressed by relatively cool conditions, hence the limit spread of cichlids northwards from Texas and (via human introduction) Florida. To be fair, aquarists would be surprised how many fish naturally come from relatively cool conditions, and many "old school" species like Corydoras and even Neons actually prefer somewhat cool conditions.>
Could my Ropes, SAEs, and L333 manage at, say, 72 F?
<I would aim for 75-77 F, and your Denisonii Barbs should be fine. Simpler all around. Just keep an eye on water circulation, and use an airstone if needs be. In the future, just shop a wee bit more carefully.>
I know the L333 likes very warm water and might be less active in cool water,
<Correct; a poor choice for life alongside low-end tropical or subtropical fish.>
but it almost never comes out of its cave during the day anyway, even when I had the temp at 86 F to treat for Ich.  If I want to see it, I have to shut off all the lights, put in some food, and sit still in front of the tank for 20 minutes.  Needless to say, I don't do that very often.
<Is the nature of many/most L-numbers to be strongly nocturnal. They do eventually settle down, but don't buy them expecting to see them in the open much! Try to find irresistible foods and use them accordingly, to train your L-number to associate you with food. The smaller species like Hypancistrus can be very nervous, but even my Panaque, whose been in my care for almost 20 years, is easily spooked. Still, if I throw in some cucumber or courgette, or even better the opened up "head" of a cooked shrimp with all its smelly goo, she usually comes out. Cheers, Neale.>

Rope Fish problem; hlth.     7/30/13
Hi, my name is Shania, I'm 16 years old and my dream is to be a marine biologist. Well, recently I reset up my 50 gallon tank, bought a new filter and a new air pump. I recently just bought two Rope fish because they were both in the same tank and I didn't want just one and not the other.
<This species is better kept as more than one to a tank>
Well, earlier today I tried to feed my rope fish some bloodworms.
<I wouldn't use these. Google our site re>
 Well, the female I guess got stressed and now has what you guys called "Slime disease".
<Mmm>
Her tail is white and starting to fall off piece by piece. I quarantined her to a tub with shallow water a small filter an air pump and a heater.
She seems to be doing just fine, I added some aquarium salt to calm her down a bit. Well, here's my problem... I don't know when it would be appropriate to add her back to the fish tank. I quarantined her as soon as possible because I had bought a rope fish from a local pet store and they had dropped it and it had gotten slime disease plus an infection and died.
When I noticed my new rope was showing the same symptoms I immediately took action. Is there anything more I can do to try and save her?
<Antibiotics may help here. Either a Furan compound, or the combination of Maracyn I and II>
I can't get medications until Saturday and I'm afraid she may not make it until then. I got her from PetCo with a 30 day health guarantee but I don't want to have to drive an hour to the closest PetCo if I can help save her.
I really need help. I've been researching all day about this and I haven't found anything until I went on your site. Should I leave her in the tank for a few days and monitor her or should I put her back with the others?
<Whichever system has the better water quality and stability>
Please, any information you have could be super helpful and greatly appreciated. Thank you! 
-Shania
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

sick rope fish. No info.; rdg.        7/16/13
Hi I'm hoping you can help me. I have had 2 rope fish for about 8 years now and been so happy with them. They have been healthy and seemingly happy, swimming around my 120L aquarium with other fish coming and going. They always come to eat from my hand when I feed.
Just yesterday I noticed some strange movements in one of them, and this morning I saw her/his eyes were all clouded over with a white/light blue colour. This evening it was floating on it's back with some contractions.
I'm wondering if this is an infection I can do something about, or if it could be old age?
Really hoping for answer asap as it saddens me very much to see it like this.
Thanks (in advance),
mette
<Umm, no data of use... Important that you just read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/RopefishDisF.htm
and the linked files at top. Bob Fenner>
Re: sick rope fish      7/16/13

Thank you, I have read those links already. Doesn't seem to be anything conclusive.
I was also wondering if 8 years can be considered old age for a rope fish?
<Know of some older than 20... When, where in doubt, change water... daily.
BobF>
mette
Re: sick rope fish      7/16/13
Wow ok, thank you very much again. will do.
Mette

Reed/Rope Fish Paralysis?   4/2/13
Good day!
Thank you so very much for taking time to read my email.
<Welcome.>
 I apologize for the haste but I have a sick/ oddly acting reed/rope fish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus) aka "Megan", that I would desperately like to save.
<Indeed so.>
I have an established 55 gal freshwater aquarium (8mo old). But I have owned and maintained healthy fish tanks for the past 20 yrs. A few cases of Ich was worst that has ever happened.
<Easily dealt with using salt/heat in most cases.>
The water chemistry is all at normal levels for a healthy tank, so says the aquatic store that I get my fish at. I can get specific numbers today if you would prefer. I keep the tank at 81 degrees since the variety of fish in my tank prefer temps at 78 to 82.
<Somewhat; the Eartheater and the Baryancistrus do prefer warm water, around 28 C/82 F would be about right, but I'd be leery about mixing these with fish like Black Ghost Knifefish and any sort of Pufferfish because these energetic fish can be sensitive to low oxygen levels.>
I also add 1 Tbs of salt (aquarium safe) to every 10 gal of water.
<To treat the Ick, I assume; long term salt will be harmful to some of these fish.>
I know it's usually 1 tbs to every 5 gal but from what I have read, there are fish in my tank that cannot handle the higher dose of salt but that the fish that require salt will do fine with a lower dose. Please correct me if any of this information is wrong.
<Consider yourself corrected. Always go by this simple rule: does the fish I am keeping naturally inhabit brackish water? If the answer is NO, then adding salt to the water is, at best, pointless, and more often than not harmful. Perhaps not immediately, but long-term, the use of salt is the kind of thing that stresses freshwater fish such as Knifefish that have very low tolerance for salt. Of the fish you have, only one is a brackish water fish, the Figure-8 Puffer, and obviously long term (after no more than a couple months) will need to be installed in a brackish water system. The Severum and the Ropefish both have some slight tolerance for brackish conditions, but the Ropefish would never be kept with Puffers -- I've seen pufferfish strip the fins from Ropefish and Bichirs -- and there's no advantage to keeping Severums in brackish conditions even if they may occur in them in the wild. All the other fish are strictly freshwater fish, and soft water fish at that!>
I would greatly appreciate any and all feedback.
I have:
One 6" black ghost knife
Two 3 1/2" Severums
Two 6" reed fish (one is new to tank 4 days. New one is acting fine)
One 2 1/2" gold nugget Pleco
One 3 1/3" Satanoperca jurupari
<Nice fish, but sensitive to water quality.>
One 3" Peacock child
<Do you mean Aulonocara spp? The Malawian Peacock cichlid? Needs hard, alkaline water, so doesn't belong to any of these other fish. Or do you mean the South American Peacock cichlid we otherwise call Cichla ocellaris? These latter are GIANT fish with predatory habits, though not aggressive and can make good fish for public aquaria. Virtually no use to home aquarists though; just too big.>
And one 1" Figure 8 puffer (new to tank of 4 days)
<See above; doesn't belong.>
As in the subject of my email I highly suspect one of my reed fish may have some form of paralysis? She was in normal condition last night and when I woke up to feed them this morning, (I feed a variety diet of frozen shrimp brine, frozen blood worms, and pellets. Not all at same time obviously), she was swimming in a stiff almost swirling formation, disoriented and stressed.
<Worrying; any chance of poisoning? Being air-breathers, most anything in the air will get to them before any other fish -- paint fumes, cleaning sprays, etc.>
It seems as though she has lost function of her pectoral fins, but was able to right herself to air breathe but would not eat from my hand. She is my favorite amongst all my fish since she is completely tame to the hand and will even curl up in your palm for a rest:)
<Nice.>
She is amazing and I would like to save her if possible! There are so many hiding spots in our tank but I'm afraid since she is so docile, that one of the other fish, I'm highly suspecting the blk ghost knife, may have gotten a hold of her. The blk ghost knife is finding a new home today since she/he is the most aggressive in the tank and have witnessed it shoving and smashing into my other fish. I know they have every bad eyesight and will push other fish out of the way but this one seems to be deliberately going after some of my fish.
<Is unusual for this species, but they are territorial, and Ropefish are really quite docile, so it's not impossible there was a squabble over hiding places. Nonetheless, I'd look at cichlids as well; Ropefish aren't good companions for cichlids, expect perhaps the more gentle Dwarf Cichlids.>
I have searched the web for reed fish paralysis or fish paralysis in general and have not found any substantial information. If you have any information I would so greatly appreciate it! And I thank you for supplying such a informative site!!
<There's little you can do here and now… ideally isolate the fish in a hospital tank where it can recover… keep the water shallow so it can breathe easily. Minimise dress, check water quality, review any other sources of stress or poisoning. The fish may recover, but I'd not be surprised if it didn't.>
Sincerely, Jessica
PS. Just an fyi, I am not the same Jessica who was inquiring about another reed fish. I read that article since it was in re: to reed fish illness.
<Understood! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Reed/Rope Fish Paralysis?   4/2/13

Thank you so much for your response!
<Most welcome.>
And you were correct, she didn't make it. Sniff sniff :(
<Ah, too bad.>
Shortly after sending my email to you, I had found her in one of the black ghost knife hiding spots where she never visited in the past, I guess there is a first for everything but I think this bgkf was very territorial, like you said, from the start and caused her death. I bought the bgk when he was already 6" and saw how pushy he was right from the start and I should
have done something about that right away. My fault. Obviously he came from a tank that was more aggressive in nature and just acclimated that way.
Sigh.... :(
I also make sure there are no perfumes, cleaning agents near the tank and I make sure to rinse my hands and arms thoroughly before I handle the tank and fish. No perfume soaps.
<Good. Don't be paranoid, but be aware.>
And thank you for the other information and plenty of it! Obviously I need to return the puffer fish right away too! I bought him because my tank had a sudden outbreak of snails! This I have never encountered before!
<Do read up on freshwater snails elsewhere on WWM; adding snail-eating fish, in itself, is rarely a cure for snails.>
I do not mix aquarium store water with my tank but 2 mo ago one of the bags ripped and some of the water got into my tank. About a month later snails were crawling everywhere! Do you have any ideas on how I can get rid of these annoying little guys? I'm so glad you told me about the salt issue also and will gradually wean back to pure fresh water. We have very hard city water should I add a little salt? Or let them acclimate to the hard water?
<The latter. Adding salt doesn't help "soften" hard water.>
All over the net is this huge debate re: this salt or no salt issue.
<The debate is an old one, but persists because adding salt is cheap and easy to do, so a lot of people *want* it to be useful. It made some sense decades ago when water quality wasn't properly understood; salt slightly reduces the toxicity of nitrate and nitrite, so those hardy, salt-tolerant fish kept through the 60s and 70s did well when a little salt was added.
But as time passed we got better filters and did more water changes, and we also switched from a small set of hardy fish to a much bigger selection of more sensitive species. End result, adding salt is a relic of the past, and in many cases does more harm than good.>
Oh and the peacock chilid is the smaller species you mentioned and I was concerned at first because I know how they can be with aggression but he is my second favorite out of the tank! He's extremely friendly with everyone!
<Aulonocara can be first-rate fish.>
Even with the jurupari fish, who is by the way a shy guy.
<Can be so; does depend on tankmates.>
I did take back the bgk today and was reluctant to get another but the aquatic sales person said that the one I was looking at was extremely docile and he was correct (so far). She is sweet and already eats out of my hand and when the other fish come near her she doesn't react aggressively like the other one did, just a slight tilt of her head in their direction and that's it. Fingers crossed she stays like that.
<Quite so.>
But yes, if you have any advice on the snail issue and salt debate that would be wonderful! And I promise there are no more issues to email about:)
Sincerely,
Jessica
<Much at WWM re: both topics. Maybe start here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/SaltUseFWArtNeale.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwsnails.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwsnailcompfaqs.htm
Snails are rarely a real problem, even if unsightly, so the best approach is to starve their populations down to tolerable levels through removal of excess food and fish wastes, while periodically culling them as needs be.
Cheers, Neale.>

Sick rope fish... no reading/WWM, 1 ppm NH3, mixed tropicals and not...      1/4/13
Hi, I'm looking for help treating my sick Ropefish. I recently bought 2 to add to my aquarium and one has developed puffy white lips and cloudy eyes as if it's going blind.
<Unfortunately an all too common scenario for this imported African>
The second one seems ok but is starting to develop the cloudy eyes as well.
The one with puffy lips stays at the bottom of the tank, still, trying to gasp for air from its mouth. Occasionally it swims aggressively to the surface before sinking back to the bottom.
I have had them for about 3 weeks and have not seen them eat once. I have tried feeding them freeze dried shrimp and live bloodworms,
<See WWM re these insect larvae>
and hoped they might eat flakes and pellets
<No sir, not likely; but we/WWM has a section on this as well>

with their other tank mates, with no success.
As for the details of my aquarium: 55 gal., gravel, fake plants. Tank mates include 2 Plecos, 2 Bala sharks,
<Get very large...>
 3 dojo loaches, 1 black moor goldfish,
<... misplaced... these last two are subtropical... Have to be elsewhere; not kept w/ tropicals>

 1 silver dollar tetra, 2 snails (all the other fish are healthy and behaving normally). Ph levels approx. 7.4, but I have had trouble with reducing ammonia levels which are stuck at 1.0.
<... extremely toxic... At least a source of your troubles here>

 The rep at the pet store advised that just keeping up with the weekly water changes should fix this, but it has been almost 2 months since I started adding fish on top of the 4 weeks spent cycling the aquarium.
<... you should have cycled fish-less... should be reading on WWM, doing what you can (bacteria cultures of use now)>
My maintenance schedule for the aquarium has been weekly water change of 10-15% and one monthly water change of 25-35%. The water being added is treated first. I use a gravel vacuum to clean the gravel while changing the water. The fish get fed twice a day, and I check my water quality every other day.
<You should curtail feeding period till the ammonia is negligible>
I bought my aquarium used and it was very dirty when I first got it, I replaced the gravel and cleaned the tank and all the components of the filter, and replaced about 1/4 of the filter media (just in case any of this info points to anything).
I'm really hoping to get some help
<... and maybe a read through of a tome or two on general freshwater aquarium set up>
with this the reps at the store have no idea what I'm trying to explain and offer no suggestions. I have also attached a picture of the sick rope fish, which I hope helps identify the problem. Thanks a bunch.
<.... Read the above a few times; search/read on WWM, elsewhere. And esp. here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/RopefishDisF.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner> 

 

Ropefish health issue, sudden onset    12/14/12
I have a Rope fish, he is 15-17 inches in length. He lives in a dirted community tank, with many plants and tank mates. it is 55 gallons with, C02, 200 watts 6500k lighting. The illness he is currently battling, started yesterday. Or I noticed it for the first time yesterday, The water parameters are perfect, zeros across the board (0 nitrate, 0,nitrate 0,ammonia, 7.4-7.8 Ph level). My PH is always high and the plants and fish are all long time residents and well adjusted to it. I have had only two
changes that I have noticed lately, One I have a new spotted Raphael catfish. (I assumed he was the cause at first) The next change is that my heater went out and caused the temperature to be up around 80-81 F. On to the symptoms, the first thing I noticed and the reason I assumed it was the new resident (Raphael) was a small circular pattern of injured, missing, or damaged scales on last 1/3 of Rosefish's belly. (looks like a bite given to the under side), about half the depth of his body.
<It is possible the Raphael catfish is somehow involved. Some of their relatives can act as cleaners on other fishes, their spines can be used to hurt predators and they share the same space (bottom, partly buried) as rope fishes. Also both species are active at night, when you likely don't observe them.>
Today the affected area has spread, and his left eye has fogged over and has a cataracts look to it. His eye is also slightly bulging.
<Bacterial infection.>
It also seems that his left side pectoral fin is paralyzed. I immediately quarantined him and started treatment. I have to admit that, although: the hospital tank is also dirtied and planted, with perfect water. It is unheated with no filter and no air supply. (I never need to use it, usually)
<Needs to be heated, air supply won't hurt either and help to keep the pH stable at night.>
I am treating with, JUNGLE's all in one treatment, fizz tabs.
<A strong oxidant releasing chlorine... If you see no effect you may have to use an antibiotic (such as Maracyn 1). Salt can also act as a mild, supportive remedy in this case. Please read
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/RopefishDisF.htm  for similar cases and details on the use of salt.>
I also lost a very small scissor tail today. It had no symptoms of and injury or illness, none others seems to have any symptoms.
<Can be related or not.>
I will attach a picture of the injured area of the Ropefish when I first noticed it. Thanks in Advance for any help/advice.                  
<Hope it helps.>
Brandon Peoples. Life long aquarium enthusiast, Three 55 gallon, one 29 gallon, Three 20 gallon, Two 2.5 gallon. Many species.
<Good luck. Marco.> 

Some very unwell Ropefish. No data, rdg.     8/25/12
Hello,
I searched all over your website and could not find anything that matched the symptoms my fish have and i really need help.
We have two rope fish that we have had for about a month, they have been fine, eating well and enjoying themselves.
Then yesterday evening they didn't touch their food, which alerted us to something being wrong. On a closer inspection they both seem to have what looks like cataracts on both eyes and are hardly moving.
<Something amiss w/ the environment here. I'd change half the water ASAP>

They are more than sluggish and both appear to be gasping at times. One of them was having spasms and seemed unable to swim for a small while but that has subsided.
This morning they are hardly moving still, simply sitting at the bottom of the tank together. Do you have any idea what could be wrong and any advice?
<As stated... test your water, change it... You offer little input of use re the system et al. READ here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/RopefishDisF.htm
and the linked files at top. Bob Fenner>
I am so very worried.
Thank you.
Grace.
Re: Some very unwell Ropefish. 8/25/12

<... why aren't you reading?>
Sorry, we don't have a water tester as we are new to this.
One fish was dead when i got in from work.
I have changed half the water.
Its a 48 litre tank,
<Too small for this species>
 we use ultrafin cycle
<... is this system cycled?>

 and aquaplus for the water.
You suggested a little salt to others, do you think that may help?
I guess the next few hours matter the most.
Thanks.
<... keep reading, or start. B>

Ropefish Ick??    3/26/12
Hello I have had my current rope fish for over ten years and he has been living in a tank with a goldfish that I have had for two years. Both fish got along great and I decided to buy my nieces a goldfish to put in the tank also which is probably the first mistake. Well I bought this goldfish and after three days I noticed the original goldfish had extremely red fins and was showing symptoms of stress. I looked up some of the causes as I have dealt with ick in the past and have treated it however it did not look like ick more like a fungal infection. So I treated the tank with a fungal remedy and after two more days the goldfish broke out with white spots and was now flashing and scratching himself on anything he could find on the aquarium. The goldfish I originally bought showed no symptoms of ick and my ropefish's coat started to look worn out (rough looking almost). I removed the fungal medication from the water and after two days of waiting and the ick getting bad on the goldfish i added some API Super ick cure. After four days and following the directions the fish did not look any better and looked like he was rotting away zombie like. This morning i woke up and he was dead. I found the rope fish floating at the top of the aquarium and thought he was dead too. I turned up the oxygen in the water and now he seems to be doing better as he is resting and eating but his scales still look extremely rough and he does not look healthy at all. The original goldfish still looks fine and is showing no abnormal signs of behavior. I did a partial water change this morning and increased the tanks water temperature to 82 degrees. During the Ick outbreak it was only 70 degrees which I now understand prolongs an outbreak. Anyhow is there any treatment that I can use on the Ropefish or should I just keep the temperature high for now and wait it out to see if he gets better or worse. He does not seem to have any white spots on himself however his scales are extremely rough looking and it looks like he has bumps all over them....Any help diagnosing the problem or fixing it would be greatly appreciated.
<Ropefish can get Whitespot but they're stressed by many medications… hmm… what to do: use the salt/heat method! They're salt-tolerant (live in brackish water in some parts of their range even, as do Goldfish in places) so should respond well.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/SaltUseFWArtNeale.htm
Slightly brackish water can have a useful tonic effect on these fish too, even though they're not exclusively (or even commonly) brackish water fish. Cheers, Neale.>

Concerned about my new Rope Fish 1/8/12
Good Morning,
<Hello Mona,>
I am praying that you can give me some information regarding several situations I have. I am relatively new to tropical fish keeping. I have an established (eight months now) 36 gallon bow-front aquarium. My water perimeters are PH 7.6, Zero Ammonia, Zero Nitrates, Zero Nitrites (using API test kit).
<All sounds fine.>
Because the only fish suppliers in our area are the chain stores: Wal-Mart, Pet Smart, Pet Depot, etc,. I refuse to purchase pets there. I get my plants and my fish normally from a aquatic store in Nashville TN - which is almost a two hour drive from home.
<Shouldn't be a problem if the fish are bagged or boxed properly. I assume you tell them it's a long trip home, so they use the biggest bags and under stock each bag, ensuring there's plenty of air in the bags.>
Up until now I have trusted them completely to help me pick out plants and fish that will compliment the community. They have been in business over 23 years.
<Sounds good.>
About ten days ago, I visited the store and was immediately attracted to a rope fish. They had two in a tank and they seemed so interesting and mild mannered.
<Are indeed.>
I checked with one of the store helpers about this fish being suitable for my tank. The other inhabitants are: 3 white tip tetras, 1 Pleco, 1 Cory cat, 2 pink kissing gouramis, 1 large female guppy, 2 cherry shrimp, 3 ghost shrimp, 1 small female endler guppy, 1 male fancy tail guppy, 1 large sail-fin Dalmatian Molly, 1 sail-fin white molly, 1 black molly, and 3 Mickey mouse platys. She assured me he would do well in my tank. I purchased him and brought him home. Initially he hid. This did not alarm me as I knew he would need to adjust to the new environment.
<Yes.>
My concerns are this: I have never seen him eat. Not once! I was told to feed him sinking shrimp pellets at the store - which I purchased.
<Heaven's no!>
I have since read on your site that they won't eat this. Arggggh. I did have some frozen blood worms so I thawed them using a syringe with some of my tank water and tried to feed him this.
<Better.>
Even holding the bloodworm dangling from the syringe directly against his mouth - he was not interested in eating the worm.
<Not during the day, no.>
I still put three shrimp pellets in the tank every night and they are gone in the morning so something in the tank is eating them. I have also noticed that all of my original shrimp are still alive and well in the tank so apparently he isn't interested in them (I must admit I am happy about this).
<Indeed! But they are nocturnal predators. Feed at night, ideally things like small chunks of white fish fillet (tilapia is good) or prawn (sparingly, because it's too rich in Thiaminase to be used all the time).
Earthworms are another good food. Wet frozen bloodworms will be eaten, but probably at night.>
My third issue is that I am extremely frustrated with the store because according to your information this fish will get up to 3 feet! I can't see my 36 gal tank being anywhere near large enough for him so I will soon be trying to find someone who can adopt him. IF I can keep him alive long enough!
<They are social fish too, and singletons don't always do well.>
We do have earthworms in our front garden. I understand they will eat those. But how much of one should I offer him and how often?
<A 2-3 per week should be ample.>
The other issue I have is that I regrettably ordered what was labeled as a "cleaning crew" off of EBay. This was several ram-shorn snails and several cherry shrimp. The seller stated in the listing that they would not multiple in captivity. Wrong! I am being overrun with snails and I was told by someone recently that any snails in your fish tank will increase the ammonia levels greatly. Is this true?
<No. Or at least, compared to fish and the food you add, their impact is minimal.>
I am catching and removing them as quickly as I can - but it seems they are multiplying faster than I can catch them. So, again I messed up and bought two assassin snails because I was told they would kill and eat the other snails and that they would not multiply in captivity. Yes they do...so now I am catching a lot of baby assassin snails.
<But the good thing is Assassin Snails breed more slowly, and because they're higher up the food chain, there will be about one-tenth the Assassin Snails compared to the Ramshorn Snails, so over time, you should see a net reduction.>
Can you PLEASE offer me some new perspectives on my tank situation. I have invested a lot of love and time in my tank. It is totally natural - real plants, rocks, driftwood....and so far no dead fish - I don't want to start now.
Many thanks, Mona
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Concerned about my new Rope Fish 1/8/12
Thank you for the speedy reply - you folks are AWESOME and will be my first and most trusted source for information as I grow in my fish keeping hobby.
Cheers to the New Year!
<Thanks for the kind words. Cheers indeed, Neale.>

Rope Fish has tiny white spots 10/20/11
I have been reading many articles on your site about treating the rope fish if it has Ich. My problem is that I have a tank with different fish and it is the only one that has the problem. In my tank with the rope fish I have 2 parrot cichlids, 2 blue cobalt cichlids, 2 pink kissing Gourami, 3 pictus catfish, 2 dragon gobies, an African knife fish, an African butterfly fish, and an albino clawed frog. They are all still young and nowhere near full size yet. I am concerned about what to treat the tank with since there is a variety of fish in the tank. If you could please help me with a solution because I don't want to lose any of my fish. Thank you. Angela
<I'd go the elevated temperature and salt route... READ:
http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwichremedyyes.htm
Bob Fenner>
Re: Rope Fish has tiny white spots -- 10/22/11

Thank you for the help. I just have another question. This is our second ACF and the last one died when we raised the temp. Also I was reading on your site that they are not to have the temp above 75F nor any salt in the tank.
<Correct. Xenopus can be intolerant of very high temperatures over long periods. If you can, remove to another aquarium, even an unheated one containing as little as 5 gallons, provided it has a filter or some sort (an air-powered sponge filter would be fine).>
I am trying the Ick medication right now to see if that will help but only used a half dose because of the fish we have without scales (like it recommended). Could you please let me know if there is something else that I can do or a way to keep from getting Ick/ white spot disease again. Thank you again for the help and I love the site it has been very helpful with other questions that I have had!!
<Whitespot tends to come in with new fish. Quarantine new fish if at all possible. Alternatively, do the heat/salt thing every single time you add new fish to kill off any free-living stages of the parasite. Remember, you don't kill the white spots you see, just their "babies", so it takes a couple of weeks to do this, because you have to wait for all the visible white spots to hatch into the free-living stages.
Cheers, Neale.>

Caring for my rope fish (RMF, anything else?)<<B>> 6/23/11
My three rope fish have been happy, eating well, and growing for nearly six months. But now there seems to be a problem. They haven't eaten in three days, and tonight one of them has been panting heavily.
<Not good. Do immediately check water quality and chemistry, in particular if there's been [a] a sudden pH change; and [b] a rise in nitrite and ammonia levels. A large water change is often a very good idea, though perhaps not changing all at once: 25-33% immediately, and then another such change 4-6 hours later, so that the fish can adapt to any changes (corrections!) in water chemistry. 10-25% water changes daily thereafter should flush out any problems. >
There has been some drama with one of my Cyclocheilichthys janthochir. Don't know if it's related to the issues with the ropes, but I can't think of anything else that has really happened/changed.
<Oh?><<Am suspicious that this involvement of a Redfin Silver Shark/Minnow is related>>
Wednesday (one week ago): Cyclocheilichthys janthochir got stuck in an ornament. Had to physically pull him out, he had injuries on his back.
Fish store recommended treatment with Methylene blue to prevent fungus.
Changed 25% of water, removed offending ornament, rearranged plants and remaining ornaments.
<Okay. Now, it's pretty uncommon for fish to actually get "stuck" in ornaments. More often, they fall into them when weakened for some other reason.>
Thursday: Picked up a new plant and the Methylene blue, was told to catch the fish and apply the treatment directly to its wounds. Had a trace (less than 0.25 ppm) of ammonia in water, did another 25% water change. Brought ammonia back to zero.
<I see.>
Sunday: Still treating injured fish, spilled a bit of the Methylene blue in the tank, enough to turn the water slightly blue. This is when the ropes stopped eating and became withdrawn. Put carbon in the filter, water was clear by morning.
<Ah, now, Methylene Blue can be toxic in some situations. Not usually, and not with most advanced fish, but with primitive fish like Rays, Mormyrids, and yes, Bichirs and Ropefish, there's always this risk.>
Monday: The Cyclocheilichthys janthochir's original injury was visibly healing, but he bashed up his nose while fleeing from my net. No longer treating with Methylene blue (don't want to chase him anymore). Did another 25% water change.
<Okay.>
Wednesday (today): ropes a bit less withdrawn, but still not eating. Now one of them is panting. The Cyclocheilichthys janthochir's nose looks horrible and was bleeding at one point. Could this be affecting the ropes?
<Yes, could. Do also check the Methylene Blue doesn't contain some other supplemental medication, such as formalin.>
I'm puzzled. The ropes have been enthusiastic eaters ever since they got used to their diet of tilapia fillet and krill. Normally they seem to enjoy water changes, so I wouldn't think that the frequent water changes in the last week would have upset them.
<Quite so; these fish do inhabit brackish water regions, and like other brackish water fish, tolerate quite dramatic changes in water chemistry without fuss. And on that note, obviously salt can be a useful medication or even tonic when handling these fish, and may be worth using in this instance, perhaps at a dose of 2-3 grammes/litre so that the other fish in the tank aren't stressed. Salt can have a very mild beneficial effect when injured fish are being treated.>
All of the other fish appear fine. Even the injured Cyclocheilichthys janthochir's behavior is normal. I've been testing daily, and the ammonia has been zero (except for Thursday morning), nitrates less than 10 ppm, nitrites zero, hardness about 120 ppm, total alkalinity about 100 ppm, pH about 7.0. Temperature 78 F. These are very typical readings for my tank, conditions my fish are used to.
<Sound fine.>
I haven't lost a single fish in the six months I've had the tank, and I don't want to start now! I'm so worried about my rope fish that I've been getting up to check on them several times per night. I don't know if I've provided enough information for you to offer any advice, but I'd appreciate any thoughts you might be able to share.
Thanks,
Jane
<Hope this helps, Neale.><<How large is this system/volume? How filtered? I would definitely follow Neale's lead here in changing water out... add aeration, water movement, look about for some source of toxicity (decor? aerosol?...), add activated carbon to your filtration. RMF>>
Re: caring for my rope fish (RMF, anything else?) 6/23/11
Thank you so much for the input.
<You're welcome.>
It does help; I will do a 25% water change now, and another later today, add a bit of salt, and keep doing daily water changes until they're happy again. (The Methylene Blue does not contain formalin or anything else. I have stopped using it regardless.)
<Okay.>
I'm a bit squeamish about it, but I would be willing to dig up some worms from my garden and chop them up for the ropes if you thought that might entice them to eat. How much time do they have before they starve? It's been four days now since they've eaten.
<Takes several weeks before fish this size truly begin to starve.>
It was a freak accident how the Cyclocheilichthys janthochir got stuck in the ornament. He was hanging out with the others when they got startled and scattered; this one happened to dart in the wrong direction, right into a tunnel that he was slightly too big to get through. The poor thing was thrashing frantically, trying to free itself.
<Yikes!>
His back is healing nicely, but his bashed-up nose looks awful. They're jumpy and prone to running into things. Normally it's not a big deal, but with his nose already compromised, it seems to be getting damaged more every day. I'm trying to keep them quiet, and I've removed all the hard-surfaced items except the jar that the ropes like to sit in. Is there anything else I can do? The pet store told me to put Melafix in the water, but I'm VERY reluctant to involve chemicals at this point, considering what's happening with the ropes.
<I'd agree, but at the same time, I'd not put huge faith in Melafix. If it were me, I'd treat the Barb in its own tank with a suitable anti-Finrot medication. An antibiotic should be safe with the Ropefish, so could be used in the main tank, if moving the Barb wasn't an option.>
Thanks again,
Jane
<Cheers, Neale.>
More Re: caring for my rope fish 6/24/11

The tank is 55 gallons. I have two Aquaclear 70 filters, so it's about 600 gallons per hour of filtration. They're the hang-on-the-back type, and they appear to provide a lot of aeration via surface disturbance from the outflow. They push bubbles about halfway down into the tank. The current they produce is visible all the way down to the gravel, but there are plants and decor that create pockets of gentler water movement (which is where the ropes tend to hang out).
<Sounds okay, though aerators generally don't do much either way to improve water quality. At best, they help with water circulation. Your Barbs are quite lively, messy species so I would want quite strong filtration here, closer to 8 times the volume of the tank per hour than 6. But I doubt this is the critical issue at the moment.>
What would be a source of aerosol? How would I identify a source of toxicity? Just by process of elimination?
<Pretty much. Common causes are things like paints, spray cleaners used around the tank, insect sprays, and so on. Sometimes spillages by family members can be to blame, though more often overfeeding by children is the problem in that sort of scenario.>
I removed my most recently acquired decoration; the others have been in the tank for months. (Is it usual for aquarium decor to cause problems? Doesn't sound like a good business plan!) I have a week-old live plant that is attached to a piece of wood, similar to two others that have been in the tank for quite some time. Should I remove that, too? Might it survive removal if I transfer it to a bucket of tank water or something?
<You can, but I doubt it'll be worthwhile.>
I did another water change yesterday (Thursday) per Neale's advice, and added salt, about 2 grammes per litre. The chemistry remains stable and unchanged since my last report. I don't normally run carbon in my filters, but I did put some in five days ago to remove the traces of Methylene Blue.
<As Bob suggests, using a big bag of fresh, high-quality (marine-grade) carbon would be an excellent way to remove medications.>
There is no change with the gasping rope, although a second one also seems to be huffing a bit now. The third one appears unaffected.
<Curious. Do check the substrate is nice and clean, and that water current at the bottom of the tank is brisk. Because Ropefish spend a lot of time rooting about at the bottom, poor water or substrate conditions at the lower level of the tank can cause problems that don't affect midwater fish.>
New development: late last night, while checking on everybody, I saw that my timid 4-year-old Red Tail Black Shark's eyes were filled with blood, and one of its eyes was bulging out. I was astonished -- it had been fine when I did the water change just a few hours earlier! Afraid it might have an infection that could spread, I removed it to a bowl, and it died within half an hour. My first loss in a year. . .ironically, a fish that seemed to have nothing to do with all that's happened in the last week.
<Perhaps nothing to do with it'¦ but I think not. When one fish gets sick, it can be a one-off. When several fish of a single species get sick, then it's likely a species-specific disease. But if several fish across several species get sick, the environment is usually at fault.>
When you say you're suspicious that the involvement of the Redfin Silver Shark is related, does that mean that you DO or DON'T think the issues with the Redfin has affected the ropes?
<I think Bob is saying what I just said above, when two species sicken, you need to think about the tank having a fault of some sort rather than a particular fish being sick.>
Manipulating so many variables -- water changes, Methylene Blue, decor, salt, etc. -- is making it hard for me to figure out what's going on. My local fish stores thinks it might be a gill infection and/or parasite. They're recommending a medication containing Metronidazole and Praziquantel. Thoughts?
<I wouldn't medicate without knowing what's wrong. Metronidazole is used to treat protozoan infections, and Praziquantel to treat intestinal worms. I don't see that either of these is an obvious cause of your problems. Adding medications at random can, will do more harm than good. If the large Barb still has a bacterial infection that's damaging its snout, then medicating with an antibiotic makes sense, ideally in a hospital tank (obviously carbon removes medications, so you can't medicate in this tank while running carbon or for that matter doing multiple large water changes).>
Again, I appreciate all the input and help you've been providing.
Regards,
Jane
<I know it's hard to do, but observation is what I'd recommend here. Add the carbon, and ideally, some Polyfilter too. Do a succession of large-scale water changes. Thoroughly clean the substrate if you're at all suspicious it isn't as clean as it might be (there's an odd dichotomy here: undisturbed deep sand beds and thin layers of gravel generally stay clean without bother, but medium to high thickness beds of gravel can trap a lot of dirt yet lack the infaunal biota to "self-clean" in the same way as deep sand beds). Review filtration and water circulation at the bottom level of the tank. Move filters around if needs be to optimise water circulation (I prefer external and internal canister filters compared to hang-on-the-back filters because the latter often only clip onto the back of the tank and nowhere else). Make sure the heater-stat is working properly. Check with your water company to make sure they haven't altered drinking water in some way, and at minimum, review your water condition and choose a brand that not only removes chlorine but also Chloramine, copper, and ammonia. If you have a lot of plants in the tank, make sure there aren't any dying ones somewhere, and conversely, you don't have too many fast-growing species that alter water chemistry under bright light (Vallisneria is notorious in this regard, and can really mess up soft water!). Cheers, Neale.>
More Re: caring for my rope fish 6/25/11
Another update: the second rope fish (the one that recently started breathing a little harder, not the one that has been panting heavily)
appears to be twitching. Its head. It's a small movement, one you wouldn't notice if you weren't watching closely, but every once in a while its head jerks a few times. Very strange.
It's like a cascade of disasters that began with trying to help the injured redfin. I feel like I should have left everything alone and let the redfin either live or die on its own.
<Possibly, but hard to say. Certainly the value of a hospital tank, even a 10-gallon one, shouldn't be ignored. Cheers, Neale.>
More Re: caring for my rope fish (Again Bob, any further thoughts'¦?) -- 06/26/11

Regarding filtration: unless there's s calculation that I'm not aware of, isn't 600 gallons per hour in a 55 gallon tank over 10 times the volume of the tank per hour? How did you come up with 6?
<Quite right.>
The Barb's nose doesn't actually appear infected. Just really beat up, and it doesn't seem to be healing, even though the injury on its back is well on its way to recovery. I've been wondering if it's continuously re-injuring its nose by running into things, if the other fish are pecking at him, or if it really is infected and I'm just not recognizing it.
<Then do consider the obvious -- social behaviour not working (not enough specimens, perhaps?) or tank lacking swimming space (physically bumping into things, perhaps when the lights come on or go off, in which case having the lights come on in stages may help).>
I normally use Prime as a dechlorinator, and I know it covers Chloramine and ammonia, but I don't know if it also removes copper. I will find out at the pet store today.
<Cool.>
I'll get going on a hospital tank. I have no idea how to run one! Establish biofilter?
<Use established media, or use Zeolite to remove ammonia directly.>
Sterilize and re-establish biofilter between uses? Keep running at all times, or only set up when needed? I'll check on Wet Web Media for articles.
The ropes aren't any worse today, but they're not better, either, and they still won't eat. I have noticed that their throats (the underside, just behind the jaws) are looking a bit swollen. The panting one is looking wobbly when she swims to the top for a breath. Weak from lack of food, or just ill?
<Doesn't sound promising. But there's really not much I can say without a photo of the sick fish, and really, these vague malaises are extremely difficult to identify.>
Hope is waning. . .
Thanks again,
Jane
<Cheers, Neale.>
More Re: caring for my rope fish (Again Bob, any further thoughts'¦?)
<<>> 6/27/11
I would send a photo of the fish except that they don't appear abnormal unless they're seen in motion: the panting, and now the weaker swimming. They look terrific in a still photo. The throat/belly swelling behind the jaw is too subtle, it doesn't show in a picture.
I was able to identify several problems yesterday. My ammonia test kit was not sensitive/accurate enough; I was using the strips with the pads which always showed zero ammonia, but when I ran out of those and bought a liquid kit, it showed that I DID have traces of ammonia in the tank. Another water change last night brought it down to zero (for real this time, I hope). I'm continuing to test several times per day.
<Sounds good.>
Major source of toxicity! On Friday night, I removed everything (ornaments, plants) that was new to the tank in the last couple of weeks. The idea was to re-create the pre-illness conditions. I took the stuff to the petstore to find out what might be causing a problem. Turns out one of the ornaments was actually a REPTILE decoration, "treated with our special antimicrobial coating!" (Insert expletive.)
<Yikes!><<Ah ha!>>
I can't blame EVERYTHING on the lizard log, though. While the panting definitely started shortly after it was placed in the tank, the hunger strike began several days before.
<Oh?>
I obtained a water conditioner that also removes copper and other toxic metals.
<Good.>

They are still not eating. It's been a full week now, and the lack of food can't be helping. I will continue to monitor water conditions, of course, and probably continue with the water changes. I am discouraged that they haven't improved since the removal of the ammonia, the lizard log, and the subsequent water changes. Perhaps they need more time? Perhaps they're too far gone? I guess we'll find out.
<Indeed; with regular water changes, you should quickly flush out any toxins in the tank. I'd also be aggressive about cleaning/replacing substrate, removing ornaments for thorough cleaning, and essentially reducing the tank down to as few variables as possible. Perhaps even the glass tank, the filter, the heater, and a terracotta pot for shelter.>
They were doing so well for many months, I thought I had their care all figured out -- I didn't even think it was all that difficult! But I've obviously failed them.
<Good luck, Neale.>
More RE: caring for my rope fish (Again Bob, any further thoughts'¦?) 6/27/11

Tank is stripped down to one pot. Still changing water. Testing continues to show zero ammonia.
The rope fishes' condition is unchanged -- two of them panting, one of them appearing normal, none of them eating.
Should I be hopeful, since they're still hanging on? Or are they just dying very, very slowly? In your experience, if they've lasted this long, are they likely to recover?
<There is always that chance>
If it was clear they were going to die, I would be inclined to euthanize them (although I'm not sure how), but I don't think I could bring myself to do that if there's a chance they might turn around.
<Patience. BobF>
More RE: caring for my rope fish (Again Bob, any further thoughts'¦?) 6/27/11
Tank is stripped down to one pot. Still changing water. Testing continues to show zero ammonia.
<Good.>
The rope fishes' condition is unchanged -- two of them panting, one of them appearing normal, none of them eating.
<Indeed not, and unlikely to until they're happy.>
Should I be hopeful, since they're still hanging on? Or are they just dying very, very slowly?
<Really difficult to say; if medication has caused damage to the internal organs, could well be dying, but if the damage is stress and something associated with that, or the damage slight, they may recover in weeks, months.>
In your experience, if they've lasted this long, are they likely to recover?
<Impossible to know.>
If it was clear they were going to die, I would be inclined to euthanize them (although I'm not sure how),
<30 drops clove oil in a litre of aquarium water works well. Because these are air-breathers, you'd need to hold them underwater so that they didn't avoid the sedative by gulping air. In any event, could take much longer than with other species (the usual is about a minute to become comatose, and death within 10 minutes).>
but I don't think I could bring myself to do that if there's a chance they might turn around.
<Quite so. Good luck, Neale.>
Re: More caring for my rope fish (Again Bob, any further thoughts'¦?)<<>> 6/29/11
<<
The ammonia is coming from the rope/s... Place in larger volume; don't feed...>>
I moved the rope fish to a 15 gallon hospital tank yesterday. I put in a heater and a sponge filter (the kind with an air pump attached). No change in the fishes' condition.
<Oh dear.>
I checked ammonia in the hospital tank this morning, and was dismayed to find it at almost 0.50 ppm. I'm truly baffled; I offer food at the end of a stick (this is how I trained them to eat the tilapia fillet when they first arrived) for a minute or so every day, but they haven't taken it, and I don't leave it in there.
<Stop feeding.>
Where would the ammonia be coming from if they're not eating?
<Excretion'¦ or from the water. Do understand that if your tap water contains Chloramine, it's possible to get false-positives.>
It's been ten days since they've had any food. . .how could they be producing that much waste?
<Do also review filtration.>
In any event, I did a 40% water change and added Zeolite chips.
<Zeolite will have some modest effect, but you need a lot for large fish like these. I'd prefer to use biological filtration.>
I also added some Prime with an eyedropper, since Prime is supposed to remove/detoxify ammonia, and was irked that it didn't bring the ammonia down to zero. It's currently at 0.25 ppm. I will do another water change in a few hours.
<Sounds exhausting.>
The local fish store told me that sometimes just moving them to a hospital tank, and therefore removing them entirely from whatever was making them sick in the main tank, can help them turn around. But since the main tank has zero ammonia, I'm not sure that being in the hospital tank is really doing them any favors.
Thoughts?
Thanks as always,
Jane
<I would tend to adopt a precautionary approach here. Assume the biological filter has died for some reason. Treat the tank as being in the cycling process. Use ammonia remover and Chloramine remover to neutralise any ammonia and Chloramine in the tap water. Do 20-25% water changes every 1-2 days. Don't feed except once every 3-4 days. If they don't feed, remove the food within 10 minutes (it takes at least that long for appreciable ammonia to be produced from food via decay). Don't use Zeolite, as that'll hold back biological filtration. Do rinse filter media thoroughly to make sure it is clean and detritus-free. Do check the filter media you're using is appropriate to the fish you have -- coarse media alone might not support enough bacteria for messy fish. Do check the filter is operating with good flow of water. Do check there's plenty of oxygen in the water via circulation and/or air bubbles. Do direct the outflow from the filter to maximise turbulence. Do add a temporary, idiot-proof filter like a big-ass sponge filter if you have one. Do remove any ailing plants, snails, etc. There's not much you can do otherwise. At some point you might decide to cut your losses. Remove healthy fish to another tank, if you have one, or to a friendly retailer who'll babysit them (some will, if they know you and you explain the situation). Else get in contact with a local fish club if you can. Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: More caring for my rope fish (Again Bob, any further thoughts'¦?) 6/30/11
I've tested my tap water for ammonia, and it doesn't show any, so I don't think I'm getting any false-positives due to Chloramine.
<Good.>
I'm uncertain whether the recommendations at the end of your message are meant to apply to the main tank, which now appears to be the very picture of health, or the 15-gallon hospital tank, where the rope fish have been for the past 24 hours. Either way, most of your suggestions are already in effect for both tanks.
<Also good.>
What is "coarse media"? I have two filters in the main tank, both containing a large sponge for mechanical filtration and a bag of "bio-max" (a bunch of little ceramic-type sponges) for biological filtration.
<Coarse media is merely media with a coarse grain, i.e., the opposite of fine media. It's usually sold as the mechanical filter or pre-filter, whereas the fine filter media is sold as the biological media. In practise both work well at either job, but if you just have coarse media your potential biological filtration will be marginally less.>
In the hospital tank is a sponge filter w/ air bubbler. I was using the Zeolite since the sponge is new and has no bacteria. I'd happily borrow some of the established media from the main tank, except that I haven't figured out how to get the sponge filter/air bubbler to force the water through the borrowed media.
<I see.>
Everything else -- ammonia and Chloramine remover, water changes, feeding, rinsed media, removal of snails (no ailing plants) -- is as you recommend. Water flow and turbulence are better in the main tank than in the hospital tank, due to their respective filter types, but I do have the sponge filter/air bubbler in the hospital tank rigged up for maximum flow and surface disturbance.
I'll let you know how things develop. . .
Thanks again,
Jane
<Sounds like you'll have to play the long game, and hope the Ropefish recover. I really don't see any obvious flaws in your approach thus far. Good luck, Neale.>
RE: More RE: caring for my rope fish (Again Bob, any further thoughts'¦?)<<None>> 7/1/11

I am pleased to report that one of the ropes has made a dramatic recovery! Not surprisingly, it was the one that never had visible symptoms (panting, swelling, etc). He is back in the main tank and just enjoyed two tiny pieces of krill. I figured, since he went eleven days without eating, that I should take it easy re-introducing the food?
<Doesn't make much odds either way. No need to stuff food down their throats, and certainly overfeeding can stress the water quality aspect of things. But unlike warm-blooded animals, fish are well adapted to feast and famine situations, so giving them too much food won't cause them serious harm. Portions about the size of their head would be ample.>
The rope that was the first to appear ill doesn't look very good, unfortunately. She and the larger female, whose symptoms showed up later, are still in the hospital tank. The larger female is looking marginally better. I don't know which way they'll go, but right now, I'm just happy that I haven't lost all three of them.
<Nothing to do but wait and see, really.>
The recovered male came from a different (and far better!) source than the two females. Having had them for six months, would their origins still be a factor in their health and/or resilience? Might their genders be playing a role?
<Possibly. Among cichlids for example male fry tend to grow faster, hog food, and generally do better through the critical few weeks. So you can easily end up with mostly male fry. I've noticed a similar thing with halfbeaks. There may well be slight differences in tolerance for certain things when the two sexes are compared, but I'm not aware of the science.>
On another note, I am thinking of exchanging my obnoxious purple gravel for a tan-colored sand. I was watching the fish at the store picking food out of the sand, and it looked like they were able to get at it more easily than mine can through the gravel.
<I think sand is easier to keep clean, though it does show dirt more quickly. You can use a turkey baster to pipette it out, of course, so a good idea is to put the level of sand slightly lower at the front than the back, so dirt collects at the front where you can see it.>
So, cleaner, right? I have one scavenger-type fish, an L333.
<You don't need a "cleaner fish" at all, and if pushed, I'd recommend the excellent Tylomelania snails that burrow through the sand, get to about 12 cm/4 inches long in the case of the biggest species, and breed very slowly (and their offspring are easily passed on to other aquarists). They don't eat plants. Assassin Snails, Clea helena, would be another good choice. As for catfish, a Corydoras like C. sterbai might work well (this species tolerates warm water well) but my personal pick would be a loach species that will plough through sand extracting any edibles. Cherry-Fin Loaches are good kept singly, as are Horseface Loaches. Botiine loaches are a mixed bag, some being rather aggressive, but the Yoyo Loach is generally well-behaved if kept in reasonable numbers. In any event, yes, Hypancistrus L333 will eat meaty foods though it is of course a useless algae-eater and can be a bit sensitive.>
Also, when I tried to feed earthworms to the rope fish, the worms just burrowed into the gravel with impressive speed. I had to dig them out lest they drown and rot down there. Would the worms work better in the sand?
<Assuming the worms are bite-size, yes, Ropefish should find them. Do bear in mind Ropefish feed primarily on bloodworm-sized things. Earthworms tend to be bigger than that.>
I thought I remembered reading that it's not a big deal to swap out substrates, since I don't have an undergravel filter, and thus very little of the biofilter is in the gravel. Any tips or suggestions for depth, maintenance, and cleaning of the sand? I also seem to remember reading something alarming about "anaerobic pockets"?
<Anaerobic pockets are not exactly a myth, but they are misunderstood. In a tank with Ropefish and some burrowing fish or snails, a depth of 0.5-1 inch will be sifted so thoroughly that anaerobic decay won't happen.>
In addition to the ropes, the redfin Barbs, and the L333, I also have a 4-year-old albino Pristella tetra. If it matters. The tetra has obviously adapted to the local hard water conditions.
<Pristella maxillaris actually comes from a wide range of habitats, and can tolerate up to 35 degrees hardness and even slightly brackish water in the wild! So yes, this is an EXCELLENT species for hard water conditions.>
I am now going to have a very large vodka.
Thanks,
Jane
<Enjoy the drink! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: caring for my rope fish (Again Bob, any further thoughts'¦?)<<Steady on>> 7/4.5/11

Still no change with the two sick fish.
<Not good.>
After more than two weeks without eating, if they died, I'm not sure whether I would know if it was from their illness or from starvation.
<Quite so.>
I was wondering, how quickly do they grow?
<Slowly.>
I don't think any of them have grown more than an inch or two in the last six months.
<About right. Plus, Ropefish don't get anything like as big as some books suggest. The scientific reports suggest lengths of up to about 3 feet, but in aquaria most are about 12 inches in length. Even Fishbase suggests a maximum length of 37 cm, about 14.5 inches.>
They currently range from 9 to 11 inches. Are they likely to get any bigger in a 55 gallon?
<Nope. Cheers, Neale.>
More Re: caring for my rope fish 7/14/11

I thought I'd update you on the conclusion of the rope fish drama. I wish it were a happier one.
<Oh?>
As I mentioned, one of the three rope fish recovered at home and has been fine ever since. The other two were still sick, one worse than the other. I talked to the store in Portland (Oregon) were I buy all my livestock. They specialize in freshwater tropicals. They suggested I bring in the sick ropes, and they would try to see if they could turn them around.
The sickest one died a few days later, which wasn't surprising at all. At the store they remarked on its yellow color. I had noticed the color, of course, and always thought it was pretty, but they said they'd never seen a yellow one before. Have you?
<They are orange below, but green on the sides and top.>
The other fish got better and started eating. Considering the circumstances, I was delighted that two out of three made it through the illness, whatever that was. I went to pick her up yesterday. . .but she had escaped from her tank the previous night and died.
<Oh dear.>
It really breaks my heart. For the poor thing to have survived a three-week illness, only to die by accident/carelessness?! Tragic.
<Indeed.>
I'm also a little ticked off, and kicking myself for not picking her up just ONE DAY earlier. (My tank at home is very carefully sealed, and I've never had an escape.) The store obviously felt bad about it -- they have their own pet rope fish in one of their display tanks, they should have known to seal the lid better -- and they replaced the fish at no charge. The irony is that I would rather have paid for my original fish ten times over than gotten new ones for free. I was really very attached to them.
Trying to move on. . .I have question about feeding. The redfin Barbs were extremely piggy eaters, and I always had to stand there and chase them off with a net so the rope fish could get some food. I also think they were getting too big for my 55-gallon tank, running into the glass and such. I exchanged them for a small school of Bleeding Heart Tetras. I chose the Bleeding Hearts over the Pristellas simply because they get bigger and would be less likely to end up as rope fish snacks.
<Actually, I'd be surprised if the X-Rays got molested, but your approach is wise.>
Now, I THOUGHT that tetras only ate out of the water column and would not gobble food off the floor, but these were eating the rope fishes' food before I could even blink. I can always continue with the net-waving system, but it's a pain, and it seems invasive. Any suggestions? Do rope fish eat from the surface in the wild?
<Not so far as I know. In the wild they feed in very shallow water where there's a mix of terrestrial vegetation, aquatic vegetation, and some few inches of water. They slither through this, often moving from pool to pool, rather like snakes. In any event, they're nocturnal, so adapted to feed at night.>
Would I have better luck if I floated the food instead of sinking it?
<Do try feeding small morsels of meaty foods at night, perhaps chunks of lancefish, tilapia fillet, cockles, and the occasional slice of squid or prawn. All things being equal, tetras won't be able to find these, and the Ropes will feed in peace.>
By the way, I looked up Neale Monks online, and was truly impressed with your background! It's wonderful that you (all of you, really) take the time to share your expertise like this. I appreciate it more than I can say.
Regards,
Jane
<Thanks for the very kind words. Cheers, Neale.>

Erpetoichthys; health 3/24/11
Hello,
I read your web site all the time! And I have a question for you.
<Fire away!>
I have had my rope fish for a couple months now. A few weeks ago he was no longer able to swim to the bottom of the aquarium.
<Curious, and usually implies a problem with Bichirs and Ropefish. Perhaps stress and secondary infections can make it difficult for them to submerge properly.>
So I did research and found that it was a swim bladder disorder. So we went to local aquatic specialist and they told us the same thing
<Ropefish don't have swim bladders, so this is unlikely the problem. Let me say here that "swim bladder disorder" is one of the most meaningless statements in the hobby, and almost never mentioned by experts. It's something beginners latch onto, as well as retailers who simply haven't kept up with the hobby since they learned the basics thirty years ago!
Honestly, it doesn't mean anything.>
and that there is nothing we can do for him and as long as he is still eating he will live. We have been hand feeding him blood worms but starting 2 days ago he would no longer take it.
<They do need a more diverse diet than this. Bloodworms are not rich in nutrients. Like all carnivores, the problem is that many cheap foods are rich in thiaminase, and used over the long term (several months) fish can end up with Vitamin B1 deficiency is fed primarily thiaminase-rich foods like prawns and mussels. Instead their diet needs to be focused on thiaminase-free foods: tilapia fillet, cockles, earthworms.>
I woke up this morning to find him completely swollen. His entire body is really big except for his face.
<Sounds like a systemic bacterial infection. Because Ropefish swim close to the bottom they're particularly sensitive to stress caused by poor circulation. You see the same thing in other bottom-dwellers like Corydoras and loaches.>
I know it's probably too late for him and it brakes my heart to see him, but is there anything at all you would recommend?
<Do need data on your aquarium for any sort of analysis here. But to recap, sources of stress/damage will include indifferent water quality, a poor diet, the use of feeder fish, maintenance as a singleton rather than in groups, gravel instead of sand, insufficient hiding places, nippy/aggressive tankmates including Suckermouth catfish, Chinese algae eaters, etc. Do read:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/polypterids.htm
>
Even if it helps a little. The Ph is at 7 and there is about 1/2 a teaspoon of aquarium salt per gallon, 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite, just in case you need to know.
Thank you for your time, and take care
Gina
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
<PS. Should have said: Since Ropefish breathe air, they're also sensitive to airborne pollutants, e.g., paint fumes, tobacco smoke, bug spray, etc. Cheers, Neale.>

Rope fish hlth., env., reading 2/21/11
I have done quite a lot of research on the web.
I have owed <owned> several reed fish, a few have escaped, but most died from an Ick like disease.
This seems to cause a thickening of the slime coat and I can see silver patches and it just gets worse from here, eventually leading to death.
<Quite common source of mortality... mostly borne by effects of capture...>
I have three new ones that I am treating with Maracyn 2 and they are fine now.
Once placed in the community tank they seem to become ill after a few days.
I have not tested my water quality,
<?>
because I have a healthy, happy discus fish.
<... Erpetoichthys have other requirements>
I was told if my discus was healthy they water should be.
<See fishbase.org or just WWM re>
In the past when I tested my water it was clean and stable. None of the other fish in the community tank bothering them.
Do you have any suggestions, or should I return them to the store if I notice them becoming ill again?
Thanks so much;
Linda
<And read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/polypterids.htm
and the linked files above, and here:
http://fishbase.sinica.edu.tw/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?ID=4830
Bob Fenner>
Re: rope fish 2/21/11

> <Quite common source of mortality... mostly borne by effects of
> capture...>
> I have not tested my water quality,
> <?>
> <And read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/polypterids.htm
> and the linked files above, and here:
> http://fishbase.sinica.edu.tw/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?ID=4830
> Bob Fenner>
Umm, Linda?

Re: Ropefish, hlth., sys. 2/19/11
Hi Neale. Tragedy stuck my rope - he escaped the quarantine tank - somehow - I had a tight lid with things sitting on it to hold it down. We can't figure it out.
<It is remarkable how good at escaping they are. A couple of approaches you could use are to stop up any gaps with filter floss, or to use a deep tank and only half fill it, so it's more difficult for the Ropefish to slither upwards. They can't climb like snakes, and instead rely on being able to swim to the surface and then stick their heads out a little way into any crevices. Anything that gets between their heads and an opening will help keep them in the tank.>
So I worked it out with the local fish store so that when they got new ropes in, they would treat/quarantine them so I didn't have to put them in the QT tank. They did that and as I purchased them, they casually mentioned they got them from a guy who was peddling them and they had to treat them for something. They said they used Lifegard All-in-One on them for nearly 2 weeks and they looked good. I was a little concerned but thought that treating them should have eliminated the risks. So I brought them home and acclimated them carefully to my 150 gal tank and they have done great except they were carrying Ich and now we are losing a lot of our other fish as a result. It's sickening. The fish store staff are trying to say it's just related to stress or temp change and not something that is their fault. I have brought many fish home and never had this happen. I feel they should help replace some of the fish. What is your opinion?
<Whitespot is one of those things that retailers struggle with all the time. If properly quarantined, they shouldn't introduce Whitespot to your aquarium. So if they did, then they either didn't medicate them correctly, or they didn't wait long enough for the Whitespot to complete its life cycle -- remember, the medication doesn't kill the parasites on the fish, only the free-living stages, which is why you keep fish extra warm when treating for Whitespot to speed up the maturation of the parasites from the "in the fish" stage to the "swimming in the water" stage. In any event, a combination of salt and heat should deal with Whitespot very effectively.
Note that Ropefish tolerate brackish water well, rather better than they tolerate copper or formalin, so that should guide you when medicating.>
We have not had Ich since 2008 and have a u/v filter with a recent bulb, so I know it came from the ropes. I am hoping they will be ok. I have the temp up to 82, increased the aeration, and am putting Paraguard (Seachem) in daily. I have Chemi-Pure Elite in the filter and the water is clear. One of the ropes is hiding a lot so I can't tell how he's doing but one is acting odd - he has a bare strip on his side which makes me think he brushed up against the heater and got burned. His tail is also whitish and has a red something on it - not sure where their anus is, but it looks like he has blood blister hanging there. It's fairly small but awful looking. I don't know if it's a parasite or what. I took a bunch of pictures and inserted one below hoping you can see it. I didn't want to stress him too much with the flash.
<Nothing came through. Do remember to send images that aren't too big -- 500 KB is fine. Use iPhoto or something to reduce the size of the images from your camera. In any case, yes, you do need a heater guard around the heater. You might treat with an antibiotic rather than copper or formalin.
Burns and blisters should heal in time even without medications, but damage to the anus is more serious if it prevents the fish defecating. The anus is close to the beginning of the anal fin in these fish.>
By the way, you are right, the ropes are so much happier as a pair.
<Yes. The bigger the group, the funner they are, and the less likely they are to escape.>
They have been so fun to watch. I so hope they survive. I ordered some other fish online from a reputable dealer and they pretty much all died from shipping stress. Don't think I'll do that again. I got some replacements locally and they have done great - I know it's not me creating all this mess. I am keeping these other fish in quarantine until the Ich is gone. Needless to say, I'm very frustrated. Anything you can suggest? I don't really see Ich on the ropes. I have clown loaches so I am limited in some of my treatment options.
<Indeed, but salt/heat is harmless to Clowns too, and the preferred method for treatment.>
Thanks very much, Kimber
<Cheers, Neale.>

The end is near...

Re: Ropefish 2/20/11
Thanks very much for your quick reply. My rope seems to be dying - he was just floating with the current in the tank and I thought he was dead, so I went to net him and he swam into the décor where he is mostly staying which concerns me because I know he needs oxygen. I'm so disheartened. Is there anything I can do? Moving him would be so stressful.
<I would agree he's dying; this looks like a systemic bacterial infection of some sort. Antibiotics might help, but I wouldn't bet a lot of money on it. Euthanasia might be better; 30 drops of clove oil in a litre of aquarium water should work quickly, but be sure the Ropefish is kept underwater. If he breathes air, he could survive in this mixture indefinitely. Clove oil is a sedative, and usually works painlessly and effectively, but allow 10 minutes after the last sign of gill movements before declaring the fish dead. Being a low metabolism air-breather, I'd allow even more time for this fish, perhaps an hour or more, and wouldn't remove it until I was absolutely certain it was dead and non-responsive.>
I checked the water and there is just trace ammonia, no nitrites, 40 ppm nitrates, pH 7.6. I put a small amount of salt in but I have a Cory cat and have read they don't like salt.
<Corydoras tolerate the 2 g salt/litre of water needed to treat Whitespot just fine. The idea they're 'allergic' to salt comes from a misconception about how osmoregulation works. It's commonly stated by inexperienced aquarists on forums and whatnot. I have treated tanks with Corydoras with salt many times and never had problems. Yes, Corydoras shouldn't be kept in brackish water, but 2 g/l is far below what's considered brackish.>
I would move him to a different tank, but that tank has other fish in it. Don't want to infect them.
<Indeed.>
To prevent escape, I actually bought screen mesh for windows and taped it to the tank with gorilla tape; just leaving a small hole for the inlet tube of the filter. Airlines, etc. were taped down with mesh over them. I put the lid over that and held it down with weighted objects. No one escaped that! It was a pain to work with, but worked.
<Yes, you do need to be creative with this fish, and their relatives, the Bichirs.>
See the picture I attached. Thank you!
<Grim indeed. Good luck, Neale.>

Re: Ropefish 2/21/11
Did you say you thought maybe it could be a bacterial infection because of his pale tale or the red area?
<Neale is "out"... The "infection" on your Rope is secondary... not a principal issue>
Our African knifefish has a pale tale <tail> now. We have lost well over half our fish now but the Ich seems to be dropping off.
<... through what treatment?>
The Cory has done ok with the salt. Thank you for clarifying. Do I replace any of the salt after I clean the tank tomorrow? Your help has been awesome! Thanks!!!
Kimber
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwich.htm
and the pertinent linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Re: Ropefish 2/21/11

I am using Paraguard by Seachem.
<A good product; but what again leads you to believe your fish/es are parasitized?>
Do you think the secondary issues of their loss of color on their tail could be due to Ich or would that be more likely a bacterial infection?
<? Could be just physical or chemical... IF bacterial, secondary>
We have lost so many fish - some before we saw the Ich - that I think we are dealing with multiple issues. The first fishes to die were some of our toughest catfish. They lost their color and had respiratory distress but we did not see much if any Ich.
<Sometimes goes unnoticed... the manifestations are secondary... i.e., you're not seeing the actual pathogens, but the fish's mucus irritated reactions>
I don't know when it will be safe to bring the new fish in from quarantine. Obviously not for a week or so.
I will do a gravel vacuum today and hope the u/v filter kills the rest of the Ich.
<This it will not do. READ where I referred you to>
Should I put more salt in after I change the water?
<... please. Don't write: READ>
Do I need to be using something else to deal with the secondary infection?
Thank you so much!
Kimber
<B>
Re: Ropefish 2/22/11
He died but the other one is very active and so far appears ok. I will add some salt and do a water change today since we lost two Bala sharks last night, too. I am hoping the Ich is releasing now. Then I will add some salt. Just one time for salt or after each water change or???
<Make up enough salt for the entire tank, say 2 g/l. So if it's a 100 litre tank, 200 grams in a jug of warm tap water. Pour this into the tank over an hour, perhaps in 4-5 portions, so the fish can react to the slight change in salinity. Once done, turn the heater up to 28 C (use the thermometer in your tank to check it really is 28 C, and adjust heater up or down accordingly). Leave running like this for 2 weeks, with no water changes. After 2 weeks, you should be done. Do a regular 20-25% water change without
adding any more salt. After a month or so, all the water should be flushed out.>
Thanks again!
Kimber
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Ropefish 2/23/11
Thank you Neal! I took the surviving rope back today, so the remaining fish appear to be without Ich. The fish store said it wasn't their fault although they knew it had parasites and was actively treating it when they
sold it to me and said it was fine. We lost 20 fish! They'd never heard of Paraguard and said it was harsh on the fish, obviously insinuating it was the Paraguard and not the massive Ich outbreak that caused the fin rot and hemorrhaging. Your help has been great!
<Glad to help. Your local fish shop guy has a point in saying Seachem Paraguard is hard on the fish, but then so too are virtually all fish medications, especially those containing copper and formalin. Some of the
dyes, particularly malachite green, are quite nasty chemicals too. This is why Bob and I stress the use of heat or heat/salt combinations where viable, as well as preventative care, e.g., quarantining and good diet.
Ropefish are very primitive fish, and primitive fish generally show a low tolerance for medications designed for use on tetras, barbs, and other community fish. It's a good idea to choose medications stated to be safe with sharks and rays if you want to treat Ropefish or bichirs. Cheers, Neale.>

Ropefish illness? Costiasis? Ancistrus incomp. 12/11/10
Hi, you have helped me in the past with my Ropefish to beat Ich, and it is greatly appreciated. I now have another issue with my Ropefish. I cannot send you a picture, but it has discoloration like the Ropefish pictured on your "Ropefish Health" link. There are three places that are about 1/4 inch in size, one on each side of its tail fin and one an inch up from it's tail. The scales are just slightly whiter than the surrounding ones. I read through the first post on that page, and I did just recently add an Albino Bristlenose to the aquarium, so I thought maybe it was sucking on the Ropefish. However, I am concerned because the Ropefish has been scratching violently against a rock, but only up around it's head and the first couple inches. It makes me think something is irritating it's gills?
Can you prescribe a course of action?
Stats: Ropefish 10 inches long. 55 gal with a HOB filter. Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 5, PH 7.8, hard water, Temp 77-78 F. Water change 15-20% weekly. Feed, almost entirely blood worms, rarely tilapia, and I just recently fed some frozen brine shrimp. Actually, the issue and the first use of brine shrimp were about the same time, possible cause? Tank livestock for the last three months: "Ropefish", One-stripe eel, 6 Giant Danios. Two weeks ago I added an additional Ropefish 9", and the Albino Bristlenose. They were quarantined for two weeks and showed no signs of issues then or since being placed in the new tank. The two Ropefish do not spend time around each other. They both seem to prefer to curl up with the eel, but only one at a time.
Thank you for your help.
Nick
<Hello Nick. Generally Ancistrus spp. catfish behave themselves very well, so while it's always possible these or any other of the Loricariidae might nibble on the flanks of Bichirs and Ropefish, I think the likelihood in this situation is small. If you can, isolate the Ancistrus, but my gut feeling is that Costiasis, "Slime Disease", is more likely the issue. There are a variety of medications that will treat Costia, though I prefer to use them alongside seawater dips.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwfishmeds.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/SaltUseFWArtNeale.htm
I think your observation about the two Ropefish curling up with the Macrognathus aral is interesting. It clearly reveals how these Ropefish enjoy company, but like other gregarious fish, when kept in too-small a
group, their schooling behaviour can present itself in odd ways. As/when your Ropefish gets better, do try adding one or two more specimens. Please, do also vary their diet rather more. Bloodworms contain very little nutrition. Use them once or twice a week, sure, but do also feed (at night if needs be) tilapia fillet, cockles, prawns, squid, earthworms. The more variety, the less the risk of vitamin deficiency, and needless to say, after a few months of a monotonous diet, it's perfectly possible for vitamin deficiency to present symptoms superficially similar to parasitic, bacterial infections. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Ropefish illness? 12/11/10
Thank you for the quick response. Please clarify the following: If it is slime disease, can it heal itself given good nutrition and conditions, or will it die eventually if nothing is done? The areas have not spread since
three days ago when I noticed it. Can the salt dip cure it by itself, or is the medication necessary as well? Will adding salt to the aquarium, like treating for Ich, help with the condition?
<Unfortunately, the Costia parasite needs a much higher salinity to be killed than the Ick parasite, so no, the usual 2 grammes/litre salt concentration used for treating Ick won't work. As stated in the article I
linked you too, high salinities will work, but it's questionable whether your fish will tolerate such conditions. That said, you might try a middle ground salinity that Ropefish and Spiny Eels will tolerate, around 5-6
grammes/litre, whilst ALSO doing daily seawater dips at 35 g/l. Seawater dips can sometimes cure Costia by themselves.>
I have been trying to add Ropefish and another eel for some time, but I had to setup another tank, then cycle it, then keep the new fish in it. And one of the quarantined Ropefish died during that period. I have patience enough to add fish properly, I just hope my fish's health is patient enough to wait that long.
Thanks,
Nick
<Good luck. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Ropefish illness? 12/11/10
Since everything is on the back 2 inches of the fish, would it be better or worse to just dip the tail into the mixture?
<No. The parasites, if this is Costia, will be all over the fish. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Ropefish illness? 12/13/10

I just did a dip, and it looked pretty rough on the Ropefish.
<It is indeed unpleasant, essentially a chemotherapy for fish. Like chemo, it works because it kills the parasite before it kills the fish, but yes, timing is everything, and it isn't any fun at all. The good news is that
once returned to freshwater, the fish should recover very quickly.>
After laying in the net for about five minutes back in her home, she took a couple laps and settled under a rock. Then I saw the Albino Bristlenose sucking all over the Ropefish. I kept pushing it away and it would come back and suck on it again and again. So, maybe that is the issue instead of slime disease?
<Does sound like it!>
However, as much as it looked like it wanted to suck on it, I find it hard to believe that I wouldn't have seen this before at all.
<Not if happening at night.>
Especially since the Bristlenose was in a 10 gal quarantine with the recently added Ropefish and I never saw it do that and there were never any marks on that Ropefish. Could the sucker be attracted to the salt on it, or sense that the Ropefish is currently hurting and it is taking advantage?
<Possibly.>
Please let me know what you think, because I am ready to make the Bristlenose a permanent resident of the quarantine tank.
<I'd do that anyway, simply to zero out that variable. If the Ropefish gets better, then that's the main thing. Whether it's the catfish or Slime Disease is interesting but not particularly important. Treat for Slime
Disease, move the Ancistrus, and then see what happens!>
Thanks,
Nick
<Cheers, Neale.>

Ropefish, trouble. Hlth. 11/28/10
Hi. I have a Ropefish
<"A" Ropefish will be an unhappy Ropefish; these are social animals -- keep in groups of three or more.>
who is having some strange coloring. I read the links and saw some others describing similar concerns but the reasons did not seem to apply here. We have not added any new fish in quite some time. The only problem I know of is that I was gone for a few months over the summer and the person watching the fish overfed them and did not clean the aquarium enough. Thus, there was some stress and we lost a couple sensitive fish. This discoloration problem seems to have begun recently, though, and not during that time period.
<Agreed.>
For background, I tested the water tonight and the nitrates are at 20, pH about 7.2, no nitrites or ammonia, temp 76 and the water is clear.
<Sounds fine.>
There is one live plant and lots of hiding spots!
<But no company of its own kind. Although I doubt that your fish is sick because he's lonely, his loneliness will cause stress, and stress WILL make an otherwise healthy fish sick.>
We have a canister filter that is for tanks bigger than ours, so no problems there. I keep Chemipure Elite (grande) in it and change it regularly. We have well water. There are 2 powerheads with air lines and an air stone. Our tank is 150 gal and has mostly barbs and small catfish (including 4 small Plecos), with a few Bala sharks and Gourami, a small clown loach, one Ropefish, one African knifefish, and one "rubber eel" (Typhlonectes natans).
<An amphibian, and a poor companion for fish generally.>
Everyone generally gets along and we rarely lose a fish, so the water is stable most of the time.
<Plecs and Ropefish are not really compatible. A very real problem with the Bichir family generally is that their heavy armour makes them slow-moving, and Plecs are among those fish that opportunistically scrape at their bodies, presumably to eat the mucous. Long term, this damages the skin, initially causing discoloured patches but eventually sites of infection. I would not recommend mixing Bichirs with Plecs except the most strictly herbivorous species, such as Panaque. Generalist genera, such as Hypostomus and Pterygoplichthys, as well as carnivorous Plecs like Acanthicus, are definitely worth avoiding!>
Our Ropefish has been in there for a few years and has done well. He at least a foot long.
<Okay.>
He eagerly eats frozen mostly bloodworms and Tubifex worms, and some dried shrimp (not daily). He is quite active periodically throughout the day. He is very protective of his food and swims to the corner with it or hides, but I don't think he is underfed. He has grown a few inches this year and gotten a little wider. Our catfish stay mostly on the bottom, so he will swim to the corners away from them. He seems to fare well. He also comes out of his favorite hiding spots periodically during the day and will eat whenever we put food in. We have been considering some buddies for him and got rid of a few fish that were bigger and a bit rowdy so the tank would be less stressful and we would have room for more ropes. I know they prefer to be in a group. I could only find them locally for $20+ and couldn't afford to get 3.
<I can't speak for the US, but in the UK the average price for a Ropefish is about 8 UK pounds, or about 13 US dollars. So while a little pricey, these are wild-caught fish and never going to be as cheap as Guppies.>
Recently, he has shown white-ish discoloration on his back but is still swimming and eating.
<Does sound like physical damage. Remove the Plecs to another aquarium and see what happens.>
Not sure if his activity has changed - maybe a little. We have not added any fish so it's not Ick. It does not look velvety or fluffy. It just looks like his skin has changed colors. We found a long, translucent piece of something that looked a little like plastic in the tank last week and wondered if he had shed his skin or something.
<No, they don't shed their skin, but your Caecilian does, as I hope you realise.>
It is the same as it was last week - not significantly worse or better. His tail appears to be normal. I added some Stress Coat twice last week in case his slime coat was inadequate,
<Stress Coat is a fairly pointless product outside of retail.>
did a 40% or so water change and gravel vac, and added some aquarium salt - not enough to make it brackish.
<Ropefish do in fact inhabit slightly brackish habitats in parts of their range, and 2-3 grammes of marine salt mix per litre can be a useful tonic when displaying signs of stress, though it's not essential by any means.
Otherwise, salt is very misunderstood and often used without any real purpose in mind. Do read:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/SaltUseFWArtNeale.htm
>
I've attached pictures of him and would appreciate any help. We enjoy watching him and are planning to get a quarantine tank up and going soon for his new friends but want to make sure he is ok... Thanks!!!!
<He's clearly exposed to something irritating in the water. Perhaps the Plec, if the other fish look good. Do review water quality and also diet, by themselves bloodworms aren't enough! You need to be providing a rich mix including earthworms, strips of tilapia fillet, cockles, plus occasional mussels and prawns. The more variety the better, and with carnivores, if you aren't offering at least 5 different things, then you're likely on the road to malnutrition. The more diverse the diet, the better. Do read about thiaminase here at WWM.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_6/volume_6_1/thiaminase.htm
Otherwise, this fish is on the slippery slope to death. What you have here is a very common situation when Ropefish and Bichirs generally aren't kept adequately. Do read, understand their needs, and then act accordingly.
Bichirs react poorly to many medications, so prevention, and if necessary the INFORMED use of salt, antibiotics will help with long-term maintenance significantly. Do read:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/polypterids.htm
Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Ropefish 11/30/10
Wow - such great information. Thanks!
<My pleasure.>
I have tried to research fish before I go to the store but when you see something cool like the eel, and they say it's a community creature, you think it's ok.
<The problem is that a "community fish" may or may not work in a community depending on the size of its tankmates, its diet, its social behaviour, and its water chemistry requirements. Angelfish are great community fish, but they view Neon Tetras a food. Likewise, Platies are excellent community fish, but their need for relatively cool, hard, basic water makes them incompatible with Ram Cichlids. Oscars are outstanding community fish by the standards of big cichlids, but their sheer size limits their tankmates to other large fish.>
A mistake - I know now. I am looking at the Plecos in our tank and we have one long-term member - the clown Pleco (Panaque), and 3 Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus temminckii). The Bristlenose Plecos were added about 5 months ago. Since those are algae eaters/herbivores, I would think they would be ok. No?
<These should be okay. Panaque are generally very harmless and almost entirely herbivorous, and I'd be very surprised if Ancistrus caused problems. But still, if you have the option of moving either the Ropefish
or the Plecs, try it, and see what happens.>
The rope has a big shark head that he loves and can hide in. The entrance is tiny, so the other fish can't sneak in. I'd be amazed if he was getting nibbled on by the Plecos if he can hide. Do you think?
<It's possible, and it does happen.>
I will work on getting him more variety as far as food. Do I just buy fresh/frozen seafood at the grocery store for him? I would be concerned about some that have preservatives.
<Fresh or frozen seafood good enough for humans is fine for fish. There are plenty of preservatives in flake food, and no-one worries! What Americans call "market shrimp" is somewhat acceptable, but so rich in thiaminase I wouldn't use more than once or twice a week. Tilapia fillet, by contrast, is very cheap and easy to use. Buy a fresh fillet, slice into worm-sized strip or chunks that the Ropefish could swallow easily -- 5-10 mm long by 2-3 mm wide -- and freeze these in tin foil or an old ice cream carton.
Remove, defrost, and use as required. As it happens, loaches and catfish will enjoy these too. You can use tilapia and other thiaminase-free foods, such as cockles, as often as you want.>
I have heard that the eel is not a good companion (after I bought him) but am not sure what the issue is. What is the problem? He's been growing and seems to be thriving.
<The thing with amphibians generally, whether caecilians, newts or aquatic frogs, is that their requirements and those of fish tend not to completely overlap. Some people have kept caecilians with small fish, but as you know caecilians are predators, and like all amphibians they have very delicate skins, so larger fish can damage them by accident or otherwise. If your caecilians are happy, then all well and good. But that certainly isn't the usual situation, and experienced amphibian keepers will usually recommend you keep them in their own aquarium where their specific needs can be more easily ensured.>
I'm guessing the other fish must be eating the eel's shedding skin because if we do see something like that floating, it disappears quickly. I'm amazed we have not seen it more often. But our tank is pretty big and there are lots of places for things to get lost!
<Indeed.>
Thanks for the links. I have done some reading on controversies over salt and also thiaminase. But I'm sure I can learn more! I appreciate your help!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Ropefish 12/2/10

Thanks again for the info. I don't have a 2nd tank up and going. Would it be better to put the rope in a tank that has not cycled through yet and risk the nitrogen/ammonia levels increasing temporarily, or leave him where he is for a few weeks until it has cycled and then put him in? Don't want to wait too long and lose him. We have a few small Pictus cats, a small bumblebee cat, and a medium Featherfin cat. Will these bother the rope? We watched him a lot last night - he was pretty active - and he didn't seem to be scraping his back on anything - the tubes we have are wide and he stays in the middle. We'll keep watching and I'll get him some tilapia today.
Will be fun to watch him get excited about that!
<I would never move a fish to hospital tank that wasn't AT LEAST as healthy as the one the fish was already in. What would be the point? It'd just make a bad situation worse. It isn't clear to me precisely what has harmed your Ropefish, and if it isn't the Suckermouth Catfish species, then you might want to look at territorial or aggressive behaviours on the parts of any other catfish or cichlids in the tank he's with. You could try adding a little salt to the water, perhaps 2-3 grammes/litre. This shouldn't stress its tankmates, but may help speed up the healing process. Ropefish tolerate salt well because they come from slightly brackish deltaic regions of West Africa. They don't need salt, but it can help in some situations. You might also read up on Slime Disease, also known as Costiasis. This isn't a particularly common disease, but its symptoms do include patches of grey slime on the body, in extreme cases with raw or bloody skin underneath. Treating Slime Disease can be tricky because Ropefish and Bichirs generally
react badly to copper- and formalin-based medications. On the other hand, saltwater dips together with salt in the water can help. While 3-5 g/l in the tank won't harm your Ropefish, it will stress salt-intolerant
freshwater fish, so this may/may not be an option depending on the tankmates. As ever, a cycled, healthy hospital tank is a big plus.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/SaltUseFWArtNeale.htm
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Ropefish, hlth. 12/5/10

Thank you. I have a tank cycling and when it's ready, I will put him in there. It appears as if the grayness is spreading up further. He still is active and eating. I'll check back in when I have an update. Thank you again!
<Do try treating with an antibiotic and add some salt to the water, up to 5 grammes/litre, to see if that helps slow down/stop the skin infection. Antibiotics will deal with bacterial infections -- hopefully -- and salt can slow down certain skin parasites such as Costia. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Ropefish
Will do. I so appreciate it!
<You're welcome and good luck. Cheers, Neale.>

What is wrong with my Reed fish? -- 10/28/10
Can you please help me, my Reed fish's tail seems to be preventing it from swimming around freely. This has also led the fish to 'spin' in distress.
Please see the attached video. Your assistance would be greatly received.
<Hello Matthew. Please don't send videos, especially not oddball formats used on cellphones. A JPEG photo is much better, and be sure to reduce the file size down to about 500 KB per image using whatever image software you have on your computer. We don't have the time or bandwidth to deal with bigger attachments. As for what might be the problem, Ropefish are sensitive to certain chemicals including copper and formalin, so check you haven't used medications containing them. Also be sure basic water quality and chemistry are acceptable: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, pH around 7 and a hardness between 5 and 20 degrees dH. Although they don't need it, they will tolerate slightly brackish conditions well and the use of salt at low doses, around 2-3 grammes per litre, can be helpful when treating Whitespot and certain other external parasites. Ropefish are very prone to starvation and malnutrition because they are slow, carnivorous feeders. A common way to kill any predatory fish is to feed it feeder fish, so make sure you
haven't used any. Certain other live foods can be risky, most notoriously Tubifex worms which can carry the parasite that causes Whirling Disease.
Mussels, prawns and several other seafoods contain Thiaminase, and if these are used too frequently vitamin B1 deficiency can cause neurological damage. Ropefish should be fed primarily Thiaminase-free foods: cockles, earthworms, tilapia fillet, krill and bloodworms. Do read:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_6/volume_6_1/thiaminase.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fdgfdrartneale.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/polypterids.htm
Starvation is a common problem when any of these slow-moving, nocturnal carnivores are kept with catfish or loaches, so don't combine with such; instead keeping them with day-active midwater fish of appropriate size and temperament. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: What is wrong with my Reed fish?

Thanks for your help.
<You're welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

Rope Fish Healthy Behavior? - 10/14/10
Hello,
I have a question about Rope Fish behavior as a sign of health. I don't see any major concerns, but I don't want to be one of the people writing a question about my fish that just died. I have had the Rope for six days (9' long). The first three days it was very active and would swim all around the aquarium and then rest under something, and then do it again several times while I'm watching. The last three days it has been barely active. It rests under a plant/cave and only goes to the surface sometimes for a breath. I have seen it eat black worms three times, but yesterday it was not interested at all. It has no other signs of stress or disease other than it changed behavior. My main concern is that it was the same time my tank showed a reading of .02 ammonia. I did a 10-12% water change which brought it to zero for a day. Then again today it is at .01 and I will do another water change. Here is the background information. I have a 55 gal. tank that is fairly new. It has lots of hiding and live plants. I was cycling it with six Giant Danios. I never got any ammonia readings for two weeks. I then read that this could be what is called 'silent cycling', because the aquarium was heavily planted. I do not have any sort of air bubbling device, because I assume the filter dumping water back into the tank, and the plants would produce enough oxygen. So, now its tank mates are 6 Giant Danios, 1 Iridescent Shark, and 1 One-Stripe eel 7'(new at the same time). The water parameters are 77 degrees, PH 7.8, zero Nitrite & Nitrate, ammonia .01(the last couple days only). Is this just normal Rope behavior? Is the ammonia the problem? Should I use an ammonia binding agent, or just keep changing the water? Also, the Eel almost did the exact opposite. It mostly hid the first three days, and the last three has been actively swimming through the tank. I don't think they bother each other, because they will rest under the same cave together. Also, none of the other fish spend any significant time at the bottom of the tank. I have done tons of web searches before and after buying anything, however, if you could point me to a resource that lists healthy and normal behaviors for fish types, then I would at least know the difference between healthy and stressed. Your help is greatly appreciated.
Nick
<Hello Nick. In a nutshell, happy Ropefish lurk in caves in small groups, often with their heads poking out but otherwise bundled up together in a big ball. Yes, they will side-wind up to the surface periodically to breathe, but during the day they are essentially resting. They are most active at night, when they hunt, by smell, for small worms, crustaceans and insect larvae (these latter making up almost entirely their diet in the wild). Common stress factors in aquaria include lack of company (treat them as schooling fish, and keep at least three specimens); aggressive tankmates (some fish nip their fins); and lack of the right sorts of food (mostly wet-frozen insect larvae, chopped seafood, and the occasional earthworm). While ammonia isn't good for any fish, Ropefish are fairly resilient fish so should get through the next few weeks assuming regular water changes and careful feeding. In fact the usual sources of mortality are, in this order, escaping from the tank and starvation. Forget about plants as a source of oxygen: unless you have intense lighting, the overall impact of photosynthesis on oxygen levels in the tank will be trivial. A good canister or external filter should circulate water sufficiently well you don't need an airstone. Ropefish are air breathers anyway, and actually live in swamps, so the Spiny Eel and Danios will be stressed by lack of oxygen long before the Ropefish. Your Iridescent Shark is going to be a monster, and has no place in this aquarium. Please Google "Pangasius hypophthalmus" and take a look at how big these fish can get. Even under aquarium conditions you can expect this catfish to reach 20 cm/8 inches within a year, and 60 cm/24 inches within 2-3 years. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Rope Fish Healthy Behavior? - 10/14/10

Neale,
Thank you so much for a thorough and incredibly quick response.
<Glad to help.>
The Pangasius cat was a mistake.
<Quite possibly.>
I wanted something smaller than a Pleco, so they pointed out some other options at Petdumb. They said 12' max for this guy. I immediately saw on the web, after introducing to my tank, that they are giants.
<Indeed. They are food fish, prized for their rapid growth rate. To be honest, many do indeed get to about 30 cm/12 inches before they die for one reason or another, but they can and often do get very much larger.>
Update: yesterday after work my Rope fish was again swimming actively all over, and it ate really well. Maybe it just swims a lot when it is really hungry, and otherwise it just sits at the bottom. Isn't my tank too small for another two 6-12' Rope fish? (55 gal)
<Not too small at all. I would encourage you to shift the Pangasius and add the extra Ropefish.>
I'm planning on a bigger tank in the future, but not for at least a year. Is it possible that the Rope is comforted by the Spiny
eel?
<Possibly, but my guess is that because they want the same thing, they hang out in the same place. Is the Spiny Eel Macrognathus aral? Most Macrognathus species are quite gregarious as well, and well worth keeping in groups.>
It likes to stay near it sometimes. Out of curiosity, if my plants (regular pond weed) grew 6' in the last two days, does that mean lots of photosynthesis and oxygen?
<Yes, to some degree, but remember plants use up oxygen too, and at night they aren't photosynthesising, so their net effect is to pull down oxygen levels. Also, the amount of oxygen produced per plant isn't that great. So while plants help a bit, and they do absorb ammonia and nitrate, both of which actions improve water quality, they don't really do a huge amount in terms of oxygenation. At least, not unless there's a lot of plants, a lot of light, and a very small loading of fish.>
Thanks again,
Nick
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Rope Fish Healthy Behavior? - 10/14/10
I would be happy to add Rope fish if I can find them, but I was concerned by all of the web resources stating no more than 1' of fish per gallon of water.
<That's a benchmark, and not a terribly accurate one. For a 55 gallon tank, you shouldn't have any problems at all keeping three Ropefish, two or three medium-sized Spiny Eels, and a school of suitable dither fish. Maybe even a Bristlenose Plec to help with the algae. All I'd recommend you do is ensure good water quality via generous filtration. I happen to like canister filters, but anything will do, provide the water turnover is brisk, 8 times the volume of the tank per hour. Because these fish are mostly carnivores, don't overfeed, and feel free to skip a day per week. Do 20-25% water changes per week.>
I already have 37' of fish with the 6 Giant Danios, 1 Pangasius, 1 Macrognathus aral, and 1 Rope fish. And all my fish aren't even adult size yet.
<Ropefish get to about 30 cm/12 inches or so under aquarium conditions, and they're pretty thin. Many books say they get to 90 cm/3 feet long, but that appears to be based on an erroneous scientific record. The biggest ones I've seen are maybe 40 cm/15 inches.>
Yes, my eel is Macrognathus aral, but everything I read on Spiny eels state that they don't like each other when they are adults. Is that incorrect for this particular
one, and can you give me a link to that research?
<Here's the deal. There are two genera in the trade, Macrognathus and Mastacembelus. Mastacembelus includes things like Tyre Track Eels and Fire Eels, and yes, these are territorial when mature. But the genus Macrognathus includes mostly smaller species that don't seem to be territorial, and happily hang out in small gangs. It's worth noting that it's this genus that includes all the species bred in captivity.>
Also, if I get rid of the Pangasius I won't have anything eating the food that drops to the substrate. Any suggestions for a compatible cleaner fish?
<Would strongly recommend an Ancistrus, i.e., a Bristlenose Plec, since these are the right size and temperament, and unlikely to compete strongly for the food you want the Spiny Eel and Ropefish to eat. Other catfish and loaches will be too competitive.>
I've heard some suckers will damage eels by sucking their slime coat off?
<Correct. Ropefish and Bichirs are both prone to this, and cichlids will also peck at their fins. Again, Ancistrus, being herbivorous, tend to ignore even delicate tankmates, making them especially good choices and very different to the standard common Plec species. Spiny Eels tend to get damaged because of abrasive rocks and the use of gravel. So long as you use smooth, lime-free sand (pool filter sand appears to be popular in the US) instead of gravel, this shouldn't be an issue. But once Spiny Eels get damaged, they quickly develop skin infections and then die.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/spinyeelsmonk.htm
The bigger Mastacembelus are a bit more resistant to damage from gravel, but I'd consider sand essential when keeping Macrognathus.>
Thanks,
Nick
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Rope Fish Healthy Behavior? -- 10/20/10

Update on my Rope Fish condition. It has become increasingly reclusive,
which I know is how they are supposed to be, but it used to swim all over the place. Also, it appears to have tiny white bumps all over it.
Yesterday they were just on its head, and now go down it's body. It looks almost like salt. I know that this must be some kind of disease. Please
help.
Thanks,
Nick
<Sounds like Whitespot/Ick to me. Treat using the salt/heat method. Two grammes per litre should do the trick, but Ropefish tolerate brackish water so you can go up to 6 grammes/litre if needs be, and this level would be good for treating Velvet and certain other infections.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/SaltUseFWArtNeale.htm
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Rope Fish Healthy Behavior? -- 10/20/10
I have read through the article, very informative. Will 2 grammes/litre harm any of the other inhabitants? Six Giant Danios and one Macrognathus aral.
<No. In fact the Spiny Eel species will probably be healthier if maintained this way, though the Danios wouldn't like it for more than a few weeks.>
Thanks,
Nick
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Rope Fish Healthy Behavior? 10/26/10

I have been using the salt and heat method to cure my rope fish of the Ich for six days now. The rope fish has had zero spots for a couple of days and there are only about three spots total on one of the other fish. Thank you for the assistance in saving my fish.
<Cool. Remember, the salt isn't killing the spots; it's killing the free-living stages they produce.>
However, I have a new question. Can either salt or a temperature of 86 degrees cause Giant Danios to go blind?
<No.>
During morning feeding time they are usually lightning quick and splash at the surface as they scarf down food. But, today they knew it was feeding time and went to the surface, but just swam around with their mouths at the surface until they happened to run into some food. Sometimes they would just swim right past it and keep trolling around. Really weird.
<Indeed. But if the eyes aren't cloudy, I doubt they're blind. Giant Danios are quite jumpy though, and if they hit the hood, they can damage their eyes.>
Another change in the aquarium is that my Nitrites are at .5, and have been at least measurable for three days.
<More of an issue.>
Can Ich cause blindness?
<Unlikely, but not beyond the realms of possibility. When the white cysts burst they leave holes in the skin, and these holes can become sites for secondary infections. The cornea isn't a favoured habitat for Ick
parasites, but I'm sure it can happen. But still, if the cornea was damaged, I think you'd be able to tell.>
Thanks,
Nick
<You're welcome. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Rope Fish Healthy Behavior? 10/26/10
Thanks, I guess it remains a mystery. It is almost just like they swim around at night with the light off, just hoping to eat something at the surface. Just usually in the day with the lights on, they make quick and direct hits on the food. I have never seen them jump into the lid though. Nitrite doesn't cause blindness either does it? Half the responses on WetWeb suggest people frequently change their water to dilute the nitrite, and the other half say to stop water changes so that the bacteria can grow sooner. Do you have any suggestions? Also, what is the 'freak-out' level of nitrite when I should panic and move the fish to anything including pots and pans?
Thanks,
Nick
<Fish go off their food when water quality drops, so I'd concentrate on establishing why you have non-zero ammonia and/or nitrite levels. Sometimes newly established tanks go into a mini-cycle weeks after you think cycling finished. In itself not a disaster. Stop feeding, do 20% water changes every day or two, and check the filter is properly configured and maintained. Common problems include clogged media and overfeeding. So long as nitrite stays below 0.5 mg/l, your fish are not in any imminent danger, generally, but some fish are more sensitive than others. Cheers, Neale.>

My rope/reed fish... in w/ goldfish? Fed guppies? 10/10/10
Hello,
<Hello,>
I bought a rope about a week ago that was in a tank with large Oranda gold fish. I found this fish to be very interesting and since it was in a tank with gold fish, I bought it because that is what I have at home.
<Your first mistake. Pet shops will often stick all kinds of fish together in one tank, and for a few weeks that might be fine. But what works at home is often very different!>
I also bought an Oranda that was in the tank with him so he would have someone familiar.
<No.>
The lady told me she fed him guppies everyday;
<The lady at the pet store is taking full advantage of your ignorance. You should never, EVER use feeder fish bought from a pet shop. Sure, they sell them, but there are folks who sell crack cocaine too, and that doesn't make it safe. Please do some more research and less shopping!>
so I bought 10 feeder guppy's for him. In two days 8 were gone. 2 remained for almost a week.
<Indeed. But feeder fish are then #1 way of getting diseases into your aquarium. So unless you want to make your fish sick, don't use them. Secondly, Ropefish aren't really fish-eaters. They mostly feed on insect larvae and other small invertebrates. In aquaria wet-frozen bloodworms and krill make good staples, augmented with small pieces of tilapia fillet, cockles, occasional prawns, and earthworms.>
I started to worry that he was not eating. Then I noticed my oranda's left fin was tore up like it was nipped at.
<Oh. Could be the guppies, could be the Ropefish. Hard to say. In any case, fancy Goldfish should not be kept with other sorts of fish. Yes, Orandas are social and need companions, but much better to choose another Oranda.>
The store told me it could have been the rope. This makes no sense to me because there were still 2 tiny feeder guppy's.
<What's that go to do with it?>
Well, the oranda's fin began to get infected so I quarantined her. I later read that ropes like to be in groups and tend to eat better that way.
<They are certainly social and should be kept in groups of three or more.>
I went back to purchase another and they had just got a shipment in. I had two choices, a larger rope that flipped and flopped everywhere or the smaller rope that seemed calmer.
<I'm sure the bigger one was healthy, merely very unhappy. Your retailer doesn't sound like she knows anything about fish.>
The store also recommended me to stop giving guppy's and make them adjust to shrimp pellets. I added the new rope and he didn't really swim around like my first did in his introduction but, I gave him the benefit of trying to figure the new home.
<Hmm'¦>
By the morning I saw that he found the cave he chose and one of the two guppy's were gone. Don't know which one ate it but was glad to see one eat regardless but still concerned of eating habit because 1) I don't know if they are really eating the pellets and 2) It has been 4 days since the second rope was added and all four days he stayed in his cave; even at night-I check several times.
<Ropefish do not eat pellets. So stop using them. They need foods as listed above. Can't supply those? Then don't keep Ropefish.>
Today he came out but swims weird. He will position his body vertically with head down and spin in circles while staying straight and vertical. By the evening he is now floating at the top of the tank with his body in a circle and floating in a circle.
<Stress.>
This behavior is very different from the other and he occasionally swims from one side of the tank to the other while my first rope continues to hang out at the bottom as usual and sits at top time
<Not sure what you mean here.>
there is still one guppy there and I don't know if they are eating at all and don't know if they are really eating the shrimp pellets plus my gold fish try to eat the pellets even when I shut the light off at night.
<They will eat a range of live, fresh, and wet-frozen foods. They WILL NOT eat freeze-dried foods including pellets and flanks.>
Is the second rope sick or is that just his personality and how long do they go without eating?
<Usually they starve to death when people try to give them the wrong foods. My guess here is that yours will be dead in a couple of months. You seem to have made no attempt at all to research the needs of these very unusual animals.>
My tank is a 65 gallon breeder with two power filters that each filters up to 70 gallons. Nitrates and nitrites are good and yes even with my gold fish the ammonia is maintained with chips and remover and test shows safe and the ph is 7.0.
<"Good" means nothing to me. Ropefish need 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite.>
I have inspected everyone's body and fins, everyone looks good except the Oranda which is quarantined and being treated and yesterday one of my black moors had the same fin problem so he is with the Oranda now getting treated before his infection could even get started. I read the ropes like to bundle together and they don't even go near each other.
<They're stressed and unhappy, and I'm fairly sure trying to escape. Since they WILL escape given even half a chance, I suspect the next part of this sorry story will be a dead, dried-out Ropefish on the carpet.>
Any thoughts, comments, suggestions and advice.
<Read. There is nothing mysterious about the maintenance of Ropefish. But you are doing everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, wrong.>
If it helps, each rope is about 5 inches,
<Seriously? That's tiny.>
the Oranda is about 4, 2 black moors are 3in, and one fancy tail is 2 and 1/2, the other fancy is 1 and 1/2, and 3 comets are 2in. You are probably thinking this is too many fish but these fish look tiny compared the this tank and the 65 breeder is just a temp home and looking to get a tank over 100 gallons maybe 200 to accommodate the ropes adult size and the 3 comets were for my uncles tank but when I brought them I did not add them to his tank because his current one fish had slim and sickness all over it so I placed them in mine till his gets better. Oh yea, I had a snail but he disappeared today, can't even find the shell.
<Sometimes Ropefish eat small snails, if the snail can fit into their mouth.>
Jessica
<Do read, Jessica:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/polypterids.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/RopefishSysF.htm
and linked articles. Cheers, Neale.>

My Rope Fish 9/1/10
Hi, First off I want to thank you for your page. If not for you I would have never got my Rope Fish.
<Indeed?>
I got my first Rope Fish about 2 months ago. He was doing great up until yesterday.
<Oh dear.>
We went to bed Mon. night ( of course I always feed my Rope Fish at night because he is not very fast an he seems to be able eat better when all the lights are out, thanks to my many other fish) he was eating great, he looked good.
<Correct; these nocturnal fish have terrible eyesight and hunt by smell. While they eat wet-frozen foods like bloodworms and chopped tilapia fillet just fine, they can't compete with barbs, cichlids and so on. I wouldn't keep them with catfish or loaches either. Good companions are peaceful day-active fish or nocturnal fish that don't feed quickly, for example spiny eels.>
Nothing on him to say he had slime or a fungus. The next morning I didn't really pay much attn. I had to get out the door, but I fed them as always. Well when I got home 3-4 hours later he was dead (floating at the top of the water).
<Oh dear.>
I went straight down to the pet store and had my water tested. Everything looked great 0 Ammonia , PH was 7.5 (maybe a little high but I keep it that way for my Dempsey's),
<Should not be kept with a Jack Dempsey at all! Could very easily have been killed by this fish.>
Nitrates were good. He had not been ate on (no signs of damage).
<The problem is the armour plating on these Ropefish. Bruises and internal bleeding would not be obvious.>
I'm about out of options so I thought I would ask you? I do have one other Rope Fish and he seems to be doing great, other then missing his friend (which I plan on getting another, they just don't have any in right now) he is very active.
<Hmm'¦>
In my 150gallon tank I have 2 channel cats,
<Not at all compatible with Ropefish! Starvation is a VERY real threat, and long-term, Channel Cats will EAT Ropefish. Do you realise how big these Ictalurus species get?>
2 Dempsey's,
<Not compatible with Ropefish.>
2 crabs,
<Almost certainly brackish water and/or amphibious -- do not belong in this aquarium.>
and 1 peacock.
<Requires different water chemistry to Ropefish.>
They all seem to get along very well. Even the Rope fish gets along great. If you can help it would be much appr., if not that's fine but I would like to thank you very mush for your time!.......Sabrina J.
<Sabrina, the bottom line is I think you stocked this tank badly, and I'm almost certain livestock will die until only the toughest remain. You need to sit back, think about what sort of fish you want to keep, and then add/remove fish accordingly to create a balanced community of compatible species. At the moment you have a series of disasters waiting to happen. Good luck, Neale.>
Re: My Rope Fish 9/2/10
Thank You for your help I really want to keep my Rope Fish if I get another tank for the Rope Fish could everything else live fairly well together?
<In a big tank, yes, Channel Catfish and Central American cichlids coexist well. I've kept them together myself. But do understand adult Channel Catfish will view all but the largest cichlids as food.>
Also I always add salt to my water, my crabs do great
<So far. If these are Red-Claw Crabs (Perisesarma bidens) which seem the commonest ones in the trade at the moment, these are brackish water crabs that prefer to spend 90% of their time on land. You aren't keeping them properly, and they will eventually die prematurely.>
and the salt helps to heal the sores the Dempsey's leave on each other (they fight all the time)
<Well, the salt has nothing to do with healing sores, so you're misunderstanding that aspect of healthcare completely. Under good conditions fish will heal any superficial damage. In any case, if you have two fish fighting, they need their own tanks. Obviously they can't be kept together. What's the point? The weaker fish will eventually be stressed and succumb to some problem or another.>
but they leave the rest of my fish alone and I think it is because they where the last in the tank so the cats already had rule of the roost. Right now they are not very big, My bullhead cat's are bigger then them but I only got the Dempsey's because my friends tank got a whole in it if I didn't get them she wouldn't have had another tank to put them in. I plan on selling the Dempsey's when I know they are going to
live. Also my peacock cichlid
<Is this Aulonocara, the Malawian Peacock Cichlid, or Cichla, the Peacock Bass Cichlid from South America?>
as been in there longer then any of my other fish and seems to do great in that water.
<Still'¦>
I never could find anything on peacocks so I just kind of guessed.
<Hmm'¦ there are MANY books on Malawian cichlids, and Aulonocara are amongst the most popular Malawian cichlids. So there's no excuse at all for being ignorant to their needs.>
But like I said he does good.
<So far.>
Again Thank You very much for your time.......Sabrina
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Rope fish help -- 08/22/10
I've had my rope fish for a little under a month now (though I got it not from a pet store but a friend who was unable to keep it) and its' started acting strangely recently.
<A gregarious species'¦ tends not to do well kept singly.>
As well, since the time I got it I've been having trouble telling if it's been eating.
<Make sure there is no night-time competition. No loaches or catfish, except possibly small algae-eating species such as Bristlenose Plecs.>
I've been feeding it frozen bloodworms and PE Mysis but when I put the food in it doesn't show any interest in it.
<Won't during the day if not settled. Does prefer to eat at night. Earthworms and live river shrimps are good starting foods.>
It shares the tank with two mollies and two gold fish, and I'm not sure it's getting any of the food.
<Shouldn't be much competition from these two. Luckily, Ropefish tolerate slightly brackish water well, so if you need to add salt for the benefit of the Mollies, no harm done.>
Until recently it seemed fine, but recently its' been acting really strangely. Yesterday I found it floating at the top of the tank (it's body was perfectly vertical) and it's fins weren't moving at all. I tried shifting it (normally it really doesn't like being touched) and there was absolutely no reaction.
<Not good.>
When I took it out of the tank it just dangled limply without any reaction at all. I'd figured it was dead and set it on the counter for a minute (and admittedly poked it to see if it was really dead) and it just lay there for the longest time before suddenly starting moving again. After putting it back in the tank it swam around and seemed fine but within the hour it was back floating at the top of the tank. What's wrong with it?
<Difficult to say without any details on the aquarium. Water quality should be good, 0 ammonia and nitrite. Water chemistry isn't critical but shouldn't be extreme: pH 6-8, 3-20 degrees dH will be fine. But water chemistry should be reasonably stable. If you're adding salt, add only a little, 3-4 grammes per litre is more than enough.>
Is there anything I can do to help it? I really don't want it to die.
<Do need more information.>
Thanks,
Samantha
<Cheers, Neale.>

Rope Fish breathing hard 10/15/09
I bought two new rope fish put them in my 100 gallon tank. One was really active right away the other one not so much. Do rope fish usually breath hard with their mouths open and side gill flaps opening and closing or is this a sign of distress.
<No.>
My PH is 7.8 my ammonia is zero and temp is 78-80. I do add salt to the tank also.
<How much salt? Ropefish do come from slightly brackish water in part of their range, but the casual addition of "tonic salt" or "aquarium salt" -- as opposed to careful use of marine salt mix -- may cause problems. As is now well understood, there is no reason to add tonic/aquarium salt to a freshwater tank except to treat specific diseases.>
Thanks,
Troy
<Ropefish are generally hardy fish, but they do have some wants. They prefer a shallow aquarium so that they can swim to the top and breathe air easily, 30 cm water depth is ideal, 45 cm tops. They are nocturnal
burrowers, and need a quiet tank with lots of shady places to hide. A soft substrate is highly beneficial. They cannot be kept with aggressive fish, e.g., cichlids. Keep with quiet midwater things like Congo tetras or
Spotted Ctenopoma. Choose catfish that aren't territorial or aggressive, and you may want to forego catfish altogether if you're worried the Ropefish can't feed easily. Ropefish are gregarious, and often pine when
kept in insufficient numbers. Being air-breathers, they are sensitive to airborne pollutants, e.g., paint fumes, bug sprays, etc. Hope this helps.
Cheers, Neale.>
Rope Fish breathing hard
I bought two new rope fish put them in my 100 gallon tank. One was really active right away the other one not so much. Do rope fish usually breath hard with their mouths open and side gill flaps opening and closing or is this a sign of distress.
<It wasn't clear -- I meant no, they don't normally do this, and yes, it's a sign of distress.>
My PH is 7.8 my ammonia is zero and temp is 78-80. I do add salt to the tank also.
Thanks,
Troy
<NM.>

Re: Rope Fish breathing hard 10/16/09
Thanks for the information. My tank is two feet deep, but I do see them swim up to breathe.
<A bit deep for this species. I'd install a rocky ledge about halfway up.>
I do have fine sand substrate in my tank. I had no idea that the aquarium salt was no longer used except for treatments.
<Is indeed the case. Constant exposure to saline conditions can cause problems for freshwater fish. Do review "Malawi Bloat" for example. Sodium chloride detoxifies nitrate and nitrite, and that's probably why people used salt so much in the past. But now we can provide better water quality with more reliable equipment, so salt shouldn't be necessary.>
I will go buy some saltwater salt mix.
<Why?>
How much salt do you recommend for a 100 gallon tank??
<Don't need any. Ropefish are PERFECTLY HAPPY in freshwater. They DO NOT NEED SALT. If you wanted to keep them in brackish water, SG 1.003 is probably the tops, and that's about 6 grammes per litre of water. I'd suggest a lower level, SG 1.001, or about 3.5 grammes per litre. But as I say, you DO NOT need to be adding salt.>
I believe my other problem is I do have them in with some peacock cichlids.
<Bingo.>
I watch my tank a lot even late at night and it seems as though they completely ignore each other I wonder if mere sight is stressful for them??
<Indeed, far too aggressive and active. Cichla spp. are active midwater predators that will terrify gentle, swamp-dwelling Ropefish. I wouldn't keep Ropefish with anything other than small community fish (obviously too large to be eaten, so not Neons). Corydoras, Giant Danios, Bleeding Heart Tetras, etc. would all be good.>
Thanks so much,
Troy
<Cheers, Neale.>

Questions Regarding Rope Fish, hlth., fdg., sys. 8/3/09
Dear Sir / Madam,
I hope all is well !
My name is Kush and I'm from India.
<Hello,>
I have 6 Rope Fishes in a 3 Feet ( 40 Gallon Tank ) with plenty of hiding caves and pipes for them. Just wanted to request you to kindly guide me on a few questions that I have regarding these wonderful fish.
<Fire away.>
Sir, one of the Rope Fish that I purchased recently, seems to have a eye problem. I can't say that its eyes are cloudy, but it looks more like a "white dot in the center" of both the eyes.
<Often mechanical damage. These fish are burrowers, and in tanks with gravel can injure themselves. Smooth silica sand is better. But smooth gravel usually works okay, too. In any case, treat as for Finrot, and hope for the best.>
All other ropes that I have, have clear and beautiful eyes. Is this some kind of an eye disease ? If yes, how do I treat this. Somebody suggested to use Tetracycline in the tank water, as this could be a Bacterial Disease - just wanted to know if this is safe and effective, and how much dosage is recommended. Also the only Tetracycline I get here are Capsules labeled as Oxy tetracycline - is this the same as the normal Tetracycline ?
<An antibiotic should work safely, but observe the fish, and if possible, treat it in its own quarantine tank.>
Another of my Rope Fish has a few White Spots on its body. They look a little (very little) protruding (like very tiny ulcers) - I have a feeling that its Ick (White spot disease) - I have raised the Temperature to 31C
and added a little salt. The fish seem to be comfortable but they still have the white spots. Kindly guide me on treating this.
<The salt/heat method should work well. Ropefish live in slightly brackish water sometimes, and they have a good tolerance for salt. 2 to 3 teaspoons of salt per gallon (3.75 l) of water should work well. It will take 1-2 weeks to wipe out all the parasites.>
Regarding Nutrition for my Rope Fish, I feed them Live earthworms everyday, and they really eat them well. Just wanted to know if this is ok for them as a standard diet.
<Yes.>
I'm not able to 'train' them to eat anything else. I fed them Chopped prawn meat and pellets, but they don't even touch them.
<They will eat chopped prawn and other seafood eventually. They hunt by smell, mostly at night. So offer the food in the evening, and if necessary, starve them a couple of days before adding these foods.>
I worried that they aren't getting any vitamins in their diet and wanted to know if there is any way, I can make them ingest some vitamins.
<Variety is the key! If you have earthworms, prawns, mussels, bloodworms, squid, and small piece of white fish (such as tilapia) you have a nice, varied diet. These fish will eat most fresh or wet-frozen foods, though
they have little interest in dried foods or pellets.>
Will adding some vitamins directly to the tank water be effective ?
<No.>
Lastly, Just wanted to know if my current tank ( 3 feet - 40 Gallons ) be enough to house these 6 Ropes that I have or do they need a larger tank.
<Should be fine. These fish rarely get above 45-50 cm in captivity. Your main issue is escaping: these fish VERY COMMONLY escape from fish tanks. A secure lid is essential. In the wild they move across land at night, from one pond to another, like eels. They are very, very good at squeezing through tiny holes. Be careful!>
Kindly guide me on the above questions, Sir - I really have nobody else to guide me. Thanks for reading and for caring, Lots of Regards and Wishes, Kush
<These are wonderful fish. Do see here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebindex/polypterids.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebindex/ropefishfaqs.htm
And follow the linked articles for more. Good luck with them! Neale.>

Rope Fish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus) Tail Problem 10/22/07 Hi. This is my first time asking a question here although I have been a regular reader of your website. You have already been very helpful. I recently purchased a 14" Rope/Reed Fish. In the LFS he was active and seemed healthy. Having got him home he is still active, feeding well on bloodworm and coldwater prawns however he seems to have something wrong with the last 1cm or so of his tail. This portion of his tail seems a greyish-white (the rest of him is a lovely olive colour) this morning I have seen he has two tiny greyish patches on his back too, about midway along his body. He is still active and eating. I would appreciate any advice as to what this could be. I was hoping to get him a friend or two soon but would like to ensure he is in tip top health first. He is in a 350 litre 5ftx18"x18" mature tank with sand and fine gravel substrate, bogwood and plants (plenty of hiding places) with 4 juvenile Kissing Gourami and 4 adult Gold Barbs. The water stats are all good, water changes are done regularly (approx 10-15%) and the dechlorinator used is Seachem Prime. Ph is between 6.5 and 6.8 (varies slightly depending when measured) and the water here in Manchester, England is very soft. I have attached a picture, hope it helps. Thank you in advance for your advice. Jennifer <Hi Jennifer, and thanks for the kind words. While it's difficult to say precisely what your fish has, it would seem to be one of the complaints generally called "slime disease". This is normally an external bacterial infection, similar to finrot, except it works on the body of the fish and you see dead skin and excess mucous (which is the white stuff). What you need to use is something to treat external bacterial infections. Maracyn (Erythromycin of some sort) would probably be a good place to start if you were in the US, but if you're in the UK, then unless you obtain that from a vet (which will cost you around £20) you can use something like eSHa 2000 or Interpet #7 Anti Slime & Velvet. These are antibacterials rather than antibiotics; while they can work, they tend to work best with early stage infections, and may be useless once the infection gets a firm hold of your fish. Polypterids are not especially sensitive to medications, so you should be fine using it at full dose. I have also found saltwater dips work well for treating slime disease. This is basically a case of making up a mixture of 35 grammes of sea salt (from the grocery store is fine) per litre of water (taken from the fish tank). Dip the fish into this saltwater solution for 1-20 minutes. You pull the fish OUT as soon as it shows signs of distress, such as rolling over. As an estimate, I'd guess you'll be fine foe 2-3 minutes at a time. Repeat daily (using new batches of water each time). This dehydrates the bacteria and also cleans up the slime and dead skin. Combined with eSHa 2000, I've found this an extremely effective approach to treating slime disease. Ropefish inhabit brackish waters and are reasonably salt tolerant, so you aren't risking the fish unduly. Just pull the fish out after a couple of minutes or if the fish is clearly distressed. The "art" is to make the saltwater dip long enough it kills the bacteria, but not so long it kills the fish. A subtle, but useful, art to learn! Cheers, Neale>

Rope Eel Problem 6/30/07 Hello, <Greetings.> My fiancé and I bought a rope eel/fish two days ago and we're worried about him. The "capture" was shockingly rough, I don't think the two boys knew what they were doing - they seemed to be afraid of the rope fish. When we left we noticed that his (our rope fish) left fin - by his head - was injured. A small piece was missing, but he was the only one they had so we decided to take him home anyway since he was so lively. <Ropefish, Erpetoichthys calabaricus, are indeed fascinating animals. But there are a few things to bear in mind. First, they are sociable, and really don't do well kept alone. 3-4 is a much better number, and increases your chances of seeing them swimming about. Second, they get big. Almost a metre in the wild, though ~50-60 cm is more typical in aquaria. Finally, they are predators despite being otherwise peaceful. Anything guppy-sized or smaller is food as far as a Ropefish is concerned, especially if they aren't otherwise well fed on the stuff they like, worms and insect larvae. They don't eat dry food, and certainly aren't "scavengers".> Last night we were watching him as he was "floating/hovering" at the top of the tank, his tail sinking downward, causing his body to take a L shaped form. We thought he was sleeping, since every now and then he'd move to another part of the tank and continue to lay in this position. About two hours passed before he began to swim around again, however, we began to notice that he was having trouble reaching the bottom of the tank. At first we thought it was because of his injured fin, but the longer we watched the more certain we are that its because of his tail. <Very odd. How deep is this tank? Ropefish are obligate air-breathers that live in swamps: they drown if they cannot easily gulp air. They do not like deep water. A tank around 30-45 cm is about right for a juvenile.> When he reaches the bottom his tail will pull him back towards the top of the tank. Were wondering if it has something to do with his "lung-like swim bladder". If so is there any way we can fix the problem. My fiancé thinks that he just swallowed to much air, since our last rope eel would "burp" water every now and then. <The swim bladder is connected to the oesophagus, and Ropefish (like their relatives the Bichirs) breathe air in and out the mouth just like we do. So it's unlikely there's a swim bladder problem of the type seen in other fish. I'd be concerned about the overall health of the fish first of all. Water quality, diet, temperature should all be checked. Like other air-breathing fish, Ropefish can be sensitive to cold and dry air, so it's important that the humidity above the tank is kept high. One thing I might check would be whether there are any signs of paralysis. Sometimes these long, eel-like fish get damaged in transit, for example by having rocks dropped on them when clumsy retailers are trying to capture them. Look to see if the finlets on the back are moving and that the tail swishes from side to side normally. A similar problem can happen when eel-like fish curl up around heaters or too close to water pumps. Check also there's nothing in the aquarium that might have bitten or otherwise molested the fish. Otherwise, nothing springs to my mind as being an obvious case for what you're describing.> Thanks for your time and help, Aurora <Sorry can't be any more specific. Watch, check aquarium conditions. Cheers, Neale>

Question about Ropefish and Oxolinic acid... -- 5/4/07 Hi, I've bought two Ropefish from PetCo (I know, my first mistake). The first one died of white smeary patches, mostly on his face and then his fin. <"Slime Disease" can be caused by any of a variety of external parasites. It is almost always promoted by poor water conditions and overcrowding, so fixing the husbandry issues is part of the solution.> We had treated him by adding salt to the water, changing the water, raising the temperature of the water, treating for ammonia, and raising the pH. He still died. <No surprise. Salt isn't a treatment for anything much. Improve water conditions, and then use an anti-Slime Disease medication.> The second one we bought (also from PetCo. When will we learn?) started getting the same thing. <Which should be ringing some alarm bells. Either they have poor conditions in their aquaria, or you do, or both.> We went to a different pet store and they told us it wasn't Ich but a fungus. <Can't think why. Fungus looks like little fuzzy patches; slime disease like grey slime.> We started treating for the fungus with Pimafix, still changing the water, testing for pH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites. We still added salt. We also used Copper safe. He just died. We really don't want to go through this again and would like to know how much Oxolinic acid to use to keep our Ropefish safe. <Saying you're "testing" for things doesn't help me much. What, specifically, are the pH, ammonia, and nitrite levels. For Ropefish these should be pH 6.5-7.5, ZERO ammonia and nitrite. You DO NOT NEED salt with these fish. While they sometimes occur in brackish water, there's no real advantage to keeping them thus.> They're great fish with awesome personalities. <Yes, they are!> Any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated. I only hope I gave you enough information to help. <Need more information about your aquarium: size, water chemistry, filtration. Also be sure and read up about Ropefish, they're demanding in some ways. Need to be kept in groups, great escape artists, potentially predatory on very small tankmates.> Thank you very much, Josh <Cheers, Neale>

Rope Fish With Spots 4/9/07 Hello, My fiancé and I bought our first Rope Eel (or fish since that's what they come up as under Google) and she looked fine when we were in the store. However, the next morning I notice two small white dots on her back, so I called a friend whose had a fish tank for over 30 years. He assured me that Kaliah didn't have ick, although we went ahead and put Ick away in her tank. This morning when my fiancé and I woke the two dots turned into three large ones, one on her underside and two along the length of her body. We are extremely worried about her since we've grown attached so the question to you is if Kaliah is shedding at all, since the spots do look like dead skin. Is it normal for a rope eel to shed its skin and if not then what can we do to spot it and make her healthy? We feed her tropical fish food and some shrimp, per the sales lady. Thank You. Lotsa Love Aurora < Check the WWM website for articles on general info on bichirs. To be more specific, your bichir probably has a stubborn bacterial infection. Do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. The first drug of choice is Oxolinic Acid. Difficult to come by and very expensive, it is a miracle worker on rope fish and other bichirs. If you cannot find it then try a double dose of Nitrofuranace and Metronidazole. Let your local pet shop know so maybe they can treat the next batch before they sell them. Many stores don't know about this treatment and think that rope fish die because they are fragile, but they are actually very hardly and live for many years.-Chuck>

Ropefish - best to do research BEFORE adding fish...not to mention, QT is always a good idea... 3/15/07 Just a quick question... My husband and I just bought a Ropefish approximately 5 hours ago...(Wait that's not a question! Just let me explain first..) When we put him in our 56 gallon tank he seemed content, even happy. <What, no quarantine tank? Not a good idea; can very easily wipe out an entire established tank in this manner. Additionally, how did you acclimate this fish, if at all? How large is the tank and what else is in there at the moment? What are the current water parameters?> Over the last 30 minutes he has stopped moving, and will lay face up, or on his side, looking unable to move. In your opinion is he just stressed or is there a legitimate concern? <The latter. Sounds as though he's in shock. Test your water parameters ASAP - check for ammonia, nitrite and nitrates. Without knowing whether you acclimated this fish prior to its introduction, what your setup is like, and what conditions the fish was previously kept in (at the fish store), there's really not too much I can tell you aside from what conditions the Ropefish, Erpetoichthys calabaricus *should* be kept in: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/polypterids.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/bichirfaqs.htm http://badmanstropicalfish.com/profiles/profile90.html If there is a concern please share with me how to take care of him. <See links above.> Thanks. <You're welcome. Jorie> P.S. - Sorry if I messed anything up grammatically. It might be that it's 2 am, that I just don't care, or that I'm really lazy. Take your pick. <Wow - I sense a bit of hostility...not totally appropriate, in my opinion, where you're asking for our help/expertise. And, just for the record, I, for one, do try to be reasonable in my requests for proper grammar, punctuation, etc. A small error or two will not result in my returning an e-mail; a blatant disregard for my time, in contrast, will...><<RMF would have ret'd>>

Rope Fish Acting Weird 10/11/06 Hi, I have had my rope fish for a couple years now and it has always done great. But for the last couple of days it has been acting weird. Sometimes it acts normal and swims around normal but then it just kind of floats at the top of the tank. I am worried about swim bladder disease and wanted to know what I can do to help it. Thank you. Toni <Do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Try feeding him some live washed earthworms and see if he perks up. These fish are pretty tough but when they do get sick they get really weird diseases that are tricky to cure.-Chuck>

Sick Rope Fish 9/19/06 Today when my rope fish came out of his den, he seemed to have this white stuff on his skin and seems to be really weak, I don't think it's Ick though. He seems to be really stressed and keeps swimming around the top of the tank. If any of you know what this might be, please send an answer ASAP <Rope or reed fish come down with this weird bacterial infection that is very difficult to treat. You can try Nitrofurazone but it only seems to stop it but not control it. The only thing that really works is Oxolinic acid. You will probably need to go online to buy it. It is very expensive but really works very well on this disease.-Chuck>

Sick Rope Fish II 9/19/06 Should he be moved to a hospital tank? ( I have a 10 gallon but its not set up) <A hospital tank would be best. The medication will probably affect the good nitrifying bacteria.-Chuck>

Sick Calamoichthys... no info. - 08/05/06 Hi I had a question about my Ropefish, It doesn't seem its able to sink. He's always at the top and when he tries to go down his tail wont let him, so he just stays up floating. Is there a way to fix this? <Can't say with the lack of information presented> Thank you for your time. <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/polypterids.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Poor English <NNS?>, killing a Ropefish 8/3/06 I <I> had a question regarding my Ropefish. <What happened to it?> I bought a couple of weeks ago, I've been feeding it feeder fish either guppies or minnows. <Not a good idea...> I think one of the feeder fish probably had ich or something <Bingo> cuz my Ropefish got it. I've <I've> been medicating with Maracide <Products are proper nouns, capitalized...> for the recommended time and then used Maracyn 2 also as recommended. but he still broke out again so this time I but him in a separate tank and rededicating with CopperSafe. I've also noticed that he always at the top of the tank, is there any reason for that? <Yes, being poisoned by the Copper> I've seen other Ropefish and the always at the bottom. and when I bought him he was at the top. is he sick or something can it be fixed? Thank you for your time. <Please fix your English before sending it to us... And read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsubwebindex.htm search out the articles, FAQs files on Ropefish, Ich, Copper use in FW... Bob Fenner>

Improved English, poor behavior <Ropefish rant> - 02/27/06 So, I see that you have more than enough time to read your e-mails and respond to them...God forbid that you can actually help someone with a problem with their fish! <<Countless people are helped here everyday.>> I did not realize that your site is here to make you look good and have the ability to look down on someone for their grammar and refuse to give an honest answer that may actually help people better care for their fish based upon their e-mail not being suitable to your liking. <<It is not that your email wasn't to the first responder's liking, but that it gets frustrating having to re-write emails with proper capitalization and spelling. All that was asked of you, was that you re-write it and re-send it, as there are many people who need advice.>> By the way, I used my Yahoo spell checker before I sent my e-mail to you and it still was not good enough for you! <<Again, it was not a matter of quality of your email. I do not think it is too much to ask that when writing to us (all of whom are volunteers) that your letters are written properly, so that they need-not be re-typed. Many people, from all over the world, read this site, and language is very important for ease of understanding.>> I thought your site was awesome! Until I actually needed some information on a rope fish that I need help with which, by the way, I read all of your posting's before I e-mailed you and exhausted all means of information available to me before asking this of you. <<Appreciated>> You say you do not have enough time to read all e-mails sent to you and respond to them but yet, You have the time to send all the criticism in the world if I AM NOT AN ENGLISH MAJOR! <<I'm sure it wasn't meant that there is no time to send out all emails, but that it is time consuming, which is fine, but any help we can get from those writing in, makes it easier to reply in a speedy manner to all.>> I am American born and raised and anyone, and I do mean ANYONE that speaks English could read my e-mail that I sent to you AND understand EVERY word that it contained! <<Not all that read here are American born, but again, it's not that your email was unreadable, but not suitable for posting as it was at that time.>> My eight year old even read it and understood every word of it! But yet, you have no time to help but rather criticize what you feel to be proper grammar. EXCUSE ME! I refuse to ever visit your web site EVER again and intend to tell this to every person that I come across as well as my local pet stores which, couldn't tell me what is wrong with my rope and wanted to know your response to help them with their knowledge in the future. <<That's too bad. I am sure if you had sent it back corrected, you would have been quite please with whomever responded to you.>> I originally planed on making a donation to your site because it seemed to be extremely help full when people actually needed help with their fishes health. <<It is quite helpful, yes.>> Well, no help here!!! As far as my rope fishes health it has gotten no better but a little worse since I e-mailed you initially. But, Obviously you don't give a sXXX. <<Of course we do, that is why we take the time to do this.>> So long. I will not bother you or your uppity, uppity class of loser any more! Dan <<I am very sorry to hear this. I do hope to help in the future, should you change your mind. Lisa.>>

Dissatisfied Ropefish Response ... Chuck's go - 02/27/06 Dear Sir or Madam, I am writing about concerns with our previous correspondence. It has come to my attention that it was difficult for your staff to understand my question. Hopefully this can be resolved, but yet again my question remains unanswered. Dan. So, I see that you have more than enough time to read your e-mails and respond to them. God forbid that you can actually help someone with a problem with their fish! I did not realize that your site is here to make you look good and have the ability to look down on someone for their grammar and refuse to give an honest answer that may actually help people better care for their fish based upon their e-mail not being suitable to your liking. By the way, I used my Yahoo spell checker before I sent my e-mail to you and it still was not good enough for you! I thought your site was awesome! Until I actually needed some information on a rope fish that I need help with which, by the way, I read all of your posting's before I e-mailed you and exhausted all means of information available to me before asking this of you. You say you do not have enough time to read all e-mails sent to you and respond to them but yet, You have the time to send all the criticism in the world if I AM NOT AN ENGLISH MAJOR! I am American born and raised and anyone, and I do mean ANYONE that speaks English could read my e-mail that I sent to you AND understand EVERY word that it contained! My eight year old even read it and understood every word of it! But yet, you have no time to help but rather criticize what you feel to be proper grammar. EXCUSE ME! I refuse to ever visit your web site EVER again and intend to tell this to every person that I come across as well as my local pet stores which, couldn't tell me what is wrong with my rope and wanted to know your response to help them with their knowledge in the future. I originally planed on making a donation to your site because it seemed to be extremely help full when people actually needed help with their fishes health. Well, no help here!!! As far as my rope fishes health it has gotten no better but a little worse since I e-mailed you initially. But, Obviously you don't give a sh*t. So long. I will not bother you or your uppity, uppity class of loser any more! Dan <All questions go to a general inbox. From there they are sorted out in categories like Marine, Freshwater and Brackish. Once they are in these categories crew members from around the country check in a any given time and respond to these questions. Generally the questions should be checked for grammar and spelling before they are sent. This is fairly easy request because all computers have these functions. It is up to the individual crew member to decide if the grammar is too poor to respond. We may get up to 100 questions a day. Sometimes the question is not very clear. Occasionally we don't even know what the question is. Crew members are all volunteers and we try to answer as many questions as we have time for. The more time we spend correcting grammar and spelling, the less time we have to answer questions and help to keep organisms alive. Questions that are properly written almost always get answered first. I personally answered your question about a Ropefish and the response was posted on the website yesterday. You may have written another question that I am not aware of, and it was answered by another crew member. Have your local fish store start treating their Ropefish with Oxolinic Acid as per my previous response. Hope things go better next time.-Chuck>

Dying Ropefish - 02/25/06 Hello, I just bought two Ropefish a couple of days ago. I got their tank all set up and then went to work, when I got home about 12 hours later I noticed that one of my Ropefish was lying on its back on the bottom of my tank. It was in fact dead. I fished it out and noticed that it's anus was bright red as if it had been bleeding. My other Ropefish was still fine. I thought the problem might have been with the water, the temp was about 78, ph was 7.0, I had hard water, low alkalinity, and no nitrites or nitrates. I have never had any fish die like this and I'm a bit troubled that this one died. So anyway, The day after my first Ropefish died I checked my tank and the second one hadn't moved, so I poked it and it started swimming around, but it only turned to the right and it was doing these barrel rolls as well, something just didn't look right. Then I noticed that it's eyes were clouded (they weren't like this when I bought it). Now it pretty much only moves if its prodded by me or the other fish. Would have any suggestions as to what might be the problem?-Thanks, Elliot < This is a stubborn bacterial infection that has killed many Ropefish. Oxolinic Acid works great on this disease. Unfortunately it is difficult to obtain for the average aquarist and is expensive too. Try Kanamycin or Nitrofuranace. Do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Treat as per recommended on the package. After treatment you need to add carbon to the filter to remove any excess medication. When the medication is gone to need to get the biological filtration going again so I would add Bio-Spira.-Chuck>

My Ropefish lost his nostrils!! 2/3/06 I have had my Ropefish for about 4 years now. He/she has been great. A couple of weeks ago his tank mates (an Oscar and large Pleco) died of I'm not sure what. He seemed fine until his nose got very red and raw. It went from red, to white, and then to normal. The only thing is his nostrils are gone!! will they ever grow back? Thanks for any help. >> Likely you had high ammonia, which killed your other fish, and burned the nostrils off your rope fish. They will grow back.

HELP! My rope fish is ill and I don't know what to do! 8/9/05 Hi Bob, <Terry... your msg. was sent in HTML, your spelling... is this an intentional insult?> I was wondering if you would be able to help me (I took you email from WetWeb media). I have a rope fish who up to a couple of days ago was fine. About 2 days after I did a water change on my tank (1/3 of the total water volume) <Too much... please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2ochgs.htm and the FAQs linked at top> the rope fish began to swim around the tank quite aggressively in loops, after which it began to float up side down. It is still alive and if it does swim it rights itself, but it seems to be struggling to keep at the bottom of the tank, so now just floats. I wasn't sure if there was a link to me cleaning the tank, so I repeated the water tests (nitrate, nitrite, total hardness, Ph, temp) and all seemed fine. <Toxified.... likely with the sanitizer (chloramine) in your source water> Any help would be most appreciated, I don't know what to do. Thanks for your time Terry <At this point, not much to do... perhaps add a bit of aquarium salt. Also discussed on WWM. Bob Fenner>

Ropefish scale loss 7/29/05 Hi, we had 2 ropes in our tank now we have 1. We have had them both for about 1 year they have been a pleasant part of our 55 gallon tank. <Neat animals> We also house 1 fig.8 puffer, 2 lace catfish, 2 yoyo loaches, 2 clown loaches, 3 skunk loaches, 3 gold killies, (black skirt, serpae, lemon and black neon tetras), (gold, rosy and tiger barbs), 2 pair Kribensis, 1 pair Apistogramma verstrefen, and a couple small Plecos. <... these fishes have very different water chemistry preferences...> The ropes have done very well for just over a year. Then suddenly they started losing scales in patches. I do regular water changes (every 2 weeks about 25%) the first one died 2 days after scale loss started, the second hadn't lost as many scales, but he is approaching the point that the first was at when he passed. Neither rope showed any signs of appetite loss and the remaining rope is still eating well. <What is it eating? My first, best guess of the base "cause" of your problem is nutritional> The first one only started showing signs of distress as loss progressed. Stayed at bottom and so forth but during last 12 hrs he swam erratically like he wanted out of the tank. Ph is at about 7.0, I use easy balance once or twice a month to keep balanced. Nitrate levels are below 40, <Better below ten> and nitrites are at .1, <Should be zero> total hardness is at 75, and total alkalinity is at about 160. Any possible answers or suggestions? <Mmm, well, from what you've stated...> My husband and I both love these lil guys and it is rough watching them go down so fast. I have treated with Melaleuca, <Worthless> and quick cure (Formalin, Malachite green). <Too toxic> No signs of a fungus. Help please. Thanks, Dee Catch ya later. TTFN D.C. <Please read re these medications utility, danger... on WWM, do look into more/better filtration, more frequent water changes, and make it known what you're feeding this Ropefish. Bob Fenner>

Re: rope fish scale loss 7/31/05 Just found out that our water dept is having a food grade oil leakage into the water that is being sent to houses and are making repairs to water system next week. <Interesting> Figure this is what caused the problems with our ropes. Wish I had known earlier would have used distilled water in changes. We feed everything from Frozen blood worms, frozen krill and beef heart, to live ghost shrimp and red wiggler worms. <Very nice> List the other rope today though and they were soo cool. no one else seems to be affected by any problems, but I have done a 40% change with distilled water and will do another tomorrow to prevent any more problems till after the water wells are fixed and the towers are purged. Thanks for the speed of your reply. just wish I'd known about the water problem 3 days ago. <I want to share a "similar" instance with you... once coming back from the Interzoo tradeshow, on a train to Frankfurt, I got into a conversation with a freshwater fish exporter from Nigeria... and one of his principal "products" was Ropefish... he shared with me a difficulty they had in capturing same (with native labor, plant extracts)... in that the fish would develop "loose scales" and perish in great numbers, from over-exposure... On arrival, outfits I have worked with, did something irregularly with this Polypterids, and poured/saved their shipping water in with the standing systems... to prevent chemical shock... a tough species nonetheless. Bob Fenner>

Sick Rope fish Hello, We have set up a tank in one of our classrooms here with three rope fish. The third day we had the fish I noticed that one had a thin red line on its head. Progressively, the line has turned into a nasty patch with white edges that has covered the fish's eyes and is moving to the body. We have been trying to find out what this is and how to treat it. We are not having much luck. You are the only place I found any reference to the red marks and patches. We would appreciate any reply, good or bad news. Thank you! Kristen Self Program Development Education Department Birmingham Zoo <Your rope fish probably has a bacterial infection brought on from a bite or scrape with one of the other fish. The red is a bacterial infection and the white fuzzy stuff is a fungal attack. Do a 30% water change and vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Treat with Nitrofuranace or Erythromycin.-Chuck>

Ropefish I live at college and all we're allowed to have is fish, so I decided to bring my tank with my Ropefish and a few others. Recently, my Ropefish escaped during the middle of the night. <Very common... aquatic Houdini's...> I'm not entirely sure how, because I felt that I had covered the tank very well, but needless to say, I've now closed practically every square centimeter of the tank. Anyway, when I awoke in the morning, the janitor came by and said "Hey, did anyone lose a lizard?" I followed him to a closet where he had it sitting inside an empty Gatorade bottle (Poor thing). He was sitting in a circle, so I had to cut open the bottle to let him out. I immediately put him back in the tank, where he struggled for a while to remove some whitish residue that had been building up around his head and part of his body. Now though, he just sits at the top of the tank in a half circle, with his head and tail end pointing downward, and his midsection partially out of the water. Though it has only been a little under a day since I found out about this, it would like to err on the side of caution, particularly because I can't stand to see an animal die, especially on what it most likely my error. If you have any recommendations that you could give me, I would greatly appreciate it. <I have seen many Ropefish incidents as you cite... among them my own. I would leave the animal as it is for now, and hope that it recovers (many do). If yours develops red sores and/or obvious fungal (white, mycelious) patches, I would elevate the system temperature (to about mid 80's F.) and prescribe an anti-microbial (likely a Furan compound). Bob Fenner>

Ropefish troubles Hi <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I have a Ropefish which seems to be having a problem with buoyancy. He always used to lie at the bottom of the tank and swim around the rocks, but for the last 4 days he has trouble submerging, and seems to float around the surface. He wraps himself around the heater and filtration unit to stay down. I haven't noticed any bloating, but he had been suffering with flukes and is now at the end of the "Sterazin" treatment period. Could the treatment have caused the buoyancy problem? Will he recover properly? <Sterazin appears to be toxic to several species of fish. I would do a 50% water change & filter w/fresh carbon, to remove all traces of meds. Try feeding w/live black/Tubifex worms (well rinsed). That will clean out any intestinal blockage it may have. Nutritious too!> Thank you for your help, Kerri <You're welcome--Pufferpunk>

Ropefish Hi my name is Crystal and I hope you can answer my question. My brother has 2 Ropefish, 1 is a couple of months old the other he just got about a week or 2 ago. The one that he just recently got is lying on his back... he/she is still breathing but just lying there. could you possibly be able to tell us what is going on?? <These fish can have difficulties resulting from their capture, shipping... Best to leave them at the store for a good week or two before buying...> The store he had got him/her from told me to get him to put aquarium salt in the tank because he/she might be having digestive problems. But this person said they knew quite a bit about Ropefish but doesn't know to much about their anatomy's because according to him the only time a fish would be on their backs and still alive is if they have a bladder infection and he doesn't know if that could be a possibility for Ropefish or not because he doesn't know if they have a bladder. <They and their relatives, the Bichirs do... it is connected to the throat, and ventral to the esophagus... Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/polypterids.htm> so I thought you could help me on this problem and I really really hope so. <Do check on continuing water quality... the behavior of lying on their back is not good. Bob Fenner> Thank you for your time.

Ropefish Problems <Hello, JasonC here filling in for Bob while he's away diving.> My Ropefish got out of its tank a couple days ago. <they are very good at this...> It was only out for a little over an hour before I discovered it. <ok> when I did I rinsed it and put it back in. Now the Ropefish is very inactive and seems shy. Is this normal? <probably a little traumatized, after being stuck to the carpet.> I thought at first that it might need some time to adjust back but it has been over two days! Also there seems to be a long tear on its bottom extending from near the head to its tail. <ouch!> I think this might be damage incurred when it escaped. <perhaps...> Any suggestions curing it and do you think that this is the reason for its immobility? <will have to "cure" on its own if it's going to.> It is also not eating when I feed it. <Bob's advice on huger strikes with these is to offer a live earthworm or mealworm - http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bichirs.htm > Before it escaped it used to respond to feedings (I feed it bloodworms), now even when I put the food in front of its nose it won't take it in. Just lays there still. <again, your assessment that it is taking it easy due to the injury sounds correct here.> How should I get it to eat and is that a normal behaviour after they escape the tank? <try those live worms.> I really don't want this fish to die so any help is greatly appreciated! Thx. <No problem - do check through that link. I do hope your Ropefish makes a speedy recovery. Cheers, J -- >

Ropes and Dragons Robert, I have a 45 gallon freshwater live plant setup. PH7.6 Hardness apx10 Ammonia and nitrite at zero. I recently purchased two new rope fish and a Pleco (I think that's what it's called). <Mmm, maybe a member of the family of mainly South American Sucker Mouth Catfishes, Loricariidae: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/loricariids.htm> The two rope fish died within two days and a day later the rope that I've had for 6 months died. <Not unusual to have new Ropes bring in disease, stress... Our coverage of this and the related Bichirs: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bichirs.htm> Then last night my small dragon Goby died. The ropes got the "glassy" eyes and discoloration before they died and the Dragon lost a lot of weight and showed a large white section on it's tail before it died. So far the other inhabitants haven't shown any problems; they are: a larger Dragon Goby (about 6"), two Bala Sharks, 1 Clown Loach, 1 Pleco (algae eater), and several neon tetras. I did a 20% water change and filter maintenance after the first two died and I've been running my Diatom XL (normally for polishing only) a couple hours a day. Any possibilities you can offer will be greatly appreciated. <I would do what you have done... and add some activated carbon/powder to the diatom> As a side note. I have already purchased a cheapy 10 gallon setup to use as a quarantine tank in the future. <Good idea> You might also be interested to know that the fish came from Pet (not so) Smart. <Yikes...> Thanks Again Tom Peterson Kissimmee, Fl <Sorry to hear of your trials and tribulations. Steady on my friend. You're moving in more positive directions. Bob Fenner>

Re: Ropes and Dragons Robert, One more thing I just remembered. The day after the two rope fish died the water became cloudy, that was my initial reason for setting up the Diatom filter. Also, I use a Fluval 204 with just the foam and bio pellets. (No carbon) I hope you're able to help. I'm really not enjoying the kids reaction and the mortality lessons it forces me to give. <I might also add a "unit" (bag) of Boyd's Chemipure to the Fluval. Bob Fenner> Tom Peterson

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