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FAQs on Oscar Nutritional Disease/Health 

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Hole in the Head, Sides is caused by poor nutrition abetted by bad water quality.

A little help please: Sick Oscar      6/5/18
I think my Oscar is sick.
<Oh dear!>
I haven't seen him eat in weeks.

<Not a good sign.>
Originally ( a few weeks ago ) he was laying on the bottom with shallow breathing and raggedy fins... Over the past few weeks I have done more frequent water changes and have also treated for ich, protozoan parasites, and bacteria infection. (One treatment at a time).
<What did you suspect was the issue? And what medications were used?>
I used Melafix as well.
<Unreliable at best, and harmful at worst.>
His outward appearance has improved.
<That's good.>
However he is still not himself. He doesn't eat and floats vertically upright or face down most of the time which is unusual for him. He can swim if he wants to but he seems to like to just relax vertically these days?
I'm not sure if he's really sick or if I'm just not used to this new behavior... Please help!
<There's a bunch of things here. The first is the inevitable "have you given him feeder fish to eat" question. If the answer is "yes", then all bets are off. Feeder fish individually pose a serious risk by introducing parasites and pathogens, and used frequently cause serious problems through excess fat and thiaminase, both found in cyprinids (such as goldfish and minnows). The second question is whether your Oscar receives fibre-rich foods, such as peas, in its diet. Oscars are prone to constipation, and while they're not wild about veggies, they will eat them if sufficiently motivated (i.e., starved) and would do so naturally in the wild. Anyway, my default assumption here would be something along the lines of Hexamita if you weren't using feeder fish, and could rule out constipation because you were offering a balanced diet including a source of fibre. Hexamita is treated with Metronidazole, ideally alongside an antibiotic. Remember to remove carbon from the filter, if used. If you have been using feeder fish,
it's simply impossible to guess for sure what the problem is. Hexamita plus a Nitrofuran antibiotic would be a good starting point, but you might find you need to follow up with a dewormer in due course. But who knows? Feeders are called 'parasite bombs' with good reason, and it's hard to know what horrible pathogens they're bringing into an aquarium. Hope this helps,
Re: A little help please: Sick Oscar      6/5/18

Thank you Neale. Before he stopped eating he was eating and probably overfed Hikari pellets.
<An excellent and well-balanced food, but yes, avoid overfeeding because they contain little/no fibre. Do offer some green foods, or at least safe frozen or live foods gut-loaded with plant material; earthworms for example.>
Every time some one passed the tank he begged for food and I let all visitors feed him but didn't feed him any feeder fish prior to him being sick. I put some guppies in a few days ago.
<While Guppies don't contain fat and thiaminase, they are a potential parasite source -- unless you've bred them yourself of course, and know them to be 'clean'.>
He followed them around for a min but then lost interest. I didn't see him eat any. I assume they were sucked up in the filter...
Where can I purchase the Metronidazole and Nitrofuran?
<Seachem Metroplex is the standard Metronidazole medication of the hobby; a vet can also prescribe/sell this in countries where Metroplex isn't sold.
When it comes to Nitrofuran drugs, API produce a product called Nitrofurazone, Hikari something called BiFuran+, and Seachem have a product called Focus. I'm sure there are others, and again, outside the US, similar medications will be available from vets. In Europe and the UK, you may be able to get hold of something called eSHa HEXAMITA which isn't Metronidazole, but is available over the counter (rather than from a vet) and has been used with some degree of success against a range of Hexamita-type cichlid problems. Definitely worth a shot if you can't get Metronidazole easily. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: A little help please: Sick Oscar      6/5/18

Many Thanks Neale!
<Most welcome.>

Sick 7 yr. Tiger Oscar, HITH       4/7/16
My 12 in. 7 yr. Old Tiger Oscar lives in 75 gal tank with 2 306 Fluval canister filter a 400 mainland hob. He developed hth. from over feeding !
<Hole-in-the-Head? Rest assured that this is treatable, though you do need very specific medications, and need to medicate promptly.>
I treated with MelaFix and then Ali general cure as directed.
<Both useless for this. Hole-in-the-Head is partly related to diet, partly to water quality, and partly to a parasitic protozoan called Hexamita.
Which is the most important of these remains a matter of debate! But you need to consider, and tackle, all three.
First, diet. Stop feeding if water quality isn't good. When you do start feeding again, you need to ensure plenty of fresh greens. Oscars are often overfed junk food, most dangerously of all, goldfish and other live foods. When hungry, they will eat plant foods, and these provide essential vitamins. Grapes, melon and other soft fruit are all worth a shot. Cooked peas are generally taken without fuss. Feel free to starve an adult for a week or more to get them
interested! Secondly, check water quality. Ammonia and nitrite MUST be zero, and don't feed if they're not. But crucially, nitrate must be low as well, 20 mg/l is the upper limit for good health; even 40 mg/l is stressful in the long term. So, a spacious tank, minimal food given to the fish, and lots of water changes are usually the key to success when it comes to nitrate. Finally, medication. For Hexamita, you need Metronidazole. Often used alongside an antibiotic, but Metronidazole is the silver bullet here.
Nothing else works. Be sure to remove carbon, if used, from the filter during medication.>
Every spot cleared except 2 holes near his eye that still look pink. He won't eat his works or any thing ! Does he need antibiotics ? Please help .
I'm disabled he's my therapy pet and friend .
<Well, I hope all of the above helps get him back into shape! Good luck,

Baby Oscar with Sunken belly     10/8/15
Hi! First of all, thank you so much in advance for your time and help.
I've been digging around your website for a couple of days now but do not seem to fins anything that answers my question.
I bought a baby Albino Oscar two days ago... He seemed skinny when we purchased him,
<Very thin indeed>

but he didn't show any sign of disease and had a normal behavior while in the tank at the pet store. His belly seamed a little on the sunken side, but we didn't think much about it since usually fish are a little on the under fed side while in pet stores.. Anyway, we got home and did a 25% water change in our 55 gallon (which has a tiger Oscar about 6 months old)
<NEED to keep these two separated>

and vacuumed the gravel so the tank was clean when we added the new addition to the family.. My Tiger Oscar tried to attack the baby as soon as we put him in the tank, my husband was able to stop the bigger Oscar so we removed the little guy from the tank right away and put him in a big container alone... Went out and bought a 10 gallon right away so we can keep the baby in there at least until he gets bigger so we can then try and put him with the bigger Oscar in the 55 gallon tank.
<What's that spiel from the movie "Jaws"? "You're gonna need a bigger  tank">

We set up the tank with water from our already cycled 55 gallon and put they baby in the new tank alone...
Anyhow, the baby started to look sicker and sicker... He doesn't leave the bottom corner of the tank, he hasn't eaten a thing for two full days and when he swims, he only does it on the bottom of the tank and his head is always tilted down when compared to his tail...
His belly seams like it is sunken in and just seams to be getting worse.. I know Oscars tend to take a few days to get used to their new environment (I thought my other little guy was gonna die for days too when we first got him) but honestly it looks more then just a "depressed" Oscar... I've tried feeding him pretty much everything, sinking pellets that I put right next to him, frozen shrimp, dried anchovies, etc. Nothing.
Should I wait a few more days before starting some medication?? Or is the tilted head and sunken belly alarming signs and should I try to give him medication right away?
<Likely a bit too late; I WOULD add a small amount of live Tubifex/Blackworms.... keep the rest of the portion in your fridge... Very nutritious and palatable>
From what I've been reading (I've been researching since Tuesday night) he might have a bacterial infection or a parasite...
But I'm afraid that giving him medication can do more harm then good...
I am attaching a picture of him I took a few hours ago...Please help!
Giving him back to the store and just getting a new one to substitute this one isn't an option because I obviously already care for him... so if you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thank you so much for your time and your amazing website! Joana
<The live food. STAT! Bob Fenner>

Re: Baby Oscar with Sunken belly     10/8/15
Thank you so much for your help. I gave him the little bit of live food, no response from him.
I went ahead and changed about 25% of his water.
I also checked the water levels. Ph 7.8, ammonia nitrite and nitrate at 0.
He seams to be a bit more active and I've seen him poop both yesterday and today. But he is so slim.. anything else I can do?
<Mmm; well; yes... a level teaspoon of Epsom Salt per five gallons, and a one-time dosing of Metronidazole.... search by their name on WWM>
Or should I just try to feed him once in a while and hope he starts eating soon?
<The live worms should stay there... in a dish if there's gravel in the tank,>
I've also considered trying to wrap him in a wet towel and feed him with a syringe or would I just harm him more?
<Too likely the latter>
Thanks so much
<W. BobF>

Oscar HLLE     2/15/12
My 3 year old albino Oscar has developed a very serious case of HLLE or HITH, I have read that it could be caused by metabolite poisoning or parasites.
<Hmm, usually the two are connected. Hole-in-the-Head is very common when cichlids are kept in overstocked tanks with poor water circulation, insufficient oxygen, high nitrate levels, and given too much of the wrong sorts of food. The parasites (Hexamita spp.) that (may) cause the diseases seem ubiquitous, meaning healthy fish carry them, and the Hole-in-the-Head can be triggered in them only when they're stressed. On the other hand, poor diet is certainly a factor even when the parasites don't seem to be involved, typically when fish aren't given adequate fresh greens in their diet (most cichlids, even Oscars, consume some fresh greens).>
I regularly change my water and check the levels, never allowing the nitrates to rise above 20 ppm at the worst of times.  It started at his nostrils and has spread on one side all the way to his eye.  He also has evidence of erosion on his jaw, gill plates and below his dorsal fin.  He has stopped eating, often coming to the surface near the food and bumping it with an open mouth.  I am afraid that it has something to do with the pits on his jaw, he seems unable to open his mouth.  I have seen him flashing violently against the rocks on the side that it is the worst.  He used to eat earthworms but has recently seemed afraid of them, allowing them to fall to the bottom.  (So now I have worms in my fridge that I can't do anything with)   He has been fed Hikari Cichlid Gold for the last year or so.
<A good food, but you do want to augment with cooked peas and spinach, or else foods like earthworms or river shrimps that you can gut-load with vegetarian flake before usage (not live feeder fish, though!).>
Any advice to help me get him eating and healthy again would be appreciated.  Thank you. 
<Hmm€¦ do read:
Metronidazole is the only reliable cure. Cheers, Neale.>

Question About My 2 Tiger Oscars... Beh., poor health due to poor env., nutr... lack of searching, reading  4/16/10
<Hi! Melinda with you here tonight!>
I have viewed the Question/Answer page about Bert & Ernie my 2 baby Oscars and cant find anything.
<Okay. Let's see if I can help.>
Bert is about 2 inches in length and is a beautiful black with silver Stripes and Ernie Is a little bit lighter in color but mimicking patterns and he/she is about 2 1/2 inches long. I have recently (Today) Noticed strange behavior earlier this morning from Bert. He has been Cuddled up with a big black ornament that I have sitting in the corner of my 15 Gallon Tank.
<Sorry to mince words here, but he is not "cuddled up"... he's laying on the bottom of the tank. Not a good thing.>
(Yes I plan upgrading to a 80 Gallon ASAP probably a week).
<Ultimately, if these fish don't turn out to be a mated pair (often the case when only two are purchased), you'll need something around a six-foot tank to ensure they can each establish adequate territory. Otherwise, you're going to have issues with the two fighting, or with the stronger one beating up on the weaker, which may happen anyway, but is less of a possibility in a larger system with more area.>
He is being very inactive and not even responding to the Aquarian Shrimp pellets or TOPFIN Small cichlid Pellets that I have been feeding them. Just recently more This afternoon Ernie began to have the exact same symptoms.
<Okay. Please do check water quality. This isn't a coincidence. Surely, there are issues with water quality that have affected one, the weaker one, and now are affecting the stronger fish.>
Now they are both coupled and cuddled up next to my Black Ornament, Sometimes laying slanted on the bottom of the tank.
<I'm sorry, but again, "cuddled" makes this situation sound cute. It's not. It's 2 fish dying in a tiny tank.>
They are very responsive when I try to brush them, and are sure to swim away quickly.
I really have no idea what the problem is.
I have had them for about 4-5 days now, They have shown signs of Comfort
and are normally pigs and begging me for food. But not today. They love to eat Baby Crickets and some Feeder
fish I gave them.
<Don't feed feeder fish. It just makes no sense. You're running the constant risk of introduction of illness, parasites, and also, please read here on the physical effects of Thiaminase:
There is just NO REASON to feed feeder fish. In addition, the crickets aren't necessary, either. Please read on WWM re: Oscar care, feeding:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebindex/oscarfdgfaqs.htm and the linked files there at the top.>
But now They are acting that way. I don't have numbers for the PH, Nitrates and such for my tank.
<I'm almost positive this is the problem. Is this aquarium cycled? Even if it was, adding both fish at once and then feeding all of these foods you've already fed in only five days (fish, crickets, and two different types of pellets) has surely stressed the biological filter. Please read
here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWsubwebindex/fwestcycling.htm and those linked files above.>
But I Completely Changed the water in the tank 2 Days ago due to fogginess,
<Is this tank cycled?>
And now I just did a 50% water Change And they seem to be moving around a bit more. but that might be because I'm watching them.
<Likely because the concentration of toxic waste products in the water has been reduced by half.>
You guys seem to have all the answers hopefully you can help me!! SAVE BERT AND ERNIE!!! My babies!
<You need to help them, and only you can save them. Keep doing huge water changes, and buy some test kits. Read, read, read, and please do write back if you have further questions after reading. These fish need more
than you're offering right now, and it is really important that you use this information to educate yourself about their needs.>
Thank you,
Cookie Monster
Another room mate for Oscars in tiny tank... Oh and w/ a goldfish tankmate...
Sorry I would also like to add that I have them in the same tank as a black moor. only about 1 1/2 inches Long. And they are friendly (For now)
<Okay, so it's more overstocked than I thought it was! Please just see the other e-mail for information on what you need to know in order to keep your fish alive.
Re: Question About My 2 Tiger Oscars... still not reading, understanding
Melinda Thanks for your help,
<You're welcome.>
I went to Pets mart and Talked to a guy who was very knowledgeable on Oscars he recommended this stuff called prime for the ammonia levels.
<Prime removes chlorine, chloramine and ammonia in tap water. It doesn't remove the ammonia produced by fish in the tank. So that's not going to help. Did he test the water? What of the parameters?>
and If I keep doing huge water changes How will I ever Build up good bacteria,
<It will happen.>
Also Should I buy some driftwood for my Oscars?
<Not exactly at the top of the list right now. Clean water is. Your diligent research, reading, is.>
I just did another 50% water change and added Prime to it. is There anything else that you can think of that I can do to help these guys?
<Read the links I provided.
Re: Question About My 2 Tiger Oscars....
And of the 2 pellets. Which do you recommend I keep feeding them?
<Please read where I referred you re: Oscar feeding. The Cichlid pellet is a fine staple, but it's also important to work in wet or wet-frozen foods in order to avoid issues with digestion. This information is archived where I linked you.
Re: Question About My 2 Tiger Oscars
I also took a water sample after doing a 50% water change and the Nitrates where still High on the tester. So he Suggested that I do another water change.
<Nitrate, with an "a?" What was the number? Did you cycle this tank?>
Sorry for all of these emails I should have just put it all in one. But Things just keep popping in my head. And I'm sorry but I don't think this is cute. I just couldn't think of another name.
<Understood. But you're also skipping over some very important questions that I asked, which means that I'm not getting a clear picture of what's going on, and though you're providing information as to water quality, it's not a full rundown of parameters, and not specific. So I really can't help you, other than to ask you to read, and apply what you learn, putting it into practice.
Re: BERT AND ERNIE! Chatting "while Rome burns"
Yea I believe both nitrite and nitrates where high. The top 2 things should be white. And they were pink.
<Ultimately, you need to test for Ammonia at this stage, as well. Actual numbers (not subjective opinion) on these levels will clue us in to where you are in the cycle, and how often you need to be changing water to keep your fish as healthy as possible. Again, I think that purchasing test kits, so that you can control the quality of data you use to run your tank, and that you provide to folks like me, who are trying to help you, would be a good move here -- prior to purchasing any type of decor, etc., which won't help you keep your fish alive at all. I would purchase the liquid test kits, rather than the test strips -- these are more accurate.
I Just Vacuumed it for the 1st time today. but remind u I have done complete water changes. Fish are still sitting on the bottom of the tank. Hopefully they will be a little more lively tomorrow I also get paid tomorrow so I can go and buy some testers. Sorry I know I sound foolish this is my 1st tank and I Wanted Awesome Fish :). There is a lot more to it  that I originally Though and I should have Studied a little more. But I didn't So now I'm asking you :).
<Yes, we're here to help folks. Unfortunately the fish you chose come with big responsibilities and a good amount of cost to keep the right way. As I said before, a six-foot tank is almost a necessity, in my opinion, because Oscars are very territorial. Then, you have filtration -- with Oscars, it needs to work to turn the tank's volume over ten times per hour, which is a lot of turnover usually achieved by combining various canister filters and large hang-on-back filters, or either buying or building some sort of large wet-dry filter. The problem with Oscars, though they're great fish, is that they're messy. I've watched Oscars eat pellets, and seen half of the food they're taking in just falling out of their gills, onto the substrate below. This is another reason why keeping them is so demanding -- you're going to have do more maintenance than you normally would on a 125-gallon tank with two fish, because of the way that they eat. You can't leave all of that uneaten food sitting around at the bottom, as it will foul water
quality. In any case, this information is all available in those links I gave you. We are here to help, but since there's so much information already archived on our site, expect folks to do a little "work" of their own, as well!
Do you have a donate link on your website?
<Yes, is on the home page -- http://www.wetwebmedia.com/, in the very far right-hand corner.>
Ernie is starting to move a little. I dropped a pellet in there and he Swam at it Really fast and gobbled it up and then went back to his corner. I guess this is a good sign. Now that I'm looking they are both off the gravel now. Swimming around in the corner though.
<Yes, keep doing those big water changes. You can't let waste products build up, and since your biological filter isn't functioning right now, your water changes are the only thing keeping this water safe for them.
Please do write back if you have any questions after reading.
Re: BERT AND ERNIE! More chatting sans reading    4/17/10

Thanks Melinda you have been a big help after I turned the lights out last night I saw both of them swimming around the tank, yay
<You're welcome. Keep doing those water changes -- that's what's positively affecting these fish!
Buying testers now.
Did a 20% water change when I got home. Should I do that daily?
<Yes, and whether you do a larger water change daily will depend on the test results. Ultimately, you want to keep Ammonia and Nitrite as low as possible.>
Ill let you know what I find with the testers
<Cool. I think I'll be able to help you a lot more after we get these numbers.

Scales are missing on Red Tiger Oscars 2/1/2010
<Hello Denise,>
My son and daughter each have a small Red Tiger Oscar.
<Bad choices as pets for children. These are very difficult fish to keep properly.>
The Oscars are kept in separate 5 gallon tanks with filters.
<Insane. Make that 55 gallons for each tank, and we're talking.
Five gallons is barely enough for a Betta, let alone an Oscar. Did you tell the pet store you were doing this? If they told you that was fine, then they're idiots. If it was your idea, and somehow you though they'd be fine for a while, then, well...>
They are fed 2 small gold fish feeders every other day and flakes on the other days.
<Did you read ANYTHING about Oscars before purchase? If you did, you'd known feeder Goldfish are a VERY BAD food item for Oscars. Not only are they a major source of parasites, they're also loaded with fat and Thiaminase.
We have done the water changes and de-chlorinated the water. Lately we have been noticing that each of the Oscars seem to have white spots, but more like the scales are missing, not like Ick. I thought they may be scraping themselves on the gravel but we never see them do that and it is getting worse. Any ideas?
<Yes. You're killing these fish. Whether deliberately or through sheer ignorance, you've stuck two perfectly nice animals in enclosures they cannot possibly be maintained in, and then fed them the worst possible diet. So these lovely, intelligent animals are being poisoned to death.>
Denise F
<Denise, I really, really do not like yelling at people. And when people write back that their feelings are hurt because I've yelled at them, that's sad. I volunteer here precisely because I like fish and I like people. But
when I get messages like this, it's hard for me to return a measured, let alone kind, response. Not one aquarium book ever written would ever suggest keeping Oscars this way, so my only conclusion has to be you read nothing
at all before buying these animals. Given you haven't said anything about water quality, I have to assume you didn't cycle the tank for 6 weeks before adding the fish. So essentially everything that you could do wrong, you have done wrong. It's not the fish's fault, it's not the retailer's fault, and it's certainly not my fault; it's your fault. Time to read what I've sent you to, think about what you've done, and react accordingly.
These fish aren't going to survive these tanks, let alone get better.
Either return them or euthanise them.
If you want to keep them, you're going to need a 55 gallon tank for each one, or a 75-100 gallon tank for the two of them. Don't delude yourself into getting a 20 gallon tank now, and then saying you're going to upgrade in a couple months. These fish grow EXTREMELY fast when kept properly, and will need that 55 gallon tank within 6-9 months of hatching. So get real, focus on what needs to be done, and move on. Feel free to write back and
yell at me for being rude if that makes you feed better. But my concern here is for your fish, and the bad example it's setting your kids. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: scales are missing on Red Tiger Oscars, hlth., nutr.  – 02/02/10

Hello Neale:
<Hello Denise,>
My apologies for my ignorance. I did tell the pet store exactly my plans and purchased the Oscars at the same place. The same place I buy the feeders. Obviously they were either only concerned with the sale or they had less knowledge than I did.
<Well, you do have to treat advice from store clerks with caution. Some specialist retailers are staffed by outstanding fishkeepers, and I've learned a lot by listening to them. But all too often the generic pet stores employ staff who know little to nothing about fish. In general, take the advice, but double check against a book or a web site you can really trust.>
Many years ago, I too had an Oscar for many years, fed him feeder fish and never had a problem.
<It's like the old maxim, "playing Russian Roulette once and surviving doesn't make it safe". Work on predatory fish has demonstrated without any ambiguity that diets high in Thiaminase lead to ill health and premature mortality. Do read Marco Lichtenberger's piece here at WWM on this topic.
The incidence of parasite infections following the use of cheaply produced feeder fish is very high. Furthermore, goldfish and minnows are rich in both fat and Thiaminase, and Bob Fenner believes, after autopsies of numerous fish, that these feeder fish are the #1 cause of premature death of Lionfish. The #1 cause! These feeders are killing more Lionfish than bad water quality! Thankfully, feeder fish simply aren't sold in the UK, so this isn't an issue here. The hobby has moved on, and aquarists switched to safer, cheaper, and less expensive foods. But for whatever reason, the US market has changed yet.>
Never did the pet store say anything about having a 55 gallon tank, nor did they tell me about feeder fish being bad for them to eat.
<Not impressed by them, I have to say.>
Once we started noticing the problem. We immediately began the water changes every 3 days between 25 - 30%. We are now feeding them frozen, thawed shrimp and peas.
<Again, do go back and read about Thiaminase. Shrimp contains a lot of Thiaminase, and over time, over-use will lead to vitamin B1 deficiency. I'm sure you already know about how the Royal Navy was plagued with the problem
of scurvy back in the 18th century. The sailors were getting lots of calories, but for some reason would get sick within a few months of leaving harbour. The problem was that their diet, while adequate in other ways, lacked vitamin C. Over time this meant they became sick. Only with the introduction of citrus fruits into the sailors' rations did things improve (from whence comes the nickname for the British around the former Empire, "Limeys"). It's precisely the same thing here: shrimp, mussels, clams, squid and other Thiaminase-rich fish and seafood may contain lots of calories and protein, but they also contain Thiaminase, and over time, you're creating problems by using them. Restrict Thiaminase-rich foods to once or twice per week. The rest of the week should be made up of foods
that lack Thiaminase. These include good quality pellets (e.g., Hikari Cichlid Gold), earthworms, snails, fresh or frozen cockles, fresh or frozen tilapia fillet, and of course plant foods like cooked peas. Indeed, a perfectly adequate diet could be based around just good quality pellets plus the cooked peas to ensure adequate fibre.>
I have done a lot of reading over the past few days and the Oscars seem to be improving dramatically.
In addition we are currently looking into a 55 gal tank.
<That's fine for one Oscar; two will eventually fight in that space, unless by some miracle you have two females, or else a pair that get along from the word go.>
I thank you and appreciate your advice no matter how loud you were yelling.
<Glad to have helped. Good luck. Cheers, Neale.>

Bait Minnows Makes Oscar Sick   5/20/07
Hi, I have a question about my Tiger Oscar "Luka", he has been very sick for about a week and a half, and it's my fault, you see Ludka enjoys chasing and eating feeder fish, Ludka is a year old, and about 5" long, he was in a 35 gallon hexagon tank ( I know that it's too small of a tank, we are going to provide him a tank of 75-100 gallon when our living room is finished remodeling) his tank-mates are a Blood-Parrot Cichlid( Mugsy ), 2 sharks, not sure of species but they are very friendly, 1 smaller cichlid and our lobster ( crawfish ) Thor. Recently we took a couple minnows that we had left-over from fishing and let them lose in our tank so that the fish could have fun, I wasn't thinking at the time, and now I regret it. Ludka ate some along with the cichlids and Thor, about 4 days later Ludka started to bang himself along anything that he could find, and he really did a number on himself, then he would lay at the bottom of his tank and not move. His body started to get
this white cloud-like look to it, he no longer greeted me when I came into the room, and his eyes started to cloud over. I did research on the net and found out that I probably infected him with parasites from the minnows. I did end up losing one of my smaller cichlids, and almost lost Ludka. I isolated him into a 30 gallon tank with a brand-new filtration system and started to treat him with parasite killer, I also started treatment to my main tank. Now he looks like the pet of Freddy Kruger, his fins have dissolved away leaving the Freddy Kruger look, his color went from beautiful black with the red, to an ugly shade of sick gray, he no longer will eat for me, his eye cloud is getting better though and he is no longer laying on his side, he does recognize me when I talk to him and try to get him to have some food but he just doesn't seem interested. I feel so bad for doing this to my baby. My question is how long will he go with out eating? He was a big eater before and has not lost any weight. How long does it takes to recover from this? Is there is a food that I can offer to help him in his recovery? I plan on keeping him in his own tank until we have a large enough tank to house all of our babies together. My family misses Ludka and so do our visitors, he is the main attraction in our home, he even does a "trick". I wet a large brine shrimp and place it on the inside of the tank lid and close the lid, Ludka would look at it, get positioned, and with a thrust of his tail he would jump to the lid and get his favorite treat, the lid would knock as he hit his mark. Ludka would also dance with us. We would stand at the tank and sway back and forth and he would do the same. Any suggestions on how to get our Ludka back to health would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Bonnie
< The minnows probably caused an internal blockage. The thrashing about was your Oscar probably trying to dislodge the blockage. The whitish film could be a bacterial infection or fungus growing on the damaged tissues. I would recommend doing a 50% water change, vacuuming the gravel and cleaning the filter. Treat the tank with a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace. The Metro takes care of internal protozoan problems while the Nitro handles the bacteria and fungal issues. Treat every other day for three treatments. Change 50% of the water in between treatments. After the treatment try and find a medicated food with Metronidazole in it. You may have to go online. When your fish starts to eat it is getting better. Fish can usually go a couple of weeks without eating before they start to look ill. If the damaged fins have fungused back to the body then the fins will probably not grow back. Damaged fins will recover but they will not look as nice or as straight as the original undamaged fins.-Chuck>

Sick Tiger Oscar  6/23/06
<<Hi, Scott. Tom with you this time.>>
I have read through many of the other articles on this page of Oscars Disease. I am really impressed with your knowledge about this fish.
<<We try, Scott, and thanks.>>
I have 3 Red tiger Oscars that live in a 125 gallon tank.
<<Is my "envy" showing"? :)>>
I do my regular water changes and tank maintenance. I have had these 3 for the last 3 years. My girlfriend noticed today that one of the three was laying at the bottom of
the tank. The other two were excited to see her for their lunch feeding.
This Oscar was laying at the bottom of the tank and apparently breathing extremely heavy. These Oscars for sure do not have Ich.
<<Scott, Ich wouldn't cause your Oscar to lay at the bottom of the tank. Likely the opposite. Flashing (scratching itself on just about anything) would be more
"appropriate" behavior. Lethargy would certainly settle in but, by and large, you'd simply notice the "salt-like" appearance on the body.>>
What is your diagnosis of what could be potentially wrong with this fish?
<<You've given us absolutely nothing to go on here, Scott. Having read the articles/FAQ's,
you know how important detailed information is. What are the water parameters? What do you feed your pets? What do you mean by "regular" water changes and tank maintenance? We'd love to help but we need some "clues".>>
What would you recommend to treat this fish? I have grown very attached to these guys and I will have to email you a picture to show you how big they have become.
<<Pictures may give us more help here, Scott.>>
I also was curious about treating 'hole in the head'. What is the best way to treat and then keep HITH away?
<<HITH is usually caused by a nutrition deficiency. High nitrates have been attributed but these are probably unlikely in your case. Water conditions and possible vitamin loss/deficiency
are the culprits to look for. Feed your Oscars a varied diet and stay away from "feeder fish".
These can/will introduce "garbage" into your tank.>>
I really appreciate your help!
<<You're welcome, Scott. Tom>>
PS. Do you have any recommendations about getting Oscars to mate.
<<A candlelight dinner? I'm kidding, of course. Check this site out for more info:

Oscar Stressed By Over Feeding   10/5/06
Hi, I hope you can help. I have a tiger Oscar only a few months old in a 55 gallon tank.
Lately I have noticed quite a few things go wrong pretty quickly and I'm on info overload after reading everything.
< Thanks for looking first.>
First, there are pink bits of his poo with white almost fur like things on it all the time. I do 30% water changes at least every week cleaning the gravel as I go but it just doesn't seem to go. Then I noticed some white spots on him which have gone now without any treatment, however with the life cycle of Ich I think I may need to treat! Which I will start tomorrow.
Today I noticed his poo was yellow/light green and he is really worrying me. I think he has hole in the head but I'm not sure. He has two small (about 1mm diameter) holes between his mouth and his eyes. Please help, I've become really close to him and I want to make him well again! I feed him on 'cichlid gold' regularly a pellet at a time until he stops eating about twice a day.
I do pH checks which are normal, but no nitrate checks.
I have a Fluval 3 filter in the tank that I clean in the tank water every week (I remove some water and clean it in that then throw the water away!)
hope you can help Rachel
< Feed you Oscar once a day and only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes. Remove all leftover food. The stress of him being overfed is taking a toll on his digestive tract. Do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Add some variety to his diet by adding some chopped earthworms, brine shrimp or Spectrum Pellets.-Chuck>

Oscars and "Feeders" - 08/17/2005
I have 2 large Oscars (one red and one tiger) in a 55 gallon tank with no other fish except a Plecostomus.
<Too small for these animals....>
I recently did a full water change/tank cleaning and gave them some feeders (I only do this every couple of months).
<The full water change is rarely a good approach - on your tank, I would recommend weekly water changes of about 30%, or more/more frequently, depending upon your nitrate levels and how quickly they build up.  Err, and NEVER feed your fish unquarantined live "feeder" fish!!  This is almost a 100% guarantee that you will introduce parasites, bacteria, or other disease to your animals.>
Now my red has developed a bulge on his left side (there is a slight protrusion on the right but not as prominent) and he is mouthing like he is having a hard time breathing.
<A number of possibilities....  if he is not defecating, I would suspect he may be constipated.  I would add Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) to the water at a rate of 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons.>
He is also not eating his usual pellets which he is usually very excited to get. The tiger is showing none of these symptoms. I have had these two for almost six years, since they were babies, and have never seen anything like this. I did a lot of reading and searching for fish with these symptoms and from everything that you have said (in answer to others questions) this could be an internal infection?? The people at the fish store don't seem to informed about Oscars and their behavior and told me that he is possibly is having a hard time digesting the feeders?? That just doesn't seem right?
<Mm, possibly right, to an extent....  Feeder goldfish are a horrible nutrition for an Oscar (or most other fish, for that fact).  I would not be surprised if the Oscar has a gut blockage from this sort of a meal.  Be pleased if that's the only problem from it....  and be on the lookout for parasitic infestation, bacterial illness....>
Please help. Any information would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks,  -Trouble in Jersey
<Please read here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/goldfshfd.htm  and the links, in blue, at the top of that page, for more information.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Oscar Fish Unknown Illness
   I was hoping you could help me determine what is wrong with my Oscar.  I've had the 14" Oscar for two years in a 65 gal tank.  I use a Magnum 350 filter without carbon. I am uncertain of my Oscars age, he was this size when we got him.  However I have a feeling he may be getting on in years.  Water temperature is 82, pH is 7.2, nitrates 0, ammonia 0, nitrates 0-20.  For the last six months I have been trying to eradicate a moderate - severe case of hole in the head.  I do 30% water changes (including gravel vacs) every week, have added aquarium salt 1tbsp/5gal and have unsuccessfully tried to vary his diet.  He eats only JumboMin pellets even though I tried not feeding him anything for 1-2 weeks before offering earthworms, etc.   Four weeks ago I treated him with 100mg Metronidazole per 10 gal for five days  for the hole in the head.  There was no improvement.  
<Mmm, I might lower the temperature a bit... to the mid to upper 70's... and would try the vitamin treatment route>
   One week ago he stopped eating and would lay on his side at the bottom of the tank, barely breathing, occasionally his tail would quiver.   I tested the water and it was fine.  At times he was so listless he would get sucked up against the filter intake.  At first there were no visible signs of illness.  Then four days ago he developed a swollen anus.  I treated him with Epsom salts and he's now pooping normally.
However, the anus region remained swollen.  Three days ago he finally ate a bit but also started flashing and scratching himself on the gravel, particularly his head.  He also developed a heavy slime coat, grayish in color.  He has also lost a lot of color especially on his underside.  Two days ago he stopped breathing out of his left gill.
<This happens... but am given to wonder whether you have a source of poisoning in this system? An ornament, rock... shell...?>
I did a water change and treated him with clout and within several hours he was active and using both gills.  He almost seemed normal.  This morning he was back on the bottom breathing out of one gill.  I performed a 25% water change and treated him again with Clout today (1 tab/10gal).  Again within hours he was using both gills and swimming more normally but he is still flashing and itching on the gravel.  As I'm writing this he is laying on the bottom but appears to be breathing normally.
   I'm concerned there is more than one problem here.  I don't know what my next step should be in treating my Oscar, any advice would be greatly appreciated.   Thanks in advance for your help.
Catherine Green
<Do seek out/use a pad of "PolyFilter" in your filter flow path and relate to me/us what color (if any) you observe on this filter media... Am speculating that there is some source of metal at play. Bob Fenner>
Re: Oscar Fish Unknown Illness
  Thank you for replying to my last email.   The day after I sent my last email, one source of my Oscar's discomfort became clear.  The grayish slime on his body turned into cottony tuffs and some of the skin around his head started peeling off.  I realized it was Columnaris
<Umm, but what is/was the cause? You are describing, treating an "effect">
and immediately began treating him with Maracyn for the Columnaris and Maracyn-Two since I suspect a possible internal bacterial infection based on lack of appetite and some swelling of his lower body.  That was 3 days ago and he is improving rather well.  At first he displayed severe irritation, swimming erratically and banging his head off the glass.  That has subsided.  He is eating well and the cottony patches are slowly disappearing.  
   As for a possible source of poisoning, I don't think there is anything in the tank that would cause it.
<Mmm, might even be from outside... cooking aerosols, sprays... even a stray bug>
  I have a couple of large rocks that have been in the tank since setup, and I haven't added anything in since.  However, I will work on obtaining a Polyfilter, but most likely I will have to order it online since pet/fish stores in my area are poorly stocked.  (I had to go to 4 different stores to buy enough Maracyn for 5 days!)  I will let you know the results of the Polyfilter as soon as possible.  
<Can be mail-ordered...>
   I have a couple of questions:
       First, how long should I continue the antibiotic treatment.  I have read Columnaris can be difficult to eradicate, so I was thinking of continuing the Maracyn for 10-14 days.  
<Can be "treated" for this long... likely water changes, addition of some aquarium salt will/would accomplish the same ends>
       Second, my tank has experienced a nasty bacterial bloom.  (Extremely cloudy water overnight, white stringy material throughout the tank.) I'm thinking it may be a reaction to the Clout I used earlier.
<Very likely>
Since I started medicating the tank, I am monitoring water quality on a daily basis.  I performed a 25% water change and serviced my filter which was clogged with the slimy material.  What is the best way to handle a bacterial bloom?
<Reduced feeding, increased circulation, aeration, filtration... possibly the addition of purposeful beneficial microbes (e.g. BioSpira)>
  Should I perform frequent water changes?  If so, how much and how often?
<See WWM re>
Also, should I also vacuum the gravel or am I risking disturbing the bacterial population further?
<Possibly... one must measure ammonia, nitrite... and weigh the advantages and possible downsides>
      Third, you recommend starting a vitamin regimen for the HITH.  Do vitamins added directly to the water help, or should I try dipping his food in vitamin solution before feeding him?  Also, can you recommend a good vitamin solution to use?
<Please see WWM re... added to foods... soaking... from human or pet-fish commercial source...>
    Thank you so much for all your help!  Your resources are greatly appreciated!
Catherine Green
<Keep studying, enjoying! Bob Fenner>

- Oscar Problems -
Sorry, I may have sent this e-mail already, but I wasn't sure if my mailbox was set up correctly...
I have an Oscar that has been sick for about 2 weeks now. I think that I have the same problem as Lisa's e-mail that was posted, "Bloated Oscar cichlid - Epsom salt 7/13/03"
The conversation goes...
"The roundness is huge and has dropped even lower and now there is a clear bubble looking (about 1 1/2") protruding around the anal area.  
<hmmm... prolapsed rectum?>
It appears to be from outer tissue, not internal.  I am clueless!!!  
<I cannot explain it if external... although I wonder if it isn't internal after all>"
By looking at the attached photos, do you think that my fish has the same disease? (All other symptoms are similar to what she had posted) I cannot find anything else on the internet.
<Well, it's not really a disease but a condition brought on by the foods you have been feeding, and yes it does appear to be the same thing. Do try the Epsom salts and if possible isolate the fish so no one else can pick at it.>
<Cheers, J -- >

Swollen Oscar
Hello all,
I was here a few days ago asking for help getting an ID on "Thing". Well, my friend did her best to scrub the life out of thing, so we will have to wait and see if he pops back up so I can get a photo.
Until then, I have another friend (no computer) with an ill Oscar who is over 12 inches long. The Oscar is believed to be female and has been swelling since Labor day.  My friend assumed she was gravid and prepared for eggs. But nothing has been laid. The Oscar prolapses her cloaca (sometimes she extends it a lot, sometimes just a bit) and then nothing. No eggs. Her body is swollen. It looks like she is carrying  half of a small orange on each side of her body. One side is a bit bigger than the other. Her scales are stretched and you can see the skin between them---- but they are not sticking out like a fish with dropsy. I managed to touch her side and it is firm to the touch.  The swelling rides low on her sides and is does not look like a case of sudden obesity.  She also has no other abnormalities or injuries.  She eats well, swims normally, and lives peaceably with her "mate" of similar size and a huge Pleco.
    All three of these fish were moved into a 75 gallon from a 30 gallon a few months ago. My friend inherited them from her brother who had kept them in the 30 for years.  The 75 is filtered by two Emperor 280's and the fish are fed Hikari cichlid pellets and have never really been fed gold fish.  I don't know what her water parameters are at the moment (no test kit handy), but she does monthly water changes.
    Any suggestions as to what would be causing the prolapse and swelling?
<Sounds to me like too much dry food for a glutinous fish over too long of a time period, chances are she is blocked up.  I would start by adding Epsom salt to the water, 1 tablespoon per five gallons and then a half dose again 3 days later.  You will also want to perform some large water changes to ensure good water quality.  Start varying the fishes diet with some thawed frozen foods as well.  Best of Luck,  Gage.  See here for more info
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/oscarfaqs.htm >
- Re: Bloated Oscar -
So how should I continue treatment? <Just give this time to heal - your previous email you stated that you tried the salts for two days and nothing happened. My reply was really just meant to encourage you to wait a little while longer... this problem will not heal in two days, will take much longer than this.> How much for how many consecutive days, and how often should I change the water? <Should probably be changing 5% a week, and just replenish the salts at that time.>
Thanks for your help.
<Cheers, J -- >
- Bloated Oscar, Follow-up -
Our Oscar is doing much better! Thanks so much! We thought that he was a goner.
<Ahh, excellent. We so seldom hear back or find out how things went. I'm very happy your Oscar is on the mend. Cheers, J -- >

Bloated Oscar cichlid - Epsom salt 7/13/03
Hello crew,
<Howdy Lisa>
This is a distress letter like so many that I read.  However, I didn't see anything quite like my albino Oscar's problem.
I raised a pair from fry to 12".  They are 6 years old.  Suddenly in May, one of them just started fading away.  Stopped eating, lethargic, and I treated for everything.  No response.  The other Oscar was fine.  I lost him (I think male).  I never really knew.  They were always moving gravel, shimmying at each other, and butting heads.  What I once thought was two males, may have been F/M.  Anyways, I was heart-broken, but I still had one left.  Now, over that past three weeks, my remaining Oscar's abdomen started swelling.  Seemed fine just started getting round.  The roundness is huge and has dropped even lower and now there is a clear bubble looking (about 1 1/2") protruding around the anal area.  
<hmmm... prolapsed rectum?>
It appears to be from outer tissue, not internal.  I am clueless!!!  
<I cannot explain it if external... although I wonder if it isn't internal after all>
I have never seen anything like this in my 20 years of keeping fish. I have read about constipation, but nothing has changed in the diet.  
<nothing has to change... large greedy fish on a mostly dry diet, or even a single feeding of dry pellets in which they are overfed or glut quickly can cause blockage. Rather common with large fishes like Oscars and goldfish. Its the reason in part for adding Epsom salt to their foods (the mfg does this). Have you tried adding Epsom salt to the water? Use 1 tablespoon per five gallons and then a half dose again 3 days later. Often reduces bloated bellies and eyes>
Could it be that I have a female and she is egg-bound.
<highly unlikely>
Tumor perhaps, but it developed too fast I think and there is no blood or redness, no puss.
<cysts too... many possibilities. Still... I suspect an internal parasite from live foods (perforated internal organs and causes fluid buildup), or simple blockage>
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  
<definitely add the Epsom salt... and do some large water changes (stimulating and improves water quality>
Should I pull my fish out and gently depress to see what is actually in there?  
<under no circumstance should you do this>
History:  Pellet food w/occasional live feeders.  
<unless you QT the live feeders... do resist this bad/risky habit. Too often they simply bring in disease>
Weekly water changes religiously.  78F Temp.  55 gal tank. Had one bout of Ich a couple of years ago.  Otherwise, no troubles. Thank you, Lisa  
<excellent elsewise... best of luck! Anthony>

HLLE, Oscars, Etiology, Cures
Hi Robert...
I am sure with the volume of mail that you receive, you don't recall who I am.
I had the two gold Oscars that had HLLE.
<I recall>
Though I followed everything that was explained to do, tonight I lost one of them.
For some reason, this one just did not respond to anything I did. The other seems to be at least remaining the same, if not slowly healing, it is difficult to tell.
I have some generic questions that I have found no answer to.
Is HLLE an actual disease, a skin condition, a bacteria, or most importantly, contagious?
<There are a few theories as to root causes of HLLE... most favor nutritional deficiency syndromes (mainly vitamins, iodide/ine)... some suggest protozoan involvement (esp. Hexamita spp.), others stray electrical potential (sellers of grounding probes), general "poor water quality"... Myself? I believe the first is a principal cause with all others being contributory. Please read through "the three sets of factors that determine health" piece here: http://WetWebMedia.Com/mardisease.htm
For a "more rounded" view/glance of what goes on in the real universe>
Everything I've read says that it cropped up about 15 years or so ago, and the likely hood of the causative action being Hexamita is slim.
<Was about way before this time... know because I was there...>
As this is what killed one of my Oscars, I would like to know more about what it actually is.
<I understand your provocation... treatments more often kill off livestock...>
You spent a great deal of time working with me on fixing this problem, and I truly do appreciate it.
<An honor to help>
One just didn't have it in him to make it though. I still have hope for the second one.
Thank you again
<Please do read over the HLLE FAQs and environmental disease sections on the Marine Index part of our site (WetWebMedia.com) as well. The same etiology/ies for marine fishes pre-dispose them to this "disease". Bob Fenner>
C.J. Moody

Oscar Swim Bladder
Hello, My Oscar is about 2 years old and 8" long.  He has recently developed what I believe is something wrong with his swim bladder-he floats upright at the top of the tank with about 1/4' of his back bobbing out of the water. In all respects he appears very healthy and vigorous, but he can't seem to swim down to the bottom of the tank-when he tries he just floats back up to the surface.  Can you give me any advice on what may be the cause of this and how I might be able to cure him?  Thank you very much in advance.
<Hello David, sounds like it could be a problem with the swim bladder, or maybe a gut impaction of sorts.  Could have been brought on by diet, what has he been eating?  You could try adding a small concentration of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) to its water (about a teaspoon per ten gallons of system water) to facilitate muscle relaxation, possibly passing of material in its gut.  Best Regards, Gage
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fw3setsdisfaqs.htm >

Baby Oscar with swelling
Hi, I have a baby Oscar, about 2" long, that's suddenly developed a swelling on its anus. It looks like it has a hernia.
<More likely a "prolapsed colon">
The fish is acting normally, but a day after I got him I noticed this...its like a P (rotated 90 degrees
clockwise) on his underside. I think it went down one day, only to come back the next day. and stay that severe for the past few days. I have another Oscar, from the same batch at LFS I got a few weeks prior. it and the rest of this "batch" still at LFS are not showing this problem.
<Do try to feed this fish smaller amounts of foods more frequently, particularly meaty items like frozen/defrosted brine shrimp... in all likelihood the protruded part of your fish's digestive system will "go back in" in time. Bob Fenner>

Oscar Illness? - 10/18/2005
I recently purchased two tiger Oscars, both of them are about 2 to 3 inches.  Currently they share an 80 gallon tank with community fish (I figured they eat them when they got big enough, and they'd have the tank to themselves)  
<Uhh, can't say as I agree with or endorse this....>
In the last two days, my Oscars have both been laying at the bottom of the tank.  They both come up to eat (bloodworms, beef heart)  
<Do not feed them land mammal meats....  even beef heart....  this can really lead to serious nutritional disease with time.  An occasional bit is probably not a big deal, but why take the risk, eh?>
They do not have any visible parasites.  
<Do they have any other symptoms?>
I talked to a person at the pet store where I purchased the Oscars, she suggested putting Parasite Clear in the tank, which I did.  Today I did a 25% water change.  I have had the Oscars for about two weeks and this is the second water change since I've had them.  I changed my filter, and my water levels are good.  
<"Good" is subjective....  What levels specifically?  If ammonia and nitrite are not ZERO, or nitrate is above 20ppm, rectify with water changes.>
This behavior is new for these Oscars, any suggestions?
<Too little information to go off, here, I'm afraid.  Test your water, maintain optimal water quality....  and be on the lookout for any other symptoms whatsoever.>
Thanks,  -Sean
<Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>


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