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FAQs on HLLE, Head and Lateral Line Disease: Causes, Etiology, Diagnosis 

Related Articles: Head and Lateral Line Disease, Algae Filters Articles, Caulerpa Algae

Related FAQs: HLLE 1HLLE 2 HLLE 3, HLLE 4, & FAQs on HLLE: Cures, Non-Cures, SW Case Histories, FW Case Histories, Vitamins in Marine Systems,

Mmm, poor water quality, and/or nutrition, "stress"... secondarily (after the fact) the protozoan Hexamita/Octomita perhaps.

Rarely does electrical current have anything to do with it.

Holes in the head.      2/17/14
Hi Bob,
You might remember I started dosing with Cupramine about a week ago and have successfully put Ich in control.
<Ah good>
I also added some Seachem Reef Buffer as my pH was around 8.0.
<I hope/trust this was added per your readings on WWM, through water changes, NOT directly to the tank>
I use an API test kit and natural seawater as a comparison which shows 8.4
Therefore I think the pH is accurate however I have noticed small hole like structures on the upper head of both my Majestic and Blueface Angels. Both have been in the same tank for over a year.
My conclusion is that it is unlikely to be a parasitic as the tank has high copper.
<The latter>
More likely a water quality induced condition.

Any ideas please?
<The usual; searching, reading...>
Airstone Adam.
<Bubbling Bob>

Re: Blueface angel    12/25/11
Mr. Fenner, I think my Angel does have Hlle. I noticed his wounds were getting smaller, and then a couple of days ago they got bigger. I put some fresh charcoal in,
<Mmmm, I'd not use this at this time... linked as a cause and will remove some of the molecules of use, as cure here>
and I am now giving him angel formula on top of everything else I am feeding him every other day. Any suggestions?
<Oh yes. Posted... read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/HLLESWCure.htm
and the linked files above>
Have Merry Christmas, Jim
<And you, BobF>

Marc (Weiss); would you allow me to post your comments below on WetWebMedia.com? Would be helpful to many folks.
Bob Fenner
AHHS: GAC and HLLE...  -- 11/08/11
I am writing this to several aquarium - keeping organizations and individuals who would have interest in the subject.
Over the years, myself and many other aquarists have associated the use of granular activated carbon (GAC) in their aquarium filter with the appearance of 'head and lateral line erosion' (HLLE) in aquarium fishes.
It appears to me that there remains a significant number of people that are unaware of this.
Two recent studies have come to light that validate that the use of both coal and coconut based carbons can cause HLLE in marine fishes.
Both papers make reference to freshwater fishes, though the studies were clearly done with marine species. The authors indicate that the same situation can occur in freshwater but did not do a formal study.
I assure you that GAC kept in an aquarium filter recirculating water through it, will cause HLLE.
The late Dr. George Barlow had also noted the correlation in his cichlid lab and held it as causation when I spoke to him. I regret the written reference is not at hand. I do remember he published this in an article on another subject.
There is no proof that Hexamita is a cause of HLLE. Discus with 'Hexamita' don't usually exhibit HLLE. I've induced HLLE in flagellate - free fish by using copper, formalin, and even Metronidazole.
Dr. John Gratzek was the first determine that there is no causation of HLLE as a result of Hexamita and put it in print. More recent fish disease texts, such as Noga's 'Fish Disease Diagnosis and Treatment', indicate the same.
There may be other causes and/or combinations of them, that can cause HLLE without carbon filtration being used. For example, I've noted that discus kept in CO2 enriched planted aquariums show pore enlargement.
There's much more to be investigated and written on the subject. I wanted to get this out as soon as I could without any more elaboration.
AHHS: GAC and HLLE...  -- 11/08/11

Hi Bob,
Sure, I want to get the word out to the newbies. I'm going to expand upon it once I find my forty year old files on the subject. The GAC guys have hated me for that long already!
Just please send me a link where I can find it on your site. I'll put you on my list to receive further info on the subject as I generate it.
<I thank you Marc, and will send along the link on posting tomorrow. Cheers, BobF

Yellow tang clarification... HLLE... /C?    7/24/11
Dear crew, your site has been most helpful for my success with saltwater tanks. I have spent days reading information on here, and I wanted to extend my deepest appreciation for all that you do. I am hoping this email will be quick and easy to answer. I am looking for some clarification on yellow tangs. I have had my tang now for 2 years in my 75g, w/38g sump.
Other fish I have in my system are 2 perc's, 1 damsel (blue yellow tailed), 1 strawberry goby, and 1 blue spotted goby. All of these fish except the blue spot have been in the tank >1 year. Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, and Phosphates 0,
<Mmm, how are you rendering the NO3 and HPO4 thus?>
calcium ~420-450, PH ranges from 8.25 during the day to 7.95 at night (I have a probe which constantly monitors this). Temperature ranges from 78.1-78.5. Water flow is powered by 1 Mag 9.5, Mag 7 (soon to be replaced by another 9.5), and a Kor 3. Return into my tank is via 2 3/4" sea swirls. I drilled my own tank with Anthony Calfo's (not sure on spelling) design, with 2 1.5" bulkheads on the back/top of the tank surrounded by an overflow also only covering the back/top. Lighting is provided by 2 150w LED fixtures. Skimmer is a AquaC EV-180. I keep a fine DSB in the sump, with Chaeto over it, reverse daylight. I have a ReefKeeper Lite controller managing it all. I have 1 frogspawn, and 1 torch. I hope this wasn't too much info, but in past correspondence, information I thought was irrelevant turned out to be needed, so I wanted to ensure all was included.
After reading through Yellow Tang diseases, I believe my tang is suffering from Malnutrition, but I wanted to confirm with your group.
<This, and/or other aspects... environment>
I have attached a photo below. I feed my tank a mixture of Ocean Nutrition Formula One, Formula Two, and Prime Reef Flakes 2-3 times per day, and feed a variety of frozen food every 3-4 days. The tang actively pursues everything I drop in the tank, including the meaty foods, and he is constantly picking at the rocks and glass for anything growing off it. I have tried dried seaweed in the past, but he never shows any interest. If this is malnutrition, is there another type of dry food I can try?
<Yes; I strongly endorse New Life's "Spectrum" pelleted food... wholly nutritious, very palatable. Good for issues of supposed missing nutrient as here>
I understand tangs, being herbivores, like to "graze" throughout the day, and I was considering increasing the frequency (not amount) of food per day. I work from home, so if this is recommended, it is not a problem. In case the picture doesn't come through, it looks like a loss of pigment around its eyes and gills.
<I see this>
There are white patches in those areas. That have slowly been increasing in size over the last month. I thought it might be stress, as I recently moved everything into this 75g, from a "reef ready" 90g (I wanted a more efficient flow, hence the reason for my custom work). The tang does not appear to be acting out of the norm. And the only aggression in the tank has been Strawberry goby -> damsel, and clowns -> damsel.
<Perhaps "loose" electrical current; very unlikely, but possible Neuromast destruction/HLLE... from...? Carbon exposure? I'd add the Spectrum food, perhaps dose a vitamin/HUFA supplement to the water once a week (after water changes et al.). Bob Fenner>

Re: Yellow tang clarification   7/24/11
Mr Fenner, thank you for the very quick response. I did forget to mention I run carbon through a reactor as well, which I change every 4 weeks.
<Mmm, I would leave off, leave out the carbon for a month or two... There have been innumerable speculations as to the "cause" of HLLE... stray electricity/voltage, nutritional deficiencies, metabolic build-up syndromes... and more recently Jay Hemdal's assertion as to carbon effect/s>
I do a 5% water change weekly when I do my tests. I dose trace elements and Kalk, but I only started this in the last couple of weeks. Your question on the Nitrates/Phosphates, I am not sure what you mean by how I achieve this.
<The perhaps too-aggressive C/arbon>
I ensure there is no uneaten food left during feeding, I siphon the gravel in the DT when I do the water changes. I leave my DSB alone in the sump.
I clean the skimmer 2-3 times per week. I have not been able to get above a 0 on my water tests in over a year. The fish and corals are growing fine, so I think I feed enough. The only thing I can think is that the Nitrates and Phosphates that do exist in my water are consumed so quickly I never get any readings?
<To some extent; but not likely both... one should/be/come rate-limiting, leaving the other in measurable quantity. Understanzee?>
I do have 135 lbs of live rock in my system. I'll add the below mentioned foods and dosing to my routine, just need to locate some. Thank you for the suggestions. You mentioned exposure to carbon, should I stop the carbon reactor for a while and see if this helps?
I just took a multimeter to my aquarium, and was unable to detect anything.
The only non-grounded electrical components in my aquarium are the Kor 3 and the pump for my carbon.
<Do please report back in a month or so. BobF>

Flame Angel HLLE battle    5/31/11
Hi WWM crew!
I've been on a crusade to improve the health of my pair of flame angels for about 2 years now. I am a hobby breeder of clowns and Banggai. This pair is another hopeful for my breeding program
<Mmm, really better by far to keep in a haremic setting... using overflow/s to collect spawn toward evenings...>
but I can't seem to get them healed. They are from the Christmas Islands.
I have seen them spawn but have not been able to verify the eggs are fertilized yet.
<Searchable... in extant literature>
Both fish display normal behavior and eating, no wasting away or muscle loss. They have holes or erosion around their eyes, typical lateralis degeneration. Recently these areas have turned black. Since there isn't a definitive cause of this I've tried a number of things. First some system stats.
Display System (current home):
1.5 year old 65 g with 40 breeder sump (approx 80 gal total volume)
Ammonia 0 (API)
Nitrite 0 (Hanna Checker)
Nitrate 0.25 - 0.75 ppm (Red Sea Pro)
Phosphate 0 (Hanna Checker)
<How kept at zip?>
Other parameters suck as Alk, pH, etc are within normal limits
Rock, Cone skimmer, biopellets, GFO reactor, mangroves, Chaeto
<The Ferrous Oxide may be trouble here>
Tank mates: pair clowns, RBTA, OBTA, diamond goby, green mandarin, pair skunk cleaner shrimp, CUC
Light: 120 watts LED
Breeding system (an alternate homing option):
2 year old 250 gallon system
<Add more females>
made up of 9-11 tanks and a 75 gallon sump. This pair of fish sometimes visit the 60 tall (home of 2 clowns) if I think that is a better home for them. I moved them to the display tank after reading the most recent about the possible correlation of carbon dust and HLLE.
Ammonia 0
Nitrite 0 (Hanna Checker)
Nitrate 0.25 ppm (Red Sea Pro)
Phosphate 0.02 ppm (Hanna Checker)
Other parameters are within normal limits
Rock, Ozone,
<What is the RedOx reading daily?>
Rox carbon, biopellets, large Octopus skimmer
Light: Generally T12 shop lights, various Metal halides for anemones
Once or twice daily. Majority of their food is a homemade frozen food (marine fish meat, shrimp, crustacean meat, Nori, red algaes, spirulina, Selcon, garlic, vitamins, fish eggs, Nutramar ova). Also sometimes New Life Spectrum pellets but just a few feedings per week.
<I'd use this as a/the staple>
Things I have tried (in this order) over the past 2 years:
Nutritional improvement. I think their daily diet (above) is both high in vitamins and HUFAs, balanced meat and veggies. This has been their diet for over 20 months.
Water parameters. Always a battle of course but 30% water changes are done every 3 weeks. Nitrates always under 1ppm. I struggle to get them below 0.25ppm.
Stray voltage. Tested with a multimeter. The Breeding system has a ground probe (and GFI) mostly for my health.
Removal of activated carbon in the DT. Then I did a 100% water change (temp and pH adjusted). Carbon is necessary in the breeding system b/c of ozone.
<Not really... see my posted comments on WWM, in print>
Protozoan treatment (Metronidazole + Quinine Sulfate treatment for 10 days in QT system). Lesions improved in appearance but returned to worsening within 2 weeks out of QT.
<Don't repeat these treatments>
No copper exposure under my care.
I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to do next other than rehome this pair.
Do you have any suggestions?
<Drop the GFO>
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

HLLE Research -- 12/19/10
Hello Crew,
Just saw this posted on a forum, and thought I would share. Supposedly this is from research recently done, and that several papers would soon be released. According to the author, there were three separate studies done, that all confirmed the same results. Since the data obtained are very conclusive, it was of great interest to me, since the trend / thought was that diet or lack thereof was the main culprit. Here is a link to the article:
Could it be that the decrease of HLLE with the increase of nutritional diet supplements were just really combating the effects of the carbon?
<Possible... esp. w/ marine fishes (that more broadly "drink" their environment), it may well be that improving such (or decreasing the concentration of some pollutants) accomplishes much the same ends as
providing essential (food) nutrients>
Anyway, I just wanted to share, and get the experts (Bob's) opinion.
Happy Holidays.
Take care,
<And you, BobF>
Re: HLLE Research -- 12/19/10
Sorry, this should have gone with the original email, as the article only indicated the research, however below is an excerpt from the author who performed the research, indicating very compelling data / outcome. This was posted today.
Quote: "I just finished the rough draft of my HLLE research on Monday and it has been reviewed internally. It is surely going to "pass muster" in regards to external peer review because the results were trenchant.
Briefly, 100% of the fish exposed to lignite carbon developed HLLE, and zero % of the control fish did. Fish exposed to pelleted carbon were intermediate. The sub-test of the diet showed no difference, so that was not a variable. All other variables were tightly controlled, and the test fish were examined by a well-known pathology firm. Oh yes, and there are two other papers in preparation from other researchers who have concluded the same thing about lignite carbon use....I'm sure I won't make it to press first, but we all arrived at this conclusion independently. Expect to see these papers out within the next six months..." J. Hemdal
<I do agree/concur w/ JayH. BobF>
HLLE Research part III   12/21/10

Hi Bob,
Thanks for your response. With this research / conclusion in mind, do you believe there will be new protocol employed now with the use of carbon in aquaria?
<Mmm, no; not really. I would like to point out that there are many recorded/documented "cases" of HLLE where the systems involved didn't use carbon of any sort. There are quite a few etiologies ascribed to this erosive condition/Neuromast destruction... Uhh, "the jury's still out".
It's been my observation that aquarium hobbyists are not immune to the vagaries of "social inertia"... i.e., that they pretty much continue to do what they do irrespective of such "new" ""findings"">
Should one consider not using carbon in their marine systems, or limit the use?
<My present position is posted, with rationale... on WWM. I am still a fan of punctuated/periodic replacement/use of activated carbon... for most all captive systems>
For many folks the use of carbon is constant, and maybe a different approach should be taken here.
<See WWM re... most carbons lose virtually all their ad- and absorptive capacity w/in minutes to a few hours of exposure>
This is of course, unless it is almost always reversible by removing the carbon at first sign, but at that point why use to begin with if this is a possibility?
<Many benefits... that often outweigh possible/potential downsides>
Your thoughts are very much appreciated.
Best regards,
<Well, here, there they are. Cheers and happy holidays! Bob Fenner>

Research on carbon use link to lateral line disease  -- 7/14/10
Hello Wet Web Crew,
Reading CORAL magazine most recent issue I came across info on a study to be conducted to explore the link between carbon use and lateral line disease in marine fishes. If one would wish to prove out this theory for themselves, would poly-filter provide a safe non-carbon alternative to for use in filter compartment of reef sump?
<Mmm, as a control? Better to best to have multiple replicates of a few systems w/ either, and some w/ neither...>
Also any thoughts on this subject would be appreciated.
Thanks for your insight,
<Have heard more than read such speculations (purported links twixt HLLE/Neuromast destruction syndrome/s and carbon et al.) over the years; and like "microwaves, cell phones and other EMR emissions and human ailments" nothing conclusive. There are papers, good science linking such conditions to avitaminoses and other nutritional deficiencies, and "poor water quality"... None for stray electrical potential directly. Bob Fenner>

HLLE Related To Stray Voltage?
Ground probe 3/20/09

Hello crew and thanks for all the great advice.
<You're welcome.>
The question has been asked before regarding the value of a ground probe.
I am in agreement with the argument that the probe completes the circuit and the resulting flow of
current is a bigger problem from a fish and human safety perspective. I have a 125g FOWLR with powerheads and heaters in the main tank and the following fish: Powder Brown (A. japonicus), Tomini Tang, Flame Angel and an Assasi Triggerfish. The Powder Brown, Flame Angel and Assai are fine,
but the Tomini has what appears to be mild HLLE on his forehead and it has been very slowly increasing in size for the past 6 months. Also the behavior of the Tomini is more reclusive then active, color is good and
seems to only like to eat New Life Spectrum pellets along with grazing the rock and tank walls. I feed a varied diet ( New Life Spectrum various pellet formulas, Nori, Formula II, Mysis and supplement with Selcon). I decided to try the ground probe and I have noticed an immediate change in behavior. The Tomini is more active and less reclusive and now regularly eats Nori. The mild HLLE seems to be slowly improving, but its to early to be certain. The other fish have not changed their behavior. The equipment
in the tank is working fine and all are connected to GFIs. I plan to experiment some more to better confirm if the ground probe addition is the primary reason for the change in behavior. I also speculate that if the
ground probe is a benefit then maybe the Tomini is just more sensitive to very low electric fields relative to the other species in my tank. The question is has there been any new information on this topic that may help
clear up the controversy or is this still just a myth?
No myth, has been cited several times/places and your experience does not surprise me.
If you had any stray voltage/current in your tank it would be very low due to your GFIC protection. GFIC's will trip when a difference of 5 milliamps (.005 A) is detected. Simply said, if .25 amps are going out to the
component, .25 better be coming back or the GFI will trip. As to new info on HLLE, none that I'm aware of. Do some Googling, and thank you for sharing your experience with us.>
Thanks again.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

HLLE QUESTION 8/2/05 Hello, I have a Tenecor 180 gal FO setup with 2 wet dry filters moving 1200 gal per hour, Berlin turbo skimmer w/ ozone, 4 lbs of Tri-Base Carbon from Hyatt labs in one of the sumps, 10 Gal refugium in the other sump, Aqua UV 57w sterilizer. 10% aged H2O changes every 2 weeks, Trace elements dripped in daily to keep up with water evaporation. Tank is grounded.  Tank is meticulously kept but has some diatom algae. ( the skimmer has been modified by adding a limewood airstone don the middle and to the base and extending the neck and the collection cup to twice normal size Tank Does receive some sunlight.     Stocked w/ Large Naso Tang 4 yr, Purple Tang 9 yr, Fiji Foxface 4 yr, 3 clownfish 9 yr.  All fish have been doing great except that the Foxface has bad HLLE for 3 years and the Purple Tang has moderate HLLE but all fish act normal ( i.e. eat like pigs cluster to tank top when I approach mild fish to fish aggression ) The tail fins of the tang and Foxface look a bit ragged but not infected.  The Perculas have actually spawned in this tank !!     I feed 2-3x daily combination Nori w/ Selcon, Ocean Nutrition Form 2, Spectrum Thera A+ with Boyd Vita Chem, Spirulina flake..     I recently added a beautiful Emperor Angel after 4 weeks of quarantine but 4 fish got a slight case of crypt ( first outbreak in 4 years ).  I decided to use hyposalinity to treat he display.  Inverts i.e. snails hermits & plants were removed.  I lowered salinity over 4 days to 1.010 and it has worked great.     I noticed that as I was lowering the salinity with RO water brought to a pH of 8.3 HLLE actually improved and there was noticeable fin regeneration in the tang !  Over the years I have noted that the only thing that has had any effect on the HLLE is an improvement for 5-7 days after water changes and "control" of the HLLE since trace elements were dripped in.  Addition of Iodine does not do much other than make the algae bloom.  If I skip a water change things seem to worsen. <Yes>     Once I brought the salinity down to 1.010 and went to every 2 week water changes I noted now the angel is developing early signs of HLLE.     Tank chemistry is great with pH 8.3 Nitrates less than 20 no nitrite or ammonia.  I am planning on adding 90 Lbs of cured LR, and getting the refuge going this time with Gracilaria or Chaeto, but after I bring the salinity back up.  I have kept the Tri Base carbon in place now for 3 years and nitrate levels are still low therefore I have not removed it.  Any other suggestions ???? Thanks Jimmy <The most common "cause" of HLLE is nutritional... deficiency of vitamins... but water quality plays an essential role as well... the single best thing you might do is to convert your wet-dries to other types of sump filters... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/tricklefaq2.htm and here: http://wetwebmedia.com/hllefaqs.htm and the linked files above where you will lead yourself to your apparent options. Bob Fenner>

HLLE-And Poor Husbandry-Not Just A Coincidence... 7/22/05 I've read through the facts, and I see that HLLE (head and lateral line erosion) is caused by poor diet, poor water quality, stray voltage.. etc. <Well, it's not 100% certain what it is, but those seem to be the likely culprits!> My question is this. I recently moved from Baton Rouge to Kenner (Louisiana) and I'm sure you will agree with me when I say that usually the local fish stores and the way they do things is generally the way the hobbyists end up doing things in their own aquarium, in that city. (wow did that make sense??) <I think I'm following ya'!> What I mean is that there really is only one prominent shop in B.R., and they rely heavily on hang-on-the-back filtration, really don't utilize ozonizers, use one brand of protein skimmer etc. <I see...While mechanical filter systems have their place, I think it is a bit narrow minded to use only one methodology to the exclusion of all others....Whether it's in Baton Rouge, Boise, Honolulu, or Outer Mongolia! Hobbyists and businesses need to be open to different ideas and accept the way that there is no single best way to do things in this hobby.> And the hobbyists that shop there have tanks that reflect this method. I noticed in a lot of aquariums in Baton Rouge that HLLE was present, but obviously caused by the lack of water quality.  In these cases it was easily reversed. <Very true in most cases, as you correctly observed.> In New Orleans, there are several shops that utilize sumps, ozonizers, and calcium reactors, and the hobbyists out this way are really more in tune with their systems, and water quality. They feed really well, and frequently, and do smaller water changes. <I think that these methods are better long-term solutions for most hobbyists, despite the initial perception among many novice fish keepers and even some (retailers) that they are "more expensive", "more complicated", etc. In the long run, a better system, properly set up for a sustainable population of fishes will save countless dollars and needless fish and invert deaths. This is NOT a cheap hobby, but an initial investment will pay dividends down the line...We're on the same page here, my friend! Off the soapbox for me now!> I'm doing maintenance and have noticed, oddly enough, that even though the water quality is drastically better, and fish are getting a better diet and (theoretically) they should have no HLLE....but it is a prominent issue that I'm dealing with. I'm talking sever cases, and not just on tangs. And the only thing these customers of mine have in common is that they all have ozonizers. And the ones that don't, do not have HLLE. <Well, in the absence of other filtration adjuncts and means to improve water quality, ozone would have a much greater impact. It is an extremely valuable ally in the maintenance of healthy systems, if properly applied. Good observation by you.> I'm about to start treating with Zoe and Zoecon, (have had remarkable success with these products in the past) and my question to you is should I experiment with cutting down on the ozone? Placing it on a timer? How long should the ozone run to be effective? They are currently on 24 hours a day. <Well, I don't think that you need to run high levels of ozone, but you do want to check overall water quality parameters (such as nitrate, which is a great "yardstick" for measuring overall water quality), and it may be applicable to use a Redox controller to monitor ORP if you are a serious user of ozone...although that might be a bit over-the-top for many hobbyists, IMO. I think that, in the end- common sense stocking and overall good husbandry-including the use of ozone, if you feel it is warranted, is the best solution. Additives such as Zoe, Selcon, etc. are always nice to enhance the nutritional value of prepared foods. Also, menu items as simple as fresh macroalgae, such as Gracilaria, do wonders for many herbivorous Tangs and Rabbitfishes (which are notoriously susceptible to HLLE). You sound like you've got a great understanding of the problems and methods to address them!> Is the HLLE and the ozone just an odd coincidence? <I don't think so. The connection between the high water quality that ozone (or other good husbandry habits) affords is no coincidence, IMO. Hobbyists who use care in stocking, maintenance and overall husbandry seem to have a much lower occurrence rate of such problems, in my experience. Keep doing what you are doing, and preach the benefits of good husbandry and observation to your friends!> Thanks (again) for your guidance, Niki -Coral Connection <It was nice to hear from you, Niki! sounds like you've got it down good! BTW, for more on the HLLE condition and some good treatment ideas, do check out a recent article by good friend and WWM/"Conscientious Aquarist" on line magazine contributor Steven Pro on this very topic in "Reefkeeping" on line magazine. A very good, nuts-and-bolts analysis of this condition. Best of luck to you! Regards, Scott F.>

HLLE...(Cont'd.) 7/27/05 Hi again Scott, <Hi there! Sorry for the delay in getting back to you!> Terribly sorry to bug you, but I don't think I quite understood the answer. Would you say that the ozone might be lending a hand in the fish becoming heavily afflicted with HLLE? <No, I don't think it is...I do think that if applied correctly, ozone can be a great assist in maintaining a cleaner environment, thus reducing the potential for diseases and maladies such as HLLE> It seems that even though I treat with food supplements, and increase water change  (smaller more frequent) that the HLLE does not go away. (As it does with tanks that have no ozone) The only correlation that I see between the tanks that have the HLLE that is not reversible is that the ozone is on 24 hours a day.  Best regards, Niki@Coral Connection <Well, Niki- I've never seen or heard of ozone as being a contributor to more serious HLLE condition. On the other hand, there is not a whole lot known about the real causes and "cures" for the condition in question. Much of what we "know" about HLLE is from anecdotal observations, etc. It's important to follow up on your theory/observation. Why not try reducing the period of time when you dose ozone, or even eliminating it entirely? Since you're basically testing a hypothesis, it's worth a try! Maybe there is a correlation in your case...Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Strange Skin Condition (re-send), HLLE, SW   7/22/07 Hi Guys, <Mike> Attached are 2 photos which show my 2 tangs and a skin condition that I'm not sure is cause for concern (is it HLLE?). <Does appear to be some type/degree of neuromast destruction, yes...> They've been through an ich battle recently but have been clear of any white spots since mid-May. <Mmm, could be resultant from copper exposure alone (HLLE is a condition, not a specific derived complaint)> One of the pics shows a clown that has a peculiar discoloration behind the eye...I'm wondering if it's related to what I'm seeing on the tangs and if I should be concerned. Looking back at old photos, that area on the clown was smooth & white before. Thanks, Mike. <Take a quick search on the Net re fish "Lateralis Systems"... Something "in the water" is mal-affecting your fishes or has done so... There are means (mainly nutritional) to bolster the immune systems... spur on regeneration... Posted on WWM. Bob Fenner>

White spots on goby's head, HLLE, causes?  9/13/07 Hello I have a citron goby that has lots of white spots protruding from its head only. <I see these> I have had the fish for about 3 weeks. I don't remember if it had them when I first got it but it has gotten worse since. The lady I bought it from said it was nothing to worry about but its getting worse and doesn't look like it should be there. It was the first fish i got for my aquarium <Mmm, a clue> and it's only other tank mate is a red starfish. My nitrite and ammonia level was 0 and pH 8.2, salinity about 1.023. <And this> Everything was good though the goby had the spots, a while after I added the starfish for some reason (possibly overfeeding) the nitrite levels went up to .7 <Mmm... dangerous> at the highest (this was about 2 weeks ago) and after a week of daily water changes and reduced feeding it went back to 0 again. Now it remains constant at 0 to .1. I had fake soft coral in my aquarium that i thought could be the problem so i took it out put it in a glass jar with freshly mixed salt water and tested for nitrite a few days later and it was at .8. Anyway, if you could tell me what's on the goby's head and how to get rid of it that would be great. Attached is a picture of what it looked like to start with and two photos of what its like now. Thank you for your help. Katie <See how regular the markings are... if you look closely you'll find they are symmetrical... this condition is neuromast destruction... in the hobby often called HLLE, Head and Lateral Line Erosion... symptomatic of a few possible influences... inappropriate environment (the low spg, high NO2, too new tank...), nutritional deficiency, possible protozoan involvement (e.g. Octomita necatrix)... Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/hllefaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: white spots on goby's head 9/13/07 Hi again, I thought I should add that my tank is a new one that I set up with inoculated gravel (marble chip) <Mmm, do like the idea, but not the substrate> and had it cycle for a month. My little goby isn't a picky or shy eater. The first day I fed it brine shrimp, it was happy to eat it all and now I feed it Nutrafin max pellets/morsels with 45% crude protein to give it more of a variety and I was hoping it would give its colour back. The goby started losing colour a while ago, especially at the top near its fins there are large dark patches that almost looks like bruising though I doubt it. <Mmm, I'd try soaking supplement... perhaps Selcon> I was also wondering if its normal for my starfish to be obsessed with bubbles. My air pump stone thing is right in the corner where my starfish usually spends most of its time on the glass next to it or on the gravel right beside it. <Likely seeking more water movement... its effects> I haven't really got a photo that shows the loss of colour that well but you might be able to notice it in this photo. Thanks once again PS. I did look around on your site for several days first looking for the answer or a pic of a fish that has the same problem. Katie Paulsen
<Very nice pix indeed. BobF>

Again on HLLD Dear Bob, <Steven Pro this morning.> As the values of my tank are now ok (you might remember my tribulations with achieving reasonable nitrites) <I really do not remember. We get 30 up to 60 emails daily and now have 5 individuals regularly answering emails with a few other's assistance at times.> I am entertaining the idea of putting a Koran Angel in it after it has matured for a few months with live rock, algae and critters and a couple of clowns. I have read Korans are prone to HLLD. <As are all Angelfish and Surgeonfish.> Briefly, how can I best avoid it <High quality, varied diet and optimum water quality. You can read much more about this affliction here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/hllefaqs.htm> (I will be feeding krill, squid, minced lancefish, mussel, dried seaweed and flakes/pellets all enhanced with vitamins and I will do water changes weekly -10-15%- with nitrate resin treated tap water left to mature before I add the salt)? <I would use more herbivorous based foods and also something with sponge matter in it.> I also add iodine regularly, but I read something about iodide on your site. I am no chemist - I am a musicologist - so can you please explain what iodide is and how to get hold of it if I have to? <It should be available at any pet store. See here for additional information http://www.wetwebmedia.com/iodfaqs.htm> How often will I have to feed it? <Dose as per instructions> Also I read that salt quality is important and I found out that Kent Marine salt that I am using is not that great (nor is sera, my next possible alternative). That's your opinion on the subject? <I like and use Aquarium Systems products; Instant Ocean or Reef Crystals.> Thanks again, Massimo <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Hello crew, I am a 15 year old reef hobbyist that has a question. My cherub angel (C. argi) has developed HLLE around his eyes in the last few months. It isn't very bad, and hasn't spread to the lateral line, but it seems to have spread a little more around the eyes. The food I use is a frozen homemade blended mix of carnivore marine supreme, herbivore marine supreme, seaweed selects, brine shrimp, and Spirulina flakes with Zoë mixed in. <I would concentrate more on the herbivore foods and lose the carnivore and brine shrimp would be better replaced with mysis shrimp.> Is this not a nutritious enough diet? <It sounds ok. Note that HLLE is linked to both diet and overall water quality. Near reef tank conditions are also needed to keep in tip top shape.> I always thought it was adequate. Another thing is I don't feed THAT often, not every day at least, but there is plenty of liverock with microalgae to feed on. Could my angel be developing HLLE because I don't feed often enough? <It is possible, but I would also examine water quality, too. A pH at or above 8.2 is needed along with nitrates as close to zero as possible.> The angel has a nice shape to him, no visible skinniness. Thanks for any help! Be proud of that web site! ~Andy <Thank you very much Andy and good luck to you and your fish! -Steven Pro>                Re: HLLE Hello, thank you tremendously for the quick response! The tank has been set up for 5 years. I honestly don't think it's the water quality. I have 0 nitrate, 0 nitrite, 0 ammonia, and the pH usually ranges from 8.0 to 8.2 [yes a little low, but I doubt it would cause HLLE in itself, then again I'm not an expert =) ]. <It could be an indication of a build up of dissolved organics. You see nitrate in and of itself is not harmful to fish, but it is a good indicator that we use to deduce the level of dissolved organics. A low pH is similar. It may be time to increase the frequency or amount of your water changes or to make sure your skimmer is working well. You should strive to make it produce dark product daily.> All my corals thrive (xenia, GSP, mushrooms), as do the mobile invertebrates (emerald and hermit crabs, cleaner shrimp, green brittle star, various snails). The xenia pulses like crazy and is an absolute weed, (growing off the back wall). What do you know about the Hexamita/Octomita parasites, could they be the causative agent, and treated? <As far as I know, these are only for freshwater problems.> My dad is an electrical engineer, and seriously doubts that stray voltage or electricity could cause any damage. <He is not the only one. I don't buy that either.> What do you guys know about the stray voltage issue? <There is no definitive link that I know of.> Maybe it is the nutrition, I just do not know. I've heard something about lack of iodine in the diet? <Perhaps modify the diet as I mentioned previously and include some American Marine Selcon and Boyd's Vita-Chem instead of the Zoë.> Anyways thank you for your help =). <Good luck to you! -Steven Pro>

Carbon Causing HLLE? Hi Crew, thanks for taking my question. <Sure! Scott F. with you today!> First let me give you a brief history of my situation. I have a hippo tang that developed hole in head disease early on. It is stable (some scaring around the head) and has been there for about a year and a half or so. Anyway, he developed ich a little while back, I believe it was from a wrasse that I added without quarantine. <A lesson learned, huh?> I put all my fish, 1 tang, 2 clowns and the wrasse in a 35 gallon plastic container (quarantine) for 8 weeks while I let the tank run fishless to get rid of the parasites. I decided to use the  "siphoning bottom of tank everyday" method to cure (no copper) and it worked great. <Well done! Glad to hear that!> Now to the point. During the eight weeks in quarantine, my hippo tang showed tremendous improvement regarding the HLLE, the scarring around his head was reduced by at least 50%. Problem is, I put him back in the display tank and all the progress has reversed and the scaring went back to the way it was. There is no way the water quality in the quarantine tank was better than the display. I was using tap water, a power head, a heater and a sponge filter. The display tank  gets RO + DI water, 20% bi weekly water changes, live rock, live sand, better diet, steady temp, etc. So I figured it was the lack of carbon use that helped reverse HLLE. I did not use Carbon at all in the quarantine and run it constantly in my display tank. So I want to experiment and stop using Carbon in my display tank. <Well, that could be one possibility...I'm quite skeptical, because use of carbon far outweighs any possible ill effects that could happen, IMO. Yes, some people claim that carbon depletes trace elements, but if you are conducting regular water changes, this argument doesn't hold up, IMO. Anecdotally, you could proceed under the hypothesis that carbon contributed to the HLLE condition, but I don't know how it will work out. An interesting experiment, however. I commend you for trying! Do consider other possibilities, such as "stray voltage" in the display tank, or other possible environmental factors, too...Test for all of the basic parameters, and then some!> Will this effect my Coral in anyway? I have a Bubble, Torch, Candy Cane, Various Polyps and Xenia. <Well, activated carbon helps remove all sorts of allelopathic compounds that are released by corals on a regular basis. You might see some differences in the health of these animals if you discontinue its use in this tank.> Should I increase my water changes, or is it not necessary? <I'd consider more frequent water changes to help compensate> Will the protein skimmer pick up the slack? I use a Aqua-C Remora. <Aggressive protein skimming will definitely help, too.> Thanks for you input. Ang. <My pleasure, Ang. Do test your theory, but also look at other possible factors along the way...I'm sure that you'll have some interesting results to report! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Damage Caused By Copper? Or HLLE? Hi,  <Hello there! Scott F. here today!> I've got a question about head and lateral line disease. I recently treated my purple tang with copper for a presumed parasite, possibly ich. He was in copper sulfate for 9 days at the recommended dosage and using a copper test kit to measure levels. He was looking good up until the last day of treatment when I noticed he appeared to be getting head and lateral line disease which I presume is due to the copper. <Probably not HLLE, but it is possibly a skin "reaction" to the copper. I've seen this in other fishes before following copper treatment. HLLE is generally thought to be a result of long-term nutritional and environmental lapses.> He was fed well with its usual diet ( I've had him for 2 years) and was and still is eating very well. The tang is now back in a tank with copper free water with 0 ammonia, nitrates and nitrites. My question is will this resolve on its own with good water quality, proper diet and iodine and vitamin supplements. <It should. If it is damage caused by the copper, it certainly can heal up. HLLE-related symptoms also can spontaneously go into remission and disappear over time, with attention to good environmental conditions and diet> Also is the disfigurement permanent to the fish. Thanks for the help, Larry in Minnesota. <In my experience, Larry, the damage that you see is not permanent. There is no 100% guarantee, but keep doing what you're doing and hope for the best! Regards, Scott F> 

More then HLLE? Dear Mr. Fenner, I am wondering if you can help me understand something I have read in your book about Yellow Tangs. I have a 80 gallon reef aquarium, 20 gallon sump/refugium. Berlin Skimmer, 70 pounds of live rock. The only fish who calls it home is my yellow tang. My water quality after months of fiddling around has reached a perfect balance. No stray voltage (had it tested.) I am treated this tang for HLLE by way of Zoe vitamin supplements and Iodine. It is a slow process but thanks to your web sites support, as well as your book, I feel I have made progress. <Ah, good to read of your continuing progress> My question to you is about a passage in your book about an unwanted variety of yellow tang. A yellow-white morph. the kind that has the white band across the body and is rather startling to see at night. The tang I have now falls into that description. A gift from my husband who knew I wanted a tang for many years, and now he is having a guilt problem thinking he (the tang) is a sickly doomed fish. I wonder if you could go into further detail about what causes this. <Very, very likely what you are observing is "fright", night coloration... not the novel genetic anomaly mentioned in CMA> Is it the same factors as HLLE?  <No> If not is there anything I might do to benefit this fish? <Certainly. Most any/all things that benefit water quality, nutrition, the mental/emotional well-being of this animal and its tankmates. Principally the addition of live rock and macro-algae here... Or in a tied-in sump/refugium... would stabilize water quality, add foods... Please read over this and related sections on our site: http://wetwebmedia.com/yellowtf.htm> The tangs I see at the fish store are a golden yellow (going by the Crayola crayon color scale) and mine is a pale lemon yellow. I hope that if you are able you could send an answer or direct me to a book or web site that could help. Any advice is so very welcome.  <Yours color will come back... through an understanding of the underlying causes of such loss... water conditions, nutrition. As stated, please read through the WWM site> Pictures of the Tang can be provided as well. Also I must add the white band that runs across her body is visible during the day (4X96 watt power compact lights) Thank you Chris <Your intelligence and caring show through your writing. You will be successful. Bob Fenner>

Re: More then HLLE? Mr Fenner, Your quick response to my inquires about the health of my yellow tang was greatly appreciated. I have just gone through you FAQ about yellow tangs again as well as the section devoted to Macro-algae. Our water quality is as good as it gets. We only battle Alk. levels falling too low at times. <This is quite common... captive systems are reductive environments> We test our water three times a week and we are always able to correct any problems ASAP. We have not thus far had any dramatic rise or fall that has given cause for concern. Our sump has LR (our tank has 70lbs, well seeded) and different forms of macro-algae. None of which our tang has accepted as a meal.  <Have you tried strips of Nori algae... can be had from oriental sections/food stores> We will endeavor to order from FFX new cultures of macro that we find that tangs enjoys (have learned more of those on your web site.) I think one area we have grossly misjudged has been the environment of the tank. Not speaking of the water quality but more of the arrangement of the LR. This afternoon when my husband gets home we will rearrange the rock in hope of providing a more natural reef appearance. More caves and overhangs, etc. We also plan to add three green Chromis. <Very good ideas> The yellow tang is the only inhabitant in the tank right now. We have gone so slowly when building this reef that we were blinded to the fact the she might actually need "friends" sooner rather then later. :) <Yes> Your advice has been taken to heart and will be implemented. I hope you are not apposed to updates in the future. Thank you again for all of your help! Chris <A pleasure my friends. Bob Fenner>

Concerns about stray electricity Mr. Fenner I would appreciate if you could perhaps give me some suggestions. I have a fish only 180 gallon tank, I have a Harlequin Tusk, a Marine Betta, a Blue Face Angel, a X-mas wars, and a black Dalmatian puffer. My pH, salinity, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia are perfect, These fish eat better than I do, I feed them shrimp, squid, krill, and a verity of pellet foods, I have had then for about a year. with out no problem till now, my Blue face has lost all of its blue on his face my X-mass wrasse seems to have HLLE decease along with the Marine Betta. I gave back to the fish store the Blue face so that they hold it for me for a while to see what would happen and the blue started to come back again, the owner of the fish store told me that that probably had some type of an electrical current in my tank, so I purchased a ground probe, took back the Blue Face and the Blue that had returned while it was at his store again came off I grounded the 4MD pump that I have from the wet-dry going back to the aquarium. I have a Rio 2100 pump that goes to my UV, and a Mag-Drive pump that goes to my protein skimmer. My question is this. SINCE THESE PUMPS ARE UNDER WATER HOW CAN I GROUND THEM, AND WHAT CAN BUY WHERE I CAN MEASURE IF THERE IS ANY ELECTRICAL CURRENT INSIDE MY TANK. Please, help me I would really hate loosing these fishes. <Thanks for all the useful information here. The sealed pumps are very unlikely leaking electrical potential into your system. They are grounded through their plugs... and can be checked for ground faults by having them wired through GFCI protected circuits. Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gfiuseagb.htm Electricity in an aquatic system can be checked with simple "multi-meter" test gear that measures down to the "milli" range... Now, more to the point. HLLE conditions are attributed to "stray voltage", "poor water quality", "Octomita/Hexamita necatrix"... and these co-factors may well play some role... these conditions are cured with nutritional make-up... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/hllefaqs.htm Be chatting. Bob Fenner> Ramon Donestevez

Tangs/HLLE I have a blue regal and a yellow eyed tang in two different aquariums, both have had HLLE for quite some time now. I have asked many different people on how to help clear this up and have gotten a variety of answers, most stating water quality, diet, live rock, electrical current in the water and vitamins.  <many theories yes... none definitive. Diet is at least contributory... electricity is a weak argument. Live rock with lush macroalgae is clearly a help. Natural sunlight is perhaps the best solution of all> I have tried just about everything I've been told to help clear them up. The blue regal has shown some improvement, however the yellow eyed has gotten much worse. (All of my other fish are in excellent health) They are both very healthy looking otherwise and are veracious eaters.  <what kind of diet?> I saw on your Q & A page about the use of baby vitamins, iodide and vitamin prep s. I have never heard this, what dosage would you use for the baby vitamins? I have 90 and 70 gallon tank. As for the iodide and vitamin prep s, I'm not sure what they are, where they can be found or what dosage to use. Is there anything else besides this that I can do? I try to do the best I can for my pets and any advice will be greatly appreciated, Thanks, Georgia <the best way to dose vitamin supplements is in a prepared recipe to be ingested (much better than putting in the water). I like using the baby vitamins and Selcon (HUFA supplement... an aquarium product). Do use the Google search tool on this site and beyond to discover fish food recipes that suit your fish load (mostly herbivorous fishes). Making your own fish food is a great way to save money and offer high quality food to your fishes. Kindly>

Tang with HLLE Hi again, How long does it take for most fish to developed HLLE? <It depends on the fish, diet, system, etc.> The reason being is that I have two (one yellow, one purple) tangs and only the yellow has HLLE. The fish are fed a varied diet of Nori, bloodworms (frozen and dried), dried daphnia, krill, a variation of Bob's mix (krill, clams, squid, cod, shrimp, octopus, silversides and Kent Zoe), as well as an omnivore and carnivore frozen mix from San Francisco Bay Brand. <A little too much meaty foods for these Tangs. I would drop the omnivore and carnivore diets first and get a herbivore food.> The tank is grounded and I do a 10% water change weekly as well as topping of the tank with a Kalk mix. Would there be a cause that would only affect one fish? <The time in captivity is your most probably cause.> I have had the yellow fish for a few years, so is it possible that age could be a factor? <Yes> And I have the purple for about a year, so I would think that if there was something I was neglecting or doing wrong, it would appear on him as well. <It may in time.> Any suggestions? <More vegetable matter, Nori fed daily plus some sort of herbivore diet like Formula II from Ocean Nutrition. I am sure San Francisco Bay Brand has something familiar. I am just use to Ocean Nutrition foods. You may also want to soak some of their foods in Boyd's Vita-Chem and American Marine Selcon. Again, there maybe similar products. These are just what I am used to.> Thanks again, Kim <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Hole In The Head Disease (Hexamita) Please could you give me any advice on treating Hole In The Head disease in Cichlids. I have tried virtually all the tips on your website (vitamins/iodide etc) and also Metronidazole but all to no avail. My affected fish is a Tilapia Butterkoferi (11") that was fine until about 6 months ago.  <sometimes Hexamita is misdiagnosed. In many such cases the condition is simply an infection of the olfactory pores from poor water quality. Weekly water changes are necessary with such predatory fishes to keep DOC levels down. You may be able to cure this ailment with more frequent water changes with extra salt (1 tablespoon per 5 gallons). As such, it will take weekly or better for 6-8 weeks but can deliver success> He is still feeding well (Cichlid Gold, earthworms, other invertebrates, prawns, peas plus catfish pellets) and is behaving normally but more 'holes' are still occurring above his eyes. I have been told that this condition could be due to his age as the water quality in his tank is fine and he has a good diet.  <have you tested Nitrate levels to confirm the quality of the water? Please do if not> I have tried Broccoli as well but he won't touch this. If the problem continues is death inevitable? <not at all.. in fact, unlikely> Any new information that you can give would be greatly appreciated as I am fast running out of ideas. Thanks a lot, Ian Allen <best regards, Anthony>

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